Politics & Policy

Clarence Thomas’s Correct Observation

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Justice Thomas includes a notable footnote in his concurrence in judgement in a decision released by the Supreme Court this morning. In Jones v. Mississippi, the Court upheld the ability of a sentencer to give life without parole to minors found guilty of homicide even without a “factual finding of permanent incorrigibility.” Thomas observes that:

The Court’s language in this line of precedents is notable. When addressing juvenile murderers, this Court has stated that “ ‘children are different’ ” and that courts must consider “a child’s lesser culpability.” Montgomery, 577 U. S., at 207–208 (emphasis added). And yet, when assessing the Court-created right of an individual of the same age to seek an abortion, Members of this Court take pains to emphasize a “young woman’s” right to choose. See, e.g., Lambert v. Wicklund, 520 U. S. 292, 301 (1997) (Stevens, J., joined by Ginsburg and BREYER, JJ., concurring in judgment) (emphasis added); Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, 505 U. S. 833, 899 (1992) (joint opinion of O’Connor, Kennedy, and Souter, JJ.); Ohio v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health, 497 U. S. 502, 532 (1990) (Blackmun, J., joined by Brennan and Marshall, JJ., dissenting). It is curious how the Court’s view of the maturity of minors ebbs and flows depending on the issue.

For some members of the Court, children are both mature enough to be trusted with the decision to end the life of their own unborn offspring, but too young to be held accountable for murder. I suppose there is a certain sort of consistency in their line of thinking.

Politics & Policy

Ron DeSantis Identifies a Key Challenge Facing the Next Republican Administration

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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (File photo: Marco Bello/Reuters)

When asked by Tucker Carlson what he would do right now if he were president, Florida governor Ron DeSantis first mentioned that he would restore Trump’s border-enforcement measures and push for E-Verify. Those are wise policies, but the governor’s next point was more fundamental:

Looking at what President Trump had to deal with, you know this bureaucracy of ours — there’s a lot of problems in that. And I think you need to be able to bring accountability to people in the bureaucracy. I mean if Donald Trump is elected president, he tries to do policy, and the bureaucracy tells him to go fly a kite, that’s not representative government. And I think we’ve allowed this to fester for years and years, and I think it’s at the point now where, even if a Republican wins the election, the other party still maintains control of the apparatus of the executive branch. And that can’t be the way this goes. You go in, you [should] have the ability to implement the agenda.

Back in 2019, I noted several high-profile cases in which bureaucrats delayed or even vetoed Trump policies. The most consequential example was probably the administration’s attempt to add a citizenship question to the annual census. A judge cited the views of “experts at the Census Bureau” in part of his ruling striking down the plan. Perhaps those experts were right, but critics suspected that they exaggerated the problems with the citizenship question in order to block a White House priority. Either way, the power of bureaucrats to make the elected leaders “go fly a kite” is obvious.

It’s unrealistic to expect bureaucrats to exercise that power in a neutral manner. According to a recent NBER working paper, registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by about two to one among federal civil servants. The disparity has grown over time, and it is largest in the most senior positions. Intriguingly, government contracts experience greater cost overruns when the procurement officer belongs to a different party than the president. The most likely explanation, according to the paper’s authors, is a lack of enthusiasm in the bureaucracy.

I served in a nonpolitical agency, so my experience was different, but most of my fellow Trump appointees don’t need an econometric model to tell them about bureaucratic recalcitrance. They witnessed it firsthand. Addressing the problem in the future will not be easy, but it’s encouraging that a potential top-tier presidential candidate already considers it a priority.

National Security & Defense

Republicans Object to Biden’s ‘Insufficient’ Defense-Budget Proposal

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As I noted in a recent piece, President Biden’s defense budget proposal — which, adjusted for inflation, cuts spending — falls far short of what would be necessary to deter and defend against military threats from Russia and China. That figure, according to a congressionally mandated commission that included Biden’s deputy secretary of defense, is something closer to 3–5 percent increases every year.

Senate Republicans, led by Senator Jim Inhofe, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, are pushing back. “Together we will push back against the Biden administration’s insufficient topline defense proposal so we can continue to ensure that our service members have the training, resources, and equipment they need to complete the mission and return home safely – not to mention support for their families,” he said in a statement yesterday, introducing a resolution that calls for defense spending levels that would need the goals of the 2018 National Defense Strategy.

Biden has claimed to be serious about meeting the needs of 21st-century great-power competition, but his budget proposal sends a different signal, perhaps to placate progressive lawmakers who called for deep defense-spending cuts. The fight for adequate defense spending under this administration has only just begun.

Politics & Policy

Jen Psaki’s Deceptions about Columbus

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White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki holds the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., January 22, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Why is the Biden administration risking the reputation and potentially the life of the police officer who was forced to discharge his weapon in Columbus, Ohio on Tuesday? The officer in question fired on and tragically killed Ma’Khia Bryant, a 16 year-old living in foster care, to protect not his own life, but that of another young woman Bryant was rearing back to stab on Tuesday, and who only avoided grave injury, and possibly death, thanks to the officer’s use of force.

From the White House briefing room yesterday, Press Secretary Jen Psaki spoke out on the incident:

She was a child. We’re thinking of her friends and family in the communities that are hurting and grieving her loss. We know that police violence disproportionately impacts Black and Latino people in communities and that Black women and girls, like Black men and boys, experience higher rates of police violence. We also know that there are particular vulnerabilities that children in foster care, like Ma’Khia, face. . . . The White House is focused on addressing systemic racism and bias “head on” and passing laws that will put in place reforms at police departments around the country

There’s a whole lot of base-stealing here. The officer did not show up on the scene because of some amorphous force like systemic racism or implicit bias. He showed up because he was asked to by a 911 caller who reported that attempted stabbings were taking place. Moreover, he did not discharge his weapon because of Bryant’s race, but because she was an imminent threat to another, innocent black woman’s life.

Psaki has turned this event into an abstraction: “police violence” perpetrated on “a child.” Divorced from context, it makes the officer out to be a monster. But anyone who has subjected themselves to the upsetting body-camera footage can plainly see that he was forced to make a split-second decision about whether to stop Bryant from plunging her weapon into her would-be victim. I think most reasonable people would conclude that he made the right one, even while wishing that Bryant were alive today.

If Jen Psaki and Joe Biden are willing to cast aspersions upon the decision he made and the motivations for that decision, they should be made to answer exactly what would have been the right way to respond in such a situation. Without a realistic and detailed answer addressing the facts on the ground — not the abstraction Psaki described — they’re just two privileged, powerful people preying upon a tragedy for political benefit.

U.S.

Apparently, the Post Office Is Now a Spy Agency

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(Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

Is there any part of the U.S. government that stays within its remit? This report from Yahoo suggests that the answer is no:

The law enforcement arm of the U.S. Postal Service has been quietly running a program that tracks and collects Americans’ social media posts, including those about planned protests, according to a document obtained by Yahoo News.

Before we continue: Let’s hold up for a moment. The Postal Service has a “law enforcement arm”?

Okay, then. But, surely, it’s just a few armed guys who are there in case the department has to arrest people, right?

Nope:

The details of the surveillance effort, known as iCOP, or Internet Covert Operations Program, have not previously been made public. The work involves having analysts trawl through social media sites to look for what the document describes as “inflammatory” postings and then sharing that information across government agencies.

“Analysts with the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP) monitored significant activity regarding planned protests occurring internationally and domestically on March 20, 2021,” says the March 16 government bulletin, marked as “law enforcement sensitive” and distributed through the Department of Homeland Security’s fusion centers. “Locations and times have been identified for these protests, which are being distributed online across multiple social media platforms, to include right-wing leaning Parler and Telegram accounts.”

Oh, spiffing.

It is bad enough that the FBI and CIA spy on Americans in the way that they do, but at least we know that they’re doing it. But the Post Office? I’m fairly up-to-speed on America’s political developments, and I must confess to having had absolutely no idea that there was such a thing as the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP) — let alone that it “monitored” protests and then issued “bulletins” featuring its findings. Which statute enabled that power, exactly? Is it the “P” in “PATRIOT Act”?

I look forward to the next Yahoo exposé — on the “paramilitary wing of the Department of Transportation.”

Court-Packing
Arizona Senator Mark Kelly’s Commitment to Keep SCOTUS at Nine Justices, Even if Roe Is Overturned

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Democratic Senate candidate Mark Kelly speaks at an election campaign party in Tucson, Ariz., November 3, 2020. (Cheney Orr/Reuters)

In the Capitol on Tuesday, I asked Arizona senator Mark Kelly about Massachusetts senator Ed Markey’s bill to increase the number of justices on the Supreme Court from nine to thirteen. 

“Well, I haven’t seen the legislation,” Kelly replied. When I pointed out it’s simply a bill to increase the number of justices on the Supreme Court, Kelly said: “I generally don’t think that’s a great idea. I mean, I think we ought to get back to, you know, working together. The Supreme Court has been, for a while now, nine justices, and so I would certainly have to look at it, but I’m not in favor of that.”

Asked if he could categorically rule out supporting Court-packing in the future under different circumstances, Kelly replied: “Well, I’m generally not in favor of it.”

Kelly’s response that he “generally” opposes Court-packing fell short of a pledge he’d never vote to do it. But on Wednesday afternoon, Senator Kelly’s spokesman Jacob Peters contacted me to argue that Kelly’s comments did amount to a firm commitment to always oppose Court-packing. Asked if Kelly would vote against increasing the number of Supreme Court justices under any circumstances, even if Roe v. Wade were overturned, the senator’s spokesman said “yes.”

Few members of Congress have formally endorsed Markey’s Court-packing bill, but most are refusing to take the threat of packing the Supreme Court off the table. Some progressives hope the threat will be enough to pressure sitting Supreme Court justices and dissuade them from making any decisions that would infuriate the Democratic base. “The Court needs to know that the people are watching,” Democratic congressman Hank Johnson of Georgia, a co-sponsor of the Court-packing bill, said at a press conference last week. 

“There are few circumstances under which I can imagine Congress expanding the Court, but a big, clear reversal of Roe might be an exception,” tweeted Florida State University law professor Mary Ziegler.

But in a hypothetical post-Roe world, in which states merely had the authority to enact their own legal limits on abortion, packing the Supreme Court with extra Democratic appointees wouldn’t really bring Roe back. It would simply establish the precedent that the Congress and the president can restructure the Supreme Court to their liking. It would also effectively establish legislative authority over abortion policy in the United States.

On Tuesday, when I asked Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein of California if she could see herself supporting a Court-packing bill if the Supreme Court issued a ruling that dramatically changed the status quo, such as overturning Roe, Feinstein replied: “Well, I think anything is possible. But is it likely? No, because there’s such a history, and I think the Supreme Court as a body has been historically remarkably appreciated and admired by this country.”

Yup, That Maskless Texan Apocalypse Still Hasn’t Arrived

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

Texas’s statewide mask mandate ended March 9. The day before, Texas had 5,119 new cases of COVID-19, and the seven-day average for new cases was 3,971. On that day, the state had 126,404 active cases of COVID-19. As of March 9, the seven-day average for new deaths was 104.

Yesterday, the state had 3,859 new cases, and the seven-day average for daily new cases is 3,057. The state had 93,430 active cases. The seven-day average for new deaths was 54. As I noted in late March and early April, the end of the statewide mask mandate did not generate a surge

In Columbus, the Cop Was Right to Shoot

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Bodycamera footage showing Ma’Khia Bryant swinging a knife before being shot by Columbus Police. (Screengrab from The Hill/YouTube)

A good number of those who have criticized the shooting of Ma’Khia Bryant have argued that the officer should have done “something else” to break up the fight. Given the circumstances, this would almost certainly not have been possible — at least, not until after Bryant had begun stabbing her victim. As far as I can see, the officer really did have just two choices: shoot, or allow an attempted murder.

In 1983, the Salt Lake City Police Department developed a test to determine how far away a knife-wielding attacker had to be before a person with a holstered gun could

Law & the Courts

FDR’s Court-Packing Scheme Reconsidered

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The Democrats want to increase the size of the Supreme Court to 13 justices, adding new personnel who will undoubtedly be chosen for their fidelity not to the Constitution but to the goals of statism.

As almost everyone knows, this has happened before. FDR threatened to pack the Court following his landslide reelection in 1936, but he ran into so much opposition in his own party that the plan fizzled. But that doesn’t mean it failed, as Charles Lipson argues in this Discourse article. 

As he correctly notes, when the Court reconvened in 1937, Chief Justice Hughes began to side with the Court’s leftists, thus giving FDR constitutional approval for a host of policies he wanted — first and foremost the National Labor Relations Act, a law that was just as obviously unconstitutional as many other New Deal laws the Court had struck down in 1935 and 1936.

Ironically, the economy had been slowly strengthening in 1936, but went into a tailspin in 1937, in large measure because of the wave of strikes that followed the upholding of the NLRA.

Richard Epstein detailed the damage wrought by the Court’s switch from constitutionalism to progressivism in his law-review article “The Mistakes of 1937.”

Back then, the big goal of the Left was to demolish the Constitution’s restraints on federal spending and regulatory power. Those have never been rebuilt, so what is the goal now?

I think that the main target is the First Amendment. There are plenty of leftist legal scholars who contend that free speech is an outmoded concept; that we need government control over “hate speech” and “misinformation.” We know just what sort of speech will be declared illegal — speech that undermines support for the omnipotent government envisioned by Biden & Company.

Film & TV

Clint Eastwood Keeps Rolling

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Clint Eastwood’s latest film is finished. The Western Cry Macho, which stars Eastwood as an ex-rodeo star and is based on the 1975 novel by N. Richard Nash, will be released by Warner Bros. on October 22, a date that suggests the studio believes the project has Oscar potential. His last film, the superb Richard Jewell, came out in December 2019.

This movie stretches a big-screen career that began in the 1960s into the 2020s. This year also marks the 50th anniversary of Eastwood’ first film as a director, Play Misty for Me. The new movie will be Eastwood’s 38th feature as director and 47th as star. Given the speed with which Eastwood works, I wouldn’t be surprised if he had another film completed by the time Cry Macho comes out. He turns 91 next month. Bravo.

Politics & Policy

Three Thoughts about Knife Fights

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Investigators work at the scene where a fatal shooting by a police officer occurred in Columbus, Ohio, April 20, 2021. (Gaelen Morse/Reuters)

As Philip Klein noted yesterday, there’s a weird idea going around on the left that knife attacks are no big deal or at least no reason for the police to shoot someone. Three basic thoughts about that:

First, about a tenth of all murders in this country are accomplished with knives, roughly 1,500 a year.

Second, while you should choose being stabbed over being shot if you get to pick, knife wounds do pose a very real risk of death or serious injury, which is the legal cutoff for justified lethal force. (I never thought I’d have to explain why getting stabbed is bad, but here we are.) We track fatalities much better than we track nonfatal injuries, but there are a few hard data points available: A study of victims brought to trauma centers in Philadelphia found that 8 percent of those with stab wounds died. A different study put the mortality rate of torso stab wounds treated at trauma centers at about 4 percent. (Of course, these don’t include folks who never went to a trauma center.) These numbers are far from 100 percent, but for someone getting stabbed, they are also far from 0 percent — and a stabbing injury is horrific even if you survive. Incidentally, most gunshot wounds are non-fatal too.

Third, standard police training, correctly, in my view, teaches cops to use a firearm if needed to stop an immediate knife attack. The Columbus Dispatch has some useful quotes from experts in this regard:

Although such shootings inevitably generate questions from the public about why an officer didn’t use de-escalation techniques, or deploy a Taser or shoot the person in the leg, none of those options was available to the officer, both experts agreed.

“I don’t know what the officer could have done differently,” [Philip Stinson, a Bowling Green State University professor] said. “Based on what I saw, there was no opportunity for the officer to de-escalate.”

[James Scanlon, a retired Columbus Division of Police SWAT officer] said use of a Taser isn’t an appropriate response “to a lethal-force situation,” and police are trained to target only one thing when they shoot to protect themselves or others — “center mass” of the person they’re trying to stop.

Officers are trained “to shoot until the threat is neutralized,” he said. . . .

[Stinson:] “In this situation, inaction by the officer, I believe, would likely have resulted in serious bodily injury or death to one or more persons.”

There’s a reasonable discussion to be had about whether the training should be a little more flexible, to at least give officers the option of shooting lower on the body in certain specific situations. But if someone’s stabbing me and a cop has a chance to stop it with a bullet, I hope he takes the shot.

U.S.

Anti-Israel Push to Restrict Aid Faces Huge Rebuke in Congress

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American and Israeli flags outside the U.S Embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel. (Amir Cohen/Reuters)

A bipartisan group of more than 300 lawmakers is pouring cold water on a campaign by progressive lawmakers to restrict U.S. military aid to Israel, as the country faces continued threats from Iran and Hezbollah.

“Congress is committed to maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge and its ability to defend itself, by itself, against persistent threats,” write the 330 members of Congress to the top lawmakers on the House Appropriations Committee in a letter spearheaded by Representatives Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Ted Deutch, who chairs a subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and terrorism. It goes on to call U.S. aid to Israel “a vital and cost-effective expenditure” that is in America’s national security interests. “For decades, Presidents of both parties have understood the strategic importance of providing Israel with security assistance,” they write.

In the letter, the lawmakers support the full security assistance package called for in the Fiscal Year 2022 budget request, which was set under a decade-long Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) agreed to by the U.S. and Israel in 2016. The vast majority of the annual $3.8 billion package goes toward purchasing weapons and defense equipment, while $500 million goes to missile defense.

This message of support might seem normal for Washington — and it is. But significance of the letter, which was obtained by National Review, can’t be overlooked. It is aimed at rebuking, indirectly, a growing, though small, chorus on Capitol Hill that questions the wisdom of U.S. aid to Israel as it is currently provided.

In recent weeks, over a dozen lawmakers have signed onto a bill introduced by Representative Betty McCollum to prohibit the use of U.S. funds toward certain Israeli activities. “I don’t want $1 of U.S. aid to Israel paying for the military detention and abuse of Palestinian children, the demolition of Palestinian homes, or the annexation of Palestinian land,” McCollum told The Intercept, which first reported on the legislation.

As the politics of today’s Democratic party have lurched leftward, McCollum, who for years has advocated a more limited version of the bill that she introduced this month, has been joined by progressive lawmakers—such as Representatives Ilhan Omar, Marie Newman, and Jamaal Bowman—many of whom won primary challenges against pro-Israel incumbents. The bill is also the culmination of work by Palestinian advocacy groups, according to The Intercept. The left-wing outlet called the bill “the result of years of work by Palestinian rights activists to cut or condition aid to Israel.”

This outlook has been endorsed by at least one senator. At the annual conference of J Street, a liberal advocacy group that bills itself as “pro-Israel, pro-peace,” Senator Elizabeth Warren this month called for a reevaluation of the status quo of U.S. support of the country, including by using “all of the tools we have at our disposal.” She added, “One of those is restricting military aid from being used in the occupied territories. By continuing to provide military aid without restriction, we provide no incentive for Israel to adjust course.”

But the proponents of adhering to America’s commitments under the 2016 MOU point out that there are tangible national-security reasons to continue unwavering U.S. support of Israel, including, as McCaul-Deutch letter notes, the country’s intelligence sharing practices and its role in ensuring regional stability. “Israel is also actively engaged in supporting security partners like Jordan and Egypt, and its recent normalization agreements with the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco will help promote regional stability and deal with common challenges from Iran and its terrorist proxies.”

While the impact of potentially cutting U.S. aid to Israel is unclear, former Trump officials have described how the Abraham Accords were made possible by the previous administration’s unequivocal support of the Israeli government. Rolling back U.S. assistance to the Jewish state could well jeopardize that.

Calling the progressive effort an attempt to make “undermining Israel’s basic security an acceptable topic of debate,” Eugene Kontorovich, a George Mason University law professor, also points out that rather than a gift, with its aid, the U.S. is holding up its part of the bargain with Israel. The funding is “largely part of commitments the U.S. made to secure the Camp David Accords, and with it Israel’s withdraw from huge territorial gains in the Sinai peninsula. Holding that aid hostage to pressure Israel into further, suicidal territorial concessions would be nothing but a betrayal of prior commitments.”

For now, though, as the overwhelming bipartisan support of the letter attests, such a betrayal remains forestalled. While the administration has caught flak from pro-Israel voices for its negotiations to reenter the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, resume funding the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, and its statements on other issues, President Biden has ruled out a conditions-based approach to security assistance in no uncertain terms. In February, a State Department spokesperson pledged that the administration would abide by the commitments set out under the 2016 MOU “without reservation.”

In short, McCollum, Warren, and likeminded lawmakers remain a small fringe, but one whose growth over the past couple of years should give bipartisan proponents of the U.S. alliance with Israel cause for concern about the Democratic Party’s trajectory. But for now, this bipartisan show of support for U.S. support of Israel speaks for itself.

 

Health Care

Psychiatrist: Refusing Euthanasia for Mentally Ill Discrimination

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It used to be that psychiatrists and psychologists strived to prevent mentally ill people from committing suicide. Now, a blog post by Canadian psychiatrist Ralph Lewis published in Psychology Today — of all places — understands that allowing the mentally ill to be euthanized could have a deleterious impact on suicide-prevention efforts. But what the hell. Refusing to euthanize the mentally ill is “discriminating“:

And yet, how can we justify discriminating against people with mental disorders and suggesting to them that their suffering is more tolerable than that of people suffering from physical disorders? And how do we paternalistically tell them that we do not consider them under any circumstances to be competent to determine their own life values and to appraise whether their life is worth living? How many of those people will end up dying alone by suicide in ways that are much more traumatizing and stigmatizing for their families?

It isn’t discrimination, it’s protecting the vulnerable and despairing. Oh, Wesley: Don’t be so 20th century!

The Quebec Psychiatric Association is ready to start the killing:

The Quebec Psychiatric Association has taken the lead in Canada in developing a discussion paper on access to medical assistance in dying for people with mental disorders. In it, they state: “Patients whose sole underlying medical condition is a mental disorder should not be systematically15 excluded from MAID on the basis of their diagnoses.” They add that the Association “does not intend to promote MAID [for] MD-SUMC, but recognizes the suffering of patients and their right to make their own choice like any other person.” Each case should be comprehensively assessed on its own merits. They envisage qualifying cases will be fairly rare.

It might be rare at first, but after a few years the death business will pick up as a “treatment” for severe psychiatric disorders — just as it has in the Netherlands.

When the last line of defense protecting the live of suicidal people instead validate their patients’ self-destruction, you know we have entered wicked times. Shame on these Canadian, so-called, mental-health professionals!

Law & the Courts

Court-Packing, Still Very Unpopular

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In a new poll, it doesn’t get majority support even from Democrats. The idea that the threat of it is a good way for Democrats to pressure the Supreme Court assumes, as I wrote the other day, that the justices worry a lot about politics but don’t pay close attention to it.

Politics & Policy

The Let-Teenagers-Knife-Fight Caucus

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Then-White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett in 2014. (Larry Downing/Reuters)

Before many details were known about the shooting of teenager Ma’Khia Bryant in Columbus, many journalists, activists, and politicians raced to fit the story into the broader narrative about police misconduct toward black Americans. The fact that a cop shot a black teenager just as the judge was about to read the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial made the story too difficult to resist.

When it turned out that body cam footage showed that Bryant was shot while literally lunging with a giant knife toward another black teenager, the story obviously changed dramatically. The Washington Post’s Radley Balko showed integrity by retracting his initial comments about the incident, and apologizing for not waiting until more was known. On the other hand, Ohio senator Sherrod Brown plowed ahead with the narrative, tweeting, “While the verdict was being read in the Derek Chauvin trial, Columbus police shot and killed a sixteen-year-old girl. Her name was Ma’Khia Bryant. She should be alive right now.” 

While Brown and the White House have decided to simply sidestep the inconvenient element that the shooting may have saved a young black girl from being fatally stabbed, others are going a step further.

In a viral tweet, activist Bree Newsome suggested that cops, who were called to the scene, should just have somehow stayed out of what was clearly just a standard teenage knife fight:

It was easy enough to dismiss this as a one off, but I started seeing more and more people echoing this idea on Twitter, and then came this from Valerie Jarrett:

Jarrett is not a typical Twitter user. She served as Barack Obama’s closest adviser throughout his presidency, and is currently the interim head of his foundation. She is deeply connected in Democratic politics, including with many high-ranking officials in the Biden administration.

As HotAir’s Allahpundit quips, “When lefties said we should defund the police and not sweat the social consequences, they weren’t messing around.”

There are really two layers of arguments here.

One is that cops should somehow treat teenage knife fights as they would harmless roughhousing and simply ignore it. The other idea is that the officer should have figured out a way to resolve the situation without doing any harm — this even though video suggests a girl was seconds (or less) away from being stabbed. Why not shoot the leg? Or shoot the knife out of her hand? 

People evidently believe this is like the movies. That somehow a cop is like Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, shooting a rope from hundreds of yards away to free Tuco from being hanged. In reality, this is not a sniper carefully getting in position to shoot a target. We’re talking about shooting a small, erratically moving target in real time. It is completely unrealistic to expect, no matter how well-trained a cop is.

To be clear, it’s possible more details will emerge that will require us to further reevaluate what transpired in Columbus. But the idea that cops need to take a step back and let teenagers stab it out with each other is completely insane.

Culture

Fifteen Things That Caught My Eye Today: MLK on Suffering, Biden Sues for Transgender Mandate, Remembering Chuck Colson & More

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1. Via the Trinity Forum, Martin Luther King Jr. on suffering:

Some of my personal sufferings over the last few years have also served to shape my thinking…. As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways that I could respond to my situation: either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course. Recognizing the necessity for suffering I have tried to make of it a virtue. If only to save myself from bitterness, I have attempted to see my personal ordeals as an opportunity to transform myself and heal the people involved in the tragic situation which now obtains. I have lived these last few years with the conviction that unearned suffering is redemptive.

There are some who still find the cross a stumbling block, and others consider it foolishness, but I am more convinced than ever before that it is the power of God unto social and individual salvation. So like the Apostle Paul I can now humbly yet proudly say, “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” The suffering and agonizing moments through which I have passed over the last few years have also drawn me closer to God. More than ever before I am convinced of the reality of a personal God.”

2. Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda, of Saint Paul and Minneapolis:

The verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer now convicted on all counts as a result of his role in the death of George Floyd last spring, is a sobering moment for our community. The decision by a jury of peers punctuates the grief that has gripped the Twin Cities in these last months and underscores the soul-searching that has taken place in homes, parishes, and workplaces across the country as we together confront the chasm that exists between the brokenness of our world and the harmony and fraternity that our Creator intends for all his children.

We hold up once again the image of the Crucified Christ, whose resurrection gives witness to the healing power of forgiveness, compassion, reconciliation, and peace. It is our shared brotherhood with Jesus that calls us to a deeper respect for all human life. We ask him to bring healing into our communities, comfort to the family of George Floyd and all who mourn, and satisfaction to those who thirst for justice. May the many reminders of the Lord’s loving closeness even in challenging times inspire us to treat each other with unfailing respect, to work non-violently for the common good and to be instruments of reconciliation.

3.

Continue reading “Fifteen Things That Caught My Eye Today: MLK on Suffering, Biden Sues for Transgender Mandate, Remembering Chuck Colson & More”

Elections

Is Anyone, Besides Chris Christie, Yearning for a ‘Christie 2024’ Bid?

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Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie in Trenton, N.J., January 9, 2018 (Dominick Reuter/Reuters)

The fact that our last three presidents are named Joe Biden, Donald Trump, and Barack Obama should be a vivid reminder that unlikely figures can end up in the Oval Office.

With that said . . . is there anybody out there not named “Chris Christie” who has been yearning for a 2024 presidential campaign from the former New Jersey governor?

The biggest, and most glaring challenge is that Christie is probably insufficiently supportive of Trump to win over Trump’s fans, and too supportive of Trump — endorsing him at a key point in the 2016 primary — to win over the remaining Trump skeptics within the GOP. I suppose it’s possible Christie can somehow pitch himself as being neither too supportive or too critical of Trump . . . but I wouldn’t count on it.

Axios reports, “Christie, whose 2016 bid for the nomination was short-lived, has told friends that he’d be the only person in the 2024 field with executive experience who has run a presidential race before.” Okay, but in 2016, the field had plenty of governors, and Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, and Mike Huckabee had run before. Heck, Santorum, and Huckabee had both won the Iowa caucuses before! The experience didn’t really help them in 2016, in Iowa or elsewhere.

Axios interprets the experience comment as a Christie jab at current Florida governor Ron DeSantis. And if you squint, you can kind of see DeSantis as the Chris Christie of 2021 — blunt, combative with the press, winning support in his home state for getting things done.

But the Florida governor is, in the policy fight, doing things, while Christie is commentating on ABC News on Sunday mornings. There are worse ways to stay in the public eye, but GOP primary voters in late 2023 and early 2024 might be wondering what Christie has done for them lately.

Back in 2016, I diagnosed Christie’s schtick: “the man of action in a sea of talkers, the Mr. Fix-It among the ineffectual wonks — that must be appealing to the kind of voter who likes Trump’s style but wishes it was backed up by even a shred of substance. And while it bodes ill for productive political discourse, it obviously works for Christie, because he’s kept at it. And it has the tangential benefit of masking what is at best a spotty history of conservative policymaking.” And that schtick didn’t sell all that well in 2016 — he was an asterisk in Iowa and 7.6 percent in New Hampshire, and quit the race after that.

Whenever a presidential candidate who did not succeed the first time wants to run again, I always look for some change in strategy, some sort of adjustment based upon experience. But far too many of these guys run again with the unspoken argument that “the voters, having realized the error of their ways, come to their senses and see what a terrific option I was all along.”

Law & the Courts

‘Police Say’

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Anti-police activists and sympathetic reporters often complain — rightly, in some cases — about an over-reliance on police sourcing in stories involving police shootings or alleged misconduct.

But they are more than happy to rely entirely on the official police account when reporting a detail that supports the officer’s course of action. In that case, the cop-skeptical reporter will cite law-enforcement officials rather than doing further reporting that might confirm their account. By ensuring that the exonerating detail comes from a fellow cop, the reporter nudges his readers toward skepticism.

This NPR report published Tuesday night is a classic of the genre, in that it relies entirely on Columbus chief of police Michael Woods’s description of body-camera footage showing the shooting of 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant, rather than simply describing the contents of the video.

Woods said the video shows Bryant holding a knife as she pushes two girls. He said police believe she is attempting to stab both girls during the fight.” (Emphasis added).

And, as the article notes, Woods explained what was on the tape after showing the footage to a room full of reporters, so it’s not as if they were forced to rely on his account.

So, rather than simply reporting that Bryant was holding a knife at the moment she was shot (as is obvious to anyone who views the freeze-frame body-camera images proliferating online) or asking bystanders, one of whom could presumably confirm that fact, NPR is content to leave that detail in the mouths of police officers as a subtle hint to readers that it should be met with skepticism. It’s a rather short-sighted plan, though. What happens if a particularly adventurous NPR reader decides to watch the footage himself?

Politics & Policy

Cardinal Truths

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Via Bryan Caplan, I came across this provocative post by Richard Hanania. He explains liberal dominance of major institutions from the media to the universities to big business as a function of “cardinal preferences.” Basically, liberals care way more about politics than conservatives do.

It’s a plausible story, and Hanania marshals a fair amount of evidence to back it. For example:

More people give to liberal causes and candidates than to conservative ones, even if Americans are about equally divided in which party they support (and no, this isn’t the result of liberals being wealthier, the connections between income and ideology or party are pretty weak).

To put Biden’s donor advantage in context, in the 2020 election Biden beat Trump in the solidly blue state of Illinois by 17%. Biden’s 22% advantage over Trump among donors across the entire country is greater than his advantage among all voters in Illinois.

Adding to the plausibility of Hanania’s story: On the issues where conservatives have been relatively successful, notably gun rights, the intensity gap works the other way.

Politics & Policy

Obama Encore: Biden Justice Department Announces Investigation of Minneapolis Police Department

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Attorney General nominee Merrick Garland testifies during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington, D.C., February 22, 2021. (Drew Angerer/Pool via Reuters)

As foreseen here during the confirmation hearings for Attorney General Merrick Garland and other Biden nominees for top DOJ slots, the Obama Justice Department is back, and that means the police departments of the United States are in for radical surgery.

Fired Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) officer Derek Chauvin was convicted yesterday afternoon on all three homicide counts in the racially charged George Floyd case. With the inevitability of the morning sun, AG Garland announced this morning that the Justice Department is launching a “pattern or practice” investigation of the MPD. The pretext is that the evidence in Chauvin’s case suggests that the police department as a whole is riven by — all together now! — systemic racism. (See the report by NR’s Zachary Evans.) This, despite the fact that some of the most compelling testimony in Chauvin’s trial came from MPD officials, who related how the actions of Chauvin and the three other subsequently fired cops (who are scheduled to be tried jointly in the Floyd case this summer) ran afoul of the MPD’s existing use-of-force, medical-assistance, and community-policing guidelines.

You knew this was coming.

The Obama administration made a habit of exacerbating tensions created by police-involved incidents involving black men. Its Justice Department then exploited such controversies to carry out a federalization of local law-enforcement in conformance with Obama-preferred progressive policing. The feds don’t go after the locals on the individual case — there will be no civil-rights criminal prosecution of Chauvin and the other ex-cops. Instead, the DOJ uses vague standards Democrats have written into civil law, amplified by the Justice Department’s gargantuan budget for litigating against states and municipalities, to “reform” entire police departments.

I explained the scheme seven years ago:

[Attorney General] Holder and [President Obama] are not banging the civil-rights drum because they believe these are prosecutable [individual] cases. It is just a pretext for unleashing Justice Department community organizers on state and municipal police departments. . . .

[T]he Justice Department civil-rights investigations Holder is fond of announcing are not like public trials. They occur out of the public eye, where feverish Justice Department claims are not aired and scrutinized. More significant, they happen with the air of extortion created by the nearly $28 billion in funding Congress keeps giving Justice every year, no matter how many congressional investigations it obstructs, how many false statements its officials make, and how much it politicizes law enforcement. The investigations are taxpayer-funded jihads that states, cities, and towns know they lack the resources to fight off.

Here is how the game works. Holder streams in behind a tragedy that [Al] Sharpton and Obama have demagogued. He announces a civil-rights investigation. Eventually, he backs down from the threat of an indictment in the individual case … [but announces that DOJ’s probe] has metastasized into a thoroughgoing civil-rights probe of the state or local police department’s training, practices, and . . . drumroll . . . institutional racism.

. . . States and their subdivisions know they cannot afford to go toe-to-toe with the Beltway behemoth. Big cities, moreover, are governed by Democrats sympathetic to the Obama/Holder race obsessions — they’re happy to have the feds come in and hamstring police with “social justice” guidelines that would be a hard sell politically. So, the Justice Department makes the locals an offer they can’t refuse: A consent decree that makes the Treaty of Versailles look like a slap on the wrist. This device is the license by which the Obama administration is remaking state law enforcement in its own image.

How do they get away with this? Well, . . . [in] 1994 — the last time before 2009 that Democrats controlled the White House and both congressional chambers — they rammed through a monstrosity known as the “Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act.” A Clinton deputy attorney general named Eric Holder was among the first to exploit it.

Consistent with the Left’s view of the states as cauldrons of racism, the statute criminalizes “any government authority” that “engage[s] in a pattern or practice of conduct by law enforcement officers . . . that deprives persons of [federal] rights, privileges, or immunities.” It is the civil-rights laws writ large — imposed on whole cities rather than threatened against individual police officers and citizens. And for good measure, the act encourages the attorney general to file civil lawsuits in federal court to “obtain appropriate equitable and declaratory relief to eliminate the [offensive] pattern or practice.”

Under this scheme, there are now more than 20 major American cities and their police departments beholden to the Obama Justice Department. . . . On Thursday, in fact, Holder took time out from stirring the Staten Island pot [i.e., the Eric Garner case] to pounce on Cleveland, which is still reeling from last month’s racially charged case involving the death of twelve-year-old Tamir Rice.

The boy was reportedly pointing a gun at people in a park, prompting an emergency call to police, one of whom tragically shot him to death only to find that the gun was a BB gun. Again, other than the happenstance that the boy was black and the officer was white, race had no bearing on the case. But that didn’t stop Holder from invoking the boy, along with Garner’s death in Staten Island, in announcing that Justice’s investigation had found a “pattern or practice” of excessive force used by Cleveland police. As he spoke, he was flanked by Mayor Frank Jackson, the Democrat who presided over this allegedly rogue police regime for the last decade — upon inheriting it from Jane Campbell, the last mayor . . . a Democrat who, you’ll be shocked to learn, moved on to Harvard’s Kennedy School to teach how cities should be run. Mayor Jackson has, of course, agreed to the installation of a “monitor,” who will see to it that Cleveland police conduct themselves in an Obama-compliant manner.

Seattle is another of the big cities that has been snagged by the DOJ. It has been under a consent decree since the Justice Department targeted it in 2012 for a “pattern or practice” of violations, allegedly including “subjecting individuals to excessive force” — in particular, “using excessive force against persons of color,” and “escalating situations and using excessive force when arresting individuals for minor offenses.”

You may recall that the tide of rampant crime in New York City was turned when, under Mayor Rudy Giuliani, the police began cracking down on minor offenses — not untaxed cigarette sales but real violations that had nearly destroyed the city’s quality of life. What ensued was a miraculous transformation, with the Big Apple becoming the safest big city in America.

That policing model is under attack now — just as the NYPD’s extraordinarily successful counterterrorism model has been undermined by Obama’s Homeland Security Advisory Council. As Holder was making his Cleveland splash, Bill de Blasio, New York City’s hard-left mayor, opportunistically — and in the absence of any evidence — pointed to Garner’s death as proof that “the way we go about policing has to change. . . . People need to know that black lives and brown lives matter as much as white lives.”

The police departments of this country are now more representative of their communities than at any time in American history. No one knows more than they do that black lives matter. No one knows it better than the MPD, whose leader, Medaria Arradondo, the city’s first black police chief and a star prosecution witness in Chauvin’s trial. He is a disciple of Obama-style progressive police reform who rose through the ranks by investigating police misconduct (and suing the MPD for discrimination in promotions, pay, and discipline).

It may come as a surprise to Chief Arradondo that he’s been presiding over a systemically racist police department. He and the other officials convinced the jury that Chauvin was an outlier who did not represent the MPD principles. Is anyone surprised that they failed to convince the social engineers of the Obama Justice Department (now doing business as the Biden Justice Department)?

Immigration

An Angry Email on Immigration

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In response to this column:

Basically, what you’re saying is 11+ million (most of them been here15+yrs, no criminal record barring re-entry) people have to miss out on life over here, never see their family members from the respective emigree countries, unless/or they self deport because people like you posture ad infinitum on unsubstantiated expectations of failure in future immigration enforcement efforts regarding people who aren’t even here in this country today, and ignore 11+ million lives as artifacts of abstraction? All because they made a conscious decision to live amongst us citizenry by jumping the border or overstaying a visa?

Most of these people have lived amongst us for 15 years,  and don’t hold criminal records, and have contributed as much to life here as you and I have.

How much longer do these individuals have to be treated like tin cans with expiry dates two decades henceforth?
They have lives. Holding that essence of time in a human being’s life hostage to satisfy your punditry-infused audience, or phony policy chop-jollies is unbecoming.
You have provided no substantive, econometric, qualitative evidence; other than to give your preferred political body(the GOP primary audience and their political overlords) a cop-out for bigotry.
For every Borjas, there are many more Giovanni Peris, Skocpols, etc.
I’m an Indian immigrant, with a PhD in applied mathematics from a top twenty-five ranked west coast university.
I’m more skilled than you could ever be, so it’s quizzical to hear you wax lyrical about “high skilled” people like me.
I’ll always have more respect for undocumented immigrants generally speaking, than individuals like you, who lucked out through family and posture in society by hurting other immigrant families.
You don’t understand family. You just posture.

None of the ad hominem stuff here is worth addressing. As for the rest of it: The widespread concern that immigration laws will not be enforced is based on decades of nonenforcement and under-enforcement, especially at the workplace. There is no moral obligation to extend legal status or citizenship to people who voluntarily came to or stayed in this country illegally; hence the widespread intuition that people who came here as minors have a stronger claim. So it is not unjust to condition such legalization on the implementation of measures that will build confidence in enforcement.

And even if I am wrong about both of these points — if we should have full confidence that immigration laws will be enforced in the future, and we are morally obligated to provide legal status to most illegal immigrants — my political analysis stands. Mass legalization is not going to happen anytime soon so long as concern about enforcement is widespread, and telling people they are wicked and dumb for having that concern isn’t going to change that.

Politics & Policy

Hey — Why Not Squeeze Out Another Trillion for Uncle Sam?

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In today’s Wall Street Journal, columnist William Galston argues that the feds could collect another trillion or so if only the IRS would hire some more tax officials.

It’s amazing to me that Professor Galston (and like-minded “progressives”) never stop to think about the opportunity costs of their proposals. Here’s the letter I sent off to the editors:

Perhaps in some future column, Mr. Galston would care to explain how it makes us better off for the government to spend still more on tax collectors (whose efforts produce nothing) to take more money away from the people who earned it. Those people would other wise spend, invest, or donate that money in accordance with their values and expectations. They stand to gain from making good decision or to lose from bad ones. Conversely, if we transfer that money into government coffers, it will be spent as politicians desire. Politicians have very different incentives and the results of their expenditures are often wasteful and even counterproductive.

Why does that transfer of resources make the country better off? To me, it appears to make us worse off.

Politics & Policy

Sherrod Brown, Stand Down

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Senator Sherrod Brown (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

This morning, Ohio senator Sherrod Brown tweeted the following:

This is, at best, a tendentious reading of events. Facts have emerged about the police encounter Brown is referencing that complicate this simple narrative. For one, Bryant was armed and in the middle of an attempt to stab another person when shot by police. But Brown, the media, and other interested parties are ignoring such facts in service of their preferred narrative.

For these latter groups, one can at least understand what they are doing, while also disdaining it, as I do: They are trying to connect two isolated events that occurred hundreds of miles apart and lump them into the same ineffable category of systemic racism, regardless of the details involved. This conditions the same kind of national-level groupthink that has made Minneapolis the center of attention for almost a year now to direct its gaze to the next item of controversy, an unceasing search made necessary by an inexhaustible ideology.

But why is Sherrod Brown playing along? The man is a senator representing the state of Ohio (where I am from, and of which I remain fond). It is unseemly for such an individual to reflexively and thoughtlessly join a mob of people who will now undoubtedly use this incident to castigate unfairly the state he represents. In doing so, he does not merely render a disservice to Ohioans, but also violates one of the Senate’s original purposes. The Senate was designed from the start to act as a refining agent of popular passion, not an agitator thereof. From Federalist No. 63, which advocated the utility of the proposed body as part of The Federalist Papers‘ broader case for ratifying the Constitution:

Such an institution may be sometimes necessary as a defense to the people against their own temporary errors and delusions. As the cool and deliberate sense of the community ought, in all governments, and actually will, in all free governments, ultimately prevail over the views of its rulers; so there are particular moments in public affairs when the people, stimulated by some irregular passion, or some illicit advantage, or misled by the artful misrepresentations of interested men, may call for measures which they themselves will afterwards be the most ready to lament and condemn. In these critical moments, how salutary will be the interference of some temperate and respectable body of citizens, in order to check the misguided career, and to suspend the blow meditated by the people against themselves, until reason, justice, and truth can regain their authority over the public mind?

Brown would be well within his rights to represent the sorrow of the state that such an encounter occurred, to investigate it (which he apparently has not done), and to work to prevent such things from happening. And the tragedy of Ma’Khia Bryant’s death is not one to downplay. It must be understood correctly, however, and not yielded over thoughtlessly in service of ideology. Brown’s decision to abandon sober, particularistic advocacy for his state in favor of a national-inflected, convulsive passion that seeks to advance its preferred narrative irrespective of facts suggests that he does not seem interested in ensuring that “reason, justice, and truth can regain their authority over the public mind.” He would have been better off saying nothing at all. 

Health Care

Biden Administration Moves to Force Religious Hospitals to Uphold Transgender Mandate

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Rep. Deb Haaland holds a Transgender Pride flag beside democratic colleagues on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C, February 25, 2021. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

In 2016, the Obama administration attached a transgender mandate to the Affordable Care Act. Framed as a nondiscrimination provision, it would require doctors and hospitals to perform sex-change surgeries and provide insurance coverage for this controversial clinical practice. Notably, the mandate did not include religious or conscience exemptions.

Given that most doctors receive some Medicare and Medicaid funding, legal experts warned that the mandate would have universal application.

In January, a judge in North Dakota sided with Catholic hospitals in striking down this transgender mandate. However, on Tuesday, the Biden administration appealed that ruling.

Luke Goodrich, Vice President and senior counsel at Becket law, summarized his arguments on Twitter:

The plaintiffs are religious doctors, hospitals, and clinics who joyfully serve ALL patients regardless of sex or gender identity. They routinely provide top-notch care to transgender patients for everything from cancer to the common cold.

They also provide millions of dollars in free and low-cost care to the elderly, poor, and underserved–care that is jeopardized by the government’s attempt to punish them with multi-million dollar penalties.

The Transgender Mandate not only threatens religious doctors and hospitals. It also threatens patients, as there is ample evidence that certain gender transition procedures can be deeply harmful.

Multiple federal courts have reached the same conclusion: “There is no medical consensus that sex reassignment surgery is a necessary or even effective treatment for gender dysphoria.” Gibson v. Collier, 920 F.3d 212, 223 (5th Cir. 2019).

The government’s own doctors during the Obama Admin agreed: “Based on a thorough review of the clinical evidence . . . there is not enough evidence to determine whether gender reassignment surgery improves health outcomes for [patients] with gender dysphoria.

And just weeks ago, a study commissioned by NHS England found “very low” evidence for the effectiveness of “puberty blockers” and cross-sex hormones.

The Biden Admin shouldn’t have appealed. But we look forward to another ruling that protects patients, aligns with current medical research, and ensures doctors aren’t forced to violate their religious beliefs and professional medical judgment.

Religious objections aside, the idea that an invasive and high-risk treatment on a highly vulnerable population for which there is (at best) conflicting evidence of safety and efficacy, should be mandated makes no sense. But then, neither does the ideology behind such aggression.

Politics & Policy

Cops Don’t Get to Print Corrections

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Police officers from the NYPD investigate a crime scene in Queens, N.Y., July 6, 2020. (Lloyd Mitchell/Reuters)

There is a telling disclaimer in NPR’s report on the police shooting of a 16-year-old girl, Ma’Khia Bryant, in Columbus, Ohio, which was initially blasted out on Twitter as “cops shoot unarmed black girl” when it actually turns out that video shows that Bryant was in the process of stabbing another black teenage girl when she was shot. NPR concludes its writeup with this warning:

This is a developing story. Some facts reported by the media may later turn out to be wrong. We will focus on reports from police officials and other authorities, credible news outlets and reporters who are at the scene, and we will update as the situation develops.

This is the nature of journalism on a deadline: You may have the facts wrong, and if so, you need to correct them later on. But the police do not have that luxury. If you watch the video of the shooting, you can clearly see that the officer had to make a split-second decision whether to let Bryant stab someone, or whether to use the only force available that could stop the stabbing. As I noted yesterday, some police cases do not unfold that quickly — Derek Chauvin’s killing of George Floyd did not — but many do. Journalists who have occasion to go back and realize that they have reported some key facts wrong in the heat of a breaking story should have a little more humility in judging people whose jobs involve making graver decisions in less time with no ability to edit their own mistakes later.

Law & the Courts

‘Troubled Waters’

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This week on The Editors, Rich, Charlie, Alexandra, and Jim discuss Maxine Waters’s comments on the Chauvin trial, Biden’s flip-flop on refugee limits, and George W. Bush’s chastisement of the GOP on immigration. Listen below, or follow this show in iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, or Spotify.

Education

What Is the Value in a Liberal-Arts Education?

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(Nicola Patterson/Getty Images)

Is there any point in spending a load of money to send your son or daughter to college for anything other than a straight path to a job?

That is the question Patrick Gray of Rhodes College tackles in today’s Martin Center article.

He thinks there is value in a liberal-arts education: “Its true value resides not in what it delivers, in terms of knowledge or skills, but in what it reveals: namely, our ignorance.” Liberal-arts students may learn a lot of things, but arguably the most important is intellectual humility. In other words, they acquire the wisdom of knowing what they do not know.

At Rhodes, students read and discuss some of the Great Books. Where does that leave them? Gray writes, “When it goes well, the student cultivates a posture of intellectual humility. Are they better educated than they were at the start of the year? I hope so, but now they should know more fully what there is to know, how little of it they have mastered, and how complex are those relatively few texts they have studied.”

Gray knows that college degrees are largely about signaling and says that a liberal-arts degree signals that the student is “thoughtful, literate, and adaptable.” That’s pretty good.

He concludes,

Parents will not be happy to pay $50,000 a year and be told that our mission is to convince their children of their ignorance. It will be an even harder sell if they sense that faculty in the liberal arts are unable or unwilling to admit what we don’t know.

Whatever one thinks of the charge that we are, like Socrates, corrupting the youth, the bottom line—professionally, institutionally—may be the same.

Politics & Policy

The Plan to Regulate Ghost Guns

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(George Frey/Reuters)

The Reload, the new site from gun reporter Stephen Gutowski, has a preliminary, leaked draft of a forthcoming Biden-administration rule on “ghost guns.”

As I’ve discussed previously, it’s legal to make your own guns for personal use, and these guns don’t need serial numbers — but the law is ambiguous as to how much businesses can help you. Specifically, serial numbers and background checks are needed when a business sells a “firearm,” a term that applies not only to fully functional weapons but also to a gun’s “frame or receiver” or a weapon that “may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive.”

Currently, companies can sell receivers that are “80 percent” complete, meaning they still need some machining, but nothing too elaborate. Some companies have even been selling full kits, which include the 80 percent receiver and the other parts needed to make a gun.

The proposal would tighten up the standards dramatically. It would treat “a weapon parts kit that is designed to or may readily be assembled, completed, converted, or restored to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive” as a firearm. So too a “partially complete” receiver that “is clearly identifiable as an unfinished component part of a weapon” and “may readily be completed, assembled, converted, or restored to a functional state.”

As Gutowski adds,

The proposal provides only subjective standards for what makes an unfinished part “readily” convertible into a finished firearm but provides footnotes to court cases where the term has been applied. One court example included in the document said a part completed in “around an eight-hour working day in a properly equipped machine shop” was considered “readily” convertible. The only example of a ruling defining when a part is not “readily” convertible involved a process that “required [a] master gunsmith in a gun shop and $65,000 worth of equipment and tools.”

The examples provided in the document show the proposed rule would likely outlaw the sale of any unfinished receiver, especially when included in a kit with other parts and instructions or tools needed to complete the part. That’s because most unfinished parts sold in America today, including so-called 80% AR-15 lowers, can be finished at home in a few hours with commonly available tools like drill presses and compact mills.

The rule would also fix the problem I discussed here, in which the current regulatory definition of “receiver” seems to allow people to sell finished AR-15 receivers without background checks, because the gun requires both a “lower” and an “upper” receiver and neither meets the definition by itself.

Media

Now We Know (Not)

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So, a Minnesota jury in 2021 found that a white policeman was guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in the course of arresting a black man in 2020. What does this tell us about the police, and race, and the criminal-justice system in America? Well, it’s one datum. That’s it.

We humans like to tell one another stories, and listen to them, and then stare into the fireplace to think about the great truths they contain and what the characters and events in them symbolize. The media especially love this: Reporters report “stories” after all, not just incidents.

But most of the time one case is just one case. The first time I recall making this point was with Ferguson, Mo., when the circumstances of Michael Brown’s death were being hotly disputed. No murder there, by the way, according to Obama’s Justice Department: another datum.

World

Canada on Road to Outlaw ‘Organ Tourism’

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(Pixabay)

Good for Canada — a sentiment I haven’t been able to make very often lately. But a Senate committee has unanimously passed a bill that would outlaw Canadians from entering the black market for organs overseas, an exploitive phenomenon sometimes called “organ tourism.” From the Epoch Times story:

The Senate Bill S-204, sponsored by Sen. Salma Ataullahjan, makes it illegal for Canadians to get organs abroad without the consent of the donor, and makes people involved in forced organ harvesting inadmissible to Canada . . .

“We do know that Canadians continue to travel abroad for commercial organ transplant,” Ataullahjan told the committee on April 19.

Canadian human-rights campaigner, David Kilgour, described the situation in stark terms:

Former MP David Kilgour, who has extensively investigated China’s state-sanctioned organ harvesting of Falun Gong adherents, Uyghurs, and others, told the committee that China is the only country in the world where the government is involved in forcibly taking organs from persecuted groups, rather than criminals operating in the black market.

“They don’t just take one kidney, they take the heart, liver, lungs—everything that they can take. And of course, the donor dies in the process,” Kilgour said.

Kilgour said one way Canada is impacted by this is that brokers go to hospitals in Canada and other countries looking for patients who need an organ, and then arrange to take the patient to China for an organ transplant for a considerable sum of money.

This is an urgent matter of protecting human rights and thwarting biological colonialism.

It isn’t just China. Pakistan was forced to outlaw live organ donations to non-relatives because destitute people were being so taken advantage of by organ merchants. The Philippines outlawed all organ transplants for non-citizens to inhibit the practice.

The U.S.A. should get on this band wagon. But too many of us could care less. Some even brag of their participation, such as the book Larry’s Kidney, in which Daniel Asa Rose described the comic adventures of going to China to get his cousin a new kidney. It was reviewed in major newspapers as a tour de force. I wonder if the probably murdered “donor” had a good laugh before his life was extinguished.

I hope Canada passes the bill into law and that we follow that nation’s lead. The desperate destitute should not be treated as so many organ farms. When common decency no longer serves to keep society moral, sometimes the law has to step in.

Politics & Policy

4/20: A Dissent

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Chemdawg marijuana plants in Smiths Falls, Ontario, Canada, October 29, 2019 (Blair Gable/Reuters)

Today is 4/20, which has become, for complicated reasons, a “holiday” of sorts for enthusiasts of weed. Every year, it seems they have more to celebrate: Legalization is spreading, the legal marijuana industry is booming, and more and more people are open to using this particular drug, or are at least less disapproving of others’ use. My own views on pot have gone back and forth over the years. At this moment, I lean against, without much of a desire to defend or to inherit all of the drug war’s legacy, but with a concern that we are rushing into this too quickly without considering the possible consequences. I am well aware that the current reality on the ground makes my view unrealistic (and in dissent from National Review‘s own editorial line). Still, there is one complaint I would like to make that I do not think is rendered moot by the sheer unpopularity and infeasibility of my general position at this moment. And one pot proponent’s account has reminded me of it.

In Reason magazine, Liz Wolfe has written a paean to weed, claiming that, “amid an impressive amount of worldly despair, smoking weed made our lost pandemic year not good exactly, but more joyful for many people — myself included.” At a time when so much of the world was closed off to her and to many others, the drug provided for them a form of inner, solitary recreation and enjoyment. “People need play, and when that’s been taken away from you, you must make do with the plaything of your own mind,” she writes. And, in defiance of the shrinking number that favor some kind of limitations on marijuana usage, she asserts that, of all the tributes she could have written to how she has derived pleasure during a largely unpleasurable time, “a paean to the act of getting high feels more fitting since this private, peaceful, solitary act is still one that some people still seek to condemn, as if this little bit of respite in a time of hardship is any business of theirs at all.” 

She is right that it is increasingly not the business of anyone else. And I try not to begrudge anyone’s pandemic-era accommodations; it has been a difficult time for us all. But Wolfe’s account brought to mind an aspect of this period that has bothered me. In large part due to the impositions of various governments, many other avenues of life were closed off to her (and to the rest of us), leaving this as one of a reduced number of options to derive solace and comfort in life. Indeed, this was true from the start. Around this time last year, marijuana dispensaries were deemed essential businesses, while many others were not so lucky. And, on the whole, far less luckier were institutions of voluntary association, such as houses of worship, which at this time last year were closed virtually everywhere. And most of them are still in various conditions of restriction (some after having fought off even worse restrictions).

I am not trying to make a cheap shot here, or to identify a kind of double standard: “Pothead Libertarians Happy to Smoke, Don’t Care about Church.” For one thing, this is not true. The consistent libertarians of Reason magazine have covered the struggles of houses of worship against government regulations during this period well. And Wolfe herself has written eloquently about religion and its importance. Last October, reviewing Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World by Tara Isabella Burton, Wolfe identified as a Christian, and observed of the ersatz faiths, assembled on the fly by their new adherents, that Burton covers:

This rise in choice is good for personal autonomy, but these new religions tend to be thin on community building. Burton’s thoughtful analysis bolsters the sense that these young, syncretic religions might be less durable than traditional communities of faith.

It seems not to have been the case for Wolfe, who does not “think weed or psychedelics should be verboten for believers.” But my concern here is not so much her double standard, which I’ve already admitted as fallacious, as it is the government’s. One form of activity, one that involved solitary pursuit of pleasure, the state did not obstruct; a different form of activity, one that involved the building of community, the association of individuals, and the formulation of mutual interests independent of the state, the state saw fit at first to forbid and still sees fit to restrict. There is a kind of perversion in this, I think, that arises partly as a consequence of the nature of individuals vs. civil society: The former is simply harder to regulate, whereas the latter, in carving out a recognized, public niche in society, becomes more easily intelligible to the state for control. 

But in this perversion I also see a possible lesson. Wolfe is undoubtedly correct that marijuana regulation was once pervasive and is now declining, and as someone interested in the drug, she is acting rationally to celebrate this. But in the different treatments of these two activities by a state that libertarians generally still recognize and accept as growing and a threat to liberty, one can, I think, identify which of these activities the state might feel more threatened by (still-extant restrictions on pot use notwithstanding). An expanded state that is content to let people enjoy their pot but that still regulates them in other ways, such as associationally, does not strike me as a gigantic victory for liberty. 

Again, I am sure that Wolfe would prefer both forms of this freedom, as libertarians tend to. But in this, there is a discernible weakness in a worldview that does not recognize the ways in which certain forms of increased individual autonomy can coexist, and perhaps exist in a sort of feedback loop with an expanded state and concomitant diminution of civic associational life. And even if Wolfe doesn’t fall victim to this, I fear a culture in which others do, with marijuana serving as a kind of analgesic (or, at its worst extreme, a new religion unto itself), as the hollowing out of the vast space between individuals and the state proceeds apace, ultimately leaving us less free, or at least with more of a freedom that is fundamentally shallow. 

I might be overreacting; I am fully aware that I am a stick in the mud here. But I don’t think you have to be scared of reefer madness to worry about the trend I describe.

Health Care

AOC’s ‘Justice’ Rant Is Wrong: U.S. Spends Nearly Twice as Much on Health Care as on Defense

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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing, June 12, 2019. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has taken to Instagram live to explain why she believes the Derek Chauvin conviction was “not justice.” She started by noting that George Floyd and other black men would still be alive in a just world, and then expanded her commentary on police conduct into a broader complaint about the ills of American society.

I will leave it to others to comment on the rest of her remarks, but as somebody who has spent a fair amount of time studying health care and budget data, this one part jumped out:

Justice is a municipality and a government that does not — because it trickles down right? — that does not value military and armaments more than it values health care, and education, and housing.

The suggestion that we spend more money on the military than all sorts of other national priorities is a popular one on the Left, but it is also completely untrue. And it is egregiously wrong when it comes to health care.

As illustrated in the chart below, the federal government spent $1.45 trillion on health care programs in 2020, according to the Congressional Budget Office. That’s nearly double the $757 billion that was spent on defense. In fact, Medicare alone costs more than the entire defense budget.

It’s also worth noting that this chart understates the costs of health care spending because it does not include state expenditures on Medicaid, which added an additional $222 billion to the overall cost of the program in 2019. 

So does that mean that we’re slightly closer to AOC’s ideal form of “justice?”

 

George Floyd
George Floyd and the Future of America — A New Birth of Civil Rights

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A conversation  I had with Gloria Purvis and Louis Brown this past summer for the National Review Institute and the Sheen Center for Thought & Culture:

Law & the Courts

Time Was Never On Derek Chauvin’s Side

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(Screenshot via Twitter)

Every jury trial operates on two levels: There is the serious question of what the verdict should be on the granular details of the evidence — not just who wins, but how much they get of what they are asking — and the broader risk of the jury doing something bizarre or unpredictable. In the Derek Chauvin trial, the serious question was whether Chauvin was properly guilty of manslaughter, or of second-degree murder. Not having followed the evidence at trial in minute detail, I was never going to second-guess the jury on that question. The good news is that the jury did not deadlock, and did not go off and do something wild.

Here’s the important point: Juries are often hesitant, and rightly so, to second-guess cops when they make split-second life-and-death decisions. Those decisions may prove wrong, and on occasion they are justly punished as unreasonable, but cops tend to get the benefit of the doubt because most people understand that they need to assess threats to themselves and others in an instant, and it is all too easy to sit in judgment of that at leisure with plenty of time to review the situation, without adrenaline pumping and fear vivid. That can even work in the favor of cops in a case such as the Rodney King beating, an obvious overreaction but one that followed a lengthy high-speed chase that put the cops in genuine fear of death for themselves and others.

None of that was on the table for Chauvin’s defense. George Floyd died slowly, as Chauvin kneeled on him for eight minutes. No jury on earth was especially likely to see this as a reflex reaction in the heat of a moment. The cops had the right and responsibility to use some force to restrain and subdue Floyd, and maybe his death was due in part to other factors besides force. But the extended time involved in this case always made it likely that any reasonable jury would convict Chauvin of some crime bearing responsibility for the death of a man who did not deserve to die.

Education

Howard University Ends Its Classics Department

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Cornel West and Jeremy Tate call it “a spiritual catastrophe” in this powerful op-ed.

Culture

Fourteen Things That Caught My Eye Today: Continued Nursing Home Isolation, Margaret Sanger, and Rootedness

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1. Such cruelty: Vaccinated and Still Isolated: The Ethics of Overprotecting Nursing Home Residents

Consider an 85-year-old nursing home resident with dementia who is fully vaccinated and asymptomatic, but is required to isolate in her room after an asymptomatic staff member tests positive. With current restrictions in place, even having been vaccinated against Covid, she is not allowed to visit a neighbor or participate in a music program with other nursing homes residents. The social isolation and the disruption of her routine is traumatic, causing increased anxiety, despair, and worsening confusion. She stops eating and drinking, facing a risk of dehydration and serious illness. These are preventable harms caused not by Covid-19, but by the regulatory response to it.

If this same woman were able to live at home, she would have few limitations after vaccination. She would be able to visit with a neighbor, perhaps go to the lobby of her building and enjoy music or conversation, and indeed see, touch, and hug her vaccinated family members. For fully-vaccinated people living in the community, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers guidance for safe visitation and socialization with others. This is in stark contrast to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services guidance for fully-vaccinated people living in nursing homes The significant disparity in guidance for these two populations is problematic and unjust.

2. Young Woman Dies After Getting Legal Abortion in Argentina

María del Valle González López was a 23-year-old student in the town of La Paz in Mendoza Province, Argentina. According to the Argentine newspaper Clarín, the young woman went on April 7, to the Arturo Illia hospital in La Paz for an abortion.

“There she was prescribed a medication — presumably misoprostol — and on Friday she began to feel ill. She was referred to the main healthcare facility in the eastern area of Mendoza, Perrupato Hospital, where they diagnosed a general infection that may have caused her death,”  Clarín reported.

3. I don’t always agree with him, but thanks be to God for Nicholas Kristof. He does some real good others cannot. People who oppose porn should pray for him and thank him. 

Nicholas Kristof: Why Do Corporations Profit From Rape Videos?

Heather Legarde, a young woman in Alberta, felt the world crashing down on her last August. She had discovered that her ex-husband had posted intimate videos of her online, she told me, and people around the world were gazing at her naked body.

“I’m all over the internet,” she told me sadly. “Not what I wanted to be famous for.”

. . .

Some 200,000 people had watched her being assaulted while she was drugged and unconscious. So on that day in August, mortified and dizzied by her discovery of the betrayal, Legarde prepared to tie a noose.

4. Newsweek: Gynecologist Exiled From China Says 80 Sterilizations Per Day Forced on Uyghurs

“A lot of women were put on the back of a truck and sent to the hospital,” Gülgine said. “The [sterilization] procedure took about five minutes each, but the women were crying because they did not know what was happening to them.”

5. The Wall Street Journal: Islamic State Seeks Revival in Christian Countries

After its dreams of imposing draconian Islamist law in a self-declared state in Syria were crushed, Islamic State successfully injected itself into localized conflicts in Nigeria, Libya and across the Sahel, the semiarid belt running east-west along the southern edge of the Sahara. Those initial forays, as in Syria and Iraq, were launched in largely Muslim territories.

Now it is starting to target Christian-dominated countries, grafting onto Islamist terrorist groups that have emerged among disenfranchised Muslim minorities. No longer vowing to seize and hold territory, Islamic State instead has embraced guerrilla tactics, co-opting local leadership and dramatically improving training, tactics and propaganda—and giving the impression it can strike at Western interests in unexpected places.

6. Crux: Majority of world’s population live in countries that violate religious freedom, report says

The 2021 Religious Freedom Report by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) found that around 5.2 billion people live in countries where there are grave violations to religious freedom, including three of the world’s most populous countries: China, India and Pakistan. In most of these countries, religious minorities are the most targeted, and in recent years, the faith-based persecution by authoritarian governments has intensified.

The report also highlights and denounces the increase of sexual violence used as a weapon against religious minorities – crimes against women and girls who are abducted, raped and forced to convert to another religion.

7. Clyde Prestowitz: Is Your iPhone worth China’s tyranny?

Cook and his Apple loudly tout liberal values and minority rights in the West. But when it comes to China’s imprisonment of a million Uighurs in concentration camps, the repression of Tibet, the killing of Hong Kong’s free society and the stifling of international probes into the origins of the novel coronavirus, Cook’s Apple keeps curiously mum.

The silence is damning. And it mirrors the corrupt bargain the West has struck with the Chinese Communist Party, which is open about its hostility to our values. 

8. As Jimmy Lai Is Sentenced to 14 Months in Prison, Hong Kong Catholics’ Concern Grows

He was sentenced to 15 months in prison for the first demonstration, reduced by three months in mitigation, and an eight-month sentence for the second, of which he will be required to serve two months. 

But he also faces two additional charges which could prolong his time in jail. Prosecutors said Friday these involve conspiracy to collude with foreign forces and conspiracy to obstruct the course of justice, according to Reuters

. . .

Simon told the Register April 16 that the suspended sentences “essentially take these major public figures out of circulation, so what you’ve got are political charges, a political trial and political sentences.” 

The Catholic human rights advocate Lord David Alton, who knows Lai, Lee and Ng personally, called them “remarkable and courageous people – lifelong advocates for human rights, democracy, an independent judiciary and the rule of law.

9. Pro-life advocates: Planned Parenthood can’t just wish away Margaret Sanger’s racism, eugenics

Angela Franks, author of “Margaret Sanger’s Eugenic Legacy: The Control of Female Fertility,” told CNA in an interview that Planned Parenthood “is trying to have it both ways,” by appeasing to progressive activists without “getting to the heart of the problem with Sanger.”

“In some ways it’s a cheap attempt to repurpose the organization within the progressive lobby,” Franks said.

Black pro-life activist and former NFL player Benjamin Watson also said that Planned Parenthood’s action “rings hollow” unless the organization takes the “next step.”

“Whether they personally identify with Sanger’s ideology or not, they continue to carry out her mission, by serving as the leading executioner of our children,” Watson said in a written statement on Sunday. 

10. 

11. 

12. Cornel West and Jeremy Tate: Howard University’s removal of classics is a spiritual catastrophe

Sadly, in our culture’s conception, the crimes of the West have become so central that it’s hard to keep track of the best of the West. We must be vigilant and draw the distinction between Western civilization and philosophy on the one hand, and Western crimes on the other. The crimes spring from certain philosophies and certain aspects of the civilization, not all of them.

The Western canon is, more than anything, a conversation among great thinkers over generations that grows richer the more we add our own voices and the excellence of voices from Africa, Asia, Latin America and everywhere else in the world. We should never cancel voices in this conversation, whether that voice is Homer or students at Howard University. For this is no ordinary discussion.

13. Charles C. Camosy, Gracy Olmstead: Is ‘rootedness’ an answer to the throwaway society?

14. Mom creates ‘The Down Syndrome Diary’ to help struggling parents

Freeman says the moment Benny was born, she fell in love, and six months later, while looking at her baby, an idea came to her. 

“What if me now, as Benny’s mom at six months could’ve sat in a room and held Jamie’s hand at 16 weeks pregnant and told her all the wonderful things that were going to come because of this diagnosis,” said Freeman. 

Richard Nixon, Charles Manson, and Why Presidents Shouldn’t Comment on Ongoing Trials

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Charles Manson talks during an interview, August 25, 1989. (Calvin Hom CP/Reuters)

“Innocent until proven guilty” is the central tenet of the American criminal justice system. Public opinion is a different matter. While judges and juries must grant the accused the presumption of innocence until proven in a court of law, ordinary citizens are free to conclude, and declare,  “that guy’s guilty as sin.” A lot of people believe O.J. Simpson committed two murders, even though a court found him not guilty. (Other figures who were acquitted in court but who remained infamous include Lizzie Borden, Fatty Arbuckle, and Casey Anthony.)

If Joe Biden was just a retired vice president, his declaration that

Energy & Environment

The New and Improved Green New Deal Is Still Insane

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Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) and Senator Ed Markey (D., Mass.) hold a news conference for their proposed Green New Deal in Washington, D.C., February 7, 2019. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Senator Ed Markey and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez “formally” reintroduced the Green New Deal today. The first iteration of the plan, lest anyone forget, proposed the elimination of all fossil-fuel energy production; the end of all nuclear power; the phase-out of all “combustion-engine vehicles” — so trucks, airplanes, boats, and 99 percent of cars; the “retrofitting” of every home, factory, and apartment building in the country; the construction of “high speed rail at a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary;” the guarantee of a government a job; a “family-sustaining” wage with free college, state-provided “healthy food,” and “safe, affordable, adequate housing” for everyone; the banning of meat; and “economic security” for all who are “unable or unwilling” to work, among other socialist grab-bag items.

All in the next decade.

The plan was met with so much derision that Ocasio-Cortez claimed her office had accidentally released a working draft to the public – and most of the media went along with the charade. Of course, even if one concedes this fiction, it is worth noting that these are the kinds of insane policies being batted around by progressives.

When the second iteration was released — and embraced by every Democratic Party presidential candidate (including Joe Biden) — then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell put the Democrats’ resolution for a vote. Or, as the Associated Press framed it: “McConnell wields Green New Deal as bludgeon against Dems.” Here was a chance for Democrats to vote for nothing but affirmation of intent regarding their plan to save the world. Yet, Markey would not support his own resolution.

Now, we’re on the third iteration, which seems to be piecemeal  version of the old plan. What is the Green New Deal now? Everything, still. Infrastructure. Transit. Food. “The trampling of indigenous rights is a cause of climate change,” Ocasio-Cortez explained. “The trampling of racial justice is a cause of climate change.” The congresswoman says her plan will create “20 million union jobs in the United States of America.” You don’t want to be in a union? Too bad, I guess.

Americans use around 20 million barrels of petroleum every day. How many bazillions will the Green New Deal cost to replace that energy? We don’t know. But thanks to Politico, we do know that “Republicans pounced on the resolution’s reemergence.” (At this point, reporters who use the “pounce” formulation have to be doing it on purpose.) Progressives are merely “leaning into the framework to swiftly transition off fossil fuels” while the legislation has “become a prominent foil for conservatives.”

Well, yeah. The legislation to eliminate affordable fossil-fuel energy using authoritarian means has 103 House cosponsors. Foil away.

Education

A Berkeley Professor Pushes Back against BLM — Anonymously, of Course

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Saying what you actually believe can be a career-ending mistake in the academic world these days, what with legions of “social-justice” advocates out there eager to eliminate dissenters.

Here is an anonymous letter from a UC Berkeley professor, someone of color, who objects to the BLM agenda and its tactics. It was written last June.

I’ll quote just two paragraphs:

In the extended links and resources you provided, I could not find a single instance of substantial counter-argument or alternative narrative to explain the under-representation of black individuals in academia or their over-representation in the criminal justice system. The explanation provided in your documentation, to the near exclusion of all others, is univariate: the problems of the black community are caused by whites, or, when whites are not physically present, by the infiltration of white supremacy and white systemic racism into American brains, souls, and institutions.

Many cogent objections to this thesis have been raised by sober voices, including from within the black community itself, such as Thomas Sowell and Wilfred Reilly. These people are not racists or ‘Uncle Toms’. They are intelligent scholars who reject a narrative that strips black people of agency and systematically externalizes the problems of the black community onto outsiders. Their view is entirely absent from the departmental and UCB-wide communiques.

Read the whole thing — while you can — and weep for what has become of American education.

Hat tip: Glynn Custred.

White House

Evidently, Jen Psaki’s Job Is to Pretend Joe Biden Didn’t Say What Everybody Heard Him Say

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White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki holds a briefing in Washington, D.C., April 7, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

On Tuesday, as the jury deliberates in the Derek Chauvin trial, President Biden became the latest prominent Democrat to weigh in. He told reporters “I’m praying the verdict is the right verdict. The evidence is overwhelming in my view.”

Yet in a press briefing shortly thereafter, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, “I don’t think he would see it as weighing in on the verdict.”

Huh? How is saying he is praying for “the right verdict” and offering that the “evidence is overwhelming” not an example of weighing in on the verdict?

This has become a regular feature of press briefings, in which Psaki has to constantly pretend that Biden didn’t say what we all clearly heard him say.

This happened just yesterday on immigration.

Over the weekend, Biden described the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border as a “crisis.”

He said regarding the plan for refugees, “We’re gonna increase the number. The problem was that the refugee part was working on the crisis that ended up on the border with young people and we couldn’t do two things at once. And now we’re going to increase the numbers.”

Yet on Monday, Psaki told reporters, “The president does not feel that children coming to our border seeking refuge from violence, economic hardships and other dire circumstances is a crisis.”

She claimed, “He does feel that the crisis in Central America, the dire circumstances that many are fleeing from – that that is a situation we need to spend our time on, our effort on.”

Yet Biden clearly referred to “the crisis that ended up on the border” — not the crisis in Central America.

This is a pathetic attempt to rewrite history in real time, with everything on tape.