Elections

Poll Shows Biden and Warren Tied ahead of Third Debate

Former Vice President Joe Biden at The Graduate Center of CUNY in the New York City, July 11, 2019. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

The latest Democratic primary poll from The Economist/YouGov, released yesterday, shows former vice president Joe Biden tied with Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren as ten of the candidates prepare to debate tonight in Houston.

The survey shows Biden and Warren tied at 26 percent among registered Democratic voters and tied at 24 percent among respondents who said they will vote in a Democratic presidential primary or caucus this cycle. In a distant third is Senator Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), at 16 percent among registered voters and 17 percent among likely primary voters.

The poll seems to reflect a general consensus that the Democratic primary has narrowed to a three-person race, and more recently even to a two-person race, pitting frontrunner Biden against Warren, who has managed largely to consolidate support from primary voters looking for a more-progressive option than the former vice president.

Despite struggling in the first debate and delivering an unexciting performance in the second — and in spite of a series of gaffes and inaccurate statements on the campaign trail over the last two months — Biden has held a solid advantage over the rest of the field since entering the race in April. The new Economist/YouGov data are the first national data since an August 26 Monmouth poll to show anything other than Biden in the lead.

The Monmouth poll from late August suggested a three-way race, with Sanders and Warren at 20 percent and Biden just behind at 19, but when a series of subsequent surveys showed Biden back on top, it was generally considered an outlier.

Biden, Warren, and Sanders will face off tonight in a debate hosted by ABC and featuring seven other Democratic candidates: Senators Kamala Harris (Calif.), Cory Booker (N.J.), and Amy Klobuchar (Minn.); South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg; former Texas representative Beto O’Rourke; former Housing and Urban Development secretary Julian Castro; and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.

Religion

Doug Wilson’s Broadside against Liberalism’s Defenders

Sohrab Ahmari and David French (Images via Twitter)

I suppose it says something about David French that he finds himself surrounded by wildly divergent critics. It’s not an altogether bad place to be. The 16th-century Reformers battled radical Protestant utopians trying at sword-point to usher in the new heavens and the new earth at the same time they battled Roman Catholic utopians who thought they already had. Strange bedfellows somehow have a habit of reuniting.

New York Post op-ed editor Sohrab Ahmari, along with many at First Things magazine, now infamously thinks the problem with late-modern liberalism is people like David French who don’t understand that the legal principles embodied in our liberal order are insufficient to a just and flourishing society. We need to alter those legal principles and grant the coercive state the prerogative to nudge things along to our — well, Ahmari’s — desired ends. Comes now influential Protestant pastor Doug Wilson, who seems to agree with this assessment of French.

If he has said it once, French has said it a thousand times: politics (and law) is downstream from culture. There is no political or legal solution for cultural problems, and culture is primarily the domain of civil society—you know, things like families, churches, schools, and magazines. In other words, the very kinds of things to which Doug Wilson devotes his talents. And David has been busy ensuring that Doug can continue all this cultural work by asserting on his behalf the legal principles embodied in our liberal order. It really is a marvel: a guy spends his life making sure cultural influencers like Doug Wilson and Sohrab Ahmari might legally go about influencing things; and when they face widespread lack of societal influence they decide to blame their lawyer. It’s not amusing.

Ironically, I’ve read Doug Wilson write “politics is downstream from culture” something like ten thousand times. Nevertheless, he has taken the opportunity to write a laborious essay informing the ostensibly naive, “lovable,” “bewildered,” “nice man” David French that our liberal order requires a wide cultural “center of gravity” and a “system of shared cultural values” in order to work. The condescension is inexcusable, but leave it aside for the moment. The Dutch have a saying about the sort of thing going on here: Doug is “kicking down an open door.” The very first person who would agree that we have a culture problem is David French.

Before I get to some of the particulars, I need to point out the flabbergasting question that is begged. Yes, Doug: we need a cultural center of gravity; we need the “unwritten” constitution; we need people to recognize the transcendent idea at the heart of our Republic; we all need to be “Creationists” in the sense of the Declaration of Independence. How do we attain that goal? Since Wilson is enjoining the debate on the side of Sohrab Ahmari, does he agree that we need to dispense with the liberal order itself by grasping the reins of power and coercing our way to a society ordered to the “highest good”? (Actually, when actually faced with the actual living and breathing David French, Ahmari has now clarified that what he really wants is for some senators to jawbone at a bureaucrat on national television.) Now, given the context, one might think Doug agrees with this overall “post-liberal” project (e.g., First Things, Patrick Deneen, et. al.), but apparently not. He has now informed me on Twitter that he meant all this as a defense of the liberal order!

He begins by lambasting  “viewpoint neutrality.” Wilson imagines that “viewpoint neutrality” refers to some kind of philosophic ultimate epistemic commitment to relativism, and, boy howdy, does he go to town on that absurdity, as only he can. Except, of course, nobody was talking about some kind of ultimate epistemic commitment to relativism. They were instead talking about the legal principle that the state should provide equality before the law when it comes to accommodation for use of public spaces. Maybe you don’t like it; maybe you’ve got a better idea to manage things in a diverse, pluralistic society; maybe you’ve got a principle that only ever lets the “right” people use public spaces, and with which no government official will ever label you the wrong kind of person. French, who is in a better position to know than anyone else involved in any of this, happens to think that this legal doctrine has been an enormous boon to Christian cultural influencers, and that whatever downsides are a pretty decent tradeoff, all things considered.

It’s also the case that things like equality before the law and not showing partiality are decidedly not neutral; they are divine commands in the Bible, however imperfectly we might apply them (c.f., Lev. 19:15; Dt. 1:17; 10:17; 16:19). One would think that would be something of comfort to Wilson. I’m having trouble fathoming the complaint here.

One of Wilson’s readers pointed out his misunderstanding of “viewpoint neutrality,” and eloquently explained the distinction between legal architecture and ultimate epistemic commitments. He responded:

I am happy to distinguish the two neutralities as you describe them. But here in our world, when we are seeking to defend objective neutrality in, say, the courtroom, and others are attacking that procedure (and doing so for metaphysical reasons), we need a better defense than “this is the way we have done it for centuries.” Because their reply will be “precisely.” And you do it that way because you inherited this system from slaveholders. Critical theory is a universal corrosive, and we have no defense against it apart from an appeal to the transcendent.

For someone who was just himself a moment ago attacking, not defending, the procedure of objective neutrality, I fear he might be giving readers whiplash. As for his insistence that one needs some kind of transcendent answer to such attacks, I hope he gets good exercise kicking through open doors.

Wilson’s second point accuses French of not really being supportive of viewpoint neutrality, because he wouldn’t approve of a bunch of Baptist kids doing a Bible Story Hour at the local library. I have zero idea why he thinks this, because his discussion is entirely fact and evidence free. What is a fact, however, is that plenty of presumably Baptist kids wanting to proselytize on college campuses have benefited from legal advocacy like French’s. I have no reason to think things would be different for a library.

Wilson’s third salvo is that religious liberty is a Christian idea. It includes a helpful insight:

An ostensibly neutral state with an accumulated reservoir of historic Christian moral capital can preserve religious liberty, but only for a time. But run it out a few decades. You cannot make Herbert Marcuse the Secretary of Free Speech at Animal Farm without finding out, to your chagrin, that some animals are more equal than others. Religious liberty for Christians is not a principle that can be derived from the premises of an aggressive secularism.

So the problem is a depleted reservoir of historic Christian moral capital, not the legal architecture of the liberal order (itself a product of that very moral capital). Who has the responsibility to replenish this reservoir of moral capital? Politicians? The state? If Wilson doesn’t like our current arrangement, what is the alternative? But wait! I was told by Wilson himself that he is defending the liberal order. So does he want an alternative, or not? It is awfully hard to tell. It seems to me he just wants to rhetorically light up this straw-man with his Zippo lighter from as many angles as possible.

Notice how quickly in that paragraph the liberal order transforms into ”aggressive secularism.” This is an equivocation that thoroughly plagues this debate. In a similar context, James K. A. Smith speaks of liberalism as an “architecture” and as an “ethos.” These things are quite distinguishable. If people want to equate the Western legal tradition with the illiberalism of contemporary aggressive secularism, they are entitled to make that mistake. I would just point out that that is exactly what the aggressive secularists want you to do. (What do you think all the minimizing of Judeo-Christian influence on the American founding is about?) Strange ground to cede for erstwhile opponents of secularism.

Most of the rest of the essay is entirely irrelevant to French, though there is one bit that I cannot let stand. Wilson argues: “There is a difference between behavior that libertines like and and behavior that will preserve liberty. French doesn’t see it yet, but he is actually defending the former, while Ahmari is urging a return to the latter.” In light of all that David French has said and written about culture, I find it incredible that one could seriously level that accusation.

Be that as it may, perhaps French, and those of us in his camp, believes that the American experiment is the greatest political arrangement yet devised for the triumph and flourishing of freedom and virtue, precisely because free virtue is real virtue, organic moral fiber, not outward conformity produced by fiat. Perhaps he knows that virtue is the work of fathers and mothers, gospel ministers, and school founders and teachers, rather than by politicians and lawyers. Perhaps he knows this is a fallen world where we do not have the luxury of a system of unfailing perfection, and that there are always tradeoffs, lamentable as they might be. Perhaps he is owed an actual constructive proposal for establishing this never-seeming-to-arrive utopian society that has no downsides. Alas, there’s nothing in Wilson’s broadside that improves on Ahmari’s efforts so far.

World

Quebec Court Declares Euthanasia ‘Foreseeable Death’ Limitation Unconstitutional

Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s ‘Thanatron,’ often referred in the media as the ‘Death Machine,’ is seen during a press preview for the Sale of the Estate of Jack Kevorkian at the New York Institute of Technology, N.Y., October 27, 2011. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

A few years ago, the Supreme Court of Canada conjured a positive right in the Canadian Charter (constitution) to euthanasia. The justices did not merely make it legal, but essentially ruled that anyone with a diagnosed medical condition that causes “irremediable suffering” — as defined subjectively by the patient — has a right to be killed by a doctor. This is true even if there are treatments available that could objectively palliate the patient’s symptoms.

Rather than push back, as could be done under Canadian law, Parliament meekly legalized lethal injection homicide — known as the euphemistic Medical Aid in Dying (MAID). But it added a tepid protective requirement: Death has to be “reasonably foreseeable” (whatever that means) in order to qualify for killing.

Now, a Quebec court has ruled that minor limitation to be an unconstitutional impediment to a desired death. From the Globe and Mail story:

Denying them access to assisted dying because they are not terminally ill is “forcing them to endure harsh physical and psychological suffering,” Justice Baudouin said in her 197-page judgment. “The court has no hesitation in concluding that the requirement that their death has to be reasonably foreseeable is violating the rights to liberty and security of [the plaintiffs.]”

I have no doubt similar rulings will be made in other Canadian courts. Having read the original Supreme Court ruling, how could it be otherwise?

Consider the context in which homicide-by-doctor (or nurse practitioner) has been made a fundamental right:

  • According to a study published by the Canadian Institute for Health Information, only 15 percent of Canadians have access to quality palliative care. Yet, there aren’t any Supreme Court or lower court rulings declaring the inability to have one’s symptoms palliated a violation of Charter rights.
  • There is a right to receive euthanasia, but no concomitant right to suicide prevention.
  • Disabled people in Canada have been pushed toward euthanasia by bureaucrats denying the kind of independent living support that would help a suicidal disabled person want to live — who then offered the patient euthanasia instead. Just last month, a man with ALS chose to be killed after the government refused to pay for care that would have allowed him to stay home with his son. Clearly, there is no Charter right to receive the kind of care that would help you not want to be killed.
  • Not only that, but doctors have been told in Ontario that if they are asked by a qualified patient — which could include almost anyone with a semi-serious medical or disabling condition under the Supreme Court’s ruling, perhaps even mental illness — to be killed, they must participate by doing the deed or procuring the death doctor for the patient. And if their faith holds that to be a grievous sin or their conscience follows the Hippocratic Oath’s proscription against killing patients? Tough. Become a podiatrist or get the hell out of medicine!
  • Canada also conjoins organ harvesting with euthanasia. This means that depressed people with disabilities — and I believe eventually mental illnesses as allowed now in Belgium and Netherlands — will be killed when they would have lived for years, induced into the lethal decision by the belief that their deaths will have greater value than their lives.
  • Canadian pediatricians are preparing for the euthanasia of children. Some have already volunteered to kill young patients once it becomes legal.

Whenever I have raised the alarm about the collapse of medical morality in Belgium and Netherlands caused by legalizing euthanasia, domestic death peddlers have soothingly assured that those countries are not like the U.S. Such things would never happen here.

And Donald Trump would never be president. Canada is our closest cultural cousin. Creating a right to euthanasia has made it death obsessed.

If it can happen there, it can also happen here. Those with eyes to see, let them see.

Elections

Watch: Kat Timpf Explains Why Beto O’Rourke Is the Perfect Instagram Model Candidate

In her latest video for National Review, Kat Timpf explains why Beto O’Rourke’s social media tendencies fit those of an Instagram model rather than of a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate.

National Security & Defense

Wait, Who Didn’t Like John Bolton?

John Bolton at CPAC 2017 (Gage Skidmore)

While explaining why John Bolton departed the role of national security adviser, President Trump explained today in the Oval Office that his efforts to reach out diplomatically to North Korea had been complicated by Bolton comment about “the Libyan model.”

In an April interview with Chris Wallace, Bolton said:

WALLACE: OK. So, let’s talk about your position, the U.S. position going in, what the U.S. wants from Kim. Will President Trump insist that Kim give up, ship out, all of his nuclear weapons, all of his nuclear fuel, all of his ballistic missiles, before the U.S. makes any concessions?

BOLTON: Yes, I think that’s what denuclearization means. We have very much in mind the Libya model from 2003, 2004. There are obviously differences. The Libyan program was much smaller, but that was basically the agreement that we made.

In another interview with CBS, Bolton said: “What we want to see from [the North Koreans] is evidence that it’s real and not just rhetoric. One thing that Libya did that led us to overcome our skepticism was that they allowed American and British observers into all their nuclear-related sites. So it wasn’t a question of relying on international mechanisms. We saw them in ways we had never seen before.”

Both the North Koreans and Trump seemed to interpret the remark as something akin to the Western-backed effort to topple Moammar Gaddafi. A few weeks later, Trump declared, “the Libya model isn’t the model that we have at all when we’re thinking of North Korea.”

Today, Trump continued to talk as if Bolton had called for a Western-backed insurgency against the regime. “We were set back very badly when John Bolton talked about the Libyan model! And he made a mistake! And as soon as he mentioned that, the Libyan model – what a disaster! Take a look at what happened to Gaddafi with the Libyan model! And he’s using that, to make a deal, with North Korea? And I don’t blame Kim Jong Un for what he said after that, and he wanted nothing to do with John Bolton. And that’s not a question of being tough, that’s a question of being not smart, to say something like that.”

(Trump also repeatedly complained about Bolton’s role in the decision to invade Iraq, which was not exactly a state secret when Trump chose to hire Bolton.)

Elsewhere, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani also publicly applauded the departure of Bolton. The president reportedly “discussed easing sanctions on Iran to help secure a meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani later this month,” a move Bolton reportedly vehemently opposed, believing it would give the Iranians something they want in exchange for simply agreeing to meet with us.

Monday, Bolton and Trump reportedly got into a “bitter argument” about the president’s decision to invite the Taliban to Camp David.

Reassuring, isn’t it?

If the leaders of North Korea and Iran don’t like the U.S. national security adviser, that is a good thing. It’s not his job to be liked by the leaders of hostile states.

Health Care

Dutch ‘Forced Euthanasia’ Doctor Cleared of Charges

(Pixabay)

I could have told you this would happen. A Dutch doctor who lethally injected a dementia patient, has been cleared of criminal charges.

Euthanizing dementia patients isn’t against the law in Netherlands if the patient expressed a desire to die before losing competency. What made this particular case notable was that the patient who was killed wanted to decide the time, and never gave consent. Moreover, she was not only drugged to allow her to be killed easily, but when she woke up she fought against the doctor and struggled to stay alive. Rather than stop, the doctor had her family hold her down as so she could be dispatched by lethal injection.

As I wrote here when this case first came to public awareness, the euthanasia authorities cleared the doctor of wrongdoing because she meant well, don’t you know. But there was a bit of an international uproar over the case, and so the doctor was prosecuted.

Now, a court has also cleared the doctor. From the BBC story:

The 74-year-old patient, who died in 2016, had expressed a wish to be euthanised but also indicated that she wanted to determine the right time. Judges said the doctor acted lawfully as not carrying out the process would have undermined the patient’s wish.

In other words, the patient was deemed no longer competent to want to stay alive.

Don’t get me wrong. There was never any chance the doctor would lose her license or do any jail time for the homicide, and indeed, the Dutch prosecutor said as much publicly. You see, the point in cases such as this in the Netherlands is not to punish wrongdoing, but rather, to set precedents for death doctors to follow going forward. Indeed, this is why supposedly restrictive guidelines don’t restrict much of anything. It’s all a big fat fraud.

Once a society accepts the culturally cancerous premise that suffering justifies killing, the issue of actual consent becomes increasingly less important. Indeed, once one is consigned to the killable caste, there are almost no protections at all — as the court’s approval of the homicide by doctor of an incompetent woman struggling against being put down clearly demonstrates.

Those with eyes to see, let them see.

Health Care

On Eccentricity

(Pixabay)

How do Americans feel about eccentricity? Maybe it’s not fair to generalize. Nevertheless, I was recently researching the over-diagnosis and overmedication of Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which is a major problem in the United States, but not so much in the United Kingdom. Part of that is to do with how the respective health care systems are set up — as I’ll explain here later. But I do wonder if part of it is cultural as well.

This question has serious implications on the individual level. For instance, in the following TED Talk, Sir Ken Robinson tells a charming story about Gillian Lynne, the talented choreographer who deserves to be more famous than she is. As a child in the 1930s, before people had a name for ADHD, Lynne was taken to see a specialist because she couldn’t sit still at school. The doctor turned on the radio. And Lynne, upon hearing music, began to dance. “Mrs. Lynne,” the doctor said. “Your daughter isn’t sick. She’s a dancer!”

But imagine the doctor had said “your daughter has ADHD” and put her on a daily dose of amphetamines instead? Would she have discovered her talent? Would she have devised the choreography for the musical, Cats? Probably not.

There are societal considerations regarding eccentricity. In the third chapter of On Liberty (1859), “Of Individuality, as One of the Elements of Well-Being,” the English philosopher John Stuart Mill wrote that:

In this age, the mere example of nonconformity, the mere refusal to bend the knee to custom, is itself a service. Precisely because the tyranny of opinion is such as to make eccentricity a reproach, it is desirable, in order to break through that tyranny, that people should be eccentric. Eccentricity has always abounded when and where strength of character has abounded; and the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigour, and moral courage which it contained. That so few now dare to be eccentric, marks the chief danger of the time.

“The chief danger of the time,” Mill wrote. He was right. Then, as now.

Culture

Ten Things That Caught My Eye Today (Sept. 11, 2019)

1. The church that rose when the towers fell

2. Memories of 9/11 attacks linger for fire department chaplain

3. 9/11: When John Paul II grieved with America

And Pope Benedict’s prayer at Ground Zero

Pope Francis’s remarks at an interreligious event there

4.

 

5. From Katrina Trinko at the Daily Signal: A Former Abortionist Explains Her Change of Heart 

6. Babylon Bee: Report: 95% Of Christians Agree The Other 5% Should Keep Adopting

(it’s satire, but . . .)

7. Yahoo News: Parents of children with mental illness look at shooters and wonder, Could that be my child?

8. A Pastor Dies By Suicide: Three Things We All Need to Know

9. About women and preaching at Mass

10.

National Security & Defense

September 11 Was Never Going to Be Like December 7

Flowers are left on names on the National 9/11 Memorial in N.Y., September 11, 2018. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Among the many feelings, thoughts, and emotions on September 11, 2001, I can remember asking myself, “Is this how Americans felt on December 7, 1941? Is this how we felt when we heard that there was an air raid on Pearl Harbor?” A fractured nation unified, instantly, and then marched relentlessly to victory. December 7 is the dreadful day that launched one of the most glorious and courageous episodes in American history. We call the generation that fought that just war the “greatest generation” for good reason.

On September 11, a fractured nation unified, instantly, and we went to war within days. The echoes of December 7 were unmistakable. But the narrative was never going to be the same. It couldn’t possibly be the same. Even in those first days, President Bush recognized the difference. He warned us of the difference. In his speech to Congress he said, “Our response involves far more than instant retaliation and isolated strikes. Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen. It may include dramatic strikes, visible on TV, and covert operations, secret even in success. We will starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place, until there is no refuge or no rest.”

But none of us really knew what it meant to fight an enemy that would never surrender, that would never stop trying to find a way to kill Americans. So, here we are, 18 years later, still at war. Yes, previous military successes have meant that our footprint is much lighter than it was than the heights of the Afghan and Iraq conflicts, but American troops are still fighting and dying in the nation that launched the 9/11 attacks. They’re still fighting and dying in the lands that are tainted with ISIS’s presence.

We’re weary now. We’re drained of false hope and misplaced idealism. We’ve endured the consequences of George W. Bush’s idealism about our “friends” — that they were at least somewhat ready for democracy and that removing terrible tyrants would allow freedom to flourish. Instead — particularly in Iraq — ripping away the tyrant (with insufficient forces to keep the peace) unleashed horrific sectarian violence.

We’ve also endured the consequences of Barack Obama’s misplaced idealism about our enemies — his hope that they were but a tiny few extremists who would marginalized in the wider Muslim world if only America reset its relationships in the Middle East. His administration withdrew from Iraq, embraced elements of the Arab Spring, and negotiated a nuclear deal with one of our principal jihadist enemies. Yet by 2014, the world confronted the largest and most potent jihadist force in modern history.

On this 9/11 anniversary, our war-weariness shouldn’t distract us from noting and being thankful for an extremely important fact — in spite of jihadists’ plans and most fervent desires, we have not endured another attack on American soil that remotely approaches the scale of the attacks on the Pentagon or the World Trade Center. We haven’t even experienced attacks on the scale of the November 2015 ISIS assault on Paris. Our safety is not accidental. It’s not the product of luck (though we have been lucky on occasion). It’s the consequence of hard fighting and constant vigilance. The war that George Bush described to Congress on September 21 continues, and it will have to continue so long as we face an enemy that seeks to do us harm.

Books, Arts & Manners

Reading for a ‘Fair View of the Progress of Man’

That was the touchstone for long-time Harvard president Charles Eliot in choosing what works to include in The Harvard Classics. Today, few college students read more than a minute fraction of the literature Eliot thought important; most read none at all.

Our latest Martin Center article is an abridgment of the introduction Eliot wrote for the 1910 edition.

“The best acquisition of a cultivated man,” Eliot wrote, “is a liberal frame of mind or way of thinking; but there must be added to that possession acquaintance with the prodigious store of recorded discoveries, experiences, and reflections which humanity in its intermittent and irregular progress from barbarism to civilization has acquired and laid up.”

Yes, but if Eliot were around to say that now, he’d incur the wrath of SJW types. Liberalism, in the sense in which Eliot used it, is regarded as a code word for oppression.

If you’d like to fill a five-foot shelf with beautiful volumes that happen to contain a great deal of enlightening reading, The Harvard Classics will do very nicely.

U.S.

America Is Still Counting Those Killed by the 9/11 Attacks

(Brad Rickerby/Reuters)

Most Americans have probably heard of retired FBI special agent John O’Neill, who retired from the FBI in August 2001 to become chief of security for the World Trade Center. He had escaped from the North Tower but returned to help others, and was killed when the tower collapsed. (Harvey Keitel played him in The Path to 9/11.) They may not have heard of  FBI agent Lenny Hatton, who saw smoke and fire coming from the North Tower of the World Trade Center and rushed to the scene.  He reported critical information to the FBI and assisted emergency responders in leading people from the World Trade Center buildings to safety and lost his life when the tower collapsed.

Until I saw this morning’s statement from the FBI Agents Association, I did not know that 16 FBI agents and employees have died since the attacks from illnesses relating to their work at Ground Zero: Dennis Bonelli, Steven A. Carr, William R. Craig, Brian L. Crews, Laurie Fournier, Jerry D. Jobe, Laurie Johnson, Mark C. Johnston, David J. LeValley, Mark J. Mikulski, Melissa S. Morrow, Robert M. Roth, Gerard D. Senatore, Rex A. Stockham, Paul H. Wilson, and Wesley J. Yoo.

According to the New York Police Department, 241 officers have died from cancer and other diseases that stemmed from their work on the site. The Uniformed Firefighters Association of New York now lists 204 FDNY deaths due to 9/11 illnesses over the past 18 years.

That’s at least 461 more good men and women who departed this earth before their time because of al-Qaeda.

Earlier this year, after some angry accusations that Congress was shirking its duties, Congress passed and President Trump signed into law a permanent 9/11 First Responder Victim Compensation Fund,  to replace a temporary fund that paid awards to about 22,400 people at a cost of about $5.2 billion.

Science & Tech

Four Republican Senators Write to Facebook over ‘Censorship’ of Pro-Life Content

(Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

Four Republican senators sent a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg this morning, criticizing the social-media platform’s recent “fact check” of pro-life organization Live Action. In a copy of the letter obtained exclusively by National Review, Senators Josh Hawley (Mo.), Ted Cruz (Texas), Kevin Cramer (N.D.), and Mike Braun (Ind.) condemn what they call Facebook’s “pattern of censorship” and call on the group to submit to an external audit.

At the end of last month, Facebook notified Live Action that fact-checkers had given a “false” rating to two videos shared by the group’s president Lila Rose. One featured Rose herself and the other featured Dr. Kendra Kolb, a board-certified neonatologist; both videos included the claim that abortion is not medically necessary. After bestowing a “false” rating on the videos, Facebook prevented Rose and Live Action from promoting or advertising content and alerted users who had shared the two videos that they had spread “false news.”

But as the senators’ letter points out, Facebook’s “fact check” was conducted by two abortion providers, both of whom also have formal ties to abortion-rights activist groups: Daniel Grossman, who is on the board of NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation, and Robyn Shickler, a fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health.

“No reasonable person would describe Grossman or Shickler as neutral or objective when it comes to the issue of abortion,” the letter states, “yet Facebook relied on their rating to suppress and censor a pro-life organization with more than 3 million followers.” The letter calls this a violation of “Facebook’s supposed commitment to non-partisanship.”

The senators note that this incident is just one example of significant “bias against those with conservative viewpoints, especially on the issue of abortion,” not only at Facebook but also at Twitter, Google, and Pinterest. “You have repeatedly insisted that these numerous instances of discrimination, censorship, and suppression of speech are merely glitches, not evidence of systemic bias,” they add.

The letter concludes by calling on Facebook to issue a correction, remove restrictions on Rose and Live Action, and submit to an external audit, which they say must be “real and meaningful.” This demand is reminiscent of Hawley’s April letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, in which he demanded a third-party audit of the platform after an account for the pro-life film Unplanned was suspended. A spokesperson for Twitter later told National Review that the suspension had been due to mistakenly linking the account for Unplanned to another account that had violated the rules.

Since joining the Senate this January, Hawley in particular has carved out space for himself as a vocal critic of tech companies, even going so far as to propose a bill that would amend Section 230 to remove larger companies’ immunity from liability unless their policies for regulating content are deemed politically neutral. He has also proposed legislation attempting to curb social-media addiction by banning features like infinite scroll and autoplay.

Update 9/11/19 7:00 p.m.: The International Fact-Checking Network, the unit of the Poynter Institute responsible for providing fact-checking assistance to Facebook, has issued a statement responding to the GOP senators’ letter and listing the steps the group is taking to investigate the incident.

A spokesperson for Facebook has provided National Review with a statement in response to the letter from senators to Zuckerberg and the statement from the IFCN:

Posts by Live Action and Lila Rose were fact-checked by a third party, independently certified by the International Fact Checking Network. We have been in touch with the IFCN which has opened an investigation to determine whether the fact checkers who rated this content did so by following procedures designed to ensure impartiality. While the IFCN investigates, we are removing the relevant fact checks and have communicated this to the members of the US Senate who brought this specific concern to our attention.

Read the full letter here: GOP Senators’ Facebook Letter

World

The Consistency of John Bolton

Then–national security adviser John Bolton and U.S. embassy chargé d’affaires William Taylor at a memorial in Kiev, August 27, 2019. The memorial honors soldiers killed in the war with Russia in eastern Ukraine. (Gleb Garanich / Reuters)

Obviously, John Bolton was never an easy fit in the Trump White House. His worldview and experience are one thing; Trump’s are another. The contrast was most vivid, I think, in the last week of August.

Trump was at the G-7 meeting in France. He kept calling for the readmission of Russia to the group. Russia was kicked out in 2014, because Putin had started a war in Ukraine and annexed Crimea. He has done nothing to earn readmission.

Talking to the press, Trump said some weird things about Crimea. The peninsula, he said,

was sort of taken away from President Obama — not taken away from President Trump, taken away from President Obama. President Obama was not happy that this happened, because it was embarrassing to him, right? It was very embarrassing to him, and he wanted Russia to be out of the — what was called the G-8, and that was his determination. He was outsmarted by Putin.

And so on.

Currently, Trump is withholding military aid to Ukraine and denying the country’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, a White House visit. Apparently, this is because Trump is trying to force the Ukrainian government to intervene in U.S. presidential politics by launching an investigation of Joe Biden. Really. The Washington Post editorialized on this matter, here.

While Trump was in France, calling for the readmission of Russia to a group of democracies, John Bolton was in Kiev, laying a wreath at a memorial. He tweeted, “It was an honor to represent the American people in paying our solemn respects to Ukrainians who have died in the defense of their nation against Russian aggression.”

From 2016 onward, we have seen remarkable transformations: Free-marketeers make excuses for protectionism; hawks and anti-Communists make excuses for nauseating love-fests with Kim Jong-un. Bolton, by contrast, has remained steady. As far as I can tell, his views on Kim, Putin, the Taliban, Iran, and other matters remain the same. Bolton is still Bolton. He has not shape-shifted or been body-snatched.

According to reports, Bolton was unwilling to go on television to defend the president in certain respects. He left that to others. There are always people willing to do the president’s bidding, whatever that bidding is. You remember Trump’s first press secretary, on Day One: Trump had enjoyed “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period.” (Actually, no.)

It goes without saying that the president, whoever he is, gets his way. He is the one the voters elected. No one elected a staffer, and no one elected a cabinet member, either. But if I were president — there’s a thought! — I hope I would want solid, strong-willed advisers around me, willing to disagree. A court of sycophants is not very helpful.

If I am ever elected — don’t hold your breath, or, alternatively, don’t worry — please hold me to this.

Anyway, Bolton is out of the White House, although I hope he will be back in government someday, somehow, and, as I’ve had many occasions to say over the years, I salute the Stache.

Economy & Business

Beto Stumbles into a Good Point on Housing Policy

Beto O’Rourke speaks at the New Hampshire Democratic Party state convention in Manchester, September 7, 2019. (Gretchen Ertl/Reuters)

To the extent he’s getting any coverage at all today, Beto O’Rourke’s getting knocked around by right-of-center publications for his tweet late last night declaring that “Living close to work shouldn’t be a luxury for the rich. It’s a right for everyone.” I wrote about it in the Morning Jolt, Tristan Justice wites about it over at The Federalist, Allahpundit over at Hot Air, Timothy Meads over at Townhall . . .

But as dopey as O’Rourke’s invented new right is, his broader comments get to the crux of a problem about where this generally good job-creating economy is creating all those new jobs.

Big cities and their surrounding regions are creating jobs at a healthy clip, but in most places the housing supply is not keeping pace. This means Americans are finding the jobs they want in places like the New York metro area, Silicon Valley, or Sun Belt cities, but they can’t find a place to live near the job that’s affordable, so they end up living further away. And that means longer commutes, more time stuck in traffic, greater day care and after-school care needs, more missed dance recitals soccer practices and family dinners, and so on.

O’Rourke would be well served to break from his habitual “fill-in-the-blank is a right for everyone, not just a privilege for the wealthy” framing of whatever he’s talking about at the moment. (Today he tweeted, “Women’s health care shouldn’t be a privilege for the few, but a right for everyone.”) Declaring that Americans “have a right to live close to work” is asinine, but declaring, “The country as a whole would be better off if more Americans had more housing options close to their jobs” would probably generate a broad consensus.

In his subsequent remarks, O’Rourke vaguely alluded to the real obstacle to expanding the supply of housing in particular neighborhoods:

Here’s a tough thing to talk about, though we must: rich people are going to have to allow, or be forced to allow, lower-income people to live near them.

No doubt you can find rich Republicans who don’t want poor Democrats living near them. But by and large, when you have a wealthy urban enclave, you’re going to find a lot of rich progressives.

Farhad Manjoo wrote about California Democrats derailing initiatives to build more housing and concluded that “what Republicans want to do with I.C.E. and border walls, wealthy progressive Democrats are doing with zoning and Nimbyism. Preserving ‘local character,’ maintaining ‘local control,’ keeping housing scarce and inaccessible — the goals of both sides are really the same: to keep people out.” Silicon Valley towns are kicking out people who live in recreational vehicles. Residents of a wealthy enclave in Seattle shouted down proponents of a proposed tax for homeless services. The Haight-Ashbury Neighborhood Council in San Francisco wants to make proposed buildings shorter, and with fewer units. Wealthy progressives like their neighborhoods just the way they are, and they are interested in helping the poor… move to somewhere else.

If O’Rourke was serious about this, he could theoretically assemble a broad bipartisan coalition of free-market Republicans and poorer Democrats who want to open up wealthy neighborhoods to more housing units. As Phil Klein notes, “right now, there is cross-ideological agreement that local zoning and regulatory restrictions are a significant barrier to building more affordable housing, and creating more housing density. Breaking down zoning barriers has an appeal to free market, limited government conservatives, but also to liberals who see the classism and racism at the heart of NIMBYism.”

But that would amount to declaring war on “limousine liberals,” and that’s not an easy way to win a Democratic presidential primary.

I doubt Beto is interested in taking my advice, but I’d urge him to try this approach. It’s not like his other ideas — such as confiscating semiautomatic weapons — are catching fire.

White House

Bolton Out

As I noted yesterday, Bolton gave Trump his unvarnished advice, and was willing to ruffle feathers—including Trump’s—in doing it. I thought the Camp David blow-up would benefit Bolton, since he was so obviously proven right. But stories about Bolton’s opposition to the deal  in the press may have irked the president even more. Regardless, at the end of the day, Bolton is a hawk with a firm view of the world and Trump, who believes he can negotiate his way through any disagreement, is not. This wasn’t a natural marriage, although it was still a very good thing that Bolton was there to warn about the foolhardiness of gambits like the one planned for Camp David this week. As for the dispute over the circumstances of his departure, I believe Bolton.

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