Elections

Gosar Dodges Questions About Event with White Nationalist

Loading...
Nick Fuentes on YouTube (Screengrab via YouTube)

As David Harsanyi noted yesterday, Arizona Republican congressman Paul Gosar responded to reports that a notorious racist and anti-Semite was hosting a fundraiser for him by tweeting that the left wouldn’t dictate his “strategy, alliances and efforts.” 

Later in the day, Gosar cast doubt on whether the fundraiser was happening at all: 

Whatever happens with the fundraiser, Gosar’s tweet and his decision to speak at a conference organized by Nick Fuentes in February have made it abundantly clear he wants an alliance with racists and anti-Semites. 

And lest there be any doubt about Fuentes, here’s a sampling of his rhetoric: 

[Fuentes] once called a writer a “race traitor” because he “work[s] for Jews.” He opposes interracial marriage and has praised segregation.

“Enough with the Jim Crow stuff. Who cares? Oh, they had to drink out of a different water fountain, big f***ing deal. Oh no, they had to go to a different school,” Fuentes said in one video. “It’s better for them, it’s better for us.”

“I’m getting really sick of world Jewry — that’s what it is! what it is! — running the show, and we can’t talk about it,” he said in another video.

In yet another video, he joyfully promoted grotesque claims denying that millions of Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. Smirking and laughing, he read a question from a viewer who was obviously comparing murdered Jews to cookies and Adolph Hitler to Cookie Monster: “If I take one hour to cook a batch of cookies, and Cookie Monster has fifteen hours working every day for five years, how long does it take Cookie Monster to make six million batches of cookies?”

“The math doesn’t seem to add up there,” Fuentes says. “Maybe two-hundred to three-hundred thousand cookies,” he adds before making several more references to bits of propaganda cited by Holocaust deniers.

Fuentes attended the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017. The night before the rally, white nationalists and neo-Nazis carrying torches chanted “You will not replace us!” and “Jews will not replace us!” During the rally itself, a white-nationalist terrorist murdered a counterprotester named Heather Heyer with his car.

Hours after the terrorist attack had occurred, Fuentes wrote on Facebook that the Unite the Right rally was “incredible.” “You will not replace us,” he said. “The rootless transnational elite knows that a tidal wave of white identity is coming.”

Politics & Policy

Officials Too Often Don’t Need No Stinking COVID Rules

Loading...
COVID marshals walk on Eel Brook Common in Fulham, London, England, December 22, 2020. (Kevin Coombs/Reuters)

Regulators love to write rules and then try to abandon them when they’re inconvenient, whether it be over COVID-19 regulations (Nancy Pelosi, Andrew Cuomo) or budget rules (Chuck Schumer, Joe Biden). Britain’s health secretary, Matt Hancock, a COVID rule–happy “wet” Conservative, resigned this past weekend after video footage was leaked showing him breaking social-distancing rules by passionately kissing one of his aides in his office.

This latest hypocritical behavior prompted a searing must-see video exchange between Sky News’s Trevor Phillips and Hancock’s Cabinet colleague Brandon Lewis.

“I wouldn’t normally do something like this, but I want to put a private, personal question to you,” Phillips began. “The pictures that we saw were of an encounter on May 6. On May 11, my family buried my daughter who had died, not of COVID, but during the lockdown. Three hundred of our family and friends turned up online, but most of them were not allowed to be at the graveside, even though it was in the open air, because of the rule of 30, because of the instruction by Mr. Hancock. Now the next time one of you tells me what to do in my private life, explain to me why I shouldn’t just tell you where to get off?”

Lewis then blubbered incoherently about the sacrifices people had made during COVID, but viewers clearly got the real lesson of the scandal — too many of the people who write pandemic rules don’t really believe in them, flout them, and then force less powerful people to obey them.

Elections

New York City’s Election Mess: What Will the CEOs Say?

Loading...
Voters at the polling station in PS 250 during the New York City primary mayoral election in Brooklyn, N.Y., June 22, 2021. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

In recent months, we have seen some of America’s corporate chieftains weighing in on voting laws in Georgia and Texas. Whether that was part of their remit as CEOs is a different matter (spoiler: No), but, as these executives would never ever, of course, allow themselves to apply one standard to a red (or reddish) state and another to a deep-blue state, it will be interesting to see how many give us their thoughts on the chaos now in danger of overwhelming New York City’s mayoral elections.

Mess-ups can happen, but the problems in counting the votes in the city’s Democratic primary are symptoms of a far deeper dysfunction, and one that has not exactly been a secret.

The New York Times:

New Yorkers have endured the incompetence of the city’s Board of Elections for so long that complaints on the subject blend into the background noise of life in a megalopolis, alongside gripes about overstuffed subway cars and putrid piles of sidewalk trash.

This page called the board “at best a semi‐functioning anachronism” — and that was 50 years ago.

Nary an election passes without another reminder of how much contempt the agency has for the city’s vast, diverse electorate. Accidentally purged voter rolls, misaddressed absentee ballots, intolerably long lines. The catalog of dysfunction and neglect seems endless.

Yet somehow the board found a new way to humiliate itself and the city, one week after 800,000 New Yorkers went to the polls to cast ballots in the most consequential mayoral primaries in a generation. Or was it 940,000 New Yorkers? Good question. For several bewildering hours on Tuesday, no one had an answer. . . .

In a tweet, the board pleaded with the public and the candidates for patience. No, patience is something you earn through transparency and competence, two qualities the New York City elections board does not possess. A particularly toxic, century-old vestige of the city’s patronage system, it is run by friends and relatives of political power brokers from both parties, who seem to care for nothing as much as their own incumbency. The board’s 10 commissioners, one Democrat and one Republican from each borough, get their paychecks despite not being trained in election administration — or, it appears, any other civic-minded pursuit.

The board’s commissioners fight sensible efforts to make voting more accessible and reject money — most recently, $20 million from Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2016 — that could help make the operation more competent.

City investigations have for decades documented the board’s tribulations in depressingly repetitive language: “inefficiency, laxity and waste”; “illegalities, misconduct, and antiquated operations.” The board’s own staff — who try to do their job with professionalism and honesty — have called it “chronically dysfunctional” and an “insane asylum.” . . .

So, given all this, what will those voluble CEOs have to say?

Sports

Oh My, Ohtani!

Loading...

I’ve been aware of how extraordinary Shohei Ohtani is in theory, but haven’t paid much attention because he plays for the Angels, which might as well be in another league for this East Coast-obsessed fan. But there’s been no ignoring him the last two nights in the Bronx, where he’s hit three home runs already. When I watch highlights from Yankees games (or follow them on Twitter), I, of course, only watch the highlights good for the Yankees. But I’ve made an exception for Ohtani and watched each of these blasts a couple of times. I wouldn’t be particularly disappointed if he hits a few more before he leaves — what a phenomenon.

National Review

Something to Consider before July 4th

Loading...
(Lynne Gilbert/Getty Images)

Unlike most nations, the United States comes with instructions. In the Declaration of Independence, we have a statement of intent; in the Constitution, we have a rulebook; and in the Federalist Papers, we have a glossary.

There is an ongoing debate at National Review — and beyond — as to whether America is primarily a “place” or an “idea.” But, irrespective of one’s view on that, it remains inescapably true that America is, indeed, built atop a set of easily recognizable principles that have been instrumental in making the country the unique and free place that it remains to this day.

National Review has many mandates, but its most important is to ensure that those principles remain not merely intact, but vibrant. Sixty-six years after we were founded, we are still fighting that good fight.

I have now been in the United States for ten years, and I retain the same wonder for the place as I had when I first visited at three years old. Occasionally, people will ask me why this is: After all, I did not move here from a war-torn or tyrannical country, but from England — a stable, democratic, and livable nation.

But to ask this question is to answer it. Why would somebody from a safe and modern nation choose to uproot himself and move more than 3,000 miles? Because, among the nations of the world, the United States really is that exceptional. Its economy is enviably dynamic. Its Constitution is a great and enduring work of genius. The community spirit of which Tocqueville wrote still abounds. And, ironically enough, it has done a better job at protecting ancient British liberties than has Britain itself. I was a natural fit for a writer at National Review because my aims are the same as the magazine’s: To make sure that, 30, 50, 100 years hence, these observations remain true.

The mediums via which National Review makes this case have changed over the years, as technology has made its onward march. But the mission remains as it ever was: To defend the American system of government; to oppose communism and all other utopian follies; to make the case for free markets and individual liberty; to protect American sovereignty; and to smash through the intellectual conformity that so often takes hold in the universities, the traditional press, and the arts.

In our quest to achieve this, we have now come full circle. In 1955, we were chiefly a magazine, and we had a large subscription base made up of members who paid annual dues. By the mid-2000s, that balance had tipped toward our website, with visitors funding us by looking at advertisements. Now, with the launch of our online membership system, NRPLUS, we have gone back to the original model.

Or, rather, we’ve improved on it. Not only do NRPLUS members get far more content than the original subscribers to National Review could ever have dreamed of, they are also party to a host of interactive features that have only been technically possible since the advent of the web. In addition to sailing past the increasingly tight paywall (and bypassing almost every advertisement on the site), members of NRPLUS are accorded access to National Review’s archives, they are sent the full text of newsletters such as Morning Jolt and The Tuesday, they are encouraged to comment on all online pieces, they are invited to NR’s members-only Facebook group, and, from time to time, they can connect with NR writers at meet-ups around the country.

It is something of a cliché to suggest that groups of people on the Internet are akin to “communities” — indeed, in the case of social media, “mob” is often a more appropriate word — but in the case of NRPLUS, it really is true. For so many people, this isn’t just a magazine among many; it’s a cause.

If you would like to join our cause, you can do so today — and, because July 4th is coming up, you can do so at 60% off the usual price.

I look forward to welcoming you.

Health Care

Los Angeles County Ignores Science, Urges Vaccinated People to Wear Masks Again

Loading...
Visitors wear face masks as they walk among the 50 acres of Ranunculus flowers at The Flower Fields in Carlsbad, Calif., March 31, 2021. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Here we go again. You might think that with more and more Americans getting vaccinated, and the pandemic’s effect on daily life shrinking by the day, that the tiresome, often science-free public debates and fights about wearing masks were behind us. But you would be wrong:

Los Angeles County public health authorities are urging unvaccinated and vaccinated people alike to don masks again inside restaurants, stores and other public indoor spaces because of the growing threat posed by the more contagious delta variant of the novel coronavirus.

The high-profile move by the county of 10 million marks an abrupt shift in tone after states and localities have dropped most mask mandates and social distancing requirements in recent weeks.

If, God forbid, there was a new variant that our existing vaccines proved helpless against, then reinstating mask-wearing for vaccinated people would make sense. But that’s not the case. So far, the vaccines are working against the Delta variant.

Now for some good news. If you’re vaccinated, you’re largely protected. Scientists in the UK studied the relative effectiveness of two-shot vaccines such as those of Pfizer and Moderna (Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine was first approved in late May in the United Kingdom) versus the Alpha and Delta variants. They found the vaccines to be 80 percent effective in stopping symptomatic disease from the Delta variant – that’s compared to 88 percent effectiveness of the vaccines against the Alpha variant. Vaccines stopped hospitalization for both Alpha and Delta variants more than 90 percent of the time.

For what it is worth, CDC director Rochelle Walensky said on the Today show that fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks, and that they are “really quite protected from the variants that we have circulating here in the United States” – including the Delta variant.

Remember, the vaccines aren’t designed to prevent any level of infection at all. They’re designed to prevent an infection making you significantly sick and require hospitalization — along with preventing death. If vaccination reduces a COVID-19 infection to a routine minor respiratory infection, life can go on and there’s no need to go back to all of the sweeping precautions taken in the early months of 2020.

Politics & Policy

University of California Pressures Catholic Hospitals to Adopt Secular Ethics

Loading...
Six ambulances are parked at the emergency entrance to St. Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley, Calif., January 12, 2021. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Medical conscience is the most important religious-liberty issue currently pending in the United States. At stake is whether doctors, nurses, phamacists, and other medical professionals and/or institutions will be forced to participate in medical procedures that violate their religious or moral beliefs as a condition of remaining licensed or avoiding professional discipline.

Catholic hospitals are on the frontline of this brewing constitutional battle. California is leading the charge, trying to pressure Catholic hospitals to provide abortion, assisted suicide, and transgender surgeries, claiming that refusing to allow these legal procedures is “discrimination.” For example, the California supreme court has allowed a discrimination lawsuit to be brought against Dignity Health for refusing to remove the uterus of a transgender patient who identifies as male.

Now, UC Health Regents have voted to begin breaking the existing affiliation between UC and Catholic hospitals if the latter don’t adhere to the “values” of secular instituions. From the Sacramento Bee story:

An amended policy, proposed by [Regents] Chairman John John Pérez and passed by the regents, gives UC-affiliated hospitals with policy-based restrictions until the end of 2023 to adjust their services to comply to the new guidelines, or the UC will phase out the partnership.

Pérez’s amendments also say that partner hospitals must provide procedures to all people on a non-discriminatory basis, meaning that a transgender person can receive the same exact services that any other person would receive.

Time out! This is entirely misleading. Transgender patients can and do receive the exact services “any other person would receive” in Catholic hospitals. Their broken legs will be set. Cancer surgeries will excise tumors. Diabetes will be treated.

Moreover, Catholic hospitals will not excise healthy organs such as genetilia or uteruses from anyone — gay or straight, transgender or binary, etc. For example, any biological female who presented for removal of a healthy uterus would be refused based on Catholic moral teaching that prohibits the removal of organs without serious pathology and taking actions that sterilize the patient, again absent pathology. That’s not discrimination. It’s a consistent policy that applies to all patients who enter a Catholic hospital.

Part of this push to secularize is also about assisted suicide. Perez complained that Catholic hospitals don’t permit the full array of “end of life services.” Since no hospital refuses hospice care, it is obvious what he was complaining about.

UC Health’s actions are pressuring Catholic hospitals to cease being Catholic — even if means that otherwise underserved patients lose access to local hospital care. For example, about 35,000 UC Health patients would be dramatically underserved if the hospital system breaks with Catholic hospitals.

Why is this dispute happening now? Because in the old days, the moral values of “secular” and “religious” hospitals were in general accord under the maxims of the Hippocratic Oath. Today, that is no longer true. And the secularists don’t believe in comity. It is their way or the highway.

Will Catholic hospitals buckle? I don’t know. It is hard to stand on a principle when patients needing care might have a more difficult time accessing it. But if that ever happens, blame the secularists’ attacks, not Catholic hospitals for operating consistently with the values under which they were established to operate.

This much is sure. The pressure for religious health-care institutions and individual medical practitioners to conform to secular values is only going to increase in coming years, particularly as the Biden administration and Democratic Congress continue to push hard aport on medically related issues.

Education

Our Colleges Need to Do Better — But How?

Loading...
The exterior of The Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, January 30, 2020. (Katherine Taylor/Reuters.)

For quite a few years, former Harvard president Derek Bok has been lamenting that American colleges and universities are underperforming. In his latest book, Higher Expectations, he returns to that subject, arguing that many students derive rather little benefit from their years in school.

In today’s Martin Center article, another Harvard man, former dean Harry Lewis, writes about Bok’s book. He agrees with Bok’s assessment and some of his ideas for improvement, but isn’t optimistic about any worthwhile change.

Lewis writes, “Bok has much to say on the deficiencies of American college education. He argues that in civic education they need to do much more. He points to ‘the unwillingness of most colleges to include a single required course on the basic principles of American government — how it functions, its strengths and weaknesses, the role of citizens and their effect on public policy, and the reasons why government behaves as it does.’”

But Lewis sees our highly entrenched faculty as an almost insuperable obstacle to any but cosmetic improvements. “At a minimum,” he writes, “there is reason to doubt that the educational goals Bok enumerates would be accepted by faculty whose reputations are based largely on their research, visibility, and the professional standing of their departmental colleagues. At worst, we may ask ourselves here in the third decade of the 21st century whether, even in universities, reason and truth are the values that will govern how our affairs are to be conducted.”

The higher up you go on our pyramid of colleges and universities, the more resistant they are to change.

Lewis concludes, “Higher Expectations is full of good ideas about ways to make undergraduate education both beneficial and useful to the next generation of citizens and leaders. University faculty and leaders will surely react defensively, even dismissively, but the more candid among them will take Bok’s wise and experienced critiques seriously. It will take inspired leadership to persuade the faculty that the problems Bok addresses are important ones for universities to solve.”

World

Pubs Still Shut in Ireland

Loading...
A shuttered pub called Reilly’s remains closed due to government restrictions in Dublin, Ireland, September 3, 2020. (Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters)

A few months ago I wrote about the most miserable lockdown in the Western world, which belonged, I believed, to Ireland. The level-five lockdown that lasted from last October to late in the spring of 2021, save for a short break around Christmas, restricted nonessential workers to 5km from their homes, forbade them from gathering with other households, even outdoors, forbade the crossing of county lines, etc. In that piece I noted that Ireland’s government “was effectively, if not quite legally, handed over to a National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET).” That is, the elected government had an attitude of deference toward public-health experts that was totally unusual. It was as if the government was trying to create the illusion that the nation could be governed purely by “the science.” I personally think this was a not just an immoral bit of misgovernance — an abandonment of politics for a delusion —  but that it was also a political mistake. The grand coalition government between old rival parties was trying to avoid responsibility for doing something unpleasant, but it also put itself in a position in which it could never claim real credit for addressing the crisis if it was done successfully.

But of course, it wasn’t.

Ireland had two upcoming phases of reopening. On July 17, international travel is supposed to reopen. On July 7, indoor dining, the possibility of 50, rather than just 25 people attending a wedding, and 500 not just 200 people at an outdoor sporting event. Recall, that many Irish people are watching on television as absolutely full stadiums gather in peer countries for the Euro soccer tournament. These countries have similar case and vaccination rates. Ireland currently has about a dozen people being treated for COVID in ICUs.

But before the resumption of the hospitality industry could begin — an industry that employs many people in tourism-heavy Ireland — NPHET met and gave its advice to the government. It predicted utter doom. And the government abandoned its plan. From the Irish Examiner:

The Government has effectively cancelled the summer for hospitality as it agreed to pause the return of indoor dining to an unspecified date.

Ministers have agreed to act on a “bleak” and “sobering” warning from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) who have effectively said a fourth wave is on the way.

There was deep annoyance within Cabinet as to how Nphet landed this problem on Government late last night.

“People were wildly pissed off,” one source said.

As a result, Taoiseach will announce “a plan to announce a plan” on July 19 as to how entry to pubs and restaurants could occur, subject to the Attorney General approving a scheme.

This is learned passivity from the government. The public-health team has basically bullied the elected government into adopting a new strategy for dealing with coronavirus, one that nobody in government knows is possible. That plan is vaccine passports. From the Irish Times:

The Cabinet has agreed to postpone the reopening of indoor dining until there is a workable plan for how customers can prove they have been vaccinated.

The plan is to be drawn up by July 19th but a decision has yet to be made on when indoor services can reopen.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin announced details of the Cabinet decision just after 1pm.

Speaking on the steps of Government Buildings, Mr Martin said the clear advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) was that indoor dining should be restricted to people who were fully-vaccinated to limit the spread of Covid-19 at a time of highly-infectious variants.

This is insanity. Israel, a country that had decided on and invested in a vaccine-passport system very early on — a country that is capable of inventing technology to shoot down unguided and unpredictable missiles from the air — could not make a vaccine passport work as a practical matter, or as a constitutional or political matter. Yet Ireland has, without any thought or debate, been scared into agreeing to come up with something similar in three weeks, just to salvage some of the summer.

The plain fact of the matter is that NPHET’s advice is wildly out of line with other European nations on the dangers of outdoor gatherings. Ireland is out of line with other nations on the danger of indoor dining — and its pundit class is trying to explain to itself that this is because Ireland’s health sector isn’t as robust as those in peer nations. They will have to cook those numbers to make that excuse work.

The fact is, if the political class cannot tolerate the risks of July and August, and the exit wave of cases that we’ve seen in the U.K. — one where infections go back toward winter levels, but where wide vaccination means deaths are at 2 percent of the winter rate — then Ireland will not tolerate the risks of winter and fall and will be basically locked up again until 2022, watching big events from nations that have the exact same vaccination rates, and almost surely worse health-care sectors.

Ireland is an object lesson in not letting unelected technocrats govern. Once again, I want to recommend an essay by Conor Fitzgerald on how the Irish came to be this way.

We are run at every level by middle-managers whose job is firstly to protect themselves within that system, and second to enact a technocratically pre-determined programme rather than interrogate or change it. It’s fine for some group of people to be like that, systems need technicians. But systems need visionaries and critics as well, and (certainly in Ireland) we basically don’t have any of those in positions of authority inside the system, and that includes in opposition.

Capital Matters

Pending Home Sales: Sticker Shock Shock?

Loading...

Today’s Capital Note includes a discussion about the rise in home prices — bubble or not and so on. It was written last night, and one of the things I wrote in that long-vanished era was this:

[T]here may be some signs of sticker shock.

The New York Times (from a week or so ago):

“Sales of homes in the United States fell for the fourth consecutive month in May as a sharp rise in prices and a shortage of houses for sale led to a slowdown in the market.

Existing home sales fell 0.9 percent in May from April, the National Association of Realtors said Tuesday, with the median sales price climbing nearly 24 percent from a year earlier to a record $350,300.”

But now (via CNBC):

The pandemic-induced housing boom may not be over quite yet. Despite recent months of softening sales, buyers came back remarkably strongly in May.

Pending home sales, a measure of signed contracts on existing homes, jumped an unexpectedly high 8% in May compared with April, according to the National Association of Realtors. Analysts expected a 1% drop. This is the highest level of sales activity for May since 2005.

Sales were up 13% from May 2020, when the housing market was just beginning to come back from the coronavirus lockdown. Pending contracts are a forward-looking indicator of closed home sales.

“May’s strong increase in transactions – following April’s decline, as well as a sudden erosion in home affordability – was indeed a surprise,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “The housing market is attracting buyers due to the decline in mortgage rates, which fell below 3%, and from an uptick in listings.”

On the other hand:

Weekly mortgage demand is falling, down nearly 7% on the week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association — a sign that the housing boom might be starting to fizzle . . .

Let’s see.

Health Care

Despite the Gloomy Headlines, America’s Vaccination Effort Keeps Chugging Along

Loading...
A healthcare worker holds coronavirus vaccines at a vaccination center in El Paso, Texas, May 6, 2021. (Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters)

Six months into America’s vaccination effort, the seven-day national average of shots administered is 896,000. Considering how more than 154 million Americans are fully vaccinated, that’s not that bad at all; that’s 54 percent of everyone 12 years and older, and remember that younger teenagers only became eligible in May. America has fully vaccinated 57.2 percent of its adults, and 77.8 percent of its senior citizens.

Yes, the U.S. is going to fall short of President Biden’s goal of having 70 percent of the adult population with at least one dose by July 4. But we’re at 66.2 percent, not that far off. It is not surprising or calamitous that mass vaccination sites are starting to shut down. We’re at a different stage of the pandemic, and the risk is different now. We no longer need to gather as many people as possible in stadium parking lots; the COVID-19 vaccine is now available at just about every pharmacy chain store.

If you look at the daily numbers over time, it becomes clear that Americans are much more likely to get vaccinated on weekends.

Range in the number of administered each day from Monday June 14 to Friday June 18: 978,000 to an astounding 2 million (on Thursday June 17).

Number of vaccinations administered Saturday, June 19: 1.03 million.

Number of vaccinations administered Sunday, June 20: 811,000.

Range in the number of administered each day from Monday, June 21 to Friday June 25: 591,000 to 908,000.

Number of vaccinations administered Saturday, June 26: 924,000.

Number of vaccinations administered Sunday June 27: 1.2 million.

Number of vaccinations administered Monday June 28: 1.09 million.

Number of vaccinations administered Tuesday June 29: 738,000.

The pattern suggests that a good portion of Americans who didn’t get vaccinated until the summer months didn’t hold off because they thought COVID-19 is a hoax or because they feared Bill Gates is trying to implant microchips into their bodies. They just hadn’t gotten around to it, and/or they didn’t want to miss work because of a reaction to the vaccine. You may not agree with that thinking, but it’s not insane.

We’re a country that has a decent number of procrastinators. About 100,000 Americans got their flu shot in the last week of February of this year — pretty late into flu season! Those who are late to take a particular action aren’t necessarily a reflection of anti-science attitudes or nutty faith in conspiracy theories. Sometimes, they’re just reflecting part of human nature.

Education

DeSantis Vetoes Stealth Protest-Civics Bill

Loading...
Then-candidate for Governor Ron DeSantis attends a campaign rally in South Daytona, Fla., November 4, 2018. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

In an impressive move, Florida governor Ron DeSantis has vetoed a stealth protest-civics bill, S.B. 146. Ostensibly, S.B. 146 was designed to forward “civic literacy education.” In fact, it was a quiet effort to gain money and state sponsorship for protest civics (aka “action civics”), a practice that grants course credit for student political protests and lobbying, almost invariably for leftist causes. Although DeSantis has moved to bar Critical Race Theory (CRT) from Florida’s schools, S.B. 146 could very easily have allowed CRT to creep back into Florida’s education system.

What makes the DeSantis veto so impressive is that S.B. 146 passed the Florida State Legislature unanimously, with support from some powerful sponsors as well. The fact that S.B. 146 would facilitate protest civics and CRT only became evident after passage. When I dug into the details of the bill, I found the hidden problems and wrote about them here at NRO. Frankly, serious problems notwithstanding, I thought that prospects were dim for a gubernatorial veto of a bill that had passed unanimously. Ron DeSantis proved me wrong, and I couldn’t be more impressed. In his veto letter, DeSantis explicitly notes that S.B. 146 would further politically biased “action civics.” Precisely.

The DeSantis veto of S.B. 146 marks a turning point in the national battle over protest civics. Heretofore, states have passed stealth action-civics bills with bipartisan support. Similarly misguided bills are pending in Congress. It’s unlikely that Republicans in Florida would have supported S.B. 146 if they’d heard about protest civics and understood its nature. The same goes for Republicans unknowingly supporting protest-civics bills in other states.

Time and again, however, Democrats approach naïve Republicans and ask them to support “bipartisan” legislation on “civics.” The Republicans may notice some bits in the bills about “civic engagement,” yet no alarm bells ring. It sounds all red, white, and blue, but the “civics” involved has more to do with Saul Alinsky than with teaching about the three branches of government, checks and balances, or the principles of federalism. Once Republicans sign on as co-sponsors of these stealthy protest-civics bills, it’s tough to back down. The bills pass, and presto, a state school system has effectively mandated extra-curricular leftist political protests as part of “civic education.” (For background on protest civics, go here.)

This is exactly what happened earlier this year in Rhode Island. I warned that a bipartisan bill in that state was a stealth protest-civics bill. Unfortunately, the Republican co-sponsors dug in and the bill passed both houses unanimously. Now students in Rhode Island are literally required to do political lobbying as part of their civics course. At the federal level, the alliance convened by the National Association of Scholars to fight action civics has called on both Senator John Cornyn and Representative Tom Cole to abandon their support for a deeply misguided federal protest-civics bill. Neither has budged, and Cornyn has even made false assertions about the nature of the bill.

The tide began to turn in Texas, however. There, action-civics advocates failed to secure bipartisan sponsorship for their most radical bill, but managed to get Republican backing for a stealthier protest-civics proposal. In the end, however, Texas became the first state to pass a bill that actually barred protest civics. Now moves to bar protest civics are underway in Georgia, Ohio (where I just testified), and other states as well.

The DeSantis veto of S.B. 146 shows that the push-back against protest civics has truly gained traction. It can’t have been easy to veto a bill that passed unanimously. But knowledge of the troublesome practice of protest civics is spreading, and surely this helped to sink the bill. Grassroots education groups in Florida called on DeSantis to veto S.B. 146, and even a short time ago conservatives wouldn’t have known enough about protest civics to even notice a bill like this. With the grassroots rebellion sweeping the country on education issues, all of that has changed. This veto is every bit as much a tribute to the parents across Florida now fighting against politicized schools as it is to Governor DeSantis.

I doubt that a single Republican legislator who voted for S.B. 146 understood its true implications. The bill sounds innocent enough. It simply sets up a partnership between a local university and the YMCA’s “Youth in Government” program. After all, how political could it be if the Y is involved? Nowadays, very political indeed. Like so many formerly apolitical institutions, the Y has gone woke. Their Youth in Government program is deeply engaged in “Unlearning Systemic Racism.” The YMCA’s “Changemakers Institute” is a hotbed of leftist protest civics. Republicans have been repeatedly duped by this sort of thing. Fortunately, DeSantis has caught on and isn’t afraid to slam the door on the left’s new “civics” scam.

The big test now is whether South Dakota’s governor Kristi Noem can match DeSantis by aggressively moving to block protest civics in her own state. Last month, I reported that Noem had been the first major figure to sign the pioneering 1776 Action pledge, which commits office-holders to fight both action civics and CRT. Noem’s move helped inspire Glenn Youngkin, Republican candidate for governor in Virginia, to do the same.

Noem deserves praise for being out in front on this issue, but now she faces a significant challenge. As I noted in May, even ruby-red South Dakota is currently crafting social-studies standards that give a prominent place to leftist protest civics. Noem has yet to block those standards, and it is vital that she redeem her public pledge by doing so.

With his veto of S.B. 146, Ron DeSantis has shown that he can do the heavy lifting required for the education battles ahead. This impressive move confirms DeSantis as one of the foremost leaders in the national push-back against the politicization of America’s schools.

Politics & Policy

‘Leave Politics out of Surfside’

Loading...

This week on The Editors, Rich, Charlie, Alexandra, and Jim discuss the bipartisan infrastructure bill, the horrific Surfside building collapse, and Garry Wills’s sophomoric NYT op-ed. Listen below, or follow this show on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, or Spotify.

Economy & Business

Headlines from 1846

Loading...

Please do take the time to read Donald Boudreaux and Douglas Irwin on the repeal of the Corn Laws and the future of free trade.

World

Remembering Syria

Loading...
Waad al-Kateab, filming in Aleppo (Courtesy of Action for Sama)

Today on the homepage, I have a piece about Syria, and specifically about an extraordinary Syrian journalist and filmmaker, in exile: Waad al-Kateab. With Edward Watts, she made a documentary called “For Sama.” (“Sama” is the name of her first daughter.) The film is about the Siege of Aleppo, and related matters. It has won important awards (including Best Documentary at Cannes).

In addition to writing about Waad al-Kateab, I have podcasted with her: here. On the Corner, I’d like to say something about an old subject of mine: human-rights fashion. An interesting subject. Why do some human-rights causes catch public attention while others are largely ignored? In 2012, I wrote an essay on this general theme: “Many Boots, Many Faces.”

For a long time, South Africa — apartheid South Africa — was a great world concern. There were other governments that abused human rights as grossly, or more so. Yet concern was not as great.

When I was in college, an Ethiopian famine was hot. (Forgive my glibness.) In Ethiopia right this second, terrible things are happening — many use the word “genocide,” and not carelessly — yet the issue is not “hot.”

Darfur was an intense world concern for a while. (This is the region in western Sudan where governmental forces have carried out mass murder, and mass rape.) Yet concern faded, even as horror continued.

Today, a lot of people know the word “Uyghurs.” Not long ago, however, people snickered when they heard it. At least this was my experience. Also, they would tell me, “You care about China so much? Why don’t you strap on a gun and go over and fight them?” Getting along with Beijing was the priority of the day; rocking the boat was frowned on.

Now people lecture me about the Uyghurs and the evil of the PRC. Go figure.

“Rohingya” is hard to pronounce — plus, aren’t they ISIS-like separatists? Consider North Korea, too. That is an ongoing emergency — and when an emergency is ongoing, people tend to yawn. Except for the people in the emergency.

In my piece today, I write,

For a few years after the current horrors in Syria began — in 2011 — that country was a great world concern. But world concern is hard to sustain. Shock wears off, the news seems repetitive, and the world is ready to move on.

Also, if people, or governments, are unwilling to do something about a problem — or think a problem is untreatable — they would probably rather not hear about it. In fact, they may get angry, when they hear about it. (I have seen this on more than one occasion.)

What many human-rights advocates face is apathy, and a sense of futility. Also the irritation of those who would rather not be bothered.

But on the matter of futility, specifically: Syria is not ravaged by earthquakes, hurricanes, or other natural phenomena, as Waad al-Kateab points out. It is ravaged by a dictatorship. Cannot men restrain it, dislodge it?

I also have a “glance at the grim statistics”:

Before the war, Syria’s population was 22 million. Since 2011, between 500,000 and 600,000 people have been killed. About 12 million have been displaced. Roughly half of these have fled abroad, and the other half have been displaced internally. Abroad, a million refugee children have been born.

At home, an estimated 2.1 million civilians have been injured, some severely and permanently. This is not to mention all the rape, torture, psychosis, poverty, and starvation. Along with North Korea — a perennial — Syria is pretty much the most battered place on earth.

One of the staples of journalism is the anniversary piece. Accordingly, there were some tenth-anniversary pieces earlier this year. I mean pieces marking ten years since the Syrian uprising began, in March 2011. But there were very few. The world “moved on” from Syria long ago.

Also, many people have the idea that there aren’t victimizers and victims in Syria. They are all “bad guys,” in a sense: tribe fighting tribe, in a struggle to the death. In 2013, Americans were debating intervention, as the Assad regime was using chemical weapons against the population. Sarah Palin let her views be known in a Facebook post, which she headed “LET ALLAH SORT IT OUT.” That line thrilled many people, and would today.

I remember a different line, a line from Bill Buckley. It went something like this: No one has an inexhaustible supply of indignation. Everyone has a tank, so to speak. What do you spend your tank on? You cannot keep your eye on every sparrow, injured or killed. Which ones do you choose to watch, and comment on? Or be an “activist” about?

Anyway, human-rights fashion is an interesting subject, and I think it would make a fitting subject for a book. As for Syria, no one cares about it, sure — except the Syrians. And their well-wishers, wherever they may be. Again, my piece on Waad al-Kateab — “Witness from Syria” — is here.

Politics & Policy

21 Things That Caught My Eye Today: Tragedy at Surfside, Caring for Actual Women’s Health & More

Loading...

1.

2.

3. Shabbat in Surfside

“Right now I feel like I haven’t slept in days,” Bal Harbour resident Steve Eisenberg, a tanned retiree from New York told me. “I keep seeing my friend Brad in the rubble.” On a patio behind his condo building we faced an ocean of brilliant turquoise and deep navy, under an ethereal fleet of white clouds, inside a frame of tropical green. Eisenberg had signed the ketubah at Dr. Brad Cohen’s wedding. “All he ever did was acts of kindness for people … if someone was suffering he didn’t say, ‘call my office on Monday.’”

At daily minyan at The Shul, the red-domed Chabad megacenter across the street from Eisenberg’s apartment, he had befriended another one of the missing, someone who had lost both of his parents to COVID, and his wife to cancer. The Shul and life in Bal Harbour’s Jewish community had helped the man recover something of himself after a year of loss. “He said, ‘I’m so happy to be here, this is my next chapter of happiness.’” Now he was buried under the wreckage, along with one of his children.

Is there any sense to be made out of any of this? “The ways of God are mysterious. We don’t know them, they’re hidden so often,” Rabbi Lipskar said at Mincha.

4. Miami Catholic parish says 10 of its families still missing after collapse

Father Juan Sosa’s message to those affected by the crisis is to keep up hope and “keep your heart on the one who can grant us the opportunity to see our loved ones, and that is God. Keep your hearts open so you will be able to feel and experience, in the midst of grief, the healing presence of the Lord,” Father Sosa said.

5. New book looks at ‘dark side’ of euthanasia in Netherlands

6. Henry Olsen: It’s About Time Lawmakers Focus on Pregnant Women Beyond the Abortion Debate. Here’s a Bill that would do that.

The bill has four basic provisions. First, it would make unborn children eligible for the child tax credit. Under current law, that means every expectant mother would get $3,600 she otherwise would not. Second, it would establish a federal-state partnership that assesses and catalogues all available resources and programs that an expectant mother is eligible for. Participation in the program would be voluntary for states, but those that do would commit to providing each expectant mother with that list at an appropriate time during her pregnancy, letting her know that the community is ready to care for her and her child. Third, it would provide federal grants for the advancement of maternal housing, job training and other educational opportunities. Finally, it would provide incentives to improve maternal health and child health outcomes.

7. Feminists for Life: CARE FOR HER: An Interview with Rep. Jeff Fortenberry

Continue reading “21 Things That Caught My Eye Today: Tragedy at Surfside, Caring for Actual Women’s Health & More”

World

Another Win for China’s Vaccine Diplomacy

Loading...
Vaccine products of Sinovac Biotech during a government-organized media tour of the company’s development of a coronavirus vaccine candidate in Beijing, China, September 24, 2020. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

China’s brazen vaccine diplomacy has concrete implications, including the ability to shape how diplomats talk about the Chinese Communist Party’s human-rights abuses on the global stage. Chinese diplomats put the squeeze on Ukraine last week, the Associated Press reported:

China pressured Ukraine into withdrawing its support for a call for more scrutiny of human rights in China’s western region of Xinjiang by threatening to withhold Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccines destined for Ukraine unless it did so, diplomats told The Associated Press on Friday.

Ukraine briefly joined a statement by over 40 countries, presented by Canada at the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Tuesday, urging China to allow immediate access for independent observers to Xinjiang. Some human rights groups have alleged Chinese mistreatment of Muslim Uyghurs and others in the region.

On Thursday, Ukraine pulled its name off the list of supporting states after Chinese authorities warned Kyiv that they would block a planned shipment of at least 500,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Ukraine unless it did so, said diplomats from two Western countries.

Ukraine’s acquiescence to Chinese demands is something that President Joe Biden should bring up in his upcoming meeting with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.

Ties between the U.S. and Ukraine have frayed over the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which the Biden administration opposes but has not fought very hard to kill. To the extent that the Ukrainians were backed into a corner here, Washington should step in, offering to help, so as not to lose ground to the Party’s international discourse power offensive.

Elections

NYC Ranked Choice Voting Reminds Us Why Federalism Is a Blessing

Loading...
Eric Adams speaks an election night party in New York City, June 22, 2021. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

Thank goodness for federalism.

New York City, that paragon of clean and fair politics, decided to tinker with its voting system and implement ranked-choice voting for its mayoral-primary elections this year. Some advocate ranked-choice voting for more elections. The waiting period we are in right now is the best argument for why ranked-choice voting should stay right where it is.

As things currently stand, Eric Adams won 29.3 percent of the first choice votes. Maya Wiley won 20.3 percent. Kathryn Garcia won 18.1 percent. Andrew Yang won 11.9 percent. Everyone else was below 5 percent.

So, of course, we’re currently waiting to see whether Garcia has enough votes to win the election — the one who finished third initially and was eleven points behind Adams.

There are political scientists out there who will explain to you why this is better and why, on paper, more voters will be satisfied in the end with the results. But in a time when trust in election integrity is already low, we don’t need a system that’s hard to report and hard to comprehend.

Please imagine how this would work in, say, a national presidential primary with ranked-choice voting. Consider what would have happened if it turned out that in 2016, for example, Donald Trump won 29.3 percent of the vote, Ted Cruz won 20.3 percent, Marco Rubio won 18.1 percent, and John Kasich won 11.9 percent, just like the mayoral breakdown. And imagine that if a week after the election, we get preliminary results that indicate it’s a battle between Trump and Rubio. Oh, and we won’t actually know the final results for possibly two months. There’s plenty wrong with our current primary system, but that does not sound like an improvement. And we have plenty of reason to believe a national presidential primary would be even worse because, unlike an election in New York City, it would involve the varying capabilities of the election authorities of every local government in the country.

Eric Adams has already put out a statement saying the way the results have been announced “rais[es] serious questions,” and we don’t even have the final results in yet. That’s pretty predictable because, well, he got the most first-choice votes by a lot, and any voting system where the guy who gets the most votes doesn’t win is going to be questioned by the guy who gets the most votes.

This has already happened when ranked-choice voting in Maine resulted in Bruce Poliquin, the last Republican U.S. House member from all of New England, losing an election where he won the most first-choice votes in 2018. He sued to have the law invalidated as unconstitutional, and his case rattled around the courts from the beginning of November until he dropped his lawsuit on Christmas Eve.

Do we really want to give politicians more chances to be sore losers and rile up voters who believe an election was stolen from them? Eric Adams won the most first-choice votes. If he ends up losing and wants to say the election was stolen from him, his supporters aren’t going to be interested in some animated data visualization and a 2,000-word thinkpiece explaining why they’re actually better off.

So what does this have to do with federalism? If you’re one of the approximately 320 million Americans who don’t live in New York City, you don’t have to care about any of this.

We let local governments try stuff, which is great. If New York City wants to keep confusing the heck out of its voters, that’s up to them. Ranked-choice voting, on the merits, is not a completely ridiculous idea. But now we know that in practice, it’s confusing and creates more opportunities for distrust in electoral processes. And now you can’t say it’s never been tried.

A Huge Upset May Be Brewing in New York City

Loading...
Kathryn Garcia, Democratic candidate for New York City mayor, speaks during a campaign appearance in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, N.Y., May 11, 2021. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

New York City’s new ranked-choice voting system (RCV) is looking like it may deliver the mayoralty to Kathryn Garcia, even though the morning after the Democratic primary she was in third place, behind both former liberal cop turned law-and-order candidate Eric Adams and MSNBC socialist Maya Wiley, who was endorsed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Garcia positioned herself as the managerial competence candidate, an argument that won over the New York Times, and cited her experience as a city administrator. So what part of the metropolis did she run? Er, the Sanitation Department. Under Bill de Blasio. If you want to know

Education

Blaming Children

Loading...
Signs opposing Critical Race Theory line the entrance to the Loudoun County School Board headquarters in Ashburn, Va., June 22, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

Writing about the new, much-discussed Texas education law in The New Yorker, Benjamin Wallace-Wells concludes that its point is to “establish a protective halo around white students, so that they do not hear that their success might have something to do with their race, or that the structures of racial power and privilege in the past also apply to the present.”

It is “telling,” he writes, that the law

prohibits teachers and administrators from suggesting that “an individual’s moral character, standing, or worth is necessarily determined by the individual’s race or sex.” It insists that no individual student should “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of the individual’s race or sex.”

This description of the law (echoed by Timothy Snyder in this much worse New York Times Magazine essay) is not quite right. The law does not insist that students should not feel discomfort or guilt based on their race; it insists that teachers not instruct them that they should feel distress based on their race. A teacher is not violating the law if a lesson about the long history of white mistreatment of blacks in the U.S. causes a white student to feel shame. What the teacher may not do is say that white students should be ashamed of this history. (Or — the text of the law is objectionably ambiguous on this point — say that some people have believed in collective guilt for white people.)

Wallace-Wells is more generous toward the law’s backers than many of the other critics have been. “The bill doesn’t rewrite history in the way that the campaigns to protect Confederate memorialization have sometimes sought to,” he concedes, before making his own critique: “Instead, it tries to cleave off students from any feeling of historical responsibility — as if, with each generation, America were re-created, blameless and anew. . . . The debate isn’t about history, exactly. It is about the possibility of blamelessness.”

When we ascribe “responsibility” for an injustice to a person or group, we may be saying that they deserve condemnation for inflicting that injustice, or we may be saying that they are duty-bound to rectify it. All schoolkids, regardless of their race, are responsible in that second sense for advancing justice, simply by virtue of being presumptive future citizens. No schoolchildren, regardless of their race, are responsible in the first sense for slavery, discrimination, and their lingering effects. The provisions of the law that Wallace-Wells quotes aim to affirm that last proposition. That’s the right side of the debate to be on.

Elections

Maricopa Audit Hijinks

Loading...
An election worker holds ballots at the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center in Phoenix, Ariz., November 9, 2020. (Jim Urquhart/Reuters)

I am very sympathetic to observations that the ongoing election “audit” in Maricopa County, Ariz., is an embarrassing clown show, of the kind that Republicans would be blowing a collective gasket over had Democrats tried such a thing. The county and state governments are controlled by Republicans; they certified and audited the vote, confirming that Biden won. The so-called audit orchestrated by state senate Republicans (egged on by the Trump-fanatical state GOP organization) is being conducted, without adequate bipartisan supervision, by Cyber Ninjas, an organization with no experience in audits, led by a 2020 election conspiracy theorist. (See this NR column by Stephen Richer, the elected Republican recorder for Maricopa County.)

All that said, though, why is it necessary for taxpayers to be on the hook for millions of dollars to replace the Dominion voting machines examined in the audit?

As our Brittany Bernstein reports, that is what the county has announced it plans to do. It cites “security” concerns, under prompting by the state’s Democratic attorney general, Katie Hobbs, who has threatened to decommission the machines.

If the machines have been found by reliable testing to be corrupted, that is something we should be told. Not only would it be a valid reason to replace the machines; it would provide valuable information about the ongoing audit’s quality, or lack thereof.

On the other hand, when the Trump legal team made outlandish claims about manipulation of Dominion voting machines in various states (such that ballots cast for Trump were said to have been altered by sinister algorithms and counted as Biden votes), we were told that the machines had been subjected to careful examination and that no evidence of corruption had been found. If that is true, as I assume it is, then it should be a simple matter to determine whether the Maricopa machinery has been corrupted by Cyber Ninjas.

If the same examination methods are used, and there is no evidence that the machines are unreliable due to some sort of tampering, why shouldn’t they be used again? According to Stephen Richer, the aforementioned county recorder, the expensive machines have a long history of being unfailingly reliable.

Arizona taxpayers should not have to shell out a fortune for no better reason than to make a political point that is already obvious: the Maricopa “recount” is ludicrous.

If the state examines the machines and finds that Cyber Ninjas has rigged or damaged them, the machines should not only be replaced; there should also be a criminal investigation. If, however, the machines are examined and show no evidence of corruption, what sense does it make to decommission them? Doing so would disserve the objective of promoting confidence in elections. If the state says machines need to be replaced even though examination shows they haven’t been tampered with, Trump 2020 dead-enders would use that to bolster their claim that post-election examinations did not disprove manipulation of the Dominion machines.

Politics & Policy

Further Reasons to Reject the Theodore Roosevelt Legacy

Loading...
President Theodore Roosevelt, c. 1902 (Library of Congress)

In response to Josh Hawley Says Conservatives Must Reclaim the Theodore Roosevelt Legacy. Not So Fast

Sean-Michael reported on the latest example of Missouri senator Josh Hawley’s admiration for Theodore Roosevelt, and wisely raised several pertinent objections to conservative affection for the Bull Moose. You can find more reason for skepticism here and here, as well as in Roosevelt’s own words. Consider his understanding of the presidency, known as the “stewardship theory,” revealed in his autobiography:

My view was that every executive officer, and above all every executive officer in high position, was a steward of the people bound actively and affirmatively to do all he could for the people, and not to content himself with the negative merit of keeping his talents undamaged in a napkin. I declined to adopt the view that what was imperatively necessary for the Nation could not be done by the President unless he could find some specific authorization to do it. My belief was that it was not only his right but his duty to do anything that the needs of the Nation demanded unless such action was forbidden by the Constitution or by the laws. Under this interpretation of executive power I did and caused to be done many things not previously done by the President and the heads of the departments. I did not usurp power, but I did greatly broaden the use of executive power. In other words, I acted for the public welfare, I acted for the common well-being of all our people, whenever and in whatever manner was necessary, unless prevented by direct constitutional or legislative prohibition. I did not care a rap for the mere form and show of power; I cared immensely for the use that could be made of the substance.

One sees, even in this brief excerpt, not only a rather capacious view of executive power, but also a belief that the “Nation” and “our people” are an abstract, collective force whose will can be discerned not by the pathways established in our constitutional architecture but rather only by the singular figure of the president himself. (Cameron Hilditch had more to say about that earlier this year.) This is a view that fits uncomfortably within a system of free government, to say the least.

Law & the Courts

The Surprisingly Frequently Unanimous Supreme Court

Loading...
Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett poses during a group photo at the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., April 23, 2021. (Erin Schaff/Reuters)

A lot of the coverage of the Supreme Court over the past year has warned of an intense and sinister right-wing turn, and how justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan would be outvoted by an extreme, radical conservative majority marching in lockstep . . .

FiveThirtyEight: How A Conservative 6-3 Majority Would Reshape The Supreme Court

Jen Rubin: How to outfox an activist, right-wing Supreme Court

CNN: How Amy Coney Barrett has changed the Supreme Court in ways Kavanaugh hasn’t

And yet, here we are in 2021, the first term with Amy Coney Barrett weighing in as a justice, and . . . the Court is somehow significantly more unified than it has been in recent years.

The nine justices have charted a surprising course down the middle in 2021, handing down more unanimous opinions than any time in at least the last seven years.

An ABC News analysis found 67 percent of the court’s opinions in cases argued during the term that ends this month have been unanimous or near-unanimous with just one justice dissenting.

That compares to just 46 percent of unanimous or near-unanimous decisions during the 2019 term and the 48 percent average unanimous decision rate of the past decade, according to SCOTUSblog.

At best, this is evidence of a tired groupthink and a habit of jumping to conclusions among the reporters and commentators who follow the Supreme Court. But it’s more likely that these commentators knew that the Democratic Party’s agenda is helped most by repeated contentions that Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Barrett are ideological maniacs, knew that it wasn’t an accurate characterization of those justices, and repeated the mantras anyway . . . until they bought into their own spin and simply couldn’t conceive of a scenario in which these new justices — bright, articulate, and selected in part because of their ability to construct arguments that might persuade their colleagues — could help create a less intensely divided Court.

Elections

Is Ranked-Choice Voting a Voting Rights Act Violation?

Loading...
Eric Adams speaks an election night party in New York City, June 22, 2021. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

Do racial disparities in the use of voting procedures — even disparities of recent vintage — prove that those procedures, or any changes to them, are voter suppression in violation of the Voting Rights Act? That is the position implicit in the Justice Department’s lawsuit against Georgia. One of the problems with this theory that it opens laws to unpredictable legal challenges based solely on voter behavior that can easily change and may be specific to particular candidates. Consider survey data from New York City’s introduction of ranked-choice voting, used for the first time in the June 22 Democratic primary:

The survey of nearly 1,700 New Yorkers as they left the polls reveals that 42 percent of New Yorkers used all five choices on their ballot to cast their vote in the contest for the Democratic Party’s nomination . . . white voters were the most likely to take full advantage of ranked-choice balloting, with 45 percent using all five spots; black voters were the second-most likely at 43 percent. However, pollsters also reported that 25 percent of black voters cast ballots with just one mayoral candidate, which is more than double the 10 percent of ballots cast by whites with just one vote.

Given how ranked-choice voting works, you could read this different ways. On the one hand, black voters were much more likely to cast a vote for only one candidate (in many cases, undoubtedly, front-runner Eric Adams, who is black and was the first choice in many of the city’s black neighborhoods). On the other hand, white voters were more likely to mark the lower spots on the ballot, thus giving them a greater say than black voters in the ranking of all candidates. Arguably, the latter means that introducing ranked-choice voting diluted the voting power of black voters. But is that really an effect of the new rule, or just how voters happened to exercise their choices in one particular election? If there is no Voting Rights Act violation because this is just one election, would it retroactively become one if the pattern persists over time? To ask the question is to reveal the problems with such an open-ended reading of the statute.

World

Congress Is Not a Parliament

Loading...
President Joe Biden delivers his first address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., April 28, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Pool via Reuters)

“Democrats in Oil Country Worried by Party’s Natural-Gas Agenda,” reads a headline in today’s Wall Street Journal. The article talks about Democrats in competitive districts reliant on the energy industry being harmed by the national party’s energy policy, which often paints the energy industry as the boogeyman.

There are three crucial seats in Texas that Democrats want to hold in 2022 to maintain their slim House majority. The current representatives of those seats — Lizzie Fletcher, Vicente Gonzalez, and Henry Cuellar — signed a letter to President Biden in January asking him to reverse an executive order suspending new oil and gas leases on federal land. Their districts are heavily dependent on the energy sector for jobs, and energy-sector jobs pay very well. The energy industry is demonstrably not the boogeyman to those Democrats, and they want the national party to understand that.

Balancing national policy with local interests is always a difficult task for a national party in a congressional system. The best way to think about the challenge is to compare a congress with a parliament. The word “parliament” comes from the Anglo-French word “parler,” meaning “to speak.” It’s about discourse and conversation, and many European parliaments were originally assembled to advise monarchs. The idea was that by having smart people talk to each other, the monarch would be better able to act in the interest of the nation as a whole than if he or she were acting alone.

A congress is a different model of governance. The word “congress” comes from the Latin word “congredi,” meaning “to come together.” It’s not predicated on smart people talking to each other and sacrificing their interests for the good of the nation. It’s predicated on different people coming together and balancing their interests for the good of their constituents.

In his 1774 “Speech to the Electors of Bristol,” Edmund Burke said that

Parliament is not a Congress of Ambassadors from different and hostile interests; which interests each must maintain, as an Agent and Advocate, against other Agents and Advocates; but Parliament is a deliberative Assembly of one Nation, with one Interest, that of the whole; where, not local Purposes, not local Prejudices ought to guide, but the general Good, resulting from the general Reason of the whole. You chuse a Member indeed; but when you have chosen him, he is not a Member of Bristol, but he is a Member of Parliament.

That’s why members of the House of Commons in the U.K. aren’t required to live in the constituencies they represent. As Americans, we think that’s odd, but it makes sense for the parliamentary system. If the purpose of legislative elections is to pick someone guided by “the general Good,” it would be silly to discriminate based on whether they live in a certain place in the country. “The general Good,” by definition, isn’t local, and you can probably think of a politician who doesn’t live in your area who better represents your views on the overall direction of the country than your congressman does.

Our House of Representatives, however, is not a parliament, and it’s completely appropriate for members, acting as “an Agent or Advocate,” to maintain their “different and hostile interests.” In Federalist No. 53, James Madison argues that in “the great theatre of the United States,” maintaining those local interests actually makes for better national government by taking advantage of the dispersed knowledge held by each member:

The laws are so far from being uniform, that they vary in every State; whilst the public affairs of the Union are spread throughout a very extensive region, and are extremely diversified by the local affairs connected with them, and can with difficulty be correctly learnt in any other place than in the central councils to which a knowledge of them will be brought by the representatives of every part of the empire. Yet some knowledge of the affairs, and even of the laws, of all the States, ought to be possessed by the members from each of the States. How can foreign trade be properly regulated by uniform laws, without some acquaintance with the commerce, the ports, the usages, and the regulations of the different States? How can the trade between the different States be duly regulated, without some knowledge of their relative situations in these and other respects? How can taxes be judiciously imposed and effectually collected, if they be not accommodated to the different laws and local circumstances relating to these objects in the different States? How can uniform regulations for the militia be duly provided, without a similar knowledge of many internal circumstances by which the States are distinguished from each other? These are the principal objects of federal legislation, and suggest most forcibly the extensive information which the representatives ought to acquire.

Right now, we see Democrats from oil-and-gas-producing districts trying to convey their local information to the national party. It’s trickier now than when Madison envisioned it because there’s a whole other branch of government involved — the executive — that actually holds much of the decisionmaking power. That’s why Fletcher, Gonzalez, and Cuellar wrote their letter to Joe Biden, not to Nancy Pelosi.

And that’s why Joe Biden had such a hard go of it during the campaign when he was asked about fracking. The best move for him was to be unclear about fracking because he knew voters in places like Pennsylvania that benefited from fracking were crucial to his election and his party’s control over Congress. The unitary, national executive does not contain any mechanisms to handle conflicts between local interests. That’s what the House of Representatives is for, but Congress has relinquished much of its power to the executive branch over the years.

What Democrats in Congress have to decide is whether the interests of their moderate members in energy-sector districts are important enough to sacrifice the interests of progressive members who want to aggressively curb fossil-fuel use. That’s an entirely proper question for a congress to deal with. Congress is not a parliament, and local concerns matter even though it’s the national legislature.

History

Josh Hawley Says Conservatives Must Reclaim the Theodore Roosevelt Legacy. Not So Fast

Loading...
Senator Josh Hawley in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., July 11, 2019 (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

The Ethics & Public Policy Center had its Big Tech Symposium today, discussing hot button topics such as Section 230 reform, antitrust initiatives, and more. The meeting kicked off with remarks from GOP lawmakers who have come out in support of such measures. Josh Hawley, a longtime proponent of reigning in Big Tech, started the symposium by recalling a past Republican icon: Theodore Roosevelt. Hawley was not alone; in fact, the younger Roosevelt played a starring role in many congressmen’s remarks.

Hawley argued in his introduction that the Republican Party has historically been a party of working-class Americans, small-businesses owners, and antitrust politicians. Building a case for a working-class antitrust coalition of Republicans should not be difficult nor a radical departure, according to the Missouri senator. For Hawley, the principles of free enterprise are not in conflict with the spirit of capitalism. Theodore Roosevelt was an example of how trustbusting can coexist with, and even support, entrepreneurship. 

The invocation of TR did not stop with Hawley; other GOP politicians at the Symposium pointed to the Rough Rider as an exemplary figure in American economic history. While the Republican is rightfully recognized as one of the most important presidents in our nation’s history, his status as an American conservative is, at best, ambivalent. Roosevelt was a transformative president, but he did so as an integral part of the Progressive Era. He moved to the left in 1906, prioritizing regulation, the right to strike, and an interventionist foreign policy. His “Square Deal,” for instance, was disputed by more-conservative members of the Republican and Democratic parties. 

Perhaps the most peculiar reason for Roosevelt’s invocation as a trustbuster is that he, well, didn’t break up that many trusts. TR revived the Sherman Antitrust Act as president, but he generally preferred to regulate businesses rather than break them up. In fact, contemporaries criticized him for failing to break up monopolies properly.

It was his successor, William Howard Taft, who was the real trustbuster TR never was. In fact, Taft is a far better example of an antitrust conservative, too. Taft was a strict constitutionalist, deeply skeptical of his own power as president. Yet while he did undertake trustbusting measures, Taft has a sterling record of fiscal, social, and judicial conservatism.

This small history detour is useful to keep in mind when congressmen invoke the legacies of presidents such as Roosevelt. We should be wary of bold, brash, progressive ideas cloaked in conservative clothing. A right-wing aesthetic does not a conservative policy make. Josh Hawley wants us to believe that Teddy Roosevelt’s legacy is one of reasonable, antitrust conservatism. He is not completely wrong, but we can’t forget the most lasting legacy of TR is as a powerful leader who used state power to usher in a new era of progressivism. It’s a legacy that need not be repeated. 

White House

Biden’s Iran Policy Is Bad China Policy

Loading...
President Joe Biden walks between engagements at the G7 summit in Cornwall, England, June 11, 2021. (Leon Neal/Pool via Reuters)

The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a panel created by Congress to study Sino-American ties, has released a new report examining the “limited but enduring strategic partnership” between China and Iran.

As the Biden administration moves toward reentering the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran, it’s worth noting that doing so will likely weaken its hand in the global competition with Beijing.

What the report means by the “limited” nature of the partnership is that Beijing’s simultaneous courtship of the Gulf states, with whom China also maintains budding strategic ties, restricts its ties with Iran somewhat. Still, what the commission bills as pragmatic cooperation between the two countries benefits them both as they contest the U.S.-led order:

Beijing views Tehran’s opposition to the United States as augmenting China’s increasing global influence, evidenced in part by Iran’s proliferation of Chinese anti-U.S. disinformation during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The Iranian regime’s destabilizing actions in the Middle East also complicate the United States’ efforts to shift its focus to the Indo-Pacific. For its part, Iran views China as a critical economic lifeline and diplomatic supporter against pressure from the United States. A 25-year cooperation agreement signed in March 2021 is the latest indication of the two sides’ willingness to coordinate more closely.

This has ramifications well beyond China’s purchases of Iranian oil (in violation of U.S. sanctions). As the report notes, the two countries support each other diplomatically, such as when the Chinese foreign ministry in early 2020 weighed in against the Trump administration’s assassination of Iranian paramilitary leader Qassem Soleimani. Iran supports China’s position regarding its human-rights atrocities in Xinjiang.

The report goes on to detail the many additional ways in which China and Iran collaborate across different spheres, including the increasing links between military officials from the two countries.

By putting the U.S. on track to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal, the Biden administration seems poised to cement the countries’ bilateral ties, making it easier for Beijing to support Tehran. There are already indications that China has been skirting U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil.

The Trump administration’s maximum-pressure campaign also harmed Chinese firms with close ties to the Chinese Communist Party, the report’s authors note:

In March 2019, Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei reportedly laid off most of its 250 staff in Iran. Huawei and its chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, daughter of company founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei, already face charges brought by the U.S. government in late 2018 for violating U.S. sanctions on Iran by allegedly obtaining prohibited U.S. technology for Huawei’s Iran-based business and moving money out of Iran. In addition, in 2019 Chinese computer manufacturer Lenovo prohibited its distributers from selling to the Iranian market.  Reflecting firm-level decisions to leave the country, Chinese FDI to Iran registered capital outflows of over $990 million between 2017 and 2019.

If the Biden administration were to reenter the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, that pressure on these firms would be lessened significantly, and Sino-Iranian cooperation will continue to blossom.

The nonpartisan commission doesn’t explicitly take a view as to whether the administration’s Iran negotiations are wise, but it does explain how the two countries stand to benefit from a renewed JCPOA:

Though China benefits from stability in the Middle East, a revived nuclear deal is primarily a means for China to increase its economic engagement with Iran without the threat of U.S. sanctions. Therefore, in trying to bring Iran to the negotiating table and simultaneously pressuring all stakeholders to reach a deal, the Chinese government is pursuing its own pragmatic interests in the country while looking to cast itself as a constructive diplomatic stakeholder in the region….

China’s continued trade and investment with Iran provides a critical economic lifeline to the Iranian regime, reducing the efficacy of U.S. sanctions. China’s long-term investment in regional connectivity and continued interest in accessing Iranian resources means China benefits from an economically and politically stable Iran. Though China’s trade and investment with the regime contributes to the welfare of the average Iranian citizen, it also emboldens the Iranian regime to continue its malign activities in the face of international pressure.

Otherwise put, Joe Biden’s Iran policy seems to be bad China policy.

Fiscal Policy

Industrial Policy Meets the Real World

Loading...
The U.S. Capitol Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., December 4, 2020 (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

Industrial policy looks great on paper. The government simply has to identify an industry that needs support, prop it up with subsidies, loans, tax breaks, or protect it from foreign competition with tariffs and other trade regulations, and we will be on our way to fixing many of our problems.

Some have learned from history, and simply want for more funding for R&D rather than a top-down central plan. Others have learned nothing. Either way, whatever form it takes, industrial-policy plans have to go through Congress, and then be implemented by various government agencies.

And that’s when things rarely go according to plan. Take the United States Innovation and Competition Act of 2021, formerly known as the “Endless Frontier Act” or EFA. It was originally going to be a $100-billion-over-five-years increase in federal support of R&D to boost innovation. However, after going through Senate Commerce Committee markups last month, things have gone in a very different direction as this analysis summed up:

$100 billion boost in federal support for R&D is now less than $40 billion in new spending, of which less than $10 billion is reserved for anything resembling research or development.

Once the senators on the committee had their turn adding their preferred crony provisions, shifting R&D funding to other priorities and adding rules that had nothing to do with subject at hand, the thing became a 1,500-page, $250 billion industrial-policy legislation, which looked nothing like what it was meant to be. Big surprise. Over at The Dispatch, Scott Lincicome has a good piece explaining why we shouldn’t be surprised by this development.

The legislation went through the House, and needless to say, it didn’t improve it.

That’s Congress. But then there is the fact that the winners picked by the government may not all turn out to be the champions we hope they will become. A few years ago, I explained that this has happened before:

Consider the detailed case studies by economists at the Brookings Institution. In 1991 Linda R. Cohen (with help from Roger G. Noll, Jeffrey S. Banks, Susan A. Edelman and William M. Pegram) wrote an entire book called The Technology Pork Barrel on the federal government as an investor in R&D for the sake of technological advancement.

What’s interesting about this book is that the authors are sympathetic to the usual arguments presented in favor of government intervention in R&D. They believe that the market in some cases fails to invest enough in R&D—an argument made across the political spectrum, including many libertarians. The authors also believe this failure keeps economic growth artificially low, and that government should correct this problem. And still, in the end, they conclude that people should be skeptical about federal government support for R&D.

And yet, we continue to believe that somehow, this time, industrial policy will work better. You even hear conservatives make arguments like, “It works in China, so we have to do the same.” It’s as if some people are convinced that the problems that have plagued past and current central-planning efforts in the U.S. government don’t exist in China. But the truth is that China’s successes may not look as good relative to the U.S. if you look closely at the data and facts. Also, the U.S. private sector may not even be as deficient at R&D investments as some believe.

Yet, the myth endures especially when it promises to defeat China somehow. Here is President Biden applauding the House’s approval by wide margins of two potential and complementary alternatives to the Senate-approved United States Innovation and Competition Act of 2021:

“We need historic – once in a generation – investments in our competitiveness that support R&D, innovation, our semiconductor industry, and advanced manufacturing to grow our economy and create good-paying middle-class jobs in every corner of America,” Biden said in a statement.  “By rebuilding those domestic sources of strength, we can out-compete China and the rest of the world for years to come.”

The belief that more government spending and regulations are what economic growth and innovations are made of will always baffle me. This is why I am delighted that in the past year, my colleague Adam Thierer has devoted so much of his time looking at other countries’ past industrial-policy efforts. Here is his must-read piece about the Japanophobia of the ’80s and ’90s, which was rooted in part in a profound fear of its industrial policy. It is an important walk down memory lane:

Revisiting the era of what critics called “Japan Inc.” or “the Japan Model” provides some important lessons regarding how debates over China might unfold in coming years. China’s human rights abuses, anti-democratic tendencies and growing military aspirations make it a far more serious threat to U.S. interests than Japan ever was. Nonetheless, the panic about Japan and its economic planning efforts remains instructive, especially with a massive 1,500-page, $250 billion industrial policy bill recently passing in the Senate and political interest in countering China at an all-time high.

He concludes:

Perhaps the most ironic indictment of industrial policy punditry lies in the way all the earlier books and essays about Japanese planning not only failed to forecast the many flops associated with it, but also did not foresee China as a potential future economic juggernaut. Korea, Singapore and Taiwan were mentioned as potential Asian challengers, but no one gave China much consideration. What might that tell us about the ability of experts to predict the future course of countries and economies? It is a reminder of the wisdom of another great Yogi Berra quote: “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

Thierer has more articles, some co-authored with Connor Haaland, that I highly recommend, looking at questions such as whether we should model our innovation policies on China, or whether European-style industrial policy spurs tech innovation. Also, don’t miss this great interview with Matt Ridley on the future of innovation. This body of work should take some of the shine off the enduring appeal of industrial policy. But will it?

World

Chinese Official Badgers Uyghur Leader at the U.N. Human Rights Council

Loading...
The United Nations logo is seen at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., September 23, 2019. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

The head of the World Uyghur Congress was interrupted repeatedly by a Chinese diplomat during a session of the U.N. Human Rights Council yesterday.

As Dolkun Isa, the group’s president, addressed a session involving the U.N.’s adviser on genocide, a Chinese representative interrupted him mid sentence to claim that “we always put the well-being of the Chinese people at the heart of our work” and defend Beijing’s policies in the Xinjiang region, where the Chinese Communist Party is carrying out crimes against humanity and genocide.

Then, the council’s chair allowed Isa to continue — but he was soon interrupted again, by the same representative: “Madame president: This representative is using humiliating language to spread falsehoods in his intervention.” She offered her own falsehoods, claiming that China enjoys “absolute peace” in Xinjiang.

Ultimately, the U.K.’s representative took the floor to defend Isa’s right to speak, and he was permitted to finish his remarks.

This sort of authoritarian interruption is routine at the Human Rights Council, which is in many respects a political playground for dictatorships. In Geneva, China and likeminded regimes have created human-rights expert posts that they’ve staffed with sympathetic officials, received dozens of countries’ signatures on letters justifying mass atrocities, and even targeted dissidents and minorities there to tell stories of oppression by these regimes.

Isa’s remote participation in the partially virtual session means that the Party’s harassment won’t get much worse for him than the interruption. Others have had it worse in Geneva. U.N. whistleblower Emma Reilly has claimed that the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights actually passed the names of Uyghur, Tibetan, and Hong Konger activists involved in U.N. activities to Chinese officials. (In fact, in 2012, Isa’s name was one of those given to Beijing.)

At other points, Chinese diplomats have photographed dissidents in Geneva to take part in the council’s proceedings, despite bans on photography in certain areas of U.N. buildings. At other points, Reuters reported in 2015, Chinese officials have asked the U.N. to deny dissidents access to meetings and fill meeting spaces with pro-China attendees.

All of which is to say that when it comes to abhorrent activity by China and other authoritarian governments, Geneva is like the wild West, and Isa’s treatment yesterday is the norm, not the exception.

As the Chinese Communist Party turns 100 this week, this incident also previews the sort of influence on the global stage to which Beijing aspires and already possesses.

Elections

New York City’s Vote-Counting System Is an Embarrassment

Loading...
Voters at the polling station in PS 250 during the New York City primary mayoral election in Brooklyn, N.Y., June 22, 2021. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

If you choose to vote absentee in an election, when should your mail-in absentee ballot be required to arrive in order to be counted?

New York City Democrats went to their polling places to fill out their ranked-choice ballots a week ago, June 22. Absentee ballots were required to be postmarked by June 22, or brought to a polling site by that date.

A week has passed. And yet, today’s New York Times reports, “As of Monday, there were around 124,000 outstanding Democratic absentee ballots that had not been counted, and more might still trickle in until the deadline on Tuesday.” Are these folks who requested an absentee ballot and never got around to mailing it in? If not, just how bad is the mail service in New York City? (It must be Newman’s fault.)

Wait, it gets worse. The city board of elections won’t even get the ranked-choice voting process complete until mid-July!

The Board of Elections is confident that it will be able to certify the results of the entire election, including ranked-choice voting contests and non-ranked contests like races for district attorney and judges, starting the week of July 12.

Under changes to election rules that were passed last year, voters are allowed to “cure” or correct errors with mail-in ballot envelopes that might prevent their ballots from being counted. The deadline for receiving cured ballots is July 9.

After the board receives those ballots, they will run the ranked-choice voting software again the week of July 12. The results will be used to create the official report for certification.

The city votes on June 22, and the election board hopes to have final results by the week of July 12? What, are they counting the results on an abacus? The longer a vote count goes on, the more people will start to suspect shenanigans.

“Vote, and we will let you know who won in three weeks” is the kind of performance that even Palm Beach County election officials would find laughable.

Supreme Court Splits on Immigrant Flight Risk in Re-Deportation Cases

Loading...
(Leah Millis/Reuters)

American immigration law is famously schizophrenic, in ways that are unsatisfying to everyone. The laws themselves are written to be quite harsh but also insanely complex, with exceptions to rules and exceptions to those exceptions. Legal immigrants suffer unreasonable delays and red tape that make it harder to enter, harder to stay, and harder to plan their lives. Enforcement is sporadic, with many illegal aliens and people who illegally overstay their entry slipping through the cracks, or disappearing after they have been caught. For people who actually get caught and held in the legal system, the rules can be pitiless.

Politics & Policy

Paul Gosar Hangs Out with Racists to Own the Libs

Loading...
Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona speaks during a panel discussion in Orlando, Florida, February 27, 2021. (Octavio Jones/Reuters)

Here is Paul Gosar responding to criticism of his reported upcoming fundraiser with extremist Nick Fuentes:

Well, of course, you don’t have to agree with someone 100 percent of the time to ally with them. Who does? I disagree with my colleagues about lots of things — immigration and health-care policy, and about the finale of Lost. But there are certain disagreements that are dealbreakers for any decent person. Take, for example, disagreements over whether people who work for Jews are “race traitors” or whether the Holocaust happened or whether segregation was good for black Americans. That sort of thing.

Gosar, by the way, sure seems to allow the Left to “dictate” his position, by embracing anyone progressives show any antagonism toward. While left-wingers have a hair-trigger on the ‘racist’ allegation, sometimes they happen to be right. Like this time.

Then again, that is perhaps the most charitable reading of Gosar’s habit of teaming up with white supremacists. Another reading is that he agrees with them but lacks the spine to say it. You don’t speak at a white-nationalist conference and then fundraise with someone who pines for fascism by accident.

Film & TV

I Got Chills Watching The Sopranos Prequel Trailer

Loading...
(Matteo Lavazza Seranto/Getty Images)

The trailer for The Many Saints of Newark, the long-anticipated prequel to The Sopranos, dropped and it looks amazing. Michael Gandolfini, the son of the late James Gandolfini, plays the young Tony Soprano.

Politics & Policy

Joe Biden Is Leaving Kamala Harris In a No-Win Situation

Loading...
President Joe Biden responds to a shouted question as he departs with Vice President Kamala Harris after delivering an update on his administration’s coronavirus response at the White House, June 2, 2021. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

If you’re a conservative, and you point out that Joe Biden keeps shoving the unpopular, thorny, controversial work onto Vice President Kamala Harris’ desk, that there’s little sign that his inner circle really trusts her, and that she never would have been chosen as Biden’s running mate if she were a white male, you’re apparently self-evidently racist.

But if a political scientist at Fordham University writes in the New York Times

We must also wrestle with the fact that there have been only two Black female U.S. senators in history. Therefore, for Mr. Biden to select an African American woman from the traditional pool of acceptable vice-presidential candidates of senators and governors, he had an N of one…

Ms. Harris’s political aspirations clearly extend beyond the vice presidency, but the way the Biden team seems to be playing out the old Life cereal commercial here — “Let’s get Mikey” — makes her political future uncertain. There will be no shortage of Democratic colleagues gunning for her, not to mention Republican politicians and the right-wing media that together revel in misinformation and caricature. I can imagine a scenario in which she is the face that launches a thousand ships but all of those ships will be fighting against her, not for her.

… well, putting it that way makes it okay, apparently.

Christina Greer writes Harris “is a historic yet inexperienced vice president who is taking on work that can easily backfire as so many people sit in judgment, with critics sniping (especially right-wing commentators) and allies spinning (like with official statements about ‘success’).”

It’s fascinating how often the “to be sure” paragraphs of left-of-center assessments of Harris line up squarely with the right-of-center criticism of her — almost as if that criticism is more valid than her fans want to admit.

Science & Tech

Biological Geocentrism

Loading...
The sun sets behind the remains of Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches (Gold Beach) in Normandy, France, May 13, 2019, 2019. (Christian Hartmann/Reuters)

An angle I meant to include in this morning’s “Tuesday” newsletter: The modern pro-abortion view is to biology what geocentrism was to cosmology.

If all you had to go on was the evidence of your own eyes, of course you’d think that the earth is at the center of the universe and that the sun and stars revolve around it — you can watch the sun go across the sky every day. You can’t feel the earth’s daily rotation, and you don’t experience any sensation of movement in its annual orbit. You need some math and science to work that out.

The old superstition of “ensoulment” and “quickening,” which informs so much pro-abortion thinking in our time, is based in the same error: overestimating the evidence of one’s own necessarily limited perception, which is necessarily constrained by point of view. The greatest achievements in science have been, in effect, changes in our point of view, giving us the astronomical point of view, the quantum point of view, the evolutionary point of view, etc. It was natural for our ancestors to believe that something fundamental had changed in a pregnancy when they could feel the baby moving, just as it was natural for them to believe that the apparent motion of the sun, in the evidence of their own eyes, was actual motion. But we have tools that have expanded out point of view: not only the instruments of observation that show us heartbeats and other motion very, very early in the pregnancy, but also, probably more important, the genetic point of view that answers for us many questions that were matters of metaphysical speculation only a few generations ago.

We also know a great deal more about the natural development of human organisms than did, say, Aristotle. But our superstitions persist: For years, including into my own school years, many U.S. biology textbooks were illustrated with fraudulent drawings illustrating embryonic “recapitulation,” an old and discredited theory that the development of the embryo retraces the evolutionary development of the human species. This may have been a plausible theory in the 19th century, and the 21st century variations on it are political pretexts put forward by people who want to pretend that there is no meaningful difference between a tadpole and a human being at the earliest stages of development.

I don’t think the actual facts of the case are entirely inconsistent with a position in support of abortion rights. You can make a pretty straightforwardly libertarian case for the pro-abortion position. What you cannot do is pretend that what happens in an abortion is something other than the intentional termination of the life of an individual human being at an early stage of his or (more often) her natural development.

At the least, that puts abortion into a category of morally serious things including war, the death penalty, and euthanasia. This is not true of contraception, which prevents the formation of a new human individual rather than destroying a new human individual that already has been created. Abortion is, then, something that is morally more like capital punishment and exterminating the unhealthy than it is like using a condom or practicing abstinence.

You can’t magic away the facts of the case by pretending that you do not see them or by pretending that what you can and feel see supersedes the facts of the case simply because you see and feel it.

The world, as it turns out, does not revolve around you.

Politics & Policy

Entitlement Cornucopia

Loading...

In an era when Republicans are missing in action when it comes to fighting big government, the Democrats are not wasting any time. Over at the Wall Street Journal, Hoover Institution scholars John Cogan and Daniel Heil have a piece that documents the entitlement expansions of the Biden Families Plan. Here is a tidbit:

The American Families Plan proposes several new entitlement programs. One promises students the government will pick up the entire cost of community-college tuition; another promises families earning 1.5 times their state’s median income that Washington will cover all daycare expenses above 7% of family income for children under 5; still another promises workers up to 12 weeks of federally financed wage subsidies to take time off to care for newborns or sick family members….

In March, Congress enacted the American Rescue Plan, which expanded Affordable Care Act subsidies and refundable tax credits for child care and low-wage workers. … Mr. Biden asked Congress to make them permanent.

These programs extend eligibility for benefits high up the income ladder. Two-parent households with two preschool-age children and incomes up to $130,000 would qualify for federal cash assistance for daycare. Single parents with two preschoolers and incomes up to $113,000 would qualify. And some families with incomes over $200,000 would be eligible for health-insurance subsidies. Other parts of the plan, such as paid leave and free community college, have no income limits at all.

Our analysis shows that the American Families Plan would add 21 million Americans to the list of federal entitlement beneficiaries. With these additional recipients, 57% of all married-couple children would receive federal entitlement benefits, and more than 80% of single-parent households would be on the entitlement rolls.

The whole thing deserves to be quoted, but you can read it here. And here is their actual paper. It is worth reminding people of Cogan’s wonderful book, The High Cost of Good Intentions, and here is an interview about the issue over at The Great Antidote podcast (full disclosure: The host, Juliette Sellgren, is my daughter).

Haven’t we learned anything from the past? If Republicans don’t wake up soon — and many of them even continue to support some of these provisions and argue that the lack of federal involvement and money is the source of our current problems — they will effectively be enabling an era of enormous government. This WSJ editorial puts it well:

They may get away with this because they have the press in their pocket, and because most Republicans these days are preoccupied with the culture war. Only a decade ago the Tea Party fought ObamaCare. Now most Beltway conservatives worry more about Big Tech than they do Big Government. If the Biden Families Plan passes, these conservatives will find themselves spending the rest of their careers as tax collectors for the entitlement state.

PC Culture

The Rise of Equity Charges at Restaurants

Loading...
(Pixabay)

Jon Miltimore of Fee.org recently published an article on the expansion of ‘equity’ and ‘living wage’ charges at restaurants around the country and why many of the underlying economic assumptions made by these establishments are erroneous or performative. A restaurant local to him, Broders’, is one such place. In a portion of his piece titled ‘The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,’ Miltimore walks the reader through its stated purpose and reasoning for these new, “inclusive” policies. 

Broders’ is of course free to add this additional charge, but there are few things that should be noted.

First, it’s true that many states allow tipped employees to make less than the minimum wage. However, Minnesota is not one of those states. Businesses with gross revenue over $500,000 are legally required to pay employees — including tipped workers — at least $10.08 an hour. (For businesses with gross revenue less than $500,000, the minimum wage is $8.21.)

For Broders’ to include this sentence — “many states have allowed reduced minimum wages” — as a justification of its equity policy while fully knowing this policy is not in use in Minnesota is deceptive.

Second, I’m no Robert Irvine, but telling your customers you are going to begin charging them more because they are too bigoted to tip fairly might not be a winning restaurant strategy. Just sayin’. As a former restaurant worker, I pride myself on being a generous and fair tipper, and the implication that I can’t be trusted with this responsibility doesn’t sit well with me.

Finally, if Broders’ doesn’t feel restaurant workers in the back are earning enough money, there is a solution to that: pay them more. This action doesn’t require any surcharges or public lectures on systemic oppression. It only requires the restaurant to run an efficient and profitable business that allows them to pay workers a wage they believe is fair and “livable.”

You can read the rest of Miltimore’s worthwhile piece here.

Editor’s note: This post has been edited to clarify attribution. 

World

Boris Johnson Says It’s Time to Learn to Live with COVID

Loading...
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson holds a media briefing on the coronavirus pandemic at Downing Street in London, England, January 15, 2021. (Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire/Pool via Reuters)

If you’re worried about society-wide COVID restrictions becoming a permanent feature of life in Europe, here’s a positive development in the United Kingdom:

Boris Johnson took an increasingly hardline approach to ending lockdown on July 19 today, telling the Cabinet the country will have to ‘live with Covid in the future’.

Amid clear signals that ministers are increasingly set on ending draconian restrictions in three weeks come hell or high water, the Prime Minister highlighted that the link between infections and serious illness and deaths has been significantly weakened.

Downing Street said the Cabinet – including new Health Secretary Sajid Javid – ‘agreed that once we have completed the road map, we will be able to live with Covid in the future, even if cases continue to rise, thanks to the protections provided by the vaccine.’

The United Kingdom has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, but the number of cases jumped from 2,000 per day in May to over 16,000 per day in late June.

The Daily Mail notes studies show that, in a society that’s mostly vaccinated, COVID’s infection-fatality rate is now about the same or a bit lower than that of the flu: “A separate study from scientists at Cambridge University found that fewer than one in a thousand people who catch Covid in England now die from the disease. They estimate the overall infection fatality rate (IFR) of coronavirus has been driven down to 0.085 per cent thanks to the country’s hugely successful vaccine rollout.”

An analysis conducted by the Associated Press found that unvaccinated people accounted for 99.2 percent of all COVID deaths that occurred in the United States during the month of May.

U.S.

General Milley’s Evasive Tactics

Loading...

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is being celebrated for his remarks at a House hearing last week. He ought to be embarrassed about them. At Bloomberg Opinion, I explain why I think his argument about critical race theory was preposterous.

Education

Why States Should Bar CRT

Loading...
(skynesher/Getty Images)

The following is a lightly edited version of testimony I submitted to the Ohio State Legislature last week regarding H.B 322, a bill sponsored by state Representative Don Jones. H.B 322 would bar core concepts of critical race theory, and core practices of protest civics, from K-12 education in Ohio. This testimony makes the case for such legislation in general, and for bills inspired by the model Partisanship Out of Civics Act in particular.

Mr. Chairman, I am a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. I am also the author of the model Partisanship Out of Civics Act, published and endorsed by the National Association of Scholars. This model legislation helped inspire H.B. 322.

Mr. Chairman, the model Partisanship Out of Civics Act is not the only precedent or inspiration for H.B. 322. A bill containing the key provisions of H.B 322 was signed into law by Governor Abbott of Texas earlier this month. Several weeks ago, the Georgia State Board of Education issued a resolution containing the key provisions of H.B. 322. Several other states are contemplating the introduction of bills similar to H.B. 322 next year.

Mr. Chairman, H.B. 322 is the most effective and desirable way to guard against the wave of politicization that currently threatens K-12. The bill bars curricula that “inculcate” certain concepts incompatible with the principles of individual liberty and equal rights, principles foundational to our constitutional republic. Under our system of government, citizens in the public sphere are judged as individuals. Their merit, their conduct, their moral standing and worth, their achievements, their moral and legal responsibility, the content of their character, and their guilt for any wrongs they may have committed, are all to be assessed and assigned according to their actions as individuals, not by their race, ethnicity, religion or any other form of collective identity.

In recent times, a set of concepts that contradict the central place of individual responsibility in American law and society have entered our culture at large, and our schools in particular. These concepts derive from an academic movement popularized by legal scholars, and adopted and adapted by theorists of education. That movement is called critical race theory. Critical race theory openly challenges and rejects the classical liberalism that undergirds our constitutional republic. Critical race theory and its derivatives are fashionable in many circles right now, but this perspective is incompatible with the education of American citizens.

We do not want our children taught that that they bear the guilt of oppression simply because of their race or sex. We do not want them taught that they bear the onus of hatred, whether they are conscious of it or not. Nor do we want them taught that citizens should receive special status or entitlement simply by virtue of identity-group membership. We want our children taught by both precept and example that in the public sphere we are individuals first and foremost.

Mr. Chairman, it is important to emphasize that H.B. 322 does not prohibit discussion of the various concepts itemized in the bill. Indeed, H.B. 322 does not prohibit discussion of critical race theory, however defined. The only things prohibited by H.B. 322 are attempts to “inculcate” the illiberal concepts listed in the bill. Anything may be discussed. What is prohibited is the attempt to teach the specific concepts listed, as truths worthy of assent and belief.

This is well within the rights of a state or school district. K-12 teachers in the process of imparting lessons do not have academic freedom in the sense that university professors do. There is every good reason for this difference. Public school students are a captive audience. And crucially, K-12 students are not adults. Adults have reached a level of maturity where they are able to be exposed to a wide variety of perspectives and left to themselves to judge which to accept. Children are not so mature, nor so fully formed, and are therefore more vulnerable to shaping by their schools and teachers. Parents should not have to tolerate schools that saddle their children with guilt or remorse for their skin color. No child should be subjected to such teachings. That is not freedom. On the contrary, it is pernicious indoctrination, and any school system is well within its rights to prevent it.

Note also that H.B. 322 does not adopt the vague and subjective standard of forbidding teaching that causes “discomfort, guilt, anguish, or distress.” On the contrary, H.B. 322 prohibits attempts to teach children that they ought to feel discomfort or distress because of their skin color. That is a very different and far more ascertainable standard.

Note also that the two provisions of H.B. 322 that pertain to the core ideas of the 1619 Project do not prohibit discussion of the history of slavery and racism or its wrongs. On the contrary, they invite discussion of slavery and racism as betrayals of our great founding principles of liberty and equality. H.B. 322 simply says that, when these critically important failings are discussed, they should be presented not as the essence of our great American experiment in liberty, but as profound challenges to the success of that experiment.

Let me now address the sections of H.B 322 that pertain to the practice of “action civics,” also known as “protest civics,” “project-based civics,” and “civic engagement.” The practice of action civics inappropriately politicizes K-12 education by requiring that students participate in ideologically partisan protests and lobbying campaigns outside of school. These protests overwhelmingly cluster on one side of the political spectrum. As after-school activities, moreover, they are not properly part of the curriculum at all. They are extra-curricular in nature, and it is deeply inappropriate for public schools to require students to participate in extra-curricular political activity.

Even if the after-school political protests and internships with political advocacy organizations that characterize action civics were evenly balanced by ideology, they would nonetheless be inappropriate for public schooling. As institutions, public schools rightly seek a posture of neutrality with regard to politics. With students as a captive audience, and with public schools serving families situated at every point on the political spectrum, forcing children into collective political activity is wrong. It is inevitable that between teacher bias, peer pressure, and the biases of the nonprofits that sponsor action-civics programs, many students will be pressured into political actions that they do not truly support or understand. For this reason, H.B. 322 prevents schools from compelling students to engage in extra-curricular political activity as part of their required coursework.

Programs of action civics generally require teachers to discuss current political and social controversies in class, as preparation for organizing students to undertake extra-curricular political activity. This requirement inappropriately invites and even pressures teachers to inject their political biases into the classroom. It is important to note, however, that H.B. 322 does not prevent teachers from discussing current events. On the contrary, it simply prevents teachers from being mandated to do so. Some teachers will teach civics successfully by sticking to historical examples. Others will prefer to invoke current events. This choice should be left up to the teacher.

If teachers do choose to discuss current political or social controversies, H.B. 322 holds that they should strive to do so from “diverse and contending perspectives.” This provision helps to guard against indoctrination by any one political viewpoint. Notice that this particular provision is largely aspirational. It says that teachers should “strive” to explore contending perspectives. The meaning of “strive” is to “try.” This provision thus leaves teachers with considerable flexibility.

H.B. 322 also prohibits the use of private funding for courses in history, civics, social studies or similar subjects. This provision tracks the experience of states — particularly Illinois — where private foundations with strong political leanings have taken effective control of schooling through legal provisions that invite the private funding of public-school civics classes. Public schools serve families situated at every point on the political spectrum. Our public schools are governed by the people, by way of their elected representatives. Private funding of civic education allows entities with a particular political agenda to bypass democratic and representative control of public education. That anti-democratic practice should be barred.

Let me finally address the issue of the threat to Ohio posed by both action civics and critical race theory. It has been argued that H.B. 322 is unnecessary because these concepts and practices have not yet come to Ohio in force. That view is short-sighted. First, as someone who has closely followed the wave of speaker shout-downs and other forms of suppression that have moved across America’s college campuses in recent years, I note that what started on the coasts swiftly traveled to the heart of the country.

Second, and most importantly, Congress is now considering several bills pertaining to civic education that could easily press both action civics and critical race theory on the states, in the same way that federal Race to the Top grants under the Obama administration effectively pressed Common Core on the states. This is evident from the priority grant criteria written into the federal bills, and from priority grant criteria in history and civics recently issued by the Biden administration’s Department of Education. The Biden administration has explicitly held up the 1619 Project and a leading critical race theorist as models for the sort of history and civics education it seeks to promote in the states. The very strong prospect of imminent federal intervention in history and civics education means that H.B. 322 is the best, and perhaps the only, remaining chance for Ohio to protect itself from these pernicious pedagogies.