Health Care

Scott Gottlieb and the Schools

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In response to Where Was This Expert When We Needed Him?

John Fund says the former FDA commissioner (and current AEI colleague of mine, not that I’ve seen him in more than a year) “was among the most aggressive advocates of school closures last March” but started backtracking in September and has now done a complete 180. That wasn’t how I remembered it, and some Googling yields a more complicated picture.

USA Today quoted him on March 9, 2020: “So broad preemptive school closures, I personally wouldn’t advocate that.” By March 19 — and remember that these were the early days of the outbreak, when conditions were changing quickly — he was telling the Economic Club of New York that schools should be closed if there were high infection rates. He said something similar, though a bit ambiguous, a few days later on Face the Nation. By the end of the month, he was writing that schools should re-open as soon as the first phase of COVID was over.

At the end of May, he told Bloomberg Opinion that “there will and should be an attempt to open schools in the fall.” In July, he wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal titled, “Schools Can Open Safely This Fall.”

One could reasonably disagree with some of Gottlieb’s recommendations, especially in retrospect. It is clearer now than it was a year ago that young children are unlikely to endure or transmit severe COVID cases. But when I look at his overall record on school closures, I don’t see any easy gotchas available.

Natural Law

How to Win Constitutionally

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Pro-life signs outside the Supreme Court in June 2014. (Jim Bourg/Reuters)

Over in First Things, John Finnis made the case that abortion is unconstitutional. You should read it. He rests his case on the 14th Amendment, particularly its first section. He argues, persuasively in my view, that if the original public meaning of “persons” was wide enough to include corporations as legal persons, the due-process clause should also apply to the unborn.

Ed Whelan has raised his doubts here at NR, and remains committed to what might be seen as Justice Antonin Scalia’s view that constitutionally speaking, the best that can be hoped for is that Roe v. Wade is overturned or undermined at the Supreme Court level and abortion law jurisdiction is returned to the states. And Joshua Craddock has responded to Whelan.

The disagreement has degenerated into a lot of useless sniping. I’m not going to link to these because some of them are clearly the product of too much drinking or radicalization in some private chat room. But, a number critics of legal originalism or “Conservatism Inc.” have alleged that conservatives who haven’t abandoned originalism as a failure yet are demonstrating their bad faith or possibly their corruption.

These critics would have us abandon originalism as a failure or a piece of nonsense and push for a Court decision that would immediately recognize the personhood of the unborn, and immediately criminalizing all abortion, while having the Supreme Court supervise state homicide laws. Some advocates support this with a theory that the majesty of this change in the law itself would convince many abortion advocates to change their opinion, just as the shocking legal advances of same-sex marriage seemed to move public opinion.

Now, for what it’s worth, I’m for an “any good idea” strategy to stop abortion. I don’t contribute my efforts to all of them, only to the ones I think wisest or most suitable for me, but I’d welcome any positive contribution managed by any of them.

I’m for people who believe in the Personhood Amendment, and in re-reading the 14th Amendment. I’m for crisis pregnancy centers and sidewalk counseling. I’m for doing direct action and for pushing the limits of exposé journalism. I’m particularly interested in the direct, almost bespoke, personal interventions of groups such as Let Them Live. I’m for prayer and fasting. I’m for any good that can be done by pro-life feminism or pro-life atheism and even ecumenical events. I’m for trying to undermine abortion directly with the law and activism. I’m for undermining it more indirectly with good art that is meant to address our cultural deafness to unchosen obligations.

Finnis’s case about the 14th Amendment has been a part of the anti-abortion movement for decades. If I recall correctly, I believe our own Ramesh Ponnuru believes that, rightly understood, it forbids legal abortion. I do as well. One of the major anti-abortion activist groups has been an advocate for it, promoting either a reading of the 14th Amendment that prohibits abortion or the passage of a “Personhood Amendment” that clarifies this meaning and settles it across the country in a durable way.

The challenge is that this theory has even less support in the judiciary that originalism. Maybe it will someday, but in the meanwhile, states that do try to pass worthwhile restrictions on abortion or personhood laws are hampered by the higher courts. They could be given more room if authority was returned to the states. If you think that the millions of people trying to get Republican candidates to vow to appoint originalist justices in the hopes of giving those states the relief and freedom of action they deserve on this issue is insincere, or a kind of conspiracy, you need help. Yes, Republicans have been extremely slow on this issue, and yes, pro-lifers have given too much leeway to them to counter-signal the cause. Fifteen years ago, I despaired entirely, but the raft of good legislation in some states over the last decade has changed my mind. The appointment of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court gives me some hope that even if many elected Republicans would like to hoodwink pro-lifers, we may win some victories despite them.

And I am dubious of the magisterial power of the law to cut so dramatically against the tide of public opinion in the United States on this question. When the Obergefell ruling happened, opinion in favor of same-sex marriage had already gone from an extremely marginal cause to a near coin-flip. The other side isn’t just assertive, it is extremely shrewd about how it advances. So must we be. Ireland’s Eighth Amendment, passed not so long after Roe and in fear of a similar ruling in Ireland, was drafted in a way that stated very clearly that the state had no right or legitimate power to provide legal abortion. That amendment fell by popular referendum after decades of being undermined by the people themselves.

But my attitude is much the same here as with other critics of conservatism from the right. They accuse us that “Liberalism has won all its battles with you.” I shrug. Insofar as that it is true, it has won all its battles with you, too. If we are for changing American law on this issue, it is a matter for all Americans, not just one faction or sect within that faction.

I’d be surprised if any of our strategies work, given the state of things. I expect more discouraging reversals and pleasant surprises. But we must keep pushing. The very problem the current originalist approach will run into is the American people, their expectations, and their ambitions. Where those expectations and ambitions run against the law — as they are on laws restricting marijuana — the teaching power of the law fades. This problem can’t be wished away by an assertion. It has to be met manfully and creatively.

Immigration

The Problem with Exempting Kids from Title 42

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Rich Lowry’s informative article on the Biden administration’s border doublespeak quotes DHS secretary Alejandro Mayorkas: “We are expelling families. We are expelling single adults. And weve made a decision that we will not expel young, vulnerable children.” That’s not what the administration is actually doing. But it also wouldn’t be wise.

At some point, I hope soon, the pandemic justification for using Title 42 to turn away migrants will disappear. But applying it to everyone except unaccompanied minors makes it more likely that minors will come (or be sent) on a dangerous journey to the border unaccompanied. Even announcing this policy could have this effect, if the message travels far and wide.

(I recently wrote about some of the other ways the administration, including Mayorkas, is spinning the border crisis.)

Politics & Policy

Latest Andrew Cuomo COVID-19 Scandal Implicates Brother — CNN’s Chris Cuomo

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Andrew (left) and Chris Cuomo (Mike Segar/Reuters)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is at the center of yet another scandal involving his handling of COVID-19. Yet this one implicates his brother, CNN’s Chris Cuomo:

The Times Union reports:

ALBANY — High-level members of the state Department of Health were directed last year by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker to conduct prioritized coronavirus testing on the governor’s relatives as well as influential people with ties to the administration, according to three people with direct knowledge of the matter.

Members of Cuomo’s family including his brother, his mother and at least one of his sisters were also tested by top health department officials — some several times, the sources said.

The medical officials enlisted to do the testing, which often took place at private residences, included Dr. Eleanor Adams, an epidemiologist who graduated from Harvard Medical School and in August became a special adviser to Zucker. Adams conducted testing on Cuomo’s brother Chris at his residence on Long Island, according to the two people.

This is now not only a political scandal, but a media scandal. We already know how Chris Cuomo breached journalistic ethics in covering his brother, including by conducting this highly embarrassing interview which included the prop of a giant nasal swab. Now it turns out that Andrew was using his power to give special VIP testing to Chris.

Elections

John James Mulls a Run for Governor of Michigan

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Republican U.S. Senatorial challenger John James addresses the Detroit Economic Club meeting during the second debate against Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow in Detroit, Mich., October 15, 2018. (Rebecca Cook/Reuters)

John James is reportedly exploring a run for governor of Michigan in 2022. This makes sense. True, James lost statewide elections in both 2018 and 2020, in each case running against incumbent Democratic senators. But James made relatively strong showings. He got 48.2 percent of the vote in 2020, losing by 1.7 percentage points and running half a point ahead of Donald Trump. In 2018, against the more-entrenched Debbie Stabenow, James got 45.8% percent of the vote. These are the two best showings by a Michigan Republican senate candidate since Stabenow defeated Spencer Abraham in 2000, and James improved with more exposure to the voters. With the Democrats now holding the presidency, the climate should be more favorable in the 2022 midterm, and Republicans have had more success in gubernatorial than Senate campaigns in Michigan, with Rick Snyder winning two terms in 2010 and 2014. Without a lot of other obvious strong candidates, the Michigan GOP may as well try James one more time.

The incumbent, Gretchen Whitmer, is still reasonably popular despite many controversies over her lockdown policies, but she is hardly invulnerable. A Detroit News poll taken February 3-6 gave Whitmer a 58 percent approval rating. An EPIC-MRA poll released March 2 had her approval rating at 52 percent and showed a 69–26 margin disapproving of the condition of the state’s economy. A Marketing Resource Group poll released March 23 showed Whitmer’s approval rating down five points to 53 percent, with voters by a 47 percent to 44 percent margin saying the state is on the wrong track. Whitmer would clearly win reelection today with these numbers, but the trendline is not great and there are 19 months until the midterm elections. As Jim Geraghty details, the latest surge in COVID-19 cases in Michigan is just one of a number of items of evidence that “Whitmer looks less like a rising star and more like another example of a Democratic governor with a laughably ridiculous media-hype-to-results ratio.”

James versus Whitmer would instantly become one of 2022’s top-tier races.

Politics & Policy

Sasse’s Warning: Scrapping the Filibuster Will Make American Politics More Extreme

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Sen. Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) speaks before the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington, D.C., February 22, 2021. (Al Drago/Pool via Reuters)

Nebraska GOP senator Ben Sasse gave a 30-minute speech on the Senate floor on Tuesday in defense of the keeping the legislative filibuster. The whole thing is worth watching, but the following excerpt was a particularly strong argument:

Pass laws today with 50-plus-one majority and watch them be repealed tomorrow with 50-plus-one majority. Our nation then would just pinball from one policy agenda to another. It makes politics too central in the life of the American people to allow fickle 51-49 majorities to change the whole direction of the nation. 

Each election will become more do-or-die, more Flight 93-ish than the last.

Each campaign would descend further and further into tribal ugliness. […]

If you want to see American politics become more brutal, if you want to see American politics become more crude, if we want to see American politics become more demagogic, then stripping away the mechanism that has forced us to work together, that would be the perfect recipe for bringing about this dystopian reality. 

If you want to see a politics that favors more candidates running for office with claims that they will be strongmen and tyrants, then make politics nothing more than a contest of wills between people who spend their campaigns promising to spend the next two or four years simply making the other side pay. If you want to see the rights and interests of minority groups scorned, dismissed and trampled, then establish a legislative process where minority voices don’t need to be heard at all. That’s what would happen if we end the super-majority requirements that have always dominated the Senate from its first day. If you want a lame, mean politics that aims only to own the libs or drink conservative tears, this is how you bring that crap show about. You’d set the Senate on fire.

Sasse also took apart the Democrats’ new talking point about the “Jim Crow filibuster”: 

[Democratic senator Brian Schatz] recently said that the filibuster is quote “stupid” and “paralyzing.” He also said “it’s time to trash the Jim Crow filibuster.” But just four years ago when Donald Trump was elected and House Republicans were itching to have the Senate eliminate the filibuster because Republicans controlled the House, the Senate and the White House, Senator Schatz and a bunch of his colleagues actually penned a public letter that defended the filibuster and all of its quote, “existing rules, practices and traditions,” close quote, precisely because it advanced the deliberative purposes of the Senate.

I don’t remember Senator Schatz then calling it the Jim-Crow filibuster when he wrote that letter, or when he was blocking Tim Scott’s police reform legislation last year by pointing to the Senate super-majority requirement rules.

I don’t remember Senator Schatz calling it stupid when he filibustered COVID relief in September and again in October under the Senate’s current rules. Look, I want to be clear, I’m not picking on Brian, I’m naming him precisely because I like him and afterwards we can argue about this […]

There isn’t much right now, but there’s still a chance for reform of this institution. Ending the filibuster is to end this institution. But to be clear, this isn’t about Senator Schatz. I could give a hours and hours-long speech going through all the flip-floppers in this chamber who had one position 48 months ago and now have a completely different position. I don’t need to name all of them, we should just say, “what changed?” We know what changed. The only thing that changed in the last two years is who’s in power. When Democrats were in the minority, you were fierce defenders of this “indefensible Senate prerogative.”

That was the language that was used. The filibuster was “standing between America and fascism,” we heard. But now, when you’ve got the slimmest majority, actually it’s just 50-50 and you need the VPs’ motorcade to break a tie, now the filibuster is standing between you and some of your legislative goals, and therefore it needs to be tossed out. But when you were using the filibuster to halt Senator Scott’s police reform bill, the filibuster was an essential American institution that forces compromise. But now that it can be occasionally used to resist a 51-50, straight majoritarian exercise of power, it’s supposedly exclusively a relic of slavery and a tool of Jim Crow. It’s nonsense and the people saying it know that it’s nonsense. They use the same rule last year and you weren’t racist when you used it last year. This is B.S. that has been focused grouped and particular bills are being used as the excuse to grab power that won’t just be for this bill, it will be forever. It will be the end of the Senate. Was the filibuster really a tool of Jim Crow when it was used against Tim Scott last year? I don’t think so. And I don’t think any of you think so.

Culture

Twelve Things That Caught My Eye: Syria, Myanmar, Schools & More

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1. New York Times: ‘I Will Die Protecting My Country’: In Myanmar, a New Resistance Rises

“I see the military as wild animals who can’t think and are brutal with their weapons,” said a woman from Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city, who was now in the forest for a week of boot camp. Like others who have joined the armed struggle, she did not want her name published for fear that the Tatmadaw, as the Myanmar military is known, would target her.

2. 

Continue reading “Twelve Things That Caught My Eye: Syria, Myanmar, Schools & More”

White House

Kamala Harris’s ‘Empowering Women’ Event with Bill Clinton Is Tone-Deaf

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Former president Clinton speaks during the Clinton Global Initiative in New York, September 23, 2010. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

According to Politico’s White House reporter, Vice President Kamala Harris will host an event this Friday featuring President Bill Clinton, a one-on-one discussion of ways to “empower women and girls in the U.S. and around the world” in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The conversation will take place as part of a Clinton Global Initiative event, which perhaps explains how a spokesperson as inapt as Bill Clinton was chosen to opine on the topic of female empowerment.

The tone-deaf selection comes as little surprise considering that Democrats have for decades failed to distance themselves from Clinton, despite his sexual mistreatment of several women and the sea change effected in the last several years by the Me Too movement.

The political costs of forthrightly condemning Clinton for his history of anti-woman behavior appear to be too steep for most left-wing politicians — as was the cost for Harris, apparently, of continuing to question whether Joe Biden had sufficiently responded to sexual-assault allegations levied against him.

In a 2018 interview on The View, for instance, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) attempted to gloss over the subject of Bill Clinton’s past misconduct entirely, though some of the very first Me Too stories had just begun trickling out. Here’s the key part of her exchange with host Meghan McCain:

McCain: Senator, you have dedicated your political career to [fighting sexual misconduct], obviously. That’s why a lot of people were really surprised that it took you 20 years to say that Bill Clinton should’ve resigned over the Lewinsky scandal. So what do you say to that?

Gillibrand: I think this moment of time we’re in is very different. I don’t think we had the same conversation back then, the same lens. We didn’t hold people accountable in the same way that this moment is demanding today. And I think all of us, many of us, did not have that same lens, myself included. But today, we are having a very different conversation, and there is a moment in time where we can actually do the right thing or fixate on one president.

McCain: Can I ask you, do you regret campaigning with him, though?

Gillibrand: It’s not about any one president, and it’s not about any one industry. And if we reduce it to that, we are missing the opportunity to allow women to be heard, to allow women to have accountability and transparency, and to allow women to have justice.

Vice President Harris is highly unlikely to receive any similar questioning from the press about her choice to host a conversation with Bill Clinton — lecturing the audience on the importance of empowering women and girls, no less — but the unfortunate optics are hard to ignore.

World

The Taiwan Emergency, Explained by a Top Commander

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A soldier stands guard during Combat Readiness Week drills in Hsinchu, Taiwan, October 29, 2020. (Ann Wang/Reuters)

Yesterday’s exchange between Admiral John Aquilino, who has been nominated to lead the U.S. military’s Indo-Pacific Command, and Senator Tom Cotton provides another look at military planners’ expectations about a potential invasion of Taiwan by Chinese forces.

The exchange has been reported on extensively, but these things can get drowned out by other parts of the news cycle. It’s a compelling reminder, following recent testimony by other top military commanders (including Phil Davidson, whom Aquilino would replace), that the potential invasion of Taiwan is a near-term, once-in-a-generation threat and a national-security emergency.

The following excerpts of Aquilino’s testimony, in addition to Cotton’s comments about the 2022 Olympics, are worth reading in full:

Cotton: From a military strategic standpoint, why is it so important to Beijing that they annex Taiwan?

Aquilino: Thanks, Senator. As you know they view it as their number one priority, the rejuvenation of the Chinese Communist Party is at stake, very critical as they look at the problem. From a military standpoint, the strategic location of where it is, as it applies to the potential impact of two-thirds of the world’s trade, certainly, a critical concern. Additionally, the status of the United States as a partner with our allies and partners also is at stake, should we have a conflict in Taiwan. So those two reasons are really the strategic main concerns that I would see…

Cotton: Last week, Admiral Davidson testified that he thinks the PLA may have the capability to effectively invade Taiwan, in as soon as six years, maybe less. Do you agree with that view?

Aquilino: Senator, there’s many numbers out there. I know Admiral Davidson said six years. You’d have to ask him where he made that assessment. There are spans from today to 2045. My opinion is this problem is much closer to us than most think, and we have to take this on, put those deterrence capabilities like [The Pacific Deterrence Initiative] in place in the near term and with urgency.

Cotton: I share that view it’s not a 2045, it’s not a 2030 problem. I suspect it may not even be a 2026 problem. From a military planning point of view, what is the best time of year given light weather and sea conditions for the PLA to launch an invasion of Taiwan? Is it the middle part of spring?

Aquilino: Yes, sir, that is certainly a better time, as it applies to sea state and environmentals.

Cotton: Do you recall when the Sochi Winter Olympics ended in 2014?

Aquilino: Yes, senator.

Cotton: February 23. Do you recall when Russia invaded Crimea?

Aquilino: I don’t have the date, senator. I apologize.

Cotton: February 27, four days later. The Beijing Winter Olympics end February 23 next year.

Politics & Policy

The Equality Act: A War on Women — Get Educated on Thursday (And Pass This On)

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Concerned about the Equality Act that already passed the House, some of us at National Review wanted to put together a discussion session that would help explore its dangers to girls and women and us all. So, our Maddy Kearns is going to be moderating a National Review Institute discussion this Thursday afternoon. Here’s the official invite to the Zoom session.

The proposed Equality Act of 2021 H.R. 5 would abuse the 1964 Civil Rights Act, tyrannically amending it to include a progressive wish list of unrelated issues. Its dangers are numerous: A redefinition of sex, an attack on female athletics, an expansion of public accommodations, the stamping out of religious exemptions, and an undermining of conscientious objection to controversial clinical practices such as abortion and gender reassignment.

“Ultimately, what the Equality Act represents is a cynical attempt to use the Civil Rights Act as a Trojan horse for radical leftist social orthodoxies. Such a law would cause far more injustice than it would prevent.”  – The Editors, National Review 

We invite you to join us for a two-part panel discussion with National Review writers and experts on the implications of this legislation that’s expected to be passed by Congress within the coming weeks.

The hour will have two parts:

Panel One: Inez Stepman and Kara Dansky will explore the policy consequences for society generally: the assault to women’s rights and privacy and the coercion of public accommodations.

Panel Two: Kathryn Jean Lopez and Alexandra DeSanctis will build on this discussion, exploring additional concerns such as religious freedom and the threat to social institutions and communities.

Kara Dansky is a former ACLU attorney at the Women’s Liberation Front. Inez Stepman is from the Independent Women’s Forum.

Again, you can register here.

Continue reading “The Equality Act: A War on Women — Get Educated on Thursday (And Pass This On)”

Politics & Policy

‘Assault Weapons’: Some Numbers

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Estimated number of “modern sporting rifles” in the U.S.: 15-20 million

Range of estimates for the percentage of public that favored a ban in 2019: 48-61.

Number of Senators who voted for a ban in 1993: 56

Percentage of Democrats who voted for the ban then: 84

Number of years ban was in effect: Ten

Number of Senators who voted for a ban in 2013: 40

Percentage of Democrats who voted for a ban in 2013: 71

Percentage of U.S. homicides by rifle in 2019, according to the FBI: 2.6

Media

What People Wanted to Hear during This Pandemic

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(Brian Snyder/Reuters)

In response to It’s All about the Science and the Facts! (Assuming They Fit the Storyline)

Rich,

The study that David Leonhardt refers to in his column makes the somewhat surprising argument that political ideology did not seem to influence the tone of news coverage of the pandemic:

The estimated probability that a COVID-19 article is negative varies from 60 percent to 100 percent among major U.S. outlets. These probabilities do not align with the likelihood that conservative consumers of news trust the source. COVID-19 stories from Fox News are more negative than those from CNN. We obtain similar results using the share of negative words in the article.

Of course, different news organizations, and their viewers or readers, are going to have at least slightly different appetites and probably slightly different notions of what constitutes “bad news.” Fox News viewers are probably much more interested in “bad news” in the form of Andrew Cuomo’s handling of nursing homes, over-the-top enforcement of draconian lockdowns, and elected officials breaking their own lockdown rules.

CNN and other mainstream-media institutions seem to have a limitless appetite for anything that can make Florida or Texas or other red states look bad, and support their preferred not-so-accurate narrative that Ron DeSantis is reckless and that the state of Georgia is “conducting an experiment in human sacrifice.”

It’s been odd, covering this pandemic and spending much of 2020 being slammed as as doomsayer — 360,000 deaths by New Year’s Day, more than 555,000 by yesterday seems pretty darn bad! — and now spending much of 2021 being told I’m being too optimistic. (The vaccines are an epic success and a game changer, the schools can reopen at least part-time if not full time, and we should allow people to start attending ball games.) My sense is that people develop their own individual sense of “how it’s going,” and if you contradict their internal assessment in either direction, they get really irked with you.

Confirmation bias runs through the veins and arteries of news audiences. During this pandemic, a lot of people on the left side of the spectrum wanted to hear that President Trump was messing it all up, that uninformed red-state hicks were killing themselves and their loved ones by refusing to wear masks, that Christians and Orthodox Jews were recklessly gathering for religious services, that selfish and greedy bars and restaurants were reopening with no concern for people’s safety, and that they, the good progressives who believed in “SCIENCE!” and could work from home, would be the ones who emerged from the pandemic relatively unscathed.

Meanwhile, a lot of people on the right side of the spectrum wanted to hear that blue states were turning into fascistic nanny states with finger-wagging “Karen” snoops and informants, that the lengthy closure of schools represented a catastrophe for children, that “the experts” had been proven wrong on all of their initial assessments of the dangers of the virus, and that Black Lives Matter protests had spread the virus further.

For much of the past year, the dominant theme of a lot of pandemic coverage has been, “Yes, the virus is bad, but those who disagree with me are making it all so much worse.”

Education

Where Was This Expert When We Needed Him?

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Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

Now he tells us.

Scott Gottlieb, the former Food and Drug commissioner, was among the most aggressive advocates of school closures last March, when the CDC was still officially offering a balanced guidance that mostly cautioned against closures. Gottlieb modified his stance in September when he told CNBC: “Our priority should be to get the schools open and do that safely.”

Now, better late than never, Gottlieb has gone further and articulated that a key excuse for not opening schools was never valid. He admitted on CNBC this week that the government social-distancing standard of six feet isn’t “based on clear science” and “has probably been the single costliest mitigation tactic.”

Immigration

Mayorkas Is Lying

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

I have a piece up about Alejandro Mayorkas and others denying the border crisis or trying to deflect blame for it.

I think it’s worth focusing in a bit more on what Mayorkas has been saying about how the Trump administration handled minors under Title 42, since it’s completely wrong.

A very good Washington Post report explains:

On Sunday, Mayorkas told NBC News that the Biden administration “will not expel into the Mexican desert, for example, three orphan children whom I saw over the last two weeks. We just won’t do that. That’s not who we are.”

During the Trump administration, most Central American minors were flown to their home countries, as Mexico would not allow the return of non-Mexican minors.

Surely Mayorkas knows this, but he’s out there deliberating creating a false impression to cover for the Biden administration’s failure at the border.

Media

It’s All about the Science and the Facts! (Assuming They Fit the Storyline)

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Outside the New York Times building in Manhattan, August 3, 2020 (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

David Leonhardt has a good column on a new study how negative coverage of the pandemic has been:

The coverage by U.S. publications with a national audience has been much more negative than coverage by any other source that the researchers analyzed, including scientific journals, major international publications and regional U.S. media. “The most well-read U.S. media are outliers in terms of their negativity,” Molly Cook, a co-author of the study, told me.

About 87 percent of Covid coverage in national U.S. media last year was negative. The share was 51 percent in international media, 53 percent in U.S. regional media and 64 percent in scientific journals. . . .

Sacerdote is careful to emphasize that he does not think journalists usually report falsehoods. The issue is which facts they emphasize. Still, the new study — which the National Bureau of Economic Research has published as a working paper, titled, “Why is all Covid-19 news bad news?” — calls for some self-reflection from those of us in the media.

If we’re constantly telling a negative story, we are not giving our audience the most accurate portrait of reality. We are shading it.

Politics & Policy

Voting vs. Buying a Gun

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(Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

My colleagues already have commented on this, but I say we give the Democrats what they are asking for on this one: Vote when you are 21 or older, disenfranchise felons and some violent misdemeanor offenders, pass a background check, and show an ID that is verified through a law-enforcement database at the polls.

Also, go to jail if you try to fake your way through any part of the process.

At last, there will be parity!

Religion

Meet Sr. Magdalene Teresa, a Woman Who Makes the World Better

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Sr. Magdalene Teresa, S.V., director of the Visitation Mission of the Sisters of Life, with Sr. Virginia Joy, S.V., director of the Respect Office of the Archdiocese of New York on Thanksgiving Day 2020. Photo by Kathryn Jean Lopez

Over the years, I’ve collaborated with my friend Sr. Magdalene Teresa from the Sisters of Life. We had a National Review Institute–Heritage Foundation forum in 2015 (wow, that wasn’t yesterday anymore) where she spoke about the Visitation Mission she’s been running for I think 16 years now.

Here’s Beyond Planned Parenthood: Alternatives for Women (with a keynote from Mollie Hemingway — thus the earrings!):

At Thanksgiving time this year, she spoke in one of our “virus-free” virtual events about gratitude, a favorite virtue here at NRI:

And more recently in January, she talked about what it means to be pro-life in partnership with the Institute for Human Ecology at The Catholic University of America and the Catholic Women’s Forum at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. You can watch that here:

Those are at least the public events!

I mention Sr. Magdalene because today is her feast day – the anniversary of her baptism and the eve of Annunciation, which is the patronal feast of the Sisters of Life – when Mary gave her “yes” to the angel Gabriel. The lives of the Sisters of Life are a daily “yes” and walking with women who want to say “yes” to life, but don’t know how.

There are two women they were praying for this morning who are abortion-minded, but still talking with them. Frequently women are just too scared, and when the abortion is scheduled, it’s hard to get them to the point where they turn away when so many forces are pressuring her to have the abortion. Oh my goodness, it is a heart-wrenching life, in some ways. But they go into each day knowing that only God is Savior, and they will ask the Lord again to use them as instruments. And what joy when a woman does say “yes” to life, recognizing she is already a mother. It’s sacrifice, but it’s joy. Especially when the Sisters are loving you along the way. Really loving women back to life.

Sr. Magdalene reminds me of Mother Cabrini, who walked the streets of Manhattan, too. She perseveres in darkness and sometimes ridiculous circumstances. She has a radiant grace about her and real wisdom and understanding and compassion for the misery humanity faces in these times. She’s very much a mother to the sisters at the Visitation Mission at St. Andrew’s in lower Manhattan (right at the tip of the Brooklyn Bridge, by the courthouses) and the women who come to them who lack confidence in their ability to be mothers.

As I’ve said before, the Sisters of Life are our pro-life credibility. And on the week of the anniversary of my birth this year – grateful, as Roe had been around for a few years, for life – and with this heroine’s feast day today and the whole community’s Annunciation feast tomorrow, would you consider supporting the work of the Sisters of Life?

It’s not enough to want to defund Planned Parenthood. There has to be an alternative and plans and resources for women and families. The Sisters of Life and their network of co-workers are that. Be part of the civilization of life and love by giving to their beautiful lives.

As someone said to me recently: The Sisters of Life should be lavished on for what they do and who they are. And believe me, they are not. Your support makes a statement about what’s important.

Here’s a dedicated link for this little K-Lo birthday fundraiser for them.

Get to know them better here. As I tried to explain here, they have a lot to offer us all, too.

And thanks again as always for your support of NR (here’s Maddy Kearns’s pitch for) and NRI, where we get to highlight beacons of faith and civil society like the Sisters of Life.

World

Manchin Caves, Votes to Advance Biden’s Disastrous Colin Kahl Pick

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Senator Joe Manchin (D., W.Va) speaks with Ajit Pai, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, during a hearing, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., June 16, 2020. (Toni Sandys/Pool via Reuters)

Senator Joe Manchin has caved in to pressure by voting to advance the nomination of Colin Kahl to a post as undersecretary of defense.

Assuming Manchin votes the same way when the nomination hits the Senate floor, Kahl should be able to squeak through. And that would have disastrous ramifications for national security.

Kahl has been consistently wrong on foreign-policy matters, and his errors consistently end up favoring Iran, and targeting Israel.

He was a major opponent of sanctions against Iran, and pushed the Iran deal, which made Iran into a greater conventional threat while allowing the terrorist regime to remain on the long-term glide path toward nuclear weapons.

As somebody who has repeatedly opposed the U.S. alliance with Israel, Kahl warned at the time that Donald Trump moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to its capital city of Jerusalem that it would have catastrophic consequences for the region. He even claimed it would benefit Vladimir Putin:

In reality, what happened was that it helped improve U.S. standing in the region, and gave the Trump administration the credibility that helped it broker multiple peace deals between Israel and Arab countries.

What the pick signals is a broader effort by the Biden administration to resurrect the Obama era Middle East vision. Under that vision, the U.S. adopted a more hostile posture toward Israel and Saudi Arabia, and a more accommodating stance toward Iran. This, in turn, caused significantly more instability in the region.

Why Is Michigan Seeing a Surge in New COVID-19 Cases?

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Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer speaks at a campaign event for Joe Biden in Detroit, Mich., October 31, 2020. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

In early 2020, Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer probably ranked only second to Andrew Cuomo in terms of glowing national press coverage. She even rated her own prayer candle. Nutjob militia types seemed to deem her public enemy No. 1.

Those less inclined to give Whitmer the benefit of the doubt noticed her bonkers executive order, declaring stores of more than 50,000 feet must close areas of the store that sell carpet or flooring, furniture, garden centers or plant nurseries, or paint, her confusing and contradictory executive orders on what was permitted during lockdown, her decision to violate her own social-distancing orders, her blatantly

Politics & Policy

We’re Not ‘Rushing’ Into Reopening Schools, Randi Weingarten

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Florida teachers, whose unions were against their members returning to school, hold a car parade protest in front of the Pasco County School district office in Land O’ Lakes, Fla., July 21, 2020. (Octavio Jones/Reuters)

American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten says she’s “not convinced” by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance calling for three, instead of six, feet of distance between schoolchildren.

Weingarten has no scientific basis for her skepticism, just an expedient case of paranoia and a job that requires she advocate continuing to pass the costs of the pandemic on to America’s children. As Jim Geraghty has pointed out, there is a broad scientific consensus that three feet is safe. Moreover, the virus poses little health risk to children, and teachers around the country are being or already have been vaccinated.

So Weingarten is stuck embarrassing herself making arguments like this:

With the guidance that students can be 3 feet apart from each other but adults should remain 6 feet from children or other adults, what is the expectation for the teacher in a classroom—that she remain in one spot at the front of the room the entire day, not moving about the classroom?

At this point, most parents would be willing to have educators held Clockwork Orange–style at the front of the classroom if that’s what they needed to do to end the physical and emotional suffering of their kids, induced first by the pandemic and extended by maliciously opportunistic profiteers such as Weingarten. Rightly so.

Compare this fawning New York Times profile casting Weingarten as “The Union Leader Who Says She Can Get Teachers Back in Schools,” with her intransigent and illogical pseudo-arguments, and you’ll see that not only is Weingarten a cynical and ruthless opponent of American children’s best interests, but that she’s also been doted on by a press corps that is all too willing to give the benefit of the doubt to a core Democratic constituency.

Weingarten counsels that we not “rush” into trusting the new CDC guidelines and improving both the educational outcomes and mental health of American children. We’re late, not early, to “trusting the science” on school reopenings, as well as to being forthright about what it is Weingarten does for a living.

Law & the Courts

Is It Easier to Buy a Gun Than Vote? Let’s Find Out

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Firearms are shown for sale at the AO Sword gun store in El Cajon, Calif., January 5, 2016. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Barack Obama used to claim, absurdly, that it was easier for a kid to buy a “Glock than get his hands on a computer, or even a book.” Contemporary liberals have updated this talking point with more recent legislative obsessions.

“Activists have pointed out that in Georgia, for instance, it’s easier to buy a gun than to register to vote,” one reporter noted, without a hint of journalistic skepticism, yesterday. “This says a lot about where America is headed in 2021.”

“In a majority of states, new voters are able to obtain a rifle quicker than they’re able to cast their first ballot,” argued California’s Senator Padilla. “It seems to me we have our priorities entirely backwards when it comes to this — when we make it easier to buy a gun than we do to cast a ballot.”

These are not only category errors, they are highly misleading. Then again, even if they weren’t, this wouldn’t be as jarring an assertion as many people imagine. First, a citizen’s ability to exercise his Second Amendment rights should require as few impediments as voting — if not fewer. And second, despite the fantastical assertion of many Democrats, voting is already extraordinarily easy — it takes minutes to register and you can do it online — whereas buying a “Glock” in places such as New York, Maryland, California, or Washington D.C., is rendered prohibitively difficult as part of a deliberate effort to dissuade and, indeed, suppress law-abiding Americans from using their rights.

Of course, we would be able to test Padilla’s contention by linking the two issues. Let’s pass an H.R. 1 for guns. If you can receive a ballot in the mail, then FedEx should be able to bring you an AR-15. If you can vote without photo ID, you should be able to buy a handgun without it, too. If we are to institute same-day registration and voting, then Americans should also enjoy same-day background checks and gun purchases. If we implement automatic voter registration for anyone using a government service, we should simultaneously implement automatic background checks that pre-clear them for gun ownership. If we’re going to pre-register 16 year olds as voters, let’s pre-register them for gun ownership, as well.

Media

Democracy Dies in . . . Wait, What?

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President Joe Biden delivers his first prime time address as president, speaking about the impact of the pandemic during an address from the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., March 11, 2021. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

Yesterday, the Washington Post’s media reporter argued that Joe Biden’s first press conference on Thursday will represent “a major test” — for the press. Today, the Post’s Jennifer Rubin makes this idea explicit, contending that, when he takes the podium, “Biden should fact-check the White House press corps.”

Quite a shift, albeit not a remotely surprising one.

World

Israeli Elections: Latest Results Show Narrow Netanyahu Loss

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Then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset in Jerusalem, May 24, 2020. (Abir Sultan/Reuters )

Yesterday, in flagging early exit polls pointing to a narrow victory for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, I noted that we’d have to wait for confirmation from actual results. Sure enough, as the results came in overnight, they now point to a narrow Netanyahu loss.

As things stand, the bloc of parties that would be expected to form a government with Netanyahu have 59 seats — just placing them in the minority in the 120-seat Knesset.

It is unclear exactly what the path to 61 seats is for opposition leader Yair Lapid, or whether Arab parties would join the government. Which is a way of saying that things are far from settled.

Politics & Policy

Colleges Should Stop Treating Masculinity as a Problem

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(Pixabay)

Many college professors, eager to find fault with the world, blame “toxic masculinity” and try to make their male students feel guilty. That fits in perfectly with the “woke” mindset, but, argues Canadian professor Judyta Frodyma in today’s Martin Center article, it’s a bad practice.

She writes, “As a lecturer in the humanities I have had the privilege and challenge of moderating discussions of controversial topics, often based on literary texts. Over the past two years, the number of students self-censoring or not speaking when a topic is seen as ‘not for them’ has increased dramatically. Insteadmany of them visit during office hours or write in course feedback to express their concerns about their ability to engage in their own education. In most of these cases, these students are male.”

Professors, particularly those in the humanities and those numerous “studies” programs, often believe that men are a big part of the problem and do exactly what they say society does to all the groups they favor — marginalize them.

“The increasingly toxic and exclusive intellectual climate in universities,” Frodyma continues, “is perpetuated among students. Yet much of what happens in the classroom is downstream of what happens in campus culture, and administrations respond in kind (perhaps excessively so, to the detriment of those they are trying to protect). Systemic change of gender relations is critical, but it cannot occur when half of the student population feels they cannot participate in the debate.”

True enough, but I’m afraid that many faculty members aren’t really interested in debate. They’re sure they have all the answers and don’t want opinions from men poisoning the atmosphere.

I think that Frodyma sticks the landing as she concludes, “Universities need to find a way to reward listening as well as talking, and to re-invite men into the conversation. Lecturers must learn to moderate in a way that creates difficult discussions for everyone involved. Involving all students and welcoming their views so long as they engage in open debate, gives students a true education without demanding ideological conformity.”

White House

That’s Not Good

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First sentence of a new Axios story: “President Biden recently held an undisclosed East Room session with historians that included discussion of how big is too big — and how fast is too fast — to jam through once-in-a-lifetime historic changes to America.”

Politics & Policy

Gun-Control Polling Is Largely Meaningless

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Customer inspects a gun at a store in Phoenix, Ariz. (Reuters photo: Ralph D. Freso)

From Forbes:

84%. That’s the share of voters who said they support requiring all gun buyers to go through a background check in a Morning Consult/Politico poll released earlier this month. That includes 77% of Republicans. However, far fewer – just 48% – support closing the loophole addressed by H.R. 1446, while 38% oppose such a measure.

We hear this statistic a lot, typically coupled with “. . . so why won’t Congress take action?”

My operating assumption: Because it’s not really true.

Having written a lot about this topic, I have come to suspect that when Americans tell pollsters that they “support requiring all gun buyers to go through a background check,” they believe they are being asked whether a background-check system should exist at all, rather than whether it should be extended intrusively to all firearms transfers. There is a reason that concrete referendums on this question tend to yield extremely tight splits, that the vast majority of states do not regulate private sales, and that congressional bills, once debated, tend to be far, far less popular than the pre-debate polls had suggested they’d be — and that reason is that while a clear majority of voters do not object to gun stores having to go through the motions, they are not actually that wild about the prospect of involving the government every time they loan their friend a rifle. The Democratic Party and the press spend so much time pretending that it is easier to buy a gun than a taco that many Americans have come to believe that one can simply walk into a Macy’s and pick a machine gun up off the shelf. This, clearly, they oppose. But when that myth has been dispelled and the details begin to intrude? Then, they are less sanguine.

This dynamic also helps to explain why the polling for HR8 is so much better than for HR1446. One of them, HR8, is polled with an extremely vague question about background checks per se; the other, HR1446, is in the weeds. And, as is so often the case, harsh detail quickly kills cheap enthusiasm.

Culture

Twenty-Two Things That Caught My Eye Today: Transgenderism Divides Families & More

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1. Lynn Meagher: When Transgenderism Discards My Daughter, I Will Still Be Here For Her

I know what it means to face adversity and come through stronger. But nothing prepared me for this. Being a mom was the most important, challenging, and deeply meaningful thing in my life.

As crippling as it is, my grief at the loss of our relationship isn’t the hardest pain to bear. Far beyond that, I’m terrified for her.

2. William McGurn: The Christian Baker Who Said ‘No’

Mr. Phillips owns Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colo., and holds traditional views on marriage and sexuality. The first legal action against him came via the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, when in 2012 he declined to bake a custom cake for a same-sex wedding and found himself accused of unlawful discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. This time he’s being sued because he wouldn’t bake a cake celebrating a gender transition.

“Jack didn’t single Scardina out for being transgender,” Ms. Waggoner says. “He wouldn’t bake cakes with those messages for anyone.” This is a baker who won’t even make Halloween cakes, she adds, and serves everyone regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.

It’s not clear exactly why Ms. Scardina wanted a cake featuring Satan, apart from provoking him. When asked why she ordered the Satan cake, she said she wanted to believe Mr. Phillips was a “good person” and hoped to persuade him to see the “errors of his thinking.” That’s some deal for someone you say is a “good person”: Change your thinking or I will try to ruin you.

3. Hundreds of Christian families face eviction from their homes in Pakistan

Over the past week, the houses of 450 Catholic families were destroyed in Pakistan, and those of 1,000 Christians will be bulldozed by government officials in upcoming days.

4. Washington Post: Eric Talley, officer killed in Boulder shooting, loved his job and his seven children: ‘That was his life’

Brooks said she had a sense of what had gone through her brother’s mind Monday.

“I honestly know my brother, when he heard there was a shooting in a supermarket, I know his first thought was, ‘There are kids in there,’ ” Brooks said. “He loved his kids. His family shopped at King Soopers.”

“I know Eric would have wanted to save every single one of those lives. I know why he flew in there first, because he was thinking, there are families in that store.”

Continue reading “Twenty-Two Things That Caught My Eye Today: Transgenderism Divides Families & More”

Politics & Policy

Manchin: I’m Not Interested in Abolishing the Filibuster for Gun Control

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A few hours ago, I suggested that it was possible that Joe Manchin would revive his 2013 background check bill; that, if he did, it would be a tough sell for Democrats and Republicans alike (for different reasons); and that, whatever happened, he would likely not want to nuke the filibuster over it. CNN’s Manu Raju suggests that, for the moment at least, that was correct:

 

State Assembly Cuomo Probe: The More Impeachable You Are, the Less Impeachable You Are

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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during a press conference before the opening of a mass vaccination site in the Queens N.Y., February 24, 2021. (Seth Wenig/Pool via Reuters)

The New York State Assembly’s Judiciary Committee has held its first meeting regarding its impeachment probe of Governor Andrew Cuomo. The committee’s conclusion — try to follow this — is that if Cuomo had committed one impeachable offense, it might be a straightforward matter for the Assembly to file an article of impeachment; however, since there are numerous allegations of impeachable offenses, the investigation could go on interminably before articles are potentially filed.

As the New York Post reports, the committee is saying the inquiry into the governor’s alleged misconduct could take “months” to complete because there are so many allegations.

Politics & Policy

‘Not Everything Is Racist’

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Today on The Editors, Rich, Charlie, Alexandra, and Jim discuss the horrific Atlanta and Colorado shootings, Kristi Noem’s giving in to woke pressure, and the election stand-off in Iowa. Listen below, or follow this show on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, or Spotify.

Filibuster or Not, Gun Control Faces Uphill Battle in Senate

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Sen. Joe Manchin speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill, May 16, 2018. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

The shootings in Colorado and Georgia have prompted many of the filibuster’s critics to add gun control to the list of Democratic agenda items that the 60-vote threshold is supposedly throttling. Having looked around a little today, though, I’m really not sure that’s true.

The three changes Joe Biden says he wants are a ban on “assault weapons,” the prohibition of magazines that can hold more than ten rounds, and the extension of the federal background-check system to intrastate private sales. The first two provisions have not even passed the House and are explicitly opposed by Senator Manchin. The third provision

World

Israeli Elections: Exit Polls Point to Narrow Netanyahu Victory

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is heading toward a narrow victory if current exit polls hold and he is able to form a coalition as anticipated.

To maintain power, Netanyahu will have to secure a majority of the 120 seats in the Knesset. All three of the exit polls taken after the election indicate that he should have just that, with 61 seats.

This assumes the further right Yamina Party will join his government. The party’s leader, Naftali Bennett, previously indicated he was open to joining a coalition government with either political bloc, so this should not be an insurmountable obstacle to Netanyahu assuming he is asked to form a government.

It should be said that just like in the U.S., exit polls in Israel are known to shift. So with the results this close, we’ll have to remain cautious and wait until all the votes are counted to be absolutely confident in the outcome.

Elections

Okay, This Is a Good Way for Candidates to Get My Attention

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I have to confess, dear readers, that with the pandemic continuing, the vaccine rollout continuing, and Biden taking office, I have not really kept up on the race for the three Lincoln, Neb., city council at-large seats. Voters will cast a ballot for three candidates in the April 6 primary election, and six candidates will advance to the General Election on May 4.

With that caveat in mind, I think Mary Hilton sounds like a terrific candidate, primarily because of her philosophy towards government spending:

Higher property tax valuations continue to lead to higher property tax payments in the city of Lincoln. Does this concern you? Why or why not?

Yes, it concerns me. The city budget should not expand at a faster pace than those of the city’s families and businesses. Instead of lowering the tax rate when properties are reevaluated, our city takes the windfall. The Lincoln City Council is responsible for passing a budget that meets the needs of the city and properly funding essential municipal services. The city collects plenty of money to pay for “needs.” I agree with columnist Jim Geraghty, who wrote, “There is always some aspect of government that can be trimmed, rethought, and eliminated.” This principle should especially apply to the “wants” of the budget. The City Council should use its investigative and budgetary powers to keep taxing in line with the actual growth of the city. High property taxes are part of the reason we are experiencing a housing affordability problem. When neither the old nor the young can afford to live in Lincoln, the entire city suffers.

I mean, if you can’t trust a candidate who quotes me in her press interviews, who can you trust?

Gun Bans Don’t Stop Killers

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(Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters)

After the Atlanta shooting last week, progressives dove headfirst into another round of moral panic about “white supremacy,” even before they knew if there was any racial motivation involved in the killings. When the shooter’s identity inconveniences that well-worn narrative, as it does in the Boulder shooting today, liberals will jump straight to pushing for more useless gun regulations.

In the wake of the latter shooting, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer promised a vote on “universal background checks” this week, even though the Boulder gunman reportedly purchased his rifle at a store, which would mean he had a clean background check

Health Care

Which Is a Bigger Problem: Undelivered Doses or Delivered but Unused Doses?

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Vaccine vials in front of the Johnson & Johnson logo, February 9, 2021 (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

If it turns out to be true, the claim from three senior administration officials to Politico that Johnson & Johnson may not meet its goal of delivering 20 million doses by the end of March would indeed be bad news.

But Johnson & Johnson’s failure to deliver as many doses as previously promised wouldn’t really get states or the Biden administration off the hook for only administering, as of this weekend, 2.3 million of the 4.3 million doses of the vaccine delivered. A shipment of vaccines that doesn’t arrive on time to a distribution point is bad. But a shipment of vaccines that arrives at a distribution point and then doesn’t get used promptly feels worse.

The unnamed administration officials chose to speak the same Politico reporters who had the scoop of the unused doses on Monday, in what feels like an effort to divert some of the blame back to Johnson & Johnson.

Yesterday’s headline brought some fascinating objections from a few Biden defenders, who insisted that states and localities are running their own vaccination programs, so it’s not the Biden administration’s fault that J&J vaccines are being left on the shelves unused. If that’s the case, then the Biden administration shouldn’t be taking credit for states increasing the amount of vaccinations each day. And if the rollout of the vaccines is entirely a state’s responsibility, then the Biden team can’t plausibly argue that the Trump administration botched the job. In short, Biden fans want their man to get credit for everything that goes right, and none of the blame when things go wrong.

Politics & Policy

The Problem with the Latest Anti-Gun Talking Point

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(Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

I see this talking point doing the rounds:

There are two problems with this claim. The first is that it’s mostly untrue. The second is that it’s predicated upon a comparison that, when interrogated, doesn’t make a great deal of sense.

Let’s start with its veracity. It is indisputable that commercial firearms sales in Georgia — which is to say almost all firearms sales in Georgia — require more documentation and more steps than does voter registration. To register to vote in Georgia, one must be a U.S. citizen, be resident in the county in which one is registering, be 17 and a half (18 to actually vote), and not be a felon or mentally ill. In addition, one needs either an unexpired Georgia drivers license, a State ID number, or a “paper registration form.” Registration can be done online, and takes five to ten minutes. To buy a gun from a commercial seller in Georgia, one must be a U.S. person, be resident in the state, be 18 (to buy a long gun) or 21 (to buy a handgun), and not be a felon or mentally ill. In addition, one needs to present a state-issued photo ID, to fill in Form 4473 (which asks many questions, including about drug use), and to undergo a criminal background check conducted by the FBI. The latter process takes longer — and involves more hoops — than does registering to vote.

In a handful of circumstances, these steps are, indeed, truncated. Georgia is one of 37 states that do not superintend the private transfer of firearms and, thus, that allow intrastate transfers without checks. To privately transfer a firearm in Georgia, one must meet the same eligibility requirements as for commercial transfers: One must be a U.S. person, be resident in the state, be 18 (to buy a long gun) or 21 (to buy a handgun), and not be a felon or mentally ill. But one does not need to provide ID or undergo a background check. In the real world, there are, of course, many good reasons for the state to decline to regulate the transfer of private property — including that it is extremely difficult to do well, that compliance tends to be low (even in deep blue states), that it doesn’t help catch criminals, that it rarely intersects with mass shootings (in both Georgia and Colorado, the guns were bought after a background check), that it involves the de facto creation of a gun registry, and that it is hard to devise a useful set of rules that don’t also prevent friends and family from loaning or giving each other guns. But, that notwithstanding, it is true that sometimes in Georgia it is easier to buy a gun than to vote.

I get off the boat at the conclusion that this “says a lot about where America is headed.” It doesn’t. Indeed, it is an entirely meaningless comparison. Registering to vote is an intrinsically public action; one has to do it through the government. Buying a gun — or any product, for that matter — is not. At one level, it will always be easier to buy a gun (or, say, to buy heroin) than to register to vote, because there is no such thing as private or illicit voter registration, whereas there is such a thing as a private or illicit firearms (or drug) deal. The State of Georgia could try to ban firearms completely, and it would still be possible to say “it’s easier to buy a gun than to register to vote.” These are discrete areas, and they require discrete approaches. Acknowledging this doesn’t play well on social media, I’m sure. But it’s true, nevertheless.

White House

Biden Tries to Turn Tragedy into Political Capital

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President Joe Biden speaks about the mass shooting in Colorado from the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, D.C., March 23, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

“As president, I’m going to use all the resources at my disposal to keep the American people safe.” It’s a wonderful sentiment. But for longtime observers of Joe Biden and his party, it marked an ominous sign of things to come early on in his remarks about the shooting in Boulder, Colo., yesterday.

When Biden made repeated reference to “gun violence,” words chosen ever so purposefully, within the first minute or so, his intentions became ever more clear. He would have no qualms about trying to turn yesterday’s tragedy into today’s political capital.

Sure enough, he transitioned to asserting that while he didn’t know enough about the shooter, his motives, or even the weapons he used, he didn’t have “to wait another minute, let alone an hour to take common sense steps that will save lives in the future.” What steps? He urged Congress to ban “assault weapons,” “high capacity magazines,” and to close the “Charleston loophole,” one of many imaginary loopholes decried by opponents of the Second Amendment in this country.

Biden insisted that this “should not be a partisan issue,” calling it instead an “American issue” that will “save lives.” He didn’t say how.

If Biden were really interested in taking partisanship out of debates over guns in this country, he would refrain from using the aftermath of a shooting that he admits to having limited information about to push an agenda that targets the nebulous boogeymen of dangerous “assault weapons” and evil “loopholes.” He’s not interested in unity or problem-solving, though. What he really wants is to use the nearly unimaginable pain of his fellow Americans to push a highly partisan, unconstitutional agenda under the guise of keeping us all safe.

Politics & Policy

Honest Elections Project Tells It to Us Straight on H.R. 1

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(Jeenah Moon/Reuters)

The battle over H.R. 1, the “For the People Act” — and more accurately described by National Review as “a partisan assault on American Democracy” — is scheduled to begin Senate consideration with hearings tomorrow before the Rules Committee. Your spider sense should be tingling. Jason Snead, an expert on election reform and the executive director of Honest Elections Project, has drafted an important memo (sent to members of Congress and state legislatures) explaining how H.R. 1 blatantly disregards the strong-majority positions American have voiced for serious election reform, especially desire for greater protections against voter fraud. The memo, a worthwhile primer on this vital debate, merits the attention of all conservatives and all voters. Read the full memo HERE, and the intro below:

American democracy is suffering from a credibility crisis. The 2020 election was marred by confusion, haphazard changes to voting laws, and a progressive legal blitz that used courts to undemocratically weaken voting safeguards and skew the rules for partisan advantage. Millions of voters harbor doubts about the legitimacy of future elections. Left to linger, that distrust may harden into apathy and disengagement, and drive public discord to alarming new heights.

The top priority of election reform must be to restore public trust in our electoral system, but the voices of regular voters are too often ignored or drowned out by activists advancing their own agendas. To rectify that, HEP and HEP Action launched a nationally representative survey of 1,200 voters. The results show that, overwhelmingly, voters want stronger safeguards and ballot protections. Liberal activists and politicians reflexively attack any policy they disagree with—voter ID laws and ballot trafficking bans, for instance—as “voter suppression,” and have created a misleading narrative that frames these policies as unpopular, unnecessary, and discriminatory. In reality, these are the very policies that most voters want, including moderates and liberals, low-income, and minority voters.

Congress is considering legislation to eliminate or weaken protections against voter fraud, but most voters want lawmakers to take the opposite approach. Large majorities rejected both particular provisions and the overall direction of H.R. 1, the “For the People Act.” Only 29% of voters know anything at all about this expansive legislative attempt to reshape American elections, but when they are informed, only 28% support its passage. If Congress passes the “For the People Act,” it will do so in spite of them.

This is a dose of reality for the political debate over H.R. 1 and the broader effort in states across the country to reform and improve elections. Voters want credible elections that balance access and security.

Culture

New Report Shows Long-Term Declines in Teen Pregnancies and Abortions

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(Hannah McKay/Reuters)

Last week, the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute released long-term data on rates of pregnancies, births, and abortions in the U.S. The national data range from 1973 to 2017 and include breakdowns by age demographics, and the state-level data range from 1988 to 2017.

These statistics are especially helpful because, while the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) provide some information about the age demographics of women obtaining abortions, their data are incomplete. For instance, the CDC’s 2018 Abortion Surveillance Report did not include data from California, Maryland, New Hampshire, and Wyoming.

As a result, this new Guttmacher report provides interesting information for understanding U.S. abortion trends. In 2012, my Lozier Institute colleague Susan Wills analyzed CDC data and found that the largest abortion-rate declines were taking place among younger age demographics.

These new data suggest that the trend is continuing, as the report shows that between 1980 and 2017, the abortion rate for females between the ages of 15 and 19 fell by more than 82 percent. The abortion rate for 35-to-39-year-olds fell by only 8.5 percent during the same timespan.

The large reduction in the teen abortion rate is partly the result of a higher percentage of pregnant teenagers choosing life for their preborn children. According to these new statistics, the percentage of pregnancies carried to term by women ages 15 to 19 between 1980 and 2017 increased by more than ten percentage points.

An even more important reason for the drop in the teen abortion rate is that teenagers are now much less likely to become pregnant in the first place. According to Guttmacher, the teen pregnancy rate peaked in 1990 at 117.6 pregnancies per thousand teenaged females (girls 15 to 19). Since then, the teen pregnancy rate has declined by a whopping 73 percent.

This substantial long-term decline in the teen pregnancy rate in the United States is an important public-policy success story. Groups that support legal abortion and their allies in the mainstream media are quick to credit increases in contraception use for these changes. But even some left-wing media outlets such as Vox have admitted that there are other factors, such as the significant, durable, long-term decline in teenage sexual activity.

Data from the National Survey of Family Growth show that, between 1988 and 2015, the percentage of teenage boys (ages 15-19) who had ever had sexual intercourse fell from 60 percent to 38 percent. During the same time period, the percentage of teenage girls (age 15-19) who had ever had sexual intercourse fell from 51 percent to 42 percent. Similarly, data from the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) show that between 1991 and 2017, the percentage of high-school students who had ever had sexual intercourse declined from 54.1 percent to 38.4 percent.

Declining abortion numbers often receive relatively little attention from the mainstream media, but the 53-percent reduction in the U.S. abortion rate since 1980 is good evidence that the pro-life movement has enjoyed some success. This recent sharp decline in the teen-abortion rate might be even better news, as evidence suggests that a high percentage of abortions are repeat abortions. As a result, this significant decline in the teen abortion rate bodes well for the future.

World

Fauci’s Sputnik V Optimism — and Putin’s Caginess

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Dr. Anthony Fauci attends a Senate committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., March 18, 2021. (Anna Moneymaker/Reuters)

During an appearance on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show yesterday, Anthony Fauci offered his assessment of the Sputnik V vaccine produced by Russia:

HH: All right. Do you trust the Russian and/or the Chinese vaccine to be efficacious?

AF: You know, I’m assuming that they are. I mean, certainly the data on the Russian vaccine, I’ve taken a look at some of the reports. It looks pretty good. The Chinese one very well might be good. I haven’t had the opportunity to examine the data to the extent that I would feel comfortable. But the Russian one, I believe, is quite effective.

The top government expert on infectious diseases might have a point. In early February, a peer-reviewed study, which included some 20,000 participants, found the vaccine to be almost 92 percent effective, despite earlier concerns about its safety and efficacy. (It was approved, following limited clinical trials, in August. At the time, Fauci panned Russia’s hasty approval of the shot.) Still, some have their doubts.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said on February 18, “We still wonder why Russia is offering theoretically millions of millions of doses while not sufficiently progressing in vaccinating their own people.”

It’s a fair question, considering the breadth of Russia’s vaccine diplomacy. Although its own vaccine rollout has proceeded slowly, Moscow has shipped millions of doses abroad (though at volumes lower than promised). In fact, as the Russian government’s vaccine domestic drive lagged, it placed resources behind a disinformation effort to sow doubt in the efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine. Meanwhile, certain Russian officials have voted with their feet, including a diplomat posted in Estonia, who opted to receive the Pfizer shot instead.

Should Fauci offer such a sanguine view of the Sputnik shot? His perspective might be more confident than that of Vladimir Putin, who is expected to be inoculated today. The Russian president won’t reveal the name of the shot that he will receive, though the Kremlin promises it will be one of the three Russian-produced vaccines, according to Reuters. A government spokesperson said that Putin “has already done a lot to promote Russian-made vaccines, the most famous of which is Sputnik V” and “that Putin did not like the idea of being vaccinated on camera.”

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