Education

Who Put You in Charge?

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American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten tweeted, “Schools can reopen this fall in person, five days a week, with mitigation measures, ventilation upgrades and social, emotional, and academic supports for students.”

Do you remember the election where the American people put Weingarten in charge of all American public schools?

Primed for Panic on the Delta Variant

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Tony Heaton of Falling Waters receives a coronavirus vaccine during a community vaccination event in Martinsburg, West Virginia, March 11, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks. Their bodies already have the antibodies to fight off COVID-19. They may still be at risk of infection, but the virus’ effects on their bodies are extremely likely to be minimal. Full vaccination reduces the odds of severe illness, hospitalization, and death to an extreme long shot. So far, full vaccination provides sufficient protection from all of the variants, including the Delta variant.

These sorts of mundane, self-evidently true, scientifically verified statements can set off furious reactions and denunciations as disinformation on social media. And once again, as predicted, vaccinated people are

Politics & Policy

‘Begun, the CRT Wars Have’

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This week on The Editors, Rich, Jim, and MBD discuss the ongoing fight over critical race theory in schools, what’s going on with the Delta variant, and Joe Biden’s boring presidency. Listen below, or follow this show on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, or Spotify.

Health Care

Ohio Enacts Conscience Protections for Health-Care Workers

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President Trump speaks to Ohio Governor Mike DeWine in Columbus, Ohio, October 24, 2020. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

At the end of June, Ohio governor Mike DeWine signed a state budget that includes robust conscience protections for health-care workers.

The amendment, sponsored by state senator and medical doctor Terry Johnson, provides that physicians, other health-care workers, hospitals, and insurance providers can “decline to perform, participate in, or pay for any health care service” that violates their conscience.

The legislation requires that a medical professional inform his supervisor of the objection to a procedure before declining to perform or assist in it. When possible, the worker should then “attempt to transfer the patient to a colleague who will provide the requested procedure,” but the bill also provides that if doing so violates the health-care worker’s conscience, the patient will have to seek an alternative provider.

The provision, which has the support of the Catholic Medical Association, is especially important in light of a growing push among progressives to pass the so-called Equality Act.

If enacted, the Equality Act — which appears to have the backing of most Democratic politicians at the national level — would effectively require medical professionals to participate in contentious procedures such as gender-reassignment surgery or medically unnecessary hormone therapy, as well as elective abortions. As currently constituted, the bill does not include exemptions or protections for workers’ religious or conscience objections to particular procedures.

Education

Why Can’t College Officials Be Held Responsible When They Violate Student Rights?

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College officials often act in ways that trample on the First Amendment rights of students (sometimes faculty too), and the courts have often agreed when the aggrieved parties sue. The problem is that any money that’s paid out comes from the school (meaning, the taxpayers), not the officials themselves. They get a free pass due to a vague and legally shaky doctrine called “qualified immunity.” (Qualified immunity also shields bad conduct by other public officials, especially police.)

In today’s Martin Center article, I write about this issue.

Qualified immunity is a judicial construct that has scant historical basis.  In fact, in earlier times, the law provided no immunity for rights-violating conduct by officials. Unfortunately, in a 1982 case, the Supreme Court crafted it to protect officials who had to make fast decisions. Whether that’s a good idea or not, it makes no sense at all to apply it to college administrators who don’t have to make spur-of-the-moment decisions and could easily consult with counsel before acting.

The lower courts have mindlessly expanded qualified immunity, but at least there is now some resistance. An Eighth Circuit decision recently remanded a case where the district court had granted qualified immunity, telling it that the officials should have known that their conduct (blatant viewpoint discrimination against a Christian organization) was a First Amendment violation.

In another case, the Supreme Court could have taken the appeal and weighed in against the absurd application of qualified immunity, but, disappointingly, declined to grant cert.

Most colleges and universities are obsessed with “diversity training” these days, but apparently have no interest in training their officials in how to avoid violating the First Amendment. They should do less of the former and some of the latter.

Education

Important Reading on the Critical Race Theory in Schools Debate

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Opponents of critical race theory attend a packed Loudoun County School board meeting in Ashburn, Va., June 22, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

Conservatives are on the march in the political offensive against the teaching of Critical Race Theory and related racialist concepts in K-12 public schools, a battle that has moved into state legislatures. I have written about some of the philosophical problems with the “anti-anti-CRT” movement. But it is also the case that the anti-CRT initiatives must navigate a series of political and legal obstacles, and prudent consideration of those is a worthwhile task for those of us who believe in that cause.

Greg Lukianoff, CEO of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), has some thoughts worth reading in a blog post co-authored with three other FIRE staffers. FIRE is, as I have detailed, an essential defender of free speech rights in higher education, without which conservative college and graduate students would be in a much worse situation. As you might expect, Lukianoff is somewhat skeptical of using state laws to limit the teaching of ideas in any school, particularly universities, but he takes a thoughtful approach to the important distinctions: between public and private schools, between universities and K-12 schools, between academic freedom and the power of government to intimidate and indoctrinate students. On the legal and political status of public K-12 education:

The modern view of education as a pipeline designed to carry children from preschool to graduate school tends to obscure the fact that K-12 education had a very different evolution from the university system. Compulsory public education was a project advanced by politicians and enacted by legislatures for a political purpose [as far back as 1794]…[W]hat will become the curriculum in most public K-12 schools is democratically decided by a combination of state legislatures, local school boards, and individual schools. As such, they represent the will of the people, as expressed in local and state elections. The individual schools cannot exceed the scope granted them by their school boards, which themselves derive power and authority from the state…Because K-12 attendance is compelled by the state and, at public schools, funded predominantly by local taxes, it is understandable that the substance of that teaching is subject to democratic oversight, through state legislatures and elected (or appointed by those who were elected) school boards. Legislators are expected to exercise oversight when citizens with children in the schools voice legitimate concerns about curricular matters.

[T]he legal doctrine that laws affecting speech must be narrowly tailored so as not to sweep a lot of constitutionally protected speech under their purview, does not apply much to the context of K-12 teaching. K-12 teachers have very limited First Amendment rights in the context of their official teaching duties, and a vague law cannot be struck down for abridging rights that do not exist…public K-12 teachers are state actors, and their speech in the course of their duties is state speech. Laws regulating the speech of state actors in the course of their duties are not subject to the same scrutiny and specificity requirements as laws and policies regulating speech of the general public.

State power over curricula includes the power to choose which materials will be taught, and which will not:

States have broad discretion in controlling K-12 education…states can formally adopt, or reject, classroom educational materials produced by organizations such at the Zinn Education Group, the Southern Poverty Law Center, The Heritage Foundation, Black Lives Matter, or, for that matter, FIRE.

At the same time, while Lukianoff believes that many anti-CRT laws are constitutional, he warns that poorly-drafted laws can end up banning the teaching of things that the legislators never intended to ban, and can lead to confusion and discord at the school level. But he rejects the view that the laws are reacting to entirely chimerical concerns, citing multiple examples of “legitimately concerning documented cases of K-12 students being singled out due to their race and made to participate in exercises that are, arguably, racially discriminatory,” citing the California state curriculum as a particularly noxious example of political and racial indoctrination, and observing that “what opponents of ‘CRT’ are getting at is a philosophy that comes directly in conflict with small-L liberalism…the rise and widespread adoption of a philosophy that relies on genetic essentialism, overgeneralization, guilt by association…shame and guilt tactics, and deindividuation.” This is a worthy thing to oppose, especially if you believe in classically liberal values.

Read the whole thing. It is worth your time. So is this blog post by my former RedState colleague Patterico, on why the New York Times op-ed by David French, Kmele Foster, Thomas Chatterton Williams, and Jason Stanley against state anti-CRT laws ends up misrepresenting carefully drafted anti-CRT laws such as the one in Texas. It is not surprising that the Times piece is short on nuance; it is a co-authored piece by four people with differing worldviews, which inevitably leads to a lowest-common-denominator approach to what the authors can agree on, plus it is published in the Times, which means complying both with the constricted word limits of the Times and its institutional allergy to saying anything its readers would find uncomfortable. But that is no excuse for readers swallowing its characterizations as the last word on what these laws actually say and do. Patterico sets the record straight. (UPDATE: He has further responses here).

 

Culture

20 Things That Caught My Eye Today: Fighting Down Syndrome Abortions, the Cruel Grief of Miscarriage in Our Culture & More

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1.

2.

3. Meet the mother challenging the UK’s Down syndrome abortion law

4. Secular Pro-Life: Our cultural gaslighting of women who miscarry before 20 weeks

Grief is hard enough on its own, without added layers of guilt and shame.

“I felt my grief was wrong because it wasn’t a real baby – but I was in complete shock,” she says. … “It wasn’t ’tissue’ to me, it was our baby,” Toni says.

5. Tajikistan calls up reservists to bolster border as Afghan troops flee Taliban

Continue reading “20 Things That Caught My Eye Today: Fighting Down Syndrome Abortions, the Cruel Grief of Miscarriage in Our Culture & More”

Culture

Of Masks and Men

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(Rattankun Thongbun/Getty Images)

When your first-ever trip to Oregon coincides with a historic Pacific Northwest heat wave, you have to find ways to cope.

One afternoon in Portland, the plan was to while away an hour in the famous, and enormous, Powell’s Books, both for the books and for the air conditioning. It was two days before Oregon’s mask mandate was to be lifted, as announced by the governor. Stores and restaurants in the city had been enforcing that soon-to-expire rule so strictly that I knew Powell’s would be no different. But I wasn’t prepared for what ensued.

It was 115 degrees when I arrived with my family at the store. The AC in the car had been struggling. Just one quick stop before going downtown and then a one-block walk from the parking space to the store left me feeling as though I’d been tumbled inside a clothes dryer on the highest setting.

We walked through Powell’s doors. I hadn’t put my mask on yet — I was sweating, trying to breathe, and needed a moment.

Young store clerk (read: enforcer): No entry without a mask, ma’am.

Me, politely: I understand. I just need a minute to stand here before I put it on. [I took tissues out of my purse to mop my brow.]

Young clerk, barking: We require masks at all times, you can’t come in the store.

Me: I’m not coming in, I’m standing here by the door. I need one minute before I put on my mask. I’m just going to stand here for one minute, OK?

Young clerk, seeming to be very vexed, turns to an older employee, I’m guessing a manager. The manager says, peremptorily: No entry without a mask.

Me, becoming colder in tone but not yet in temperature: I’m standing here by the door. I need one minute, just ONE minute to cool down before I put it on.

Young clerk: You heard the rule, we require masks. No entry without a mask. You have to put on a mask.

Me, in a combination of anger and oncoming tears, but not budging from my spot: I am going to stand here by the door for one minute to cool down. Then I am going to put on my mask.

Manager, exasperatedly: You’re having a problem with the heat? [!!!] Oh all right, you can stay by the door. Do you need to sit down?

A spark of humanity! No thank you, I said. When putting on my mask seemed bearable, I did so, walked into and through the store, found four books I was looking for, and bought them. As I passed the young clerk on my way out, he wished me a good day. Maybe he didn’t recognize me in my mask.

I was left wondering when — if — the enforcers will regain the ability to think individually, to consider circumstances, or just to allow an instinct for compassion to be their first instinct.

Regulatory Policy

The SEC and Regulatory Creep (Again)

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(Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

The SEC (from 2020):

For more than 85 years since our founding at the height of the Great Depression, we have stayed true to our mission of protecting investors, maintaining fair, orderly, and efficient markets, and facilitating capital formation.

Reuters:

July 6 (Reuters) – Mutual fund boards would be required to disclose information on the gender and racial diversity of their directors under a rule change recommended to the top U.S. securities regulator.

The suggestion from an advisory subcommittee of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which would need further approval, goes further than subcommittee members had outlined in the spring and mirrors a growing focus from other quarters on the financial industry’s lack of diversity.

At present, there is “virtually no representation of women and minorities” on the boards that set policies across the $29.3 trillion U.S. mutual fund industry, Gilbert Garcia, chair of the subcommittee and managing partner of a Houston investment firm, said in an interview late on Monday.

Garcia said the subcommittee does not have a specific set of disclosures in mind, but said in general more data should lead to more diversity. “The theory is that by shining transparency on this, market forces will change the makeup” of boards, he said…

Fund boards are distinct from the directors who run publicly traded asset-management businesses like BlackRock Inc or T. Rowe Price Group, and traditionally face less public scrutiny. Fund boards oversee areas like the fees that funds pay to managers and their performance…

Skeptics worry Gensler and other officials will adopt regulations that are hard to enforce on areas outside of traditional finance. Beyond social issues like board room diversity these include climate change considerations and executive pay metrics.

Well, some skeptics may worry about that. Others, however, may be more concerned that the SEC is getting ready to advance a political and social agenda that has nothing to do with its remit, and, what’s more, that the regulatory system is being used as a way of bypassing the democratic process.

For more on the SEC’s redefinition of what it is supposed to be for, here’s Richard Morrison, writing for Capital Matters back in March, and again in May.

Sports

Returning to Normal: Motorsports Edition

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Red Bull’s Max Verstappen during qualifying for the Formula One F1 Steiermark Grand Prix at Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Styria, Austria, June 26, 2021. (Leonhard Foeger/Reuters)

The Australian Grand Prix has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. No, this isn’t news from last year.

The race was scheduled to be held on November 21, but the government of Victoria, the Australian state containing Melbourne, where the race is located, announced it wouldn’t let it go on as planned. “Given the very low national two-dose-vaccination numbers, and given the decision of national cabinet on Friday, we’re simply not in a position to give F1 management . . . the sorts of guarantees and assurances and comfort that they need this week,” said the Victorian sports minister.

How bad are Australia’s vaccination numbers? As of today, only about 25 percent of Australians have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Australia is slightly ahead of India (21 percent), on par with Mexico, and well behind Brazil (37 percent). Australia is, however, ahead of New Zealand, the country whose prime minister was praised effusively by the New York Times editorial board in April 2020 for her pandemic leadership. New Zealand is coming in at around 15 percent.

For perspective, the U.S., which much of the media would have you believe has been uniquely awful in its handling of the coronavirus, comes in at 55 percent. Our racing schedule is happening as planned. NASCAR and IndyCar races are now being held with full crowds and hardly a mask in sight. They haven’t been “superspreader events” because vaccines work, and lots of people are vaccinated.

The Australian Grand Prix had been the first race on the Formula 1 calendar almost every year since the race moved to Melbourne in 1996. The season ordinarily starts in March, when the weather is considerably nicer in Australia than it is in Europe (where much of the season takes place). Since F1 is one of the most popular sports in the world, the Australian Grand Prix is widely anticipated by millions of race fans, and it regularly draws six-figure attendance. Canceling the event for the second year in a row is a huge loss for the country.

The 2020 race was scheduled to be on March 15, right when the coronavirus pandemic was first starting. The race was canceled, just like most sporting events around the world. Efforts to reschedule to later in the year didn’t work out, which was expected since planning an event like that in the first place is difficult enough. So the F1 season didn’t have an Australian Grand Prix for the first time since 1946.

The date for the 2021 race was moved to November to give Australia more time to prepare. They couldn’t pull it off. Otherwise healthy Australians under age 40 still aren’t even eligible for vaccination. All American adults have been eligible for vaccination since the middle of April.

Don’t let the media’s insistence on 24/7 doom and gloom get you down. The U.S. is in the top tier of countries for vaccine rollout, and it’s leaps and bounds ahead of Australia and New Zealand. The U.S. Grand Prix will be held on October 24 this year, right around the time of year it’s normally held. It’s not crazy to think the American population could be more than 75 percent vaccinated by that time. And race fans will have a blast when the lights go out and 20 cars squeal off the grid at Circuit of the Americas for the first time since 2019.

Regulatory Policy

Lina Khan Just Got a Lot More Powerful

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FTC Commissioner nominee Lina M. Khan testifies during a Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., April 21, 2021. (Graeme Jennings/Pool via Reuters)

Lina Khan has made waves at the Federal Trade Commission for her aggressive moves on antitrust policies. Capitalizing on the bipartisan trustbusting trend, Khan is pushing a radical agenda that few before her even tried. In a series of 3–2 votes along party lines, Democratic appointees led by Khan have gutted a number of long-standing regulatory rules at the FTC that limited its power. In response, the Wall Street Journal editorial board has alerted conservatives to the threat Khan poses to ordinary businesses.

Khan rose to prominence for her critique of traditional methods of measuring monopolistic power. Specifically, she argued that Amazon presented an antitrust paradox that needed to be rectified through more aggressive regulatory action. The Wall Street Journal editorial board warns that Khan’s efforts are not confined to Big Tech companies, though. They write

The agency eliminated the long-standing role of the agency’s chief administrative law judge in presiding over fact-finding and rule-making. Now Ms. Khan, or someone of her choosing, will preside. The Democrats also killed the requirement that the FTC staff get a majority vote of the commission to start an investigation. Now only a single commissioner can sign off. Subpoenas can also fly at Ms. Khan’s discretion.

The Journal continues, 

This is a sure signal that the three Democrats are planning to dump the consumer-welfare standard for antitrust that has prevailed for decades. Instead the agency will replace it with some new standard it hasn’t specified. Also on the chopping block is the “rule of reason” the Supreme Court has applied to antitrust law for more than a century.

Striking down the “rule of reason” as a test would be a massive change in antitrust policy. The “rule of reason” test is the most rigorous level of scrutiny in the courts and is the test most antitrust cases fall under. Business conduct that is not illegal per se (which covers the most obvious forms of monopolistic practices, such as cartel price-fixing) falls under this level of scrutiny. 

In a “rule of reason” analysis, potential anticompetitive behavior is analyzed for its effect on consumers within a larger context. Courts are tasked with figuring out the net benefit or harm of an allegedly anticompetitive contract. Factors such as market size, geography, and relative power play a role in a “rule of reason” test. 

The main idea of the test is to figure out if a contract unreasonably restricts trade. However, it seems that Khan may be looking to use the “Quick Look” test more often, which would truncate the FTC’s economic analysis and allow for more ideological results. As the Wall Street Journal points out, moving beyond the “rule of reason” standard would greatly expand the regulatory powers of the FTC. 

These Republicans may be under the illusion that Ms. Khan has only Big Tech in her sights. But the new powers she is claiming will give her authority to shoot at business in all directions. The FTC is supposed to be mainly an enforcement agency that polices bad practices, but Ms. Khan and her fellow Democratic commissioners want to expand its regulatory powers as well.

Regulatory action often ends up hurting ordinary businesses unintentionally. In this case, though, the FTC’s message is clear: American companies will not be given deference. If Khan decides to expand and use the FTC’s newfound powers, consumers, employees, and employers will all be worse off because of it.  

Law & the Courts

Louisiana Enacts Three New Pro-Life Laws

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Anti-abortion marchers rally at the Supreme Court during the 46th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., January 18, 2019. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

In Louisiana, Democratic governor John Bel Edwards has signed into law three pro-life pieces of legislation aimed at protecting unborn children. All three laws will take effect starting on August 1.

The first is a major success, a relatively new form of pro-life law: It requires doctors to inform women seeking a chemical abortion that there is a medical method that might enable her to reverse the procedure, should she wish to do so.

Despite media claims that “no verified scientific evidence” supports this policy, the best data available on the subject confirm that chemical abortions are reversible if treated prior to taking the second dose of the two-drug regimen. Here’s more from a longer piece I wrote on the science of abortion-pill reversal a few months back:

In the largest case series studying the effects of abortion-pill reversal, women who received treatment and successfully reversed an attempted abortion had no increased risk of complications or birth defects. Close to 70 percent of the 754 women studied were able to undo the effects of Mifeprex and carry healthy babies to term.

That’s the basis for informed-consent laws requiring doctors to tell women about abortion-pill reversal. There’s every reason to believe the method works, at least in some significant number of cases, and it’s an invaluable piece of information for a woman who begins a chemical abortion only to change her mind. It’s telling that supporters of legal abortion so vociferously oppose offering women that option.

The second new law in Louisiana modifies existing rules about how minors can bypass the state if their parents don’t consent to their abortion procedure. Currently, minors are permitted to seek permission from a judge either in their own jurisdiction or in the area where the abortion would be performed; under the new law, they could seek approval only from a local judge or one in an adjoining county.

The final policy enacted by Edwards is a law to collect more extensive information about the abortions that are performed in the state, though the information will not be available publicly.

Among other data, the law requires the state Department of Health to inform the attorney general and the Department of Children and Family Services each quarter of any abortions performed on girls under the age of 13.

The policy also requires hospitals to submit reports to the Department of Health on patients who obtain treatment for complications following an abortion procedure. Those reports will not include the name or address of the patients involved in each case.

This last law is especially interesting in light of last summer Supreme Court case June Medical v. Russo, in which the majority struck down a Louisiana law that required abortionists to maintain admitting privileges at a local hospital so that women could more easily obtain follow-up care in abortion-related emergencies. Though the enforcement of this new policy won’t require abortionists to adhere to safety standards, it should enable the state to see if there is a pattern of women requiring care after visiting particular abortion clinics.

Politics & Policy

Terry McAuliffe Has No Idea What Virginia’s Gun Laws or Voting Laws Are

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Then-Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe arrives at the election night rally for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam in Fairfax, Va., November 7, 2017. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)

Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic former governor of Virginia who wants to be elected governor again in November, thinks he’s hit on a winning applause line this morning: “Call me crazy, but I think it should be easier to vote than it should be to buy a gun.”

To vote in Virginia, a person must be 18 years of age, a U.S. citizen, and a resident of Virginia – as well as not currently declared mentally incompetent by a court of law. If convicted of a felony, the felon’s right to vote must be formally restored; as of March 16, individuals are eligible to have their rights restored after being released from incarceration.

In 2020, more than 81 percent of Virginia’s registered voters came out to cast a ballot or voted absentee. There is absolutely no evidence that the state of Virginia is suppressing the vote or that registered voters are being prevented from getting to the polls, or that eligible voters are being somehow dissuaded or prevented from registering.

It’s not clear what is left for McAuliffe to do, if reelected. As the New York Times summarized in May, “in the last 14 months, the state’s Democratic-controlled General Assembly and Mr. Northam have together repealed the state’s voter ID law, enacted 45 days of no-excuse absentee voting, made Election Day a state holiday and enacted automatic voter registration for anyone who receives a Virginia driver’s license.”

However, some Virginians do worry that some unseen group or force will somehow intercept, destroy, or alter their ballot; before the election, “Tony Whitehead, another Richmond resident, said he is concerned about the possibility of ballots being stolen from mailboxes by groups who want the opposing party to win.” But that expression of concern came before the 2020 election; after Election Day 2020, questions about whether your ballot was properly and securely transported and counted became widely considered a sign of dangerous right-wing extremism.

Meanwhile, Virginians cannot legally purchase a firearm if they fit under any one of 23 categories, including if they are under indictment for a felony, are the subject of an active misdemeanor or felony arrest warrant from any state, were ever convicted of a felony, have an active protective or restraining order filed against them, unlawfully uses or is addicted to drugs or any controlled substance, had ever been adjudicated legally incompetent or mentally incapacitated, had ever been involuntarily admitted to a facility for mental health treatment, discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable discharge, had ever been convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence, and others.

In other words, it is much, much easier to vote in Virginia than to purchase a firearm. But wildly exaggerating the ease of purchasing a firearm is a proud tradition of Democratic candidates and officeholders. President Obama famously contended that, “we flood communities with so many guns that it is easier for a teenager to buy a Glock than get his hands on a computer or even a book” and separately, “there are neighborhoods where it’s easier for you to buy a handgun and clips than it is for you to buy a fresh vegetable.” The phenomenon no doubt represents the outrageous mandatory seven-day waiting period before purchasing a dictionary, and the nefarious lingering effects of the Assault Vegetable Ban.

McAuliffe may well be crazy, but that’s for entirely different reasons.

Chris Hayes Hearts ChiCom Propaganda

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Chris Hayes (MSNBC/YouTube)

Here is a state-run Chinese newspaper mocking Americans and guns.

First of all, this ChiCom propaganda — written in English — isn’t directed at the Chinese people who are banned from Twitter. It’s directed at folks like MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, who dutifully shared the cartoon with his 2 million followers, noting that he continues “to be grimly fascinated by how much America’s truly exceptional levels of gun violence figure in the perception of the country around the world.”

Considering the number of Chinese people who would eagerly immigrate here to escape truly exceptional levels of state-induced poverty and violence, I suspect that

Elections

‘We Find that [Voter ID] Laws Have No Negative Effect on Registration or Turnout.’

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

A few days ago, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger observed on this site, “a sudden surge in new support for voter ID. Stacey Abrams and Georgia senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, for example, have suddenly become big supporters of voter ID despite repeatedly referring to the provisions of Georgia’s new election law, which imposes an ID requirement on absentee ballots, as ‘Jim Crow 2.0.’”

Zachary Evans noted polling indicates large bipartisan majorities support voter ID laws, and Isaac Schorr laid out how Abrams and Warnock could not plausibly claim to have always supported voter ID.

But the question remains why some of the Democrats who had most staunchly demonized voter ID were willing to make such a sudden and dramatic about-face.

Perhaps the evidence was mounting that Democrats were expending energy and political capital to prevent measures that created no measurable disadvantage to their party or candidates. On May 22, the Quarterly Journal of Economics unveiled the results of an extensive study:

U.S. states increasingly require identification to vote—an ostensible attempt to deter fraud that prompts complaints of selective disenfranchisement. Using a difference-in-differences design on a panel data set with 1.6 billion observations, 2008–2018, we find that the laws have no negative effect on registration or turnout, overall or for any group defined by race, gender, age, or party affiliation… Overall, our findings suggest that efforts to improve elections may be better directed at other reforms.

This deep dive into the data suggested that Democrats were taking an unpopular stand for no real benefit. In that situation… why wouldn’t Democrats try to use voter ID as a bargaining chip to win other policy concessions?

Education

Conservatives Need to Think Way Outside the Box on Education

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(michaeljung/Getty Images)

Tyler Cowen has an excellent column for Bloomberg today about what his fantasy university would look like. It would be radically different from any existing university today, and it has some very strong ideas that conservatives should be interested in.

As an economist, Cowen is primarily interested in the incentives that actors face within systems. Using that approach, he proposes realigning incentives to focus on actually educating students (I told you it was radical).

“I would start with what I expect students to know,” Cowen writes. “They should be able to write very well, have a basic understanding of economics and public policy, and a decent working knowledge of statistical reasoning.” You might think that’s a perfectly natural place to start, but our current education system consistently produces adults who don’t know how to write, don’t know many basic facts about our political system, and can’t explain what a margin of error is for an opinion poll, let alone make a reasoned inference based on it.

Students regularly learn nothing because they know they only need to demonstrate proficiency in something for an exam. That means you can cram the night before and regurgitate everything your teacher said in class, then forget it all once you leave the classroom. Regurgitation wouldn’t work in Cowen’s university, however, because teachers wouldn’t write or grade their students’ exams. Since they don’t know who will be writing or grading the exam, “students would have to acquire a genuine general knowledge base, not just memorize what is supposed to be on the exam,” he writes.

There would be no tenure for professors, and they would be paid based on how many students take their classes. That would encourage professors to teach interesting information in a way that’s engaging for students. Additionally, “none of the instructors would be required to have any undergraduate or advanced degrees,” Cowen writes. The qualifications would be completely student-focused, with students essentially deciding what works and what doesn’t.

Cowen believes in treating students like human beings who have desires and want to achieve them, instead of like animals that need to be herded. Don’t let the slackers and partiers fool you: By and large, students want to develop skills and knowledge in school. Even if they don’t want to read Socratic dialogues, they at least want to be prepared for a career in a field that’s interesting to them. Our current education system does not serve them well.

The instinct to fight the Left’s indoctrination campaigns is right and proper. But our education system has been inculcating students in secular progressive nonsense for a century (it actually might be a good thing that students don’t retain most of it). Preserving the status quo is better than drifting further left, but it’s still not a victory. Conservatives need to look beyond the current issues of critical race theory or leftist gender ideology and see the bigger picture: Incentives are aligned in such a way that educating students is not the primary goal of educational institutions. It should be no surprise, then, that many students are poorly educated.

Education is an area in which the “liberals” want to keep the status quo and the “conservatives” want to reform. Proposals like Cowen’s are way outside the box, but he’s framing the issue the right way and moving in the right direction.

Politics & Policy

Joe Biden’s Baseball Tall Tale

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President Joe Biden speaks from the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, D.C., May 13, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Longtime observers of Joe Biden know that he has a very, very extensive track record of telling made-up stories about his own past. The tendency to embellish biography and put yourself in some anecdote for the purposes of making political or personal connections is a bad habit of many politicians, and it has become more epidemic with the growth of identity politics, in which who you are is often treated as more important to an argument than what you say. Even by that standard, however, Biden is unusual in the volume and duration of his fairy tales about his own life, most notoriously including the barrage of fabulism that collapsed his 1988 presidential campaign. It’s not an old-age thing; he was like this his forties. David Harsanyi has collected some of these Walter Mitty stories from Biden’s imagined past.

On Friday, hosting the World Champion Los Angeles Dodgers at the White House, Biden was at it again:

And I — I just want you to know that there — we have a congressional baseball game every year.  In the very beginning, I used to be a centerfielder and my Walter Mitty dream — anyways, it’s a long story, but — (laughter) — And my kids only remember two things that ever happened to me in my career — my boys.  And they’ve met kings and queens, they’ve gone to other countries.  But I played, when the first — the second congressional baseball game at the old stadium — the old Washington stadium.  And I hit one off the right-centerfield wall.  It bounced off the wall.  I think it’s 368 or — I don’t know what is exactly now — but off the wall.  And I’m rounding — anyway, to make a long story short, my kids remember that, all the rest.  And guess what?  The only thing I remember, too.  (Laughter.)  Here I thought: What could have been.  What could have been.

My immediate thought on hearing this, and probably yours as well if you know anything about Joe Biden, was “there is very little chance that this story is true.” Republican National Committee researcher Zac Parkinson did the digging into old newspapers, and the answer will not surprise you:

The White House declined comment when Politico asked about the latest fish story by its least reliable spokesman.

Law & the Courts

Raise Your Sights, Pro-Lifers

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Sometimes even the most morally compelling of causes requires its backers to proceed incrementally, to make tactical retreats, to advocate half-measures. This isn’t one of those times: not for pro-lifers as the Supreme Court takes up the case of Mississippi’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks.

As Robert P. George explains at First Things, pro-lifers and legal conservatives, including the state’s attorney general, ought to be seeking nothing less than the full overturning of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. We ought to be asking, that is, for a declaration that the Constitution contains no right to abortion, allows legislatures to enact bans on abortion, and does not authorize judicial second-guessing of those bans.

The political moment is as good as it has ever been for such a ruling. It’s the ruling that follows most straightforwardly from reading the Constitution in line with its text, original understanding, and structure. The specific issue being litigated in this case, as Sherif Girgis has shown, militates strongly against trying to limit Roe and Casey without overruling them.

The pro-life movement and Republican politicians should explain that overturning Roe won’t by itself ban abortion. They should make that point because it’s accurate, because it will help prepare pro-lifers for the political battles to come if they succeed in court, and because it will do a little to calm the nerves of those who fear drastic and sudden change in abortion policy. But it’s more important that they call on the justices to do the right thing: Bury Roe, and salt the earth.

Why the Intelligence Review on COVID-19 Probably Won’t Offer Clear Answers

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CIA Headquarters Building in McLean, Va. (Larry Downing/Reuters)

We are now almost halfway through the 90-day period that President Biden set for the U.S. intelligence community to redouble “efforts to collect and analyze information that could bring us closer to a definitive conclusion” about the origin of COVID-19. Sometime in the middle of July, President Biden is scheduled to receive an update on those efforts.

It will be a pleasant surprise if the U.S. intelligence community’s review comes to any definitive answers, or even leans strongly in one direction between the lab-leak hypothesis and hypothesis that the virus jumped into a human being in some manner entirely unconnected to

National Security & Defense

The Administration Shuns Sanctions, Embraces Europe

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The Wall Street Journal reports a policy review that began in the early days of the Biden presidency will soon likely culminate in a rollback of sanctions targeting U.S. adversaries.

As the Journal reports, officials see the frequent use of sanctions by the previous administration, particularly against Iran and Venezuela, to have been broadly ineffective, tanking the economies of rogue regimes without producing diplomatic outcomes.

They see this as a repudiation of the previous administration’s work, which they claim was driven primarily by unilateral action:

“Our focus is on making sure that we’re moving from unilateral action, which has been what has defined U.S. policy over the last four years, to really working with our partners,” a senior administration official told The Wall Street Journal. . . .

Analysts say the Biden administration has eased diplomatic tensions with allies through sanctions decisions on Iran as well as on other issues. In April, allies commended the Biden administration decision to remove officials of the International Criminal Court from a sanctions blacklist, where they were placed by the Trump administration.

In May, German officials were buoyed by the U.S. decision not to sanction Nord Stream 2, the multibillion-dollar natural gas pipeline being built by European and Russian companies.

At times, this orientation has borne fruit. The White House’s efforts to coordinate multilateral sanctions in response to China’s human-rights atrocities in Xinjiang and the hijacking of a Ryanair flight by Belarus’s dictator have sent the right signal.

As with many other aspects of Joe Biden’s early foreign policy, however, the administration places a premium on aligning U.S. policy with what certain European countries want — at the expense of others.

Elsewhere, the Biden administration has left U.S. partners in the dark, as when officials failed to alert their counterparts in Poland and Ukraine that it would grant a waiver to key figures involved in Nord Stream 2. And as the White House courts Iran’s new hardline regime, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and others might see reason to continue to accelerate the development of their growing ties with China.

These are difficult tradeoffs that the White House has surely considered, but officials are still apparently leaning into the facile political narrative that they are merely restoring America’s alliances.

NRI

This Just In: Accepting Submissions to the Buckley Essay Contest

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One of the fun things about writing books is that people ask you to write things in their books, usually dedications to somebody to whom they are giving the book as a gift. The most common thing I am asked to write in a book is some variation on “Don’t believe everything your professors tell you when you go off to college next year.” I suspect that this means, among other things, that there are a lot of kids out there getting a copy of Big White Ghetto as a graduation present when they’d been hoping for a car.

There is a great deal of anxiety surrounding college education — anxiety about intellectual openness, political indoctrination, stifling conformism, the petty vindictiveness of “cancel culture,” etc. That is, of course, a longstanding theme here at National Review — Bill Buckley entered public life with a journalistic beatdown of his own alma mater in God and Man at Yale. Unfortunately, things on campus have not improved since 1951 — the opposite, in fact, has been the case.

That is one reason why the National Review Institute has chosen God and Man at Yale as the subject of our first William F. Buckley Jr. essay contest, in which college freshmen and sophomores will read WFB’s first book and apply its insights to contemporary college education. The winning essay will be published here at National Review Online.

Undergraduates interested in a career in writing should give it a shot. National Review has long been a great nurturer of young talent, producing writers you can read everywhere from these pages to the Washington Post and the New York Times. National Review’s bylines have included everyone from Reihan Salam to Joan Didion — the winning essay will be in good company.

You can learn more about the contest here. Entries are due July 31.

Education

The Problems with Left-Wing Alternatives to Civics Education

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(Thinkstock)

A growing coalition of lawmakers and nonprofits wants to make civics more partisan and radical. The latest effort comes in the form of the PREP Civics and Government Act. Of the four civics-funding bills being pushed in Congress, the PREP act includes the fewest details. The text of the bill consists of a mere four complete sentences, clarifying that the National Endowment of the Humanities can give grants for research in civics and government.

Ultimately, the final destination of that grant money will be determined by NEH bureaucrats — but several of the organizations that have endorsed the act are well-positioned for grants if it passes. These include CivXNow (a project of iCivics), the Civic Engagement Research Group (CERG), the Michigan Center for Civic Education, Virginia Civics, and the Social Science Education Consortium. Some of these organizations, such as iCivics, have already received money from the NEH. All of them promote a radical pedagogy that would inject partisanship and ideology into the classroom.

Virtually all of the above organizations promote “action civics.” This increasingly trendy form of civics pedagogy requires students to find an issue, research the “root cause,” and then advocate for their proposed solutions using various “tactics.” CivXNow champions the recent civics reforms in Illinois, known as the Democracy Schools program, which incorporate action civics as a key component of civics education and school curriculum in general. Virginia Civics and the Michigan Center for Civic Education likewise support the Project Citizen curricular program, which requires students to “create a political action plan to enlist local or state authorities to adopt their proposed policy.”

The flaws of action civics abound. Scholars who advocate for the method highlight outcomes such as “civic and cultural transformation” and “21st century positive youth leadership” — but the connection between action civics and traditional civics content is tenuous at best. Action-civics projects focus on political tactics, making little room for reflection on the structure and foundation of our form of government. The band of students who accosted Diane Feinstein in favor of the Green New Deal displayed no knowledge of the political process, or interest in it. This is precisely the kind of haste that action civics encourages.

These projects, furthermore, encourage and reward the ideological peer pressure of dogmatic students. When schools require students to protest, those who double-down on their ideological preconceptions can easily stampede those who are undecided, especially within the context of group projects. Moreover, action civics projects almost always adopt the priorities of the political Left.

Some so-called reformers, however, argue that action civics doesn’t go far enough, criticizing it as insufficiently ideological. Both CivXNow and CERG — organizations which stand to gain from NEH civics grants — endorse the “Lived Civics” framework, which explicitly racializes civics education. The websites CivXNow and CERG list the paper “Let’s Go There” as a recommended resource. The authors of the paper argue “that concepts such as race, ethnicity, identity and lived experience must be central anchors of civic education because they shape how young people understand and engage with the state as well as the meanings they impose on any action civics project” (emphasis added).

According to the Lived Civics framework, isolated lessons on race and racism are not enough — even if those lessons draw from the likes of Ibram X. Kendi. Rather, every feature of the curriculum should be filtered through the lens of race: “Rather than a discrete unit, lesson, or series of activities that are layered on top of a traditional civics curriculum, a Lived Civics curriculum is based on the premise that race, identity and lived experiences are of central importance and are a critical lens through which the content of all civics course material is explored.”

Many of the organizations backing the PREP Act embrace this casual racialism, even without the formal “Lived Civics” name. The Social Science Education Consortium says that it seeks “to rebuild our democracy from a foundation of antiracist and inclusive teaching.” To that end, the organization recommends the Wake County Public School System equity guidelines. Christopher Rufo recently reported on the radicalism of the Wake County Schools’ diversity initiatives. To highlight one of Rufo’s examples: a teacher training seminar in the district listed “denial,” “fear,” “blame,” “control,” “punishment,” “scarcity,” and “one-dimensional thinking” as white cultural values.

Civics education exists to train students for citizenship. “Lived Civics,” “action civics,” and various pedagogies under the umbrella of “equity” all serve to redefine citizenship. At best, these new civics pedagogies inject partisanship into education; at worst, they explicitly make race the center of civic life. This is a radical agenda — adopted by organizations rallying behind the PREP Act. Let’s hope they don’t get their way.

John Sailer is a research associate at the National Association of Scholars.

World

A Chinese Diplomat Mocks the Surfside Tragedy

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These tweets by Li Yang, China’s consul general in Rio de Janeiro, tell you everything you already knew about the Chinese Communist Party:

This part of Beijing’s charm offensive follows Xi Jinping’s pledge, during a speech marking the Party’s centenary last week, to break and bloody the heads of anyone who stands in China’s way.

Energy & Environment

Where’s the Plan to Prevent More Texas-Sized Power Outages?

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A new poll by the Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas shows that the February power failures have prompted Texans to lose “confidence that the state’s electricity grid can withstand heat waves and spiking demand this summer.”

The article goes on to say that “Only 39% say they trust the grid to deliver power without blackouts this summer.”

Pollster Mark Owens says calls by Texas officials for people to lower their thermostats when electric plants go offline for maintenance have increased skepticism about the grid.

All this is a wakeup call for Texas governor Greg Abbott, who back in February said he would address the problem of the state not having a backup plan if alternative energy wasn’t available. The Morning News poll also says Abbott’s approval rating on the power-outage issue stands at an anemic 47 percent.

Impromptus

The Meaning of It All

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A pair of mottos on a wall in New York City. Photo taken in June 2021. (Jay Nordlinger)

The phrase “American way of life” is a little hokey. But it is not bereft of meaning. High-school football on Friday nights. Shopping at Target. Those things are part of “the American way of life,” aren’t they? Yet they have been curbed by crime. I open my Impromptus today by discussing this issue. Then I turn to Afghanistan, where hell is unfolding. But hasn’t Afghanistan been hell for a long time? True, but there are degrees of it.

After I put my column “to bed,” a story came across the AP wire. The first paragraph reads,

The U.S. left Afghanistan’s Bagram Airfield after nearly 20 years by shutting off the electricity and slipping away in the night without notifying the base’s new Afghan commander, who discovered the Americans’ departure more than two hours after they left, Afghan military officials said.

No matter what one’s view of our withdrawal from Afghanistan, I would think, this detail is jolting.

In my column, I go on to discuss many other issues, including Independence Day, and the meaning of it all — of America, that is.

Let’s have some mail.

In an Impromptus two weeks ago, I wrote about “I don’t know.” I’ll explain. On Inside the NBA, Shaquille O’Neal was asked for a prediction: Who would win a particular game? After thinking a second, he said, “I don’t know.” Charles Barkley gibed, “That’s not an answer. They don’t pay us to say ‘I don’t know’ on TV, fool.”

(Shaq and Chuck are national treasures, in my opinion.)

In my column, I wrote,

The brightest, wisest, most experienced people I know say “I don’t know” a lot. Dimmer (and less secure) ones almost never say it. Often, the more expertise you have, the less sure you are. The less you know, the surer you are.

I got a note from my friend Mike Brown, the veteran journalist in Rockdale, Texas.

Jay,

The Shaq story reminded me of one of television’s finest moments, a short list to be sure.

Not long after The Ascent of Man was aired/published, Jacob Bronowski was being interviewed and was asked a question to which he did not know the answer.

Bronowski paused and simply thought, actually mulled the question in his mind as the camera remained on his face for what seemed like two minutes. (It was probably 20 seconds.) When he concluded his thought process, he still did not know the answer, and said so.

Like you, I was struck by that moment of intellectual honesty and integrity, and even more by the image of someone actually thinking on television. Bronowski was an imposing figure, although perhaps not quite as imposing as Shaq.

Yes, indeed. (Jacob Bronowski was a Polish-British mathematician, historian, and all-around intellectual, the brightest kid on the block.)

In that same Impromptus, I wrote,

I wonder what you think of this: For years now, I have followed sports via my phone, via YouTube — absorbing highlights and summaries. I believe this has harmed my ability to watch whole games, or rounds of golf, on television. I have kind of forgotten how to do it. The ol’ noggin has been rewired.

Anyone know what I mean, by chance?

Many readers responded to this query, including one who said,

You’re not alone in the way you’ve come to watch sports. I don’t know about you, but I am disappointed in myself for being this way, because I know what it used to be like.

The drama of baseball is in its pauses. It is not a frenzy of activity, but a gradual heightening of suspense, like a good thriller. The time between pitches is excruciating when the game is on the line.

I still remember the nail-biting suspense of Game 6 of the 1985 playoff series between my Cardinals and the Dodgers. The Cardinals were down by two runs. Our slugger, Jack Clark, was coming to bat. There was a long, slow discussion about whether the Dodgers would pitch to Clark or walk him. I was 14 years old, leaning forward every second, desperate to know the outcome. And then, one pitch — a no-doubt home run to give the Cardinals the lead (and eventually, the pennant). I jumped so high off the couch I think I almost hit my head on the ceiling.

Now I fear I would watch the home run on my phone later, and I would be robbing myself of that exquisite emotional release that comes only from enduring the buildup.

Beautifully said. Again, for today’s Impromptus, go here. And thanks to one and all.

Oh, one more thing: I should address the photo at the top of this post. What’s the deal? I snapped the picture in New York not long ago. Those famous words appear on a new structure, by the Hudson River. “Excelsior” is the New York State motto; “E pluribus unum,” of course, is our national motto. Words that ring my chimes.

Law & the Courts

Justice Kagan’s Rhetoric Diminishes the Court

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Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan attends a ceremonial swearing in Washington March 6, 2015. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters )

In the case of Brnovich v. DNC decided last week, the Supreme Court wrestled with whether Arizona’s laws against ballot harvesting and out-of-precinct voting are permissible under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Given the political nature of the dispute, a naïve Court observer might assume that the justices would be especially careful to limit their analysis to the relevant text and case history, avoiding any hint of personal investment in the outcome.

The naïve observer is not familiar with Justice Elena Kagan. Her dissent establishes from the outset her emotional commitment to the Voting Rights Act. “If a single statute represents the best of America, it is the Voting Rights Act,” she gushes. It is “a monument to America’s greatness,” “an extraordinary law,” a “crucial tool,” a statute that has “done more to advance the Nation’s highest ideals” than any other.

The importance or desirability of a law is supposed to be irrelevant to how a judge applies it, but Justice Kagan is not finished telling us about her personal views. She also wants readers to know that the statute is “so necessary” today. “Few laws are more vital in the current moment.” In fact, we are at “a perilous moment for the Nation’s commitment to equal citizenship” because of state voting rules that she opposes.  Fortunately, Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act “is well-equipped to meet the challenge,” she writes. And it is not just wrong, but “tragic” that the majority takes a more narrow view of Section 2.

Justice Kagan does include legal analysis in her dissent, but one must wonder whether her emotional rhetoric has clouded her judgment. If she wanted to dispel any notion that she is influenced by what she wishes the law would say, rather than what it actually says, this is a rather poor way to go about it.

Kagan is not the worst culprit by recent standards. Sometimes judges are so committed to their own political statements that they fail to notice the false claims contained within them. Sometimes judicial opinions can double as activist press releases. Sometimes the purple prose gets so out of hand that the opinions are incoherent.

It is no defense to say that all judges are biased even when they don’t reveal it. In my experience, clear and neutral writing helps to discipline the mind. The less we appeal to our passions, the more we are forced to consider objective arguments. On several occasions I’ve been moved by something in the news and rushed to my computer to convert my intuition into an essay — only to realize once I started to lay out the argument that I was no longer so sure of myself.

Even if judges can separate their passions from their legal reasoning, publishing both is hardly reassuring to readers. Imagine, for example, a report by the Congressional Budget Office that calls a proposed bill “a monument to America’s greatness” before estimating its budgetary impact. Readers would laugh at the obvious bias and promptly dismiss the report’s results. We should hold judges to the same standard.

Education

Stopping K–12 Indoctrination Is Right

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(Caiaimage/Sam Edwards/Getty Images)

A July 5 New York Times Op-Ed by Kmele Foster, David French, Jason Stanley, and Thomas Chatterton Williams argues that it is “un-American” for state laws to keep indoctrination in the tenets of critical race theory (CRT) out of the K–12 curriculum. While conceding that such laws may be permissible in the “narrow context of public primary and secondary education,” they argue that said laws are “antithetical to educating students in the culture of American free expression.” While the authors raise some legitimate concerns about specific provisions in bills that have passed to date, their conclusions do not follow. Many of the specific problems they point to can and should be fixed. The overall effort to prevent CRT indoctrination, however, is both necessary and justified. It is CRT that is un-American, not efforts to prevent the imposition of this pernicious orthodoxy on schoolchildren.

Let us begin with specific legislative language, then move to broader principles. I focus here on Texas House Bill 3979, inspired in significant part — but by no means entirely — by my model legislation published with the National Association of Scholars. That Texas bill has some technical flaws, which were well on their way to being fixed as the legislative session wound down. The flaws of which the op-ed complains can and should be addressed when House Bill 3979 is taken up soon in a special legislative session.

Texas House Bill 3979 initially passed the House. After it reached the Senate, a key fix was made. The original House version held that the various illiberal concepts listed (e.g., collective guilt by race or sex) should not be made “part of a course.” This phrasing could potentially prevent even discussion of the various concepts, which would indeed run afoul of our culture of free expression, despite being legally permissible. In contrast, my model legislation merely says that teachers should not teach the various illiberal concepts in such a way as to inculcate them. Anything can be discussed. The core concepts of critical race theory, however, should not be presented as worthy of assent and belief. In other words, students should not be indoctrinated with CRT.

I advocated for tweaking the House version along these lines early on. And in fact, when Texas House Bill 3979 moved to the Senate, the switch to “inculcate” was made. That change speaks to yet another concern of Foster, French, Stanley, and Williams. With the new language, the Texas bill would not bar any teaching that leads to student “discomfort, guilt, or anguish,” an excessively subjective standard. On the contrary, the law would simply prevent teaching students that they ought to feel guilt or anguish on account of their race or sex. Arguably, the current language already does this. Yet the addition of “inculcate” would make that clearer still. The problem is that the technical fixes of the Senate version were lost due to an unrelated procedural challenge in the final days of the session. At that point, the Senate bill was struck down by the parliamentarian. That meant the only way to pass a law before the session ended was to adopt the House version and leave the fixes for a special legislative session, which is now on tap.

Another complaint lodged against the Texas bill by Foster, French, Stanley, and Williams is that it bars any classroom from requiring “an understanding of the 1619 Project,” and thus assigning any part of it as required reading. Here again I agree with the authors’ narrow point. This language is not in the NAS model, and I think it was mistaken to include it in the bill. We should not be barring the discussion or understanding of concepts, only the teaching of them as truths to be embraced. Even to properly oppose the 1619 Project, you must first understand it. Also, the 1619 Project includes an unobjectionable essay about black jazz. Who knows what other similar unobjectionable materials may be issued under the imprimatur of the 1619 Project in the future. For that reason, the best strategy is to prevent attempts to teach as truth the 1619 Project’s assertion that advent of slavery was the “true founding” of the United States. This, in the main, is what the Texas bill does. The language barring “an understanding of the 1619 Project” is unnecessary and problematic, and I hope it is removed in the special session.

While I can agree with many of the specific concerns itemized by Foster, French, Stanley, and Williams, their objections in no way cut to the heart of the issue. In fact, in my recent piece advocating for state-level legislation against CRT, I noted that a bill currently being considered in Ohio avoids the sort of concerns raised by Foster, French, Stanley, and Williams.

These authors make quite a concession when they recommend filing federal lawsuits and civil-rights complaints against CRT. Implicitly, this acknowledges that much of CRT-infused education violates the core principles of classical liberalism upon which our constitutional system is based, as well as federal law. Unfortunately, attempting to parry CRT via lawsuits or complaints to the federal Department of Education is a futile strategy, not least because the Biden administration’s Department of Education itself is planning to impose CRT on America’s schools, just as Obama imposed Common Core.

Lawsuits against campus-speech codes and so-called free-speech zones almost invariably succeed. Nevertheless, we’ve had restrictive speech codes and speech zones on our college campuses for decades. In practice, the legal strategy fails because colleges tweak their codes, write off penalties as a cost of doing business, and find other ways to suppress speech. Resort to that failed strategy will do little or nothing to hold back the tide of CRT. This is especially so since the combination of several federal “civics” bills with the new Biden rule promoting the 1619 Project and CRT is likely to nationalize CRT-based curricula in the near future.

While I support state-level bills to combat CRT indoctrination, it took me some time to adopt that view. The initial version of my model legislation was designed to bar protest civics, and to bar CRT training of teachers. It did not, however, address the K–12 curriculum. I believed then, and still believe, that the downside of curriculum legislation will be he said/she said disputes between teachers and parents, and an aura of martyrdom for advocates of CRT. Two things changed my mind, however, about the need to address the curriculum by law. First, with the Biden administration itching to impose a CRT-infused curriculum, states have no choice but to act quickly in self-defense. Second, telling young children that they bear guilt on account of their skin color is an intolerable affront that cannot wait on decades of whack-a-mole lawsuits for resolution.

This brings us to an issue that Foster, French, Stanley, and Williams gloss over far too quickly. The authors act as though the authority of states over the content of K–12 education is a minor legal technicality. It is not. K–12 teachers do not have the academic freedom that college teachers do, and for a profoundly important reason. Primary and secondary students in public schools are a captive audience. Teachers cannot and must not be allowed to impose their personal politics on children and families legally compelled to use the public-school system (or shoulder significant financial burdens), especially when that involves outrageous and illiberal assaults on our most cherished principles.

K–12 students are minors. They are vulnerable to a teacher’s authority in a way that college students are not. Telling minors that they should feel guilt or responsibility because of their skin color is a line that should not be crossed by any school district in these United States. Sadly, while some states will surely allow this to occur, it is well within the authority of other states to prevent this abuse if they see fit, for every good reason.

The flaws of the early bills can and should be remedied. The authors, however, are wrongly using these fixable flaws to adjudicate a more portentous issue. The education of children is rightly a matter for democratic decision-making in a way that the college classroom is not. With indoctrination slipping its campus redoubt to strike at America’s schoolchildren, the game has rightly changed. The acolytes of CRT have traveled a bridge too far.

Elections

Texas Chainsaw Election

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Texas Governor Greg Abbott speaks at the annual National Rifle Association (NRA) convention in Dallas, Texas, May 4, 2018. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Governor Greg Abbott. Lieutenant Colonel Allen West. Professor Matthew McConaughey. The Texas governor’s race is going to be a hoot.

Currently, Governor Abbott holds a “slight lead” in the polls over the naked-bongos guy.

Health Care

Computer Program Developed in Canada to Predict When Seniors Have 6 Months to Live

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(PIKSEL/Getty Images)

As if we needed further evidence that medicine is growing increasingly impersonal, the Canadian Medical Association Journal has published a study that claims a computer program can predict when seniors have six months to live. From the Global News story:

Amid a lack of proper support for Canadians receiving home-based support towards the end of their lives, a new risk calculator is helping predict how long seniors have left to live.

The Risk Evaluation for Support: Predictions for Elder-Life in the Community Tool — dubbed ‘RESPECT’ for short — can predict death within six months, and was developed using data from more than 491,000 community-dwelling adults aged at least 50 years who used home care between 2007 and 2013.

Always with the acronyms to hide utilitarian protocols and procedures. Euthanasia in Canada is called MAID (medical assistance in dying), and now, RESPECT. Good grief.

“The RESPECT calculator allows families and their loved ones to plan,” said Dr. Amy Hsu, investigator at the Bruyère Research Institute and lead author of the study.

“For example, it can help an adult [or] child plan when to take a leave of absence from work to be with a parent or decide when to take the last family vacation together.”

Or it could be used to restrict care and/or push euthanasia. As one Canadian bioethicist noted:

If the calculator would ever be introduced to Canada’s healthcare system, Bowman believes that it would be interfaced with the country’s medical assistance in dying (MAiD), and could possibly shape the attitude of palliative care and end of life decisions.

“It will also shape the attitude of health care workers and it also raises a deeper question of who will interface with the broader question of what types of life are worth living and who decides, which is profoundly important stuff,” he said.

Ya’ think?

People don’t die by the numbers. Much depends on the kind of care they receive, their mental states, and individual differences that can be immeasurable. Even the study’s authors note a very big problem.

As with many prediction models, RESPECT is less well-calibrated at the extremes of the distribution. In particular, we found that RESPECT overpredicted the mortality risk of patients in our top 3 risk bins.

Oops.

The idea that crucial and intimate decisions about patient care could soon be driven by a computer-modeling system — rather than individual assessments — is very alarming. And it will often be wrong. I know of several patients given six months or less to live who got kicked out of hospice because their health improved unexpectedly. This includes the humorist Art Buchwald, who left hospice when he didn’t die from kidney failure and lived long enough to write his last book.

But then, with the quality-of-life ethic taking hold in medicine throughout the West, a “follow the science!” approach would make it much easier for clinicians, socialized-medicine bean counters, and family to abandon frail patients to comfort-care-only regimens — or worse — and still get a good night’s sleep.

U.S.

Why Infrastructure Isn’t The Big Political Winner Democrats Think It Is

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President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the bipartisan infrastructure framework at La Crosse Municipal Transit Utility, in La Crosse, Wis., June 29, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Gallup’s Frank Newport has written an overview of recent public polling on infrastructure, and the data show why passing legislation may not resonate with voters as much as they think it will.

To be sure, Newport highlights polling showing that when asked directly, Americans are broadly supportive of infrastructure spending:

A Monmouth University poll found 68% support for infrastructure funding in response to this question: “President Biden recently proposed a $2 trillion infrastructure plan to be spent on roads, bridges and trains, internet access, power grid improvements, and clean energy projects. In general, do you support or oppose this plan?” A Washington Post/ABC News poll in April found 52% support and 35% opposition for a “$2 trillion infrastructure development plan that the Biden administration has proposed.” A poll sponsored by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication found 67% support among registered voters for a “major investment in the nation’s infrastructure.”

This makes sense. Asked broadly whether the government should spend money on things that sound good, Americans are likely to say yes. The contrast in the above questions also make sense. It’s revealing that when the question mentions Biden, support more closely matches his overall approval.

But beyond that, when it comes to motivating voters, what matters isn’t just passing legislation that polls well. It’s about addressing issues that people really care about. And on that count, infrastructure ranks a lot worse. Newport writes:

With all of that said, I should note that despite this public support for infrastructure legislation, it does not appear to be a high priority for Americans. (It’s possible that the recent news coverage of the collapsed condominium tower in Florida could increase the public’s sense of the importance of focusing on infrastructure.) Pew Research Center in April gave Americans a list of 15 different problems facing the nation and found that “condition of roads, bridges and other infrastructure” ended up third from the bottom of the list in terms of being perceived as “a very big problem.” Additionally, infrastructure basically does not show up at all in our Gallup updates on Americans’ top-of-mind perceptions of the most important problem facing the nation.

In other words, people may like the idea of spending more money on infrastructure when asked (especially when tradeoffs of massive spending aren’t included in the questions), but if not asked directly, they aren’t exactly clamoring for Congress  to address the issue, let alone to elevate it above all others.

There is also a lesson here for Republicans who see the polling on infrastructure and may feel inclined to support the exorbitant infrastructure package. There is no reason to feel compelled to do so. There is no major constituency that would drive anybody out of office for voting against an infrastructure bill.

Education

North Carolina Public Universities Aren’t Preparing Students Well on Free Speech

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On the campus of NC State in Raleigh, N.C., August 7, 2020 (Jonathan Drake/Reuters)

North Carolina’s Campus Free Speech Act requires all public universities to include in their freshman orientation programs information about free speech on campus. How well are they doing?

For the most part, not very well, argues Shannon Watkins in today’s Martin Center article.

She writes, “Unfortunately, many of the schools’ free speech sections are rather bleak. Rather than providing students with substantial information and guidance, the following schools include a very brief nod to free speech:

  • UNC-Chapel Hill
  • UNC-Wilmington
  • UNC-Greensboro
  • UNC School of the Arts
  • Western Carolina”

At Appalachian State, students are told: “As a public university with an open campus, you can’t drown out the speech of someone you don’t like. If there are issues, you can report them to the office of student conduct. If you want to learn more about freedom of speech, come to the events scheduled around Constitution Day this fall.” That is hardly a ringing endorsement of free speech — if you hear something you don’t like, complain to campus officials.

Students at NC State are encouraged to “stand firmly against intolerance and hate” which many students will take to mean that they don’t need to make reasoned responses to ideas they don’t agree with.

Several of the universities didn’t bother responding to the Martin Center’s request for information that state law requires of them.

Not one of the UNC institutions took advantage of excellent free-speech materials available from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

Watkins concludes, “if the institutions are serious about their core missions of discovering truth and furthering knowledge, it is in their best interest to inculcate in their students a respect for and understanding of free expression.” Yes, and they aren’t doing a good job of that.

Classic Films

Independence Day at 25

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Aliens blow up the White House in the trailer for 1996’s Independence Day. ( 20th Century Studios via YouTube)

There are certain complaints one can make of Independence Day, the 1996 Roland Emmerich alien-invasion blockbuster. The most common one is: How does super-genius Jeff Goldblum (yes, his character has a name, but I choose to believe Jeff Goldblum is just Jeff Goldblum in all of his movies) manage to save the day by uploading a computer virus onto an alien mothership? It can be hard to work between a Mac and a PC; surely there would be some interoperability issues between different species’ hardware. Another complaint: Why do people keep laughing at Randy Quaid (like Jeff Goldblum, simply Randy Quaid in most of his movies), thought a nutjob for claiming to have been abducted by aliens, when he swears revenge on them after the whole world knows they’re real? And does anybody other than Governor Patrick Stevens care that the president (Bill Pullman) nuked Houston?

Etc. But the now-25-year-old movie is such a fine example of big-screen fun that it inclines you to ignore these things. Especially if you love America. Because, fittingly for a movie first released the day before Independence Day and in the middle of the “unipolar moment,” in which this country stood alone, uncontested as the dominant actor on the world stage, Independence Day is an American movie through and through. (Despite the improbable oddity of its being made by a left-wing German.) As Sonny Bunch put in his 2016 review of Independence Day‘s misbegotten sequel (which, out of principle, I have not seen):

It shouldn’t be particularly difficult to understand why Independence Day appealed (and appeals) to your typical warmongering young (and, now, early-middle-aged) Republican sort. It is, after all, a movie about aliens blowing up hippies and busybody liberals learning to love smoking while a GOP president* and the United States military is forced to come up with a plan to save the world, the rest of which happily falls into line behind the rightful rulers of this godforsaken rock. It is a movie that celebrates the most American holiday and makes it one that the rest of the world celebrates alongside us after we save their ass.

You see this throughout the movie. The first we see of the alien invasion is an ominous shadow over the American flag planted on the moon. (Yes, the plaque there reads we went there “for all mankind,” but it ain’t the U.N. flag up there.) Then, the movie focuses almost exclusively on the United States. The world simply assumes that the U.S. will have the plan for counterattack, and defers to it entirely. Then you have the president himself leading the climactic assault against the alien invaders — but only after a rousing pre-battle speech so famous I won’t bother to quote it here; if you can’t play it in your head on command, you should just watch it now:

All of this would be more than enough for a thoroughly American spectacle. But then you have, in a peak Will Smith performance, American swagger personified. One of the other things people often mock about Independence Day is what Smith’s character says after he — let this be emphasized — punches one of the alien invaders in the face: “Welcome to earth.” (It’s typically derided as, “Welcome to earf,” which . . . it doesn’t sound like to me.) But let’s remember what we’ve just seen in the moments preceding that: an American airman engages in a dogfight with an alien craft literally lightyears more advanced than what he’s flying . . . and he wins. That’s the kind of audacity that this country was built on. It doesn’t take much imagination to imagine Neil Armstrong or Chuck Yeager, or, going further back, John Paul Jones or a legion of similar can-do spirits acting similarly under the same circumstances.

And say what you will about that much-mocked virus upload. The collaboration between Goldblum, fresh off defeating dinosaurs, and Smithian Swagger is a perfect representation in miniature of the combination of brains and brawn that made, and still make, this country great.

Together, all of this helps make Independence Day, whatever its flaws, a fun watch anytime. But especially on the Fourth of July. Is it “jingoistic”? Maybe. But that didn’t hurt its worldwide box office at the time, whereas its more global-focused sequel made half as much in unadjusted dollars. A useful reminder, perhaps, of the spirit we could soon have to embody . . .

Immigration

Biden’s Border Predicament

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Dozens of asylum-seeking migrants from Central America walk north before surrendering to the U.S. Border Patrol after crossing the Rio Grande River into the United States from Mexico in La Joya, Texas, May 7, 2021. (Adrees Latif/Reuters)

The Wall Street Journal reported today on administration planning for the termination of the Title 42 public-health order that allows border agents to quickly expel illegal border-jumpers without a hearing.

Title 42 is the only one of Trump’s border policies the Biden crowd has partly kept in place, but it can’t last. It’s premised on the notion that, to keep illegals from spreading COVID, they are immediately sent back across the border rather than kept in detention. The Biden administration has exempted all “unaccompanied” minors from the policy, as well as most families, but it continues to use it to turn away single adults.

But with the pandemic ebbing (and with the ACLU breathing down its neck), the CDC will have to revoke its authorization soon enough, and the practice will end. Then what?

The administration is worried that ending Title 42 expulsions will lead to an even bigger surge of illegal immigration at the border, and rightly so. The Journal‘s reporters write:

Administration officials are concerned that ending the pandemic policy for single adults would result in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement running out of jail space since they would need to detain the high numbers of adults attempting to come to the U.S.

Biden aides also are concerned about another rise in family crossings, though some think proposed policies to deter migrants are too harsh, according to the people familiar with their thinking.

They continue:

Options include putting more families through a process known as expedited removal, which allows border agents to deport migrants without a hearing or a chance to appeal.

Except that “expedited removal” allows that to happen only if the illegal aliens don’t claim to fear return, at which point DHS is required to start the whole asylum charade.

The Journal also reports that Biden’s aides

are also considering expanding a program that allows some migrants to register ahead of time and be given an appointment to come to a port of entry to ask for protection—a potential crowd-control method.

Ah, so that would be a way to solve the political problem of bad optics by just letting everyone in legally. Of course, that would merely spark even more massive flows from abroad. (And they’re coming from everywhere now, not just Central America.)

To address this, the Journal writes of the administration’s immigration brain trust:

They have said publicly they are preparing to adopt a new system that would let asylum seekers’ cases be heard by asylum officers, rather than immigration judges, within weeks of crossing the border to shorten the time migrants wait for a decision.

Whether it’s weeks or years, unless asylum applicants are held in detention, they’re not going to leave if they lose. The Journal addresses this problem delicately:

Many immigration experts agree that to disincentivize migrants without valid asylum claims from asking for protection, others must receive quick decisions and leave the country, rather than working in the U.S. for years while they wait.

So those who don’t qualify “must receive quick decisions and leave the country” — but who’s going to make them leave, since few if any leave on their own? Biden’s political conundrum here is summarized in the next sentence:

But liberal allies of the president would likely balk at changes that lead to more deportations.

No kidding.

Asylum is the loophole that renders moot the entire body of immigration law. There is no possibility of regaining control over immigration without either detaining all asylum-seekers until they receive a decision, and deporting those who don’t qualify, or making them wait in Mexico for their hearing date. The Biden administration refuses to do either, and so the border crisis the president created by ending Trump’s Remain in Mexico program will continue.

World

Fifteen Things that Caught My Eye Today: Ministering in Miami, Courage, Humility & More

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Emergency crews continue search and rescue operations for survivors of a partially collapsed residential building near Miami Beach, June 2021. (Octavio Jones/Reuters)

1.

2.

3. A week after building collapse, Miami clergy still comforting families

The archdiocese also has priests in place at the rubble serving as chaplains to the fire and police departments as they work twelve-hour shifts.

“Our chaplains are there to comfort them, to emotionally support them, pray for them, pray with them,” [Mary Ross Agosta, the Archdiocese of Miami communications director] said. “(Wednesday) they found two children and days before they had found toys and so forth so many of these firefighters are young and have their own families so it’s devastating for them.”

St. Joseph parking lot is where many of the national and international media have set up, so there are priests that rotate through to offer them support. On Wednesday, Agosta got credentials for three priests to get into the main media area to offer people here pastoral support as well.

“It’s pouring rain and the priests just walked through the mud slowly talking to them,” Agosta said. “Three reporters came up in tears when they saw the priests. Some are asking for prayers. Some are asking for blessings. Some just want to hold the priest’s hand and say this is so awful.”

If there is a ray of hope amid all of the sadness and tragedy, [Bishop Thomas] Wenski said it’s the resiliency of civil society and willingness to come together.

4.  A Florida woman saw a crack forming in her condo and told herself, ‘You have to run to save your life’

Iliana Monteagudo told CNN’s Chris Cuomo that the evening before the collapse, she put her pills and her credit cards in her purse and lit the candle for the Lady Guadalupe, considered a national symbol and matriarch for Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, as well as an important Catholic figure. [Also known as the Mother of God.-KJL]

She went to bed, but around 1:00 a.m. she was woken by what she called a “rare force.”

Believing the feeling came from an open balcony door, she went to her living room to try to close it. But then behind her she saw a crack coming from the ceiling, quickly snaking down the wall and opening fast.

“Something inside of me said run,” Monteagudo said. “You have to run to save your life.”

5. Gerard V. Bradley: Grimm Indeed

On June 28, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case of Gloucester County School Board v. Grimm. It takes four justices’ votes to grant review. In Grimm there were just two—those of Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. So the best-known and longest-running of the “transgender bathroom” cases has ended with a whimper. 

6. Chabad rabbi stabbed and wounded in attack outside Boston Jewish center

The report said a man approached (Rabbi Shlomo) Noginski, who was outside talking on his phone. He drew a gun and told Noginski to take him to his car. When he tried to force him inside, Noginski tried to flee and the man stabbed him … eight times. 

7.

Continue reading “Fifteen Things that Caught My Eye Today: Ministering in Miami, Courage, Humility & More”

Politics & Policy

Another Falsehood about Florida

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Opponents of Critical Race Theory attend a packed Loudoun County School board meeting in Ashburn, Va., June 22, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

I wrote yesterday about a couple of outlandish attacks on anti-CRT bans, especially the one by Timothy Snyder in The New York Times Magazine.

He gets Florida so blatantly wrong that it deserves a correction, not that one is likely to be forthcoming:

He says the new anti-CRT rule adopted by Florida’s state school board seeks, like Russia’s 2014 memory law, “to silence a history of suffering” and “to forbid education about racism.”

Either Snyder doesn’t know what he’s talking about because he hasn’t taken the time to understand the state of play in Florida or he’s being deliberately deceptive.

The rule adopted by the Florida board says, in a passage that Snyder conveniently doesn’t quote, “Instruction on the required topics must be factual and objective, and may not suppress or distort significant historical events, such as the Holocaust, slavery, the Civil War and Reconstruction, the civil rights movement and the contributions of women, African American and Hispanic people to our country.”

This is like Vladimir Putin’s handiwork?

The rule, as Snyder does note, bans the use of materials from the 1619 Project and forbids the teaching of “the theory that racism is not merely the product of prejudice, but that racism is embedded in American society and its legal systems in order to uphold the supremacy of white persons.”

In this, Florida is prohibiting the teaching of controversial and divisive perspectives that, at the very least, aren’t necessary to give a student a full, rounded, and accurate picture of U.S. history.

Snyder says this means that “since Jim Crow is systemic racism, having to do with American society and law, the subject would seem to be banned in Florida schools.”

This is utter nonsense. First, the sentence prior to the one about systematic racism, quoted above, says that slavery, the Civil War and Reconstruction, and the civil-rights movement can’t be suppressed or distorted.

How is that consistent with a ban on the teaching of Jim Crow?

Indeed, it is written in Florida statute that students are to be taught “the history of African Americans, including the history of African peoples before the political conflicts that led to the development of slavery, the passage to America, the enslavement experience, abolition, and the contributions of African Americans to society. Instructional materials shall include the contributions of African Americans to American society.”

The rule adopted by the Florida board of education in no way supplants the statute but adds further guidance for teachers in how to implement it.

You wouldn’t know that from Snyder’s article, which is huffy about truth and accuracy without displaying any commitment to them.

Music

Virginia Will Now Fine You for ‘Intentionally’ Releasing Balloons. Somebody Tell Nena

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Men sell balloons during Afghan spring and new year celebrations in Kabul, Afghanistan, March 21, 2018. (Mohammad Ismail/Reuters)

99 Luftballons would really add up:

History

We All Need Some Patriotic Grace

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Thomas Jefferson and John Adams (Rembrandt Peale/Gilbert Sullivan)

Did you read the exquisite column — “How Two Great Friends Overcame Politics” — from Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal on how Thomas Jefferson and John Adams overcame bitter political division? You’ll want to.

Peggy once wrote a book titled Patriotic Grace and here she is living it. She writes:

What drove their reconciliation? A tenderness, toward history and toward themselves. They knew what their friendship had been. They had lived through and to a significant degree driven a world-historical event, the invention of America. They had shared that moment and it had been the great moment of their lives, greater than their presidencies, greater than what followed. They had been geniuses together.

As the Fourth explodes around us we should take some inspiration from the story of an old estrangement healed. We’re all trying to repair something.

Do read the whole thing, if you can.

The column reminds me of Jeanne Safer’s wonderful book I Love You, But I Hate Your Politics: How to Protect Your Intimate Relationships in a Poisonous Partisan World. We’re better than letting politics destroy friendships. May it be so.

With God’s grace . . .

Politics & Policy

MAGA Twitter Is Launching

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(Tero Vesalainen/Getty Images)

Jason Miller, a former spokesperson for President Trump, has soft-launched a new social-media platform, GETTR. The platform will officially launch on Independence Day, with the goal of creating a space for conservative (particularly pro-Trump) media online. The platform’s style mirrors the traditional Twitter interface while substituting Twitter’s blue theme for a crimson color palette. Politico reported on the story yesterday, writing that: 

GETTR is one of the highest-profile projects in a larger ecosystem of pro-MAGA tech and social media platforms that have blossomed on the right, largely fueled by a sense that Big Tech is attempting to silence conservative and pro-Trump ideology from being disseminated online.

How GETTR was developed quite unclear. Running a social-media platform is expensive, but the funding for GETTR has been kept a secret. Officially, a “consortium of international investors,” has backed the project. However, the Daily Beast reports that Miller partnered with Steve Bannon and an exiled fugitive Chinese billionaire, Guo Wengui, to fund the platform. Bannon and Wengui have a history of working together, and it seems Wengui had a personal hand in the app’s development.

Despite the connections between Miller, Bannon, and Trump, it is unclear whether the former president will actually join the network. Miller himself seemed optimistic when he appeared on Fox News to promote the platform, saying, “realDonaldTrump is waiting for him and ready to go.” However, reports have emerged that Trump may not join, which would significantly decrease GETTR’s chances of success. 

Joining the “cancel-free” platform offered by Miller may not be Trump’s end goal, but his dwindling influence over social media since his Twitter ban could force his hand. His blog, “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump,” shut down last month because of low engagement. The Trump team believes Trump’s political success rode on his effective use of social media. Thus, if the former president is looking to run in 2024, the campaign will probably look for a permanent social-media platform. It remains to be seen whether GETTR will be the former president’s new home or if Trump will remain a social-media vagrant. 

World

Xi Jinping Is a Long-Term Problem for the United States

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Chinese president Xi Jinping in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, March 10, 2021 (Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters )

Xi Jinping has been calling the shots in China since 2012, and he has quickly become arguably one of the most powerful people on earth – some might contend, the single most powerful person on earth. He faces no real limits to his rule within China, and his country exerts tremendous influence around the globe through a massive population, enormous economy, influence and propaganda operations, and quickly expanding military.

And Xi knows just how powerful a force he commands on the world stage.

As Jimmy Quinn notes below, while celebrating 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi declared, “we will never allow any foreign force to bully, oppress, or subjugate us. Anyone who would attempt to do so will find themselves on a collision course with a great wall of steel forged by over 1.4 billion Chinese people!” And there are some translations of Xi’s remarks that suggest they were even bloodier and more aggressive.

American leaders who would prefer to avoid a clash with China might hope that Xi represents an aberration from Chinese leaders who were content to grow prosperous and avoid conflict with other powers or their neighbors – and that if the U.S. is patient, some calmer, gentler, less hardline ruler might replace Xi someday. But we would be foolish to count on that scenario.

Xi was reelected to another five-year term in 2017, and his philosophy on Chinese socialism was included in the Chinese Communist Party’s constitution, alongside the words of founder Mao Zedong. China removed presidential term limits in 2018; the National People’s Congress voted 2,958 in favor, two opposed and three abstaining. For all extents and purposes, Xi will rule China until the day he no longer wants to or the day he dies.

Xi doesn’t face reelection before the entire Chinese people; in 2023, the National People’s Congress will probably rubber-stamp him another five-year term, and quite possibly as many more as he wants. Xi has deliberately chosen to not name a successor and there is no obvious candidate. There is no prospect of a change in leadership in China in the coming years, unless Xi faced some sort of unexpected health issue.

And as Harvard historian Arunabh Ghosh explored in a 2018 essay, “What Does Longevity Mean for Leadership in China?”, Xi Jinping may well be around for a very long time. “For China’s top leadership born from the 1880s to the 1930s, average longevity is in the mid-to-high 80s… Nearly one in five Chinese leaders has lived beyond 90. In comparison, only about one-in-seven leaders in the United States, one-in-nine in India, and one-in-ten for the USSR has lived past 90. Chinese leaders do indeed live longer lives than their counterparts in the United States, India, and the former Soviet Union.”

Ghosh contends that the data reveals national leaders “live longer in the one country where it matters that they live longer… General ideological preferences and policy commitments can therefore persist for a lot longer than elsewhere… In the absence of several strong leaders at the top, the persistence of one faction backed by one long-lived leader can effectively stymie debate and discussion at the highest levels of the state.”

Xi Jinping just turned 68. He is likely to still be in power five years from now, in the year 2026, and at age 78, in the year 2031. If he remains healthy – and it seems safe to assume that Xi will have access to the very best health care on earth, including cutting-edge and experimental treatments, for the rest of his days — he may well be running China well into the 2030s. The global ambitions, belligerent nationalism, and confrontational rhetoric of Xi aren’t going anywhere for a long while. American policymakers should approach this foreign policy challenge accordingly.

Lindsey Graham Is an Idiot

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Senate Judiciary Committee member Senator Lindsey Graham (R, S.C.) listens to testimony from Christine Blasey Ford in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., September 27, 2018. (Win McNamee/Reuters)

Sen. Lindsey Graham is an idiot. Don’t take it from me. Take it from Graham himself.

Last week, after announcing a bipartisan deal with Republicans, President Biden said he would only sign it if it were passed in “tandem” with a multi-trillion dollar Democrats-only reconciliation bill containing the rest of his liberal wish list.

Graham declared that he was not going to be so easily duped. “If he’s gonna tie them together, he can forget it!” Graham told Politico. “I’m not doing that. That’s extortion! I’m not going to do that. The Dems are being told you can’t get your bipartisan work