Sports

Lia Thomas Is No Swimming Champion

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“Lia Thomas is the Ivy League champion in the 500 free,” Penn Swimming & Diving claims. “Her time of 4:37:32 is a new pool record.”

Thomas used to compete in the men’s team back when he went by his birth name, “Will.” However, after taking on a transgender identity he has been allowed to completely dominate the female competition.

For proof of how absurd this is, one only needs to watch Thursday’s race:

Compare Thomas’s time on Thursday with the top championship performances for the men’s 500-yard freestyle: Brennan Novak’s 4:13:34 in 2018, Novak’s 4:14:44 in 2019, and Cole Kuster’s 4:20:19 in 2020.

Thomas is a mediocre male swimmer.

Catherine Buroker — the first of the females to finish — completed Thursday’s swim with a time of 4:44:83. She is the true winner.

Science & Tech

Leading Psychiatrist Warns of Cannabis-Induced Psychosis

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For the most recent issue of National Review, I interviewed Dr. Robin Murray, one of Britain’s leading psychiatrists, whose work on cannabis-induced psychosis is worth serious consideration. Murray explains:

If 100 people smoke cannabis with 15 percent THC content every day, five of them will develop frank [i.e., blatant] clinical psychosis; if they smoke cannabis containing 30 percent THC every day, then 10 of them will develop psychosis. This compares with 1 percent risk in the general population. For comparison — in 100 tobacco smokers, about 10 will get lung cancer.

World

The Core Conflict of Our Age

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In this Brownstone Institute essay, David McGrogan argues that the truckers’ protest in Canada highlights the core conflict of our age: Society versus the State.

He writes:

Justin Trudeau’s confrontation with the Canadian truckers may be the single most significant event of the Covid pandemic – not because of its eventual outcome, whatever that may be, but because of what it symbolises. It captures, in perfect microcosm, the tensions between the competing imperatives of the age: freedom versus security; the rule of law versus flexible ‘responsive’ governance; the priorities of the workers versus those of the Zooming bourgeoisie; the need for real-world human interaction and belonging versus the promises of splendid online isolation; the experiences of the common man, who knows where it hurts, versus those of the professional expert class, who know nothing that cannot be expressed as a formula.

He’s right. Elitists like Trudeau who think they know how society needs to be controlled have wormed their way into power in a great many countries (think of Australia and New Zealand especially). They cling bitterly to their cosmic visions and despise ordinary people who would just like to be left alone.

Read the whole thing.

World

Twenty-Five Things That Caught My Eye Today: Remembering the Abandoned in Afghanistan, the Catholic-School Rebound & More

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1.

2. Julie Asher: New FDA head criticized for role in expanding availability of abortion pill

New rules announced by the FDA March 30, 2016, effectively expanded how pregnant women can use RU-486, a drug that induces abortion, allow them to use it later into pregnancy and make fewer visits to a doctor.

3. Fred Lucas: This Religious Prosecution in Finland Could Be ‘Harbinger’ for Other Democracies

A court in Finland heard final arguments this week in the prosecution of a member of Parliament and a Lutheran bishop for expressing opposition to same-sex marriage.

Charged under Finland’s “ethnic agitation law” are Päivi Räsänen, a member of Parliament who also is a medical doctor and former interior minister, and Lutheran Bishop Juhana Pohjola. Each faces up to two years in prison if convicted.

 

Continue reading “Twenty-Five Things That Caught My Eye Today: Remembering the Abandoned in Afghanistan, the Catholic-School Rebound & More”

Culture

Twelve Adoption/Foster-Care/Child-Welfare Things That Caught My Eye: Children Waiting for Adoption in China, St. James Reading, & Everyone Has a Role

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2. Herbie Newell: Olympics put spotlight on Chinese children waiting for adoption

An estimated 60,000 people have traveled from all over the world to Beijing for the 2022 Winter Olympics. China provided as many as 15 inbound flights and 13 outbound flights each day in order to accommodate athletes, staff, media and others trying to get into Beijing.

So why, given all this travel, have 400 families been waiting for two years to complete their adoption of a Chinese child?

Why can 60,000 people travel across the border for sports while hundreds of vulnerable children wait and suffer in silence, barred from meeting their adoptive families?

3. Texas Foster Care Agencies Face Lawsuit Over Bed Shortage

4.

5.

6. White Castle helps couple adopt daughter from South America

ST. LOUIS – After helping a Washington State couple adopt a 14-year-old girl from South America last year, White Castle has since donated $10,000 to the Dave Thomas Dave Foundation for Adoption.

The adoption organization was founded by Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy’s. Both fast-food chains, White Castle and Wendy’s, have a long history of supporting local and national causes, according to a press release.

“We’ve always had a great respect for the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption and its commitment to finding forever homes for children in foster care,” said Jamie Richardson, vice president at White Castle.

“We’re honored to demonstrate our support for this important cause with a financial contribution.”

Jana Cruz won a trip to Belgium in 2019 as part of White Castle’s campaign to promote its breakfast waffles. However, COVID-19 and her work schedule delayed the trip for her and her husband Sergio.

Meanwhile, the couple had begun the process to adopt a girl from Colombia in June 2020 and were planning a trip to Colombia to finalize the adoption. Cruz explained their situation to White Castle and the couple was offered to switch the trip to Belgium with Colombia, according to the press release.

“We are incredibly grateful for what White Castle did to help with our trip to Colombia to complete our adoption,” Jana Cruz said.

“We were having yard sales, selling crafts, and raffling items to help bridge the gap between what we had saved and what we needed. Having this trip paid for was absolutely beyond what we could have imagined.”

In September 2021, along with their four-year-old son Adrian, the Cruz family flew to Bogotá, the capital of Colombia, where they finalized the adoption of 14-year-old Natalie. After weeks of paperwork, securing a passport and visa for Natalie, the family made it home in mid-October, according to the press release.

“When we learned that Jana and Sergio were in the process of adopting their daughter, it was an easy decision to swap the Belgium trip for a trip to Colombia,” Richardson said.

7. Arkansas Boy Donates Mullet Competition Money To Foster Care Organizations

Allan decided to enter an online mullet competition and donate the prize money.

“When I heard there was, like, $2,500 I’m like, ‘I’m just gonna donate it to the foster care if I win,” said Allan.

When asked why he wanted to donate the money to foster care, Allan said, “I was in foster care and I know completely how it feels.”

8. A family in Georgia is opening a free boutique for children in need after adopting two girls from foster care. 

The boutique, called Blossom, is scheduled to open this month – though it has already started helping families, according to founder Linda Durrence.

Durrence, 51, from Glennville, Georgia, told Fox News Digital that when Blossom opens, it will provide children in need with seven full sets of clothes and shoes for free. Families will be able to visit and get seven new sets of clothes every quarter for seasonal changes, or more frequently if a child has a major size change.

9.

10. Love Them Both: 8 ways to help a family who is adopting or fostering a child

Some of the suggestions:

Take them a meal.

Have a “Gotcha Day/Baby Shower” for the new child, even if they are not a baby!

Offer to give moms and dads a “night out.”

Surprise a family with some groceries, movie tickets, gift cards, or even a gift basket of yummies.

 Listen!

If you are a praying person, pray for adoptive and foster families!

Everyone has a role to play.

11.

12. This was one of the readings Wednesday when I went to Mass:

A reading from the Letter of Saint James

1:19-27

Know this, my dear brothers and sisters: everyone should be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger for anger does not accomplish the righteousness of God. Therefore, put away all filth and evil excess and humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls.

Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his own face in a mirror. He sees himself, then goes off and promptly forgets what he looked like. But the one who peers into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres, and is not a hearer who forgets but a doer who acts; such a one shall be blessed in what he does.

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, his religion is vain. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

The word of the Lord.

Politics & Policy

Study: Legalizing Assisted Suicide Is Associated with Increased Suicides

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An assisted-suicide kit. (Stefan Wermuth/Reuters)

One of the more paradoxical claims by assisted-suicide promoters is that legalization will reduce “premature” deaths because seriously ill people who might otherwise end it all sooner will instead wait because release is available readily when they need it.

I am not saying that never happens, but I have long believed that legalizing assisted suicide would be far more likely to increase suicide rates overall. Once using assisted suicide as a means of overcoming suffering caused by serious illness becomes the societal paradigm, people who are suffering intensely from other causes are unlikely think, “Oh, suicide is OK for people with cancer, but not me.” That’s not how our minds work.

And indeed, the West is experiencing a suicide crisis. Oregon public health officials have bemoaned the rise in youth and other suicides. And while assisted suicide is certainly not the sole cause of the spike, I have been screaming into the wind for people to connect some damn dots!

One earlier study about Oregon, which euthanasia proponents disputed, found that legalization did indeed “induce more self-inflicted deaths than it inhibits.” Now, a new peer-reviewed study in the Journal of Mental Health Ethics, looking at European countries that legalized euthanasia or assisted suicide, finds that not only does legalization not reduce “premature” deaths, but that legalized euthanasia/assisted suicide is indeed (unsurprisingly) associated with suicide increases when compared with neighboring countries without legalization. From the study’s conclusions (my emphasis):

When data from these jurisdictions are compared with those of neighbouring non-EAS [euthanasia/assisted suicide] states; significant dates are included; suicide (inclusive of assisted suicide) or intentional self-initiated deaths are included; and rates of male and female non-assisted suicide and suicide (incl. AS) / ISID are considered separately, a different and more concerning pattern emerges:
• In all of the four jurisdictions [where EAS is legal] there have been very steep rises in suicide (incl. AS) or in ISID after the introduction of EAS. A striking example is the suicide rate (incl. AS) of women in Switzerland which has roughly doubled since 1998. Many more people have died prematurely after these changes.
In none of the four jurisdictions did non-assisted suicide rates decrease after introduction of EAS relative to the most similar non-EAS neighbour. There is no indication of prevention of non-assisted suicide at a population level.
• In one of the four jurisdictions, the Netherlands, which has the longest history and greatest number of deaths by EAS in Europe, the rates of non-assisted suicide have increased since EAS was legalised by statute. This was both an increase in absolute terms and an increase relative to its only non-EAS neighbour: Germany.
• In another of the four jurisdictions, Belgium, which has the second highest rate of the death by EAS in Europe, while the rates of non-assisted suicide decreased in absolute terms, they increased relative to its most similar non-EAS neighbour: France. It is striking that Belgium now has the highest female non-assisted suicide rate in Europe, based on OECD Suicide Data.

It is also worth pointing out that Germany recently legalized assisted suicide for anyone and for any purpose. Want to bet that suicide rates will increase?

Here’s the bottom line. Once a society becomes pro–some suicides, it leads to more suicides. I don’t see how it could be otherwise — even when many laws call it something else and don’t count assisted suicides as what they are — suicides.

Proponents for legalizing assisted suicide should be forced to face this issue frontally, and not get away with the pretense that legalizing assisted suicide will actually reduce the number of “premature” self-killings. Not only does that not make sense logically, but the statistics from countries that have swallowed the hemlock don’t support the hypothesis.

Law & the Courts

Why Durham Filed the Motion That Generated a Feeding Frenzy

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U.S. Attorney John Durham (United States Attorney's Office, District of Connecticut/Wikimedia)

In response to No, Durham Did Not ‘Distance’ Himself from Hillary-Campaign Spying Claims

David is right on the money regarding special counsel John Durham’s most recent court submission — which, it should be noted, is a response to a motion by the defense, not a response to media coverage, much less a retreat in the face of media coverage.

As the Durham probe has crept along, often with nary a peep out of the prosecutor’s office for month after month, with Democrats complaining that he was wasting resources and Trump supporters squawking that he was asleep at the switch, it has been apparent that Durham does not perceive it as his job to feed the media beast. He did not file a motion with the court because he thought it was a slow news day.

As Rich and I discussed this morning while recording the recently posted TMR podcast, there are always specific, case-related reasons why prosecutors make pretrial court submissions that proffer sundry details about what they will seek to prove at trial. These reasons relate not to what the public is curious about, but to whatever the submission in question is asking the judge to do (if it is a government motion), or to whatever a defense motion has asked the judge to do. As a result, the prosecutor’s sense of the proffered information’s relevance is likely to be very different from what seems relevant to journalists and partisans (some of the former are also the latter). The prosecutor’s understanding of the information he proffers — both of its nature and how it relates to other information that is germane to the case but not discussed in the submission — is also apt to be better informed than that of commentators. That’s not because the commentators are partisans or morons (though some are); it’s because the investigator always knows things we don’t, is always aware of details that for us are gaps in need of filling.

In this instance, Durham filed a motion last week asking the presiding judge, Christopher R. “Casey” Cooper, to inquire into a potential conflict of interest borne by Latham & Watkins, the law firm representing defendant Michael Sussmann.

L&W also represents (or at least has represented and thus, under ethical rules, owes continuing fealty to) (a) Perkins-Coie, the law firm at which Sussmann worked during the pertinent time frame (including in connection with Sussmann’s representation of the Democratic National Committee and tech executive Rodney Joffe), and (b) Marc Elias, Sussmann’s law partner at the time (and the principal partner in Perkins-Coie’s representation of the Hillary Clinton campaign). For the most part, Durham’s motion adheres to Justice Department convention of not naming uncharged persons and entities: Perkins-Coie is “Law Firm-1,” Elias is “Campaign Lawyer-1,” Joffe is “Tech Executive-1,” and the DNC is “Political Organization-1.” (The Clinton campaign is referred to by name because it pervades the case — it would be impractical to avoid referring to it by name.)

Prosecutors are duty bound, under court precedents, to raise any potential conflicts involving defense counsel of which they become aware. It’s easy to understand why. A lawyer, for example, is not permitted to cross-examine a current or former client. So, let’s say Lawyer A is representing the defendant, and a former client of Lawyer A ends up becoming a critical witness in the trial. This is a conflict for Lawyer A because he owes the defendant zealous representation, but ethics rules forbid him from cross-examining (or even making jury arguments against) the witness, his former client. Thus, the defendant could be deprived of the constitutional rights to confront witnesses, present a defense, and have effective assistance of counsel. That would cause a mistrial, an enormous waste of resources.

Ergo, conflicts get resolved pretrial. Most often (because we try to preserve a defendant’s choice of counsel), this is done by allowing the defendant to waive the right to cross-examine a potential witness. Sometimes, a court will instead ensure that a non-conflicted lawyer is on the defense team to handle the questioning of, and arguments about, any witnesses as to whom there is a conflict. But sometimes, if the conflict is serious enough (the lawyer cannot confront the main witnesses in the case) or complex enough (it gets very hard to predict all the things that could go wrong in multiple-representation situations), defense counsel must be disqualified from the case, and the defendant must obtain new, non-conflicted representation.

Here, Durham (who related the applicable law on this subject at pages 5–6 of his motion) has opined that the potential conflicts can probably be addressed by a waiver. And we should stress: To flag a conflict is not to accuse anyone of misconduct; it is to address a contingency lest it become a huge problem.

In order for a judge to understand why there is a conflict, the prosecutor must foreshadow what the evidence will prove. This enables the judge to grasp why the testimony of possible witnesses who are current or former clients of defense counsel matters to the case. That is why Durham had to proffer parts of his case that bear on Perkins-Coie and Elias. If Sussmann is to be permitted to keep L&W as his trial counsel, he must waive the right to claim prejudice from any potential conflict his L&W lawyers have.

Under Supreme Court precedents, waivers involving constitutional rights must be knowing and voluntary. In the potential-conflict situation, then, the judge must make a record that the defendant was fully informed about the potential conflict, and made an uncoerced decision that keeping his potentially conflicted lawyer was worth forfeiting the right to claim harm from the conflict. To do that, the judge must walk the defendant through the evidence that bears on the conflict, and make sure the defendant understands how his interest in challenging that evidence could be harmed by the lawyer’s conflicting loyalties. The judge cannot do that unless the prosecutor has explained what that evidence is.

That is why Durham said what he said. Pace Mrs. Clinton and her sympathetic scribes, it was not a “right-wing lie.” It was the execution of a constitutional and professional obligation.

The Beginning of the End for the Ottawa Convoy?

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Mounted police officers watch on as truckers and supporters continue to protest vaccine mandates in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, February 18, 2022. (Lars Hagberg/Reuters)

Ottawa – Tensions are running high in Ottawa as hundreds of police officers in riot gear make a coordinated push to dismantle the trucker convoy that arrived in the city in late January. Police arrested at least two leading organizers of the convoy, Tamara Lich and Chris Barber, on Thursday night. But today, law-enforcement officers are engaged in a much larger-scale action, surrounding the encampments and methodically moving in to make arrests and disperse protesters, and even positioning armed officers on nearby roofs. It’s by far the most aggressive show of state force against the convoy to date.

Politics & Policy

If Hillary Says Something Is a ‘Conspiracy Theory,’ It’s Usually True

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Hillary Clinton gestures at a news conference to promote the movie “Hillary” during the 70th Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin, Germany, February 25, 2020. (Michele Tantussi/Reuters)

“We can’t get distracted. Whether it’s by the latest culture war nonsense or some new right-wing lie on Fox or Facebook,” two-time failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton told a crowd at the 2022 New York State Democratic Convention. “By the way, they’ve been coming after me again in case you might have noticed. It’s funny, the more trouble Trump gets into, the wilder the charges and conspiracy theories about me seem to get.”

Trump’s alleged corruption doesn’t discredit the existence of Hillary’s alleged corruption, or vice versa. We don’t yet know the extent of the dirty tricks Hillary’s 2016 campaign engaged in (though there is plenty we do know). But it’s worth remembering that when Clinton tells us something is a “conspiracy theory,” it usually turns out to be true.

Hillary, of course, famously went on the Today Show and claimed that a “vast right-wing conspiracy” — a phrase that was probably cooked up by Democratic consultants — was behind allegations that her husband had been messing around with a young White House intern named Monica Lewinsky. Sure, Hillary had known about Gennifer Flowers and Paula Jones, and scores of others, but the wisest woman to ever have deigned to trod among us argued that the very idea that her husband would have an affair was driven by a “mean-spirited” imagination and her conservative adversaries (among them, apparently, her husband’s attorney general, Janet Reno).

It was all true, of course.

As the Washington Post’s David Maraniss noted in 1998, it was modus operandi for the Clintons to deflect accusations by blaming them on a “reckless conspiracy launched by desperate opponents.”

Again in 2015, Hillary told reporters, even as her staff was trying to get rid of the evidence, that her email scandal was “another conspiracy theory.” Recently, Clinton joked that she had been guilty only of sending notes about “Gefilte fish.” Well, yes, that . . . and also the FBI, that notorious cabal of QAnon foot soldiers, found that she had set up an illegal server to circumvent transparency through which she sent unsecured classified and top-secret documents. Those right-wingers at the New York Times conceded that the communications were almost surely intercepted by foreign powers.

If Hillary’s last name had been Smith, she’d be riding out the parole phase of her felony conviction around now. Actually, if Hillary’s last name was Smith, a qualified woman would have taken her place as 67th secretary of state.

Media

Spring 2020 with P. J. O’Rourke and Andy Ferguson

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I remember reading P. J. O’Rourke in high school as a delightful rude awakening about how government really works — or doesn’t. And I love Andy Ferguson because he is a dear friend and, yes, just happens to be one of the best writers on politics and culture alive. P. J. and Andy were close friends, and I pray for O’Rourke and his family and friends as they mourn his loss.

If you have a chance, you might appreciate listening to this interview Peter Robinson from the Hoover Institution did with them toward the beginning of the pandemic (just as it was starting to get to even introvert Andy). They talk about the failures of the Baby Boomers, the trajectory of journalism, how faith helps, and more. Both with both humor and the wisdom of vast knowledge and lived experience.

If you can’t watch the whole almost-hour, go to about 39 minutes about what’s most important, including about politics.

R.I.P., P. J. O’Rourke.

Media

Remembering P. J. O’Rourke: A Conversation with Rob Long and Peter Robinson

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When P. J. O’ Rourke passed away on February 15, 2022, America lost one of its greatest observers and chroniclers of culture and politics since Mark Twain. But O’Rourke wasn’t just reporting events from the sidelines. Through his work in National Lampoon and countless other magazine articles and books, he contributed original works as well. O’Rourke appeared on Uncommon Knowledge with Peter Robinson three times over the years, including his final appearance in May 2020 with his lifelong friend, writer Andrew Ferguson. In this special edition of Uncommon Knowledge, Peter and TV writer, humorist, and National Review columnist Rob Long remember O’Rourke and discuss his work and the influence he had on their lives and careers.

Recorded on February 15th, 2022

Religion

Choose to Encounter Truth This Weekend

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(Yves Herman/Reuters)

This weekend is the return in person of the NY Encounter, an always worthwhile intellectual, spiritual, musical, artistic festival run by Communion and Liberation, a quite Italian movement in the Catholic Church. If you are in the New York City area and can, I would highly recommend it. (I know I will pop in at some point — probably Sunday.) Exhibits that are only available in person include one on the life and music of the late Amy Winehouse and restlessness and addiction.) One of the benefits of our Covid days is that people have figured out livestreaming seemingly universally. And so the program is available to people who cannot be there in person. Again, take a look at the schedule — the theme is “This Urge for the Truth.”

A taste of some of what’s on the agenda:

Continue reading “Choose to Encounter Truth This Weekend”

The Economy

Trucking Companies Investing Record Profits in New Equipment

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Trucks loaded with shipping containers leave the Port of Montreal in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, May 17, 2021. (Christinne Muschi/Reuters)

Two of America’s biggest trucking companies have made record profits, and they are using that money to invest in new equipment, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Old Dominion Freight Line is increasing its capital expenditures by 50 percent this year. “That includes $485 million to buy tractors and trailers, up 79% from last year,” the story says. That comes after a 54 percent increase in net profit from 2020 to 2021.

J. B. Hunt is planning $1.5 billion in capital expenditures this year, up from $877 million last year. Its net profits rose 50 percent from 2020 to 2021.

But they are running into supply-chain problems in acquiring new supply-chain equipment. The story quotes Old Dominion CEO Greg Gantt as saying, “We would frankly like to spend more, but we have been limited by several suppliers that are facing manufacturing challenges.”

The story explains:

Truck and trailer manufacturers have been struggling with the availability of some parts over the past year, while the shortage of semiconductors that has strained automotive production has also hit assembly lines for Class 8 heavy-duty trucks. Orders for Class 8 trucks, the big rigs that haul most domestic freight, have fallen in recent months as manufacturers limit new orders to catch up to backlogs.

North American manufacturers produced 264,500 Class 8 trucks in 2021 but would have made as many as 330,000 if production hadn’t been hampered, said Kenny Vieth, president of ACT Research Co. The Columbus, Ind.-based transportation-data provider forecasts production will hit 300,000 vehicles in 2022, down from an estimate six months earlier that manufacturers would pump out 360,000 trucks this year.

Production is not expected to recover until 2023, the story says.

This story illustrates two vital lessons from the supply-chain crisis. First, anti-profit sloganeering from politicians fails to understand how markets work. The record profits we’ve seen in the supply-chain sector don’t get direct-deposited into executives’ bank accounts. Companies use the profits to reinvest in capital and plan for the future. Old Dominion and J. B. Hunt probably would have loved to make these investments a few years ago, but they simply didn’t have the money. It’s in everyone’s best interest that the trucking sector be a self-sustaining industry. We should want these companies to make money and use that money to provide better service to their customers.

Second, supply-chain constraints make investment in capital harder. The quote from Old Dominion’s CEO shows that these constraints are binding on companies looking to the future. Frustrating as the delays on consumer goods are, delays on capital investment are far worse because they hinder long-run economic growth. Forgone capital investment in the present means that less equipment be available in the future. It’s a simple point, but it’s worth emphasizing. And companies with record profits that can’t get their hands on capital will be more likely to spend those profits in other, less productive ways.

Record profits are not a problem for politicians to solve by taxing or regulating them away. In fact, record profits going toward capital investment is the economy working just as it should, and efficient supply chains make that investment easier.

Politics & Policy

Senate Democrats Prepare to Back Themselves into a Corner on Abortion

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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) participates in a news conference at the U.S. Capitol, October 1, 2020. (Erin Scott/Reuters)

Yesterday, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) took the first steps toward a vote on the Women’s Health Protection Act, a radically pro-abortion bill that aims to invalidate nearly every pro-life state law in the country.

The same measure has already passed the House on a nearly party-line vote: One Democrat, Henry Cueller of Texas, voted against it. Schumer’s long delay in bringing up the bill in the Senate suggested to some observers that he intended to let it die, knowing that he has nowhere near the 60 votes he needs to pass it. But it appears that the majority leader is gearing up for yet another vote on a bill that’s dead on arrival — and in the process he’ll force vulnerable members of his  own caucus to go on the record supporting a truly extreme piece of legislation.

The WHPA, backed by the Biden administration, effectively codifies abortion on demand throughout birth, going so far as to nullify state pro-life laws, including those that protect unborn children after they’re able to survive outside the womb. The bill would forbid states from enacting even the most modest of abortion regulations such as informed-consent laws, waiting periods, ultrasound requirements, and bans on abortions chosen for discriminatory reasons (such as the unborn child’s sex or diagnosis with a disability).

Pro-life leaders are insistent that the decision to move ahead with this measure will be damaging to Democrats. “National Democratic leaders’ support for abortion on demand without limits, at taxpayer expense, is extreme — and grossly out of step with the majority of Americans who support common ground pro-life policies,” said Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser in a statement on Friday.

Dannenfelser is right. Over the past few years, in anticipation of an eventual overruling of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, dozens of states have been working to enact more protective pro-life laws. Just this week, legislatures in Florida and Arizona took the first steps toward passing protections for unborn children after 15 weeks’ gestation, and they’re far from alone.

If the Supreme Court does walk back or overturn its abortion jurisprudence this term in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization — considering the constitutionality of a Mississippi 15-week abortion ban — Democrats are banking on a public backlash to help save them from a more disastrous showing in the midterms. But if they insist on pushing radically pro-abortion bills such as this one in response, they’ll find that the average American will be repulsed by their extremism.

World

‘The Bloody Czar’: Did a False-Flag Operation Fuel Putin’s Rise?

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Russian President Vladimir Putin attends an outdoor ceremony in Saint Petersburg, Russia January 27, 2022. (Aleksey Nikolskyi/Kremlin via Reuters)

As a (further) Russian invasion of Ukraine grows more and more likely, last night I decided to re-read David Satter’s August 2016 cover story in the magazine, “The Bloody Czar.”

Satter, an American journalist with extensive experience in Russia and the former Soviet Union, detailed the rise of Vladimir Putin from obscurity to the pinnacle of power in Moscow — and how it all could have been catalyzed by a murderous false-flag operation.

“I believe,” Satter wrote, “that Vladimir Putin came to power as the result of an act of terror committed against his own people.”

The evidence is overwhelming that the apartment-house bombings in 1999 in Moscow, Buinaksk, and Volgodonsk, which provided a pretext for the second Chechen war and catapulted Putin into the presidency, were carried out by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). Yet, to this day, an indifferent world has made little attempt to grasp the significance of what was the greatest political provocation since the burning of the Reichstag.

“I have been trying,” Satter continued, “to call attention to the facts behind the bombings since 1999. I consider this a moral obligation, because ignoring the fact that a man in charge of the world’s largest nuclear arsenal came to power through an act of terror is highly dangerous in itself.”

The apartment bombings — which were quickly blamed on Islamist Chechen rebels — killed hundreds of Russian civilians. Putin, newly named as the political successor to then-president Boris Yeltsin, vowed revenge and was shot into power. He then proceeded to prosecute the war in the breakaway province of Chechnya and crushed the rebels. Combined with a general economic boom, Putin become the undisputed and, for a time, extremely popular, ruler of Russia.

But, Satter writes, “Almost from the start . . . there were doubts about the provenance of the bombings, which could not have been better calculated to rescue the fortunes of Yeltsin and his entourage.”

Suspicions deepened when a fifth bomb was discovered in the basement of a building in Ryazan, a city southeast of Moscow, and those who had placed it turned out to be not Chechen terrorists but agents of the FSB. After these agents were arrested by local police, Nikolai Patrushev, the head of the FSB, said that the bomb had been a fake and that it had been planted in Ryazan as part of a training exercise. The bomb, however, tested positive for hexogen, the explosive used in the four successful apartment bombings. An investigation of the Ryazan incident was published in the newspaper Novaya Gazeta, and the public’s misgivings grew so widespread that the FSB agreed to a televised meeting between its top officials and residents of the affected building. The FSB in this way tried to demonstrate its openness, but the meeting was a disaster: It left the overwhelming impression that the incident in Ryazan was a failed political provocation.

Three days after the broadcast, Putin was elected. Attention to the Ryazan incident faded, and it began to appear that the bombings would become just the latest in the long list of Russia’s unsolved crimes.

It’s sober reading. If you want to understand the roots of what’s going on in the Donbas, read the whole thing here.

Immigration

Biden DHS Explains How It Intends to Accept More Immigrants Who Use Welfare

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President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the economy during a speech in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building’s South Court Auditorium at the White House in Washington, D.C., November 23, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

One of the Trump administration’s signature policies on legal immigration was to give teeth to the “public-charge rule,” a long-standing statutory requirement that applicants who are “likely at any time to become a public charge” cannot receive an entry visa or, if already here as a visitor, become permanent residents. (The rule does not apply to refugees.) Until Trump, DHS had been relying on informal Clinton-era guidance that narrowly defined a public charge as someone who receives cash assistance or long-term care at taxpayer expense. Applicants who were likely to receive non-cash benefits such as food stamps were still admitted because they would not be “primarily” dependent on government for basic needs.

The “primarily” qualifier is not something that appears in any public-charge statute that I am aware of. In fact, in the same year that Congress reaffirmed the public-charge rule, it declared “a compelling government interest . . . to assure that aliens be self-reliant in accordance with national immigration policy.” To be “self-reliant” seems to leave little room for any dependence on the government for basic needs, which is why the Trump administration issued a formal regulation that included receipt of Medicaid, food stamps, and housing assistance as part of the public-charge definition.

After Biden took office, DHS nixed Trump’s regulation without following the notice-and-comment procedures normally required by law. (That is a whole story in itself, and it is the subject of a Supreme Court hearing next week.) Now DHS has unveiled its proposed replacement regulation, which would essentially enshrine the pre-Trump guidance, once again defining a public charge as someone who is “primarily” dependent.

The proposed rule does little to address Congress’s stated interest in immigrants being “self-reliant.” After all, an immigrant whom DHS would not consider a public charge can still receive a wage subsidized by the EITC, shop at the grocery store with food stamps, pay for doctors’ visits through Medicaid, live in a subsidized rental unit, and heat it with energy assistance. Most people would not consider this immigrant’s life to be an example of self-reliance.

In some sense, the fight over the public-charge regulation is really a fight over the public-charge statute. Many advocates believe that people likely to become public charges should be welcomed to America, even when admitted from non-humanitarian visa categories. Congress explicitly disagrees. As long as the public-charge statute is on the books, the Biden DHS should faithfully enforce it rather than neuter it through regulation.

World

U.S. Intel: Russia Preparing to Hunt Prominent Ukrainians Post-Invasion

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Foreign Policy has a disturbing scoop on Moscow’s preparations to kill or detain prominent Ukrainians in the immediate aftermath of an invasion of Ukraine:

Four people familiar with U.S. intelligence said that Russia has drafted lists of Ukrainian political figures and other prominent individuals to be targeted for either arrest or assassination in the event of a Russian assault on Ukraine.

The report, which is worth reading in full, quotes a U.S. official describing the sort of people that Russian forces can be expected to target:

“These acts, which in past Russian operations have included targeted killings, kidnappings/forced disappearances, detentions, and the use of torture, would likely target those who oppose Russian actions, including Russian and Belarusian dissidents in exile in Ukraine, journalists and anti-corruption activists, and vulnerable populations such as religious and ethnic minorities and LGBTQI+ persons,” the official said.

The Biden administration has also been startled by how formalized the lists are, which appear to target anyone who could challenge the Russian agenda. Five Eyes intelligence partners have also tracked Russian intelligence agencies, such as the FSB and GRU, building up target and kill lists. One congressional aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the moves were typical of Russian doctrine, using armed forces to seize military objectives, while special operators shape the conflict and intelligence operators come into the country to get rid of opposition elements.

Politics & Policy

No, Durham Did Not ‘Distance’ Himself from Hillary-Campaign Spying Claims

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U.S. Attorney John Durham (United States Attorney's Office, District of Connecticut/Wikimedia)

Whenever evidence emerges that Democrats may have acted in a corrupt, potentially illegal manner — as it recently did when a John Durham filing disclosed that Clinton’s campaign may have recruited a tech company to spy on Donald Trump’s Internet activity in 2016 — a defensive media springs into action.

“Durham Distances Himself From Furor in Right-Wing Media Over Filing,” read a New York Times piece by Charlie Savage today. “The right-wing media quickly embraced a theory that even special counsel John Durham has distanced himself from,” wrote Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler. “In filing, Durham appears to distance himself from far-right theories,” says MSNBC. “John Durham distances himself from right-wing furor,” writes Axios.

Anyway, “distanced” is the word of the day.

These claims were all highly misleading. Nothing in the Durham filing yesterday, in response to complaints from Clinton’s lawyer, Michael Sussmann — who is indicted for misleading law-enforcement agencies — is meant to distance himself from the furor or any specific “theories:”

If third parties or members of the media have overstated, understated, or otherwise misinterpreted facts contained in the Government’s Motion, that does not in any way undermine the valid reasons for the Government’s inclusion of this information.

The italics are mine. This is a neutral statement, defending the ability of the special counsel to relay pertinent information in filings without worrying if media get the facts wrong. Using the logic of the Post, Times, and Axios, National Review could headline a news piece: “Durham says left-wing media ‘understated’ spying charges.”

Durham, in fact, goes on to write that, “The Government intends to file motions in limine in which it will further discuss these and other pertinent facts to explain why they constitute relevant and admissible evidence at trial.” Publicly sharing this evidence, Durham goes on, “is appropriate and proper, even in highprofile cases where the potential exists that such facts could garner media attention.”

Headline: “Durham Says Sharing Clinton Spying Revelations ‘Appropriate and Proper’”

None of this means that all conservatives got all the facts straight or that many haven’t jumped to conclusions. Fact-checkers like to play a strawman-game in which they highlight some hyperbolic statements or mistakes — the Durham filing did not, for example, use the word “infiltrated” to describe what Hillary’s campaign did — and use it to dismiss the entire scandal as a figment of the conservative imagination. Can you imagine how quickly the Russia-collusion hysteria — or even legitimate news stories — would have been shelved if fact-checkers held the Left to this standard?

Economy & Business

Today in Capital Matters: Prices and Big Tech

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Jessica Melugin on supposed predatory pricing by Amazon:

The case for predatory pricing against the tech giant is as follows: Amazon is subsidizing low prices on its e-commerce platform and in third-party logistics with profits from its cloud-computing division, Amazon Web Services (AWS). This will ultimately (so the argument runs) drive competitors out of business, which will allow Amazon to raise prices.

Note that even if this theory is correct, consumers are benefiting on the front end from lower prices and expanded logistics. Under U.S. antitrust law, the standard for triggering enforcement action is consumer harm — the opposite of what Amazon’s customers are now experiencing. And so, for example, at a time when inflation is a toll on consumers’ budgets, there are currently 148 million Prime subscribers enjoying alleged artificially low prices, and other Amazon customers can benefit too (depending on the relative cost of delivery to the price of the good being bought). So where’s the “harm”? But what happens down the road when Amazon can (theoretically) raise prices, having (theoretically) driven its competitors out of business?

Jennifer Huddleston on privacy and big tech:

A uniform federal data-privacy law, then, succeeds where the proposed antitrust changes and our currency state privacy model fail. It would actually address what Americans care about online and increase opportunities for competition.

While federal privacy legislation would be a legitimate step in the right direction, federal policy-makers must still be careful to balance the trade-offs between innovation, speech, and privacy. While a poorly drafted law with cumbersome regulatory requirements could further entrench the largest players and result in user and innovator frustration, a well-drafted one would give American voters what they want — trust and safety online.

Elections

Jane Timken Takes the Rubio Approach to Her Opponents’ Manhood

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Jane Timken, then-chairwoman of the Ohio Republican Party, speaks at a Trump rally in Youngstown, Ohio, July 25, 2017. (Kyle Mazza/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

As I noted last week, there is a divide in the Republican primary for senate in the Ohio: In the national media, the race is between J. D. Vance and Josh Mandel, both of whom have been putting on an embarrassing clown show, but in the Ohio polls, the race is between Mike Gibbons and Mandel, with the other three candidates — Vance, Jane Timken, and Matt Dolan — not quite out of striking distance, but needing to distinguish themselves to move into the top tier. Timken recently won the endorsement of Rob Portman, the retiring incumbent. The Ohio GOP has taken a much Trumpier turn in recent years than in the days when John Kasich, Mike DeWine, and George Voinovich rose through the ranks, so Portman may no longer have a ton of pull with primary voters, but he did win 58 percent of the vote in his last election in 2016.

Timken’s argument and her strategy have been a bit at odds. Her argument has been that she was pro-Trump before Mandel and Vance became converts; her strategy has been to let voters get sick of both of them. The one unifying line is that she has rounded up endorsements from leading Republican women by emphasizing her gender in an otherwise all-male race. The problem is that her strategy didn’t really account for Gibbons. Her new ad illustrates the dilemma:

This reeks of when Marco Rubio went after Donald Trump’s, er, manhood, which was hilarious but politically ineffective. If Timken is trying to counter-program the try-hard insanity of the Mandel and Vance campaigns, the last thing she should be doing is an ad that tries too hard. The obvious symptom of that is adding Gibbons to the lineup (presumably, her camp decided it was better to not even mention Dolan’s existence). Also, leaning too hard on the lady-mocking-the-boys thing could easily backfire with male voters. Voters can tell you’re a woman: You don’t have to say it. Maybe these days, anything that gets publicity is a help, but this ad seems like a poor decision.

Education

Drawing the Lines on Faculty Speech

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In this Martin Center article, Jay Schalin suggests where to draw the lines and looks at some cases.

He writes, “With such considerations in mind, the following guidelines should form the foundation of a definition, or at least a starting point for a discussion on the matter. The boundaries of a lack of fitness should include:

  • Making wild conjectures as facts without supporting evidence. This can include a refusal to use proper methods, or deliberately using known falsehoods.
  • Unwarranted maliciousness towards individuals, groups of people, and the nation. This includes support for unconscionable actions, such as genocide and pedophilia.
  • Promoting or inciting violence against innocents. It is one thing to make a reasoned argument why a nation should go to war; it is another to urge the murder or abuse of non-combatants.”

In 2016, a professor at Drexel University put out a tweet in which he declared, “All I want for Christmas is white genocide.” (This wasn’t an isolated instance; he had in the past written that violence against white people was quite acceptable.) Drexel defended him on academic freedom grounds, but the prof later decamped for Vassar. Should Drexel have tolerated that? Schalin thinks not.

In 2017, a professor at Portland State, Bruce Gilley, published an article in which he argued that colonialism had some benefits for the colonized people. A great many students and professors demanded that Gilley be fired and that his article be taken down. They got their way on the article, but Portland State didn’t fire Gilley. In that, the university made the right decision in Schalin’s view.

He concludes that, “There are many wild theories being bandied about in academia today that suggest their proponents should find other employment, such as critical race theory and “indigenous science” that equates fantastical native myths to proven science. And there are disturbed, radicalized individuals who have found an audience in an Ivory Tower that does not subject their ideas to proper scrutiny. Using the concept of fitness that is well-defined and well-reasoned could go a long way toward providing a means to keep an open dialogue of ideas and, at the same time, rid higher education of those who are not worthy of the rights of a scholar.”

Trade

How the China Olympics Are Worsening Supply-Chain Problems

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A steel factory in Jiaxing, China. (William Hong/Reuters)

It might seem strange to say, but the Winter Olympics are making the supply-chain crisis worse. At least, that’s what a report from Everstream Analytics, a supply-chain firm, argues.

The report’s authors’ case revolves around basic materials. “China has leveraged its abundant mineral deposits and lax environmental laws to become a global mining powerhouse in the 21st century,” they write. Over 50 percent of the world’s steel and aluminum production happens in China, and the country has near-monopolies on magnesium and silicon.

The industry surrounding the extraction and refinement of those natural resources accounts for about one-third of China’s carbon emissions. With the Olympics in town, China is under pressure to be on its best behavior and prove to the world that it’s reducing its carbon emissions.

It isn’t really doing that, though. Since Xi Jinping announced that China would become carbon-neutral by 2060, only 10 of China’s 30 regions met their energy goals. “The lack of discernible progress resulted in provincial authorities enforcing harsher penalties on provinces that failed to meet their energy targets,” the report says.

Those restrictions from the central party apparatus are targeted on regions that produce many basic materials. The report says, “Officials have signaled that the steelmaking regions of Tianjin and Tangshan, the magnesium mines in Shanxi, and the aluminum hubs of Shandong and Henan province will face strict production control measures during the first quarter of 2022.” Sometimes those measures go so far as outright banning of production for a period of time.

China has no feasible way to meet its climate goals without simply turning things off. Green-energy technology can’t generate nearly enough power to meet the country’s needs, and those needs are growing every day. When the world isn’t paying attention, it just ignores its international commitments. But with the Olympics, everyone’s eyes are on China. Like a child frantically cleaning his room when he hears his parents coming down the hallway, the CCP ordered its industries to stop for a bit so air quality would improve to international standards.

Despite Xi’s supposed commitment to environmentalism, expect the smog to return once the Olympics are over. But it’s impossible to just shut down production for over a month and expect no disruptions. Everstream warns its customers about “potential shortages and delivery delays from Chinese suppliers, with recommendations to consider suppliers in alternate geographies.”

As previously mentioned, though, many of these issues involve natural endowments. China happens to have a lot of minerals, and there’s not a lot we can do about that. So American carmakers and electronics companies, in many cases, are just going to have to wait.

Magnesium is important for making aluminum alloys. The market for aluminum is already having a rough go of it and will only get worse if Russia invades Ukraine. A two-sided assault on global aluminum production is not going to help prices or supply chains.

If you didn’t already have enough reasons to think holding the Olympics in a genocidal, totalitarian dictatorship was a bad idea, there’s also the supply-chain concerns. The IOC’s decision to hold these games in China is one of the greatest blunders in Olympics history.

Regulatory Policy

Regulating Internet Speech, the Tory Way

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson walks outside 10 Downing Street in London, England, January 31, 2022. (Henry Nicholls/Reuters)

Weakened by the scandal that surrounds him and looking around for supporters within the Conservatives’ parliamentary party, Britain’s embattled prime minister is now claiming that he is on the small-government Right after all.

The Daily Telegraph, February 12:

Boris Johnson’s government will take “a step back from people’s lives” as it seeks to “restore a smaller state” in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Prime Minister’s new chief of staff has said.

To believe this would require a remarkable amount of gullibility, but Johnson’s government might at least pretend that it is serious about the restoration of a smaller state.

Instead (via the Financial Times (February 15) (my emphasis added):

The UK Home Office [interior ministry] is pushing for sweeping new powers that would require internet companies to monitor for “legal but harmful” user content, in a radical departure from existing global rules that police some of the world’s biggest technology companies…

Critics fear the suggested measures, which would create new liabilities for internet platforms such as Facebook and Google, could create a clash with European data protection rules and deter further investment from multinational tech companies in the UK. One tech lobbyist said the plans have put a panic-stricken tech industry at “Defcon 2”. “The broader implications are vast,” this person said…

Increasing the liability of tech companies and their UK-based directors for content that is deemed harmful but not illegal would be a departure by the UK from US and European models of internet regulation.

If the Home Office’s proposals are added to the bill, communications regulator Ofcom would be granted powers to demand from tech companies a higher level of proactive monitoring, rather than merely relying on their users to report abusive or offensive material…

The measures would create new liabilities for Silicon Valley giants as well as smaller businesses that host user-generated content online, including travel review sites and food delivery marketplaces.

One tech industry executive, who has seen the proposals, said the potential requirement to monitor legal content, as well as material that is clearly designated as illegal, crossed a “huge red line” for internet companies.

Should such measures be introduced, companies such as Google and Facebook should pull out of the U.K., block access from British addresses and so on. The Tories are already the party of net zero (except when it comes to tax increases, spending increases, and inflation), so why not add zero Facebook and Google to their record?

Over at the Spectator, Mark Johnson asks whether the Conservatives really care about free speech. Well, yes, the party (or at least its Boris Johnson/Theresa May wing) is against it.

Johnson (Mark, that is):

This Bill as currently drafted gives express state-backing to social media censorship and specifically targets lawful expression in a way that will do untold damage to free speech in Britain. Plans to tackle lawful speech – ‘free speech’ to you and me – that the government believes to be ‘harmful’ could include statements that risk, even indirectly, an ‘adverse psychological impact’. This is such an absurdly broad definition that it would encapsulate even the mildest bit of speech. Worse still, the Bill hands the government of the day sweeping powers to create a list of speech categories which it believes could be ‘harmful’, in a brazen attempt to strengthen executive power over online discourse.

Rather than rein in the big tech titans the legislation will strengthen their hand and actually entrench some of Silicon Valley’s most nonsensical rules. These could include an absurd Facebook policy which has seen women’s posts removed for saying that men are ‘idiots’ under the guise of ‘hate speech’ and Twitter’s censorious rules which have seen individuals of all persuasions removed from the platform for using the widely used terms ‘cis’ and ‘Terf’ when discussing trans rights. Under the Online Safety Bill, all of this Big Tech interference would become state-backed…

For all the faults (including, of course, no small amount of bias) in the way that Big Tech handles speech, the European experience (think of Germany’s notorious social-media law) ought — First Amendment or no First Amendment — to act as a sharp warning to those in this country who would use the state to dilute the free-speech protections embedded in the way that the American Internet now operates.

Culture

‘Freedom’ Is Still the Natural Republican Rallying Cry

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I wrote today at Politico about the trucker protests and the American Right:

It’s not 2010 again in GOP politics and never will be, but you could be forgiven for having flashbacks to the beginnings of the Tea Party.

A leaderless grassroots revolt has emerged from almost nowhere, causing outrage in the media and among elected officials, as it opposes government overreach in high-spirited demonstrations.

So, yeah, this is happening in Canada and not the United States, but, hey, we’re still talking about North America.

The embrace of the Canadian trucker protesters by the American right is a sign that the Tea Party spirit circa the early Obama years was never fully extinguished. Since then, everything has changed — most importantly, the rise of Donald Trump and his movement — and nothing has changed. It is freedom that remains the most natural and powerful Republican rallying cry.

World

What If the Efforts to Deter Russia Fail?

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President Joe Biden speaks about the situation in Russia and Ukraine from the White House in Washington D.C., February 15, 2022. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

As of this writing, Russia has not invaded Ukraine. But the outlook certainly seems grim; U.S. government officials say they haven’t seen any signs of that alleged Russian partial withdrawal, and Biden’s comments this morning make it sound like he expects Russia to invade Ukraine any day now:

Q: Mr. President, how high is the threat of a Russian invasion right now?

THE PRESIDENT:  It’s very high.

Q    Why?

THE PRESIDENT:  It’s very — because they have not — they have not moved any of their troops out.  They’ve moved more troops in, number one.  Number two, we have reason to believe that they are engaged in a false-flag operation to have an excuse to go in.  Every indication we have is they’re prepared to go into Ukraine, attack Ukraine…

Q: Do you think he’s going to go through with this, sir?  Is your sense that this is going to happen now?

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.  Not —

Q    When?

THE PRESIDENT:  I — my sense is this will happen within the next several days.

And the amount of smoke from the chimneys at the Russian embassy in Kyiv suggest Russian diplomats are burning sensitive documents . . . which suggests those diplomats probably think their embassy won’t be secure sometime soon. And those Russian diplomats might have a really good reason to think their embassy won’t be secure sometime soon, such as knowledge that Russia and Ukraine will soon be at war.

No American president or his administration has perfect influence or unlimited leverage over the actions of other country. But there’s a grim difference between the foreign policy crisis of Ukraine now and the foreign policy crisis of Afghanistan a few months ago. In Afghanistan, the Biden administration seemed blindsided and in denial, and clearly wanted to wash their hands of the catastrophe as quickly as possible.

Here and now, the Biden administration doesn’t seem blindsided, and they certainly aren’t in denial. They’re not distracted or eager to move on to other issues. For all of the Biden administration’s flaws — and yikes, do they have flaws! — this administration seems to have thrown a lot of effort, energy and attention into deterring a Russian invasion. Biden has made his share of mistakes regarding Russia in his first year, but by Biden’s standards, this is a full-court press, and pulling out all the diplomatic stops.

And it still might not be enough.

The other day, Kevin watched Biden’s remarks on Russia and concluded Biden is a mess: “Biden is slurring his words, getting lost in the middle of short sentences, and in general acting like a grandpa who cannot figure out how his new phone works.” If Russia invades, it means Biden is a mess who’s thoroughly ineffective, who can’t achieve his policy goals even when he and his team give 110 percent effort.

And the rest of the world, from Beijing to Pyongyang to Tehran, will know it.

Law & the Courts

BLM-Associated Gun-Control Activist Shoots Politician, GOP to Blame

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AR-15 rifles are displayed for sale at the Guntoberfest gun show in Oaks, Pa., October 6, 2017. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

I noted a few days ago that a BLM-associated gun-control activist from Louisville, Ky. had tried to shoot a Democratic mayoral candidate. I thought that this was somewhat ironic, given the shooter’s previous insistence that “your life has no meaning to the irresponsible politicians in Frankfort who time and time again choose the National Rifle Association over your life.”

What I didn’t realize, but what the Las Vegas Sun understood straight away, was that this was actually the fault of the Republican Party. In a piece titled “Escalating hateful rhetoric leads nation down a dark, chaotic path,” the Sun explained yesterday that “a terrifying incident in Louisville, Ky., this week revealed the dangers of the talk coming from the right about civil war and political violence.” “While there’s been no indication yet that the activist had ties to any right-wing organizations,” the paper recorded, “the shooting comes amid a rise in threats against politicians fueled by increasingly violent rhetoric coming from extremist Republicans.”

The solution? “American leaders across the board must start speaking out, especially those in the GOP.”

The more you know.

Law & the Courts

When It Comes to Clarence Thomas, Who Reflects Whom?

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Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas talks in his chambers at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., in 2016. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

In response to Clarence Thomas vs. the <i>Washington Post</i>

Charlie, I’ll add one more observation to yours: The Washington Post’s description — in its original and updated form — is simply untrue. Conceding that the “story imprecisely referred to Justice Clarence Thomas’s opinions as often reflecting the thinking of White conservatives, rather than conservatives broadly,” as the Post has done, doesn’t help its case, either.

The story has the relationship in reverse. The thinking of “conservatives broadly” on various matters of constitutional law tends to reflect that of Justice Thomas — quite often, long after he first began to publish opinions on them. He is, in other words, a jurisprudential pioneer.

Any day is a good day to read about his life and career: about the man, and the jurist. We published a handful of reflections last fall, celebrating his 30th anniversary on the Court. Now, it seems, is an especially good time to revisit them.

How about an excerpt on this very theme, from Notre Dame Law professor Nicole Stelle Garnett?

In September 1991, within days of the commencement of Clarence Thomas’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings, construction began on Boston’s ambitious “Big Dig” highway project. Justice Thomas’s confirmation a month later set into motion another big dig — his painstaking, careful, and relentless quest to unearth, clause by clause, issue by issue, the original meaning of the Constitution of the United States.

The two projects were animated by radically different goals. By relocating Interstate 93 into a subterranean tunnel, Boston’s Big Dig sought to bury the mistakes of the past. By excavating and removing layer upon layer of erroneous constitutional doctrine, Justice Thomas’s big dig has sought to expose them to the light of day.

Plagued with delays and billions of dollars over budget, Boston’s Big Dig was finally completed in 2007. Justice Thomas’s project continues. While other justices have been, and are, originalists, Justice Thomas stands out both for his persistent determination to lay bare the errors of past precedents — to which he has declared that he owes no fidelity — and for his commitment to offering a principled, historically grounded road map to restoring the Constitution as it was originally understood. Justice Scalia once quipped that Justice Thomas was a “bloodthirsty originalist.” Justice Thomas didn’t mind. He believes that “something has gone seriously awry with this Court’s interpretation of the Constitution” and he is determined to right the record. He cuts no corners and leaves no stone unturned.

Criminal procedure, sovereign immunity, the administrative state, separation of powers, cruel and unusual punishment, property rights, free speech, religion, equal protection, due process, foreign affairs, the scope of Congress’s power to regulate commerce, stare decisis . . . the list goes on and on. As John O. McGinnis and Michael Rappaport recently observed, “there are now few areas of constitutional law on which he has not left directions about recovering the original meaning of our fundamental law.”

These recovery efforts began during his early days on the Court, when he adopted the practice of flagging areas of settled constitutional law that he would reconsider in an appropriate case. Over time, Justice Thomas has developed these early missives into a full-blown originalist canon in scores of opinions rejecting established doctrine. Consider a few examples. . .

Law & the Courts

It’s Official: Nick Kristof Is an ‘Idiot’

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Nicholas Kristof speaks at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Goalkeepers event in Manhattan, N.Y., September 20, 2017. (Elizabeth Shafiroff/Reuters)

Again, that’s his word, not mine. When he announced his run, Kristof suggested that, “precisely because I have a great job, outstanding editors and the best readers, I may be an idiot to leave” the New York Times. And then he left anyway, without checking whether he was eligible to seek the role.

Which he wasn’t. Here’s the Post:

The Oregon Supreme Court has ruled that former New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who in October announced a Democratic campaign for Oregon governor, cannot appear on the state’s primary ballot in May, agreeing with the Oregon secretary of state that Kristof does not meet the constitutional residency requirements to serve.

Kristof, who had vowed to challenge the secretary of state’s decision last month, said he accepted the court’s decision Thursday and would not pursue the matter further, ending his campaign.

“The Supreme Court has spoken. And while we are disappointed in the decision, we respect its ruling and thank the justices for their thoughtful consideration on this matter,” Kristof said in a statement.

“Thoughtful consideration.” Now there’s an idea!

Evidently, working at the New York Times for as long as he did had given Kristof the false impression that America’s courts exist to be nice to people of whom they approve — or, perhaps, to give in to West Wing–style speeches if they consider their rhetoric to be sufficiently moving. Having been told that he wasn’t eligible, Kristof’s lawyer argued that he should be allowed to run “because he had graduated from high school in Oregon, long maintained property there, frequently returned, and considered it his home.” In response to which the Oregon Supreme Court was forced to explain that its role was “not to evaluate the depth of [Kristof’s] emotional connection to Oregon or whether he was sufficiently ‘Oregonian’; rather, the case required the Court to decide two legal questions.”

Those being straightforward, Kristof was deemed to be ineligible. I look forward to his first column once he has been taken back by the Times: “Why Now Is the Time to Pack the Oregon Supreme Court.”

 

Elections

Poll: Kemp Leads Perdue by Ten Points in Georgia GOP Gubernatorial Primary

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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)

A new Trafalgar poll shows incumbent governor Brian Kemp leading GOP primary challenger (and former U.S. senator) David Perdue 49 percent to 39 percent.

The poll is a data point confirming a recent CNN report that Perdue is struggling in the race despite the endorsement of former president Donald Trump.

Trump endorsed Perdue simply because he was angry that Kemp did not attempt to overturn the results of the presidential election in Georgia. In December of 2021, Perdue said he would not have certified the 2020 election results in Georgia. “Georgia’s law does not offer the governor or the secretary of state the ability to not certify an election,” Axios noted at the time. “Any challenge to an election’s integrity must happen through the courts. All legal challenges to the 2020 election in Georgia have failed.”

The primary election in Georgia will be held on May 24.

Ottawa Convoy Braces for Impact

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Protestors stand on a trailer carrying logs as truckers and supporters take part in a convoy to protest Covid vaccine mandates for cross-border truck drivers in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, January 29, 2022. (Patrick Doyle/Reuters)

Ottawa — The ranks of protesters are swelling here in Ottawa today, as Canadians from across the country begin to pour in for the fourth weekend of demonstrations that first took root in the city in late January. The weekends typically take on the air of a music festival, but there’s a new tension in the crowds in the face of a noticeable police buildup over the course of the last 24 hours.

Groups of police officers now patrol the encampments, rarely stopping to interact with the protesters themselves. They’re greeted by a generally friendly crowd; despite an overcast sky and

Law & the Courts

Clarence Thomas vs. the Washington Post

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Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in his chambers in 2016. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

MBD and Isaac have both noted the Washington Post’s grotesque — and now removed — description of Clarence Thomas as “a Black justice whose rulings often resemble the thinking of White conservatives.” I would add to their comments only that this sort of ugliness is often addressed by Thomas himself, who has said:

People who will get very upset if someone said all blacks look alike are really comfortable saying all blacks ought to think alike. If you said that blacks should not be allowed to go a library, you’d be against that. If you said that blacks couldn’t read certain books in the library, you would say that’s wrong. But now we are so comfortable saying that blacks can’t hold some of the ideas in some of the books in the library. That’s absurd.

Absurd, yes. But common.

Education

A Brave Prof Fights the Woke Faculty at University of Texas

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According to a large majority of the faculty at the University of Texas at Austin, professors have the “fundamental right” to teach critical race theory in their classes if they want to.

Only a very few opposed the resolution, among them finance professor Richard Lowery, who doesn’t agree that bringing in this false and divisive ideology has any place in classrooms. Read and view more about this battle here.

I’m old enough to remember the days when faculty members were expected to teach bodies of knowledge — their subjects — not wild theorizing. If we can get back to that, it will go a long ways toward curing the nation of its current sickness.

Religion

Anti-Catholicism Chic

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Over the years, I’ve had my run-ins with discrimination against Catholics from other Christians (who have misconceptions about what we believe about Mary, the saints, the pope, the Eucharist, and other things). But in politics, it’s amazing how obvious the Left will be sometimes. Consider Ed Whelan’s pointing out that Nina Totenberg identifies Judge J. Michelle Childs’s Catholicism as a possible disqualification for her Supreme Court nomination, because she’d be the seventh Catholic on the Court. Totenberg counts Sonia Sotomayor, who has described herself as “lapsed,” and feels the need to point out that Neil Gorsuch was raised Catholic, even though he’s Episcopalian now. I’m not insisting on a Catholic bloc on the Court, just qualified judges. And your religious faith should not be disqualifying.

Obviously we don’t live in No-Nothing times, but the Left does this. Remember Chuck Schumer going after Bill Pryor for his Catholic faith when he was up for the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals? Or Dianne Feinstein telling Amy Coney Barrett that Catholic dogma lives loudly within in her (an unintentional compliment)? The list goes on. The list goes on. There clearly is still an intolerance strong enough among some that it could even disqualify a potential Biden pick. But there clearly is an intolerance that goes beyond it if it could even disqualify a potential Biden pick. Anti-Catholicism is the last acceptable prejudice, it has been said. Totenberg’s reporting suggests this remains true, and may fuel some of the drive to restrict religious liberty on the Left — which is not only wrong, but a danger to the most vulnerable served by the Beatitudes.

Politics & Policy

Florida House Passes 15-Week Pro-Life Law

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Florida State Capitol in Tallahassee (Aneese/Getty Images)

Early this morning, the Florida House of Representatives passed a bill protecting unborn children from abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The bill passed with overwhelming support in a nearly party-line 78-39 vote; one Democrat voted for the bill, and one Republican voted against it.

Most Florida Democrats strenuously opposed the bill. “All abortion bans are extreme,” said Democratic representative Carlos G Smith. “They rob women and people of the freedom to make their own decisions.” (“People” here is an oblique reference to the newfangled notion that people other than women can become pregnant and have abortions.)

Republicans in the Florida Senate have already introduced a companion measure to the bill and are slated to consider it later this month once it is moved out of committee. “Having once been a scared teenage mother myself, I understand the turmoil of a woman facing an unplanned pregnancy,” the Senate bill’s sponsor Kelli Stargel said. “Women and children deserve better than abortion.”

In January, Florida governor Ron DeSantis suggested that he would support a 15-week abortion ban, though he didn’t explicitly endorse the bill. “There’s a lot of pro-life legislation. We’re going to be welcoming it. I haven’t looked at every single bill,” he said.

“I think if you look at what’s been done in some of these other states — I mean, when you start talking about 15 weeks where you have really serious pain and heartbeats and all this stuff — having protections I think is something that makes a lot of sense,” DeSantis added.

Florida stands out for having the most permissive abortion laws of any southern state. As of now, abortion is legal in Florida up to 24 weeks’ gestation, well after the unborn child is developed enough to survive outside the womb. This new measure would bring Florida into line with several other pro-life states that are attempting to enact 15-week abortion bans in anticipation of a Supreme Court ruling reversing Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The Arizona Senate, for instance, just passed a similar measure earlier this week. These policies are similar to the Mississippi law at stake in the Supreme Court case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which considers the constitutionality of 15-week abortion ban.

Religion

Theology of Home’s ‘Daily Collection’: An Email List You Actually Want to Be On

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If your inbox is anything like mine, the last thing you want is another mass email. But a well-curated email can be a great gift. If faith, family, hospitality, and beauty are a way of life for you and you are not on the Theology of Home email list, you might want to be. It’s a great mix of homemaking, cooking, quirkiness (see the John Mellencamp inclusion below), spirituality, and politics (only on enduring cultural kinds of matters). It’s definitely from a Catholic worldview, but you don’t have to be Catholic to find it interesting and useful. And they are ecumenical linkers. (Today, for instance, there is a link to an NRO Stanley Kurtz post.)

This is today’s list — one or two of which I was going to steal for today’s “Caught My Eye” feature, but I decided to do this instead:

Love Them Both: 8 Ways to Help a Family Who is Adopting or Fostering a Child, by Ann McKinney at Live Action

Inside John Mellencamp’s (Very Catholic) Remote Montecito Home, by Elizabeth Quinn Brown at Architectural Digest

The Devil Offers No Mercy, Jesus Remedies This Through the Sacrament of Penance, by Marlon De La Torre at Knowing Is Doing

How to End Political Litmus Tests in Education, by Stanley Kurtz at NRO

The Absolute Best Way to Fry an Egg, According to 42 Tests, by Ella Quittner at Food52

Youthful Cynicism and Dostoevsky’s Case for Hope, by Katerina Levinson at Public Discourse

‘Royal Cousins, Rival Queens’: Exhibit Tells History in Their Own Words, by Jonathan Luxmoore at Crux/CNS

Church Renewal Can Only Emerge from Love, by Paul Melley at Church Life Journal

You can sign up for the Theology of Home email here

Stay and check out the website if “Finding the Eternal in the Everyday” is something that speaks to your heart. There are books, a store, and much more.

Politics & Policy

How to Fix the Electoral Count Act — and How Not To

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My latest column goes through the changes we need, and the potential pitfalls of reform.

Politics & Policy

The Question Dividing Supporters of Electoral Count Act Reforms

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Then-Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) stand after reading the final certification of Electoral College votes cast in November’s presidential election during a joint session of Congress, January 7, 2021. (J. Scott Applewhite/Pool via Reuters)

In an excellent piece over at Bloomberg, Ramesh Ponnuru works through some of the proposals to reform the Electoral Count Act that are taking shape in Congress. After noting some of their more promising features, he takes up some that are more troubling. The language proposed by Senate Democrats, he notes, particularly runs into trouble,

when it shifts its focus from regulating Congress to attempting to stop misconduct by state governments. If state authorities won’t certify electors, it allows federal courts to do it. The Constitution, on the other hand, puts certification in the hands of states.

At Politico, meanwhile, Burgess Everett reports that the reform effort may take longer than some of its champions had hoped, in part because of the same point of contention:

A GOP aide familiar with the talks said that “Democrats keep trying to push the envelope and talk about challenging state election laws in federal courts” by establishing a new formal pathway to bring those suits.

This debate is a function of a very basic question so far left unresolved in the bipartisan effort to reform the ECA: Should we be worried about members of Congress trying to undermine the certification of elections or about state officials doing so?

There are reasons to worry about both kinds of scenarios, but ECA reforms could not easily take up both at once because the kinds of changes that would help address one kind of concern would tend to make the other worse. Averting shenanigans in Congress would mean constraining Congress to an essentially ceremonial role and leaving the substantive work of finalizing election results more fully up to the states. But averting shenanigans in the states would mean giving Congress more of an oversight role over the particulars of state certification. You can’t really do both at the same time.

In 2020, the problem was in Congress. The states all did their jobs. There were corrupt attempts by President Trump and some others around him to pressure state officials, but none of those were successful. All the states certified their electoral votes as required, and those votes were all cast in accordance with each state’s election outcomes. It was only when it came time for Congress to count those votes that some members of Congress decided to challenge several state results, and that the president tried to pressure the vice president to do so. That revealed some risks inherent in the looseness and ambiguity of the Electoral Count Act. It suggested, for instance, that the threshold for congressional objections is too low and undefined, and that the limits on the vice president’s role could be spelled out more clearly.

But looking to 2024, some people are now more concerned about the potential for misbehavior by state officials. In several states, there are candidates for positions with authority over election administration who insist the last election was stolen, which suggests they might be open to partisan conspiracies about the next election too. And of course some concern on this front is also driven by alarm about another kind of partisan conspiracism — the notion that some governors or state legislatures would just refuse to certify results they don’t like and would try to substitute their own slates of electors. That kind of worry would argue for Congress setting more prescriptive requirements for certification and exercising more substantive judgment about state results. [See update below]

A lot of the talk around ECA reform has blurred the differences between these concerns as if both could be addressed together. But in the draft language they released earlier this month, Senate Democrats took a different tack: They tried to address the contradiction by simultaneously contracting the role of Congress in the process of finalizing presidential election results and expanding the role of the federal courts in that process. In essence, Congress’s role would be narrowed in light of some lessons of 2020, but federal judges would be given significant new direct oversight over state election administration in light of concerns about 2024.

This is a clever way to resolve the contradiction, but I do not think it is ultimately appropriate or sustainable. Giving federal courts original jurisdiction over disputes that basically involve how state officials enforce state laws is constitutionally dubious at best and could easily create more problems than it solves. Such cases could well ultimately reach the federal courts, as has happened in the past (most notably after the 2000 presidential election), but a law that would have them begin there would invite challenges and would have trouble surviving them. The Constitution leaves the mode of selecting presidential electors to the states, and every state has a law on the books for doing so through a popular election. Disputes about how those laws are enforced would have to start in state courts.

Congress could help such questions be addressed and even make their way to federal courts by giving states more time between election day and the end of the required certification process — as the Senate Democrats’ legislative language does propose to do. But creating new direct paths to the federal courts would be at odds with the process envisioned in the Constitution.

That same constitutional logic should point toward an answer to the core unresolved question in the ongoing legislative efforts too: The Constitution gives Congress and the vice president a very limited and essentially symbolic role in finalizing presidential election results. The existing Electoral Count Act, enacted in 1887, is ambiguous in ways that might leave people with the misimpression that Congress or the vice president have more substantive roles, and that vagueness created real problems in 2020. So a reform of that law should seek to reduce those ambiguities and so to clarify the very narrow constitutional scope of Congress’s and the vice president’s roles.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t reasons to worry about potential misbehavior by state officials in future elections. But those concerns are distinct from ones rooted in the experience of 2020, and probably cannot be comprehensively addressed in federal law.

One way or another, though, the unresolved question at the heart of the ongoing effort to reform the ECA will need to be taken up.

 

[UPDATE: A thoughtful emailer suggests to me that the language of the paragraph above regarding concerns about state officials could be confusing. It might, he says, be read to suggest that I think people who worry that some officials might conspire to substitute their own slate of electors for the one chosen by voters are just trafficking in a conspiracy theory. That is not my view at all. I think they are worried about the possibility of a conspiracy, not that their worry is a conspiracy theory. There is plainly reason to worry (as I note near the end of the post too). Being misread is generally the fault of the writer and not the reader, so I’m sure I should have been clearer. My apologies.]

World

Biden Rejects Russia’s Troop Drawdown Claims: ‘Moved More Troops In’

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President Joe Biden speaks about the situation in Russia and Ukraine from the White House in Washington, D.C., February 15, 2022. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

When Russian officials claimed yesterday that Moscow was pulling its troops from the border with Ukraine, Biden administration officials took a skeptical stance. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and others said they would analyze the situation but that the Russian claims seemed false.

Today, officials from the president on down confirmed what many had suspected: The Kremlin’s claims were false and, in fact, the Russian military presence surrounding Ukraine had grown since earlier this week.

President Biden this morning at the White House called the threat of an invasion “very high.”

“They have not moved any of their troops out. They’ve moved more troops in,” said Biden, according Russia of engaging in a “false flag operation.”

He added, “My sense is that it will happen within the next several days.”

In Brussels at a NATO meeting this morning, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin provided more details on the U.S. government assessment of Russia’s continued buildup.

“We see them add to the more than 150,000 troops that they already have arrayed along that border,” he said, adding that Russian forces have stocked up their blood supplies. “I know firsthand that you don’t do these sorts of things for now reason, and you certainly don’t do them if you’re getting ready to pack up and go home.”

Yesterday, as U.S. officials were casting doubt on Russian claims of a troop drawdown, an Estonian intelligence official, Mikk Marran, told Reuters that there are currently 170,000 Russian troops on Ukraine’s border and in Belarus, with ten additional battle groups on the way. A senior Biden administration official also told reporters last night that Moscow had moved some 7,000 troops to the Ukrainian border “in the last several days” and called Russia’s claims of a drawdown “false.”

Woke Culture

Race Essentialism at WaPo

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The Washington Post Company headquarters in Washington, March 30, 2012 (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

I see Isaac Schorr has already noted this, but I thought I’d take a shot at it too. The Washington Post has a feature story about the influence of longtime Democratic house member Jim Clyburn. Clyburn, you may recall, was consequential in saving Biden’s candidacy during the Democratic primaries in 2016. An endorsement from the South Carolinian congressman carried great weight in such a divided field and helped to solidify Biden as the choice of party moderates and the choice of African-American voters, many of whom are now the party’s moderate voters.

Clyburn has apparently been frustrated in his inability to influence personnel choices by the administration, though the article says his words still carry great weight. The subject turns to the Supreme Court, and Clyburn’s push for Biden to nominate U.S. district judge J. Michelle Childs, who Clyburn believes better represents the values of people in his state. Childs is the product of public universities, whereas the current favorite of progressive commentators is Ketanji Brown Jackson, with a background from Harvard.

If you know how to read between the lines, there’s a lot of interest in this story as it gets to the class conflict within the Democrat Party. Traditionalists like Clyburn really are more moderate and pragmatic and speak to a certain important segment of the party. But ascendant progressives, who reflect the party’s generational tilt toward the elite, want something else.

But then, suddenly it goes off the rails, in a paragraph that starts with a quote from Bennie G. Thompson, a congressman from Mississippi, and then adds the strangest bit of commentary from the authors:

“Nobody that I’m aware of feels that opposing Clyburn’s nomination would be the wise thing to do,” he said. “If you know that a person has been vetted by Jim Clyburn, you know that person won’t go to the court and end up being a Clarence Thomas,” referring to the Black justice whose rulings often resemble the thinking of White conservatives. (Emphasis mine.)

What in the world?

It’s strange in that it discounts the idea that there might be black conservatives — a tradition of political thought in America that has a small but impressive pedigree. But worse than that, it simply attributes ideas directly to race itself, as if they emanate directly out of the pigment of one’s skin, rather than the cogitation of a mind at work.

It’s precisely this desire to put everyone into neatly labeled packages that, I think, spells doom for this sordid philosophy of identity. It’s gross.

Culture

Berkeley, Barry, and More

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Cartoonist Berkeley Breathed poses before signing copies of Mars Needs Moms! at Dutton‘s Brentwood Books in Brentwood, Calif., May 11, 2007. (Amanda Edwards / Getty Images)

My Impromptus today begins with schools — in San Francisco and elsewhere. As you know, voters in San Francisco recalled three of their school-board members, in a “landslide decision,” as the San Francisco Chronicle put it. The president of the city’s Board of Supervisors had an amazing response to the recall. He said it was driven by “closet Republicans and most certainly folks with conservative values in San Francisco, even if they weren’t registered Republicans.”

There’s enough material in those few words for several columns.

In today’s Impromptus, I also discuss blockades, the Olympics, Prince Andrew, MTG, the GOP, QE2 (the woman, not the ship), Josh Hawley, and P.J. O’Rourke.

A reader writes,

P.J. has been one of my favorite writers for a long time, and will be greatly missed. Several years ago, we met at some conference or other, shook hands, and enjoyed a brief conversation. He was all smiles, with a twinkle in his eye, and a face that showed some hard living.

I will miss P.J.

In New Zealand, authorities have been trying to disperse protesters by blasting Barry Manilow songs at them. The protesters have responded by playing “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” by Twisted Sister. I discussed this in an Impromptus earlier this week.

A reader recalls — and, in fact, has dug up — a cartoon drawn in the mid-1980s. A Bloom County, which features, yes, Barry Manilow and Twisted Sister, and the idea of tormenting people through song.

In 2015, Berkeley Breathed, Bloom County’s creator, gave an interview to NPR. He said,

I remember walking — I was in Santa Barbara, maybe 18 months ago. I was scootering with my little boy down State Street, and I pass a fellow and zip right around his feet and keep going, and I realized who it was. And I stopped, and I told my kid to follow me, and I came back and confronted him, which I would never normally do. And it was Barry Manilow.

Who appeared many times in my comic strip, and probably not in the most flattering ways, in 1985. In fact, I was probably fairly merciless with him . . .

And I walked up to him and introduced myself, and he remembered who I was. We both remembered that he sent me a bouquet of flowers when I had broken my back in 1987 in a flying accident. The target of my meanest cartoons sent me a massive bouquet of flowers, to my hospital. And we both remembered that, and we laughed about it, and he turned to my son and said,

“This is one of the greatest cartoonists of our generation.” And I turned to my boy, and I said, “This is one of the greatest and most famous singers of our generation.”

And I realized I would — I don’t have it in me now to do that again. It’s under the category of things that I do differently now. I’m not the same guy I was in 1985. Fortunately, my sense of humor hasn’t completely been defeated, but . . .

Nice. All right, what else? Two days ago, I had a little post about concert-hall etiquette, and a reader writes,

I read your story about the young man playing with his phone in Carnegie Hall, and it reminded me of something that happened recently. I was watching a sublime performance of The Magic Flute at the Royal Opera House when an elderly gentleman in the audience started to make some muffled sounds. I didn’t realize it initially, but as he continued, I worked out he was singing along with the Queen of the Night. He was told several times to stop and was eventually thrown out! . . .

I suspect that, because lockdowns have kept us from interacting with one another, we have forgotten how to behave when in an audience, for example. However, there has been an upside to all this: next to no coughing.

Our reader links to an article from the Guardian, which says that coughing in theaters is a “new taboo.” Whereas coughing was routine in the past, it has now been stigmatized.

That reminds me of a conversation I overheard in the spring of 2020. I included it in a little memoir I wrote: “Pandemic City: One man’s experience in New York.” A youngish fellow was talking to a friend of his in Riverside Park. He said, “I have hay fever, and when I’m coughing, people look at me like I’m a serial killer.”

There’s a lot more mail — good mail, too — but I’ve kept you a while, and maybe we should have one more short note. Could put a smile on your face.

Jay,

I do some work in politics, at the grassroots level. People have been saying some crazy, crazy things. I’ve thought, “Where’s the silent majority when you need them?”

Have a good one, everybody. Today’s Impromptus, again, is here.