Politics & Policy

Misunderstanding the Filibuster

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Senator Joe Manchin (D., W. Va.) doesn’t want to abolish the filibuster, but he does want to “make it a little bit more painful.” It’s a recurring idea that bringing back the old-timey talking filibuster would impose some discipline on the practice, thus respecting minority rights while facilitating majority rule. But I think Jonathan Bernstein gets this right: “The truth is simple: The Senate switched from talking filibusters to the current silent version because it’s better for the majority party. Bringing back talking filibusters to punish the minority gets it backward.”

Politics & Policy

Kite & Key Launches

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Our friends Troy Senik (better known as “the other guy who hosts a Victor Davis Hanson podcast”) and Vanessa Mendoza today have launched an important new website, Kite & Key Media. It is certain to prove of consequence, and deserves the attention of conservatives — and for that matter of anyone who is interested in, well, facts.

And doesn’t mind consuming wisdom via video: K&K’s purpose is to take important data and research and translate them into smart, well-produced, witty, baloney-free visual fare that will pass any sniff test for accuracy. It’s not about getting gotcha jollies: You watch, you learn.

One of the first videos K&K has produced takes on the inseparable relationship between lefty-vilified mining and clean energy (while also discussing America’s dependence on other nations for vital minerals, especially those key to national security). Watch it here:

Other videos being released today concern how housing can prove so expensive and whether cash has become an annoyance. Watch them here.

Be a mensch and follow K&K on Twitter @kiteandkeymedia (and while you’re at it, here are its Facebook and Instagram pages).

Andrew Cuomo Was Paid $65 for Every Book He Sold

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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference at a vaccination site in Brooklyn, N.Y., February 22, 2021. (Seth Wenig/Pool via Reuters)

I used to be the books editor of People magazine, and I’ve written a couple of books myself, so I understand more about the book business than most, but I’m at a loss to explain how the political segment of publishing works.

We all know about the “campaign book,” usually with a title like My American Journey or An American Journey or Hooray for America. We know that the politicians whose names grace the covers haven’t written the book and in some cases haven’t read them, but that’s fine because the intended audience for the books isn’t expected to read them.

Health Care

Some Good News, and Some Mildly Disappointing News, on Coronavirus Vaccinations

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The good news: As of this morning, America’s doctors, hospitals, medical centers, pharmacies, and counties have administered more than 92 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines.

And we’ve gone a long way towards vaccinating senior citizens. According to the CDC, more than 8 million Americans who are 75 or older have now received both doses. Almost 6.7 million Americans between 65 and 74 have received both doses. More than 14 million Americans who are 75 or older have now received one dose, and more than 15.6 million Americans who are between 65 and 74 have received one dose.

The other good news: So far, Pfizer, Moderna, and now Johnson & Johnson have distributed 116.3 million doses to states.

The slightly disappointing news: This means our supply of waiting-to-be-used or in-transit doses is up to almost 24.3 million doses — the highest yet.

A lot of states have gotten a lot better at getting shots into arms on a larger scale, and faster. It’s elating to see more than 2 million shots administered per day, but we’ve still only administered 79 percent of the shots that states received. That has remained pretty level for the past week, but at one point in late February, that figure hit 83.9 percent. The places at the bottom of the list for quickly using their allocated doses Kansas, the District of Columbia, Alabama — have been at the bottom for several weeks now.

Law & the Courts

Chauvin Murder Trial Update

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A sketch of Derek Chauvin sitting in court on the first day of jury selection in his trial in Minneapolis, Minn., March 8, 2021 (Jane Rosenberg/Reuters)

Here’s the state of play in Minnesota as what is supposed to be Day Two gets under way in former police officer Derek Chauvin’s murder trial, arising out of George Floyd’s death in police custody last year. (My column Sunday explaining the complications that have delayed matters is here, and Monday’s post on the delay is here.)

Last week, the Court of Appeals instructed the trial judge, Peter Cahill, to reconsider his refusal to reinstate the third-degree “depraved indifference” murder charge against Chauvin, in light of a divided appellate panel’s ruling in the Noor case (which upheld such a third-degree murder charge on similar facts). Judge Cahill has not yet ruled on that. Regardless of whether Cahill believes the dissent (which is in accord with Cahill’s own analysis of depraved indifference precedents) had the better of the argument in Noor, the panel majority’s ruling is binding, so Cahill should reinstate the charge.

Reinstatement would significantly enhance the state’s chances of convicting Chauvin of murder, so the state will appeal if Judge Cahill remains obstinate. And the state is right that Cahill should rule on this before the questioning of prospective jurors begins, because the ruling will materially affect how the parties try the case.

If, as expected, Judge Cahill reinstates the third-degree murder charge, Chauvin will ask the Minnesota Supreme Court to review the appellate panel’s ruling on an expedited basis. I am not familiar with the pace of state criminal-law practice in Minnesota, but I presume the state’s highest court would expedite the appeal — in light of the public importance of the case, the fact that the state’s court system and security forces have expended significant resources to prepare to hold the trial beginning in March, and the fact that the Supreme Court is already slated to review the same depraved indifference issue in the Noor case, although not until June.

The parties have been preparing for months and the lawyers have cleared their calendars for a proceeding that will probably take a couple of months. With everyone prepared for trial, Judge Cahill would like to proceed with jury selection and other preliminary odds and ends while Chauvin’s appeal proceeds. That would make practical sense, because jury selection could take three weeks or more. Unfortunately, it does not make legal sense. Technically, if the Supreme Court takes the case, the lower court does not have jurisdiction to act. Ergo, an expedited appeal would probably postpone everything for at least a few weeks.

Prosecutors have made an emergency application to the Court of Appeals to direct Judge Cahill to adjourn the trial until the controversy over the third-degree murder charge is sorted out.

Here is a measure of why it will be tough to pick a jury. The court was prepared to begin qualifying the first 50 members of the venire starting Monday. To “qualify” a prospective jury means to get a pool of people who convince the court and the parties that they could decide the case fairly and impartially. Jurors who obviously don’t fit that description get booted for cause. From that qualified pool, the parties exercise their peremptory challenges (in federal practice, the defense gets ten challenges and the prosecution six) until we get down to a jury of twelve, plus some alternates (usually two, but up to six, in federal court — it depends on the expected length of a trial). So to be on the safe side, you need to qualify close to 40 prospective jurors before the peremptory challenges begin.

The Star Tribune reports that 16 prospective jurors, nearly a third of the first 50, were struck for cause before any face-to-face questioning began. In the main, this means they indicated they had already formed such a strong impression about the case based on the pretrial publicity that they cannot be fair; or they are fearful of sitting on the case — as the summer riots demonstrated, the jury will come under great pressure to convict Chauvin of murder, regardless of whether the state’s evidence establishes guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

This is going to take a while.

NR Insider

Help Wanted

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The College Fix seeks an assistant editor to help us report true stories from the frontlines of campus cancel culture, including threats to free speech, attacks on religious freedom, and rampant political correctness. Because we work with student reporters, the job includes a significant amount of mentoring as we try to train a new generation of responsible journalists. Details here.

Religion

Thirty Pope Francis in Iraq Things That Caught My Eye Today

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Pope Francis gives a speech at the Presidential Palace in Baghdad, Iraq, March 5, 2021. (Vatican Media/Handout via Reuters)

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Continue reading “Thirty Pope Francis in Iraq Things That Caught My Eye Today”

Health Care

What Is a ‘Transgender Child’?

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Axios reports that “Republicans in at least 25 states have introduced over 60 bills targeting transgender children.” And, additionally, that there were 41 bills introduced in 2020, focused on “transgender children.” But what is meant by a “transgender child”?

Sometimes, this term refers to a child who does not conform to sex-based stereotypes. Instead of leaving said child alone to experiment with toys and outfits as is only natural for children to do, the users of this term prefer to project an adult ideology onto him or her, then confuse him or her by saying that he or she really is the opposite sex.

Other times, “transgender child” refers to a gender-dysphoric young person — that is, a child who has clinically significant feelings of distress associated with his or her sexed body. In that case, instead of loving and accepting that child as he or she truly is, and providing him or her with safe and ethical psychological and emotional support, the users of this term prefer to set him or her on a pathway to irreversible harm at an age when he or she cannot possibly consent to permanent medical and surgical changes.

So, next time you hear the term “transgender child,” do consider which of these things it is referring to.

Religion

Retirement Plans

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Former cardinal archbishop of Washington, D.C., Donald Wuerl must be very busy in retirement. The excellent new Catholic news outlet The Pillar reports:

According to financial records of the Archdiocese of Washington, $2,012,639 was designated for “continuing ministry activities for [the] Archbishop Emeritus” during the 2020 fiscal year.

The amount is a 35% increase from the $1,488,059 designated for Wuerl’s ministry in the 2019 fiscal year reports.

Cardinal Wuerl, you may recall, was disgraced by investigations into child-abuse allegations in Pennsylvania, and by revelations about the predations of his predecessor in D.C., former cardinal archbishop Theodore McCarrick. Wuerl claimed not to know anything, despite McCarrick’s predilections being an open secret and a sudden need to move McCarrick off the grounds of the seminary into another parish house. My favorite moment was when he was in the midst of these controversies and being interviewed by the slavering Fr. Rosica. Rosica mentioned that the McCarrick revelations were a “disappointment” because “he was a friend to us.” Wuerl said that there was a place for “fraternal correction” — but moved on to the need for  “wonderful wonderful fraternal support,” including more bishops’ retreats. Vacations!

Anyway, I’m sure the over $2 million in financial support from the Archdiocese and its patrons went strictly to corporal and spiritual works of mercy, not anything too cushy.

Economy & Business

The WSJ on Trump and Georgia

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President Donald Trump gestures while campaigning for Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler on the eve of the run-off election in Dalton, Ga., January 4, 2021. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

The editors of the Journal had a strong editorial on the former president’s efforts to blame everyone but himself for his election defeat and the loss of the Republicans’ Senate majority. They continued the argument after Trump hit back.

One of the sub-disputes concerns the COVID-relief bill that President Trump signed in December. Trump has said that Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell’s resistance to his request for larger relief checks for households cost the party’s Senate candidates in Georgia some votes. That McConnell made a political mistake on this issue is plausible, especially when you consider that those larger checks are now going to be issued anyway, by an all-Democratic government.

But I don’t know how large a factor this issue was in the election. Between the presidential election and the special Senate elections, turnout fell most in Trump’s strongest counties. That’s more consistent with the Journal‘s theory — that Trump depressed Republican votes in Georgia by insisting that the state’s elections were riddled with fraud and the state’s leading Republicans were corrupt — than it is with the anti-McConnell story.

The Journal also says that Trump’s story “rewrites history”:

Mr. Trump’s Treasury Secretary announced support for the $600 checks on Dec. 8, and the GOP swung behind the proposal. He didn’t endorse the $2,000 checks until Dec. 22, giving Democrats a sword against the two GOP Senate candidates who had endorsed $600. The two eventually endorsed $2,000 but looked unprincipled in doing so. Mr. Trump’s $2,000 flip-flop knee-capped his own party’s candidates.

In its effort to be succinct, the Journal understates how irresolute Trump was on this question. During the second half of 2020, he occasionally talked up the possibility of large checks but didn’t make it clear whether this was something he really wanted or something more like the gleaming infrastructure projects he sometimes mused about. His own aides, not just senators, felt authorized to go ahead on the second understanding.

On July 1, 2020, after House Democrats had included $1,200 checks in their COVID-relief wish-list bill, Trump said he wanted to go bigger. In September, he seemed to endorse the $1,200 checks. He reportedly brought up the idea of $2,000 checks in early December, before Mnuchin endorsed $600 checks. On December 13, after Mnuchin’s endorsement, Trump said on TV that he was “pushing . . . very hard” for larger checks. On December 17, he reportedly told allies he would like checks in the $1,200-2,000 per person range, but refrained from demanding those checks because his aides said it would blow up congressional negotiations.

On December 21, Congress passed a bill with the $600 checks. The next day, as the Journal notes, Trump demanded that the bill be amended and re-passed with larger checks, suggesting he would veto it otherwise. He kept everyone guessing for a few days, and then caved, signing the bill on December 27.

If Trump had said in the fall that he wanted $2,000 checks, credibly promised to veto anything short of that, and made it clear he would call out congressional Republicans who balked, he probably would have gotten them. But it wasn’t clear that he was serious about this desire until after Congress had already passed a bill, and even then he wasn’t entirely serious. The way he actually conducted himself achieved nothing except to elevate an issue that helped Democrats.

It may well be that McConnell should have acceded anyway, endorsing the $2,000 checks in early December and working to get Senate Republicans on board. But criticism of McConnell doesn’t amount to a defense of Trump. If the popularity of $2,000 checks helped cost Republicans the Senate, it makes the former president more responsible for the defeat.

Culture

The Lockdown of Childhood

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Alec MacGillis is a really fine journalist. He’s written a brilliant article for Pro Publica examining the year teens lived on either side of the Texas–New Mexico border. New Mexico followed strict lockdown policies in schools. West Texas kept most of its schools open, and, for the most part, kept its football season, too. It’s hard to read this and think that we’ve done right by children in the pandemic.

Education

When Academic Achievement Means ‘Acting White’

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(diane39/Getty Images)

National studies consistently find disparities between black students, especially black boys, and their peers in reading, mathematics, and other core academic subjects. Still other studies show these disparities follow black males into college. That is, notwithstanding the many root issues of these gaps, black males on average are failing to get to the right answer more often than their peers. A new method of teaching threatens to supercharge this reality.

The Oregon Department of Education released a bulletin last month informing math teachers of a course available to those who are “looking for a deeper dive into equity work.” In an essay titled “Why Math is Racist,” John Hinderaker at Powerline calls out the bizarre concepts that the course promotes such as how “white supremacy culture shows up in the mathematics classroom” when “students are required to ‘show their work’” and “the focus is on getting the ‘right’ answer.” I encourage folks to read Hinderaker’s take on the training and the other perspectives that have been shared in print and television.

Since time immemorial, one solution proposed to fix differences in educational outcomes for black boys has been to change the curriculum such that they will be inspired to learn. There are many ready-made programs from which educators can choose that alter the subject matter to make it more relatable and ostensibly of greater interest to certain students.

A recent and popular example is the curriculum developed for the 1619 Project, which “aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of the United States’ national narrative.” That is, the consequences of slavery still permeate all facets of current American life and it ought to be central in our discussion of current issues.

A curriculum that teaches black kids that they are on average poorer, less educated, and more oppressed than their non-black peers because of slavery has an obvious relevance to them. So, whether intended by its creators or not, the 1619 Project curriculum has an emotionally motivating effect on, particularly, poor black students.

As the debate over curricula rages on, the approach in Oregon and other math departments to engage students of color focuses not on what is taught but instead on how it is taught. It should face the same scrutiny and similar condemnation as the 1619 Project.

In the 1980s and 1990s, when I was a youth in the American South, there existed an unfortunate element in the subculture of poor blacks — within which I was a member. To show a desire to learn or to do well academically was criticized as “acting white” or considered effeminate for boys and men. I remember it well.

I didn’t live in what now are called “predominately communities of color”; my family always lived in solely black communities. In the neighborhood that I spent my adolescence and teenage years, I remember my mother being the only white person in the community.

This destructive part of southern poor black subculture meant that nearly all of the black boys in my neighborhoods — including me — shunned schooling or, at least, did well to pretend they disliked learning. At that time and place, appearing to be a race traitor or homosexual were two of the worst sins one could commit. I’m confident this element contributed to many of the black youths I knew turning to more culturally glamorized delinquency and ultimately, to trouble with the law, drugs, and the many other problems reflected in statistics on young black men.

The Oregon Department of Education’s approach to tinker with pedagogy threatens to further the problematic elements in the subculture of poor blacks, which may well extend to communities of color beyond the South of the ’80s and ’90s to places such as the Pacific Northwest today.

Religion

If You Watched Meghan and Harry Last Night and/or Supported the War in Iraq, This Hour Is for You (and Everyone Else, Too)

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I found Pope Francis’s apostolic journey to Iraq powerful, hopeful, and challenging. He did something stubbornly courageous, as Christians there really are at the end of their existential rope.

It was an unprecedented pilgrimage — one that John Paul II wanted to make, and Francis very consciously wanted to fulfill the dream. The Iraqis are wounded and poor people, as was made clear on the profoundly moving trip. It was complete with ecumenical dialogue and ministering to the persecuted Christians there. In Erbil, where the pope celebrated Mass on Sunday, you had a true-to-life field hospital, where the church there has taken in people who had to flee ISIS in Mosul — and also not just Christians. They built a Catholic university. They care for people’s mental, spiritual, and physical health. Archbishop Bashar Warda and his people are nothing short of remarkable, as was the trip.

And to give you an idea of what they are like, Warda told Pope Francis that his courage is overflowing onto them to give them courage. These people who are ready for martyrdom radiate amazing grace.

Earlier today, I talked with Luma Simms from the Ethics and Public Policy Center — who was born in Baghdad — and Robert Nicholson from the Philos Project. And here’s my challenge to anyone who would not normally click on such a link: If you watched Harry and Meghan with Oprah last night, give an hour to the Iraqi Christians. I promise you it was an inspiring conversation. And if you supported the war in Iraq, definitely listen.

Economy & Business

Corporate America’s ‘Xinjiang Silence’ — and One Promising Exception

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A Uyghur man sits at a street market in Kashgar, Xinjiang Province, 2011. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Even as a handful of governments have finally started to recognize China’s Uyghur genocide for what it is, raising the possibility that Western countries impose sanctions targeting the perpetrators of these atrocities and boycott the 2022 Beijing winter Olympics, the response from large corporations continues to lag.

The Wire China, a worthwhile new outlet focusing on China-related news for a U.S. audience, has brought to light corporate America’s more-or-less collective shrug at evidence of the Chinese Communist Party’s extensive human-rights abuses — which the administrations of Donald Trump and Joe Biden have both formally labeled crimes against humanity and genocide

Reporters Katrina Northrop and Eli Binder reached out to 48 of the largest U.S. businesses with business ties to China to ask for their comment on the crisis. How many condemned the CCP’s conduct in Xinjiang? As few as any pessimist would expect:

Only six companies — Apple, Caterpillar, IBM, Intel, Dell and Pfizer — responded to questions about Xinjiang, all saying they do not source products from the region. But only one expressed dismay about the Chinese government’s actions there.

“Dell Technologies does not source from the Xinjiang Province. We continue to be concerned about allegations that ethnic Uyghurs are subject to forced labor in factories outside of Xinjiang Province, including those supplying the tech industry,” an unnamed spokesperson told The Wire over email. (Dell was in the hot seat last year when the Associated Press found that one of its suppliers had a subsidiary that used Uyghur forced labor. That subsidiary is now sanctioned by the U.S. government.)

As they go on to note, large American companies with any hope of establishing a foothold in China have a consistent record of failing to stand up to CCP political pressure. More than a few of the companies that didn’t respond or declined to comment have previously yielded to Beijing’s requests.

Disney, which was one of the companies that didn’t respond to The Wire, became the subject of a white-hot controversy when it came to light that scenes from its live action remake of Mulan were shot in Xinjiang, facilitated by local security services and propaganda bureaus at a time when the Party’s mass detention program has been widely discussed. Bob Iger, its former CEO, previously declined to comment on the Hong Kong crackdown. His justification: “To take a position that could harm our company in some form would be a big mistake.”

As The Wire notes, Delta, which also declined to respond, fits into a similar category. The airline bowed to Beijing’s demands that it stop including Taiwan and Tibet as separate locations in its website’s drop down menus. After China’s civil aviation administration called on Delta to change this, the company issued an apologetic statement: “It was an inadvertent error with no business or political intention, and we apologize deeply for the mistake. As one of our most important markets, we are fully committed to China and to our Chinese customers.”

These are but two examples from an extensive list of similar capitulations. And The Wire’s reporting shows that the list of companies comfortable with silence is even longer.

Fortunately, one fledgling tech powerhouse, recently valued at $115 billion, hasn’t remained silent. Patrick Collison, CEO of payment processing company Stripe, has been an unusually outspoken — and lonely — voice in the business world calling for recognition of the CCP’s crimes.

After news broke of the Party’s genocidal forced sterilization program in Xinjiang, Collison wrote on Twitter, “As a US business (and tech) community, I think we should be significantly clearer about our horror at, and opposition to, the atrocities being committed by the Chinese government against its own people.”

That was June. It seems that few have heeded this call in the months since, a time period that has seen the recognition of genocide by the U.S., Canada, and the Netherlands, in addition to some of the most horrific revelations yet of what goes on in the camps.

In an interview columnist Noah Smith published in his Substack newsletter today, Collison reprised those calls, noting the “discouraging” fact that the treatment of the Uyghurs “receives as little condemnation from those in power as it does.”

“I get why, of course: It’s bad for business,” he told Smith, echoing Iger’s explanation but instead concluding that support for human rights should be “absolute.” Collison continued, “In his commencement address at Harvard in 1978, Aleksander Solzhenitsyn claimed that civic courage was in decline. I don’t know whether or not it was (or is), but, whatever the trendline, it seems important to me to ensure that it doesn’t.”

That trend line will hold steady as long as business leaders such as Collison are the exception, and until government policy can create strong incentives for businesses to wean themselves off of Chinese money.

NR Webathon

I’m from NR’s Readership, and I’m Here to Help

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(Phillip Nelson/Getty Images)

Today we have launched our first webathon in quite some time. In addition to our ongoing need for support, which is vast (and I do mean vast), there is the hideous and relentless onslaught of these past eight years, found in the lawsuit that Michael Mann has waged against NR, for the purposes of crushing it. Please do read the case made by Rich Lowry for why we must see this thing through to victory.

Victory can only happen with the generosity of our readers. We seek, now through the end of this month, to raise $250,000. More if possible, less if that is how the readership responds (although our needs are multiples of that amount – this is the fate and fiscal reality of engaging in conservative opinion journalism). We are well aware of this reality: We have no claim, not a micron, not an iota, on anyone’s charity.

And yet: This new effort is off to the races: Already this day nearly 160 people have responded, contributing over $30,000. Our lips to God’s Ears — may we find that amount doubled by midnight. What will be will be, but what has already been — oh my, there have been some kindly donors, a few of whom have added their comments of encouragement. We share a number:

  • Karen spots us $100, and a bit of exasperation over the sloth of justice: “I remember when this started. I cannot believe this has not been resolved. I admire your resolve and appreciate the balanced opinions that you provide on a daily basis.” Karen your kindness and commitment to NR means the world.
  • Guy plunks a Fifty into the collection plate, and states the case better than we can: “NR has been my political Bible since first reading it my high school library many, many years ago. I doubt it can be found there today. One positive that may come of our COVID crisis is a wake-up call to the damage the teachers’ unions are doing to our children, thus our democracy. We need the voice of NR.” Amen, brother.
  • Kevin also forks over $50. Why? Here’s why: “The attempted suppression of free speech must be stopped! This constant push to silence anyone with a differing opinion is anti-American and destructive to the nation!” Truer words never spoken. Thanks so much, Kevin.
  • Another General Grant arrives, this time from John, who is not taking kindly to this Mann assault on NR (and all of us and our rights): “Your persistence in the face of this outrageous onslaught is key to preserving our freedoms and our liberties. Keep up the good work, you are fighting against much more than just an overbearing professor.” Understood. And deeply appreciated.
  • Rob and Lauren sent, oh my oh my, $18,000. Yes, you read that correctly. And that came with most encouraging words: “Keep up the good fight, team! When you fight, you fight for us all. G-d bless!” Over the ether, can you feel my embrace? Thanks ever so much.
  • Eileen finds 500 smackers and doesn’t hesitate to hit the donate button: “Every time I donate to one of these fundraising drives, I think “NRO is needed now more than ever.” And that’s true today as well. I’m so grateful for all of the outstanding writers and thinkers at NRO. Please hang in there.” Hanging, and not by the neck, thanks to your persistent generosity. Thanks.

Heard last week, a passage from Ecclesiastes, about friendship. Curious, as the old hardy-har-har goes about Catholics and the Bible, I opened the too-little-used book, located the passage, and found it fitting, which is the understatement of the ages. Here it is (in a nod to the ecumenical, from the King James Bible, Chapter 6, 13-16):

Separate thyself from thine enemies, and take heed of thy friends. A faithful friend is a strong defence: and he that hath found such an one hath found a treasure. Nothing doth countervail a faithful friend, and his excellency is invaluable. A faithful friend is the medicine of life; and they that fear the Lord shall find him.

Do we at NR ever know about faithful friends. And we treasure them. We would not be but for them. You, I hope!

From the Old Testament to the Great White Way: As Cole Porter wrote, and Ethel Merman and Bert Lahr crooned, when other friendships have been forgot, ours will still be hot. Well, the heat is on — can you see yourself, old buddy old pal, to making a contribution to NR, sorely in need of such. Nope, it doesn’t have to be the size of that tendered by Rob and Lauren, but if you can spare $20 or $25 or $50, we’d be thankful deeply, and the same if you could spot us a C Note, or one of those loftier denominations with maybe William McKinley staring back or Grover Cleveland giving you his best side, well, we’d be confounded as how to best express our profound gratitude. Whether it’s the Widow’s Mite, the Billionaire’s chump change, or the contents of that forgotten change jar, any and all amounts and means of support are — I repeat myself — sorely needed.

Please contribute here, and we remind those who like to send their generosity via the U.S. Mail, please make your check payable to “National Review” and send it to National Review, ATTN: Webathon, 19 West 44th Street, New York, N.Y., 10036. God bless!

Politics & Policy

A Year of COVID

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In Bloomberg Opinion, I look at how the U.S. has done.

Covid-19’s path of destruction has not exempted the pieties about it. People who said it was “just the flu” don’t look wise after nearly 540,000 deaths in the U.S. But “14 days to flatten the curve” didn’t turn out to be prescient either.

The more partisan the narrative, the worse it has fared. . . .

Derek Chauvin Trial Delayed

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Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin poses for an undated booking photograph taken after he was transferred to a Minnesota Department of Corrections state facility, June 2, 2020. (Minnesota Department of Corrections/via Reuters)

A cloud of uncertainty hangs over the first of the trials arising out of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody, the trial of former officer Derek Chauvin.

Jury selection was scheduled to get underway this morning. Judge Peter Cahill has postponed it until at least tomorrow, but the delay could be longer — maybe much longer.

As I outlined in this column on Sunday, the controversy stems from the third-degree murder charge, which is alleged under the “depraved indifference” homicide statute. It is one of three counts against Chauvin, the others being second-degree murder (i.e., unintentionally killing Floyd while in the

Politics & Policy

‘H.R. 1 Is a Partisan Assault on American Democracy’

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We have an editorial up on the abomination that is H.R. 1:

There are reasonable issues to be taken with the current system of voting and elections, and constructive steps Congress could take. But not since the Alien and Sedition Acts has one political party in Congress sought to bend the power of the federal government, on partisan lines, toward crushing political opposition to this extent. H.R. 1 is not merely a bad idea; it is a scandal.

Education

Big Deals

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At the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, September 20, 2018 (Rebecca Cook / Reuters)

Have you had teachers who are big deals in your life? I’m sure you have, and so have I. I have been blessed with many. I write about two of them on the homepage today: here. The title of the piece: “Back to School.” (Yes, a Rodney Dangerfield movie.) The subheading: “A former student (very former) Zooms in with two beloved professors from his freshman year.”

Really? Really. Once more, I am learning from two of my favorite people, in whose classrooms I sat almost 40 years ago: Barbara J. Fields, U.S. historian; and Maria Rosaria Vitti-Alexander, professor of Italian and Italian literature. What a privilege. Zoom ain’t all bad.

My latest Q&A podcast is with Jonah Goldberg: here. Jonah, too, is a big deal to me, and a great many others. I first met him when he was 23, 24 — something like that. He was working at the American Enterprise Institute as a research assistant. He was smart, kind, and funny. Just like now. I like to think I knew him when.

On our podcast — “in” our podcast? (Both, I think) — we talk about dogs, music, sports, food. The writing life. WFB and Charles Krauthammer. Conservatism and its fate. Some of the topics are not very happy. But there is a joy in Jonah, no matter what. Indeed, I title this Q&A “The Joy of Jonah.” There are some people who can smile through the catastrophe, to borrow a line from the late Jeffrey Hart.

I further remember a story that Jonah has told many times. Robert Bork said to Irving Kristol, “Surely we are witnessing the end of Western civilization, aren’t we?” “Of course,” said Kristol. “But it will take a long while, and in the meantime, it’s possible to live well.”

Ha, yes (and I’m not writing Western civilization off). (George Will describes himself as “a short-term pessimist and a long-term optimist.” I know what he means.)

(Want to know some good news? The threat of radical political Islam receded faster than many of us expected. It still lurks, of course — what doesn’t? But I well remember the concerns of the first decade of this century. Many of us were settling in for a long twilight struggle. In any event . . .)

The COVID-Relief Bill Spends $3.5 Billion on AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria

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Research scientist Dan Galperin works on Purified Recombinant Zika Enveloped Protein in his laboratory at the Protein Sciences Inc. headquarters in Meriden, Conn., in 2016. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

If you look towards the tail end of the 101,530-word COVID-relief bill that just passed the Senate, you will find:

.–In addition to amounts otherwise available, there is authorized and appropriated to the Secretary of State for fiscal year 2021, out of any money in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated, $8,675,000,000, to remain available until September 30, 2022, for necessary expenses to carry out the provisions of section 531 of chapter 4 of part II of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2346) as health programs to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, which shall include recovery from

Education

A Dismal Look at Higher Education’s Future

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American higher education has been in trouble for a long time, thanks to government meddling — especially federal student aid that has flooded campuses with poorly prepared kids who are much more interested in having fun than in learning anything. In recent years, however, a new problem has arisen; namely, what Professor Jacob Howland calls “corporatist progressivism” in a City Journal essay.

In his essay, Howland particularly describes the downfall of his institution, Tulsa University (TU), following a takeover by a super-rich Oklahoman with “progressive” visions. It serves as a poster child for the “comprehensive commodification” of higher education.

Howland writes, “Colleges and universities were once understood to be places where the young, sheltered from the demands of work and social utility, could ripen into mature adults. That is no longer the case. TU is following a path paved by powerful people and organizations. Where does this path ultimately lead? The strategic plan tips its hand when it praises Karamay in Xinjiang, China, as a ‘model city for the future, built from the ground up in the past decade,’ which ‘has the ability to plan in [the] absence of tradition.’”

Read the whole essay.

 

Religion

You’re Invited to a Conversation on the Pope’s Trip to Iraq

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I have so much to say about Pope Francis’s courageous visit to Iraq. I’ll have some more written thoughts, but I also want to invite you to join me with Luma Simms from the Ethics and Public Policy Institute, who was born in Bagdad, and Robert Nicholson from the Philos Project at noon New York time today. We’ll be on Zoom, and you can RSVP here, and we will also be available on the National Review Institute’s YouTube page.

Sports

Great News: No ‘Adverse Cardiac Events’ in Infected Professional Athletes Who Resumed Play

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State Farm Stadium hosts a game between the San Francisco 49ers game and the Seattle Seahawks in Glendale, Ariz, January 3, 2021. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports via Reuters)

The extremely good news in this study of professional athletes, published in JAMA Cardiology, is that exceptionally few athletes who caught COVID-19 suffered inflammatory heart disease, and among those who underwent cardiac screening, the effects will not be severe enough to prevent them from playing their sports.

In this cross-sectional study of RTP cardiac testing performed on 789 professional athletes with COVID-19 infection, imaging evidence of inflammatory heart disease that resulted in restriction from play was identified in 5 athletes (0.6%). No adverse cardiac events occurred in the athletes who underwent cardiac screening and resumed professional sport participation.

Nearly 70 NFL players opted out of the 2020 season, citing their own health issues or the health issues of family members. Professional athletes are, by and large, young men in peak physical health, and the survival rates for that demographic are extremely high. But there was always the small but real chance of a player having lingering health issues because of a coronavirus infection. Boston Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez chose to miss almost all of the 2020 season as he recovered from a heart-inflammation issue related to his bout with virus. Many athletes looked at Rodriguez’s experience and wondered if the same could happen to them.

Because professional and collegiate athletes are almost all young and healthy, they will be at the back of the line for vaccination. Nonetheless, they should have access to vaccines by summer — and this study suggests that even if they catch COVID-19, the long-term health effects should be minimal, particularly if they undergo cardiac screening.

PC Culture

The Academic Freedom Alliance: A Welcome Addition to the Fight against Cancel Culture

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

Talking about cancel culture is one thing; doing something about it is another. In the long term, conservatives and other non-leftists need to build more of our own institutions resistant to woke pressures, and we also need to liberate young people from the clutches of indoctrination by woke thought-programmers. But in the meantime, how can we fight back in the institutional structures where pressure campaigns find both sympathy among those in power and fear of standing up to the new censors? What can be done in universities that won’t stand for academic freedom on principle, dictate the inclusion of propaganda in course syllabi, and muzzle dissenting faculty?

Robert P. George of Princeton has been that rarest of philosophers, engaged in how ideas are implemented in the real world. As he tells Wesley Yang at the Chronicle of Higher Education, it was past time for academics concerned about freedom of speech and thought in the academy — by no means only conservatives, but libertarians, moderates, and old-style liberals as well — to join forces to provide material support to those targeted by the mob:

[Prof. George] offered a vivid zoological metaphor to describe what happens when outrage mobs attack academics. When hunted by lions, herds of zebras “fly off in a million directions, and the targeted member is easily taken down and destroyed and eaten.” A herd of elephants, by contrast, will “circle around the vulnerable elephant. Academics behave like zebras,” George said. “And so people get isolated, they get targeted, they get destroyed, they get forgotten. Why don’t we act like elephants? Why don’t we circle around the victim?”

To that end, he formed a national organization, starting with 20 Princeton professors, and backed by millions of dollars in funding, mostly from a major conservative donor’s seed money:

Today, that organization, the Academic Freedom Alliance, formally issued a manifesto declaring that “an attack on academic freedom anywhere is an attack on academic freedom everywhere,” and committing its nearly 200 members to providing aid and support in defense of “freedom of thought and expression in their work as researchers and writers or in their lives as citizens,” “freedom to design courses and conduct classes using reasonable pedagogical judgment,” and “freedom from ideological tests, affirmations, and oaths.” The alliance will intervene in academic controversy privately, by pressuring administrators, and publicly, by issuing statements citing the principles at stake in the outcomes of specific cases. Crucially, it will support those needing legal aid, either by arranging for pro bono legal representation or paying for it directly. “Universities know,” George told me, “that university faculty can’t afford to fight city hall or the university, so they know they can do anything to these people without any consequences. So we’re going to shift that — so that the university general-counsel offices will know that the university is in the fight of its life if it violates academic-freedom rights.”

Read the whole thing, including quotes from Professor Keith Whittington, who chairs the organization. The problem of isolating and personalizing the mob’s targets to pick them off one by one is pervasive with left-wing pressure campaigns, whether they are against college professors, corporate sponsors of radio and TV programs, sports teams, even state governments. They must be met by a collective response if the madness is to be fought. Three cheers for Professors George & Whittington for doing the legwork to make that a reality, and good luck to the Academic Freedom Alliance.

This post has been edited to reflect the leadership of the organization.

Education

Transferring College Credits Shouldn’t Be Difficult

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Many students transfer between colleges these days, and the number appears to be increasing. Consumer choice is good and when students find that their first choice isn’t ideal, they can and should change. There’s a problem, though — often some of the credits they have accumulated aren’t accepted by the new institution.

North Carolina is finally joining a number of other states that have made the process of transferring between schools less difficult, by adopting a common course-numbering system. In today’s Martin Center article, Shannon Watkins explains why this matters.

She writes, “All too often, transfer students must retake courses because their credits are not accepted at the new institution. This usually happens either because the new college doesn’t accept a course (known as ‘credit loss’), or it accepts the course but the credit doesn’t apply to a student’s major (known as ‘excess credit’).”

Despite some complaining from school officials that implementing common course numbering will mean some extra work for them, the UNC system has adopted this sensible policy and will have it in place for the 2022-23 academic year.

“Going forward,” Watkins writes, “transfer students’ road to graduation should be met with fewer obstacles. By adopting a common course numbering policy, the UNC system has taken another important step in making students’ transition between institutions—whether it be a two-year or four-year—as seamless as possible.”

Education

Dems Want $30 Million for Student Protests

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Students rally against white supremacy at Syracuse University in New York, November 20, 2019. (Maranie Staab/Reuters)

House Democrats are offering a bill ludicrously titled the “Civics Learning Act of 2021” to fund the likewise misnamed enterprise of “action civics.” The price tag is $30 million a year. Whether it’s called “action civics,” “civic engagement,” or “project-based civics,” the real goal of the new “civics” is to get students protesting and lobbying for leftist political goals on school time, and now on the federal dime.

The Civics Learning Act has 49 co-sponsors to date, all Democrats. That tells you a lot. Just last week I slammed three former Republican secretaries of Education for endorsing the “Educating for American Democracy” initiative, a supposedly bipartisan project in fact controlled by the country’s leading leftist proponents of action civics. Too many Republicans are lulled by bogus calls for national unity via “civics” into endorsing a movement that sponsors one-sided political protests in our schools. Meanwhile the same action-civics advocates who send students out to protest and lobby for policies they’ve never studied from both sides are busy pushing divisive Critical Race Theory at America’s teachers.

If you read the various components of the “Educating for American Democracy” (EAD) report, you’ll see that action civics (where students protest and lobby for things like gun control and the Green New Deal) and “service learning” (where students intern with leftist community organizations) are mentioned, but downplayed. You find these practices endorsed but relegated to appendices, or buried in the studies the report relies on but keeps to end-notes. The authors of EAD are the leading advocates of action civics in the country. They know it’s controversial, however, so they play it down.

The Civics Learning Act gives away the game, although even here you have to read through the euphemisms. The bill begins with the usual appealing distractions, statistics about students who know next to nothing about our constitutional system, along with some moaning about partisan polarization. Then come the proposals, which throttle actual civic education and fund ideologically partisan advocacy instead.

In the crucial section [(B)(2) on page 4], the bill lists the activities to be funded. They include, “hands-on civic engagement activities for teachers and students.” Most readers won’t even notice that “hands-on civic engagement” means teachers leading students on protest and lobbying expeditions outside of school. Then there’s, “before-school, during school, after-school, and extracurricular activities.” That provision officially redefines “civics” to include after-school protests for course credit. Next comes, “activities that include service learning and community service projects that are linked to school curriculum.” This is a practice in which students intern for (invariably leftist) advocacy groups then retroactively make it part of the “curriculum” by writing an essay for class about their out-of-school lobbying and protest activities. The bill also funds civic learning by video-games, which means millions of dollars for the supposedly non-partisan but in fact sharply left-leaning group, iCivics, and its highly political partners. (The iCivics group makes civics video games, but its real focus is leading the national coalition for action civics.)

Then comes the cleverest trick of all. The bill specifies that preference for grants will be given to programs that carry out the various listed activities. An annual report must also detail the extent to which each grantee was able to fulfill each of the listed activities, almost all of which are practiced only by the leftist groups that promote action civics. So, it’s a cinch that this proposed annual $30 million appropriation will go overwhelmingly to leftist action-civics groups rather than to purveyors of traditional civics. The bill purports to be a bipartisan effort to teach kids about the three branches of government and such, when in fact it’s about indoctrinating school-children by pushing them into leftist protest and lobbying.

Curiously, the bill’s main sponsor is Representative Alcee Hastings, who was impeached by the House, convicted by a Democrat-controlled Senate, and removed as a federal judge after being charged with perjury, evidence tampering, and accepting bribes. This is the Democrats’ champion of “civics.” Prominent Democrats like Jerrold Nadler, Jamie Raskin, Sheila Jackson-Lee, and Ilhan Omar are signed on to Hastings’ bill as co-sponsors. Conceivably, the Dems may find a Republican co-sponsor or two to join in down the road, but this will likely be because most Republicans have no idea what action civics actually is.

It gets worse. Last session, Republican senator John Cornyn co-sponsored a “bipartisan” bill that would have put $1 billion in funding toward civic education. Republican representative Tom Cole sponsored companion legislation in the House. (Yes, $1 billion, with a “b”.) The lion’s share of that money would have gone to the same leftist action-civics groups slated for funding under the Hastings bill. The Cornyn bill would also have subsidized the creation of teacher certification programs in history and civics at the same leftist schools of education now churning out woke curricula in Critical Race Theory. Let us hope that Senator Cornyn wakes up to the reality of action civics and has the good sense not to reintroduce this bill in the current Congress.

The action-civics community is actively working to dupe naïve conservatives, with their love for traditional civics, into subsidizing partisan leftist political protest and lobbying that have no proper place in America’s schools. Sadly, a few establishment conservatives go along knowingly and willingly as well, for the sake of creating a “bipartisan” civics and history version of Common Core.

Conservatives need to derail the leftist civics scam before it’s too late. In the absence of strong opposition, the Dems will likely succeed in sending tens of millions of dollars, at least, to the advocates of action civics. That will make it all the more essential for red-state legislatures to oppose maneuvers to write action civics into state standards. (Model state-level legislation to block action civics can be found here and here.) School-districts will also need to remain vigilant against the hijacking of their curriculum by the increasingly well-funded action-civics community. But first let’s try to block this ill-conceived appropriation.

The thoroughgoing politicization of our colleges and universities is now well more than halfway through the door of K-12 education. The alarm is sounding. It’s time to push back.

Media

Oprah and the Royals

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An interesting aspect of Oprah Winfrey’s interviewing the stray royals is that in the United States in 2021, the royals are the television personality’s social inferiors, and Harry and Meghan’s economic situation is so far from Oprah’s that they can’t even see it from where they are, in spite of the fact of their geographic proximity.

Culture

Keep Your Eye on the Ball, Conservatives

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This passage in a Washington Post article on President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus jumped off the page:

Dave Hopkins, a professor of political science at Boston College who studies the Democratic Party, said the Republican base is no longer “stoked” by criticisms of overspending.

“Moderate vulnerable Democrats feel a lot more freedom to vote for a big spending bill in the current moment — because the polls suggest it’s popular, and because the case against Democrats is being made on Dr. Seuss and Mr. Potato Head, not the debt,” Hopkins said.

“Cancel culture” and “wokeism” are worthy of concern. But conservatives should remember that simply being outraged by them and venting about them accomplish very little.

The Right should direct its energy away from outrage about Dr. Seuss and towards crafting a positive, forward-looking policy agenda.

Economy & Business

A Problem That Can Be Fixed

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(Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Nicholas Kristof is scandalized by the shortage of public toilets in New York City. It is, indeed a problem. (I stand by my description of Starbucks as a chain of public toilets with a sideline in coffee.) But he leaves out a big part of the story.

New York used to provide public toilets in the most straightforward way: as a commercial service. If you want something to happen, then figure out a way for somebody to make money from it – which is what New York did, for years.

In 1975, the usual reformers and improvers did what they usually do: They made things worse, legally prohibiting pay toilets at the behest of the National Organization for Women. And so New York went from having a modest economic incentive to provide public toilets to having no incentive at all — more accurately, negative incentives.

This is the kind of problem that a rich society wants to have: one that can be fixed with money.

PC Culture

Eminem Controversy ‘Resurfaces’

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Eminem and Rihanna perform at the MTV Movie Awards in Los Angeles, Calif., April 13, 2014. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

One of the odd things about cancel campaigns is the habit of treating that which is very, very public as though it had been a secret. Consider this sentence, from music journalist Will Lavin about the recent campaign against Eminem: “The new track arrives after a TikTok campaign was started earlier this week calling for Eminem’s cancellation after lyrics from his 2010 single with Rihanna ‘Love the Way You Lie’ resurfaced.”

Resurfaced? As though they previously had been hidden?

“Love the Way You Lie” is a song famous enough that it is familiar even to such far-from-the-vital-center-of-pop-culture types as yours truly. It is Eminem’s best-selling single, went to No. 1 on the charts, was nominated for a handful of Grammys, and is, still, inescapable on the radio. Who, exactly, is learning about this song for the first time?

You discovered that Eminem has some controversial lyrics? Well, Sunshine: There’s a difference between new and new to you.

Culture

Activists Want to Force Caregivers to Starve Dementia Patients to Death

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(jacoblund/Getty Images)

As I have warned here before, euthanasia activists are pushing for laws that permit people to write advance directives ordering themselves starved to death if they become mentally incapacitated. That effort is apparently gaining steam. The assisted suicide supporting organization Final Exit Network published a poll that supposedly found only 15 percent of respondents would oppose. Here’s how the question was worded as quoted in the pro-euthanasia crusading bioethicist Thaddeus Mason Pope’s blog:

Some people also propose that individuals with early stage dementia, who are still competent, should be able to stipulate for their future incompetent selves, that they want food and drink withdrawn and for doctors to keep them comfortable so they can die peacefully.

Notice the passive language. If I threw you in a room and locked the door until you starved and dehydrated to death, would you consider that dying “peacefully?” Would you consider it “peaceful” if a doctor drugged you so deeply that you could not ask for food?

But Wesley, you may say, that’s what they want!

No! It’s what they may have wanted in the past out of understandable fear. But we are talking about starving people who willingly eat and drink. We are saying that people can become incompetent to ask for the basics of life. We are pondering a circumstance in which vulnerable patients may ask for food only to have it refused because of something they may have written years previously. (That awfulness happened at least once in a feeding tube case.) And these are people who may not be suffering or whose symptoms can be palliated effectively. In a sense, we are making dementia patients slaves to the thoughts and fears of their younger selves.

We are also talking about forcing caregivers to starve their patients to death at risk of lawsuits for “wrongful life” or other legal sanction.

Moreover, advance directives are supposed to be about accepting or refusing medical treatment. Oral sustenance is not medical treatment, but humane care akin to keeping warm or turning to prevent bed sores. I mean, if someone directed that they be left without a blanket in front of an open window so they die of hypothermia–which can be a peaceful death–would we ever say that should be done? Of course not!

There are some things that no one should have the right to force others to do. Killing them — by whatever means — is one of them.

Pope says these advance directives are legal in several states. He is very knowledgeable about these issues — he really keeps track — but I know of only one where the permission is somewhat explicit: Nevada. If I find out otherwise, I will add an update to this post.

 

Media

Ezra Klein Still Doesn’t Understand the Constitution

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Ezra Klein interviews former president Barack Obama at Blair House in Washington, D.C., January 6, 2017. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Ezra Klein writes:

Klein writes this because the Senate rejected Bernie Sanders’s plan to impose a $15 minimum wage on every state in the union. The vote ended up with 42 senators in favor and 58 senators against — or, put another way, it ended up 18 senators away from a filibuster-proof majority and eight senators away from the simple majority that Klein favors.

Klein also writes this because he doesn’t understand how the American system of government works.

Klein’s operating assumption seems to be that the federal government is the only government in the United States. But it’s not — and, moreover, it’s not by explicit design. The federal government is staffed by representatives who are supposed to consider only questions of national import, while leaving everything else to the states. There is nothing in the American system of government that prevents the Democratic Party from winning elections in the majority of the states, and passing into law — at the state level — all of the things that Ezra Klein covets. By contrast, there are many provisions within the American system of government that make it more difficult for a simple majority to do this nationally: among them, the enumerated powers doctrine, the structure of the Senate, the filibuster, and the presidential veto. These are not flaws or loopholes or anachronisms, they are wise and logical rules that were not only established from the country’s inception, but to which everyone involved in today’s vote has consciously sworn an oath.

If it were the case that Wyoming was able to prevent California from setting its state minimum wage at $15, I’d agree with Klein that we had a problem. But it is not. On the contrary: Wyoming has no say over California’s own laws, but it does get to weigh in as an equal on the matter of what California’s voters may force Wyomingites to do.

And that is exactly how it should be.

Religion

Twenty-One Things That Caught My Eye Today: Andrew Cuomo, Dr. Seuss, Pluralism & More (March 5, 2021)

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1.  Wall Street Journal: Cuomo Advisers Altered Report on Covid-19 Nursing-Home Deaths

The changes Mr. Cuomo’s aides and health officials made to the nursing-home report, which haven’t been previously disclosed, reveal that the state possessed a fuller accounting of out-of-facility nursing-home deaths as early as the summer. The Health Department resisted calls by state and federal lawmakers, media outlets and others to release the data for another eight months.

2. New York Times: Cuomo Aides Rewrote Nursing Home Report to Hide Higher Death Toll

State health officials could see from the data that a significant number of residents died after being transferred to hospitals. The state health commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker, had been aware as early as June that officials in his department believed the data was good enough to include in the report, according to two people with knowledge of the discussions.

But Dr. Zucker testified to lawmakers in early August that the department was still auditing the numbers and could not release them. State Senator Gustavo Rivera, the chair of the health committee, suggested during the hearing that the data was being withheld to improve the governor’s image.

“That’s a problem, bro,” Mr. Rivera told Dr. Zucker. “It seems, sir, that, in this case, you are choosing to define it differently so that you can look better.”

3. An open letter in defense of the good name of Armenia and its people

We cannot address all the misinformation streaming out of Baku. But we would like to declare here that we, precisely as Jews and Israelis, support the right of the Armenian people to live as a free nation in their home land. We respect their ancient, honorable, unique culture. We condemn the hateful slander directed against them. We also condemn all expressions of antisemitism, regardless of their pretext. We oppose aggression against the Armenians and believe our country should have no part of it. We will stand by their side.

4. New York Post: Uighur exile who hasn’t heard from family in years speaks out against China

It’s been years since Tahir Imin heard from his family.

Yet the Uighur activist and academic still remembers the last conversation he had with his young daughter in February 2018.

“The last word from my daughter was that ‘father, you are a bad person,’” he recalled in an interview with The Post.

“The Chinese police are with the people, and you are against our country and our Communist Party. So don’t contact us,” he remembers the girl, then 7, saying over the phone.

5. Nicholas Rowan: Becerra downplayed China’s abuses as a ‘different perspective’ on human rights

For instance, upon returning from his 1997 trip to China, Becerra defended the communist regime against allegations of widespread human rights abuses. While acknowledging that the country needed to improve its record, Becerra said that China has a “different perspective” on the issue.

“We have two very different cultures, and we have two very different perspectives on the world,” Becerra told NPR. “That’s not to say one perspective is better than the other.”

Continue reading “Twenty-One Things That Caught My Eye Today: Andrew Cuomo, Dr. Seuss, Pluralism & More (March 5, 2021)”

Politics & Policy

‘The Bills Pile Up’

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Today on The Editors, Rich, Charlie, Maddy, and Daniel discuss the slew of rotten bills being passed by the House, the absurd overreaction to Texas and Mississippi’s mask mandate repeal, and the debate over removing the security fencing from around the Capitol. Listen below, or subscribe to this show on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, or Spotify.

National Review

Summer Internship at NR

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National Review is accepting applications for its summer editorial internship. Interns will receive a modest stipend, participate in every part of the editorial process, and have opportunities to write. Applicants should have an excellent academic record and some experience in student or professional journalism. If you wish to apply, please send a cover letter explaining your interest, a résumé, and two of your best journalistic writing samples (no more, please), all as PDF or Word files (no links, please), to internship.applications (at) nationalreview.com.

Religion

Women’s History Month Begins with the Bashing of Women from History

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Detail of the St. Catherine de Ricci window at St. Mary Church in New Haven, Conn., prior to the recent vandalism. (Photo: Kathryn Jean Lopez)

One of my favorite churches in the United States is St. Mary’s in New Haven, Conn. It’s basically on the campus of Yale University, inasmuch as Yale buildings surround it. It’s run by Dominican fathers — many of them in the Province of St. Joseph are friends of mine — and it is where Fr. Michael McGivney’s earthly remains are. He was the founder of the Knights of Columbus, and he was recently beatified (one of the steps to official recognition as a saint).

I’m also attached to it since I went to Mass with my late friend Andrew Walther and his family possibly every time I ever visited New Haven in recent years and his vespers service and funeral Mass were there. I remember it like it is happening now – during the Mass, the sun brightened the Ascension window in a way that I couldn’t take as coincidence. The veil is thin between Heaven and earth during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass — it truly is. I tell you as a matter of faith and lived experience.

And St. Mary’s is beautiful. There’s a Sacred Heart of Jesus statue I always visit, among other things. And that was all a long way of saying: Women’s History Month began with the pastor of St. Mary’s announcing that windows on the doors of the recently renovated church dedicated to four women were smashed in over the weekend. They depict Saints Catherine of Siena, Catherine de Ricci, Rose of Lima, and Agnes of Montepulciano. (Each of these windows, too, is a pilgrimage spot for me at every visit there.) The windows were cracked and can be restored. But this is just one incident — at a historic church in this case — in an alarming trend of vandalism in churches around the country — which I think NR alumna Marlo Safi has been the best chronicler of. It comes, too, after we’re about to mark one year since we seemed to collectively say: Religion isn’t essential, when the churches were closed for way too long.  But of course religion is essential! Many people still haven’t gone back. There are some prudent reasons for some, but there ought to be an examination of the why. John Paul II talked about a practical atheism. There’s something even worse going on now, increasingly, it seems. A real hostility, in sync with our violent times.

Here’s a write-up about the vandalism and a description and response from the pastor of St. Mary’s, where he does the right thing: He asks for prayers for whomever would do such a thing. Prayers are clearly needed.

As heartbreaking as this was, Father Walker urged prayers for the person responsible for the vandalism at St. Mary’s. “Pray for the person who did it,” he said.  “They’re clearly troubled, whether with mental issues or a hatred for the faith or the Church.  Pray for the healing they need and to come to a repentance for what they did” and have a “conversion of heart, that their life might be marked by growth in holiness and virtue, and ultimately for their eternal salvation.”

I should add that St. Mary’s has no reason to believe that it was anything other than vandalism. But churches are seeing more and more destruction. It’s hard to believe it’s all just random violence.

And as we end the week, it never hurts to whisper a prayer: Saints Catherine of Siena, Catherine de Ricci, Rose of Lima, and Agnes of Montepulciano, pray for us. 

Elections

David Shor’s Illusory Path Forward for the Democrats

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If I commented on every interesting part of this interview that Eric Levitz conducted for New York magazine with socialist data scientist David Shor, I’d end up recapitulating the whole thing. Shor has a lot to say that strikes me as plainly correct. But he also develops one line of thought that strikes me as completely nuts. For Democrats to get a decent election outcome in 2022, he says, it’s

very important that we add as many states as we can. Currently, even if we have an exceptionally good midterm, the most likely outcome is that we lose one or two Senate seats. And then, going into 2024, we have something like seven or eight Democrats who are in states that are more Republican than the country overall. Basically, we have this small window right now to pass redistricting reform and create states. And if we don’t use this window, we will almost certainly lose control of the federal government and not be in a position to pass laws again potentially for a decade. In terms of putting numbers on things, I think that if we implemented D.C. and Puerto Rican statehood and passed redistricting reform, that would roughly triple our chance of holding the House in 2022 and roughly the same in the Senate. The fact that it’s possible to triple those odds is a testament to how bleak the baseline case is.

The likelihood that a Democratic Senate that can’t pass a minimum-wage hike is going to add states (let alone do it for the purpose of giving Democrats an edge) in filibusterable legislation — and in time for the midterms! — seems pretty low. But he returns to the idea at the close of the interview: “We can’t control what Trump or Republicans do. But we can add states, we can ban partisan redistricting, and we can elevate issues that appeal to both college-educated liberals and a lot of working-class ‘conservatives.’ If we don’t, things could get very bleak, very fast.” Well no, you can’t, at least for two out of three of those suggestions.

Media

Republicans and the Working Class

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Senator Marco Rubio, acting Chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, speaks in Washington, D.C., January 19, 2021. (Joe Raedle/Reuters)

Trip Gabriel writes in the New York Times that while Senators Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) and Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) talk about a new working-class conservatism, they haven’t been offering much to blue-collar workers. Gabriel has two pieces of evidence: They didn’t talk about a blue-collar agenda when they spoke recently at CPAC, and they’re not supporting Biden’s COVID-relief plan.

Rubio has, however, worked for a long time to expand the child tax credit and apply it against payroll taxes, not just income taxes. He has advanced an innovative proposal to enable new parents to take time off from work. He wants to change tax policy so as to encourage more investment in the U.S. and reduce stock buybacks.

Hawley, meanwhile, recently proposed an increase in the minimum wage combined with a wage subsidy, the goal of the combination being to raise take-home pay without eliminating jobs. He has also pushed for the Fed to set monetary policy with trade balances in mind; there his goal is to encourage manufacturing employment.

I like some of these ideas better than others. But you’d think that an article on what the senators have to offer blue-collar workers would at least mention them. And it’s simply untrue that these Republicans are not offering them anything.

Update: A new profile of Rubio in RealClearPolitics gives a better picture of his agenda, and reminds me that Rubio has also endorsed changing labor laws to increase “worker representation.”

Religion

Twenty-One Things about Pope Francis in Iraq That Caught My Eye Today (March 5, 2021)

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1. Pope Francis at the Syro-Catholic Cathedral of “Our Lady of Salvation” in Baghdad, where 48 people, including women and children and two priests, were martyred in 2010:

What must never be locked down or reduced, however, is our apostolic zeal, drawn in your case from ancient roots, from the unbroken presence of the Church in these lands since earliest times (cf. BENEDICT XVI, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, 5). We know how easy it is to be infected by the virus of discouragement that at times seems to spread all around us. Yet the Lord has given us an effective vaccine against that nasty virus. It is the hope born of persevering prayer and daily fidelity to our apostolates. With this vaccine, we can go forth with renewed strength, to share the joy of the Gospel as missionary disciples and living signs of the presence of God’s kingdom of holiness, justice and peace.

Here’s some video of that stop, to give you an idea of the joy in the midst of suffering. A pope has never been to Iraq before, even though Christians have been there since the beginning of Christianity. JPII wanted to, but couldn’t because of the instability.

2. Luma Simms: Pope Francis’ visit to Iraq answers the prayers of the Christians who refuse to flee — and face extinction

In anticipation of Pope Francis’ visit, NPR conducted interviews with Muslims and Christians in Iraq. It was encouraging to hear from Muslims who care about the Christian community, who care about people of different faiths living together in peace and who are upset about the persecution of their fellow citizens. At the same time, I cannot help but think if there are Muslims in Iraq who feel this way, they must be afraid to advocate for their Christian neighbors; otherwise this horror would not have happened.

3. Kevin Clarke:

There are also diplomatic landmines to navigate over the next three days. Stephen Rasche, a vice chancellor at the Catholic University of Erbil, where he directs the Institute for Ancient and Threatened Christianity, describes Iraq as perhaps the most complicated political environment on earth. Speaking from Erbil in the autonomous Kurdistan region during a National Review Institute briefing on March 4, he said the pope will face a terrific challenge in balancing interests and sensibilities without offending one or another among the region’s fractious religious and ethnic parties.

The pope’s itinerary calls for him to arrive on March 7 in the de facto heartland of the Christian community in Iraq when he visits Erbil, where hundreds of Christian families now live after fleeing the ISIS rampage in 2014, and then travels by helicopter to Qaraqosh in Nineveh. That Christian city is still rebuilding after its sacking by ISIS and a devastating offensive to drive the Islamic militants out. The city’s Christians will no doubt be profoundly heartened by the pope’s visit, a welcome endorsement of their struggle to maintain a remnant Christian presence in Nineveh. But when Francis leaves, the many challenges to Christian viability in Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan will remain.

4. Crux: Amid pandemic, pope goes to Iraq to rally fading Christians 

In Iraq, Francis is seeking to not only honor its martyrs but deliver a message of reconciliation and fraternity. That’s a tough sell given the few Christians who remain in Iraq harbor a lingering mistrust of their Muslim neighbors and face structural discrimination that long predated IS and the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that threw the country into chaos.

“The Pope’s visit is to support the Christians in Iraq to stay, and to say that they are not forgotten,” the Chaldean patriarch, Cardinal Luis Sako, told reporters in Baghdad this week. The aim of Francis’s visit, he said, is to encourage them to “hold onto hope.”

“I am the only priest in Mosul. Every Sunday I hold mass at 9 a.m., and only around 70 people attend,” said Father Raed Adil Kelo, parish priest of the Church of the Annunciation in Mosul, the onetime de-facto IS capital.

Before 2003, the Christian population was 50,000, he said. It had dwindled to 2,000 before IS overran northern Iraq.

5. Associated Press: Ahead of Pope visit, survivor recalls Iraq church massacre

One gunman told a mother to quiet her wailing infant. When she was unable, Climis heard the pop of a bullet. The screaming ceased.

Continue reading “Twenty-One Things about Pope Francis in Iraq That Caught My Eye Today (March 5, 2021)”

Education

Romney to Schools: Bring Kids Back to Class for COVID-Relief Money

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The Utah senator is sponsoring an amendment to the COVID bill that says, per his office’s press release, “Any school districts that don’t have at least 50% of their students back in class at least 50% of the time by April 30, would get none of the $125 billion in K-12 education money provided in the bill. In its place, each student in those districts would be eligible for $2,500 to use for immediate educational needs such as: tuition for open schools, tutors, homeschool costs, summer school, etc.” I hope the amendment passes, but even if it doesn’t it will be good to force a debate and a vote on it.