Delahunty and Yoo vs. Impeaching Ex-Officials

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Then-President Donald Trump boards Air Force One at Valley International Airport after visiting the U.S.-Mexico border wall in Harlingen, Texas, January 12, 2021. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Robert Delahunty and John Yoo are in good company in thinking that the Constitution forbids the Senate from convicting a former official in an impeachment trial. But I think their argument for that view has two great weaknesses.

The first is that they wrongly take the other side of the debate to “concede. . . on the constitutional text” — by which they seem to mean that we acknowledge that the text of the Constitution confines impeachment to currently serving officials. That premise makes their argumentative work easier: To refute the other side as they present that side, they need establish

World

Top U.N. Official Sidesteps Chinese Influence Question

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U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses the media during a joint news conference with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in Berlin, Germany, December 17, 2020. (Michael Sohn/Pool via Reuters)

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres hasn’t said much about the topic of authoritarian influence within the international organization he leads, and he seemed to sidestep a question about the Chinese Communist Party’s cooptation of multilateral institutions during an interview with Reuters today:

New U.S. President Joe Biden’s nominee for ambassador to the United Nations accused China on Wednesday of trying to “drive an authoritarian agenda” at the 193-member world body.

When asked for a response, Guterres said: “In relation to the United Nations I can guarantee that we are very strongly committed to make sure that the U.N. is a beacon of all the values are related to … security, development, human rights.”

Guterres, who acknowledged to Reuters that the U.S. and China have “completely different views” on human rights, has faced criticism from human-rights groups for his refusal to condemn the CCP’s genocide of Turkic minorities in Xinjiang, though he claims that he’s raised the issue with China’s diplomats. Nevertheless, none of his public statements amounts to anything nearing a clear denunciation of these acts.

These are critical questions, and although he might feel that coming out publicly against Beijing would limit his capacity to be an effective broker, it’s impossible to credibly lead an entity dedicated to the promotion of human rights while refusing to pointedly criticize the actions of a country that uses international institutions to whitewash its mass atrocities.

Guterres earlier this month announced that he’s seeking reelection to his post, and his record on China should factor into any U.S. decision about whether to support him.

Politics & Policy

On the Senate’s Constitutional Authority to Convict a Former President

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Most scholars believe that the Constitution allows Congress to impeach former officials, including former presidents, but Stanford law professor Michael McConnell points out that isn’t the question facing the Senate today. McConnell writes to Eugene Volokh at Reason:

Whether a former officer can be impeached is beside the point. Donald Trump was President of the United States at the time he was impeached by the House of Representatives. The impeachment was therefore unquestionably permissible (putting aside any disagreements over the nature of the charges).

Article I, Section 3, Clause 6, states: “The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments.” The key word is “all.” This clause contains no reservation or limitation. It does not say “the Senate has power to try impeachments against sitting officers.” Given that the impeachment of Mr. Trump was legitimate, the text makes clear that the Senate has power to try that impeachment.

Read the rest of his analysis here.

World

Climate Negotiations with Beijing Won’t Come without Significant Concessions

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U.S. climate envoy John Kerry speaks while White House national climate advisor Gina McCarthy listens during a press briefing at the White House, January 27, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Biden administration officials have pledged to seek cooperation with the Chinese Communist Party on questions of combating climate change, and they’ve promised that their negotiations would not force the United States to compromise in other areas, such as territorial disputes and human rights. The Chinese government says otherwise.

On Wednesday, newly confirmed Secretary of State Antony Blinken and John Kerry, the president’s special envoy on climate, both made remarks on the administration’s plans to negotiate with the Chinese.

At the White House, Kerry addressed some of the concerns that have been raised about the administration’s approach, stating that the U.S. position on issues such as the South China Sea dispute and intellectual-property theft “will never be traded for anything that has to do with climate.” “That’s not going to happen,” he continued, “But climate is a critical, standalone issue.”

Blinken later in the afternoon similarly defended the administration’s intention to negotiate with the Chinese on climate issues, which he said is a topic “where it’s in the interest of China and in the interest of the United States and the interest of countries around the world to make concrete progress in combating global warming.” “I think and hope that we’ll be able to pursue that,” he added.

But just how much of a standalone issue can climate actually be? And is it true, as Blinken argued, that it can be an area of cooperation?

The Chinese Foreign Ministry answered Blinken and Kerry today, according to the Global Times, a Party tabloid:

Neither side should expect to wantonly interfere in China’s internal affairs and undermine China’s interest, while at the same time demanding China’s support in bilateral and global affairs, said China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday.

“China-US cooperation in specific areas is not just ‘flower in a greenhouse.’ It is bound to be closely related to the overall China-US relations. China hopes the US can create favorable conditions for China-US coordination and cooperation in important areas,” Zhao Lijian, spokesperson for the ministry noted at a daily press briefing on Thursday.

Kerry can’t simply wave away the concerns that climate negotiations with Beijing will require U.S. concessions in other, unrelated areas if the Chinese government publicly demands such concessions with regard to “interference in China’s internal affairs” (which is to say human rights).

This raises some important questions: Why bother to claim that climate negotiations can work without significant concessions if that’s most likely not true? And just what, and how much, is the Biden administration willing to sacrifice in order to strike a bargain with the CCP on climate?

NRI

Join Together for Discussion and Good Cheer: No Regrets Accepted!

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National Review founder William F. Buckley Jr.

Conservatives and Buckley Lovers in the NYC and Philadelphia areas pay heed: National Review Institute’s popular Burke to Buckley Program is seeking applicants for the forthcoming session. Designed for mid-career professionals (typically ages 35–50) who want to develop a deeper understanding of the foundations of conservative thought, “B-to-B” applicants come from a wide variety of careers. There is a preference for law, finance, health care, education, business, the arts, and the non-profit section (it’s not intended for recent graduates, or those working in public policy or politics).

This spring’s program will run from March to May in New York City and Philadelphia. Accepted participants will gather during eight sessions (over Zoom, and in-person / socially distanced over dinner as well, as local conditions allow) to discuss foundational conservative texts. Each week, an expert (often an NR writer or fellow) will guide the discussion, (be warned: this is not a lecture series), providing a unique opportunity for participants to engage with, and to learn from, one another (and likely form new and worthwhile personal and professional relationships). Program topics include:

  • William F. Buckley Jr. and American Conservatism
  • The Founders’ Constitution
  • Economic Freedom and Political Freedom
  • Burke, Prudence, and the Spirit of Conservatism
  • Conservatism, Libertarianism, and Fusionism
  • Mediating Structures between the State and the Individual
  • Conservatism, Democracy, and Foreign Policy
  • The Conservative Spirit and Civic Gratitude

Does this sound like something that might interest you, or someone you know? How couldn’t it?! So apply — now. Do that here. Applications will close on February 10. The program cost for participants is $500 (which covers a mere third of the actual per-participant cost).

In addition to the rewarding program, B-to-B participants join a nationwide alumni network, and will be invited to various National Review Institute events.

Program applications for both cities are found here. Those with questions should contact the great Lynn Gibson, who runs B-to-B with grace and style, at lynn@nrinstitute.org. Remember: The deadline is February 10.

Politics & Policy

Affirmatively Furthering Government Control

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The Biden administration announced yesterday that it will “examine the effect” of the Trump administration’s repeal of the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule. Stanley Kurtz has tirelessly chronicled the efforts to implement and repeal AFFH and its consequences for American communities. I have also weighed in on AFFH from time to time, including testimony before the House Committee on Financial Services. Among many other things, the rule is a breathtaking expansion of racial bean-counting and usurpation of local self-governance. Just one of my concerns about the rule is outlined here.

Politics & Policy

LOL Story of the Day

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President Joe Biden speaks at the White House in Washington, D.C., January 22, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

It comes to us from The Hill. This piece by Stephanie Taylor of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee makes the case that if Democrats want to win again in 2022 and in 2024, the Biden administration should spend significant energy informing the American people of the wonders that the government has delivered to them. The author suggests that, to achieve this goal, the administration “should even consider creating a new position based in the Executive Office.”

Apparently, President Obama lamented that his administration failed “to tell a story of progress to the American public” about the role he and his administration, and government in general, played in our lives — which is funny because I thought the “Life of Julia” and the “You didn’t built that” narratives were all about doing just that. But to be fair, he isn’t alone. That’s what is typically done by politicians looking to justify their importance and by bureaucrats looking to get more money for their programs.

But my favorite part of Taylor’s piece is when she turns to the Export-Import Bank as an example. This is amusing because President Obama has done just that many times over. Take this remarkable and telling clip, for example, in which he says that he has done so much to promote Boeing that he expects a gold watch from the company.

Also, Taylor should visit Ex-Im’s website and look at the press-releases section. It is packed full of Ex-Im officials bragging about how many jobs were created because that agency had done this and that wonderful thing. (Just to link to a few, see here, here, here, and here — all in January 2021 alone!) Most agencies, of course, do exactly the same. And politicians on the campaign trail are never shy about claiming (almost always unearned) credit for job creation.

But here is the best part of Taylor’s essay. She writes:

EXIM could become a critical tool in the building of a green economy, supporting loans towards American companies working in green technologies — major down payments on Biden’s Build Back Better promises.

That’s a great story to tell to gullible people who have no clue that a quarter of Ex-Im’s portfolio is — wait for it — oil and gas! In fact, extending financial products to U.S. companies to ship oil and gas equipment around the world is Ex-Im Bank’s second largest sector concentration, after the aircraft sector.

But it gets better still. Ex-Im’s favorite foreign customer is the Mexican state-owned oil firm, Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex). Before 2017 and going back at least 15 years, the Ex-Im Bank had more loans outstanding to Pemex than to any other borrower. In 2015, these loans totaled nearly $7 billion. Shortly before last November’s election, the Ex-Im Bank’s Board of Directors pushed through an additional $400 million in financing to Pemex. And you know what? Kimberley Reed, who was then chairman of the bank, bragged about all the jobs she was creating in the U.S. by extending cheap loans to the super corrupt state-owned Mexican oil and gas firm.

I wrote last September about the Ex-Im Bank’s long and deep relationship with Pemex when the Ex-Im Bank was approving this most recent loan. So honestly, if the Ex-Im is ever going to “become a critical tool in the building of a green economy,” the Biden administration better change its business model. Pandering to the American people won’t do the trick.

While I’m on the topic, I should note that the last time I looked at Ex-Im’s green-energy portfolio, what I found was not pretty. It was more of the crony double dipping by large companies that we are used to with government-granted privileges.

Politics & Policy

‘Congress Bows to the Pen and Phone’

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I wrote for Politico today about the unilateral governance of contemporary presidents:

Consider what Biden did on his own on Wednesday.

He directed the Interior Department to stop new oil and gas leases on federal land, to review current leasing practices and to identify steps to double renewable energy production by 2030.

He created a special presidential envoy for climate, as well as a White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy — led by a brand new National Climate Adviser and deputy National Climate Adviser — a National Climate Task Force, a Civilian Climate Corps Initiative, an Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization, a White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council, and a White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council.

On top of this, he established a Justice40 Initiative to steer 40 percent of relevant federal investments to disadvantaged communities, along with a Climate and Environmental Justice Screening Tool to implement the new policy and an Environmental Justice Scorecard to keep track of results.

And on the seventh day, Biden rested (after tucking his pen back in his pocket).

If Congress had passed a bill doing all this, it’d be considered a pretty active day. Instead, of course, Congress stood on the sidelines . . . and commented.

Politics & Policy

On Abortion, the ‘Show Me’ State Shows the Way

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A banner stating “Still here” hangs on the side of Missouri’s last Planned Parenthood after a judge granted a temporary restraining order on its closing in St. Louis, Mo., May 31, 2019. (Lawrence Bryant/Reuters)

Earlier this month, the pro-life group Operation Rescue released a report suggesting that Missouri is America’s first abortion-free state. The report indicates that the St. Louis Planned Parenthood appears no longer to be scheduling abortions, which, if true, means that there are currently no clinics performing abortions anywhere in the state.

The pro-life group Defenders of the Unborn organized a rally in St. Louis last week to celebrate, but  some of this optimism may be a bit premature. For one thing, the Planned Parenthood facility in St. Louis disputes the suggestion that it no longer performs abortions, and it remains open and licensed to do so. The same location refers women to a Planned Parenthood abortion facility in Fairview Heights, Illinois, approximately 18 miles away. Meanwhile, reports indicate that the BJC Medical Center in St. Louis offers abortions.

Even so, it is clear that the number of abortions performed in Missouri has decreased significantly in recent years. According a report from the Missouri Department of Health and Human Services, only 39 surgical abortions were performed in the state between January and mid November of last year. Additionally, media reports indicate that just seven surgical abortions were performed at the St. Louis Planned Parenthood in November and none were performed in December.

Even before this past year, the abortion rate in Missouri was low. The most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) indicate that in 2018, Missouri had the second-lowest abortion rate in the entire country.

Indeed, Missouri serves as a pro-life model for other states. Since the 1970s, Missouri has had an active pro-life movement, though it has not always carefully recorded its own history. Many might not be aware that pro-life activists such as John Ryan and Samuel Lee pioneered various types of street-level activism in the 1970s. With the support of Catholic parishes, 1970s-era protests at abortion facilities regularly drew hundreds of people. This legacy continues today with local organizations such as Coalition for Life and Defenders of the Unborn.

In 1973, the Archdiocese of St. Louis became the first diocese in the U.S. to form a full-time Respect Life Apostolate; its 2019 conference drew nearly 900 people. In 2017, the archdiocese opened a pro-life convent next to the city’s Planned Parenthood, and the convent supports local pro-lifers through prayer and hospitality. A number of religious groups in the area, including the Missouri Catholic Conference, the Missouri Baptist Convention, and Lutherans for Life of Missouri collaborate on pro-life legislative efforts, which have borne fruit in political successes.

Missouri Right to Life is one of the largest and most organized state affiliates of the National Right to Life Committee, and pro-life candidates fare well in both state and local elections. Missouri has a number of pro-life laws including a 72-hour waiting period, an informed-consent law, and a parental-consent law. In 2019, Governor Mike Parson signed the “Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act,” one of the most comprehensive pro-life bills in the country. The bill includes gestational-age bans at eight, 14, 18, and 20 weeks of pregnancy. It also bans abortions chosen on the basis of race, gender, or potential Down-syndrome diagnosis. Finally, it includes a trigger law to protect unborn children if Roe v. Wade and subsequent abortion jurisprudence are overturned.

In addition to enacting protective pro-life laws, Missouri has also prioritized assisting pregnant women in need. The Archdiocese of St. Louis holds an annual collection to fund local pregnancy-assistance centers, and in 2020, the Respect Life Apostolate awarded $66,000 in grants to agencies that assist pregnant and parenting mothers. Beginning in 2007, Missouri taxpayers became eligible for tax credits if they supported pregnancy-help centers. Currently, taxpayers who support the 74 qualifying centers may be eligible for a tax credit up to 70 percent of their donation. A 2017 report from the Alliance for Life in Missouri found that these qualifying centers served 32,296 clients, including 3,845 people who took parenting classes and 6,846 individuals who received material resources.

During the Biden administration, it will be difficult for pro-lifers to change federal public policy. They will have to play defense and work to save the Hyde amendment, which prohibits direct federal funding of elective abortion. But there is still plenty that pro-lifers can do at the state level. According to the Guttmacher Institute, more than 350 state pro-life laws were passed during the Obama administration. As pro-lifers regroup from the 2020 election, Missouri’s multi-pronged strategy of street-level activism, church involvement, pro-life legislation, and support for pregnant women should serve as a model for other states to follow.

White House

Biden Signs Executive Order Allowing the U.S. to Fund Global Abortions

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President Joe Biden signs an executive order at the White House in Washington, D.C., January 21, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst
/Reuters)

President Biden signed an executive order Thursday afternoon reversing the Mexico City policy, permitting U.S. aid money once again to fund groups that provide or promote abortion around the globe.

The policy was first put in place by President Ronald Reagan in an effort to ensure that taxpayers were not required to indirectly fund abortion procedures performed in other countries. The policy has been undone via executive order by every subsequent Democratic administration and reinstated by each Republican one.

The Trump administration expanded the policy to include not only family planning funds distributed by the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development but also all foreign-health assistance provided by government agencies, including the Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, and the Defense Department. That expanded policy, “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance,” increased the amount of U.S. funding covered by the abortion prohibition from about $600 million to nearly $9 billion.

Abortion advocates and interest groups in the U.S. oppose the Mexico City policy; Planned Parenthood, for instance, has labeled it a “global gag rule.” During the presidential primary, the Biden campaign promised that his administration would undo the policy and permit U.S. aid money to fund abortions.

But according to public-opinion polls, most Americans don’t want the U.S. to fund abortions in other countries. A new poll out yesterday from Marist and the Knights of Columbus found that more than three-quarters of Americans oppose using U.S. aid money to fund abortions overseas. The same survey shows that voters in Biden’s own party disagree with him on this issue: A slight majority of Democrats said they do not want the U.S. funding global abortions, and nearly two-thirds of self-described pro-choice Americans agreed. Eighty-five percent of independent voters, meanwhile, said they oppose U.S. funding of overseas abortions.

“These pro-abortion executive orders from President Biden shock the conscience,” Senator Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) said in a statement shortly after Biden signed today’s executive orders. “Our government shouldn’t be funding abortions at home, let alone overseas. Unity is important at times like these, but waging a culture war is only going to deepen divides and hurt innocent victims. Human dignity matters — President Biden should rethink this move.”

Senator Steve Daines (R., Mont.), who founded and chairs the Senate Pro-Life Caucus, said in a statement that Biden’s pro-abortion orders show “a complete lack of respect for the sanctity of human life.”

“These actions will enrich Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry at the taxpayers’ expense, while endangering the most vulnerable,” Daines added. “The United States should not be promoting a radical abortion agenda throughout the world, we should be leading the fight to protect the unborn and all life.”

House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) also criticized Biden’s move. “Killing unborn children isn’t health care, and violating the rights of conscience of millions of Americans by using taxpayer money to help promote abortions isn’t freedom of choice,” McCarthy said in part of his statement. “The Biden Administration’s so-called ‘unity’ agenda continues to fail the American people. These one-sided orders are another move by the current administration to appease the liberal activists and neglect the most basic moral and fundamental principles of our nation’s founding.”

Education

Why School Is Out

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My new Bloomberg Opinion column is about how the schools’ response to COVID strengthens the case for educational choice. An excerpt:

White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain is pretending that the unions are not posing an obstacle. The problem, he says, is that schools need $130 billion extra to implement safety measures.

It’s an excuse. Using CDC estimates of the cost of safety measures, Dan Lips of the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity, a free-market group, calculates that the national cost should be less than $23 billion. The Cares Act last spring created a $16 billion fund for Covid relief for schools. But the schools have not been rushing to use the money. As of Nov. 30, New York had, for example, spent less than a third of what Congress sent it. In December, Congress sent public schools another $54 billion anyway. Another $130 billion won’t get schools reopened if the unions don’t want it.

Politics & Policy

Look Who’s Thinking of Trying Again in Texas . . .

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After a rough stretch for the Republican Party, finally a lucky break: Beto O’Rourke says he’s thinking of running for governor.

That is, the governor of Texas.

After raising and spending $80 million in the 2018 Senate race, O’Rourke finished about three percentage points behind Ted Cruz. Then he launched a presidential campaign that is probably best remembered for his emphatic cry “Hell yes, we’re going to take away your AR-15!” and his allegedly lovable anecdote about the time he tried to trick his wife into eating baby poop. His presidential campaign lasted seven and a half months, and he dropped out before the first contests. As I wrote when he left the race:

Beto O’Rourke did not lose anything between 2018 and 2019 — er, other than a Senate race. He is essentially the same man he was a year ago. The biggest thing that changed was that now he was running against other Democrats that some members of the media liked better. Towards the end of summer, O’Rourke had no choice but to joke about how differently he was perceived, compared to the Senate race. Late-night host Seth Meyers asked him, “You ran against Ted Cruz in a Senate campaign. Do you ever miss how easy it was to be different from Ted Cruz?” “Where is Ted Cruz when you need him?” O’Rourke joked. (“In the Senate,” Cruz replied via Twitter.)

This year, the whole country got to see the Beto O’Rourke that some of us have seen from the beginning. Years from now, when O’Rourke’s name is mentioned, Democrats will wonder why they got so excited about him once. He is the political equivalent of Reebok’s Dan and Dave competition, the Macarena, The Blair Witch Project, and any other short-lived trend that seems inexplicable in retrospect.

Politics & Policy

The South African Coronavirus Variant Arrives in South Carolina

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The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control announced today that it has detected two cases of the “South African variant,” or B.1.351 strain of SARS-CoV-2.

This variant is more contagious but is not considered more virulent, and it is believed that the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines will work against these strains — although perhaps not quite as well as the vaccine works against previous strains.

The state government said that so far, there is no known travel history and no connection between the two cases. Both are adults; one from the Lowcountry and one from the Pee Dee region. “To protect their privacy, no further information will be released.”

South Carolina ranks around the middle of the pack in its vaccination program so far. The state has used 59.6 percent of its allocated 326,985 doses and has given 5.3 percent of its population one dose of the vaccine, and about 1 percent both required doses, according to Bloomberg’s tracker. The state is administering about 19,000 doses per day, which is also around the middle of the pack when compared to other states.

About 18 percent of South Carolina residents are 65 years old or older, the tenth-highest percentage in the country. According to Census data, the number of state residents 75 or older has increased by more than 100,000 in the past decade, what the state’s Department on Aging calls the “silver tsunami.”

Education

Leftist Bureaucrats and Foundations Are Displacing Republican Government

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Illinois State Capitol in Springfield (benkrut/Getty Images)

Last week I laid out the nightmarish plan by the Illinois State Board of Education to turn the state’s schools into leftist indoctrination camps. Never in two decades of writing on education have I seen a more extreme or pernicious proposal than the “Illinois Culturally Responsive Teaching and Leading Standards.” The only good thing to be said about this episode is that it shows us what to beware of. The Illinois-teaching-standards outrage is the endgame of the coming push for expanded “civic education” at the state and federal levels. More than that, the ultra-woke Illinois teaching standards, and the bogus Illinois “civics” law they build upon, are case studies in the hijacking of representative government by leftist bureaucrats and foundations.

Typically, when we think about the out-of-control growth of the administrative state, we mean the federal bureaucracy. Well, the “Illinois Culturally Responsive Teaching and Leading Standards” are the product of an out-of-control state-level bureaucracy. Relatedly, the misnamed Illinois “civics” law (it should have been called the “mandatory Alinskyite-activism law”) effectively ceded control of the state’s “civics” education to a batch of woke Chicago foundations.

In 2018, I wrote here about an important study by Emmett McGroarty, Jane Robbins, and Erin Tuttle, Deconstructing the Administrative State: The Fight for Liberty. That book went further than most critiques of the administrative state, because it showed how the growth of federal bureaucracy had subverted independent government by the states. The “Illinois Culturally Responsive Teaching and Leading Standards” take us to new level, however. They show that even states have begun to cede their legislative authority to leftist state-level bureaucrats eager to usurp the lawmaking power.

You can read about what the Illinois education fiasco portends for state government in this important blog post by Illinois representative Steven Reick, leader of the opposition to the new teaching standards. (By the way, how impressive it is to see a state representative this thoughtful.) Reick explains that, in cooking up this outrageously radical and overreaching new rule, the Illinois State Board of Education far exceeded its legislative writ. The Board of Education gets away with it because the state legislature has increasingly outsourced such matters to the bureaucracy, and to the committee Reick sits on, the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR), which is supposed to determine whether new rules are consistent with the laws they are supposedly enforcing. We’ve heard plenty in recent years about how Congress is ducking responsibility for tough decisions by ceding power to the federal bureaucracy. Reick shows that the same thing is happening in the states.

The 2015 Illinois “civics” law illustrates another dimension of the problem. As I noted last week, the leftist activists behind the 2015 Illinois civics law cleverly inserted a provision allowing the state to accept private funding for the program. That seemed like a way to save money, but the practical result was that legislative control over the most politically sensitive part of education was effectively farmed out to leftist Chicago foundations.

Here’s a prediction. When the new push for bogus “civics” laws comes to the states, leftist advocates will try to insert provisions allowing for private funding (and therefore control) of the program. That way, curriculum materials designed to turn students into leftist protesters can be funneled to school districts unimpeded. Rich Hollywood and Silicon Valley donors will be able to construct private foundations that effectively control history, civics, and social-studies education in red states, thereby turning them blue.

Obviously, the solution here is for state legislatures to reassert control and stop outsourcing tough decisions to state bureaucrats and foundations. In the immediate term, however, there are things the public can do to restore popular sovereignty. Reick gives the example of an earlier dust-up when a flood of emails from the public forced the withdrawal of a rule that would have criminalized struggling business owners during the pandemic before the rule even reached the JCAR. Reick believes that a similar public response might block the “Illinois Culturally Responsive Teaching and Leading Standards.” He even provides a list of email addresses and phone numbers at the end of his post.

I received a much greater than usual response to last week’s post on the ultra-woke Illinois teaching standards, chiefly because the idea is ultra-nutty, and ultra-dangerous to boot. Some of the responses from Illinoisians were understandably discouraged, given the overwhelming Democratic majorities in the legislature. But Reick is on the ground and clearly believes this battle can be won, even if the odds are steep. I’d say fighting back is worth a shot, and for more reasons than one. Stopping this awful rule is step one. The long-term hope is that greater public pushback on the JCAR may convince the legislature to reign in the out-of-control administrative state in the state.

Advocates of the “new civics” claim that students need to be turned into leftist protestors and lobbyists because traditional civics is stodgy and boring. They’re wrong about that, I’ve argued. But I can certainly see why these activists-disguised-as-educators might be hostile to civics rightly understood. Nothing would better prepare the public to combat an expansion of the administrative state than true civic education.

The very plan to enshrine woke (anti-) civics in our schools depends upon a bureaucratic short-circuiting of our republican system. No worries. The kiddies won’t know what they’ve lost if they never learn about it to begin with. You’ve got to hand it to these folks. There is a magnificent consistency to their plan to subvert our constitutional republic by destroying knowledge of our constitutional republic.

White House

The New York Times Agrees with Joe Biden That Joe Biden Is Acting Like a Dictator

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The New York Times today gently chided Joe Biden for his unprecedented early unilateral governance, which is a clue to how extraordinary it is. In one week, Biden has signed more consequential executive actions than most presidents do in their entire terms. This “is no way to make law,” the Times notes. “A polarized, narrowly divided Congress may offer Mr. Biden little choice but to employ executive actions or see his entire agenda held hostage. These directives, however, are a flawed substitute for legislation.”

In 2019, candidate Biden was even more emphatic about the dangers of governing by White House edict, noting that there are things you “can’t do by executive order unless you’re a dictator. We’re a democracy. We need consensus.” To this point, Biden has no interest in consensus, or constitutional order, despite all his “unity” rhetoric. My guess is the Times realizes that bypassing the legislature to decree energy and cultural policy will end up costing the president, just as it did Barack Obama, who leaned on pen-and-phone governance and lost Democrats hundreds of elected offices around the country.

Politics & Policy

The Extent of Capitol Police Officers’ Injuries

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The Dispatch’s morning newsletter directed me to a Daily Beast article noting that a second Capitol Police officer has committed suicide since the insurrectionist storming of the Capitol on January 6. Another officer, as has been widely reported, died directly from injuries he suffered that day.* The Daily Beast article goes on to quote Gus Papathanasiou, chairman of the Capitol Police officers’ union:

“I have officers who were not issued helmets prior to the attack who have sustained brain injuries,” Papathanasiou said. “One officer has two cracked ribs and two smashed spinal discs. One officer is going to lose his eye, and another was stabbed with a metal fence stake.”

Keep that in mind the next time Lindsey Graham says he would like Donald Trump — the man we have to thank for it — to “stay the leader of the Republican Party.”

*Correction, April 19: The officer was Brian Sicknick, and the widespread reporting was not accurate; according to the D.C. medical examiner, Sicknick died of natural causes that the riot may have aggravated. My point nonetheless stands.

Politics & Policy

The Worst of Both Worlds on Impeachment

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President Trump speaks during a rally in Washington, D.C., January 6, 2021. (Jim Bourg/Reuters)

Politico’s Natasha Korecki contends the management of Twitter has given Joe Biden a “priceless gift” by shutting down Donald Trump’s account.

As he entered his first week in office, President Joe Biden was handed a priceless gift: the blissful sound of former President Donald Trump’s Twitter silence.

Gone are the pre-dawn tirades, the all-caps declarations, the “Sleepy Joe” mocking, the Fox News-driven agitations and the general incitements. Instead, Biden debuted a flurry of executive orders without ever having to deal with what surely would have been rapid-fire antagonism from the man whose legacy he was dismantling.

That interpretation is probably accurate, but Twitter is likely also doing a favor to Trump himself. If the former president were still rage-tweeting, insisting he won the election, arguing that Biden was an illegitimate figure who stole the presidency, and contending that the Capitol Hill riot is “the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long,” it would probably add to the momentum for a conviction in the Senate. At any given moment, a loud and enraged Trump could call for another rally at the Capitol or White House and set up another confrontation with police and perhaps the National Guard on patrol around Washington. In that scenario, the desire for a bipartisan rebuke, and Republican appetite to end Trump’s 2024 ambitions, would grow.

But a quiet Trump is a minimal threat to anyone, and his uncharacteristic lingering silence makes impeachment seem like a solution to a problem that already resolved itself. The Biden administration would prefer the Senate minimized the amount of time spent on impeachment, and most Senate Republicans are terrified of the political consequences of voting to convict.

The Democratic congressional leadership has already made a hash of things, by delaying the procedure, then rushing it, then delaying it again. Members were calling for Trump’s impeachment almost immediately after the Capitol Hill riot January 6, but the article of impeachment wasn’t introduced for five days. After minimal debate and no committee hearings, the House impeached the president January 13, but Pelosi didn’t formally send the article over to the Senate until January 25, five days after Trump left office. The trial is scheduled to begin February 9, and at this point, it is not clear if either side will call witnesses.

Some members of Congress just want to get this over with and move on to other business, and others want to take their time, do a thorough job, and build a clear case for the historical record, whether or not it is realistic to expect 67 senators to convict. The result so far has been the worst of both worlds — not speedy enough to be resolved during Trump’s presidency, but skipping through traditional steps that ensured the public Congress took this duty seriously.

Economy & Business

John Kerry, Davos, and the ‘Great Reset’

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John Kerry, President-elect Joe Biden’s special presidential envoy for climate appointee, speaks as Biden announces his national security nominees and appointees at his transition headquarters in Wilmington, Del., November 24, 2020. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Last year, the World Economic Forum (“Davos”) announced that it was launching what it modestly referred to as the “Great Reset” initiative:

There is an urgent need for global stakeholders to cooperate in simultaneously managing the direct consequences of the COVID-19 crisis. To improve the state of the world, the World Economic Forum is starting The Great Reset initiative.

As I wrote in October:

Even if we pass over the presumption of the reset’s name, this is a small classic of the prose of soft authoritarianism. There is an “urgent need” that must be met. There is to be cooperation and management, the world is to be “improved,” and all of this is to be put in place by “global stakeholders,” — a conveniently vague phrase, with more than a suggestion of democracy bypassed about it.

As Klaus Schwab, the WEF’s founder and executive chairman, has made clear, the Great Reset is nothing if not ambitious:

The world must act jointly and swiftly to revamp all aspects of our societies and economies, from education to social contracts and working conditions. Every country, from the United States to China, must participate, and every industry, from oil and gas to tech, must be transformed. In short, we need a “Great Reset” of capitalism.

Writing back in October, I wondered why, given the mess that so many governments had made of their response to COVID-19, it was capitalism that needed a reset. The reality, of course, is that COVID-19 is just the latest excuse for Schwab to renew his longstanding campaign to replace free market capitalism with “stakeholder capitalism”. Stakeholder capitalism is (to put it too briefly) an expression of corporatism, an ideology that can be benign (as in post-war West Germany) or almost infinitely malign: It was, to varying degrees, an important part of fascist theory (if not always practice) in the interwar years and, in countries such as Spain, Portugal, and Argentina, for much longer still.

In fact, contemporary China is, in many respects, closer to being a corporatist than a Communist state.

Under the circumstances, perhaps we should not be surprised that on Monday, China’s Xi was an honored speaker at the “virtual” Davos being held this week. (The Wall Street Journal reported that “The Davos website effused that this was a ‘historic opportunity for collaboration.'”)

To be fair, as I noted in October, the WEF has not come up with its ideas in isolation:

The WEF acts as an amplifier and supporter of the soft authoritarianism of the globalist governing class in waiting — and not always in waiting. But it is a part of that ecosystem, not its controller. And the Great Reset is both a product of Schwab’s imagination and a summary of the corporatist ideas that have been floating around that class for a long time, from the focus on stakeholders, to the often cranky environmentalism, to the rejection of shareholder primacy . . .

Under the circumstances, this article in The Hill by Justin Haskins (from December, but I just saw it in a retweet) isn’t entirely reassuring:

At a panel discussion about the Great Reset hosted by the World Economic Forum in mid-November, former Secretary of State John Kerry — Biden’s would-be special presidential envoy for climate – firmly declared that the Biden administration will support the Great Reset and that the Great Reset “will happen with greater speed and with greater intensity than a lot of people might imagine.”

When asked by panel host Borge Brende whether the World Economic Forum and other Great Reset supporters are “expecting too much too soon from the new president, or is he going to deliver first day on this [sic] topics?,” Kerry responded, “The answer to your question is, no, you’re not expecting too much.”

“And yes, it [the Great Reset] will happen,” Kerry continued. “And I think it will happen with greater speed and with greater intensity than a lot of people might imagine. In effect, the citizens of the United States have just done a Great Reset. We’ve done a Great Reset. And it was a record level of voting.”

Kerry later argued that the Great Reset is necessary to slow the “climate crisis” and that “I know Joe Biden believes . . . it’s not enough just to rejoin Paris [the Paris Climate Accords] for the United States. It’s not enough for us to just do the minimum of what Paris requires.”

Kerry is, of course, now our climate czar, a suitably autocratic nickname for a role that is likely to involve an agenda with more than a touch of authoritarianism about it. Interestingly, he is combining that job with a seat on the National Security Council.

And we have already seen, via a series of pronouncements and executive orders, that the Biden administration will go far further than the Paris climate accords require.

But it is worth also reading the next paragraph of Haskins’s article:

Kerry also said that because of the Great Reset movement, he believes “we’re at the dawn of an extremely exciting time” and that “the greatest opportunity we have” to address social and economic problems is “dealing with the climate crisis.”

Never let a (climate) “crisis” go to waste.

Immigration

Illegal Immigration and ‘Racial Equity’

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U.S. Border Patrol agents detain illegal immigrants near Roma, Texas, May 11, 2017. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

The Biden administration displayed profound disregard for blue-collar Americans within minutes of taking office by issuing a  series of executive orders that will do both immediate and long-term damage to the wage and employment levels of lower- and middle-class workers. Among those orders were those pertaining to immigration.

There being no discernible benefit to Americans from the immigration policies announced by the Biden administration, even a sycophantic media was compelled to ask why the administration’s first priority was to stop deportations, free illegal immigrants from custody, and stop construction of the border wall. The response: “Racial equity.” Not even an administration immersed in surreality can explain how refusing to enforce immigration laws has anything to do with racial equity (for galactic doubletalk, ask them to explain the meaning of “racial equity”).

Yet one thing’s certain: Americans, particularly blue-collar workers — and disproportionately blacks — will pay for the administration’s virtue signaling.

Black employment levels declined an alarming 18 points over the three decades preceding the Trump administration. Evidence adduced before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights shows that 40 percent of that decline was due to competition from illegal immigrants. The evidence also shows that illegal immigration depressed wage levels by between $960–$1,500 annually, depending on the geographic market.

This isn’t because low-skilled Americans — regardless of race — are unwilling to work. It’s because they’re unwilling to work at the cut-rate wages (and often substandard conditions) offered to illegal immigrants — a cohort unlikely to complain to the EEOC, OSHA, or the Wage & Hour Division of the Department of Labor.

The inevitable influx of illegal immigrants due to Biden’s executive orders will further crowd out blacks from the workforce. This inexorably increases the number of Americans dependent on the government for subsistence. It will swell the ranks of unemployed blacks while reducing the wages of blacks who do have jobs.

How’s that for “racial equity?”

White House

Which Teachings of Critical Race Theory Does the Biden Administration Endorse?

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President Joe Biden speaks at the White House in Washington, D.C., January 25, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

“I rescinded the previous administration’s harmful ban on diversity and sensitivity training,” President Biden said yesterday. In fact, the Trump administration’s EO-13950, which applied to federal agencies and contractors, did not ban diversity training. It banned only the teaching of “race or sex stereotyping or scapegoating,” including any of the following lessons:

  1. One race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex.
  2. An individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.
  3. An individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race or sex.
  4. Members of one race or sex cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to race or sex.
  5. An individual’s moral character is necessarily determined by his or her race or sex.
  6. An individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex.
  7. Any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex.
  8. Meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist, or were created by a particular race to oppress another race.

Trump’s order was motivated by revelations that federal entities, such as Argonne National Laboratories and the Smithsonian Institution, were teaching exactly some of the divisive concepts listed above. It is those concepts — not the simple lessons about tolerance and respect for others that most people have in mind when they think of diversity training — that Trump banned. Indeed, his order declared that “training employees to create an inclusive workplace is appropriate and beneficial,” and it explicitly allowed diversity programs to continue as long as they did not engage in race- or sex-based stereotyping or scapegoating.

By falsely characterizing Trump’s executive order as a ban on diversity training, Biden has sidestepped the actual issue here — namely, whether the divisive concepts listed above should be taught as facts to federal employees and contractors. For example, is it the official position of the Biden administration that “an individual’s moral character is necessarily determined by his or her race or sex”? How about the claim that “any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex”?

It would be helpful if the new administration could tell us which of these teachings it endorses. Surely it must endorse some of them, or it would not have rescinded the order in the first place. In fact, rescinding the order rather than simply modifying it suggests that the administration endorses (or at least does not object to) every divisive concept on that list.

Economy & Business

How McDonald’s Responds to Minimum-Wage Hikes

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Yesterday I had a piece about the debate over whether minimum-wage hikes decrease employment. Toward the end, I pointed out that this isn’t the only important question here. For example, we also should want to know who pays for a higher minimum wage — business owners or customers? — and how much of a minimum-wage hike the government will take back by cutting benefits for, and collecting additional taxes from, the folks who get raises.

There’s an interesting new study that touches on some of these concepts. It looks at how McDonald’s restaurants throughout the U.S. have responded to minimum-wage hikes in recent years.

Some of the results are good for minimum-wage advocates. For example, the hikes don’t seem to drive McDonald’s establishments out of business. And while the chain has been ramping up its use of touch-screen ordering kiosks in recent years — a fifth of the restaurants had them in 2017, rising to almost three-quarters two years later — this rollout doesn’t seem to be correlated with minimum-wage hikes.

But there’s a hitch, too: Consistent with previous research on the restaurant industry, the authors report “near-full price pass-through of minimum wages.” This means a minimum-wage hike doesn’t just come out of the pockets of those evil exploitative capitalists who own McDonald’s restaurants; instead, it overwhelmingly comes from McDonald’s customers. It’s basically a fast-food tax, which is regressive, because the poor spend a bigger share of their income on fast food than the rich.

Now, to be sure, if McDonald’s workers are poorer than McDonald’s customers — which they presumably are, though some McDonald’s workers are second earners or teens from middle-class households — this will still redistribute income downward. But it’s hardly a clean transfer from the rich to the poor, and don’t forget the government will take a cut of the raises too.

As I concluded my piece yesterday:

My own view is that if we think people should be paid more, we should subsidize their wages with tax dollars. At least that way we’ll know who’s paying and who’s benefiting before we set the process in motion, we won’t single out the customers and employers of low-wage workers for punishment, and we won’t risk throwing people out of their jobs.

Politics & Policy

Fighting to Preserve Freedom of Speech

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I’m old enough to remember when most “liberals” (that is to say, leftists who weren’t thoroughgoing authoritarians) stood for freedom of speech. They enjoyed an argument and defended the First Amendment as sacred.

But now there are few of them who hold that belief. Most are so committed to their agenda of economic and social control that freedom of speech is just an obstacle to the realization of their goals. Criticism from those of us who want a free, liberal (in its original meaning) society is, in their minds, illegitimate. They just know that all conservative/libertarian opposition really stems from bad motives and shouldn’t be allowed to pollute the realm of civic discourse.

The more they can silence the opposition, the sooner America will theirs. Woe betide any leftist who might speak up for the value of free speech. Any such individual would be painting a target on his back for the cancel mobs.

Therefore, every effort at preserving freedom of speech is something to applaud. The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has just launched a “Stand for Freedom” ad campaign that’s meant to warn against the Biden administration’s numerous threats against freedom. (ADF, incidentally, has been called a “hate group” by Southern Poverty Law Center because it pushes back against the leftist agenda, particularly in schools, colleges, and churches.)

I say “Bravo” and hope to see many similar campaigns that are intended to open the eyes of Americans to the hideous future we will face if President Biden and his minions get to chop away at America’s foundations.

Let’s counterattack while we still can.

World

Biden Appointee: State Department Didn’t Follow Procedure for Uyghur Genocide Determination

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A Chinese flag behind razor wire at a detention facility for Uyghurs in Yengisar County, Kashgar Prefecture, Xinjiang (Greg Baker/Contributor/Getty Images)

The Biden administration is currently reviewing the Trump administration’s determination that the Chinese Communist Party’s actions in Xinjiang constitute a genocide, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.N. ambassador-designate, revealed Monday morning. The review is being conducted because the State Department did not follow the proper procedures for the determination, she said.

Following a review formally initiated in December, former secretary of state Mike Pompeo issued his determination that the CCP is committing genocide and crimes against humanity, which is a wider but no less serious category of human-rights abuses.

Thomas-Greenfield, the experienced diplomat whom Joe Biden has nominated to represent the United States at the U.N., made the comments during questioning about her record on China. Senator Marco Rubio asked her if she considered the CCP’s repression of the Uyghur people a genocide:

Thomas-Greenfield: What they’re doing there has been referred to as genocide, and I know that the State Department is reviewing that as we speak. What they’re doing is horrific, and I look forward to seeing the results of the review that’s being done.

Rubio: The State Department issued a designation, I believe, on the president’s last day. So is your understanding that it’s now being reviewed by the State Department to see if that’s appropriate?

Thomas-Greenfield: I think the State Department is reviewing that now because all of the procedures were not followed and I think that they’re looking at that to make sure that they are followed to ensure that that designation is held.

Thomas-Greenfield’s comments are particularly vexing in light of Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s comment last week that he agreed with Pompeo’s determination.

Members of the Pompeo team objected to Thomas-Greenfield’s allegation that the genocide determination was concluded according to a flawed process. “The process was followed and any claim otherwise is either uninformed or misleading,” Kelley Currie, a former senior State Department official with direct knowledge of the process, told National Review.

At the time of writing, the State Department had not replied to National Review’s request for comment.

The timing of the determination, the final day of the Trump administration, had attracted criticism from some quarters for boosting Pompeo’s profile ahead of a potential presidential run while leaving the Biden administration to sift through the consequences. But although the process was formally kicked off in December, the Pompeo team had spent the previous two years calling attention to Beijing’s widespread and egregious human-rights abuses in Xinjiang.

In 2019, Pompeo himself referred to mass internment, indiscriminate surveillance, and other practices targeting the Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities as “the stain of the century,” and Robert O’Brien, the former national-security advisor, said in October that they are “something close” to genocide. The tipping point, according to Pompeo’s op-ed in the Wall Street Journal explaining the decision, came with the revelations that Party authorities in Xinjiang were systematically sterilizing Uyghur women, an additional qualification for genocide under a 1948 U.N. convention that hadn’t yet been met. “Not every campaign of genocide involves gas chambers or firing squads,” wrote the former secretary of state.

Thomas-Greenfield is not the first Biden official to make such a statement. When asked if the president agrees with the previous administration’s genocide determination, White House press secretary Jen Psaki stated, “Well I know that our secretary of state is just about to get confirmed, [and] I know he will be reviewing a number of the decisions and assessments that have been made.”

Psaki continued, “Obviously, the president has spoken before to the horrific treatment of Uyghurs, but I don’t have anything more for you on it.”

Her comments were criticized online, and the National-Security Council had to clean up her statement. A spokesperson with the NSC told the Washington Examiner, “President Biden has called the oppression of the Uighurs a genocide, & he stands against it in the strongest possible terms,” confirming that Biden continues to consider the situation a genocide.

Psaki’s comments were dismissed as one of the gaffes that have come to define her early tenure, but it now appears that she knew exactly what she was talking about.

The Problem with Bill and Melinda Gates’ Proposed Virus ‘Global Alert System’

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Microsoft founder Bill Gates in Omaha, Neb., May 6, 2018 (Rick Wilking/Reuters)

Bill and Melinda Gates write their annual letter to . . . well, the world, really, and make a sensible recommendation that has one glaring problem that they don’t address.

To prevent the hardship of this last year from happening again, pandemic preparedness must be taken as seriously as we take the threat of war. The world needs to double down on investments in R&D and organizations like CEPI that have proven invaluable with COVID-19. We also need to build brand-new capabilities that don’t exist yet . . .

First, we need to spot disease outbreaks as soon as they happen, wherever

Politics & Policy

2021 ‘We the People’ Video Series Launches

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Our friends at the Bradley Foundation have launched the 2021 season of its excellent “We the People” video series — the new episode features Bradley president Rick Graeber interviewing Heritage Foundation president Kay Cole James, who discusses America’s prevailing strengths and election integrity. Watch it here:

You Didn’t Build That

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President Joe Biden signs executive orders in the Oval Office of the White House, January 20, 2021. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

A week in, the Biden administration’s efforts to speed up vaccine availability and distribution have been tangled up with a cynical press strategy.

People on the Biden team have repeatedly described their efforts as breaking new paths when they are basically picking up a challenging but impressive project from their predecessors. Last week, as I noted here, they made the absurd claim that they were starting from scratch and had been handed a total failure, even as they scrambled to pretend that a pace of vaccinations that had already been reached by the Trump administration would make for an ambitious goal

Politics & Policy

‘The Post-Presidential Twilight Zone’

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Today on The Editors, Rich, Charlie, and Michael discuss the oddities of the upcoming impeachment in the Senate, and the filibuster debate. Listen below, or subscribe to this show on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, or Spotify.

Education

What Makes Public-School Teachers Different from Everyone Else?

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(dolgachov/Getty Images)

I concur entirely with the NR staff editorial about the ongoing “ransom demands” from public-school teachers’ unions in a standoff about opening schools and getting kids back in classrooms. I have just one point to add.

The coronavirus pandemic took this country by surprise, and most school systems understandably struggled to put together a good plan once gathering kids in groups was deemed unacceptably risky. Most public-school districts tried “distance learning,” and it fails far too many kids, particularly among the most vulnerable. The physical and psychological health damage that school closures are doing to kids is terrifying. Meanwhile, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded, “Many schools have reopened for in-person instruction in some parts of the US as well as internationally, school-related cases of COVID-19 have been reported, but there has been little evidence that schools have contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission.”

Many public-school teachers’ unions don’t want to come back into schools until everyone is vaccinated. Well, grocery-store clerks haven’t had that choice for the past year. Amazon-warehouse workers and delivery guys didn’t have that option. Police, fire, doctors, pharmacists, cashiers at CVS, Walgreens and Walmart and all the rest — just about everybody has had to figure out how to function in his job with a little bit of risk, wearing masks, socially distancing, and doing the best he can. Everybody carried on, because the work needed to be done.

All of us have had to live with a little bit of risk of getting the virus. We hope our masks work. We hope the person whose mask was below his nose and who came within six feet of us in the grocery aisle isn’t shedding viruses. Very few of us have the option to live our lives in a way that eliminates any risk of infection.

Teachers in private schools and open districts have had to figure out how to teach in a classroom in a way that minimizes risk. Airline pilots and flight attendants, members of the military, construction workers, meatpackers, oil-refinery workers . . . everybody else in society is just sucking it up, taking steps to mitigate the risk, and going about his job as best he can.

Why is it so unjust and unreasonable to ask public-school teachers to do the same?

Markets

The GameStop Squeeze Will End Badly

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The GameStop store in Westminster, Colo., January 14, 2014 (Rick Wilking/Reuters )

So, it was another hilarious day where, after falling from a $150 high, GameStop’s stock touched $250 on Tuesday.

Reddit’s WallStreetBets forum is in the midst of euphoria, on the news and rumors that they have absolutely crushed Melvin Capital, a firm that took a huge short position against GameStop. The Reddit hordes squeezed Melvin Capital and may have squeezed out the firms that tried to bail out Melvin Capital. The originator of this play, who goes by the YouTube name Roaring Kitty, seems to have turned his $50,000 investment into a fortune topping $20 million — so long as he liquidates.

But then that’s the question right now. Will the Reddit kids liquidate?

Right now the forum is roiling not just with David-beats-Goliath strutting, but political manifestos aimed at hedge funders and the Wall Street Establishment. There are vows to take GameStop to $1,000, defeating any incoming short-sellers, or die trying. There are posts trying to get people excited to reload their GameStop positions even if only to make a political point, or simply to wreak havoc on the institutions. There are even some moving posts where users post their screenshots of a major student loan paid off by GameStop stock, which is almost poetic, in its way. Elon Musk tweeted about it, and my guess is that GameStop is going to pop Wednesday to even more absurd heights. This is going to end in misery for a lot of these kids.

Smarter money, I think, is leaking toward buying stocks and options against other vulnerable short positions — Bed Bath & Beyond, or AMC Entertainment — though none was quite as vulnerable to a squeeze as the GameStop short-sellers.

The whole cycle of stories about instant-millionaire day traders reminds me of the dot-com bubble. I was just a teenager, but even at a small family-owned grocery I remember all day hearing the absurd stories about people who risked it all on the Red Hat IPO, and won big.

Even with all this money sloshing around from the Fed, and the way it is propping up Boomer retirement accounts — it really feels like a silly season just before a correction.

But what do I know?

Politics & Policy

Exacerbating Teen Depression

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As observed by Jean Twenge and others, social media use among adolescents correlates with a worrying uptick in depression and suicidal ideation, especially among teen girls. A new two-year study from the Education Policy Institute and Prince’s Trust has found that:

Based on the new findings, researchers determine that the experience of the pandemic is likely to continue to exacerbate existing mental health and wellbeing problems among young people. National estimates show that 1 in 6 young people now have a probable mental illness – up from 1 in 9.

This is yet another reason why politicians should prioritize getting children off their phones and back into school.

Education

The Campaign to Stamp Out Academic Heresy

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The Left grows increasingly intolerant of any messages that might impede its quest for complete social and economic control, and increasingly bold in its efforts at silencing voices it dislikes. Whether an argument might be true doesn’t matter any longer. If it is “inconvenient” it’s likely to be squelched.

In today’s Martin Center article, I write about one such case involving psychology professor Glenn Geher of SUNY-New Paltz.

Following a talk on campus by Professor Jonathan Haidt of Heterodox Academy fame, Geher was amazed at the hostility he found to Haidt’s message that students and professors ought to be much more willing to listen to arguments from people they disagree with. That led him to undertake a study on the underlying beliefs and values of academics.

There was nothing the least bit surprising in his findings (such as that professors in “soft” fields tend to care more about the feelings of their students than do professors in “hard” ones) and yet he ran into a brick wall in trying to get it published. Geher says that in his long career, he has never come close to such difficulty as he encountered with this paper. Eventually, he had to post it on his blog.

The reasons he was given (when given any at all) for rejecting the paper were weak and evasive.

My hunch is that his findings would have led some people to wonder if all the money we ladle into “higher education” is worth it. That’s not an idea the Left wants Americans to countenance.

Is the Biden Administration Ready to Fight China’s U.N. Influence?

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United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres shakes hands with China’s President Xi Jinping before proceeding to their bilateral meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, September 2, 2018. (Andy Wong/Pool via Reuters)

Tomorrow is the Senate confirmation hearing for Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Joe Biden’s U.N. ambassador-designate. Lawmakers should take the opportunity to ask about the Biden administration’s strategy to counter Chinese influence at the U.N.

The reckoning with Beijing’s influence at the U.N. preceded the outset of COVID and the revelations about Chinese sway at the World Health Organization (WHO). When China’s candidate to lead the U.N.’s Food and Agricultural Organization in 2019, the Trump administration realized that it had a true problem on its hands, according a September Wall Street Journal report. But China’s growing influence at the U.N. can be traced back

World

Remembering Roger Scruton, with U.K. Minister Michael Gove

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To mark the first anniversary of the passing of Roger Scruton, Uncommon Knowledge with Peter Robinson was asked by the Roger Scruton Legacy Foundation to participate in its Remembering Roger Scruton Memorial Event by interviewing the Right Honourable Michael Gove. Gove is a member of Parliament, a member of Britain’s Conservative Party, and the current chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and minister for the Cabinet Office. Gove began reading Scruton’s work as a teenager, and it had a very strong influence on Gove’s intellectual journey toward becoming a conservative. In this conversation, Gove describes his own relationship with Scruton, how Scruton influenced British politics while living and even after his death, and how Scruton’s fierce support of Brexit was both personally and politically helpful to Gove. He also discusses Scruton’s warnings about — and his own experience fighting — “wokeness,” as well as what Scruton might have thought about lockdowns. Finally, Gove shares some thoughts about Scruton’s legacy and how history might remember him.

Recorded on January 12, 2021

Media

Are Politicians ‘Dictators’ for Wanting to Deny Security Clearances to QAnon Cultists?

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Tucker Carlson claims to think so, using the d-word. The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake refutes his argument, presenting the relevant and obvious distinction that it suppresses (i.e., that between withholding an official privilege for good reason and attempting to control the citizenry’s thoughts). Worth a read.

Media

Newsweek Edits 2015 Story on Army Rangers to Conform to New Attack on Tom Cotton

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Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) questions David Marcus, head of Facebook’s Calibra, during testimony before a Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, July 16, 2019. (Erin Scott/Reuters)

Over the weekend, Newsweek changed a 2015 article on two women widely hailed as America’s first female Army Rangers in order to conform to a new article at Salon that falsely claims Tom Cotton “repeatedly falsif[ied]” his military record by saying he was an Army Ranger.

Cotton attended the Ranger School, Salon reported on January 23, “but in the eyes of the military, that does not make” Cotton “an actual Army Ranger” because he didn’t serve in the 75th Ranger Regiment. But when Shaye Haver and Kristen Griest graduated from Ranger School in 2015, bipartisan congressional resolutions and many media outlets hailed the two women as the first female Army Rangers. Newsweek was one of those news outlets, but after Salon posted its article attacking Cotton, Newsweek went back and changed its 2015 article to strip the two women of that title: 

Newsweek reported in 2015 that for “the first time in the Army Ranger School’s 64-year history, two women have completed the intense training program and will become Rangers.” The same 2015 Newsweek story that said Haver and Griest “will become Rangers” acknowledged that “the 75th Ranger Regiment does not allow female Rangers.”

Over the weekend, Newsweek picked up Salon’s story attacking Cotton under the headline: “Tom Cotton Blasted for Claims About Being an Army Ranger by Lawmaker Who Was One.”

Cotton’s communications director Caroline Tabler tells National Review that Cotton’s office contacted Newsweek this weekend to point out that Newsweek had identified the female Ranger school graduates as Army Rangers in 2015. Newsweek responded by editing its 2015 story to conform to Salon’s new smear of Cotton. The 2015 Newsweek story no longer says the two women “will become rangers” — the edited version says they “will be allowed to wear the coveted Ranger tab on their uniforms.” (The original Newsweek story can be viewed here.)

When Newsweek edited its 2015 story, it appended this correction: “This article has been changed to note that completion of the course allows one to wear the Ranger tab, but does not make one a Ranger.” Again, there are many military veterans who disagree with that contention:

Retired Command sergeant major Rick Merritt, who served in the 75th Ranger Regiment, told the Arkansas Times over the weekend that Salon’s attack on Cotton was “absurd,” “unfair,” and “almost slanderous.”

“He’s 100 percent a Ranger,” said Merritt. “He will always be a Ranger.”

“It’s a slap in the face for any veteran — any Ranger — to be attacked that way,” Merritt said in an interview with National Review on Monday evening. “It’s not a controversy. It’s a fact that he is a Ranger, just like I’m a Ranger. They’re just playing semantics on the unit in which he served as a Ranger.”

Merritt served for 25 of his 36 years in the Army with the 75th Ranger Regiment. “[Cotton] was a Ranger serving in the 101st Airborne Division. He never said that he was a Ranger serving in the 75th Ranger Regiment. Plenty of Rangers out there are serving in more units than the 75th Ranger Regiment,” says Merritt. “I served with plenty of Rangers in the 10th Mountain Division. My Ranger buddy was General Milley, who is now the chairman of the joint chiefs.” General Milley didn’t serve in the 75th Ranger Regiment, but an article at Army.Mil identifies him as an Army Ranger.

Other military officials also believe all Army Ranger school graduates are Army Rangers. Major general Scott Miller, commander of the Army for infantry and armor training and education, told Ranger school graduates in 2015: “You’ll leave Victory Pond today with a small piece of cloth on your shoulder, but more importantly, you carry the title of Ranger from here on out.”

In 2015, Secretary of the Army John McHugh told graduates of the Ranger school: “Congratulations to all of our new Rangers.” […]

There are surely some Americans who sincerely believe only those who served in the 75th Ranger Regiment should be called Army Rangers. But if several military officials, Obama’s secretary of the Army, every Democrat and Republican in the Senate, and dozens of news outlets — including Salon — thought it was appropriate to refer to all Ranger school graduates as Army Rangers the day before yesterday, then it’s hard to see Salon’s attack on Cotton as anything other than a disingenuous political smear.

Politics & Policy

Don’t Forget to Listen

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The new episode (No. 52, which marks our first year) of the Victor Davis Hanson Podcast is ready for your lent ears. Discussed by VDH: his thoughts on cultural reprogramming and political forgetting, attacks on the 1776 Commission, Joe Biden’s executive-order attack on girls’ sports, and California governor Gavin Newsom’s lockdown loosening (coincidental to his recall fears?). Catch the wisdom here.

Politics & Policy

It Looks Like Five Republican Votes to Convict (Give or Take)

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The Senate held a test vote on the Senate impeachment trial and 45 Republicans voted to dismiss, suggesting that the vote to convict probably won’t go beyond what seemed the likeliest votes at the outset (Romney, Sasse, Collins, Murkowski, and Toomey). In the scheme of things, that would be a lot of members of a president’s own party voting to convict, given that previously there’s been zero or one (Romney the first time around). But, of course, it’s far short of the 17 Republican necessary to convict. This trial could end up being more of a political afterthought than the first one, when Washington was consumed by it but even Democratic presidential candidates out on the campaign trail weren’t talking about it.

White House

‘Equity’ and ‘Systemic Racism’

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President Biden speaks in the State Dining Room in Washington, D.C., January 22, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

The media report that “Biden takes first steps aimed at dismantling systemic racism with an executive order focused on equity.”

I’ve written about the “systemic racism” canard before. It’s not hard dismantling something that was largely eliminated decades ago (except as it operates against whites and Asians in higher education admissions and employment). Racial disparities are not the same thing as systemic racism.

The term “equity” has become ubiquitous of late. It has replaced “equal opportunity” and “equal treatment” with “equal results.” Pro tip: “Equity” is intentionally nebulous, innocuous-sounding shorthand for leftist social engineering. Whenever you hear or see the term outside the context of finance, understand that someone’s likely pulling a fast one on you.

Energy & Environment

‘Schumer Calls for Biden to Declare Climate Emergency’

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This bears watching. The point of declaring an emergency wouldn’t be mere symbolism, but to unlock supposed powers to bypass Congress, or as Schumer put it: “He can do many, many things under the emergency powers . . . that he could do without legislation.”

Politics & Policy

Lessons from the Hawaii GOP’s Promotion of a Holocaust Truther

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The Hawaii State Capitol in Honolulu (Marco Garcia/Reuters)

Being represented by Mazie Hirono in the United States Senate is enough to drive anyone mad, but the Hawaii Republican Party has perhaps allowed itself to slip a bit too far. Take their promotion of YouTuber Tarl Warwick. In a since-deleted tweet, the state party urged its followers to pay attention to his work, saying:

Content warning @Styx666Official has an edgy name and frequently uses profanity – his commentary and analysis is generally high quality.It is is good to periodically step outside the “bubble” of corporate commentators for additional perspective.

Warwick has appeared on Richard Spencer’s podcast, called himself “sort of on the fringes of the alt-right,” and asserted of the Holocaust, “What’s not clear is if this was a deliberate extermination effort on a grand scale or whether they were primarily focusing on eliminating criminals and the sick.” This last aspect of Warwick’s worldview — in conjunction with a few other controversial recent tweets — prompted the state party chair, Colonel Shirlene Ostrov, to take down them down and issue the following statement:

I accept full responsibility for the recent unauthorized tweets posted by our former Vice Chair of Communications. He has resigned effective January 24, and pending official party action.

Our party believes in free speech, but it is a responsibility that each of us must carry in order to maintain a good and just society. Promoting content for the purpose of shock value does not help us build a more perfect union, nor does it help a divided nation heal.

To our friends in the Jewish community, we find the comments to be deeply disturbing and offensive and have no place in our party much less our country.

To supporters across our pae’āina, we are committed to creating a better Hawaii and discussing the policies that affect our everyday lives.

Moving forward I will make sure the Hawaii GOP and its communications accurately reflect the values we stand for as a Country and as the Aloha State.

It’s a good apology, one that Chairwoman Ostrov deserves credit for making. Still, there are two lessons to be learned from this mishap.

The first is hinted at in the above statement. In too many state parties, shock value has been prioritized over persuasion. In these institutions, leadership has prioritized satisfying the base and reinforcing its worldview over building a winning coalition. Some states, Texas for example, have so far been able to afford these excesses since conditions in the state continue to favor Republicans. In others (Arizona, Virginia, etc.) this transition from persuasion-oriented to turnout-oriented politics has coincided with a transition from being the advantaged party to one content with holding permanent minority status. The atrophying of state parties tends to be particularly acute where the party’s hopes for the future seem particularly bleak, as is the case in Hawaii. The answer to this problem, however, is not for them to swerve into the skid, but to modulate their behavior. In New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Maine, the GOP has proven able to consistently elect governors and U.S. senators, changing the political trajectory of both state-level and national politics. These candidates may not be the movement conservatives that those of us here at National Review would like to see inhabit every office, but they fit the state and are far preferable to the alternative. Hopefully Colonel Ostrov means what she said about rejecting shock-jock politics, and will commence with the hard and boring work of building a conceivably competitive state party.

Second, let’s zoom in on the claim in the original offending tweet that it’s “good to periodically step outside the ‘bubble’ of corporate commentators for additional perspective.” Sure, there are plenty of independent content creators with interesting thoughts on a wide variety of topics who are not propped up by corporations, but too often the independence of these larger entities is taken in and of itself as evidence of an independent commitment to the truth. This is not the case. As Warwick’s example makes plain, some of these people are beholden to certain communities — small in absolute terms, but large enough to pay the bills and achieve a kind of cult-hero status within.

In any case, we should all be encouraged by Chairwoman Ostrov’s statement, try to hold her to her word, and hope that it will mark a turning point for the Hawaii GOP.