If You Hold an Election for Mayor of New York, Will Anybody Show Up?

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The New York City skyline (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

There’s an enormously crowded field of candidates so far for this fall’s race to replace the universally mocked and reviled Bill de Blasio as New York City’s mayor, including such familiar names as former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang and, on the Republican side, Guardian Angels founder and radio talk show host Curtis Sliwa. The big wild card in this race, however, is whether anybody can get New York’s apathetic voters interested in their governance again.

New York City has, according to the Census Bureau’s pre-pandemic estimates, 8.34 million people, of whom about 6.6 million are age 18 or older. It’s

Sports

Oral Roberts!

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Oral Roberts Golden Eagles guard Max Abmas (3) shoots the ball against Ohio State Buckeyes forward E.J. Liddell (32) and guard Duane Washington Jr. (4) during the first round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Ind., March 19, 2021. (Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports)

The NCAA tournament is the best sports festival on the planet, and for evidence, look no further than Oral Roberts, a 15-seed, taking down Ohio State, a 2, this afternoon.

My approach to the tournament is to always root for the upset, pretty much no matter what. Now, this reflex came back to bite me big time a couple of years ago. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve wasted forlornly rooting for a 16 to beat a 1, and, of course, UMBC finally did it against my beloved UVA.

Anyway, the game this afternoon had all the hallmarks of a classic underdog fade-out. Oral Roberts led most of the way, then Ohio State pulled ahead with under four minutes to go, and usually when that happens, before you know it, the better team is ahead by 8 or 10 points.

Instead, Oral Roberts hung tough, got it into overtime, and won. It’s not unheard of for a 15 to beat a 2:

But it’s exhilarating and gratifying all the same. Congrats to ORU, and let’s hope it’s a sign of things to come in the first couple of rounds.

Politics & Policy

‘Cuomo Faces New Claims of Sexual Harassment From Current Aide’

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At this point, it’d be surprising if several days passed without a new complaint.

U.S.

Justice Department, FBI Moving on Cuomo Nursing-Home Investigation

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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City, March 24, 2020. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

The New York Times reports that FBI agents have fanned out to conduct interviews of state and nursing-home officials in New York. At issue, as I’ve previously outlined, is an investigation of whether the administration of Governor Andrew Cuomo misled the federal government when it provided data on COVID-19-related deaths of nursing-home residents.

The feds began asking New York and several other states for data in August 2019, in the course, apparently, of determining whether to open a broader civil-rights investigation based on a federal law designed to protect institutionalized persons.

Earlier this year, Cuomo’s top aide, Melissa DeRosa, admitted to New York legislators that the Cuomo administration had withheld information from them about the true number of nursing-home deaths. The true number was significantly larger than they had previously indicated, because, DeRosa said, they feared that, if the information became known, the Trump Justice Department would use it to attack Cuomo politically. It has since emerged that the data was suppressed well before the Justice Department began asking questions, in an effort to burnish Cuomo’s image as a masterful manager of the pandemic challenge.

The administration has retained Elkan Abramowitz, an incomparable criminal-defense lawyer, to represent the governor’s office in the probe. He told the Times that the state’s “submission in response to D.O.J.’s August request was truthful and accurate and any suggestion otherwise is demonstrably false.” I had many dealings with Abramowitz as a prosecutor, and while I would often disagree with him about facts should be interpreted (which is how it naturally goes between prosecutors and defense lawyers), he was always honorable in representing what the facts were, which is why I like him so much.

Clearly, a major issue will be whether the state’s representations to the feds were not only truthful and accurate, but also complete. False-statements cases can turn as much on what is omitted as on what is asserted.

On the investigation reported by the Times today, the FBI is working with federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York. The criminal probe appears to be separate from pre-existing investigations by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and Civil Division (they’re different), which could involve civil claims.

Education

Largest Teachers’ Union ‘Concerned’ That New CDC Social-Distancing Rules Aren’t Justified by Science

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters in Atlanta, Ga. (Tami Chappell/Reuters)

President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris visited the CDC headquarters in Atlanta today as the agency announced new social-distancing guidance saying it was safe for students to maintain three feet of separation from other students, rather than six feet.

The decision, which came after several studies demonstrated three feet was a safe distance for students, was seen by many as a big help in getting schools open, particularly in districts with space constraints that make it challenging to maintain six feet of social distancing.

Yet anything that may make it easier for schools to reopen is bad news to teachers’ unions, which have been fighting tirelessly to keep schools closed even in the face of science saying it is safe to do so, even seeing the growing toll it is taking on students’ emotional well-being, and even though distance learning has been catastrophic academically.

As a result, it didn’t take long for the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers’ union, to say it was “concerned” about the announcement:

At first glance, the change to three feet distance for students in classrooms will be particularly challenging for large urban school districts and those that have not yet had access to the resources necessary to fully implement the very COVID-19 mitigation measures that the CDC says are essential to safe in-person instruction, no matter how far apart students in classrooms are. And while distancing is one important strategy, we must also continue to prioritize all mitigation strategies including vaccinations, wearing masks, hand washing, healthy school buildings and a system of testing, tracing, and quarantining.

For the sake of public trust and clarity, we urge the CDC to provide far more detail about the rationale for the change from six feet to three feet for students in classrooms, clearly and publicly account for differences in types of school environments, new virus variants, differences in mitigation compliance, and how study participants were tested for the virus. We are concerned that the CDC has changed one of the basic rules for how to ensure school safety without demonstrating certainty that the change is justified by the science and can be implemented in a manner that does not detract from the larger long-term needs of students.

Unionized teachers have used every trick in the book to avoid doing their jobs — in some districts they are refusing to teach in person even after cutting in the vaccine line. Now, they have moved on to professing concern that Biden’s CDC is not following the science.

Law & the Courts

Better Than Whose Originalism?

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The U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. (Molly Riley/Reuters)

Four conservative legal thinkers have written a jurisprudential manifesto in favor of “A Better Originalism,” by which they mean an originalism that accepts that the proper enterprise of judging includes taking account of moral truths. They set themselves against what they call the “morally neutered, overtly positivist approach to reading legal texts” that Justice Neil Gorsuch showed in Bostock, in which he wrote the majority opinion holding that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or transgender status.

But their argument is, at least implicitly, not just against the six justices in the majority in that case. It’s also, and more immediately, against the dissenters. Justices Thomas, Alito, and Kavanaugh wrote that the majority was improperly applying originalism in the case, and that a proper application would yield the opposite decision. If their argument was sound, then we don’t need a new kind of originalism as much as we just need two more justices like those three. What I’d like this quartet to address, separately or together, is what they think those dissenting justices should have said that they didn’t, and why it would have been better than what they did say.

Elections

Anton’s Complaint

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Then-president Donald Trump and then-Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speak during the first 2020 presidential campaign debate in Cleveland, Ohio, September 29, 2020. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Michael Anton takes this post of mine as a personal insult, and responds in kind in the course of a larger essay about the 2020 presidential election. I was dismissive of his line of argument, so I can see why he reacted that way. I’ll try here to lay out my continuing disagreement with him as dispassionately and unsnarkily as I can.

Let’s start with the specific question each of us discussed. Anton claimed that for 53 batches of votes in a row in Georgia, Biden led Trump by 50.05 to 49.95 percent in each batch. This was, he said, a suspicious anomaly. I quoted a Factcheck.org analysis that offered a plausible explanation: The claim of an anomaly was based on a misreading of the data. Each batch didn’t have the same percentage breakdown. It’s just that each batch left the total percentage each candidate got substantially unchanged. After each one, Biden was still leading Trump in the overall vote by the same percentage, at least as calculated out to two decimal points. That’s what you’d expect to happen during the portion of the ballot-counting that took place three days after Election Day.

If Anton is wrong about this batch of votes, as I think, it’s not entirely his fault: He’s relying on other sources, and all of us are looking at a chart of uncertain provenance with somewhat confusing labels. But Anton avails himself of no such retreat.

Instead, he makes two responses to me: Factcheck.org is left-wing, and it confirmed the accuracy of what he had said anyway. But Factcheck.org can be extremely biased toward the left in general without being wrong in a particular instance; and in this case it appears to be correct. Anton himself concedes as much by saying that it backs him up. It doesn’t, though. If Factcheck is right, then he’s wrong (as are the sources on which he relies).

Then there’s the general question of whether the election was, as Anton puts it, “on the level.” He faults me for not addressing the many other anomalies he brought up.

What I said was that every time I’ve seen “an eye-popping claim about election fishiness,” it hadn’t checked out. I used Anton’s 53-batches claim to illustrate the point. It was the most startling claim he had made, which is presumably why it was the first example he brought up.

Anton is also wrong, though, when he says that “none” of the other “irregularities” he has adduced “have been explained, nor will they ever be.” I clicked on a link he included in his list of alleged irregularities. It’s to a tweet, and the tweet immediately below it explains what happened pretty well. But to knock down every such claim would be to play Whack-A-Mole.

Does the sheer multiplicity of such claims suggest something went wrong with the election on the where-there’s-smoke-there’s-fire principle? I don’t think so: Not when there are more likely explanations for their multiplicity, such as the unusual circumstances in which the election took place, the unfamiliarity of the claimants with election procedures, the passions the election understandably aroused, and the losing candidate’s penchant for conjuring conspiracies and making excuses.

Are we entitled to conclude that Biden won the election fair and square just because Anton was wrong about those 53 batches, or because he was wrong about that tweet? No. But I haven’t seen anyone make anything close to a strong case that Trump won Wisconsin, or Georgia, or Arizona, let alone that he won all three, as he would have had to do to beat Biden. I mean no offense to Anton in saying that the set of arguments he is making are an instance of the burden not being met.

Media

‘Donald Trump Can’t Stop Talking About that West Point Ramp’

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President Donald Trump speaks to the media in Washington, D.C., January 6, 2019. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Per David’s post below on Biden and the steps, the media were obsessed not just with Trump walking gingerly down the ramp at West Point, but ran items on how Trump was obsessed with the media’s obsession. Maybe this was, in part, a function of the constant media frenzy during the entirety of the Trump years, but I imagine if, say, a President Dole had had a stumble like that we’d be hearing a lot more about it, too.

White House

When There’s a Border Crisis, It’s Difficult for Even the Most Battle-Hardened Pro Not to Say ‘Border Crisis’

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When called on it, Jen Psaki immediately reverted to “challenges,” but she let the phrase “border crisis” slip through yesterday.

White House

The New War-on-Drugs Target: White House Staffers

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Chemdawg marijuana plants grow at a facility in Smiths Falls, Ontario, Canada October 29, 2019. (Blair Gable/Reuters)

We all knew there’d be consequences to Joe Biden picking Kamala Harris as his running mate, but who could have predicted the crackdown would begin so soon? According to Scott Bixby, Asawin Suebsaeng, and Adam Rawnsley over at the Daily Beast, a pot purge is underway at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. From their story:

Dozens of young White House staffers have been suspended, asked to resign, or placed in a remote work program due to past marijuana use, frustrating staffers who were pleased by initial indications from the Biden administration that recreational use of cannabis would not be immediately disqualifying for would-be personnel, according to three people familiar with the situation.

The policy has even affected staffers whose marijuana use was exclusive to one of the 14 states—and the District of Columbia—where cannabis is legal. Sources familiar with the matter also said a number of young staffers were either put on probation or canned because they revealed past marijuana use in an official document they filled out as part of the lengthy background check for a position in the Biden White House.

In some cases, staffers were informally told by transition higher-ups ahead of formally joining the administration that they would likely overlook some past marijuana use, only to be asked later to resign.

“There were one-on-one calls with individual affected staffers—rather, ex-staffers,” one former White House staffer affected by the policy told The Daily Beast. “I was asked to resign.”

“Nothing was ever explained” on the calls, they added, which were led by White House Director of Management and Administration Anne Filipic. “The policies were never explained, the threshold for what was excusable and what was inexcusable was never explained.”

Obviously, continued drug use should be incompatible with a White House job, but should any indication of prior use really necessitate this kind of response? Press Secretary Jen Psaki responded like this:

We announced a few weeks ago that the White House had worked with the security service to update the policies to ensure that past marijuana use wouldn’t automatically disqualify staff from serving in the White House. As a result, more people will serve who would not have in the past with the same level of recent drug use. The bottom line is this: of the hundreds of people hired, only five people who had started working at the White House are no longer employed as a result of this policy.

You don’t have to agree with the National Review’s editors to wonder why five people were asked to resign; or why many more were suspended and asked to work from home; or to see that Psaki’s statement doesn’t answer these questions. The best question of all, though, is this: What distinguishes those punished for their past behavior from Vice President Harris, who boasted about her own experiences with marijuana on the campaign trail in 2019?

Politics & Policy

Becerra’s Confirmation Exposes Biden’s ‘Unity’ Lie

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Xavier Becerra, President Biden’s nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services, testifies during his confirmation hearing in Washington, D.C., February 23, 2021. (Leigh Vogel/Reuters)

Senate Democrats have voted to confirm California attorney general Xavier Becerra to head the Department of Health and Human Services, a sure sign that Joe Biden intends to govern not as a unifier but as a champion of the progressive social agenda.

In Becerra, Biden has selected an HHS secretary with zero health-care expertise, an especially odd choice given Democrats’ insistence that the COVID-19 pandemic is the top public-policy issue with which we must contend. The decision to instate an HHS secretary who hasn’t a single health-care-adjacent policy accomplishment to his name evidently undermines that supposed commitment to advancing public health.

In my latest column at the Catholic Herald, I point out how Biden’s choice to nominate and Senate Democrats’ choice to confirm Becerra has put the lie to the notion that the president intends to lead a moderate executive branch.

At HHS, Becerra is in the chief administrative slot for imposing progressive orthodoxy on a host of social issues including abortion, religious liberty, and conscience rights — and his political career has illustrated exactly how radical he’ll be in each of those areas. More from my column:

During his time in Congress, serving as a U.S. representative from California, Becerra quickly demonstrated his dedication to causes much beloved of the far left. He managed to score a 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America, with votes such as when he opposed the federal ban on heinous and medically unnecessary partial-birth abortions. . . .

As attorney general of California, Becerra was known most of all as a radical culture warrior. He lost a case at the Supreme Court after championing a California law that compelled crisis-pregnancy centers to advertise for the state’s free or low-cost abortion program — despite those groups’ fundamental opposition to abortion and related commitment to providing women with alternatives.

Becerra has spent the last several years persecuting the people who exposed wrongdoing in the abortion industry. He led a coalition of states in suing the federal government, an effort to ensure that abortion companies such as Planned Parenthood could continue receiving federal funding. He led a second crusade attempting to force the Food and Drug Administration to loosen safety regulations on the chemical-abortion drug.

Though West Virginia senator Joe Manchin decided to vote for Becerra on the grounds that the nominee promised to respect the Hyde amendment — which prevents federal funding from directly underwriting elective abortions — there is no reason to believe that will be the case.

Instead, Becerra is all but certain to immediately begin undoing every pro-life Trump-administration policy, as well as to reimpose the HHS Obamacare mandate, which requires all employers to subsidize contraception and abortion-inducing drugs. The new secretary is so passionate about enforcing the mandate, in fact, that he sued the Trump administration for having instated religious exemptions to it.

The choice to nominate and confirm Becerra illustrates that Democrats care far less about acting as unifiers and addressing the pandemic than they do about using executive power to impose progressive orthodoxy on abortion.

Politics & Policy

Feinstein Still Supports the Filibuster

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California senator Dianne Feinstein infuriated progressive activists last fall when she spoke up in defense of the Senate’s 60-vote threshold for more legislation. “I think the filibuster serves a purpose. It is not often used, it’s often less used now than when I first came, and I think it’s part of the Senate that differentiates itself,” Feinstein said at the time. 

Despite being under constant pressure from the left, Feinstein has not yet changed her mind. Asked Thursday if she supports the Senate’s 60-vote threshold, Feinstein told National Review: “I do right now, yes.”

Feinstein added that she’s “looking at” her Democratic colleagues’ proposals to change the filibuster and thinks the Democratic caucus’s “discussion is good. I think we’re all listening to one another.”

“The Senate is an institution, and this is part of that institution,” Feinstein said of the filibuster. “It’s there and you deal with it, and you find you can deal with it. So, changing it, you have to think: What are the ramifications for the institution?”

Is there anything Senate Republicans could do to get Feinstein to change the rule to 51 votes? “I haven’t gone that far in my thinking, because I just know that votes aren’t there to do it,” she replied.

World

The EU Failure Is Personal

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European Union flags fly outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, April 10, 2019. (Yves Herman/Reuters)

The vaccine disaster in Europe is really something to behold. And for me, it’s personal. I haven’t seen members of my family for more than a year. Ireland has had a long and rather strict lockdown — one where you’re not allowed to move five kilometers (3.11 miles) from your own home — with little relief for the past six months. Currently there are 336 hospitalized cases reported in Ireland, and 83 in the ICU. Nearly three quarters of the cases are for people under 45.

Ireland’s approach to COVID was to try to depoliticize the pandemic by giving unprecedented authority to the recommendations of its National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET). What that means is that a semi-independent and unelected body is responsible for shutting down the country. When its mathematical models fail to predict the course of the pandemic, the members of this body upbraid the public for not behaving as they should.

This is rule by experts. And this was emphasized by the fact that even as Ireland paused the AstraZeneca vaccine after some negative reports from Norway, the Irish taoiseach, Micheál Martin, said he would take it himself.

But the vaccine exit out of lockdown still seems like a long way off.

We were hoping to stage some kind of reunion in the summer. But the sounds coming from the government are not good.

Just a little bit more, hang on longer. Keep going. A few more weeks and maybe, if you’re good, you get some of your freedom back.

My only consolation are reports from friends and family that the level of compliance with these lockdown measures is dropping precipitously. There is no organized attempt to overthrow NPHET’s reign, or demand faster vaccination — but there is a widespread passive evasion of the government’s restrictions.

Politics & Policy

Meijer of Michigan

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Rep. Peter Meijer (R., Mich.) during his 2020 campaign. (Peter Meijer for Congress, via YouTube)

Peter Meijer is a very interesting addition to the political scene. I have done a Q&A podcast with him, here. He is a congressman from Michigan — Grand Rapids. He is a Republican, of independent mind. A nervy guy.

His father is Hendrik “Hank” Meijer, with whom I did a Q&A three years ago. Meijer père had written a biography of that Grand Rapidian Arthur Vandenberg (an excellent book). In addition to the podcast, I wrote about Hank Meijer and his book, here.

Meijer (Hank) is the executive chairman of the family business, Meijer. We’re talking about a chain of “superstores” or “supercenters.” They started out as humble grocery stores. They are a very big deal in my home state of Michigan, and a bit beyond. The Meijer name is as famous as “Ford.” (I’m talking about the automakers now, not the late president.)

What was it like growing up Meijer in Grand Rapids? In our podcast, the congressman tells me. (“Bizarre.”) (In fact, he says that more than once: “bizarre.”)

Peter Meijer went to West Point, Columbia, and NYU. At Columbia, he majored in poli-sci and anthro. We talk some anthro. He has interesting stories. Between his junior and senior years of college, Meijer served in Iraq. Who lost Iraq, by the way? Obama? (No, says Meijer.) We also talk a lot of Afghanistan. What should we do now? (Try not to make things worse, for one thing.)

Getting to fundamentals, I ask Meijer why he ran for office. Post-9/11 veterans should seek office, he says. They should try to reduce the nation’s political polarization. They should think about long-term problems, which are usually scanted for short-term politics: the debt, the deficit, health-care spending, etc.

A technicality or two aside, Meijer sits in the House seat long occupied by Gerald R. Ford. Is Meijer too young to have met Ford? (Meijer is 33.) Oh, no: He met him several times, and, when Ford died in 2006, served in his funeral detail.

Three days after Meijer was sworn in as a congressman, a mob attacked the Capitol. He was, of course, present. We talk about January 6 at length. Very quickly, denial set in — even before the blood was cleaned from the marble. The mindset is: It was no big deal — just a protest that got a little rowdy — and, besides, Antifa and BLM did it.

On January 13, Meijer was one of a handful of Republicans who voted to impeach President Trump. (Shortly after, he and others purchased body armor.) I ask Meijer whether he figured, in casting that vote, he was making himself a one-term congressman. His answer: If that makes him a one-term congressman, then Congress is not the place for him to be, and he should make his contributions elsewhere.

More fundamentals: “Why are you a Republican?” Meijer says that he believes in limited government, economic freedom, individual liberty . . . I almost laugh in his face, poor guy. “You believe in that old-fashioned stuff?” “You gotta stick to the classics,” he answers. “Aren’t we all statists now?” I tease him. “Don’t we all want big, paternalistic, protective government, either of a pink hue or a brown hue?” “When it comes to the parties, absolutely,” Meijer answers. “I still think there are some individuals who are holding out hope for a better way.”

Government, says Meijer, “should not be the mechanism through which we seek to accomplish our hopes and dreams and aspirations, but a mechanism that acts as a sort of referee” — and so on.

Very old-fashioned stuff from this young fellow. Peter Meijer is a throwback — also darned interesting. You may like getting to know him. Again, that Q&A is here.

Politics & Policy

A Skeptic on the Value of Government

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The Capitol building in Washington, D.C. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Writing for the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER — and I strongly recommend visiting their website daily for sharp writing and analysis), economist Joakim Book expresses here his disgust with governments.

He writes:

I don’t like how they are set up, how they’re ruled, how their existence furthers a one-size-fits-all approach to complicated social problems, or how they distort markets and behavior when they grab a share of every productive economic activity that they can spot. I don’t like how they’re the antithesis of liberty, and I particularly don’t like how their services – almost always and everywhere – are subpar.

It would be one thing if governments took 50%, 60%, or 75% of the value you created but gave you such excellent services in return that you felt like you got your money’s worth.

Instead, we get a hodgepodge of regulatory failures, bank bailouts, dead kids in the Middle East, and a runaway national debt, while politicians live grand lives at the expense of the subjects they pretend to represent. Emergency by fake emergency, they grow in size, inching the battle lines of respectable power wielding a little further each time.

Yes, but that’s putting it mildly.

As sociologist Franz Oppenheimer argued in his book The State, governments are rooted in conquest and survive because they succeed in organizing and systematizing the plunder of subject peoples — taxation. They employ all manner of devices to frighten or hoodwink people into cooperation. Every now and then, some people get fed up and revolt to throw off the oppressive yoke of the government. We Americans managed to do so, with our efforts at creating a new government that would protect people’s liberty but otherwise leave them alone.  That worked for a while, but the political predators wormed their way in.

Book shows that it doesn’t seem possible to keep governments limited to just a few useful functions, making it seem like more than idle speculation to wonder why they exist in the first place.

Energy & Environment

Now, It’s the ‘Rights of the Moon’

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Waxing Moon seen from Berlin, Germany, February 25, 2021 (Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters)

The “nature rights” movement has launched into outer space with a Declaration of the Rights of the Moon. From the Declaration:

The Moon possesses fundamental rights, which arise from its existence in the universe, including:

  • (a) the right to exist, persist and continue its vital cycles unaltered, unharmed and unpolluted by human beings;

  • (b) the right to maintain ecological integrity;

  • (c) the right to be defined as a self-sustaining, intelligent, cohesive, intact lunar ecosystem, beyond current human comprehension;

  • (d) the right to independently maintain its own life-sustaining relationship with the Earth’s environments and living creatures; and

  • (e) the right to remain a forever peaceful celestial entity, unmarred by human conflict or warfare.

That, of course, would make exploration, mining, and settlement of the moon illegal.

Moon rights! (Eye roll.) What will they think of next?

Don’t laugh. As I have repeatedly documented here, environmentalists are increasingly embracing “nature rights,” and the movement is growing in scope and influence. Five rivers and two glaciers have now been granted human-type rights to “exist and persist.” So have two glaciers. These are geological features.

More than 30 U.S. cities have extended rights to nature. The journal Science published its support. The Pope has come close to endorsing the concept and explicitly supports making “ecocide” a crime against peace,” akin to genocide. Ecuador and Bolivia have adopted nature rights legally. The list is growing.

An orangutan was granted nonhuman rights by a judge in Argentina, as have animals in Pakistan.

It is easy to mock this movement and to not take it seriously. That’s how it will win.

The best approach is to mock the movement, explain why only humans and our juridical entities are entitled to rights, and thwart the environmentalist radicals at every turn. Otherwise, the smiles could soon be wiped off our faces.

National Review

No, Michael Mann Isn’t Going to Ruin National Review

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The D.C. Superior Court ruled in favor of our motion for summary judgment in the Michael Mann lawsuit today.

This gives me some pleasure, but it’d give me more pleasure if it were a more complete victory. His suit has always been utterly without merit and a means to harass and exact vengeance on his critics. We have argued this in the courts for more than eight years and pointed out the multiple ways that his suit fails. The court today ruled that we couldn’t have had malice against Mann, since the Steyn Corner post that occasioned his suit was posted directly and by a nonemployee. The suit still stands against Steyn and CEI, which is outrageous.

We will have more to say about this in the coming days, but this story is far from over — Mann can appeal, and we are actively considering going after him for the millions of dollars of legal fees we’ve had to pay to defend ourselves against his absurdly contrived, malicious, and anti-free-speech lawsuit.

White House

Media Won’t Care That Joe Biden Fell Down the Stairs Because He Isn’t Donald Trump

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President Joe Biden stumbles while climbing the steps of Air Force One, Joint Base Andrews, Md., March 19, 2021. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

For the love of God, someone please help Joe Biden up the stairs.

It would be, and I say this in all sincerity, a national disaster if Biden seriously hurt himself after needlessly walking up a giant flight of stairs alone to get on Air Force One. Would you let your septuagenarian grandfather or father walk up those stairs? Help the man.

Not one of us is immune to the consequences of time, and Biden is not only the oldest president in American history, he’s also older than any of the past four living presidents right now. While no one should recklessly speculate about a person’s health, it is completely reasonable to note a politician’s age and acuity in public life. The national political media seems to agree, as long as the president happens to be a Republican.

You may recall that after Donald Trump was caught gingerly walking down a ramp at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point last year, an entire news cycle was spent pondering his health. “The president also appeared to have trouble raising a glass of water to his mouth during a speech at West Point a day before he turned 74,” reported the New York Times, “the oldest a president has been in his first term.”

CNN even covered Biden mocking Trump: “Look at how he steps and look at how I step. Watch how I run up ramps and he stumbles down ramps. Come on.”

On liberal infotainment shows like Morning Joe, Mika Brzezinski claimed that walk had “sparked some concerns” about Trump’s health, to which Joe Scarborough responded that there were “a lot of people talking about the president’s health” and such talk “undercuts” the Republican “argument that Biden is an old man.”

Fact: Joe Biden is an old man.

Democrats have tried to blame Biden’s failing memory and incoherence on a childhood stuttering problem – “facts” become “fat” and so on. This ailment only made a significant appearance in the narrative in 2020, around 50 years into his political career, though it had apparently induced the president into a lifetime of fabulism and nonsensical assertions. This is a bit different. It certainly doesn’t help that Biden was allowed to spend the entire 2020 campaign hiding from reporters, and then refusing for months to give a single press conference. Only this past week, Biden seemed to forget Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s name and called Kamala Harris the president again. We don’t know what all that means about his mental sharpness. We rarely see him. But we all know how such events would be covered if the president were a Republican.

No, Vaccinations Do Not ‘Inspire More and More Mutations’

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A person receives a coronavirus vaccine at a community vaccination event in Martinsburg, W. Va., March 11, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

I wouldn’t give CNN’s chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, too much grief over his recent public-service announcement with Daveed Diggs, encouraging people to get vaccinated. It’s a little silly perhaps, but harmless.

No, if you’re going to give Gupta grief, do it over this exchange with Jake Tapper yesterday:

TAPPER: Let’s talk about the facts here, Sanjay. If somebody has gotten both vaccines for Moderna and Pfizer or just the one for J&J, and two weeks have passed, why does that person need to wear a mask if they go in public?

GUPTA: Well, you know, if you look at the science

Politics & Policy

From ‘Court-Packing’ to ‘Filibuster Abuse’

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The U.S. Capitol, after Congress agreed to an economic stimulus package created in response to the economic fallout from the coronavirus in Washington, D.C., March 25, 2020 (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

In response to Hypocritical Democrats Are Abusing the ‘Filibuster Abuse’ Talking Point

Charlie makes mincemeat of various Democrats’ hypocrisy concerning their stances on the filibuster. I have only one thing to add. Many of them hide behind, as a newfound justification for their opposition, a supposed inability to tolerate “filibuster abuse.” It is an effort to recast something they themselves have used or defended in the past as something that is now unconscionable.

I see in this attempt to rewrite history and to warp language in service of a partisan end to destroy an institution an echo of the attempt by Democrats and the Left to redefine what was meant by “Court-packing.” You may recall that there was a period in which Joe Biden, in the midst of his presidential campaign, refused to comment on growing calls elsewhere for the addition of more justices to the Supreme Court. He said that voters did not deserve to know what his stance was, and that it would become “the discussion” if he revealed it. (Which, of course, it would have deserved to be!)

Though he eventually did supply his view, Biden spent some time before doing so sanctioning an effort on the left to change the definition of “Court-packing,” a term that originated as a description of FDR’s threat to increase the number of justices on the Supreme Court when the existing Court repeatedly ruled against him, into something that conservatives were already doing simply by using their constitutional powers to appoint Supreme Court justices and judges elsewhere in the judiciary. As David Harsanyi wrote last October:

According to the Democrats’ new definition, “court packing” is no longer an unprecedented power grab and manipulation of a political branch meant to undermine the separation of powers. It now entails duly elected Republicans merely nominating and confirming judges for vacant seats, using the very same method that duly elected officials have been relying on to nominate and confirm justices since the beginning of the republic.

Biden unveiled this Orwellian framing on Saturday, saying, “The only court packing going on right now is going on with Republicans packing the court right now . . . ” By Sunday, the entire infrastructure of the Democratic Party — numerous reporterscolumnists, and elected officials — had internalized the definition, and were off and running.

On Fox News, Senator Chris Coons noted that “over the past four years we’ve seen unprecedented court packing.” Senator Dick Durbin told Chuck Todd, with no push-back, that the court packing had become a “common question being asked because the American people have watched the Republicans packing the court over the last three and a half years. And they brag about it. They’ve taken every vacancy and filled it.”

Alexandra DeSanctis wrote along similar lines at the time as well.

The playbook here is familiar: to justify a partisan power grab that would destroy the constitutional order, change the meaning of words, recast history, and use whatever other weapons are available. But that doesn’t make it any less unsettling.

Politics & Policy

Manchin: Congress Should Fix COVID Bill’s Abortion Problem in Annual Spending Bill

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

Before passage of the $1.9 trillion COVID-relief reconciliation bill, a majority of the Senate attempted to add Hyde amendment protections to ensure key streams of funding could not be used to directly pay for elective abortions. Democratic senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, and Tim Kaine of Virginia joined all Republican senators present to vote in favor of the measure. But the Senate parliamentarian had interpreted the complex “Byrd rule” that governs the reconciliation process to mean that the amendment needed 60 votes in order to pass. 

Rather than insist that problematic funding be stripped from the reconciliation bill and dealt with in the appropriations process (which is subject to 60 votes), Manchin, Casey, and Kaine all voted for final passage of the bill as it was written.

But Manchin tells National Review that he would like to see the Hyde amendment applied to the COVID-relief bill’s funding during the annual appropriations process:

National Review: Senator, on the reconciliation bill, you and Senators Casey and Kaine voted to put the Hyde amendment on there. The parliamentarian said it needed 60 votes. So it got thorough without that [Hyde] language on there. Is that an issue that can be fixed retroactively in the appropriations process? 

Manchin: You’re talking about the Hyde?

NR: Yeah, the Hyde—

Manchin: I hope. We’re gonna try. We should have the same language we’ve had in the past. 

NR: So you think it could be applied to the COVID money in the appropriations process?

Manchin: Well, it should be. We should have the Hyde amendment. The Hyde amendment’s something I’ve always supported. It’s been [inaudible]. It’s also been in every other piece of legislation we’ve ever had. 

When asked why he was able to vote for final passage of the reconciliation bill without the Hyde amendment attached to it, Manchin said he didn’t want to let “the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Manchin, who made his comments Thursday afternoon in the Capitol, declined to take more questions on the topic.

The new $1.9 trillion COVID-relief package includes various pots of money that could be used to directly fund abortion. There’s an extra $8.5 billion in a “provider relief fund” that Health and Human Services secretary Xavier Becerra could use to legally provide direct federal funding of elective abortions. There are also hundreds of billions of dollars in bailouts to state and local governments, along with hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid. The Hyde amendment (also known as the Helms amendment when applied to foreign aid) was attached to each of these funding streams in the COVID-relief bills that passed Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support in 2020.

Several studies have found that taxpayer-funding of abortion increases the number of abortions performed. By one estimate, the Hyde amendment has saved more than 50,000 lives a year since it was first applied to the Medicaid program in the late 1970s.

For more than four decades, Joe Biden supported the Hyde amendment and argued it protected the conscience rights of tens of millions of Americans. Under pressure from Democratic rivals and progressive activists, Biden abandoned his support of the Hyde amendment during the Democratic presidential primary.

Culture

Today in Cancellation

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Today’s winner is . . . Kenny Wayne Shepherd, who will have his 2021 award from the Blues Foundation rescinded over outrage about an automobile he owns.

About That Rand Paul–Dr. Fauci Exchange

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Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) on Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C., September 24, 2020 (Tom Williams/Reuters Pool)

Capitol Hill saw a testy exchange between Senator Rand Paul and Dr. Anthony Fauci on Thursday over the effectiveness of the coronavirus vaccines and masks. You can watch it for yourself here — start at 1:01:45.

It began with Paul citing studies that suggest that coronavirus reinfection rates are so low as to be nonexistent, and that for the infinitesimally small number of people who do contract it a second time, symptoms and risks are reduced. Here’s how it went from there:

Paul: Given that no scientific studies have shown significant numbers of reinfections of patients previously infected, or previously vaccinated, what

Education

CDC Director: Oh, Wait, Never Mind, Three Feet of Distance in Schools Is Fine Again

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Back in July 2020, the Newton, Mass., school district was trying to figure out how to safely reopen schools and how to keep a safe distance between people. Mayor Ruthanne Fuller emailed a Harvard professor of medicine and chief of infectious disease to weigh in, asking, “On a policy issue, we are leaning to 6’ of separation in our classrooms rather than the 3’ that DESE/WHO allow. Thoughts?

The reply from Harvard’s chief of infectious disease was clear:

I do think if people are masked it is quite safe and much more practical to be at 3 feet. I think this is very viable for the middle/high schools and even late grade schools and would improve the feasibility. I suspect you may want to be at 6f for some of the very young kids who can’t mask.

She also referred the town leaders to Harvard’s COVID-19 School and Community Resource Library document, which included links to many studies concluding that three feet was sufficient in a school environment and declared, “a distance of three feet (torso to torso) is likely low-risk in asymptomatic individuals wearing masks.”

Harvard’s chief of infectious disease in July was . . . Rochelle Walensky, now the director of the CDC.

Except after Walensky became CDC director, she recommended “physical distancing of at least 6 feet between people with cohorting or podding of students to minimize exposure across the school environment.” People fairly asked why three feet was an acceptable distance for Massachusetts schools last summer, but six feet was the needed distance now across the country. For most schools, spacing out the students by six feet was more or less impossible, and the six-feet guideline required them to, at most, have half the student body attending on alternating days.

Earlier this week, President Obama’s CDC director Tom Frieden told the Washington Post, “Look, 100 feet is safer than six feet, which is safer than three feet. Is three feet okay for most schools? Absolutely, if they mask, if they repeatedly identify cases and isolate and quarantine.” (It’s hard to argue that Frieden doesn’t know what he’s talking about, or wants to recklessly endanger America’s children.)

Now the CDC is expected to revise its guidelines to declare three feet of separation is acceptable. Which is great, except . . . one can’t help but wonder if Walensky’s flip-flopping, from three to six and back to three again, reflected pressures from a new Democratic administration that did not want to antagonize teachers’ unions.

Health Care

Did We ‘Lose COVID’?

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Then-President Donald Trump speaks at the White House, November 5, 2020. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

David Wallace-Wells says we did — but he doesn’t mean “we” as in “the United States,” or “the United States under President Trump,” as so many people who make similar statements do; he means (and says) “the West.” But the evidence his own article presents undercuts even that conclusion.

Francois Balloux, an infectious-disease epidemiologist and computational geneticist at the University College of London, goes further. “It’s not obvious that different measures taken in different places have clearly led to different outcomes,” he says. “There’s a lot of idiosyncrasy, and I think it’s simplistic to say that the countries that have controlled or eliminated the virus did things extremely differently. If you just list, for instance, the interventions that places like New Zealand or Australia have implemented, they’re not drastically different — in stringency nor duration — than in some other places. The country that had the strictest lockdown for longest in the world is Peru, and they were absolutely devastated. I think the slightly depressing message,” Balloux says with a sigh, “is that there is not just a set of policies that will bring success and can just be applied to any place in the world.” . . .

This is not to say that policy and behavior don’t matter — only that containing a novel disease we understand incompletely is not as simple as hitting the “Science” button. The mitigation measures on which the country has focused the most — masking, social distancing, school closures, restaurant restrictions — are curve-benders, not firewalls. And many of the factors playing a much larger role in shaping the spread of the pandemic fit much less comfortably in a technocrat’s shoulder bag or a liberal’s scolding moralism.

A partial list: There is stochasticity, better known as chance, driven in part by superspreader dynamics, whereby the vast majority of new cases are produced by a thin slice of existing infections and most disease chains simply die out. There is demography, with the skew of lethality so dramatic that many of the world’s younger countries have almost no death toll. There is distribution of comorbidities throughout the population. There is geography, with islands enjoying obvious advantages, and with communities at higher latitudes apparently more at risk, perhaps due to the salubrious effects of sunlight. There is a country’s relationship to its own borders, and who its neighbors are, and its position in the networks of travel and commerce. There is climate, with temperature and especially humidity appearing to shape national outcomes much as they’ve shaped some seasonal rhythms of the disease within countries. There is air conditioning — whether you have it, and what kind. There is what Crotty described to me as a version of the “hygiene hypothesis” — the possibility that regular exposure to pathogens generally might train your immune system like it does your gut biome. There is the catchall of “cultural forces,” covering everything from multigenerational living and employment structures to cheek-kissing and handshakes.

I could go on: residential density, blood type, vitamin D, ICU capacity, proximity to bats. . . .

The whole thing is worth reading, but to my mind the passages in that vein overwhelm the ones suggesting that the West’s response to COVID was a failure. If we can’t really say why some countries got hit worse than others, then we also can’t say how much better they would have done with different responses.

Law & the Courts

The Public Still Isn’t Clamoring for Changes to the Supreme Court

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(SeanPavonePhoto/Getty Images)

One of the tenuous arguments made for Democrats packing the Supreme Court is that the Court faces a “legitimacy crisis.” As Ramesh Ponnuru noted back in October, however, while the Court may have lost legitimacy in the eyes of left-wing activists as it gained more conservative justices, the voters appear to be just fine with the Court:

In 2015 — before the nominations of Garland, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh — the Supreme Court had a net approval rating of negative 5%, according to Gallup. In early September of this year, its net approval was a positive 10%. It is more popular than it was for nearly the entirety of Obama’s time in office. The Pew Research Center’s polling finds the same trend: The Supreme Court’s reputation has improved during the legitimacy panic of the last five years. Even Democrats view it more favorably now.

By contrast, polling of Court-packing during the fall campaign found it to be resoundingly unpopular across demographic, ideological, and partisan segments of the electorate, and Republicans hammering the issue appears to have played a role in holding Senate seats in Maine, Iowa, and North Carolina. Of course, polls go up and they go down with the Court, as with any institution. But the latest YouGov poll continues to show a positive approval rating for the Court (41 percent to 37 percent), with the strongest support coming from Democrats, who approve the job the Court is doing by 14 points (48 percent to 34 percent). The poll shows that no individual justice has a higher disapproval rating than 35 percent (that for Brett Kavanaugh), and no justice’s favorability rating is worse than -4 percent, while the two most popular justices in the poll (Sonia Sotomayor and Clarence Thomas) are also the most vividly combative opinion-writers on the current Court. Doubtless the latest numbers (in which only Republicans disapproved of the Court, by a narrow 41 percent to 39 percent margin) reflect its most recent controversy — turning away Donald Trump’s challenges to the 2020 election — but they also illustrate that the voters continue to respect a Supreme Court of nine justices, in which individual justices have strong convictions consistent with the parties that appointed them but do not necessarily follow the short-term interests of those parties.

Politics & Policy

Hypocritical Democrats Are Abusing the ‘Filibuster Abuse’ Talking Point

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Sen. Martin Heinrich, (D., N.M.) questions Congresswoman Deb Haaland, (D., N.M.), during her hearing to be Interior Secretary on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., February 23, 2021. (Jim Watson/Reuters)

Senator Heinrich, of New Mexico, explained last night that he has no choice but to oppose the legislative filibuster because it is now so frequently being “abused”:

This talking point, which is growing in popularity within the Democratic caucus, is utterly fraudulent. Since 2014, in which year Republicans took control of the Senate, Heinrich has used the legislative filibuster nearly 350 times. In that period, the Republican Party has not used it once (because it had the majority); has explicitly declined to abolish it in order to break the Democratic blockade, despite serious pressure from President Trump to do so; and has gone so far as issue a bipartisan letter supporting the maintenance of all the “existing rules, practices, and traditions” that the filibuster represents. Just four years ago, Heinrich signed signed that letter. Since then, there has, by definition, been precisely no Republican “abuse.” Indeed, because Republicans held the majority, there can’t have been. Heinrich is simply making it up.

When figures such as Tammy Duckworth contend that, “recently, the threat of filibuster has been used far too often and as a result political obstructionism in the United States Senate is now worse than it has ever been,” they are trying to create a history that simply does not exist, and to apply it to a party that is not guilty of the charge. The filibuster has indeed been used “recently” to stop reform. But it has been used by Democrats to block Republicans. Duckworth also signed the letter in 2017. In the interim, the only thing Republicans have done with the filibuster is to defend it — and against their immediate self-interest. In essence, Duckworth and Heinrich are complaining about themselves.

Dress it up as they might, the position that Duckworth and Heinrich are taking is that the filibuster was necessary while the Democratic Party remained in the minority, but that its use now that they have a majority of one would represent a crisis. This is untenable. In fact, it’s farcical, and it only becomes more so when one highlights the scale of the volte face in which many of the letter’s signatories are now engaged. Among those who are perpetrating this fraud are:

  • Ed Markey (D., Mass.), who now suggests that the filibuster is “rooted in a racist past, and it’s used today as a way of blocking the progressive agenda.”
  • Brian Schatz (D., Hawaii), who now claims that “the filibuster was never in the constitution, originated mostly by accident, and has historically been used to block civil rights. No legislatures on earth have a supermajority requirement because that’s stupid and paralyzing. It’s time to trash the Jim Crow filibuster.”
  • Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.), who now claims, “I would get rid of the filibuster. I have favored filibuster reform for a long time.” (She hasn’t.)
  • Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio), who now says, “We’ve got to eliminate the filibuster.”
  • Jeanne Shaheen (D., N.H.), a particularly impressive fraudster who argued in 2014 that “we need to change the filibuster rule in the Senate,” then, once Democrats had lost the majority, signed a letter affirming support for exactly that rule, and now opposes it again having been elevated to the majority.
  • Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.), who argued in 2019 that “if you don’t have 60 votes yet, it just means you haven’t done enough advocacy and you need to work a lot harder,” but now favors abolition.
  • Bob Casey (D., Pa.), who now says, “I’m certainly open to [ending filibusters] in ways that I would not have said I was two years ago.” (Which . . . well, yeah, because “two years ago” Casey was in the minority.)
  • Cory Booker (D., N.J.), who now says that the filibuster has to be “reformed.”
  • Kamala Harris (was D., Calif., now vice president), who now wants to alter the measure.
  • Tammy Duckworth (D., Ill.), who now claims, seven weeks into the first Democratic Senate majority in six years, that “recently, the threat of filibuster has been used far too often and as a result political obstructionism in the United States Senate is now worse than it has ever been.”

Irrespective of their politics, citizens of the United States should find this repugnant. Our institutions cannot switch from being vital to abominable the day after an election is held. And, if they do, we won’t have those institutions for long.

National Review

Inside the April 5, 2021, Issue of National Review

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The April 5, 2021, issue is bound and posted, on its way across the country and globe for those who like their NR tangible. It’s also available right now on your favorite conservative website, and per the fortnightly custom, we will showcase some of the contents for your consideration. So, consider these, please: Ramesh Ponnuru explores the GOP’s efforts to plot a new demographic future, Madeleine Kearns reports on Meghan and Harry’s royal nonsense, Jay Nordlinger investigates the at-war Nobel Peace Prize winner, Ethiopian prime minister Abiy Ahmed, John J. Miller goes back a century to profile Charles Curtis, the forgotten Veep, while the trio of Nicholas Eberstadt, Derek Scissors, and Evan Abramsky drill down on America’s energy independence, something the Biden Administration may indeed kybosh (that’s the issue’s cover story). One more, this from the Books, Arts & Manners section: David Pryce-Jones’ review of Ray Takeyh’s The Last Shah.

Can you read all of them — indeed, the entire issue and the entire archives back a decade and then some — without an NRPLUS membership? Nope. Some? Maybe: Each month NRO visitors get a few free articles, which can include those from the magazine. But that allotment gets exhausted quickly. Smack dab into the paywall you will come — but you can remedy that, right now, so you can read the new issue, and so you can do so much more (with a heck of a lot less ads to circumnavigate). You’ll find the remedy is NRPLUS, and that it is immediate. It’s also quite affordable. Subscribe here.

PC Culture

On Cancelers, Cancelees, and Contrapasso

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(wildpixel/Getty Images)

A number of conservatives have responded to my post on the cancellation of Alexi McCammond by suggesting that, by defending her, I am making a tactical mistake. In essence, this argument holds that McCammond belongs to — or is, at least, aligned with — the “cancel-culture” movement, and that if I really want to see that movement weakened, I should be happy to give its practitioners and adherents a taste of their own medicine.

I disagree with this criticism for two reasons. First, because I am opposed to this happening in all circumstances — and because I think it’s important to point out that this is wrong in principle, rather than merely damaging to my “side.” Second, because Alexi McCammond is not the problem here.

I am quite sure that McCammond has all sorts of views I disagree with profoundly (although I have found no evidence that she was a cancel-culture warrior). And, yes, I consider the publication she was going to work for to be absurd and, sometimes, insidious. But, in this circumstance, McCammond is not the canceler; she is the cancelee. The cancelers here are Condé Nast’s “Chief People Officer,” Stan Duncan, its “chief diversity and inclusion officer,” Yashica Olden, and the “staff, readers and at least two advertisers” who pressured them. And precisely nothing has happened to weaken or awaken them.

My basic philosophy here is twofold: (1) that human beings should be expected to live by the rules that they have set for others, and (2) that this also applies to me. My rule for others is that they shouldn’t be canceled. Stan Duncan and Yashica Olden’s rule for others is that they should — and for the most frivolous of transgressions. In practice, that means if that Stan Duncan or Yashica Olden are deemed to be “guilty” of the same “crimes” for which they have punished others, they should be forced to leave without complaint (in Dante, this is achieved via contrapasso), but that they should also expect to be told by the people who have disagreed with them all long that their rules are intolerable, that they’ve made a series of bad choices, and that none of this ever needed to happen in the first place — and wouldn’t have, if they hadn’t been so bloody stupid.

Education

California Board of Education Approves Ethnic Studies Curriculum

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California’s Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum, about which I’ve written here and here, was approved unanimously by the state’s Board of Education yesterday for use in K–12 public schools. A bill to make a high school ethnic-studies course a graduation requirement will now make its way through the state legislature. The bill is expected to be signed into law by Governor Newsom, who vetoed a similar measure last year on the grounds that that model curriculum had yet to be finished and approved. Now that the governor’s qualms have been addressed, the 6 million children in California’s public-school system will likely be required to undergo this 13-year program of naked indoctrination in order to get their high-school diploma. In other words, the entire rising generation in the country’s richest and most populous state will soon be learning the most outlandish radical talking points imaginable alongside the multiplication table and the alphabet. What could go wrong? 

U.S.

Are We or Aren’t We?

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President Calvin Coolidge on October 22, 1924 (Library of Congress)

In Impromptus today, I begin with “patriot” games. The Chinese dictatorship has decreed that only “patriots” may serve in the Hong Kong government. By “patriots,” they mean loyal servants to the Chinese Communist Party. We Americans sometimes play “patriot” games ourselves.

I further discuss Afghanistan, Magnitsky acts, George W. Bush, an engineering feat, an NBA coach, an anniversary, etc.

What about the anniversary? This month, oddly enough, marks the 20th anniversary of my column, Impromptus. So, happy anniversary “to all who celebrate.” Seriously, great thanks to my readers and correspondents, with whom it has been a privilege to share some of life, or a lot of it.

Speaking of correspondents, let’s have some mail. In an Impromptus two days ago, I quoted Calvin Coolidge, at length. I was talking about the new and popular phrase “post-liberal.” In my judgment, liberalism has no “post-” (and we’re talking about classical liberalism, the outlook of our Founding). It has friends and enemies — a relative handful of the former and multitudes of the latter.

A person can be no more post-liberal than he can be post-freedom, post-democracy, or post–human rights. You either are or you aren’t. You’re fer or agin.

On the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence — in July 1926 — President Coolidge gave a whale of a speech. “About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful,” he said. You want more? Here’s a lot more:

It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.

In my column, I wrote, “Well said, Cal. They called him ‘silent,’ but when he spoke — it was worth it.”

I received a note from a reader in the beautifully named town of Vestavia Hills, Alabama.

Jay,

When reading the passage from Calvin Coolidge in today’s Impromptus, I couldn’t help but think of Ecclesiastes 1:9-10.

In the King James Version, those verses go,

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.

Our reader comments,

Yes, they all want to regress and when doing so call it “progress.”

A young friend of mine from Seattle writes,

Jay,

I enjoyed your appreciation for President Coolidge in your latest Impromptus! I was actually thinking of that speech in the lead-up to your quoting it. . . .

Yesterday, in a Clubhouse room centered on Teddy Roosevelt, I quoted the paragraph just before the one you focused on. “Governments do not make ideals, but ideals make governments. . . . The people have to bear their own responsibilities.”

Too many people want to use the government to create social change, and they miss this crucial fact. They’re going about it completely the wrong way.

A phrase I used above, “fer or agin,” I used in my Wednesday column. A reader from Piedmont, S.D., writes,

Jay,

. . . I noticed your use of “You’re fer or agin.” That was awesome and somehow reminded me of “Git ’er done,” by Larry the Cable Guy. One of my favorite colloquialisms is from the Coen Brothers’ movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? (a movie that always gets a laugh out of me): “Is you is, or is you ain’t, my constituency?” I just love how that sounds . . .

Me too. I am further reminded of something that André Aciman’s uncle (I believe) often said. You will find it in Aciman’s classic memoir — I am declaring it a classic — Out of Egypt. The uncle would say, “Siamo o non siamo?” Are we or aren’t we? What are we made of? Are we mice or men? That sort of thing.

Again, today’s Impromptus is here. Thanks to all y’all.

Education

The ‘College Wage Premium’ Reconsidered

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Students pose for a photo at a drive-thru graduation ceremony at University High School amid the coronavirus outbreak in Los Angeles, Calif., June 12, 2020. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

More than twenty years ago when I started focusing on higher-education policy work, the chant from the cheerleaders was “the college wage premium!” Supposedly, everyone who plunked down the money to get a degree would thereby gain the huge benefit of the premium. Politicians chattered about how college graduates earned a million dollars more than high-school graduates. Pushing more and more people through college was seen as a means of ensuring economic growth.

Such thinking was mistaken then and, in recent years, it has become increasingly evident that college degrees aren’t “investments” with guaranteed payoffs. In today’s Martin Center article, Jack Salmon of the Mercatus Center looks at the evidence.

He writes, “Barack Obama proclaimed the orthodox view of college in 2009: Sending every young person to college is necessary to both promote equity and maintain US competitiveness in the world. Under this view, more federal investment to push high school graduates into college is a ‘human capital investment’ that leads to higher lifetime earnings.”

Back in the early years of America’s big college campaign, there were relatively few graduates who were mostly very good students, who went through fairly rigorous academic programs. Naturally, they landed good jobs. But as the campaign progressed, weaker and weaker students were drawn into college, and they learned less as schools let academic standards slip to keep them content.

As a result, many college grads these days end up in low-paying jobs that don’t call for any advanced study. Salmon writes, “The top-down push to drive up enrollment rates means that more graduates end up in low-skilled jobs earning low wages, while fewer college graduates get good non-college jobs.”

Bye-bye, wage premium. If students want to enhance their earnings prospects, they need skills that are in demand. Some college programs give them that, but many don’t.

Salmon concludes, “The orthodox top-down approach of increased federal aid and arbitrary enrollment targets will not serve to remedy this problem. Instead, policymakers should approach the issue of stagnation in the college wage premium by better aligning skills with labor market demand.”

Politics & Policy

Charity as an Intellectual Virtue

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J.D. Vance on Face the Nation in 2017. (Face the Nation/Screengrab via YouTube)

Yesterday, the Bulwark ran a column from Mona Charen denouncing J. D. Vance, the author of Hillbilly Elegy and a possible Senate candidate in Ohio. His faults: having moved from anti-Trump in 2016 to pro-Trump since then, and having tweeted, “Someone should have asked Jeffrey Epstein, John Weaver, or Leon Black about the CRAZY CONSPIRACY that many powerful people were predators targeting children.” Charen thinks this means Vance is “positioning himself as QAnon-adjacent” and “whitewashing the QAnon conspiracy.” She concludes that “the Republican base is so warped that ambitious men feel the need to sink into the sewer in search of political success.”

Today, Patrick Deneen, author of Why Liberalism Failed, posted a series of tweets about “the legal pro-life movement,” which he says is “a well-financed feint, designed to lock down voters for the party of lowering the capital gains tax rate.” His point seems to be that if that movement were as serious as it should be about ending the abortion license, it should be pressing the case not merely that Roe v. Wade should be overturned but that the license is incompatible with the 14th Amendment.

These criticisms are coming from, very roughly, opposite directions: Charen is a Reaganite appalled by what she sees as a corrupt post-liberalism, Deneen a post-liberal appalled by what he sees as a corrupt Reaganism. Both of them seem to me to have in common a failure of sympathetic imagination.

I suppose I should note that I have a number of personal ties to Vance: He’s a friend, a sometime contributor to NR, and a former fellow fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. (Charen is also the first two of those things.) I did not read him to be sucking up to QAnoners as much as trying to explain how events have made people more prone to being sucked into outlandish conspiracy theories.

There is no question, by contrast, that he has become more supportive of Trump over the years. Maybe that’s a matter of calculated political ambition, as Charen suggests. Or maybe it’s the unconscious influence of political ambition. Or maybe Vance is one of the many, many conservatives who sincerely came to a more positive view of Trump over the past few years. None of these possibilities excludes the others. My own view of Trump is closer to Charen’s, but I don’t think it’s a sign of bad character to disagree.

Longtime NR readers with good memories may recall that I have been arguing for many years that the equal-protection clause of the 14th Amendment, properly interpreted, obligates legislators to provide legal protection against homicide to unborn children. On this question, that is, I think Deneen is right (although it is possible we disagree on some of its implications). But no justice of the Supreme Court has ever expressed agreement with this view. Antonin Scalia and Robert Bork both explicitly criticized it. I think they were wrong. But I don’t think a concern about the capital-gains tax had anything to do with why they thought what they did. Ed Whelan, whom Deneen appears to be portraying as one of the feinters, certainly does not deserve that attack on his motives.

My point in considering these two incidents together is not to say that we should be more charitable to one another just because it would be nice (although that is certainly advice I could stand to dwell on). It’s not even that different types of conservative should be charitable to one another for the sake of the causes they hold in common. It’s that often, and in these particular cases, charitable assumptions about other people can aid understanding – whether it’s understanding of why a lot of conservatives support Trump, or of the obstacles between pro-lifers and our objectives.

Politics & Policy

The Not-So-Stimulative $1.9 Trillion Package

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(Evgen_Prozhyrko/Getty Images)

As George mentioned this morning, the idea that large spending legislation can lead to prosperity is problematic, to say the least.

But even if you are sympathetic to the idea that government spending can stimulate the economy, there is no way to justify the size of the American Rescue Plan, a plan that has little to do with rescuing us but is a first step toward a progressive paradise á la Bernie Sanders, at least with the tradition tools used by Keynesian or even neoliberal thinkers.

That level of spending has nothing to do with the traditional justification of filling the economy’s output gap, the difference between actual economic activity and potential output in a normal economy, unless we are willing to recognize that the economic return on this government spending (the spending multiplier) is ridiculously small — much smaller than 1.

Let’s do the math: The Congressional Budget Office projects that the output gap will be $700 billion through 2023, the period when most of the $1.9 trillion in spending will take place. It means that $1.9 trillion is two or three times more than needed to fill the gap. Unless one is willing to say that the multiplier is roughly 0.37. For each dollar the government spends (and takes from the real economy), it gets $0.37 in growth. Not too glorious.

Talking of spending multipliers, the economists at Penn Wharton looked at that issue and estimated the macroeconomic effects of the latest $1.9 trillion stimulus. The projections include estimated fiscal multipliers. Here is what they found (first number is the low estimate; second is the higher estimate):

  • Purchases of goods and services by the federal government  =  0.2 / 0.8
  • Transfer payments to state and local governments for infrastructure  =  0.1 / 0.7
  • Transfers to persons (unemployment benefits, education transfers, and food stamps)  =  0.1  / 0.7
  • Transfer payments to state and local governments for other purposes  =  0.1  / 0.6
  • Business tax provisions primarily affecting cash flow  =  0 / 0.1

Overall, the average fiscal multiplier of the American Rescue Plan is: 0.14 for low estimate and 0.56 for high. It means that, if you use a 0.14 multiplier with $1.87 trillion in spending, you get $260 billion in additional output — a.k.a. a net loss of $1.61 trillion for the private sector. If you use 0.56, you get $586 billion in addition output. Not too stimulative.

But I guess trying to justify the size of the spending package with such techniques is too 2020. The justification for the size of the package is not that it’s a stimulus package, but that it is a rescue package. A $1.9 trillion rescue from what, I am not sure, since most of the package didn’t have much to do with the pandemic. Also, as with the previous COVID relief bills, the payments to individuals went above and beyond income and wages lost or went to people independently of how affected by the pandemic they were.

Meanwhile, I will continue to echo the 2009 warning from Harvard’s Robert Barro:

If, as I believe to be true, fiscal deficits have only a short-run expansionary impact on growth and then become negative, the results from following this policy advice are persistently low economic growth and an exploding ratio of public debt to GDP.

Immigration

Pompeo Hits Biden Team for Reversing the Trump Admin’s Migration Diplomacy

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Then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks as Attorney General William Barr listens during a joint briefing about an executive order from President Donald Trump on the International Criminal Court at the State Department in Washington, D.C., June 11, 2020. (Yuri Gripas/Pool via Reuters)

As the White House contends with a growing crisis on the southern border, it has heaped blame on the previous administration because, as Press Secretary Jen Psaki put it during the daily press briefing on March 10, “they intentionally made it worse.”

But in a wide-ranging conversation with National Review on Thursday, former secretary of state Mike Pompeo argued that it is in fact the Biden administration, by unraveling the Trump team’s policies, that caused the current crisis. “It is patently obvious,” he said, defending the “enormous diplomatic achievement” that he played a role in crafting.

Pompeo has previously criticized the Biden administration’s border policy, including in recent appearances on Fox News. In a conversation with NR today, he elaborated on the diplomatic outreach that figured into the Trump administration’s work on border issues.

During that press briefing earlier this month, Psaki announced an end to the Migration Protection Protocols (MPP), a complex set of agreements with Mexico and Central American countries, where individuals seeking asylum in the United States would be kept in Mexico or other countries as their claims were processed. According to Pompeo, ending these arrangements was a mistake.

“This policy, or what has been come to be known as Remain in Mexico, was really good work by me and my team to make the case to the Mexican government that the right thing for them — these are often El Salvadorians, Guatemalans, Hondurans, who are transiting their country — that this is deeply inhumane, and that we’re not going to permit them to stay in the United States while the asylum claim was processed,” he told NR.

Implementing the MPP, he continued, “with the cooperation of the Mexican government was to turn off the magnet,” and therefore to convince individuals without valid asylum claims not to make the trip to the U.S. border.

The Biden administration has argued that the Remain in Mexico policy was inhumane, as it made asylum seekers potentially wait years for their claims to be processed, and that it created unsafe environments in towns on the Mexican side of the southern U.S. border.

But former Trump administration officials have asserted that MPP deterred people from undertaking perilous journeys to the southern border in the first place. “The family-unit crisis was solved, I think, almost by the use of MPP,” a senior DOJ official told National Review’s Rich Lowry in an extensive report on the Trump administration’s border policy.

The former secretary of state, who is now a distinguished fellow at the Hudson Institute, elaborated on the State Department’s diplomatic outreach to strike these deals. “We worked with the Guatemalans, the Hondurans, the El Salvadorians to deliver a set of outcomes that work for each of our countries and prevented what you see happening at the border today,” he said.

The border policies implemented by the previous administration, which were “so intricately laid down . . . along with our partners and these other four countries, have now been undone,” Pompeo added. “And you see the tragedies taking place, you see the horrors that are being inflicted upon these people who are in very, very difficult situations.”

Politics & Policy

Another Bad Argument on Voter ID

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An election worker checks a voter’s drivers license in Charlotte, N.C., March 15, 2016. (Chris Keane/Reuters)

Steven Taylor at Outside the Beltway takes issue with my contention that it is inconsistent for the District of Columbia to demand identification for purposes of keeping non-residents from obtaining vaccines, and for this to be reported as an unremarkable step, when D.C. Democrats and the media are the sort of people who react with paroxysms of rage and horror if anyone seeks to use identification or voter-registration lists to keep non-residents from voting. First, Taylor complains that “it is untrue that Democrats are ‘trying to abolish state voter-identification.’ Instead, HR1 would provide an alternative for those who lack ID at the polling place.” Of course, H.R. 1 would indeed abolish a great many states’ identification laws for in-person voting, and eliminate identification requirements, notarization, and witnesses for absentee ballots. His evidence is that H.R. 1 would allow voters to submit a self-sworn statement. I suppose you could call that “identification” in the same way that writing or saying your name is “identification.”

Then he says that “no critic of voter ID rules is advocating for a free-for-all wherein anyone could show up to any polling place and vote willy-nilly. See, again, voter registration and checking the rolls at the polling place.” This ignores the extensive provisions of H.R. 1 that would eviscerate voter registration lists, such as automatic and same-day registration, restrictions on keeping voter rolls current, and even allowing a voter to change their name and address on the list at the polling place.

Taylor says that “the reason that people, such as myself, criticize voter ID rules is not that we are opposed to the notion, on its face, of showing an ID to vote” but that “the chances that lack of specific kinds of ID could hamper a citizen from being able to exercise a fundamental right of citizenship is higher (quite a bit higher, in fact) than the chances of in-person voter fraud taking place (let alone in a way that would affect the outcome).” Of course, the rhetoric surrounding voter-ID requirements is that they ipso facto constitute “voter suppression,” a charge that — if true — would be equally true even if voter fraud was massively epidemic. It is true that few elections will be altered by voter fraud, but it is also true that few if any voters will actually be unable to obtain any valid form of identification, or will be prevented from voting. Both issues are at the margins — and the margins can matter when there are, every year, a few races for a significant office decided by fewer than 100 votes (including this year’s House race for Iowa’s second district, decided by six votes).

Finally, Taylor says that “if we just made IDs easy to obtain, free, and universal, we could stop having this discussion . . . I would challenge any advocate of voter ID laws to join me in that solution.” In fact, many states with voter-ID laws make it easy to obtain an ID — Alabama even has a mobile unit to provide free IDs. Very few conservatives or Republicans would be unwilling to sign on to a deal that requires voter ID in exchange for making a state voter ID easier or free to obtain.

Culture

A Cynical Ploy in the Cancel-Culture Wars

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The statue of Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest, stands over his grave in Health Sciences Park in Memphis, Tennessee, August 17, 2017. (Karen Pulfer Focht/Reuters)

A few weeks ago, I posted here on the Corner about how masterfully Governor Bill Lee has managed the removal of a bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest from the Tennessee state capitol. Forrest, the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, is an example of someone who really should be canceled by a civilized society. No amount of “Cancel Culture Comes For Nathan Bedford Forrest” headlines would have me clutching my pearls and fretting over the immanence of a totalitarian police state. We should cancel him proudly, just as General Lovell H. Rousseau did when he sent Forrest and his men running for the hills like a bunch of frightened little girls at the Third Battle of Murfreesboro.   

But it seems as if a few of Tennessee’s state senators disagree. Because less than two weeks after the state’s historical commission voted to remove the bust of Forrest, these senators have drafted a bill that would remove all 29 members of the commission and replace them with twelve new members. Under the proposed changes, the governor would have less authority over who sits on the commission. Evidently, some state senators were sorry to see Forrest’s likeness go from the state capitol, and they’re unhappy with the leading role Governor Lee took in making it happen. Senator Janice Bowling of Tullahoma basically confessed as much. “In our culture today it seems there is a desire to cancel history, cancel culture, cancel narratives that are just based on fact,” she said. “I think that that’s a dangerous precedent.” 

What a damnably cynical ploy. As if removing Forrest’s bust from a place of reverence and veneration will cast aspersions on the fact of his existence, or suddenly disappear all of the primary documents relating his deeds to posterity! Judging from the above statement, you’d think that William Tecumseh Sherman had risen from the dead two weeks ago, donned Thanos’s infinity gauntlet and wiped all memory of Forrest from the historical record, just as he wiped Forrest’s pretend country from the face of the earth a century and a half ago. 

We need to get better at having direct and honest conversations about the ethical boundaries of our culture. If we could do that, we would rob bad actors of their ability to reach for lofty-sounding, fake process arguments. They’d have to argue straight out why Confederate generals shouldn’t be canceled. Our present discourse is far too focused on the fact of cancellation rather than the criteria. We need to talk about substance rather than process. I’m sure if we put our heads together and tried some public moral reasoning for a change we could come up with a way of canceling the Klan without canceling Dr. Seuss. The question isn’t whether or not we’re going to have a “cancel culture,” it’s what we’re going to cancel people for.

Politics & Policy

The Democrats’ Arguments for Killing the Filibuster Make No Sense

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House Majority Whip James Clyburn, (D-SC) speaks during a hearing in Washington, D.C., September 23, 2020. (Stefani Reynolds/Pool via Reuters)

Politico‘s piece headlined, “How Biden’s resistance to filibuster reform began to crack,” portrays a soul-searching Joe Biden, forced to entertain the idea of destroying the filibuster because of an emergency brought on by Republican intransigence:

Inside the White House, there is a growing belief that the president’s agenda will be at risk — and the Senate itself at risk of irrelevance — if the current rules remain in place, two people familiar with internal White House discussions said.

One thing Democrats definitely aren’t at all hampered by is their mindboggling hypocrisy on the filibuster. And why should they be? Journalists rarely challenge them. But, as many high-profile Democrats have pointed out in the past, including Barack Obama and Joe Biden, a 60-vote threshold is one of the reasons the Senate remains a more deliberative, inclusive, and important body than the House. That’s exactly what progressives, who are pining to destroy the Tenth Amendment, are trying to rectify.

A source tells Politico that Biden’s mind is “shifting and swirling” on the issue. Color me skeptical. But setting aside the philosophical debate, none of contentions Politico lays out as driving Biden’s position make any sense.

You might recall that only last week, the president signed one of the biggest spending bills in the history of the United States, chock-full of left-wing goodies that only passed under the cover of a pandemic “stimulus” bill. Certainly no legislation of that size and scope — either ideologically or monetarily — came close to reaching Donald Trump’s desk when Democrats were filibustering everything for four years.

So, what extraordinary emergency is making Biden’s mind swirl? The Politico article features a barely coherent quote from Jim Clyburn grousing about how Georgia senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff shouldn’t be considered any less important that moderates such as Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin — the main culprits standing in the way of a progressive free-for-all.

First of all, Warnock and Ossoff will likely vote in lockstep with Democrats while Sinema and Manchin may not, which doesn’t necessarily make the moderates right, but it definitely makes the moderates more important.

Regardless, Clyburn’s contention undercuts the argument for blowing up the filibuster. If Sinema and Manchin stand in the way of passing H.R. 1 or a Green New Deal, then the filibuster is irrelevant. Politico brings up the $15 minimum wage, but Democrats don’t have the votes to pass the wage floor, either. Is the Biden tax hike at “risk?” You don’t need 60 votes to pass it.

The “heart” of the argument, Politico notes,  is that the Senate will “stymie voting and civil rights legislation, and the minority in the Senate will remain protected to the detriment of minority voters.” It is, of course, highly debatable that the authoritarian H.R. 1 helps anyone, but that is a political question to be debated in the Senate. Democrats have an exceptionally narrow majority, and exceptionally narrow majorities shouldn’t be unilaterally passing massive, radical bills that fundamentally change how the entire nation’s system works. This isn’t some peculiarity of the system. The system is built this way.

And Democrats haven’t offered compelling arguments to change how it’s done. The crusade to eliminate the filibuster is, as Obama might say, predicated on an “‘ends justify the means’ mentality.” More than that, right now, Democrats are only contriving a showdown because the only real emergency they care about is not getting their way.

Culture

Twelve Things That Caught My Eye: Terri Schiavo, Unjust ‘Equality Act’ & More

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1. Bobby Schindler: Marking the 16th anniversary of Terri Schiavo’s court-ordered death by dehydration

On March 18th, 2005, Florida Judge, George W. Greer ordered the removal of Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube, essentially sentencing Terri to a slow thirteen-day death by starvation and dehydration. For the next thirteen days, the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network will commemorate the final, horrific days of Terri’s inhumane death. This is not only to remember Terri, but also to call attention to the countless people who are currently suffering slow, agonizing deaths in hospices, nursing homes, and hospitals in America and around the world.

2. Jeff Jacoby: Move the Beijing Olympics — or Shun them

There was no place for apartheid in the Olympics a generation ago. There should be none for genocide today.

3. Cardinal Timothy Dolan: Stand Against Unjust Discrimination: Oppose the Equality Act

The Equality Act seems to go out of its way to target religion. It exempts itself from the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a bill that was passed nearly unanimously by Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993. RFRA basically says that if the government is going to burden religion, it needs to have a very good reason, and it needs to show that it did everything possible to avoid over-burdening the religion.

RFRA has been invoked by Muslims seeking to wear short beards in prison, American Indians using eagle feathers in religious ceremonies, humanitarians leaving water for migrants in the desert, and—yes—nuns who do not want to pay for contraceptives. RFRA protects people of all faiths. But under the Equality Act, a religious service provider is not protected by RFRA if it “discriminates” on the basis of “gender identity.” So, if a Catholic women’s shelter decides that it would be best not to house a biological man self-identifying as a woman in the same space as women who have been victims of domestic abuse, that ministry would not be protected under the Equality Act.

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