The Corner

Culture

Twenty Things That Caught My Eye Today: Another Federal Execution

1. Elizabeth Bruenig: When an I.Q. Score Is a Death Sentence

Since Mr. Johnson’s trial lawyers did not claim he was intellectually disabled, no court has agreed to hold a hearing to consider the evidence to the contrary in appeals over the past three decades, Mr. Johnson’s current lawyers, Don Salzman and Ron Tabak, told me.

“No court has ever applied modern medical standards, which are critical,” said Mr. Salzman. “No court has ever heard testimony from our three nationally recognized experts in intellectual disability, who have spent their careers, over 40 years each of them, focused on intellectual disability, who have all said that Corey Johnson has a compelling case and is clearly a person with intellectual disability.”

Mr. Salzman and Mr. Tabak have appeals before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and hope that Mr. Johnson’s execution will be stayed until they are granted the opportunity to present evidence of his disability in court. If their efforts fail, Mr. Johnson will — barring some intervention — be killed Thursday without any judge or jury ever having considered the fact that he is intellectually disabled.

2. Gerard V. Bradley: Biden’s Promise to Codify Roe

As things now stand, when constitutional conservatives speak of “reversing” Roe, they mean getting the Court out of the abortion fray. They have long maintained that the Constitution is silent about abortion: Neither a woman’s right to legal abortion nor an unborn child’s right to life is to be found there. This means that, as Justice Scalia wrote in 1992 in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (for himself, for Justice Thomas, and for the two dissenters in Roe, White and Rehnquist), “the states may, if they wish, permit abortion on demand. . . . But the Constitution does not require them to do so.”

Conservatives could in any event avoid the fiction of “potential life” and all the illusory “willful[ness]” involved in abortion regulations by affirming two propositions. One is that when the drafters and ratifiers of the Fourteenth Amendment vouchsafed “equal protection” of the laws against killing to every “person,” they meant every person. The second is that any person’s life in fact begins at conception.

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4. Mindy Belz: Will a Biden team build on Trump’s overseas religious-freedom policies?

Already Biden has indicated one of his first actions in office will be to rescind the Mexico City policy, a rule Trump reinstated after the Obama years prohibiting U.S. foreign aid to groups that provide abortions or abortion referrals. The move will alienate many Christians and shift protections away from religious believers who oppose abortion in underdeveloped countries. 

Biden also over the years has accumulated weighty critics for his bad foreign-policy instincts. He once argued for carving Iraq into sectarian states, and he opposed the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who served under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, said in his 2014 memoir that Biden “has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”

5. The New York Times: Tribal Elders Are Dying from the Pandemic, Causing a Cultural Crisis for American Indians

“It’s like we’re having a cultural book-burning,” said Jason Salsman, a spokesman for the Muscogee (Creek) Nation in eastern Oklahoma, whose grandparents contracted the virus but survived. “We’re losing a historical record, encyclopedias. One day soon, there won’t be anybody to pass this knowledge down.”

6. Steve Scalise: Politics Has No Place for Violence

Many Democrats who were rightfully quick to join us in condemning last week’s events at the Capitol were noticeably silent over the summer. In those months, Americans watched looters ransack small businesses while cities went up in flames. Radical progressives attacked police precincts and federal courthouses, and leftist protesters clashed repeatedly with police. In Minneapolis, Kenosha, Wis., Seattle’s “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone,” the District of Columbia and other cities, many elected officials outright enabled a cruel disregard for life, property and the rule of law in the name of social justice. Many in the media cheered the violence. “Show me where it says protesters are supposed to be polite and peaceful,” CNN’s Chris Cuomo said. . . 

Selectively condemning political violence sends a message to would-be perpetrators that cruelty and destruction in the name of a political agenda will be celebrated. We must put a stop to this dangerous idea. America settles its differences through debate and democracy, not mob rule and violence.

7. Man who wore ‘Camp Auschwitz’ shirt at Capitol riot arrested in Newport News, Va.

8. Meet Eugene Goodman

For 85 tense seconds, Goodman tries to hold back dozens of rioters, twice retreating up a flight of stairs. Police experts say he wasn’t fleeing, but luring the mob away from the Senate chambers, where lawmakers were sheltering and armed officers — including one with a semiautomatic weapon — were securing the doors.

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10. Jason L. Riley: This Time, Trump’s Impeachment Is Warranted

If we’ve learned anything from the past two administrations, it’s that a president’s musings about race can matter enormously. Race relations plummeted during President Obama’s second term, thanks in part to his response to high-profile police shootings, and they’ve continued to deteriorate under President Trump. California, the nation’s most populous and racially diverse state, soundly rejected a ballot measure last year that would have reinstated racial preferences in college admissions and hiring. Mr. Biden, who campaigned on unity, might keep that result in mind. If he’s serious about trying to bring us together, he’ll focus on the ideals that unite us as Americans and not on using his presidency to play favorites or exploiting our racial and ethnic differences to score political points.

11. China deemed a top religious-freedom concern in 2021

12. Jillian Kay Melchior: A Hong Kong Dissident’s Daring Escape

Messrs. Rohden and Storgaard contacted their friend after he was released on bail. Mr. Hui responded with a strange suggestion. As a former member of the Legislative Council’s Environmental Affairs Panel, he wanted to come to Denmark to talk about climate change. Beijing purports to care about the environment, and Mr. Storgaard and Mr. Rohden intuited this might be a chance for Mr. Hui to escape. So they made an audacious plan: to stage a fake climate conference in Copenhagen in early December, invite their friend, and get him to safety.

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14. Megan McArdle: Why we should be frightened by tech companies’ censoring of conservatives

15. Bari Weiss: The Great Unraveling

So part of my hesitation about what comes next is that I have been unsure about who will have the strength to stand apart from the various tribes that can give their members such pleasure of belonging. It is hard to know how to build things that are immune to these dangerous forces when the number of the people who are — or appear to me — immune to it is so very small.

Perhaps a psychologist can explain what makes these people resistant. Is it personality type? Is it principle? Is it rootedness in a real community with real people who you love and who love you and who you trust when they call you out on your bullshit?

I don’t know the answer. But I know that you have to be sort of strange to stand apart and refuse to join Team Red or Team Blue. These strange ones are the ones who think that political violence is wrong, that mob justice is never just and the presumption of innocence is always right. These are the ones who are skeptical of state and corporate power, even when it is clamping down on people they despise. The ones who still hold fast to the old ideas enshrined in our constitution. 

16. Jon Askonas and Ari Schulman: Why Speech Platforms Can Never Escape Politics

It is because a universal public square cannot be a community that the parameters of the online speech debate are stuck. The conflict between the “marketplace of ideas” framework and the “communal norms” framework seems irresolvable because it is irresolvable. At least, this is so for the platforms we have now, which are an experiment with no obvious historical precedent: forums for discourse and information discovery that are not communities, or at best are failed communities. It is only in a forum that is a community that these two viewpoints can be reconciled, even mutually sustaining.

The failure to understand how these viewpoints might complement each other has led to the bizarre, dead-end aspirations of algorithmic governance—the idea that an engine fine-tuned to shred civic norms of discourse can be fixed with AI. This model, we will argue, must be replaced by an understanding of the inevitably political nature of speech communities and the enforcement of their standards.

17. Helen Andrews: When Mob Inciters Become Lions of the Left

Ironically, the Chicago protesters ended up getting what they wanted. Humphrey was nominated, but by 1972 the Democrats (and the Republicans) had altered their nomination process to give greater power to the average voter rather than party insiders, just as the New Left wanted. After all, they had a point. The old method was undemocratic.

It would be good for the republic if the millions of Trump voters who harbor doubts about the election were able to extract similar concessions. Tightening up voting procedures and reducing the use of mail-in ballots would make elections less vulnerable to fraud. But any legitimate points they had will now be ignored, thanks to the double standard that has existed since the 1960s: Only one side of politics gets to romanticize its violent revolutionaries. It would be better if neither did.

18. Jennifer S. Bryson: Theology of Home Shows Women the Beauty of Fruitful Living

The quest for power is about building up the self. By contrast, “fundamentally, fruitfulness,” write Gress and Mering, is about “relationships—about sheltering, birthing, midwifing, cultivating, nourishing, and being receptive to the needs, gifts, and potential of others.” This is why home matters. Fruitful living offers a way to build relationships in ways that enable our own souls to mature. A homemaker, the authors say, “is getting a doctorate in love.” They reject “a misguided understanding that the sacrificial demands of love are a threat rather than a magnification of that love.”

19. Greg Erlandson: New year, new normal

This notion of community as something real and tangible may be a blessing we all share in 2021. In 2020, I found myself walking more and greeting people more readily. If our public culture as embodied by social media was degenerating to the howl of the mob, my neighborhood culture became, well, more neighborly. . . 

Even our pang of hunger for the Eucharist was a blessing, I believe. Surveys may suggest that many Catholics see the Eucharist as a symbol, but the hunger we felt was for more than a mere symbol. The challenge we face in 2021 will be to return to church and accustom ourselves once again to Mass as a community.

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