Immigration

More B.S. at the Border

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A mother and her children, members of a caravan of migrants from Central America, enter the United States border and customs facility in Tijuana, Mexico, on May 2, 2018. (Edgard Garrido/Reuters)

I wrote yesterday about the attempts to deny the border crisis, including a data-analysis piece at the Washington Post that was completely unpersuasive. I cited numbers that our friend Steve Camarota at CIS has been crunching:

Per his analysis, there were more than twice as many unaccompanied minors apprehended in January of this year (5,694) than in January 2020 (2,680), prior to the pandemic.

In February, the number of unaccompanied minors, more than 9,000, was higher than it had been in any month since May 2019, when there was a widely acknowledged crisis at the border.

In February of this year, more family units were apprehended at the border, nearly 19,000, than in any month since August 2019.

Also, every indication is that the numbers from March are going to be astonishing. An immigration reporter at the Washington Post, pushing back against some of the shoddy analysis denying the crisis, made this point on Twitter:

And this number from yesterday is jaw-dropping:

This is obviously not in any way an apples-to-apples comparison, but to give you an idea of just how big that number is, we apprehended 712 unaccompanied children at the border the entire month of April 2020. A former Trump official tells me that 300-a-day has, in the past, been considered a crisis level.

On the current trajectory, the numbers are headed off the charts.

Politics & Policy

Repeal Old War Resolutions

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At Bloomberg Opinion, I argue that it’s the least Congress can do to reclaim some of its war powers.

Media

The Questions Reporters Should Ask Joe Biden at His First Presidential Press Conference

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Joe Biden leaves a polling station in Manchester, N.H., February 11, 2020. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)
  • Mr. President, in 2018, you stated that any “policy that separates young children from their parents isn’t a deterrent, it’s unconscionable.” You claimed that the child-separation policy first implemented under the Obama administration and later used by the Trump administration was “abhorrent” and threatened “to make us a pariah in the world.” Yet, as we speak, the same policies are still being implemented by your administration at the border, except a far larger number of children have been separated from their families than ever before. Why did you allow unconscionable and abhorrent policies to continue as president?
  • Your administration has claimed that a vaccine-distribution plan “did not really exist” when you took office. In reality, vaccinations had already topped a million per day by the time you were inaugurated. Isn’t your “100 Million Shots in 100 Days” plan really just the same as the Trump administration’s plan? If not, what is the difference?
  • Why do you, a person who has been immunized, often wear a mask when in a room with others who have been immunized? What is the science behind it? Are you at all concerned that this kind of needless precaution helps undermine the positive news about vaccines – which have been shown to be 100 percent effective in saving the lives of those who come in contact with COVID-19?
  • Your “White House Gender Policy Council” is about to roll back Title IX reforms for students accused of sexual assault. Do you believe it’s okay for the accused to be denied the ability to question their accusers? Or to be denied the right to review the allegations? Or denied the ability to present evidence or call witnesses? Do you believe students deserve the same presumption of innocence that you enjoyed when you were accused of sexual assault by Tara Reade?
  • During most of your 50 years in Washington you opposed government funding for abortion. You changed your mind just last year. Now you support allowing taxpayer dollars to be used – even in late-term abortions of viable babies. What made you change your mind? Do you still support the so-called “Biden amendment” to the Foreign Assistance Act, which bans any American foreign aid from being used in research related to abortions? Can you name a single abortion restriction that a Biden administration would support? If so, what is it?
  • As president-elect, you promised you would provide Americans with $2,000 stimulus checks. Democrats control both Houses of Congress, and yet the check was $600 smaller — despite the stimulus bill being $2 trillion. At best, a tenth of that money is going to be spent on direct COVID relief. Do you regret signing a bill that sends hundreds of billions of dollars to bail out city governments in cities like San Francisco, and fund teachers’ unions, an expansion of Obamacare, and other unrelated issues, rather than pandemic help?
  • Gas prices have been rising. Yet, you’ve embraced Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal as a framework for your energy policy. On numerous occasions you backed bans on fracking, later pulling back from that position. Can you specifically explain how you will achieve your promised goal of “a 100 percent clean-energy economy and net-zero emissions no later than 2050” without restricting affordable fossil fuels and without building new nuclear power plants?
  • After the horrific shootings in Georgia and Colorado, you called on the Senate to pass “universal background checks” as a “commonsense” step in stopping mass shootings. Yet, both shooters in question had already passed background checks. Colorado, in fact, has a universal background check. You have also brought up an “assault-weapon” ban, as well. Why are you prioritizing policies that would do nothing to stop this kind of gun violence?
  • On that note, this week Politico reported that your son Hunter likely lied to the FBI on a background check form to purchase a firearm. Do you believe that existing firearms laws should be more vigorously enforced before passing new ones?
  • As a candidate in 2019, you argued that one “can’t” govern “by executive order unless you’re a dictator. We’re a democracy. We need consensus.” Yet, Democrats not only pushed through a massive bill on a partisan vote, you are reportedly in favor of weakening, or perhaps getting rid of, the filibuster, so that Democrats, even with a narrow majority, can avoid consensus-building and pass bills without a single Republican. Additionally, before even approaching Congress, you signed more consequential executive orders than most presidents do in their entire term. Even the New York Times has noted that “is no way to make law.” Do you feel like you’ve broken another campaign promise by governing in a wholly partisan way?
  • Democrats are in the midst of trying to pass H.R. 1 and overturn hundreds of state voting laws and restrict political speech for citizens. Do you agree with them that the federal government should force states to count mail-in votes that arrive up to ten days after Election Day? Will you sign a bill that forbids states from asking voters for photo IDs? Or one that forces states to legalize voting for convicted felons?
  • To this point, critics say your administration has been the least transparent in modern history. Your administration, for instance, continues to deny journalists access to border facilities, and this press conference is among the latest first presidential press conferences in history. Will you be taking questions from the press on a more regular basis now, or only once every three or four months?
Politics & Policy

Lessons in Logic for Brian Beutler

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Crooked Media editor-in-chief Brian Beutler has made an embarrassing error.

Republicans and Democrats alike opposed getting rid of the filibuster during the Trump years, when Republicans controlled the Senate and could have benefitted greatly — at least in the short-term — from scrapping it. Now that Democrats hold the White House and both chambers of Congress (i.e., the same exact position Republicans found themselves for the first two years of Trump’s term), only they have changed their tune.

One side has remained consistent, the other has reversed itself in pursuit of power. Does Beutler understand what “instrumental” means, or does he just hope no one notices the gaping hole in his logic?

Politics & Policy

The Virtue of Just Showing Up

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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at a march organized by the Women’s March Alliance in Manhattan, N.Y., January 19, 2019. (Caitlin Ochs/Reuters)

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez talks to Democratic Left, a publication of the Democratic Socialists of America, about how she fell in with the DSA:

What was your path to joining DSA?

I love this question because I think that my path in DSA very much shaped my organizing strategy. I didn’t grow up in an incredibly ideological household. I have friends that grew up the children of unionists, professors, individuals two or three generations deep into working class movements. That was not my family. I grew up very working class. My mother cleaned houses. My father had a small business. Both my parents grew up in extreme poverty.

What initially drew me to DSA was the fact that they showed up everywhere that I showed up. I started my work as a community organizer before I even knew about the existence of DSA, and I was busy doing work in my community, working with children, working with families, advocating for educational equity. A friend of mine invited me to a DSA meeting in the Bronx/Upper Manhattan Branch. We were in the basement of a church uptown, in Washington Heights I believe. It was my first time being exposed to DSA, and to me it was like, ‘Okay, we’re hearing all this rhetoric and having discussions.’ And I’m like, ‘Okay, another group of folks talking.’ Like this is great, this is encouraging.

This was around the time when DSA was picketing one of the major camera companies in New York City, trying to call attention to the warehouse workers. And they brought undocumented warehouse workers to the meeting, and translated their testimony. And on top of that, the chapter had free childcare provided to anyone who wanted to show up. And that to me … at the end of that meeting, I was like, ‘Okay, this is real.’

You know, there’s a lot of people who talk about class issues, there’s a lot of people who are deep in the discourse of struggle. But to me, as someone who grew up in these environments, it was the translation to action that was distinctive to me.

That is what made DSA initially distinctive to me, and made it something that was flagged to me as worthy of continued attention.

Read that again — “they showed up everywhere that I showed up.” Now, showing up is not going to win over everybody. I suspect that if a group of Objectivists were showing up at all the same places as AOC, she probably would not be quoting Ayn Rand today. You are likelier to win over people who already share some aspects of your worldview in common. But there is still no substitute for being involved, whether in local communities or in the Internet communities that increasingly parallel them. If you have an answer for why your ideas can help people, and actually take one-on-one action to help them, you can win converts. That’s been true as long as there have been politics of any kind, and it will always be true.

Politics & Policy

Facebook’s Zuckerberg Doesn’t Want to Reform Section 230, He Wants Government to Strangle His Competition

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Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies at a House Financial Services Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., October 23, 2019. (Erin Scott/Reuters)

Today, Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, will say this before the House Energy and Commerce Committee:

We believe Congress should consider making platforms’ intermediary liability protection for certain types of unlawful content conditional on companies’ ability to meet best practices to combat the spread of this content. Instead of being granted immunity, platforms should be required to demonstrate that they have systems in place for identifying unlawful content and removing it. Platforms should not be held liable if a particular piece of content evades its detection—that would be impractical for platforms with billions of posts per day—but they should be required to have adequate systems in place to address unlawful content.

Conservatives who oppose Section 230 should understand what this means in practice: It means that Facebook is co-opting their misguided and often demagogic opposition to the provision in order to make itself more powerful at the expense of smaller players.

Section 230’s purpose is both simple and necessary. It exists to ensure that the right person is held liable for defamatory or criminal speech — that is, that individuals who engage in speech that is not covered by the protections outlined in New York Times v. Sullivan and Brandenburg v. Ohio are held personally liable for their decisions. In so doing, Section 230 protects organizations as diverse as as hosting companies, user-driven websites, and even National Review, which, without its shield, would be on the hook for third-party discourse that they neither knew about nor approved. Without Section 230, much of the infrastructure that undergirds the modern web would be impossible. Why? Because fewer people would ever bother to take the risk.

Zuckerberg’s proposals would help to kill Section 230 — but only for Facebook’s rivals. It is easy for Facebook to “demonstrate that they have systems in place for identifying unlawful content and removing it” because they already do. It is much less easy, by contrast, for smaller outfits to do so. In part, this is a matter of cost; it’s expensive to superintend third-party speech. But it is also because the standards involved are, by definition, somewhat vague. Zuckerberg knows full well that, even if his company were to fail spectacularly under the new system, no review board will ever conclude that Facebook lacks an “adequate system.” Facebook is simply too big and well-connected for that to happen. But Parler? Certainly.

Zuckerburg will also say:

Over the past quarter-century, Section 230 has created the conditions for the Internet to thrive, for platforms to empower billions of people to express themselves online, and for the United States to become a global leader in innovation. The principles of Section 230 are as relevant today as they were in 1996, but the Internet has changed dramatically.

This is grotesque. What Zuckerberg really means here is that, having benefited for years from the broad protections accorded by Section 230, he now wishes to change them in such a way as to disadvantage his rivals. This isn’t “reform.” It’s strangulation.

Politics & Policy

Really? This Is the New, More Verbally-Disciplined Joe Biden?

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President Joe Biden announces changes to the main coronavirus aid program for small businesses during brief remarks at the White House, February 22, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

It’s a little tough to get that excited about President Biden’s press conference today. The Los Angeles Times tries to hype it up: “A belated first news conference will test his new verbal discipline.”

Biden’s so-called “new verbal discipline” is mostly a matter of him staying away from television cameras and sticking to the teleprompter when he doesn’t. Even then, Biden generates his share of gaffes, such as his declaration that “it’s one thing to have the vaccine, which we didn’t have when we came into office,” or that there is an “overwhelming consensus” among economists that “in order to grow the economy a year or two, three, and four down the line, we can’t spend too much.” No, there isn’t!

I mean, if Biden’s so-called “new verbal discipline” breaks down . . . how will we know? What’s Biden going to do, question whether an African- American reporter is black, or ask him if he’s a junkie? What, is Biden going to forget the name of his secretary of defense, say that his son was a senator, or refer to “President Harris”? Will he mix up Iraq and Iran?

Will he declare that “poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids”? Will he use terms like “Shylock” or “Orient”?

The allegedly verbally disciplined Biden we’ve seen lately only looks good by comparison.

Biden could go out and sound exactly like Dana Carvey’s strikingly good and funny impression of him, and a lot of the mainstream media would give him the benefit of the doubt, and it wouldn’t really change that much about the course of the Biden presidency.

If Biden goes out and has a terrible press conference . . . he’s still the president afterwards. We won’t hear too many people saying, “It’s time for him to step down and let Kamala Harris take over,” at least not for a while, because a spoken-out-loud conclusion that Biden is incapable of handling the duties, 63 days into his presidency, would be a de facto admission that all of the questions and concerns about Biden’s age and health last year were valid, and not some abominably unjustified display of ageism or partisan animus.

NR Webathon

Down the Home Stretch

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(Fedor Kozyr/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Our webathon enters its final days. It has raised, since its March 8 kickoff, $300,000. Actually, “it” didn’t doing any raising — what really happened is that 2,603 generous people responded to our appeals and donated 300,000 (to be exact, as I write, $299,872 has come via website and mail). To meet our goal, we hope, pray, and ask for another few hundred — those who’ve intended to donate but haven’t got around to it, those who for years have meant to buy a round but their hand never quite arrived at the wallet — to consider giving right now to help keep the lights on, the keyboards clacking, the sanity flowing. We’ve but $50,128 to meet our goal before we end this affair next Monday at midnight.

It is just that, a goal, and one we’d be thrilled not only to meet, but to surpass. The actual needs of NR are twice that and then some. We make the case for alleviating them. If you find that the beliefs we defend and articulate are shared by you and yours, are worth protecting, are worth bequeathing to the next generation, and that such is best done through sane and honest commentary, analysis, and reporting, then please consider lending support.

And consider the situation of Donor 2,603. At the end of the line, he is looking for a No. 2,604 to befriend!

Maybe he’ll say to you what these kind donors have, their sentiments of kindness and inspiration appended to their generosity:

  • Susan sends along $100 and has us down to a peg: “I have come to depend on National Review for rational interpretations of what passes for news in the mainstream media. I also appreciate the different points of view to be found in the various articles.” We do indeed appreciate the intelligence of our readers, and we are so thankful to you for this.
  • Scott antes up a C Note and gushes: “I Love National Review. Thanks for your sobering dose of Burkean conservatism, with a willingness to consider all sides of an issue. Keep up the good work.” Burke to Buckley is the rule! Thanks.
  • Darin sees his comrades with $100 and echoes the views of many: “NR’s breadth and depth of deep and informed thinkers and writers who are also blessed with real world experience and wisdom is unrivaled. Please continue the never-ending battle for civil, informed discourse and education.” Which is right up there with truth, justice, and the American way! Thanks, Darin.
  • John finds a Fifty and makes the donation, and then a reminiscence: “As a child I spoke as a child and did not always understand Mr. Buckley, whose vocabulary, oratory skills, and brilliant analysis were the most remarkable I ever heard. As a man, husband, and father of four children, I speak as a man and have come to understand Mr. Buckley’s enduring wisdom and his legacy that is National Review.” Love this! Thanks, John.
  • Mark tenders a kind 100 smackers and states: “I’ve said it in the past and I’ll say it again. Now more than ever we need thoughtful and honest political discussion. To look at the good and the bad and to hold both parties/sides accountable to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. National Review is one of the few news sources doing that. Your website is the first one I open up in the morning with my first cup of coffee. Thanks for all your hard work and efforts. They don’t go unappreciated by your readership.” We’ll take the compliment but only if you take ours and double it. Indeed, can’t thank you enough for this.
  • Michael puts a hefty 250 in the basket and reveals himself as a man of practical wisdom: “Despite the recent victory in the Mann case, I believe the need for support is as great as ever. Here are some funds to keep up the fight.” You’re right to believe what you believe, and we are right to be grateful for your camaraderie.
  • Van shows up with $100 and a memory to rival the first kiss: “I vividly remember the thrill of experiencing the first issue of NR I ever saw in the reading room of my graduate-school library in 1974. That one issue won me over for life. Exceptional writing. Wit. Insightful commentary (and education) on culture, politics, government, economics, travel, history, and almost anything else you could imagine, all accomplished while still taking the Christian faith seriously. There was vigorous debate and disagreement yet without bitterness. Over the years, I would always read the last page first (especially when it was Florence King) then go to the first entry in ‘The Week.’ I sincerely believe that, but for the work of National Review, we would not have been able to maintain those freedoms that we currently enjoy. Keep up the good work.”

Van’s story is like that of thousands of others — NR meant something important. The experience was a flash, it was instant, it was lasting, and, if not life-changing, of great and positive influence. It was evident from the get-go: NR respected the reader, who sooner than later came to understand he was part of we happy few.

Surely you are part of that. So we ask — stating our sincere appreciation from the outset — that you help keep NR fighting, reasoning, advocating, and athwart-standing by donating here. You can send a check, of course, if that is how you do your kindnessing: Make it payable to “National Review” and mail it to National Review, ATTN: Webathon, 19 West 44th Street, Suite 1701, New York, N.Y., 10036. Thanks ever so much.

Law & the Courts

Masterpiece Cake . . . Again

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Baker Jack Phillips poses outside his Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colo., September 21, 2017. (Rick Wilking/Reuters)

I’m glad David Harsanyi continues to document the Woke Left’s unending persecution of Jack Phillips, the Colorado cake shop proprietor. I’m constrained to observe, however, that David must continue to do it because, as I maintained at the time, the Masterpiece Cake ruling was an abdication by the Supreme Court in the defense of free expression and conscience.

Far from the victory that many wanted to see it as, it was exactly what progressive legal scholars described it to be: narrow. Mr. Phillips continues to be hounded because that is precisely what the justices invited — which is why the ink was not even dry on the ballyhooed 7–2 opinion before people were suing him yet again.

If a 7–2 “victory” for religious freedom has a familiar ring, it should. It is exactly how the Court last year handled the Little Sisters of the Poor case. As I observed here, they ruled on the narrowest, technical statutory grounds and ducked the main issue. The latter would have called for a definitive ruling that the Obamacare contraceptive mandate imposes an intolerable burden on employers who harbor sincere religious objections — a ruling that would have preserved freedom without imposing any material burden on the availability of contraception. In fact, the Little Sisters concurring opinion by liberal justices Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer is a veritable “how to” that instructs the government on the surest ways to make the mandate stick in the inevitable next rounds of litigation.

And, of course, it was precisely to entice the votes of Justices Kagan and Breyer that the Court, in Masterpiece Cake, went cravenly narrow. That is how Chief Justice Roberts operates — or, at least, how he operated when the Court was in a 5–4 ideological posture. Roberts is more concerned about the tribunal’s appearance of non-partisan collegiality than with the Court’s actual jobs of acting as a bulwark for constitutional liberties against oppressive government, and with providing clear guidance to the lower courts. He would thus prefer to issue vaporous 7–2 rulings that convince a couple of progressives that it’s in their interest to come along for the ride than 5–4 decisions that decide.

Note that what convinced Kagan and Breyer to hop on board is that they know this mode of operation eventually wears out (and bankrupts) litigants, and its in terrorem effect dissuades other potential litigants from asserting their rights in the first place. After all, the point of extortion is to make paying, rather than standing on your supposed rights, the rational choice. As David relates, Jack Phillips is now in his ninth year of defending himself — lawyers, fees, anguish, round after round of litigation, and no end in sight. The Little Sisters of the Poor, similarly, have been defending themselves for over a decade.

That is progressive governance: The little people can have their narrow “victories,” but the rulers know the process is the penalty. And in matters of conscience, Chief Justice Roberts is all about the process.

Politics & Policy

All Veterans and Their Spouses Now Eligible for COVID Shots

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Some news you (or friends or family) may be able to use: “All Veterans, their spouses and caregivers can get COVID-19 vaccinations from VA under the SAVE LIVES Act signed into law March 24.”

It’s Been One Year Since Chris Cuomo Told Us ‘We’re All in This Together’

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CNN’s Chris Cuomo at a Democratic town hall in Los Angeles, Calif., October 10, 2019. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Typically, when a politically connected millionaire television host tells viewers “we’re all in this together,” it’s rightly seen as transparent “every man” pandering. But, one year ago, when the COVID pandemic began in earnest, most people suspended their cynicism for a few weeks. After all, we were facing a global pandemic that didn’t respect racial, class or any other societal divides. It felt for a few moments like we might actually be in it together.

So, when Chris Cuomo appeared on television on March 31 to announce his positive COVID diagnosis, CNN leveraged the spectacle, instructing Cuomo to describe his symptoms

White House

‘Bigger and Faster than the Public Might Anticipate or Stomach’

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Judging by the rhetoric of its elected members and its apologists in the press, the Democratic party believes itself to be the tribune of the people. Republicans, we are told, hate democracy and don’t care what voters think. Democrats, by contrast, have the public on their side, and they are only thwarted in executing their will by structural constraints — such as the Senate or the electoral college or the persistent existence of the states.

And yet, for the second day running, Axios brings us news from a series of private meetings in the White House that are characterized like this:

Hosting historians around a long table in the East Room earlier this month, President Biden took notes in a black book as they discussed some of his most admired predecessors. Then he said to Doris Kearns Goodwin: “I’m no FDR, but …

. . .

They talked a lot about the elasticity of presidential power, and the limits of going bigger and faster than the public might anticipate or stomach.

I will leave this quotation here — perhaps to sit idle for a long time — until the next time the Republican party controls all the levers in Washington, and talk of “the elasticity of presidential power” and “going bigger and faster than the public might anticipate or stomach” is cast not as a “think-big, go-big mentality,” but as the end of democracy itself.

Impromptus

A Briefcase, Guns, and a Song

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Louis Jordan, c. 1946 — blowin’ it cool, hot, however you want it (William P. Gottlieb Collection / Library of Congress)

Impromptus today begins with — is dominated by — some challenging issues. Last week, I wrote about Ethiopia — the Tigray War, which features crimes against humanity. Some critics thought I was too soft on Abiy Ahmed, the prime minister (who won the Nobel Peace Prize two years ago). Others thought I was too hard on him.

Can you assign blame in a situation such as Tigray? Is it better to throw up your hands and say, “Tribes gonna tribe. There are no real guilty or innocent parties”? No.

You can’t win if you write about Ethiopia. You can’t win if you write about James Levine, either.

The great conductor died earlier this month. I wrote a brief appreciation of him, here. Toward the beginning, I said,

His career came to an end in 2018 when he was accused — credibly — of a history of sexual predation and assault. I do not want to sweep these accusations under the rug. They colored practically everything, where Levine is concerned. A great fan of his — a music critic — told me that he could no longer listen to recordings by Levine. In this space, however, I am jotting a kind of musical eulogy.

Was I right to do this? Some people thought not. Anyway, I explore this question in Impromptus.

I end my column with something pleasant — memories of William Shatner, who turned 90 on March 22. I met him in L.A., about 20 years ago (hard as it is to believe, for it seems like last week).

Okay, let’s have some reader mail — the first missive responding to this piece: “Voices from Philistia,” on the politics and rhetoric of populism. In that piece, I said,

Huey Long was maybe the outstanding populist and demagogue of the 20th century in America. George C. Wallace was not far behind him. There was a time, believe it or not, when briefcases were considered fancy. They were new, and newfangled — and excellent fodder for Wallace. Listen to him, rilin’ up the crowd:

“Up there in New York City, they walk around with briefcases, as if they had somethin’ impo’tant in them. You wanna know what’s in those briefcases? Why, nothin’ but a peanut-butter sandwich!”

The crowd(s) loved it.

A reader says,

Hi, Jay,

I won’t share the whole thing, but attached is a page from a letter that my dad wrote to his grandmother in 1957. He was a struggling salesman and part-time student with two kids and almost no income. . . . You can see that he envies his brother’s trip to Europe. It was many years before my parents traveled at all, and the late ’70s before they got to Europe.

So, I would tell George Wallace: Not every briefcase-user was rich!

In 1957, our reader’s father wrote to his grandmother,

. . . With the money I received and a few dollars more I bought a brief case. Something that I have wanted for some time. Even if school is almost over, I will use it next year and the year after. And of course a salesman always needs a brief case.

Charlie’s trip is something, isn’t it? A tourist in Europe. That is something to tell your children about — if they ever have any.

I hope you are well, Gramma.

In an Impromptus, I wrote about guns, and the current fetishization of them, as opposed to the matter-of-fact attitude that prevailed when I was growing up.

A reader writes,

My locker throughout high school was situated across from the wood- and metal-shop classes. Nearly every morning kids would be bringing rifles and shotguns down the hall for the purpose of fixing their stocks, working on the various metal parts of their guns, etc. No one ever gave this a second thought. Times have changed.

All right — feel like some language? A friend and reader writes,

Jay,

You wrote today about “baseless smears.” I’ve always thought references to a “general consensus” fall into the same category. A consensus is, by definition, general. No?

That is correct. But: One can imagine a scenario in which you’re asking about the opinions of circus performers. “What is the consensus among tightrope walkers?” “What is the consensus among men shot out of cannons?” “Okay, what is the general consensus” — the consensus among circus performers at large?

Still, 99 percent of the time, I’m sure, “consensus” will do. I was warned away from “general consensus” by my grandfather, a long time ago.

Last week, I published a letter from a reader who cited O Brother, Where Art Thou? — in which a politician says, “Is you is, or is you ain’t, my constituency?” (He pronounces it “constitchency.”) Many readers were reminded of a Louis Jordan classic, from 1943. Louis Jordan is not to be confused with Louis Jourdan — the French actor and Bond villain. No, our Jordan was a saxophone player, songwriter, and bandleader.

That hit was “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby?” Listen to it — soak it up — here. Great stuff.

And today’s Impromptus, once more, is here. I was going to say it’s a peculiar one, but maybe they all are.

Health Care

Scott Gottlieb and the Schools

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In response to Where Was This Expert When We Needed Him?

John Fund says the former FDA commissioner (and current AEI colleague of mine, not that I’ve seen him in more than a year) “was among the most aggressive advocates of school closures last March” but started backtracking in September and has now done a complete 180. That wasn’t how I remembered it, and some Googling yields a more complicated picture.

USA Today quoted him on March 9, 2020: “So broad preemptive school closures, I personally wouldn’t advocate that.” By March 19 — and remember that these were the early days of the outbreak, when conditions were changing quickly — he was telling the Economic Club of New York that schools should be closed if there were high infection rates. He said something similar, though a bit ambiguous, a few days later on Face the Nation. By the end of the month, he was writing that schools should re-open as soon as the first phase of COVID was over.

At the end of May, he told Bloomberg Opinion that “there will and should be an attempt to open schools in the fall.” In July, he wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal titled, “Schools Can Open Safely This Fall.”

One could reasonably disagree with some of Gottlieb’s recommendations, especially in retrospect. It is clearer now than it was a year ago that young children are unlikely to endure or transmit severe COVID cases. But when I look at his overall record on school closures, I don’t see any easy gotchas available.

Natural Law

How to Win Constitutionally

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Pro-life signs outside the Supreme Court in June 2014. (Jim Bourg/Reuters)

Over in First Things, John Finnis made the case that abortion is unconstitutional. You should read it. He rests his case on the 14th Amendment, particularly its first section. He argues, persuasively in my view, that if the original public meaning of “persons” was wide enough to include corporations as legal persons, the due-process clause should also apply to the unborn.

Ed Whelan has raised his doubts here at NR, and remains committed to what might be seen as Justice Antonin Scalia’s view that constitutionally speaking, the best that can be hoped for is that Roe v. Wade is overturned or undermined at the Supreme Court level and abortion law jurisdiction is returned to the states. And Joshua Craddock has responded to Whelan.

The disagreement has degenerated into a lot of useless sniping. I’m not going to link to these because some of them are clearly the product of too much drinking or radicalization in some private chat room. But, a number critics of legal originalism or “Conservatism Inc.” have alleged that conservatives who haven’t abandoned originalism as a failure yet are demonstrating their bad faith or possibly their corruption.

These critics would have us abandon originalism as a failure or a piece of nonsense and push for a Court decision that would immediately recognize the personhood of the unborn, and immediately criminalizing all abortion, while having the Supreme Court supervise state homicide laws. Some advocates support this with a theory that the majesty of this change in the law itself would convince many abortion advocates to change their opinion, just as the shocking legal advances of same-sex marriage seemed to move public opinion.

Now, for what it’s worth, I’m for an “any good idea” strategy to stop abortion. I don’t contribute my efforts to all of them, only to the ones I think wisest or most suitable for me, but I’d welcome any positive contribution managed by any of them.

I’m for people who believe in the Personhood Amendment, and in re-reading the 14th Amendment. I’m for crisis pregnancy centers and sidewalk counseling. I’m for doing direct action and for pushing the limits of exposé journalism. I’m particularly interested in the direct, almost bespoke, personal interventions of groups such as Let Them Live. I’m for prayer and fasting. I’m for any good that can be done by pro-life feminism or pro-life atheism and even ecumenical events. I’m for trying to undermine abortion directly with the law and activism. I’m for undermining it more indirectly with good art that is meant to address our cultural deafness to unchosen obligations.

Finnis’s case about the 14th Amendment has been a part of the anti-abortion movement for decades. If I recall correctly, I believe our own Ramesh Ponnuru believes that, rightly understood, it forbids legal abortion. I do as well. One of the major anti-abortion activist groups has been an advocate for it, promoting either a reading of the 14th Amendment that prohibits abortion or the passage of a “Personhood Amendment” that clarifies this meaning and settles it across the country in a durable way.

The challenge is that this theory has even less support in the judiciary that originalism. Maybe it will someday, but in the meanwhile, states that do try to pass worthwhile restrictions on abortion or personhood laws are hampered by the higher courts. They could be given more room if authority was returned to the states. If you think that the millions of people trying to get Republican candidates to vow to appoint originalist justices in the hopes of giving those states the relief and freedom of action they deserve on this issue is insincere, or a kind of conspiracy, you need help. Yes, Republicans have been extremely slow on this issue, and yes, pro-lifers have given too much leeway to them to counter-signal the cause. Fifteen years ago, I despaired entirely, but the raft of good legislation in some states over the last decade has changed my mind. The appointment of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court gives me some hope that even if many elected Republicans would like to hoodwink pro-lifers, we may win some victories despite them.

And I am dubious of the magisterial power of the law to cut so dramatically against the tide of public opinion in the United States on this question. When the Obergefell ruling happened, opinion in favor of same-sex marriage had already gone from an extremely marginal cause to a near coin-flip. The other side isn’t just assertive, it is extremely shrewd about how it advances. So must we be. Ireland’s Eighth Amendment, passed not so long after Roe and in fear of a similar ruling in Ireland, was drafted in a way that stated very clearly that the state had no right or legitimate power to provide legal abortion. That amendment fell by popular referendum after decades of being undermined by the people themselves.

But my attitude is much the same here as with other critics of conservatism from the right. They accuse us that “Liberalism has won all its battles with you.” I shrug. Insofar as that it is true, it has won all its battles with you, too. If we are for changing American law on this issue, it is a matter for all Americans, not just one faction or sect within that faction.

I’d be surprised if any of our strategies work, given the state of things. I expect more discouraging reversals and pleasant surprises. But we must keep pushing. The very problem the current originalist approach will run into is the American people, their expectations, and their ambitions. Where those expectations and ambitions run against the law — as they are on laws restricting marijuana — the teaching power of the law fades. This problem can’t be wished away by an assertion. It has to be met manfully and creatively.

Immigration

The Problem with Exempting Kids from Title 42

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Rich Lowry’s informative article on the Biden administration’s border doublespeak quotes DHS secretary Alejandro Mayorkas: “We are expelling families. We are expelling single adults. And weve made a decision that we will not expel young, vulnerable children.” That’s not what the administration is actually doing. But it also wouldn’t be wise.

At some point, I hope soon, the pandemic justification for using Title 42 to turn away migrants will disappear. But applying it to everyone except unaccompanied minors makes it more likely that minors will come (or be sent) on a dangerous journey to the border unaccompanied. Even announcing this policy could have this effect, if the message travels far and wide.

(I recently wrote about some of the other ways the administration, including Mayorkas, is spinning the border crisis.)

Politics & Policy

Latest Andrew Cuomo COVID-19 Scandal Implicates Brother — CNN’s Chris Cuomo

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Andrew (left) and Chris Cuomo (Mike Segar/Reuters)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is at the center of yet another scandal involving his handling of COVID-19. Yet this one implicates his brother, CNN’s Chris Cuomo:

The Times Union reports:

ALBANY — High-level members of the state Department of Health were directed last year by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker to conduct prioritized coronavirus testing on the governor’s relatives as well as influential people with ties to the administration, according to three people with direct knowledge of the matter.

Members of Cuomo’s family including his brother, his mother and at least one of his sisters were also tested by top health department officials — some several times, the sources said.

The medical officials enlisted to do the testing, which often took place at private residences, included Dr. Eleanor Adams, an epidemiologist who graduated from Harvard Medical School and in August became a special adviser to Zucker. Adams conducted testing on Cuomo’s brother Chris at his residence on Long Island, according to the two people.

This is now not only a political scandal, but a media scandal. We already know how Chris Cuomo breached journalistic ethics in covering his brother, including by conducting this highly embarrassing interview which included the prop of a giant nasal swab. Now it turns out that Andrew was using his power to give special VIP testing to Chris.

Elections

John James Mulls a Run for Governor of Michigan

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Republican U.S. Senatorial challenger John James addresses the Detroit Economic Club meeting during the second debate against Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow in Detroit, Mich., October 15, 2018. (Rebecca Cook/Reuters)

John James is reportedly exploring a run for governor of Michigan in 2022. This makes sense. True, James lost statewide elections in both 2018 and 2020, in each case running against incumbent Democratic senators. But James made relatively strong showings. He got 48.2 percent of the vote in 2020, losing by 1.7 percentage points and running half a point ahead of Donald Trump. In 2018, against the more-entrenched Debbie Stabenow, James got 45.8% percent of the vote. These are the two best showings by a Michigan Republican senate candidate since Stabenow defeated Spencer Abraham in 2000, and James improved with more exposure to the voters. With the Democrats now holding the presidency, the climate should be more favorable in the 2022 midterm, and Republicans have had more success in gubernatorial than Senate campaigns in Michigan, with Rick Snyder winning two terms in 2010 and 2014. Without a lot of other obvious strong candidates, the Michigan GOP may as well try James one more time.

The incumbent, Gretchen Whitmer, is still reasonably popular despite many controversies over her lockdown policies, but she is hardly invulnerable. A Detroit News poll taken February 3-6 gave Whitmer a 58 percent approval rating. An EPIC-MRA poll released March 2 had her approval rating at 52 percent and showed a 69–26 margin disapproving of the condition of the state’s economy. A Marketing Resource Group poll released March 23 showed Whitmer’s approval rating down five points to 53 percent, with voters by a 47 percent to 44 percent margin saying the state is on the wrong track. Whitmer would clearly win reelection today with these numbers, but the trendline is not great and there are 19 months until the midterm elections. As Jim Geraghty details, the latest surge in COVID-19 cases in Michigan is just one of a number of items of evidence that “Whitmer looks less like a rising star and more like another example of a Democratic governor with a laughably ridiculous media-hype-to-results ratio.”

James versus Whitmer would instantly become one of 2022’s top-tier races.

Politics & Policy

Sasse’s Warning: Scrapping the Filibuster Will Make American Politics More Extreme

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Sen. Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) speaks before the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington, D.C., February 22, 2021. (Al Drago/Pool via Reuters)

Nebraska GOP senator Ben Sasse gave a 30-minute speech on the Senate floor on Tuesday in defense of the keeping the legislative filibuster. The whole thing is worth watching, but the following excerpt was a particularly strong argument:

Pass laws today with 50-plus-one majority and watch them be repealed tomorrow with 50-plus-one majority. Our nation then would just pinball from one policy agenda to another. It makes politics too central in the life of the American people to allow fickle 51-49 majorities to change the whole direction of the nation. 

Each election will become more do-or-die, more Flight 93-ish than the last.

Each campaign would descend further and further into tribal ugliness. […]

If you want to see American politics become more brutal, if you want to see American politics become more crude, if we want to see American politics become more demagogic, then stripping away the mechanism that has forced us to work together, that would be the perfect recipe for bringing about this dystopian reality. 

If you want to see a politics that favors more candidates running for office with claims that they will be strongmen and tyrants, then make politics nothing more than a contest of wills between people who spend their campaigns promising to spend the next two or four years simply making the other side pay. If you want to see the rights and interests of minority groups scorned, dismissed and trampled, then establish a legislative process where minority voices don’t need to be heard at all. That’s what would happen if we end the super-majority requirements that have always dominated the Senate from its first day. If you want a lame, mean politics that aims only to own the libs or drink conservative tears, this is how you bring that crap show about. You’d set the Senate on fire.

Sasse also took apart the Democrats’ new talking point about the “Jim Crow filibuster”: 

[Democratic senator Brian Schatz] recently said that the filibuster is quote “stupid” and “paralyzing.” He also said “it’s time to trash the Jim Crow filibuster.” But just four years ago when Donald Trump was elected and House Republicans were itching to have the Senate eliminate the filibuster because Republicans controlled the House, the Senate and the White House, Senator Schatz and a bunch of his colleagues actually penned a public letter that defended the filibuster and all of its quote, “existing rules, practices and traditions,” close quote, precisely because it advanced the deliberative purposes of the Senate.

I don’t remember Senator Schatz then calling it the Jim-Crow filibuster when he wrote that letter, or when he was blocking Tim Scott’s police reform legislation last year by pointing to the Senate super-majority requirement rules.

I don’t remember Senator Schatz calling it stupid when he filibustered COVID relief in September and again in October under the Senate’s current rules. Look, I want to be clear, I’m not picking on Brian, I’m naming him precisely because I like him and afterwards we can argue about this […]

There isn’t much right now, but there’s still a chance for reform of this institution. Ending the filibuster is to end this institution. But to be clear, this isn’t about Senator Schatz. I could give a hours and hours-long speech going through all the flip-floppers in this chamber who had one position 48 months ago and now have a completely different position. I don’t need to name all of them, we should just say, “what changed?” We know what changed. The only thing that changed in the last two years is who’s in power. When Democrats were in the minority, you were fierce defenders of this “indefensible Senate prerogative.”

That was the language that was used. The filibuster was “standing between America and fascism,” we heard. But now, when you’ve got the slimmest majority, actually it’s just 50-50 and you need the VPs’ motorcade to break a tie, now the filibuster is standing between you and some of your legislative goals, and therefore it needs to be tossed out. But when you were using the filibuster to halt Senator Scott’s police reform bill, the filibuster was an essential American institution that forces compromise. But now that it can be occasionally used to resist a 51-50, straight majoritarian exercise of power, it’s supposedly exclusively a relic of slavery and a tool of Jim Crow. It’s nonsense and the people saying it know that it’s nonsense. They use the same rule last year and you weren’t racist when you used it last year. This is B.S. that has been focused grouped and particular bills are being used as the excuse to grab power that won’t just be for this bill, it will be forever. It will be the end of the Senate. Was the filibuster really a tool of Jim Crow when it was used against Tim Scott last year? I don’t think so. And I don’t think any of you think so.

Culture

Twelve Things That Caught My Eye: Syria, Myanmar, Schools & More

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1. New York Times: ‘I Will Die Protecting My Country’: In Myanmar, a New Resistance Rises

“I see the military as wild animals who can’t think and are brutal with their weapons,” said a woman from Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city, who was now in the forest for a week of boot camp. Like others who have joined the armed struggle, she did not want her name published for fear that the Tatmadaw, as the Myanmar military is known, would target her.

2. 

Continue reading “Twelve Things That Caught My Eye: Syria, Myanmar, Schools & More”

White House

Kamala Harris’s ‘Empowering Women’ Event with Bill Clinton Is Tone-Deaf

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Former president Clinton speaks during the Clinton Global Initiative in New York, September 23, 2010. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

According to Politico’s White House reporter, Vice President Kamala Harris will host an event this Friday featuring President Bill Clinton, a one-on-one discussion of ways to “empower women and girls in the U.S. and around the world” in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The conversation will take place as part of a Clinton Global Initiative event, which perhaps explains how a spokesperson as inapt as Bill Clinton was chosen to opine on the topic of female empowerment.

The tone-deaf selection comes as little surprise considering that Democrats have for decades failed to distance themselves from Clinton, despite his sexual mistreatment of several women and the sea change effected in the last several years by the Me Too movement.

The political costs of forthrightly condemning Clinton for his history of anti-woman behavior appear to be too steep for most left-wing politicians — as was the cost for Harris, apparently, of continuing to question whether Joe Biden had sufficiently responded to sexual-assault allegations levied against him.

In a 2018 interview on The View, for instance, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) attempted to gloss over the subject of Bill Clinton’s past misconduct entirely, though some of the very first Me Too stories had just begun trickling out. Here’s the key part of her exchange with host Meghan McCain:

McCain: Senator, you have dedicated your political career to [fighting sexual misconduct], obviously. That’s why a lot of people were really surprised that it took you 20 years to say that Bill Clinton should’ve resigned over the Lewinsky scandal. So what do you say to that?

Gillibrand: I think this moment of time we’re in is very different. I don’t think we had the same conversation back then, the same lens. We didn’t hold people accountable in the same way that this moment is demanding today. And I think all of us, many of us, did not have that same lens, myself included. But today, we are having a very different conversation, and there is a moment in time where we can actually do the right thing or fixate on one president.

McCain: Can I ask you, do you regret campaigning with him, though?

Gillibrand: It’s not about any one president, and it’s not about any one industry. And if we reduce it to that, we are missing the opportunity to allow women to be heard, to allow women to have accountability and transparency, and to allow women to have justice.

Vice President Harris is highly unlikely to receive any similar questioning from the press about her choice to host a conversation with Bill Clinton — lecturing the audience on the importance of empowering women and girls, no less — but the unfortunate optics are hard to ignore.

World

The Taiwan Emergency, Explained by a Top Commander

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A soldier stands guard during Combat Readiness Week drills in Hsinchu, Taiwan, October 29, 2020. (Ann Wang/Reuters)

Yesterday’s exchange between Admiral John Aquilino, who has been nominated to lead the U.S. military’s Indo-Pacific Command, and Senator Tom Cotton provides another look at military planners’ expectations about a potential invasion of Taiwan by Chinese forces.

The exchange has been reported on extensively, but these things can get drowned out by other parts of the news cycle. It’s a compelling reminder, following recent testimony by other top military commanders (including Phil Davidson, whom Aquilino would replace), that the potential invasion of Taiwan is a near-term, once-in-a-generation threat and a national-security emergency.

The following excerpts of Aquilino’s testimony, in addition to Cotton’s comments about the 2022 Olympics, are worth reading in full:

Cotton: From a military strategic standpoint, why is it so important to Beijing that they annex Taiwan?

Aquilino: Thanks, Senator. As you know they view it as their number one priority, the rejuvenation of the Chinese Communist Party is at stake, very critical as they look at the problem. From a military standpoint, the strategic location of where it is, as it applies to the potential impact of two-thirds of the world’s trade, certainly, a critical concern. Additionally, the status of the United States as a partner with our allies and partners also is at stake, should we have a conflict in Taiwan. So those two reasons are really the strategic main concerns that I would see…

Cotton: Last week, Admiral Davidson testified that he thinks the PLA may have the capability to effectively invade Taiwan, in as soon as six years, maybe less. Do you agree with that view?

Aquilino: Senator, there’s many numbers out there. I know Admiral Davidson said six years. You’d have to ask him where he made that assessment. There are spans from today to 2045. My opinion is this problem is much closer to us than most think, and we have to take this on, put those deterrence capabilities like [The Pacific Deterrence Initiative] in place in the near term and with urgency.

Cotton: I share that view it’s not a 2045, it’s not a 2030 problem. I suspect it may not even be a 2026 problem. From a military planning point of view, what is the best time of year given light weather and sea conditions for the PLA to launch an invasion of Taiwan? Is it the middle part of spring?

Aquilino: Yes, sir, that is certainly a better time, as it applies to sea state and environmentals.

Cotton: Do you recall when the Sochi Winter Olympics ended in 2014?

Aquilino: Yes, senator.

Cotton: February 23. Do you recall when Russia invaded Crimea?

Aquilino: I don’t have the date, senator. I apologize.

Cotton: February 27, four days later. The Beijing Winter Olympics end February 23 next year.

Politics & Policy

The Equality Act: A War on Women — Get Educated on Thursday (And Pass This On)

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Concerned about the Equality Act that already passed the House, some of us at National Review wanted to put together a discussion session that would help explore its dangers to girls and women and us all. So, our Maddy Kearns is going to be moderating a National Review Institute discussion this Thursday afternoon. Here’s the official invite to the Zoom session.

The proposed Equality Act of 2021 H.R. 5 would abuse the 1964 Civil Rights Act, tyrannically amending it to include a progressive wish list of unrelated issues. Its dangers are numerous: A redefinition of sex, an attack on female athletics, an expansion of public accommodations, the stamping out of religious exemptions, and an undermining of conscientious objection to controversial clinical practices such as abortion and gender reassignment.

“Ultimately, what the Equality Act represents is a cynical attempt to use the Civil Rights Act as a Trojan horse for radical leftist social orthodoxies. Such a law would cause far more injustice than it would prevent.”  – The Editors, National Review 

We invite you to join us for a two-part panel discussion with National Review writers and experts on the implications of this legislation that’s expected to be passed by Congress within the coming weeks.

The hour will have two parts:

Panel One: Inez Stepman and Kara Dansky will explore the policy consequences for society generally: the assault to women’s rights and privacy and the coercion of public accommodations.

Panel Two: Kathryn Jean Lopez and Alexandra DeSanctis will build on this discussion, exploring additional concerns such as religious freedom and the threat to social institutions and communities.

Kara Dansky is a former ACLU attorney at the Women’s Liberation Front. Inez Stepman is from the Independent Women’s Forum.

Again, you can register here.

Continue reading “The Equality Act: A War on Women — Get Educated on Thursday (And Pass This On)”

Politics & Policy

‘Assault Weapons’: Some Numbers

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Estimated number of “modern sporting rifles” in the U.S.: 15-20 million

Range of estimates for the percentage of public that favored a ban in 2019: 48-61.

Number of Senators who voted for a ban in 1993: 56

Percentage of Democrats who voted for the ban then: 84

Number of years ban was in effect: Ten

Number of Senators who voted for a ban in 2013: 40

Percentage of Democrats who voted for a ban in 2013: 71

Percentage of U.S. homicides by rifle in 2019, according to the FBI: 2.6

Media

What People Wanted to Hear during This Pandemic

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(Brian Snyder/Reuters)

In response to It’s All about the Science and the Facts! (Assuming They Fit the Storyline)

Rich,

The study that David Leonhardt refers to in his column makes the somewhat surprising argument that political ideology did not seem to influence the tone of news coverage of the pandemic:

The estimated probability that a COVID-19 article is negative varies from 60 percent to 100 percent among major U.S. outlets. These probabilities do not align with the likelihood that conservative consumers of news trust the source. COVID-19 stories from Fox News are more negative than those from CNN. We obtain similar results using the share of negative words in the article.

Of course, different news organizations, and their viewers or readers, are going to have at least slightly different appetites and probably slightly different notions of what constitutes “bad news.” Fox News viewers are probably much more interested in “bad news” in the form of Andrew Cuomo’s handling of nursing homes, over-the-top enforcement of draconian lockdowns, and elected officials breaking their own lockdown rules.

CNN and other mainstream-media institutions seem to have a limitless appetite for anything that can make Florida or Texas or other red states look bad, and support their preferred not-so-accurate narrative that Ron DeSantis is reckless and that the state of Georgia is “conducting an experiment in human sacrifice.”

It’s been odd, covering this pandemic and spending much of 2020 being slammed as as doomsayer — 360,000 deaths by New Year’s Day, more than 555,000 by yesterday seems pretty darn bad! — and now spending much of 2021 being told I’m being too optimistic. (The vaccines are an epic success and a game changer, the schools can reopen at least part-time if not full time, and we should allow people to start attending ball games.) My sense is that people develop their own individual sense of “how it’s going,” and if you contradict their internal assessment in either direction, they get really irked with you.

Confirmation bias runs through the veins and arteries of news audiences. During this pandemic, a lot of people on the left side of the spectrum wanted to hear that President Trump was messing it all up, that uninformed red-state hicks were killing themselves and their loved ones by refusing to wear masks, that Christians and Orthodox Jews were recklessly gathering for religious services, that selfish and greedy bars and restaurants were reopening with no concern for people’s safety, and that they, the good progressives who believed in “SCIENCE!” and could work from home, would be the ones who emerged from the pandemic relatively unscathed.

Meanwhile, a lot of people on the right side of the spectrum wanted to hear that blue states were turning into fascistic nanny states with finger-wagging “Karen” snoops and informants, that the lengthy closure of schools represented a catastrophe for children, that “the experts” had been proven wrong on all of their initial assessments of the dangers of the virus, and that Black Lives Matter protests had spread the virus further.

For much of the past year, the dominant theme of a lot of pandemic coverage has been, “Yes, the virus is bad, but those who disagree with me are making it all so much worse.”

Education

Where Was This Expert When We Needed Him?

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Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

Now he tells us.

Scott Gottlieb, the former Food and Drug commissioner, was among the most aggressive advocates of school closures last March, when the CDC was still officially offering a balanced guidance that mostly cautioned against closures. Gottlieb modified his stance in September when he told CNBC: “Our priority should be to get the schools open and do that safely.”

Now, better late than never, Gottlieb has gone further and articulated that a key excuse for not opening schools was never valid. He admitted on CNBC this week that the government social-distancing standard of six feet isn’t “based on clear science” and “has probably been the single costliest mitigation tactic.”

Immigration

Mayorkas Is Lying

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Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., March 1, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

I have a piece up about Alejandro Mayorkas and others denying the border crisis or trying to deflect blame for it.

I think it’s worth focusing in a bit more on what Mayorkas has been saying about how the Trump administration handled minors under Title 42, since it’s completely wrong.

A very good Washington Post report explains:

On Sunday, Mayorkas told NBC News that the Biden administration “will not expel into the Mexican desert, for example, three orphan children whom I saw over the last two weeks. We just won’t do that. That’s not who we are.”

During the Trump administration, most Central American minors were flown to their home countries, as Mexico would not allow the return of non-Mexican minors.

Surely Mayorkas knows this, but he’s out there deliberating creating a false impression to cover for the Biden administration’s failure at the border.

Media

It’s All about the Science and the Facts! (Assuming They Fit the Storyline)

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Outside the New York Times building in Manhattan, August 3, 2020 (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

David Leonhardt has a good column on a new study how negative coverage of the pandemic has been:

The coverage by U.S. publications with a national audience has been much more negative than coverage by any other source that the researchers analyzed, including scientific journals, major international publications and regional U.S. media. “The most well-read U.S. media are outliers in terms of their negativity,” Molly Cook, a co-author of the study, told me.

About 87 percent of Covid coverage in national U.S. media last year was negative. The share was 51 percent in international media, 53 percent in U.S. regional media and 64 percent in scientific journals. . . .

Sacerdote is careful to emphasize that he does not think journalists usually report falsehoods. The issue is which facts they emphasize. Still, the new study — which the National Bureau of Economic Research has published as a working paper, titled, “Why is all Covid-19 news bad news?” — calls for some self-reflection from those of us in the media.

If we’re constantly telling a negative story, we are not giving our audience the most accurate portrait of reality. We are shading it.

Politics & Policy

Voting vs. Buying a Gun

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(Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

My colleagues already have commented on this, but I say we give the Democrats what they are asking for on this one: Vote when you are 21 or older, disenfranchise felons and some violent misdemeanor offenders, pass a background check, and show an ID that is verified through a law-enforcement database at the polls.

Also, go to jail if you try to fake your way through any part of the process.

At last, there will be parity!

Religion

Meet Sr. Magdalene Teresa, a Woman Who Makes the World Better

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Sr. Magdalene Teresa, S.V., director of the Visitation Mission of the Sisters of Life, with Sr. Virginia Joy, S.V., director of the Respect Office of the Archdiocese of New York on Thanksgiving Day 2020. Photo by Kathryn Jean Lopez

Over the years, I’ve collaborated with my friend Sr. Magdalene Teresa from the Sisters of Life. We had a National Review Institute–Heritage Foundation forum in 2015 (wow, that wasn’t yesterday anymore) where she spoke about the Visitation Mission she’s been running for I think 16 years now.

Here’s Beyond Planned Parenthood: Alternatives for Women (with a keynote from Mollie Hemingway — thus the earrings!):

At Thanksgiving time this year, she spoke in one of our “virus-free” virtual events about gratitude, a favorite virtue here at NRI:

And more recently in January, she talked about what it means to be pro-life in partnership with the Institute for Human Ecology at The Catholic University of America and the Catholic Women’s Forum at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. You can watch that here:

Those are at least the public events!

I mention Sr. Magdalene because today is her feast day – the anniversary of her baptism and the eve of Annunciation, which is the patronal feast of the Sisters of Life – when Mary gave her “yes” to the angel Gabriel. The lives of the Sisters of Life are a daily “yes” and walking with women who want to say “yes” to life, but don’t know how.

There are two women they were praying for this morning who are abortion-minded, but still talking with them. Frequently women are just too scared, and when the abortion is scheduled, it’s hard to get them to the point where they turn away when so many forces are pressuring her to have the abortion. Oh my goodness, it is a heart-wrenching life, in some ways. But they go into each day knowing that only God is Savior, and they will ask the Lord again to use them as instruments. And what joy when a woman does say “yes” to life, recognizing she is already a mother. It’s sacrifice, but it’s joy. Especially when the Sisters are loving you along the way. Really loving women back to life.

Sr. Magdalene reminds me of Mother Cabrini, who walked the streets of Manhattan, too. She perseveres in darkness and sometimes ridiculous circumstances. She has a radiant grace about her and real wisdom and understanding and compassion for the misery humanity faces in these times. She’s very much a mother to the sisters at the Visitation Mission at St. Andrew’s in lower Manhattan (right at the tip of the Brooklyn Bridge, by the courthouses) and the women who come to them who lack confidence in their ability to be mothers.

As I’ve said before, the Sisters of Life are our pro-life credibility. And on the week of the anniversary of my birth this year – grateful, as Roe had been around for a few years, for life – and with this heroine’s feast day today and the whole community’s Annunciation feast tomorrow, would you consider supporting the work of the Sisters of Life?

It’s not enough to want to defund Planned Parenthood. There has to be an alternative and plans and resources for women and families. The Sisters of Life and their network of co-workers are that. Be part of the civilization of life and love by giving to their beautiful lives.

As someone said to me recently: The Sisters of Life should be lavished on for what they do and who they are. And believe me, they are not. Your support makes a statement about what’s important.

Here’s a dedicated link for this little K-Lo birthday fundraiser for them.

Get to know them better here. As I tried to explain here, they have a lot to offer us all, too.

And thanks again as always for your support of NR (here’s Maddy Kearns’s pitch for) and NRI, where we get to highlight beacons of faith and civil society like the Sisters of Life.

World

Manchin Caves, Votes to Advance Biden’s Disastrous Colin Kahl Pick

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Senator Joe Manchin (D., W.Va) speaks with Ajit Pai, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, during a hearing, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., June 16, 2020. (Toni Sandys/Pool via Reuters)

Senator Joe Manchin has caved in to pressure by voting to advance the nomination of Colin Kahl to a post as undersecretary of defense.

Assuming Manchin votes the same way when the nomination hits the Senate floor, Kahl should be able to squeak through. And that would have disastrous ramifications for national security.

Kahl has been consistently wrong on foreign-policy matters, and his errors consistently end up favoring Iran, and targeting Israel.

He was a major opponent of sanctions against Iran, and pushed the Iran deal, which made Iran into a greater conventional threat while allowing the terrorist regime to remain on the long-term glide path toward nuclear weapons.

As somebody who has repeatedly opposed the U.S. alliance with Israel, Kahl warned at the time that Donald Trump moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to its capital city of Jerusalem that it would have catastrophic consequences for the region. He even claimed it would benefit Vladimir Putin:

In reality, what happened was that it helped improve U.S. standing in the region, and gave the Trump administration the credibility that helped it broker multiple peace deals between Israel and Arab countries.

What the pick signals is a broader effort by the Biden administration to resurrect the Obama era Middle East vision. Under that vision, the U.S. adopted a more hostile posture toward Israel and Saudi Arabia, and a more accommodating stance toward Iran. This, in turn, caused significantly more instability in the region.

Why Is Michigan Seeing a Surge in New COVID-19 Cases?

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Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer speaks at a campaign event for Joe Biden in Detroit, Mich., October 31, 2020. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

In early 2020, Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer probably ranked only second to Andrew Cuomo in terms of glowing national press coverage. She even rated her own prayer candle. Nutjob militia types seemed to deem her public enemy No. 1.

Those less inclined to give Whitmer the benefit of the doubt noticed her bonkers executive order, declaring stores of more than 50,000 feet must close areas of the store that sell carpet or flooring, furniture, garden centers or plant nurseries, or paint, her confusing and contradictory executive orders on what was permitted during lockdown, her decision to violate her own social-distancing orders, her blatantly

Politics & Policy

We’re Not ‘Rushing’ Into Reopening Schools, Randi Weingarten

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Florida teachers, whose unions were against their members returning to school, hold a car parade protest in front of the Pasco County School district office in Land O’ Lakes, Fla., July 21, 2020. (Octavio Jones/Reuters)

American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten says she’s “not convinced” by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance calling for three, instead of six, feet of distance between schoolchildren.

Weingarten has no scientific basis for her skepticism, just an expedient case of paranoia and a job that requires she advocate continuing to pass the costs of the pandemic on to America’s children. As Jim Geraghty has pointed out, there is a broad scientific consensus that three feet is safe. Moreover, the virus poses little health risk to children, and teachers around the country are being or already have been vaccinated.

So Weingarten is stuck embarrassing herself making arguments like this:

With the guidance that students can be 3 feet apart from each other but adults should remain 6 feet from children or other adults, what is the expectation for the teacher in a classroom—that she remain in one spot at the front of the room the entire day, not moving about the classroom?

At this point, most parents would be willing to have educators held Clockwork Orange–style at the front of the classroom if that’s what they needed to do to end the physical and emotional suffering of their kids, induced first by the pandemic and extended by maliciously opportunistic profiteers such as Weingarten. Rightly so.

Compare this fawning New York Times profile casting Weingarten as “The Union Leader Who Says She Can Get Teachers Back in Schools,” with her intransigent and illogical pseudo-arguments, and you’ll see that not only is Weingarten a cynical and ruthless opponent of American children’s best interests, but that she’s also been doted on by a press corps that is all too willing to give the benefit of the doubt to a core Democratic constituency.

Weingarten counsels that we not “rush” into trusting the new CDC guidelines and improving both the educational outcomes and mental health of American children. We’re late, not early, to “trusting the science” on school reopenings, as well as to being forthright about what it is Weingarten does for a living.

Law & the Courts

Is It Easier to Buy a Gun Than Vote? Let’s Find Out

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Firearms are shown for sale at the AO Sword gun store in El Cajon, Calif., January 5, 2016. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Barack Obama used to claim, absurdly, that it was easier for a kid to buy a “Glock than get his hands on a computer, or even a book.” Contemporary liberals have updated this talking point with more recent legislative obsessions.

“Activists have pointed out that in Georgia, for instance, it’s easier to buy a gun than to register to vote,” one reporter noted, without a hint of journalistic skepticism, yesterday. “This says a lot about where America is headed in 2021.”

“In a majority of states, new voters are able to obtain a rifle quicker than they’re able to cast their first ballot,” argued California’s Senator Padilla. “It seems to me we have our priorities entirely backwards when it comes to this — when we make it easier to buy a gun than we do to cast a ballot.”

These are not only category errors, they are highly misleading. Then again, even if they weren’t, this wouldn’t be as jarring an assertion as many people imagine. First, a citizen’s ability to exercise his Second Amendment rights should require as few impediments as voting — if not fewer. And second, despite the fantastical assertion of many Democrats, voting is already extraordinarily easy — it takes minutes to register and you can do it online — whereas buying a “Glock” in places such as New York, Maryland, California, or Washington D.C., is rendered prohibitively difficult as part of a deliberate effort to dissuade and, indeed, suppress law-abiding Americans from using their rights.

Of course, we would be able to test Padilla’s contention by linking the two issues. Let’s pass an H.R. 1 for guns. If you can receive a ballot in the mail, then FedEx should be able to bring you an AR-15. If you can vote without photo ID, you should be able to buy a handgun without it, too. If we are to institute same-day registration and voting, then Americans should also enjoy same-day background checks and gun purchases. If we implement automatic voter registration for anyone using a government service, we should simultaneously implement automatic background checks that pre-clear them for gun ownership. If we’re going to pre-register 16 year olds as voters, let’s pre-register them for gun ownership, as well.

Media

Democracy Dies in . . . Wait, What?

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President Joe Biden delivers his first prime time address as president, speaking about the impact of the pandemic during an address from the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., March 11, 2021. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

Yesterday, the Washington Post’s media reporter argued that Joe Biden’s first press conference on Thursday will represent “a major test” — for the press. Today, the Post’s Jennifer Rubin makes this idea explicit, contending that, when he takes the podium, “Biden should fact-check the White House press corps.”

Quite a shift, albeit not a remotely surprising one.

World

Israeli Elections: Latest Results Show Narrow Netanyahu Loss

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Then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset in Jerusalem, May 24, 2020. (Abir Sultan/Reuters )

Yesterday, in flagging early exit polls pointing to a narrow victory for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, I noted that we’d have to wait for confirmation from actual results. Sure enough, as the results came in overnight, they now point to a narrow Netanyahu loss.

As things stand, the bloc of parties that would be expected to form a government with Netanyahu have 59 seats — just placing them in the minority in the 120-seat Knesset.

It is unclear exactly what the path to 61 seats is for opposition leader Yair Lapid, or whether Arab parties would join the government. Which is a way of saying that things are far from settled.

Politics & Policy

Colleges Should Stop Treating Masculinity as a Problem

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(Pixabay)

Many college professors, eager to find fault with the world, blame “toxic masculinity” and try to make their male students feel guilty. That fits in perfectly with the “woke” mindset, but, argues Canadian professor Judyta Frodyma in today’s Martin Center article, it’s a bad practice.

She writes, “As a lecturer in the humanities I have had the privilege and challenge of moderating discussions of controversial topics, often based on literary texts. Over the past two years, the number of students self-censoring or not speaking when a topic is seen as ‘not for them’ has increased dramatically. Insteadmany of them visit during office hours or write in course feedback to express their concerns about their ability to engage in their own education. In most of these cases, these students are male.”

Professors, particularly those in the humanities and those numerous “studies” programs, often believe that men are a big part of the problem and do exactly what they say society does to all the groups they favor — marginalize them.

“The increasingly toxic and exclusive intellectual climate in universities,” Frodyma continues, “is perpetuated among students. Yet much of what happens in the classroom is downstream of what happens in campus culture, and administrations respond in kind (perhaps excessively so, to the detriment of those they are trying to protect). Systemic change of gender relations is critical, but it cannot occur when half of the student population feels they cannot participate in the debate.”

True enough, but I’m afraid that many faculty members aren’t really interested in debate. They’re sure they have all the answers and don’t want opinions from men poisoning the atmosphere.

I think that Frodyma sticks the landing as she concludes, “Universities need to find a way to reward listening as well as talking, and to re-invite men into the conversation. Lecturers must learn to moderate in a way that creates difficult discussions for everyone involved. Involving all students and welcoming their views so long as they engage in open debate, gives students a true education without demanding ideological conformity.”

White House

That’s Not Good

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First sentence of a new Axios story: “President Biden recently held an undisclosed East Room session with historians that included discussion of how big is too big — and how fast is too fast — to jam through once-in-a-lifetime historic changes to America.”

Politics & Policy

Gun-Control Polling Is Largely Meaningless

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Customer inspects a gun at a store in Phoenix, Ariz. (Reuters photo: Ralph D. Freso)

From Forbes:

84%. That’s the share of voters who said they support requiring all gun buyers to go through a background check in a Morning Consult/Politico poll released earlier this month. That includes 77% of Republicans. However, far fewer – just 48% – support closing the loophole addressed by H.R. 1446, while 38% oppose such a measure.

We hear this statistic a lot, typically coupled with “. . . so why won’t Congress take action?”

My operating assumption: Because it’s not really true.

Having written a lot about this topic, I have come to suspect that when Americans tell pollsters that they “support requiring all gun buyers to go through a background check,” they believe they are being asked whether a background-check system should exist at all, rather than whether it should be extended intrusively to all firearms transfers. There is a reason that concrete referendums on this question tend to yield extremely tight splits, that the vast majority of states do not regulate private sales, and that congressional bills, once debated, tend to be far, far less popular than the pre-debate polls had suggested they’d be — and that reason is that while a clear majority of voters do not object to gun stores having to go through the motions, they are not actually that wild about the prospect of involving the government every time they loan their friend a rifle. The Democratic Party and the press spend so much time pretending that it is easier to buy a gun than a taco that many Americans have come to believe that one can simply walk into a Macy’s and pick a machine gun up off the shelf. This, clearly, they oppose. But when that myth has been dispelled and the details begin to intrude? Then, they are less sanguine.

This dynamic also helps to explain why the polling for HR8 is so much better than for HR1446. One of them, HR8, is polled with an extremely vague question about background checks per se; the other, HR1446, is in the weeds. And, as is so often the case, harsh detail quickly kills cheap enthusiasm.

Culture

Twenty-Two Things That Caught My Eye Today: Transgenderism Divides Families & More

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1. Lynn Meagher: When Transgenderism Discards My Daughter, I Will Still Be Here For Her

I know what it means to face adversity and come through stronger. But nothing prepared me for this. Being a mom was the most important, challenging, and deeply meaningful thing in my life.

As crippling as it is, my grief at the loss of our relationship isn’t the hardest pain to bear. Far beyond that, I’m terrified for her.

2. William McGurn: The Christian Baker Who Said ‘No’

Mr. Phillips owns Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colo., and holds traditional views on marriage and sexuality. The first legal action against him came via the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, when in 2012 he declined to bake a custom cake for a same-sex wedding and found himself accused of unlawful discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. This time he’s being sued because he wouldn’t bake a cake celebrating a gender transition.

“Jack didn’t single Scardina out for being transgender,” Ms. Waggoner says. “He wouldn’t bake cakes with those messages for anyone.” This is a baker who won’t even make Halloween cakes, she adds, and serves everyone regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.

It’s not clear exactly why Ms. Scardina wanted a cake featuring Satan, apart from provoking him. When asked why she ordered the Satan cake, she said she wanted to believe Mr. Phillips was a “good person” and hoped to persuade him to see the “errors of his thinking.” That’s some deal for someone you say is a “good person”: Change your thinking or I will try to ruin you.

3. Hundreds of Christian families face eviction from their homes in Pakistan

Over the past week, the houses of 450 Catholic families were destroyed in Pakistan, and those of 1,000 Christians will be bulldozed by government officials in upcoming days.

4. Washington Post: Eric Talley, officer killed in Boulder shooting, loved his job and his seven children: ‘That was his life’

Brooks said she had a sense of what had gone through her brother’s mind Monday.

“I honestly know my brother, when he heard there was a shooting in a supermarket, I know his first thought was, ‘There are kids in there,’ ” Brooks said. “He loved his kids. His family shopped at King Soopers.”

“I know Eric would have wanted to save every single one of those lives. I know why he flew in there first, because he was thinking, there are families in that store.”

Continue reading “Twenty-Two Things That Caught My Eye Today: Transgenderism Divides Families & More”