Since last December, Congress has appropriated a total of $46.6 billion to help tenants who were behind on their rent. As of June 30, just $3 billion had been distributed, though a senior official said the Biden administration hoped at least another $2 billion had been distributed in July.
If the Biden administration official’s estimate is correct, that would add up to a whopping 10.7 percent. At this pace, the rental assistance program will allocate the entire amount by June 2026.
Congress loves to throw money at a problem and ignore questions of whether the Byzantine federal bureaucracy and patchwork of programs and systems can actually allocate the appropriated money fast enough to address the problem.
I’m afraid our old friend Max Boot is guilty of not reading past the headline.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a column about the Right’s abandonment of an Apollonian politics of reason and order for a Dionysian politics of intoxicating anarchy. Max Boot, apparently reading only the headline (which described this as the GOP’s “hippie phase”) refers to this in the Washington Post as “benign spin.”
I don’t think “benign spin” is an honest or accurate characterization of an argument whose main points of comparison were the ritual murders of the Manson family and the terrorism of the Weather Underground.
Read the damned column, Max, if you are going to write about it.
Putting the word “opinion” atop something cheap, sloppy, and stupid doesn’t make it anything other than cheap, sloppy, and stupid. Max Boot knows this. So does the Washington Post.
Headline inflation came out at 5.4 percent year-on-year in July, about where it had been expected, and at the same rate as the previous month, which had been the highest number since . . . August 2008. The monthly rate of increase was 0.5 percent. Core inflation (which excludes energy and food) was 4.3 percent, down slightly from June’s 4.5 percent. Looking at core inflation on a month-by-month basis, the rate was 0.3 percent, below expectations of 0.4 percent and well below June’s numbers (0.9 percent). The results represented the first deceleration since February. More favorable base effects helped, but one major reason for the decline was that the surge in used-car and used-truck prices, a phenomenon that owed a great deal, one way or another, to pandemic-related dislocation, eased off dramatically: They increased by 0.2 percent (month-on-month) in July, after rocketing by 10 percent in June. A plateau is not the same as a cliff, of course, but there are now signs (via Manheim) that prices are falling.
It also seems that other prices — airline tickets, for example — that had risen on the back of pent-up demand are beginning to cool off, a trend, it seems, that may now be reinforced by the Delta variant putting a crimp in people’s plans. On the other hand, the surge in home prices, which typically would take a number of quarters to show up in the CPI (as OER, essentially the rent people would have had to pay on owner-occupied housing) has not yet really made its presence felt. The interplay between house prices, a structural housing shortage, ultra-low mortgage rates, and inflation may well mean that this presence turns out to be very far from (to use the Fed’s favorite adjective) “transitory.” Shelter makes up about one-third of the CPI.
So, what now? Inflation is something that can feed on itself, and even if, well, food is excluded from core inflation, it won’t be excluded from the way that consumers look at the price environment.
The cost of many grocery items — including meats, poultry, eggs and dairy — also ticked higher again in July, according to the report. Groceries have been trending higher for well over a year, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics showing a 2.6 percent rise in the “food at home” category compared with last year.
Well over a year.
And it won’t help if real wages are under pressure.
Inflation is eating into household spending power despite wage increases in some industries. Average hourly earnings of private-sector workers, adjusted for inflation, fell 0.1% in July from June on a seasonally adjusted basis, the Labor Department said. However, wages in the leisure and hospitality industry, where labor shortages are unusually acute, rose 0.4% from June, adjusting for inflation.
Last Friday’s jobs report showed average hourly earnings have risen at a 5% annual rate over the past three months.
There’s a catch though:
That will lead many businesses to at least try to offset higher labor costs by charging higher prices.
The key question — to which I don’t, of course, have the answer — is how long people will be prepared to wait before they cease to think of more rapidly rising prices as “transitory” and start adjusting their behavior accordingly.
The Washington Post:
For the Fed and White House, price challenges are compounded by the fact that inflation can be driven by what people expect it will be in the future. For example, if businesses shift their plans for investment or consumers change their spending habits because they think prices for construction materials or hotel rooms will continue to soar, that behavior could drive prices up, too.
Michael Strain, director of economic policy studies at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute, said it matters to households that “we’re on month five of this, and we might be in for another year of it.”
“The Fed may be absolutely right to keep its zero interest rate policy. But I think the Fed has been too blasé, too serene, too dismissive of this potential risk.”
There is a limited amount that can be drawn from one month’s numbers, but these latest data provide some grounds for optimism that the pandemic effect on inflation may slowly be passing (for a relatively upbeat view on the prospects, take a look at this analysis by Matthew Klein), but that’s still far from a given.
Strain is right to be concerned that the Fed may be too relaxed about what might lie ahead for inflation. What’s more, given the way that the nation’s debt is ballooning, the central bank enjoys relatively little room for maneuver now — and will have far less in the years to come. It is not too hard to see how the country could reach a point when a Volcker moment (when Paul Volcker became Fed chairman in August 1979, the Fed Funds rate stood at 10.5 percent or so: It peaked at around 20 percent less than two years later) is essential but impossible. Under the circumstances, the Fed would do well to err on the side of caution. On the brighter side, the sharp spike in Americans googling “inflation” appears to have reversed, so there’s that.
And then there’s the small matter of all that money that’s been created out of thin air . . .
The White House says it isn’t ready to give up hope amid the Taliban’s wildly successful blitz campaign, but officials are making the specious point that the Islamist group should reconsider its actions if it wants to be taken as a legitimate player on the international stage.
The Washington Post reported earlier today that an internal military assessment found that the Taliban are likely to take Kabul within 90 days, and the paper cited some anonymous officials who think that it could fall even within a month.
This prompted an interesting exchange at today’s White House press briefing, where press secretary Jen Psaki brushed off the “anonymous assessments.”
“We are closely watching the deteriorating security conditions in parts of the country, but no particular outcome, in our view, is inevitable. We will continue to coordinate air strikes, with and in support of Afghan forces,” she also said.
“The Taliban also has to make an assessment about what they want their role to be in the international community,” Psaki added, reprising the line offered by Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special representative to the Afghan peace process in Doha, during his conversations with the Taliban this week.
Nothing is inevitable, but the administration’s points here sound detached from the dismal reality on the ground where the Taliban have retaken nine of the country’s 34 capitals since Friday, leaving them in control of over two-thirds of Afghanistan. Kabul remains beyond the Taliban’s grasp, for now, but this stepped-up assault has included attacks on high-value targets within the Afghan capital.
The Post’s reporting shows that the administration, at least in private, sees the writing on the wall. But Psaki and others aren’t willing to concede the failure of Biden’s withdrawal yet, so they’re offering a questionable rhetorical backstop that makes it seem as though negotiating a political settlement remains remotely possible.
To Psaki’s credit, Afghan foreign minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar claimed that one does, at least if the international community “speaks with one voice” and pressures the Taliban, he said during an event hosted today by an Australian think tank.
But he also said, “We are probably experiencing the most massive, brutal, and opportunistic military campaign of violence and terror, by the Taliban, in the history of our country.”
That’s the military problem to which the administration is seeking a political solution.
Appealing to the Taliban’s desire to be recognized internationally seems like a losing strategy, with the Afghan government and its defense forces in disarray, President Biden’s reluctance to send much more help, and the current U.S. indifference to the plight of the country. The U.S. has signaled no increase in air strikes (which are conducted from abroad, since Bagram air base was shuttered in June), and the administration reportedly is cool to the idea of even continuing them past the August 31 withdrawal deadline.
The Afghan government wants help, but if Biden and his team are to be taken at their word, all they can muster is an attempt to make Taliban negotiators uncomfortable in their palatial Doha hotel suites.
Democratic Wisconsin congressman Ron Kind announced his retirement on Tuesday, dealing a blow to Democrats’ hopes of keeping control of the House in 2022.
Kind has represented western Wisconsin’s third congressional district since 1997, but voters in the district backed Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020. In 2016, Kind ran unopposed, and in 2018 he cruised to reelection by 19 points.
But in 2020, Kind narrowly defeated former Navy SEAL Derrick Van Orden, a first-time candidate, 51.3 percent to 48.6 percent. Van Orden is seeking the seat again in 2022, and Kind was high on the GOP’s target list.
Although the incumbent ran ahead of other Democrats on the ticket for many years, that trend may not have continued if Kind had sought another term in 2022. The retiring Democratic congressman has recently come under fire for renting out a massage parlor to a woman who “lost her occupational license in another state after local police linked her to human trafficking and prostitution,” the Washington Free Beaconreported last month.
A popular new liberal talking point claims that Andrew Cuomo resigned because principled Democrats tend to hold their own accountable far more often than Republicans. “Normal political parties,” says one writer, “can police their own.”
Indeed, if your entire political philosophy is to obsess about Donald Trump it might be easy to overlook the fact, as National Review’s editors pointed out the other day, that Republicans had recently pushed out both Eric Greitens in Missouri and Robert Bentley in Alabama. Or that not long ago, someone like Ted Kennedy was being adulated as the “Lion of Senate,” even though everyone knew he was a drunken degenerate; or that during his presidency, credible, corroborating evidence existed that Bill Clinton may have raped a woman. Joe Biden himself was given a dispensation by the media after being accused of sexual assault by Tara Reade. We don’t know if these accusations are true, but if Republicans had adopted the standards set only a year earlier by the Left — which is to say abandoning belief in due process when politically expedient — Biden could have been subjected to intense pressure. Reade, after all, had more credibility than any of Brett Kavanaugh’s accusers.
It should also be pointed out that Democrats only displace their own when it holds no genuine political repercussions. Everyone understood that Al Franken’s resignation meant another Democrat would take his place. And everyone knows well that Cuomo’s ouster means another Democrat will take his place — and, in the long run, one that is likely more progressive. Virginia’s Ralph Northam, who either smeared his face with black makeup to look like Michael Jackson or draped himself in a white sheet to cosplay a racist cross-burner, survived only because a cascading array of potential scandals — Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax was accused of sexual assault and then Attorney General Mark Herring admitted to also dressing in blackface — threatened Democratic control.
Let’s not forget either that Cuomo was pushed from office for groping women — bad enough — and not for his deadly incompetence during the COVID pandemic or subsequent corruption. To remove him for his actions last year would have necessitated, to some extent, conceding that the pandemic response had been botched by a man anointed a hero by Democrats and allies. Biden is still praising Cuomo. Now, they can get rid of him for his personal transgressions. Quite a different story.
Not that any of this is surprising. Parties police their own only when the political pressure becomes untenable and the cost to do so is low. It has nothing to do with principles.
It’s frightening how rapidly America is becoming a nation where having the wrong views about politics and national controversies can cost you your job or your business.
As we read in this NY Post story, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has fired its principal flutist, Emily Skala, simply because the management disagrees with her thoughts about COVID. The orchestra has a “progressive discipline policy” that allows it to terminate musicians for behavior it disapproves of.
Lesson for orchestral musicians — if you have any thoughts that might conflict with those of “woke” management types, keep them to yourself.
Skala has been with the Baltimore Symphony for 33 years. Now that she has identified herself as a person with unacceptable views, she must be terminated.
It’s the BSO management that ought to be terminated.
The infrastructure bill recently passed by the Senate contained a provision that would impose on the trading of cryptocurrency the same reporting requirements applied to the transaction of other traditional financial securities, such as stocks. U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Gary Gensler has also been advocating for more regulations on cryptocurrency trading and soliciting congressional support for his position. This has fueled concern in the financial industry that the growing interest in the cryptocurrency market may be dampened by the anticipated regulations.
This isn’t the only new venture now suddenly threatened by congressional regulation. One may recall that, a few weeks ago, Congressman Earl Blumenauer of Oregon had, in response to Jeff Bezos’s successful venture into space, indignantly suggested that space travel be subjected to an excise tax, lest space exploration become “a tax-free holiday for the wealthy.” Blumenauer stressed that he was “not opposed to . . . space innovation” and only wanted to tax space-travel ventures that “don’t have a scientific purpose.” However, space innovation is driven by not only scientific development, but also financial interest.
One may even contend that the scientific development associated with space innovation is itself driven by financial interest. After all, the prospect of becoming a pioneer in the potentially enormously lucrative industry of private space travel is a tremendous incentive for investors to divert resources to scientific research and development aimed at enhancing space-travel technology. There is simply no way to tax and hence in effect disincentivize the expansion of the private space-traveling industry without impeding potential scientific development.
As of August 10, Blumenauer has yet to formally introduce this space-travel-tax bill, and one can only speculate how serious he had been in his suggestions. However, his suggestions, together with congressional action to strengthen regulation on cryptocurrency, indicate a broader trend of taxing innovation. While the government may have a wide array of reasons for imposing new taxes and regulations onto budding industries, its increasing interest in doing so may, nonetheless, potentially have a chilling effect on innovation.
As the elementary principles of supply-side economics go, tax cuts and deregulation bolster the development of an industry, whereas new taxes and regulations impede it. Even by expressing interest in taxing certain industries, the government may be inducing considerable hesitation on the part of potential investors, who become wary that the profitability of the industry may be diminished by tightening regulations, to assume the risks associated with installing their capital in a relatively young and unestablished industry.
The expansion of the cryptocurrency market may be hindered if they are subjected to the same stringent regulations as traditional securities. While traditional stock trading formally began in America when the Philadelphia Stock Exchange was founded in 1790, formal regulations and “third-party reporting” requirements for did not emerge until 1934, when the SEC was formed in response to the Wall Street crash of 1929. Although the lack of regulations ultimately proved to be a recipe for financial disaster, it also arguably contributed to the initial flourishing of stock trading in America. Cryptocurrency’s roots, on the other hand, can only be traced back as far as the late 20th century. Despite its exponential growth in market value and investors, cryptocurrency exchange is still an emergent market and has yet to command the broad investor confidence that traditional securities trading arguably enjoys. To impose the same stringent regulations applied to traditional securities onto cryptocurrency exchange in its infancy may well prevent it from attaining the establishment conventionality of the stock market.
The government often has different reasons to tighten regulations or impose taxes on budding industries, be it to enforce tax-compliance, increase tax revenue, or simply to punish wealthy citizens for pursuing extravagant exploits. However, regardless of the intentions of the lawmakers, regulations and taxes would foreseeably disincentivize investment in these budding industries and impede their development. The space-travel industry and cryptocurrency exchange are but two of the many markets that may be affected by this broader sentiment. Though the aforementioned short-term aims may be achievable through government action, free enterprise, investors’ interest in emergent industries, and society’s zeal for innovation do not benefit in the long run.
Donald Kagan, the great historian of the ancient world, has died.
I took his famous intro course on Herodotus and Thucydides when I was a Yale freshman. Kagan’s stunt was to pull some random young men out of the audience — the course was always given in one of the largest lecture halls, so many wanted to take it — and arrange them onstage as if in a line of a hoplite phalanx.
I remember two serious points after almost 50 years. Unless they have been contradicted by better evidence, or they recount something that is physically impossible, always accept traditional accounts as a working hypothesis. And, despite Thucydides’s greatness — Kagan revered him — Herodotus was superior in this respect: He would offer evidence that contradicted his own conclusions (the Spartans say this, the Corinthians say this, but I believe the Athenians who say this . . .). His counter-explanations sometimes turn out to be the correct ones. Thucydides, the master artist and philosopher, has to know everything, and for that reason sometimes doesn’t.
I stayed in touch with him in numerous other ways. My friend Greg Hyatt, from Methuen, Mass., told me once that he was praying for a Yankees victory (unheard of in his part of the world). The reason: Kagan, atheist and Yankees fan, had said he would believe in God if the Yankees won. So Greg resolved to help him.
Kagan wrote a wonderful essay on Joe DiMaggio, correcting a famous John Updike essay on Ted Williams. Williams, Kagan argued sternly, was all about his batting average, whereas DiMaggio’s arete inspired his teammates.
Kagan was the master of Timothy Dwight, one of Yale’s residential colleges, which in my senior year put on a production of Kiss Me, Kate. I was Frederick Graham, the self-regarding ham (why they cast me in that role I have no idea). For the cast party, Master Kagan gave us a case of champagne.
For many years, Kagan was an unpaid teaching assistant for Elizabeth Altham, one of his former students (and one of WFB’s last amanuenses), who became herself a teacher at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, a conservative Catholic school in Rockford, Illinois. Kagan’s assignment was to pinch hit on questions regarding the ancient world. So a teacher’s influence spreads through his students to new generations.
Kagan gave a farewell lecture at Yale at the end of his tenure, in the hall where he had demonstrated hoplite phalanxes, surveying the shifting role of the university throughout history. The modern university, he concluded, most resembles Oxford and Cambridge in the 18th century. Students in both learn nothing much, but network with rising fellow members of the elite. It was an impish envoi — disproved by his own splendid career. R.I.P.
Over the last few days, I’ve seen a number of people suggest that there’s something intrinsically “unconservative” about Governor DeSantis’s decision to bar mask mandates in every school district in Florida. The case made in defense of this proposition seems to be two-fold. First, that DeSantis is “interfering” with local schools by setting a statewide rule. Second, that by barring a mandate, DeSantis in effect setting a mandate.
Neither of these arguments is correct.
The core unit of political organization in America (which is also known as the “United States“) is the state. It is not the federal government, which was the creation of the people, which has limited powers in a few enumerated areas, and which left the states intact; and it is not the local counties within the states, which are creations of the state and can be preempted at any point and for any reason. By design, the states are in primary control of areas as meaningful as criminal law, education, zoning, transportation, agriculture, energy, taxation, and industry. As such, it is a mistake to assume that the same relationship applies between the states and the localities as applies between the federal government and the states. As a prudential matter, it is often a good idea for state governments to defer to the wishes of local communities, just as, when they are drafting laws and regulations, it can be appropriate for statewide officials to leave space for any meaningful differences that might exist. But, unlike the federal government, state governments are not obliged to do this by either law or tradition, which means that determining what qualifies and what does not qualify is a political rather than a constitutional question. (This is why, for example, the federal government’s Obamacare mandate was a big legal problem, whereas Massachusetts’s individual mandate, while a terrible policy, was not.)
This brings us to the second critique, which is that, as a political choice, there was something wrong with DeSantis’s decision to set a statewide policy for masking in schools. Frankly, I consider the claim that to bar mandates is in effect to impose a mandate to be sophistic nonsense — not least because by complaining that the Florida regulation “takes away” the power of schools to set their own policies one is obliged to concede that it hands that power directly to parents. Certainly, one can reasonably argue that Florida has got the balance wrong, and that school boards, not individual parents, are better placed to make this call. But one cannot credibly argue that Florida has “restricted” choice. It hasn’t. It has allocated choice. Florida had three options. The first was to set the substantive policy for every school and every student (no masks or mandatory masks). The second was to allow each school to make that determination. The third was to let parents decide. By going with the third option, Florida handed the decision to the smallest possible unit: the individual.
Was this the right call? Substantively, I happen to think so, yes. There’s no good evidence that masking children does anything useful, let alone that mandating masking does, which makes this issue a good candidate for personal choice. Clearly, the current problem in Florida and beyond isn’t that children are contracting COVID, but that the combination of a new variant and the millions of people who have declined to get the vaccine has caused a temporary spike in infections. Still, people of good faith can disagree about that — and do — and the fact that they can underscores that, for once, this is not a process question but a policy question that deserves to be treated as such.
This is the peril posed by the “nature rights” movement. Whenever any human activity interferes with what environmentalists believe should be done, such laws permit them to sue and stop the enterprise.
Case in point. Two years ago the Ojibwe tribe granted wild rice the “right to exist,” which could be said to be a synonym for a right to life. As I noted back then:
The law begins: “Manoomin, or wild rice, within all the Chippewa ceded territories, possesses inherent rights to exist, flourish, regenerate, and evolve, as well as inherent rights to restoration, recovery and preservation.”
The Rights of Manoomin include:
– The right to clean water and freshwater habitat
– The right to a natural environment free from industrial pollution
– The right to a healthy, stable climate free from human-caused climate change impacts
– The right to be free from patenting
– The right to be free from contamination by genetically engineered organisms
Imagine the litigation such a law would generate if it were enforceable outside of tribal lands.
Well, we don’t have to imagine anymore. The “wild rice” has now brought a lawsuit in tribal court seeking to prevent the repair of an oil pipeline — a microcosm of things to come if the “nature rights” movement continues to advance. From the CBC story:
Wild rice is the lead plaintiff in a new lawsuit aimed at halting construction of Enbridge’s Line 3 oil pipeline replacement.
“Wild rice is the most important spiritual, central part of our culture. Wild rice is what’s making us come out and protect water,” Frank Bibeau, a treaty rights attorney for the White Earth First Nation in Minnesota, told As It Happens guest host Nil Köksal.
“Wild rice protects us. Wild rice feeds us. Wild rice tells us when there’s something wrong in the water or in the air or in the ground. Wild rice is an indicator species. And wild rice is disappearing.
Bibeau filed the suit Wednesday in the White Earth Nation Tribal Court. It lists the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) as a defendant, and several White Earth tribal members and Line 3 protesters as plaintiffs alongside wild rice, or manoomin in Ojibway.
Ironically, the point of the repair is to prevent leaks and ruptures. But the wild rice apparently “wants” no oil piped.
The lawsuit asks the tribal court to grant an injunction to void the water permit the DNR issued to Enbridge for Line 3.
If the tribal court rules against the oil pipeline, that would not end the story:
But even if the lawsuit is successful, Bibeau says he doesn’t expect the state to abide by the tribal court’s decision. Still, he says Line 3 opponents could use a tribal court victory to fast-track their case to a U.S. federal court.
That’s where things could get dicey, depending on the judge.
As I said, this is a microcosm story. But it also a cogent warning of our future that may await if states and the federal government don’t pass laws exclusively reserving “rights” to the human realm (individuals and juridical associations) and prohibiting nature and animals from having legal standing in any court of law.
Most of us knew, or strongly suspected, that those vaccinated against COVID-19 would need booster shots eventually, and that those at high risk would need them sooner, and those at lower risk would need them later. It was just question of when. The 2.8 million Americans vaccinated in December 2020 were vaccinated eight months ago.
Israel announced plans to give boosters to senior citizens back on July 29. France and Germany announced boosters would be available in September.
A host of organizations portray themselves as reliable “fact-checkers” that help readers discern content that is “reliable” from that which is not. The problem is, how do we know if those “fact-checkers” are themselves reliable? What if they exist mostly to color people’s impressions of controversies rather than to objectively report on false claims?
That certainly seems to be the case, and in this AIER essay, Phil Magness and Ethan Yang dive into the credibility of a group called NewsGuard. The authors focus on the way NewsGuard has handled COVID and related health-policy disputes. Far from acting as an honest umpire, it has clearly taken sides.
Here’s a key paragraph:
To briefly summarize, NewsGuard’s coverage of Covid-19 policy and the GBD in particular suffers from a recurring pattern of frequent errors that warrant correction, reliance on fact checkers and other figures who lack qualifications to make scientific assessments, biased depictions designed to disparage or undermine the scientific credibility of the petition, and the promotion of false information from dubious secondary sources, rather than the “scientific experts” it claims to use. In sharp contrast, NewsGuard writers such as John Gregory take a friendly and non-scrutinizing stance toward pro-lockdown opponents of the GBD such as CovidFAQ website – even when they spread factual misinformation about the GBD’s contents and engage in duplicitous editing under the guise of issuing a “correction.” The self-appointed fact checker, it would appear, suffers from a biased and deficient internal fact-checking process for its own work on Covid-19.
I think it’s a safe assumption that “fact checkers” are leftist agents in disguise until proven otherwise.
Federal judge Sarah Evans Barker has issued a permanent injunction against several pro-life laws in Indiana, including a provision that required women to consult with a physician in person prior to obtaining chemical-abortion drugs.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, abortion providers and abortion-rights activists began pushing to relax FDA safety regulations that had previously required doctors to prescribe the two drugs for a chemical abortion at an in-person appointment. After a long series of court fights — including a stop at the Supreme Court where the justices affirmed the permissibility of the FDA safety standards — the FDA under the Biden administration relaxed the policy and permitted women to begin obtaining chemical-abortion drugs via telemedicine appointments.
In response, a number of states have enacted their own safety requirements, prohibiting doctors from prescribing chemical-abortion drugs without first examining a patient in person. Unsurprisingly, abortion-rights groups have sued to block such policies, and in Indiana, they’ve scored a victory.
Citing prominent abortionist and abortion advocate Dr. Daniel Grossman, as well as abortion-advocacy group the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Judge Barker asserted that prescribing abortion pills via telemedicine is safe and would increase access to abortion for women who do not live near an abortion clinic. Barker again cited these sources, in addition to Planned Parenthood and other abortion-clinic officials, to establish that in-person examination is not necessary before determining whether to prescribe abortion pills and that such regulations impose a unique burden on low-income women.
The judge also blocked Indiana’s requirement that doctors inform women that human life begins at fertilization, once again citing Grossman, who called this statement not “truthful.”
“Plaintiffs again contend that this statement is at best misleading, conflating a religious or ideological view of when ‘life’ begins with one sounding in science,” the judge wrote. She went on to rule that the requirement was unconstitutional, declaring that “this mandatory disclosure does not communicate truthful and non-misleading information.”
While Barker also struck down a state provision requiring abortions later in pregnancy to be performed at a hospital, she did uphold the state’s ultrasound requirement, as well at its policy requiring that counseling be offered only by physicians or advanced clinicians.
If you feel some sense of satisfaction in Andrew Cuomo’s resignation, great. As the editors declare, his departure from power “is a salutary act of political hygiene.”
But this whole sordid saga does feel sad – not because Cuomo did a hell of a job, as President Biden insists – but because the consequences for Andrew Cuomo’s egregious behavior took so long to catch up with him. A slew of institutions that were supposed to be watchdogs and opponents of bullies ended up enabling, excusing, and defending Cuomo’s worst impulses. The “system” failed, time and again.
Tim Murphy of Mother Joneswrote yesterday, “As he spoke to the press, Cuomo himself sounded surprised at the turn of events—perhaps that’s because the reality of who he was was in plain sight for such a long time. For years the kind of domineering behavior that precipitated Cuomo’s downfall was misconstrued—or cynically spun—by many allies in the Democratic Party and in the press as effectiveness.”
If Cuomo was always a petty and abusive tyrant in plain sight… where the hell was everyone who claims to stand up for the powerless?
If Cuomo had leveled with public about his decisions involving nursing homes and the virus from beginning, we might be less angry about it. “We were so afraid of overcrowded hospitals that we enacted policy that was the wrong call, a decision spread the virus among more seniors.” Cuomo underestimated the risks, gambled, and lost. Instead, Cuomo always insisted his decision was the right one – even after “court orders, leaks, and investigations revealed that Cuomo dramatically and intentionally understated the pandemic’s toll on nursing home residents in New York.”
We could have avoided this mess, at least in part, if more national media institutions had looked more skeptically at his state’s handling of pandemic. As of this morning, with COVID-19 having attacked Americans from coast to coast for more than 18 months, New York still ranks second in the country in deaths per million residents, at 2,793. (New Jersey continues to lead at 3,001 per million residents, meaning COVID-19 killed one out of every 333 New Jersey residents. How did Phil Murphy’s management of this crisis get so little national scrutiny?)
We would be in a better state today if CNN executives had recognized the glaring conflict of interest their early pandemic programming – and I wish other big media institutions had called them out on it, instead of celebrating it. We would be in a better state today if CNN had maintained their pre-pandemic policies, that they were happy to interview the governor on air with any other anchor or reporter, but not his brother.
We would be in a better state today if the moment CNN learned Chris Cuomo was consulting with his brother, they took serious action, to make clear anchors can’t be part of a governor’s communication strategy team.
We would be in a better state today if Penguin Random House had realized that $5 million was far too much for a book by the governor, and that publishing a book about Cuomo’s leadership during the pandemic while the pandemic was going on was a bad idea.
The story of Andrew Cuomo really is like that of Harvey Weinstein – apparently, almost everyone who interacted with him knew what was going on, but almost everyone feared his power and didn’t want to risk their careers by standing up to the bully. A lot of people who think of themselves as brave, and independent, and righteous proved quiet and cowardly when it counted the most.
This week on The Editors, Rich, Charlie, Alexandra, and Jim discuss the behemoth reconciliation bill, the IPCC’s alarmist climate-change nonsense, and Cuomo’s downward spiral. Listen below, or follow this podcast on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, or Spotify.
Dr. Gary L. McDowell, professor emeritus at the University of Richmond, died last week. He leaves behind a loving family and a legion of grateful students, of which I am one.
His work, both in academia and in government, advanced the conservative movement and illuminated its intellectual foundations. At the U.S. Department of Justice, he helped Attorney General Edwin Meese articulate the then-revolutionary case for originalism. As a scholar, he championed the Founders’ Constitution while his peers increasingly discounted their intent and design.
His scholarship was prolific, reaching back into the early 1980s. It was wonderfully varied too: He was an expert on folk music, writing about Woody Guthrie and Lead Belly when he wasn’t contemplating James Madison and John Marshall.
Through his work as the director of the Institute for United States Studies (IUSS) at the University of London, Dr. McDowell developed a friendship with Prime Minister Margret Thatcher; few Americans better understood the Iron Lady or her moment.
It was during his time in the United Kingdom that I first met Dr. McDowell, as a student at the IUSS. I was with him briefly, just nine months, but his dedication to free inquiry and open debate — the basic principles of America’s political system — lasted long after. I reached out to him recently, seeking his thoughts as we chart a path forward for the conservative movement. We had not talked in years, but immediately I was his student again. As was his custom, Dr. McDowell went above and beyond to help.
Until his last days, he took ideas seriously and treated people generously. These are his legacies and they will not be forgotten. He spent his life advancing the common good so that in his stead others might keep the lamp of liberty burning.
“Progressives” want to use education at every level to dictate how people will think. Teaching skills and knowledge is a secondary concern. It should surprise no one that law schools are a prime target; leftists want as many lawyers and judges as possible to be steeped in their belief system.
One manifestation of this is the clamor for including critical race theory in the law-school curriculum. There’s nothing wrong with discussing and debating whether CRT makes the least bit of sense, but it should not be “taught” anywhere. I think that Rich Vedder and Amy Wax are correct when they write: “The CRT approved story is that white racism is pervasive and accounts for all racial disparities. What is not taught—what students are not even allowed to hear—is the contrary position that persistent racial inequalities are oftentimes rooted in cultural differences and behavioral tendencies that are not traceable to slavery and cannot be solved by purging the vague category of ‘structural racism.’”
Some law schools are already requiring students to take courses with CRT ideology embedded in them, and now the American Bar Association is advancing the idea that vague “diversity” goals should be part of the accreditation standards for law schools.
We are also hearing of law professors who decline to teach certain cases and topics because they might be “hurtful” to some students.
The intolerant mindset of leftism has already soaked into the legal profession. One legal-aid lawyer, a woman of impeccable credentials, has been fired simply because she dared to criticize CRT.
Quite a few years ago, a friend who was a partner in a big law firm told me that he didn’t care to interview applicants from a certain prestige law school because their heads were filled with irrelevant theories but they knew little about the nuts and bolts of our law. Things have gotten worse since then.
Members of the Aspen Economic Strategy Group recommend a Marshall Plan for COVID-19.
The group released a letter to this effect, signed by former House speaker Paul Ryan, George W. Bush administration alums Joshua Bolten, Glenn Hubbard, Hank Paulson, and Bob Zoellick, and several former members of President Obama’s cabinet, among others. I’m a member of the group and a signatory as well. Former Clinton Treasury secretary Larry Summers described the letter as a “bipartisan spur” to the Biden administration to provide international leadership to address the pandemic through a global vaccination campaign.
The letter opens:
The United States government should take up a position of world leadership on ending the global COVID-19 pandemic through vaccine outreach to the world. Such an effort would serve a clear humanitarian purpose. It would represent forward defense of our security interests by slowing the virus’s rate of mutation. No other action would so clearly signify a US commitment to enlightened international leadership at a time when our strength and outward looking vision is increasingly being challenged and no other initiative would do more to stabilize the global economy.
With the Delta variant of COVID becoming pervasive and more mutations likely, now is the time for bold action. The necessary global approach will involve financial commitments, as well as active policies to encourage production capacity at home and abroad, to strengthen local health system capacity in partnership with developing countries, and to promote private sector initiatives. We must reject the false dichotomy between domestic and global efforts. Given mutation risk, safety anywhere depends on safety everywhere.
The International Monetary Fund estimates that it would cost $50 billion to vaccinate 60 percent of the world’s population by the middle of next year. As the signatories note, that’s less than 1 percent of what the U.S. has committed in response to the pandemic.
Such a campaign would be in the U.S.’s economic and geopolitical interest. At a time of soaring deficits, additional billions of spending should not be undertaken lightly. But I agree with the letter that the initiative would pay for itself.
Kyle, the prediction business isn’t kind to anyone. I will say that when we discussed this on The Editors podcast earlier today, Jim and I predicted that Cuomo would resign before he got impeached but obviously didn’t think it’d be today (I will let Charlie and Xan fess up to their own predictions — or not). I think bragging rights on understanding where this was headed, though, belong to Andy, who wrote yesterday what turned out to be a kind of curtain-raiser for a resignation.
Last May, when Donald Trump started talking about how much authority he had over the states, every journalist in the country suddenly discovered the Tenth Amendment. It’s still there, right? Or does it only apply when a Republican president is trying to usurp the power of Democratic governors whose political positions he happens to dislike?
We have become so used to hearing that everything must be “diverse” that it’s good to remember that it wasn’t always so. In this article, Michael Barone reflects on the fact that the Manhattan Project (our effort at building the atomic bomb before the Nazis did) was remarkably un-diverse.
Barone writes, “The Manhattan Project didn’t look like America. If undertaken today, it would be criticized for failing to meet diversity and inclusion guidelines.” More than criticized, no doubt; it would be hamstrung by demands that every group be “represented” on the project. Academic research “proving” that diverse teams result in better results would be cited to show why we must not have too many people from certain “dominant” groups and need the insights of people from historically oppressed groups.
As we know, however, “diversity” encompasses only a very few aspects of human diversity — sex, race, and ethnicity. You never hear the diversity crowd demanding “inclusion” for people based on religious beliefs, their musical tastes, their body mass indexes, height, family size, pet preferences, and so on.
One suspects that the diversity advocates don’t really believe their theory but only use it as a cudgel to gain political power. Barone asks if Ibram X. Kendi would insist on a “diverse” medical team if he needed complicated brain surgery. I think that “diversity” ceases to be a consideration once humans have to worry about the consequences for themselves of deciding whom to choose on grounds other than demonstrated competence.
What if we were faced with the need for something akin to the Manhattan Project again? Suppose that we discover a massive asteroid on a collision path with the earth, sure to hit in 40 years. We need to find a way of preventing that collision or face the extinction of life on our planet. If the U.S. government were to assemble a team to accomplish that task, would it set aside the diversity mania? Or would time and money be squandered on making the research team appropriately “inclusive”?
There are lots of people who don’t mind at all if the government limits or abrogates freedoms that they don’t happen to care about. But eventually, the mega-state will get around to something they do care about. By then, it’s too late.
In this essay for AIER, Richard Ebeling reflects on the steady erosion of freedom in America (and elsewhere) over the last century.
It is difficult, I think, for most of us to even imagine how inconsequential government really was in people’s lives, at least at home, in these Western countries not much more than a century ago. Of course, even before the First World War, the modern welfare state was gaining footholds in these nations, but even with this, and especially in the United States and Great Britain, most people, to use the happy phrase of the British laissez-faire liberal, Herbert Spencer (1820-1902), could go through their daily lives and pretty much ‘ignore the state.’
Ebeling provides a useful historical overview of the growth of government. It goes back to that greatest of governmental disasters, the First World War.
However, if current trends continue in the present direction for too long, the potential and possibility for liberty may be irreparably lost. We need to remember and to forewarn others that liberty is far easier to lose than to be successfully and fully regained once it is lost.
About a month ago, Texas Democrats found out they didn’t have the votes to stop Republicans from passing an election-integrity bill, and so they fled the state to deny the legislature quorum. A month later, some have returned to the Texas legislative chambers. Those that have returned have been attacked by fellow Democrats for aiding and abetting “voter suppression.” This kind of thinking is inimical to a stable political regime.
Texas Democrats have been remarkably effective at preventing the passage of an election-integrity bill spearheaded by Republicans. They stalled the bill at the end of the legislative session and fled the state after Governor Greg Abbott called a special session to address the matter. Over a month later, when some representatives finally returned to the legislative chambers, fellow Democrats pilloried them. Representative Ana-Maria Ramos from Texas’s 4th district tweeted:
Democrats like@TurnerForTX and@jamestalarico checked in today to help Republicans pass anti-voter bills. There is currently an injunction stopping TX from arresting Democrats, yet these Democrats on the floor today chose to participate in voter suppression.
Others joined in, saying that they were “praying” that no other Democrats returned to the chambers. This is utterly unacceptable rhetoric. The Democrats who have returned to fulfill their elected duty as representatives are not coming back to pass voting restrictions. If the legislative chamber ever does meet quorum requirements, not a single Democrat will vote for the bill.
No, the Democrats who are returning are doing so because they believe that the legislative chamber itself deserves their presence. They want to work on legislation they think can help their constituents. We know this because they have told the public why they are coming back. To lambast these progressive representatives as supporters of voter suppression would be farcical if it weren’t so harmful.
We can’t have a functioning polity if a party leaves every time they don’t get the legislation they like. Denying quorum does not prevent just a single voting bill from moving forward. The move prevents every kind of legislation from moving forward. Texas Democrats aren’t responsible for passing the voting-integrity bill any more than the Freedom Caucus is responsible for the latest infrastructure bill. A functioning democratic regime relies on the premise that the “other side” is allowed to pass laws, even ones you disagree with.
It seems that Texas Democrats have simply given up on this fundamental premise. If the Democrats from Texas denied quorum for a day, or a week, in order to raise awareness for a local issue, that might be understandable. However, the representatives who have attacked their fellow party members are actually attacking the crux of the democratic order.
Democracy doesn’t die in darkness; it dies when political factions are unwilling to accept the basic principles on which democracies are founded. The Texas Democratic Party needs to stand up for the legislative process and tell its members to come back and do their job. It’s long overdue to end this undemocratic and un-American charade.
Sure, I predicted Donald Trump would never run for president (a few days before he rode the Escalator of Destiny) and that Joe Biden was toast (after the media in 2019 finally noticed his habit of creeping on little girls, and his brand seemed moribund when all of his party’s energy was with its socialist wing).
But I still thought I was on terra firma when I repeatedly wrote that Andrew Cuomo would never go willingly. The man struck me as arrogance and entitlement incarnate, and I thought he’d have to be dragged out by his hair. I’m stunned, but happy to be proven wrong.
I have to admit I wasn’t expecting Andrew Cuomo to resign today, or at all, until the final impeachment writing was on the wall. Of course, he ought to have stepped down a long time ago, when the first credible sexual-harassment allegations came out against him, and yet he didn’t, which is why I expected he wouldn’t do so now. Held to his own “believe all women” standard, he should’ve resigned the moment the very first woman uttered an allegation against him.
But even though Cuomo ultimately did the right thing today, he has left no doubt as to whether he did it for the right reasons. As with his intransigence amidst the earlier allegations, he has continued to dig in his heels and insist that he’s leaving office because it’s the best thing for the state government — not because he actually did anything wrong or anything worth resigning over.
In his comments today, Cuomo dismissed the furor against him as “politically motivated” and said that fighting back would cast the state into months of turmoil, which he cannot countenance inflicting on his citizens. To my knowledge, the governor and his defenders have not managed to produce evidence that either the allegations or the blowback was prompted by political opponents, but I suppose labeling it as such is easier than admitting any fault.
To this day, Cuomo has refused to offer a meaningful apology for or even admit to any real wrongdoing. Though he has uttered the immortal phrase “full responsibility,” he maintains that he “never crossed the line with anyone.”
He went on to say that he “didn’t realize the extent to which the line has been redrawn,” as if there were ever a time at which some of the things he allegedly did and said to women had been acceptable. Perhaps there was a time when it was easier for powerful men to get away with doing and saying such things, but that’s really no defense, especially considering Cuomo’s long-time public insistence on a “zero tolerance policy” for sexual harassment.
His initial apology of sorts, offered back in March, wasn’t an admission of guilt, either. “I never knew at the time I was making anyone feel uncomfortable,” he offered meekly. Responding to press questions, he added, “I do not believe that I have ever done anything in my public career that I am ashamed of. I didn’t know that I was making her uncomfortable at the time. I feel badly that I did. I understand that sensitivities have changed and behavior has changed.”
And even now, on his way out the door, Cuomo would like to pass himself off as something of a selfless hero, saying that he’s leaving to avoid a political fight — the implication being: a fight he could easily win — and stepping down so he can “let government get back to being government.” I’m no optimist about the future of New York politics, but it’ll be a better government without him around.
Here’s the path that the scriptwriters would choose if we were living in a movie. First, New York trashes its hero governor after he turns out not to be a hero after all. Next comes California, which recalls Gavin Newsom and replaces him with a Republican. Soon after the recall, the 88-year-old Senator Dianne Feinstein leaves office and a Republican is appointed in her place. This flips the balance of the Senate to 49 Democrats and 51 Republicans, thereby killing the Democrats’ absurd $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, stalling the Biden presidency completely until at least the midterms, and prompting a besieged Justice Breyer to relax into another four years on the Supreme Court.
“If everybody voted, then [California governor Gavin] Newsom would actually be in a safe place right now. But that’s not the way elections in this country work. I think the governor and his team understand that even his supporters aren’t all that excited about him right now,” said Dan Schnur, a politics professor at three California universities who previously led the California Fair Political Practices Commission.
“Over the next few weeks, you’ll see him spending less time trying to persuade recall supporters to change their mind, and much more of his time and energy simply trying to motivate his own base to bother to show up,” Schnur said.
At the Orange County Register, columnist John Phillips wrote this morning, “Unfortunately for him, right now he’s the most unpopular governor in America…whose name is not Andrew Cuomo.” I guess that means in a short while, he’ll be the most unpopular governor in America.
The last governor of New York to leave office without a scandal was George Pataki, who stepped down in 2006 after three terms (and who, funnily enough, beat Andrew Cuomo’s father, Mario, in the Republican wave of 1994).
After that came three Democrats. First, Eliot Spitzer, who resigned in 2008 after being caught using prostitutes; then David Paterson, who replaced Spitzer, but couldn’t run again in 2010 thanks to his role in a witness tampering scandal; and, finally, Andrew Cuomo, who resigned today after a litany of sexual assault accusations.
That’s 15 years without a governor who made it out clean. What is this? Illinois?
During his press conference today, Andrew Cuomo said that, in America, “we have sexism that is culturalized and institutionalized.” Astonishingly, he failed to follow this submission with an emphatic, “And I, Andrew Cuomo, am the prime example of that in all of contemporary American politics.”
Whatever happened to “accountability”?
Andrew Cuomo is the three-term governor of the fourth most populous state in the country. He is the son of an extremely famous man who served as governor of New York himself, and the sibling of a CNN host who has routinely used his position to prop his brother up. In pushing back against the charges that have been leveled against him, Cuomo had the help of an organization that was ostensibly created to prevent sexual harassment, as well as of some of the most influential advocacy outlets in all of American politics. As John Podhoretz noted last week, Cuomo’s entire game was his “limitless willingness to use intimidation to get [his] way — and a limitless capacity to intimidate.” For years, Cuomo got away with what he did because people feared him and the machine he represented.
If there is a better example of “culturalized and institutionalized” sexism than this, I’m struggling to find it.
In the same speech he used to announce his resignation, Cuomo and his lawyer pushed back against the allegations, impugned the motives of his accusers and the investigators, argued that Cuomo “didn’t realize the extent to which the line has been redrawn” around appropriate workplace behavior, touted his political record (like Harvey Weinstein, Cuomo seemed to think that being in favor of gun control is a mitigating factor), and ultimately settled on the idea that he was doing New York a favor by resigning because an impeachment trial would be expensive, time-consuming, and liable to limit the efficiency of the government. At no point, however, did they explain how Cuomo’s actions might have played into the “institutionalized” problems that, even at this late stage, he still seems to believe he opposes.
For a problem to be “institutionalized” or “systemic,” we are told, there has to be a power differential in play. And boy was there a power differential here. As Nicholas Goldberg wrote a week ago in the Los Angeles Times:
of all the revelations in recent months, the story that really struck a chord was published in New York magazine by a reporter who had covered him as governor. She explained that he had often touched her on her arms, shoulders, back and waist without her consent, but that she never believed he wanted to have sex with her.
“He wanted me to know that I was powerless, that I was small and weak, that I did not deserve what relative power I had: a platform to hold him accountable for his words and actions,” she wrote. “He wanted me to know that he could take my dignity away at any moment with an inappropriate comment or a hand on my waist.”
Whatever else he did to other women, this description of him using physical dominance as a form of power and threat — that has the ring of truth.
This dynamic, Goldberg concluded, is in evidence throughout the AG’s report, which describes “a workplace environment of fear and intimidation, where protecting the governor from those he harassed was the goal, rather than protecting those who had been harassed.”
Or, put another way: Cuomo wasn’t some random guy at a bar with an antediluvian approach to women and too much liquor inside him. He was a walking, breathing, conscious manifestation of what people such as him have spent years identifying as the problem. In 2013, Cuomo tweeted that “there should be a zero tolerance policy when it comes to sexual harassment,” and promised to “send a clear message that this behavior is not tolerated.” Instead, he did whatever he wanted, and then used his position to cover it up.
“We have sexism that is culturalized and institutionalized,” says Andrew Cuomo.
New York governor Andrew Cuomo might be leaving his post in 14 days after a slew of sexual-harassment accusations, but he has yet to answer for his most egregious wrongdoings. Cuomo is responsible for the deadliest mistake of the coronavirus pandemic when he compelled nursing homes to accept elderly patients who had already tested positive for COVID-19. It’s possible that around 11,000 New Yorkers died because of his actions.
One might defend the governor by noting that health officials were still grappling with COVID at the time — even though others, including media’s archvillain Ron DeSantis had reversed similar nursing-home decisions faster. Yet his office, almost surely with his knowledge, worked to conceal and rewrite the numbers to hide them from adoring Cuomosexuals and the rest of the public. (Cuomo won an Emmy Award “in recognition of his leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic and his masterful use of television to inform and calm people around the world” months after the Associated Press had already reported on the discrepancies in New York’s death totals.) Even after Cuomo fully understood the depth of his mistake, and even after he began concealing his ineptitude, the governor was writing a book hailing his own competency (possibly using state resources) that netted him $5.1 million. This is corrupt, sociopathic behavior.
Andrew Cuomo’s announcement that he will step down in two weeks turns attention to his immediate successor, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. Hochul may or may not be the Democrats’ nominee in 2022, as the Democrats’ progressive wing may take another crack at a primary fight. But if you want to learn more about Hochul, I wrote up a profile in March. A sample:
Nobody should mistake Kathy Hochul for a conservative or even a moderate. She is very much a Cuomo- or Schumer-style liberal, who — like Kirsten Gillibrand — found it necessary to pose as a moderate while running in a culturally conservative upstate House district. Like Schumer, Hochul is a tireless traveler, who has kept her face in the local news by trekking around the state while Cuomo ignores her. Like Cuomo, she has enough of a pragmatic streak to remain a target of progressive ire. She got her start as an aide to Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Congressman John LaFalce, and between stints in office served as vice president of government affairs at the Buffalo-based M&T Bank. Before she went statewide, Hochul took some steps that would get her run out of the party today, but has shifted without even the pretense of a principled change of heart…
We just got through yet another moral panic about a racist incident that didn’t actually happen. Sports media were ablaze with claims that a fan in Denver was loudly yelling the n-word at Lewis Brinson of the Marlins as he batted; the leather-lunged fan’s voice was picked up on the national TV broadcast. (An ironic location to be held up as an icon of racism, given that MLB had chosen Denver to replace Atlanta as the host of this year’s All-Star Game in a different lie-based moral panic about voting laws in Georgia.) Unfortunately for the people who jumped all over the story with gleeful eagerness, it turned out that (1) the fan was yelling “Dinger,” the name of the Colorado Rockies mascot, and, for good measure, (2) Brinson actually never heard him anyway.
And yet, before the facts were in, the Rockies had issued an immediate statement treating the event as if it actually happened:
The indefatigable Drew Holden collected on Twitter some of the more egregious examples of media organizations and commentators desperate to outdo each other in drawing conclusions from this event and calling for draconian punishments before knowing the facts. A few samples:
You get the idea. Why does this sort of thing just keep happening? Yes, it is partly the natural dynamics of outrage-bait on social media, where people jump ugly all the time on stories from every political angle. But garishly racist incidents paraded across media and social media are especially prone to go viral, produce torrents of commentary on what this tells us about the world we live in, then turn out not to have happened. Why?
Consider: What is “racism”? To most normal people, racism is one or both of two things: (1) thinking less of other people because of their race (racial prejudice), and/or (2) treating people worse because of their race (racial discrimination). We’ve spent the better part of the past seven decades building a social consensus that these things are morally wrong and an offense to the American credo of treating individuals as individuals. Racism of this sort remains a real thing, and you can certainly find examples if you go looking. But rather than try to isolate and marginalize racists or bring them to repentance and reform, people who have built their entire personal or political identities around being “anti-racist” clearly feel upset that there are just not enough racist incidents to go around. That leaves such people three options. Option one: Hype up bogus incidents and hope that the hype can outrun the inevitable disclosure of the truth. Option two: Obsess over wholly theoretical linguistic or stylistic offenses like the use of “master bedroom” or over events deep in the past, to the point of spending $50,000 to move a boulder because of a single word in a single newspaper article 96 years ago. Option three: Redefine the word “racism” into something pervasive, all-powerful, unfalsifiable, and incurable — hence, “systemic racism,” “white fragility,” and other aspects of the critical-race-theory project.
The problem with any of these approaches is that people can read and reason and recognize that they are being told something that bears no resemblance to the actual world they live in and see around them. The social consensus, such as it is, against racism has been built because just about everybody over a certain age had seen actual racism in real life and was capable of being persuaded that it is a bad thing that should go away. Shouting “Dinger” at the ballpark is another story entirely.
The secular Left wants to coerce doctors into performing abortions and transgender-transition interventions — even when doing so violates the doctors’ own religious beliefs. Toward that end, HHS passed a rule under Obamacare that punished refusal to perform abortions and transgender-transition interventions with fines and other penalties for “discrimination.”
The Trump administration reversed that coercive approach, but Biden’s HHS is again on the hunt for Christian and Hippocratic Oath-believing doctors, seeking to obliterate “medical conscience.” Now, a federal judge has granted a permanent injunction under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) protecting Christian doctor plaintiffs from having that rule enforced. From Franciscan Alliance v Becerra (citations omitted):
Here, the RFRA violation, the success on the merits, is all but conceded. No party disputes that the current Section 1557 regulatory scheme threatens to burden Christian Plaintiffs’ religious exercise in the same way as the 2016 scheme: namely, by placing substantial pressure on Christian Plaintiffs, in the form of fines and civil liability, to perform and provide insurance coverage for gender-transition procedures and abortions.
Like before, the current scheme continues to fall short of the “more focused” RFRA inquiry. The government asserts no “harm [in] granting specific exemptions” to Christian Plaintiffs. Accordingly, for these reasons and those laid out in greater detail in the Court’s October 15, 2019, Order, the Court holds that Christian Plaintiffs have shown success on the merits for its RFRA claim because the current Section 1557 regulatory scheme substantially burdens Christian Plaintiffs’ religious exercise in clear violation of RFRA.
The Court ruled that the consequential infringement on religious beliefs constituted sufficient “irreparable harm” for the injunction to issue:
For irreparable injury, the mere “possibility” of injury is not enough. Plaintiffs must demonstrate that irreparable injury is likely in the absence of an injunction.” In the context of RRFA, if a plaintiff demonstrates a violation, that “loss of First Amendment freedoms, for even minimal periods of time, unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury.” Here, Christian Plaintiffs contend that violation of their statutory rights under RFRA is an irreparable harm. The Court agrees and concludes that enforcement of the 2021 Interpretation forces Christian Plaintiffs to face civil penalties or to perform gender-transition procedures and abortions contrary to their religious beliefs—a quintessential irreparable injury…Because the Court finds the permanent-injunction factors weigh in favor of granting an injunction in this instant, the Court concludes that Christian Plaintiffs are “entitled to an exemption” from HHS’s religion-burdening conduct.
A few thoughts:
Why would the government, controlled by the secular Left, try to force doctors to perform abortions or transition procedures? And why would patients want an unwilling doctor to perform them? Primarily because the message communicated when doctors refuse participation is that such acts are sinful and/or morally wrong. That is anathema to the secular Left.
Why won’t the secular Left just leave well enough alone and focus on ensuring access to willing doctors? Both to weaken the power of religious faith in society and to send the message that these procedures are not merely legal, but virtuous.
This salutary court ruling was only possible because of the RFRA, which hangs on by a slender thread.
That is why the Democrat Party is seeking to gut it, for example, in the “Equality Act.” If they succeed, medical-conscience rights will lie in ruins unless the Supreme Court reverses the Smith ruling that laws of general applicability that infringe on religious liberty pass constitutional muster unless targeted at a particular faith.
The Left truly does want to drive pro-life and orthodox religious physicians, nurses, and pharmacists out of health care. And the Left doesn’t care if that results in a significant brain drain. Ideology is all that matters.
The aggressors in this culture-war battle are leftwing bureaucrats — groups such as the ACLU and the mainstream media. These people cannot claim the mantle of civil libertarians any longer.
The RFRA only applies at the federal level. Some states have their own. But it is almost impossible to expand that list because every time a state seeks to protect religious liberty in this way, the woke corporations threaten boycotts and the state’s leaders beat a hasty retreat.
We face a crisis in religious liberty and the collapse of comity. But with the country quickly secularizing, millions of citizens could not care less and our elected leaders are often too cowardly to fight back.
In April, 2014, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo placed a call to the White House and reached Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to President Barack Obama. Cuomo was, as one official put it, “ranting and raving.” He had announced that he was shuttering the Moreland Commission, a group that he had convened less than a year earlier to root out corruption in New York politics. After Cuomo ended the group’s inquiries, Preet Bharara, then the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, issued letters instructing commissioners to preserve documents and had investigators from his office interview key witnesses. On the phone with Jarrett, Cuomo railed against Bharara. “This guy’s out of control,” a member of the White House legal team briefed on the call that day recalled Cuomo telling Jarrett. “He’s your guy.”
Jarrett ended the conversation after only a few minutes. Any effort by the White House to influence investigations by a federal prosecutor could constitute criminal obstruction of justice. “He did, in fact, call me and raise concerns about the commission,” Jarrett told me. “As soon as he started talking, and I figured out what he was talking about, I shut down the conversation.”
According to Farrow’s article, Jarrett was concerned that Cuomo was attempting to influence or interfere with a federal prosecutor, and went to the White House counsel’s office. Lawyers in that office concurred and referred the matter to the U.S. Department of Justice. The DOJ . . . informed Bharara, and then nothing else happened. Heck of a job, Eric Holder!
Farrow also finds that Cuomo interfered with the Moreland Commission’s investigation into corruption.
The commission began with a sweeping mandate from Cuomo to probe systemic corruption in political campaigns and state government. However, interviews with a dozen former officials with ties to the commission, along with hundreds of pages of internal documents, text messages, and personal notes obtained by The New Yorker, reveal that Cuomo and his team used increasingly heavy-handed tactics to limit inquiries that might implicate him or his allies. “He did not want an investigation into his own dark-money contributions,” Perry recalled. . . .
Both Perry and Rice said that they had not spoken out until now because Cuomo or members of his inner circle had threatened their careers, and because they had seen his team successfully retaliate against others. “I saw them destroy people,” Perry said. “And I did really fear that it could be me.”
If Andrew Cuomo had been a Republican, and had called up the Obama White House “ranting and raving” and demanding the White House do something about a U.S. attorney who was investigating him, would the Department of Justice have just shrugged and done nothing more than notify the U.S. attorney? Do you think that, just maybe, Eric Holder and his team would have been a little more interested in opening up an investigation and pressing charges for obstruction of justice?
How many free passes did Andrew Cuomo get from powerful people because he was in the right party?
The entertainment business has progressively grown more and more despicable. The music industry is probably the most egregious offender. Its treatment of the rapper Jonathan Kirk, better known by his stage name, “DaBaby,” is yet another example of how synthetic its moral grandstanding is.
While performing at the Rolling Loud Miami music festival on July 25, Kirk sparked controversy by yelling the following vulgar remarks to his audience:
“[If] you didn’t show up today with HIV/AIDS, or any of them deadly sexually transmitted diseases that’ll make you die in two to three weeks, then put a cellphone light in the air. Ladies, if your p**** smell like water, put a cellphone light in the air. Fellas, if you ain’t sucking d*** in the parking lot, put a cellphone light in the air.”
He has such a way with language.
Reasonably outraged, LGBT activists accused Kirk of being homophobic. Ever the astute navigator of controversy, Kirk initially disregarded the backlash and insulted his critics with additional expletives. He also accused the brands who cut deals with him of being racist. Kirk seems to be convinced that his comments could not have possibly been offensive to his LGBT fans, because the gay people who listen to his music are not “nasty” or “junkies.” He had a few more choice words, but I’ll leave the rest up to your imagination.
Somehow, despite Kirk’s impeccable damage control, he was pulled off the lineup for several of his upcoming performances. A series of festivals that are apparently rather important all gave him the boot, such as Lollapalooza, Governors Ball, iHeart Radio, and more. You may not know of the guy, but he is a pretty big deal in hip-hop. His song “Rockstar” spent seven weeks as the No. 1–played song in the United States, according to Billboard Hot 100. And, thanks to a Black Lives Matter edition of the song he released during last year’s unrest, it was even nominated for three Grammys, including Record of the Year.
Are we really supposed to believe that these organizers have denounced “DaBaby” out of genuine concern? He struck a female fan for getting too close to him and regularly raps about consuming drugs and killing people. He says derogatory things about everyone ranging from police to women all the time. Crime and “toxic masculinity” are his brand. The man even deleted his Instagram statement where he apologized more thoroughly. Bad for his street-cred, I presume.
Kirk has a point when he accuses the big brands of insincere advocacy. They were more than happy to stand by him when he was one of BLM’s poster boys. But now that #GeorgeFloyd is no longer trending, turning a blind eye to Kirk’s controversies is no longer fashionable.
Conservatives have been calling out hip-hop culture for promoting terrible ideals and role models for decades. But will progressives admit that? Probably not. That would require admitting that some of their primary supporters are doing something bad. Regardless, the mental gymnastics required to maintain a position of cultural relativism while criticizing DaBaby’s views on the gay community will never cease to amaze me.
Andy McCarthy’s legal knowledge exceeds mine by approximately the same extent that the size of the Milky Way (galaxy) exceeds the size of a Milky Way (candy bar), but I’m skeptical of his assertion that “the walls are rapidly closing in on Andrew Cuomo.” Andy thinks that Cuomo is hearing the drumbeats of doom and will soon resign. I think Cuomo is so shameless that he will never resign unless he is guaranteed to be removed via impeachment. I see the walls closing in with such deliberate speed that they will not close this month and maybe not ever. I think the key figures are betting that if they can drag this thing out for four weeks or so, we’ll be into the fall, at which point they can argue, “Look, there’s an election a year away. Let’s let the voters decide.” Cuomo, should he just brazen it out, could be reelected by double digits next year. Do you really think he wants to let Bill de Blasio win? Cuomo would rather drink Gowanus Canal water than give de Blasio gloating rights for the rest of their lives.
Impeachment is in the hands of Democrat and Cuomo ally Carl Heastie, speaker of the state assembly. Heastie could have convened an emergency session and put impeachment on the floor last week if he had felt like it. The leader of the Republican caucus urged Heastie to do exactly that last week. And what is Heastie doing? Well, after seven months of investigation he wants . . . more investigation. Sworn statements from most or all of the relevant parties are in. So, let’s get some more information. Let’s not rush this!
Heastie said it is “abundantly clear” that Cuomo must go, but that’s passing the buck. Cuomo’s fate is largely in Heastie’s hands. Heastie has the votes. So what is he waiting for? “Once we receive all relevant documents and evidence from the Attorney General, we will move expeditiously and look to conclude our impeachment investigation as quickly as possible,” he said. “Expeditiously” is a word politicians use when they intend to move as though each foot is encased in wet cement.
I think Heastie thinks that if he can drag this out a bit, after a few media cycles and maybe a crocodile-tear speech by Cuomo acknowledging he hasn’t always respected women as much as he should have, New York’s outrage will dissipate. Heastie doesn’t seem to be itching to take out Cuomo. His Twitter feed is notably lacking in anger with Cuomo or demands that he resign. The speaker has tweeted twice this month, once to grieve for a cousin who died and once to congratulate a high-school classmate on her judicial nomination.
Though it was received as a bombshell, the state attorney general’s report last week merely confirmed and added some details to the stories that everybody had heard, and largely believed, last winter. And what was the reaction? Cuomo still had a 57 percent approval rating among Democrats as of April. Last week, in the immediate wake of the AG report, his overall approval rating was down to 28, and 63 percent of New Yorkers said he should be impeached and removed. Heastie is going to wait and see if those numbers come back to normal after the shock wears off. If they do, the speaker will be able to argue that public support is not sufficiently strong to impeach the governor. His name is Heastie, not hasty.
Apple recently announced that it would be cracking down on illegal pornographic material housed on its cloud storage. Apple plans to scan iPhones using NeuralHash to identify images of child pornography and then redirect the case to the proper authorities. While the aim of the effort is noble and admirable, the move raises significant privacy concerns for users. The actions of governments at home and abroad show that Americans should demand a hands-off approach when dealing with matters of digital privacy.
Americans typically have a strong sense of privacy. Nobody wants someone just walking into your house, even if that person has good intentions. Americans have similar sensibilities when it comes to their digital data, too. The vast majority of Americans want laws protecting digital privacy; in fact, 83 percent want such legislation to be passed this year.
The government, however, is doing the opposite. Numerous outlets have reported that Apple and other tech companies have wilted under pressure from the government to hand over user data. The Electronic Frontier Foundation published a scathing attack against Apple’s decision in which they explained the changes that are being put into place:
There are two main features that the company is planning to install in every Apple device. One is a scanning feature that will scan all photos as they get uploaded into iCloud Photos to see if they match a photo in the database of known child sexual abuse material (CSAM) maintained by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). The other feature scans all iMessage images sent or received by child accounts — that is, accounts designated as owned by a minor — for sexually explicit material, and if the child is young enough, notifies the parent when these images are sent or received. This feature can be turned on or off by parents.
Apple, for its part, has told users that it will not hand over their data. In response to a question about privacy, Apple said:
Apple will refuse any such demands [to scan for non-pornographic image data]. Apple’s CSAM detection capability is built solely to detect known CSAM images stored in iCloud Photos that have been identified by experts at NCMEC and other child safety groups. We have faced demands to build and deploy government-mandated changes that degrade the privacy of users before, and have steadfastly refused those demands. We will continue to refuse them in the future.
It’s good that Apple says it intends to refuse future government demands. However, Apple was pressured into this decision, and it doesn’t have an unblemished record of keeping users’ information secure. Tech companies have had numerous breaches that resulted in billions of accounts being compromised. It’s concerning that Apple even needs to stand firm against government intrusion on citizens’ personal privacy. Citizens want more privacy and more Internet security, not less.
Beyond the American government, there are incentives for foreign politicians to pressure Big Tech companies into selling or monetizing consumer data. China, in particular, has used metadata to spy on its own citizens. American citizens aren’t going to get a free pass from foreign snooping.
It would be nice if American companies had a sterling record of standing up to foreign pressure, especially when that pressure comes from authoritarian regimes. Unfortunately, Xi Jinping has enormous economic influence, and tech companies have been all too willing to change their guidelines for Chinese cash.
Even though China censored Google Search, which led to Google’s pulling its search engine, Google has still played nice with China. TikTok is operated by China and has been criticized for harvesting users’ biometric data. Apple, for its part, manufactures much of its products in China, and the Chinese Communist Party is willing to pressure the company into doing their bidding. All of this should worry users who care about digital privacy.
American law enforcement wants to track down those who sexually exploit children. They should absolutely do so. However, using “every means necessary” can result in tracking mechanisms that have dire political consequences. Apple’s decision to allow automated scanning of cloud-image data could spark a backlash in favor of greater digital privacy. Let’s hope it does.