U.S.

Contradictory Conclusions and Assessments

Loading...
Healthcare workers walk through the Texas Medical Center during a shift change as cases of the coronavirus spike in Houston, Texas, U.S., July 8, 2020. (Callaghan O'Hare/Reuters)

On the menu today: The late comedian George Carlin used to joke: “Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?” There’s probably a perspective at work in how people respond to the ongoing pandemic — you most likely know someone who seems to be paranoid and overreacting, and you probably also know someone who seems to be taking unwise risks. Why do some people become Karens and some people become lackadaisical? Also, a pollster with a record of being on one end of the range of results suddenly offers a surprising result.

If Someone You Know Seems Too Fearful of the Coronavirus, Here’s Why . . .

The Onion’s first post-9/11 edition offered the hilarious and painfully plausible story: “In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, the Cedar Rapids Public Library is undertaking steps to tighten security, library officials announced Monday. ‘As caretakers of the most prominent public building in the second largest city in Iowa, this library can no longer afford to take chances,’ library director Glenda Quarles said.”

After 9/11, we knew al-Qaeda wanted to strike again, but we didn’t know where, and a lot of people could talk themselves into believing that their particular community was a likely target. The good news was that al-Qaeda and like-minded Islamists were not everywhere and were not likely to strike anyone at any time. After a while, people realized that a terror group that seemed particularly focused on passenger airliners and landmarks was not necessarily a major threat to their small town or suburb. Over time, as ISIS replaced al-Qaeda, we saw the threat could strike in unexpected places — the Boston Marathon, the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, or behind the walls of Fort Hood, Texas. And sometimes the terrorists would strike more or less where someone would predict — the El Al counter at Los Angeles International Airport, or Times Square in Manhattan.

By comparison, the coronavirus is seemingly everywhere — more than 61,000 new cases yesterday in the United States with about 1.6 million active cases. The state with the fewest active cases right now is Vermont with 151. New York still has more than 252,000.

With a threat such as al-Qaeda or ISIS, those of us outside of the military, police, or intelligence agencies were unlikely to make much of a difference in the outcome with our decisions and actions, other than following the recommendation, “If you see something, say something.” We had to trust that good people with important duties were doing the best they could, and we had to go on with our lives . . . “otherwise the terrorists win.”

Most human beings try to live life as safely as they can, or at least within the boundaries of their own personal definition of “safe.” If an alley seems dark, they may not walk through it alone at night. If someone they know seems dangerous, they avoid them. If a neighborhood’s crime rate increases, they may move out. Their own definition of “safe” may not be perfectly accurate; they may ignore the risks of smoking, drinking, or eating excessively, etc. But most of us are used to living in a world with clear rules about what is safe and not safe: “Leaves of three, let it be.” Wear a seat belt. Don’t let kids play with matches. Communism has failed every time it has been tried.

The coronavirus is a new danger, and it’s refusing to adhere to hard-and-fast rules. It’s most dangerous to the elderly, except we’ve seen at least three 107-year-old women catch it and recover. It’s not supposed to be that dangerous to children, but we keep hearing stories here and there about teenagers succumbing to the virus.

A 41-year-old Broadway star, with no known preexisting conditions, died after battling the virus for three months. A 27-year-old nursing tech with Type 2 diabetes caught it, was emergency intubated, then put in a medically inducted coma . . . and somehow managed to pull through and is recovering.

One study published on the National Institutes of Health website concludes, “A trial we conducted in Vietnam of 2-layered cotton cloth masks compared to medical masks showed a lower rate of infection in the medical mask group, and a 13 times higher risk of infection in the cloth mask arm,” suggesting that cloth masks may be much less effective than people think. But a Stanford medical researcher involved with shaping the World Health Organization guidelines states, “if constructed properly with high-quality materials, a homemade cloth mask can function as well as or better than a surgical mask.

Public-transportation officials and advocates insist that the threat of catching the virus on subways and buses was always overstated. New York City subway workers begged to differ, pointing to their own high rates of infection.

A study from the team at Henry Ford Health System in southeast Michigan declared that patients given hydroxychloroquine were “much less likely to die.” But the National Institutes of Health halted a trial after concluding “while there was no harm, the study drug was very unlikely to be beneficial to hospitalized patients with COVID-19.

As mentioned yesterday, herd immunity for a virus sometimes requires 90-some percent of the population to develop immunity — but some mathematicians now calculate we could reach an effective herd immunity with as little as 43 percent.

Politicians assure us they’re making their decisions based on “SCIENCE” — whenever California governor Gavin Newsom insists upon using all capital letters like that, I like to think he’s quoting Magnus Pike’s appearance in Thomas Dolby’s “She Blinded Me with Science” music video — but what does that mean when scientists are making such contradictory statements?

There are a lot of contradictory conclusions and assessments out there. Some of it stems from good-faith disagreements from smart people looking at the evidence they can gather and coming to different conclusions. Some of it stems from people who had a preexisting opinion — “Public transportation is good”;“My party’s governors are good, the other party’s governors are bad”; “Unelected public-health officials are apolitical wise men/part of the deep state, power-hungry and untrustworthy”; “Everything the president says must be wrong/must be right”— and who are hell-bent on shoehorning the evidence into a narrative that fits that preexisting worldview.

Right now, half a year into this pandemic, there are still a lot of things we don’t know. And as H. P. Lovecraft wrote, “The oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”

The “Karens” of the world can drive me bonkers, and whether they want to admit it or not, they get a not-so-secret thrill from calling out someone for violating their sense of “the right thing” and a frisson of joy from publicly showcasing their moral superiority. But I also know that in the minds of the Karens, they are certain that they are helping those whom they publicly confront and criticize. They call out others because they care (in a particularly annoying way); they believe they are saving lives.

This is one of the rare times when actions you take can have big consequences for the people around you — maybe even life-and-death consequences.

Why Someone You Know Seems Insufficiently Fearful of the Coronavirus

As far as crises go, the coronavirus pandemic is an odd one. For a couple of months, most people perceived it as being far away in China and not that much of a problem, and then all in one night, the president cut off travel from Europe, the NBA season was canceled, and Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson contracted it.

Just about every crisis in American life — 1929 stock market crash, the Cuban missile crisis, 9/11 — began with some sort of distinct and memorable visual that instantly communicated the danger and the stakes of the situation. When you see planes crashing into skyscrapers and giant towers crumbling to the ground, witnessing the deaths of thousands of people, you instantly understand the extraordinary consequences of responding to this problem the wrong way.

With the coronavirus, we don’t see much of the danger. The virus itself is microscopic and invisible to the naked eye. Those who pass away are doing so far from television cameras, in hospitals, nursing homes, and long-term care facilities. Even hospitals nearing capacity don’t have frantic scenes outside their doors, such as those immediately following a natural disaster.

By comparison, we can see the effects of the shutdowns — closed businesses, empty theaters and ballparks, fewer cars on the roads, bills piling up for those out of work, long lines of cars waiting at food banks. Is it any wonder that some people see the shutdowns as a bigger threat than the virus? They can see and feel the effects of the shutdowns, while government officials and most of our chattering class on our televisions have their own form of immunity from that particular condition.

We’re visual creatures; some studies indicate that 90 percent of the information processed by the brain is visual. If we could accurately assess the danger of things we cannot see, we would have done something about the national debt a long time ago — not to mention our cholesterol. If SARS-CoV-2 was a baseball-sized green sphere with red spikes floating through the air, people would run away from it.

A few paragraphs ago, I laid out all of the contradictions in information about the virus from well-informed, bright scientists. This is a moment where we, as ordinary citizens not working in a scientific field, need to understand science — and the scientists themselves are having a hard time coming to hard-and-fast conclusions about the virus, what works, and what is risky. I suspect a lot of Americans hear the contradictions, conclude no one knows anything, and start tuning it all out.

(The average American is probably not quite as bad at science as the cynics believe. For many of us, our high-school and college science classes are a drag, dissecting frogs and memorizing the Periodic Table, and full of stuff we think we’re never going to need to know or use. Maybe we remember that force equals mass times acceleration from physics class, or the baking-soda-and-vinegar volcano projects. Maybe we need to throw some virology into the curriculum and see if kids pay more attention.)

I mentioned up above that after 9/11, most of us had to trust that good people with important duties were doing the best they could, and we had to go on with our lives . . . “otherwise the terrorists win.” I suspect quite a few people want to apply this approach to the virus — there’s so much they can’t control, that the best course of action is to try to go about their lives. In their minds, trying to go about their lives as they were before the pandemic is an act of defiance, an attitude that has been baked into the cake of this country’s character since the beginning. You don’t have to agree with this perspective to understand it.

ADDENDUM: You think Rasmussen Reports is part of the vast effort by pollsters to overstate Joe Biden’s lead nationally? They had Biden up ten points, 50 percent to 40 percent. Rasmussen is the pollster that usually has the friendliest numbers for Trump. (Note that Scott Rasmussen is no longer affiliated with the organization that bears his surname.)

U.S.

How to Handle School Reopenings

Loading...
An empty classroom at Kent Middle School in Kentfield, Calif., on April 1 (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

What you need to know today: the thorny issues that have to be worked out to open the doors of America’s schools this autumn, checking in on the efforts to develop a coronavirus vaccine, and an exasperated cry for clarity.

If We Want to Reopen School Doors in the Fall, We Have to Do a Lot of Homework

Before we dive into the debate about whether schools should open their doors to in-person schooling this autumn, we need to agree on certain premises:

  • The continued absence of in-person schooling is having bad effects — and in some cases, really bad effects — on our children and must end as soon as possible.
  • The danger of the coronavirus to children is less than the danger to adults, but that does not mean there is no danger; a small percentage of children develop multisystem inflammatory syndrome. Most have recovered, but not all.
  • Children can carry the virus and unknowingly spread it to any adults they encounter; schools employ quite a few adults — teachers, principals, administrative staff, janitors — some of whom are in high-risk categories.

In-person schooling during a pandemic, with a virus that appears to have mutated and become more contagious, is going to be tricky. But it is not impossible. Indeed, other countries have managed to do it:

By early June, more than 20 countries had done just that. (Some others, including Taiwan, Nicaragua, and Sweden, never closed their schools.) It was a vast, uncontrolled experiment.

Some schools imposed strict limits on contact between children, while others let them play freely. Some required masks, while others made them optional. Some closed temporarily if just one student was diagnosed with COVID-19; others stayed open even when multiple children or staff were affected, sending only ill people and direct contacts into quarantine.

When Science looked at reopening strategies from South Africa to Finland to Israel, some encouraging patterns emerged. Together, they suggest a combination of keeping student groups small and requiring masks and some social distancing helps keep schools and communities safe, and that younger children rarely spread the virus to one another or bring it home.

“Outbreaks in schools are inevitable,” says Otto Helve, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare. “But there is good news.” So far, with some changes to schools’ daily routines, he says, the benefits of attending school seem to outweigh the risks — at least where community infection rates are low and officials are standing by to identify and isolate cases and close contacts.

The tools in the toolbox are clear. Masks. Frequent handwashing and use of hand sanitizer. Canceling any assemblies or gatherings in large groups. Regular disinfecting of classrooms and common areas. Hold some classes outdoors where possible. Some schools may want to divide the student body into groups and send them to school on alternating days, reducing any potential exposure.

Yesterday the sharp PoliMath wrote a much-needed column laying out that pandemic decisions inevitably involve cost–benefit analysis — “as we open our way back out, we start by picking options that slowly increase the risk while still maximizing the value.” He notes that one of the reason our arguments about the restrictions get so heated is that different people value different activities. Segments of society who see, say, the George Floyd protests as high-value and thus worth the risk of further spread may not feel the same about church services, and vice versa. “If we find something valuable (such as worship or protesting) then we are incentivized to downplay the risks so that our activity is easier to justify. But others can see us downplaying that risk and they feel this is unfair to their preferred high-value activity.”

(Someone should have held an open-air church service to pray for justice and racial reconciliation after Floyd’s death, and watched every partisan freeze in indecision, trying to figure out whether they should denounce the gathering as reckless or not. Had the Orthodox Jews of Brooklyn held a large gathering in public outdoors in honor of Floyd, we would see sparks coming from the twitching head of New York City mayor Bill de Blasio as his brain short-circuited trying to work out the conflicting impulses.)

Hopefully we all agree that sending kids to school is extremely high in value. The distance-learning programs that were put together on the fly this past spring were . . . well, failures. Many school administrators, teachers, parents, and kids tried their best, but a lot of adults have a hard time paying attention and absorbing information through hours and hours of Zoom and Skype meetings, so it’s unreasonable to expect kids to be able to do that. Not educating our children from mid-March to May or June of this year was bad, but survivable. Trying to continue this jury-rigged substandard online substitute into 2021 will be a catastrophe.

And this is ignoring the fact that until kids are in schools, parents can’t really work at their jobs. (Joe Biden has to tread carefully here. The Democratic nominee may believe that because Trump is now vocally pushing for schools to reopen, he should paint Trump as unrealistic and reckless, and stand with wary teacher’s unions and advocate keeping schools closed until there’s a vaccine. He would be calling for a course of action many parents would find unacceptable.)

We may conclude that educating our children is so valuable that it requires us to accept risks that were unacceptable back in the spring. Right now, advocates of reopening have some really compelling points — is reopening a school more or less dangerous than keeping a supermarket or pharmacy open? Working in an Amazon warehouse? A meatpacking plant?

The president of my local teacher’s union thinks there should not be in-person schooling until there’s a vaccine.

Let’s check in on that vaccine development, shall we?

The Vaccine Progress Is Good, but That Doesn’t Mean the Wait Isn’t Considerable

The news that the federal government has paid nearly $4 billion to six companies working on vaccines might lead some to believe that a vaccine is imminent. The short answer is: We don’t know. Best-case scenario, vaccines that work start rolling off the assembly line this fall — but we’re more likely to see them later, and it’s still going to take a while to produce enough doses for everyone in the country who needs one. And we have no guarantee of the best-case scenario.

At the most basic level, all vaccine efforts operate on the same principle: introducing something into the body that is either a much-weakened version of the pathogen or biologically similar enough to the pathogen to spur the body to start making antibodies to fight off the invader — so that when the body encounters the real thing, the white blood cells fight like the Americans in the Battle of the Bulge instead of the Americans at Pearl Harbor.

Because the stakes of the ongoing battle against SARS-CoV-2 are so high, the current effort to produce a vaccine is working a little differently. The U.S. is paying companies such as Novavax to “begin manufacturing the vaccines before the company concludes late-stage clinical trials, expected by the end of the year.” At first glance, it might seem a bit crazy to start mass-producing a vaccine before anyone knows if it works. But if the vaccine does work, then the company and the country will have a lot of doses ready to go. The Times reports that under the new contract, Novavax “would ensure that 100 million doses — enough for 50 million people to receive an initial shot and a booster — are delivered by the first quarter of 2021.”

Those of you who can do math can figure out that’s about 15 percent of the country by next March.

On the other side of the world, at the end of June, the Chinese government announced their military academy teamed up with CanSino Biologics to create a vaccine that works. In some alternate reality where statements of the Chinese government can be trusted, this is wonderful news. We can feel more reassured once we know this new vaccine is nothing like the ten million defective tests and personal protective equipment that China exported in the first months of the pandemic.

There are a lot of vaccine research efforts going on around the world — at least 155, ranging from preclinical to phase-three large-scale testing. A Maryland man who participated in a trial by Pfizer thinks he may be the first person to be successfully vaccinated, describing a slight reaction after his second dose, making him think he didn’t receive a placebo. If Pfizer’s works, they could have 100 million doses by the end of the year.

Those of you who can do math can figure out that’s a bit less than a third of country by January.

For some reason, some people think I’m excessively pessimistic or offering “panic porn.” It will probably not surprise you that I think those people are [EDITOR’S NOTE: LONG PROFANE ENRAGED DIATRIBE REMOVED] incorrect. With this many bright minds around the world working on a vaccine, I think the odds are good that we get a vaccine and that it probably gets discovered, manufactured, and distributed to the public, both in the United States and around the world, in record time. (Keep in mind, the record is four years.)

Any approach to anything in American life that says “wait until there’s a vaccine” is declaring that activity to be canceled until probably, at the earliest, the middle of 2021 — maybe the end of 2021. (And this is separate from the question of the 27 percent or so of Americans who say they’re not sure they’re willing to get vaccinated.)

Are teachers’ unions really comfortable with a call for online-only learning well into next year?

ADDENDUM: Sometimes exasperation is the trigger for great clarity, as Frederick deBoer calls for, if nothing else, a more honest debate:

Think for a minute and consider: what does it say when a completely generic endorsement of free speech and open debate is in and of itself immediately diagnosed as anti-progressive, as anti-left? There is literally no specific instance discussed in that open letter, no real-world incident about which there might be specific and tangible controversy. So how can someone object to an endorsement of free speech and open debate without being opposed to those things in and of themselves? You can’t. And people are objecting to it because social justice politics are plainly opposed to free speech. That is the most obvious political fact imaginable today. Of course Yelling Woke Twitter hates free speech! Of course social justice liberals would prevent expression they disagree with if they could! How could any honest person observe our political discourse for any length of time and come to any other conclusion?

Can we just proceed by acknowledging what literally everyone quietly knows, which is that the dominant majority of progressive people simply don’t believe in the value of free speech anymore? Please. Let’s grow up and speak plainly, please. Let’s just grow up.

U.S.

Bad News about the Virus

Loading...
A pedestrian wearing a mask walks down the sidewalk in New York, N.Y., July 1, 2020. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

On the menu today: an important update about indications that the coronavirus is now more contagious than it used to be, with far-reaching ramifications for how we fight this pandemic; a point on the recent complaints about the Paycheck Protection Program; and a new book for everyone closely following the debate about immigration, legal and illegal.

Bad News, People: The Mutated Version of the Virus Is More Contagious

This study in the medical journal Cell offers a conclusion that would explain a lot about the recent surge in cases in the southern and western United States.

A SARS-CoV-2 variant carrying the Spike protein amino acid change D614G has become the most prevalent form in the global pandemic. Dynamic tracking of variant frequencies revealed a recurrent pattern of G614 increase at multiple geographic levels: national, regional and municipal. The shift occurred even in local epidemics where the original D614 form was well established prior to the introduction of the G614 variant. The consistency of this pattern was highly statistically significant, suggesting that the G614 variant may have a fitness advantage… In infected individuals G614 is associated with lower RT-PCR cycle thresholds, suggestive of higher upper respiratory tract viral loads, although not with increased disease severity. 

The short version of this is that SARS-CoV-2 has mutated to become more contagious, but thankfully not deadlier. That said . . . it’s deadly and menacing enough as is.

Did I say more contagious? How about, “ten times more contagious”?

The spike protein for SARS-CoV-2 has two parts that don’t always hold together well. In the version of the virus that arose in China, Choe said, the outer part — which the virus needs to attach to a human receptor — frequently broke off. Equipped with this faulty lock pick, the virus had a harder time invading host cells.

“I think this mutation happened to compensate,” Choe said.

Studying both versions of the gene using a proxy virus in a petri dish of human cells, Choe and her colleagues found that viruses with the G variant had more spike proteins, and the outer parts of those proteins were less likely to break off. This made the virus approximately 10 times more infectious in the lab experiment.

From the beginning, the Chinese government has offered statistics that depicted the virus virtually disappearing in that country at the beginning of March. There are a lot of reasons to doubt the veracity of the numbers coming from Beijing, but if the original virus was at one level of contagiousness, and the virus mutated to become way more contagious after it had spread to other countries . . . maybe China did have a much easier time getting it under control in the spring. Their challenge was akin trying to tackle the average NFL running back, and our challenge is akin to trying to contain Bo Jackson in Tecmo Bowl.

Or maybe China is destined to get a taste of this new more contagious version. According to a new study on the CDC’s website, in mid-March a woman returned to China’s Heilongjiang Province from the United States. Note that according to China’s official statistics, by this point the outbreak was largely under control in that country. The woman used her apartment building’s elevator . . . and spread the virus to other building residents, even though they never encountered each other in person. Within a month, this cluster of new cases in China had grown to 71 people.

Studies of populations in Italy and Louisiana pointed to significant numbers of people who were asymptomatic and infectious. We’ve got a lot of people walking around who have it, don’t know it, and who are shedding viruses. Hopefully most of these people are wearing masks, but we can be certain some aren’t.

In fact, if the virus floats in the air indoors for hours, as growing numbers of medical researchers contend, we are up a certain creek without a paddle. There are just so many indoor locations where people gather — supermarkets, pharmacies, nursing homes, lobbies of apartment buildings, hospitals, essential industry factories, meatpacking plants, and any other business with open doors. Some museums have reopened. And as the weather cools, people will spend more time indoors.

If the virus spreads easier indoors, we would want to get people outside as much as possible, where wind and air currents will disperse the virus and make infection less likely. Naturally, Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot is keeping Chicago’s pools and shoreline closed during a heatwave. Los Angeles County kept the beaches closed for Fourth of July weekend, as did several beaches in the San Francisco Bay area. Centennial Park in Atlanta is closed. At some point soon, these mayors will lament, “We’ve kept everyone indoors. Why is the virus still spreading?”

Yes, the daily death count in the United States is down, from more than a thousand a day to “only” a couple hundred per day, which is very good news. But this virus can hurt you in serious ways, even if it doesn’t kill you. It is not hard to find not-so-old patients who say they experienced lasting effects of fatigue and reduced lung capacity, recurring headaches and dizziness, and other lingering problems and symptoms. Because it’s a new virus, we don’t know what the long-term effects of it are.

Sure, some people will catch the virus, be asymptomatic, and suffer no ill effects or extremely minor ones. Some people make full recoveries, even with conditions such as asthma and high blood pressure. No one is sure why some people’s systems beat the virus and return to normal and others have lasting problems; my guess is it has something to do with genetics. A good example of the oddities around this virus is that “people with Type A blood were 45 percent more likely to develop severe COVID-19 requiring oxygen supplementation or a ventilator than people with other blood types, and those with Type O blood were 35 percent less likely.”

But because you can’t tell whether your immune system will kick the virus’s butt or the fight will go the other way, you should probably try to avoid catching it. The world is better with you in it, and with full lung capacity.

This leads us to a really difficult question: How do we keep society and the economy reopened — never mind reopening it further with schools or athletic events — with a virus that is really contagious? The current version of SARS-CoV-2 floating around may be so contagious that contact tracing may not work anymore; the virus spreads quicker than the contacts can be identified and warned.

Meanwhile, our elected leaders continue to point fingers and insist the severity of the pandemic is the fault of the opposing party. This is like fighting over who’s to blame for Pearl Harbor when we’re losing the Battle of Kasserine Pass. Guys, the fight is still going on, does anybody want to focus on the here and now?

I Thought the Point Was to Get as Much Money out into the Economy as Quickly as Possible

A point about all of these companies that received loans from the Treasury Department’s Paycheck Protection Program, such as the studio of sculptor Jeff Koons; 583 financial firms; Kanye West’s clothing-and-sneaker brand Yeezy; the Americans for Tax Reform Foundation; 30 Girl Scout chapters across the country; West Virginia governor Jim Justice’s family companies; restaurant chains such as TGI Fridays and P. F. Chang’s China Bistro; St. Elmo’s Steak House in Indianapolis; Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, the law firm headed by antitrust litigator David Boies; Newsmax Media Inc., the media company run by Trump donor Christopher Ruddy; and others . . .

  • They all employ people, don’t they?
  • They couldn’t operate normally during the pandemic lockdowns, could they?
  • All of them experienced some disruption of their normal income because of the pandemic, no?
  • They all avoided layoffs by taking the loans, didn’t they?
  • Have they paid the money back? (That information hasn’t been released by the Treasury Department yet, and objections about insufficient transparency about the use of public funds are fair.)

The objection to many seems to be, “Many of these institutions are headed by people who are famous and fabulously wealthy!” Yes, but only a handful of businesses could stay open with no customers, clients, or income for two months or more. Steakhouses, celebrity sneaker brands, financial firms, law firms — the situation for all of them is the same if no money is coming in. Those businesses may have significant assets like real estate, but they may not have major cash reserves. Steakhouses can’t pay idled waiters in beef.

The aim of this program was to minimize the damage to the economy and minimize layoffs. If it did that — and if the money is getting paid back, as promised — what’s the complaint?

ADDENDUM: Our old friend Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies calls our attention to Jerry Kammer’s new book, Losing Control: How a Left-Right Coalition Blocked Immigration Reform and Provoked the Backlash That Elected Trump. Krikorian tells me Losing Control is neither wonky or an angry screed:

It’s really more a political biography of the 1986 immigration law and how the betrayal of law’s grand bargain of amnesty in exchange for enforcement laid the groundwork for Trump,” Krikorian says, characterizing the book, published by Krikorian’s Center for Immigration Studies, as “a non-red-meat, liberal-friendly argument.

U.S.

Destruction Is Easy; Creation Is Hard

Loading...
Washington Metropolitan Police officers on bicycles arrive as protestors continue to try to pull down the statue of President Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Park in front of the White House during racial-inequality protests in Washington, D.C., June 22, 2020. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

On the menu today: Why the destruction-driven movement to topple statues is destined to fail, Senator Tammy Duckworth finds her unorthodox signature issue as a potential running mate, and some big booms on Independence Day weekend far from the United States.

Movements Driven by the Impulse to Destroy Aren’t Built to Last

We are witnessing terribly destructive forces unleashed in our country right now, but we should not despair — in large part because destructive forces cannot create things.

History is full of destructive forces than can inflict great pain and suffering, but that cannot leave any lasting legacy: the Axis Powers, the Manson Family, al-Qaeda and ISIS. Destructive forces can shape our lives, but they do so mostly in temporary ways. Once their destruction stops, they get forgotten, left on “the ash heap of history.”

Did Occupy Wall Street leave a lasting impact on American life, or, with the passage of time, does it seem more like a cringe-inducing gathering of young people play-acting as revolutionaries and just leaving a mess in Zuccotti Park? Can the Weather Underground or FALN really say they changed America for the better? Angry mobs and violent gangs can’t build anything. If they could, they would choose to be something besides angry mobs and violent gangs.

These forces driven by destruction can rarely ever invent, renew, cure, or improve the lives of others. They have difficulty distinguishing the symbolic from the real; tearing down a statue of Christopher Columbus does not erase Christopher Columbus from history. Who is going to do more to influence the way Thomas Jefferson is remembered by the rest of America? The protesters at a high school in Portland who tore down his statue, or Lin-Manuel Miranda and Daveed Diggs? What force shapes our futures more: destruction or creation?

Destructive forces can accumulate power, but that power is almost always built upon an unstable foundation. Did the Taliban ever build something that could inspire people? A destructive force like the Taliban can destroy those giant Buddha statues, but cannot create anything that will be revered and remembered the way those statues will be. (And they certainly could never develop the innovation to recreate the statues through holograms.)

The Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) in Seattle is what happens when a force that is driven by a fundamentally destructive impulse — tearing down all of existing society’s rules, including policing — tries to create something. Destruction is easy; creation is hard.

Residents who once loved the ideals of CHOP told CNN that it had turned into a “militant cult,” with brutal fistfights breaking out and no one stepping in to stop them, drunk drivers, eventually deadly shootings, and all of the other problems one might expect when one effectively puts up a beacon for those with mental-health problems to congregate and enjoy life without rules and restrictions.

The CHOP residents belatedly realized that paramedics from local hospitals couldn’t get in and respond to serious injuries. The self-appointed internal security forces, who insisted they were not cops, found themselves dealing with reports of sexual assaults and AK-style rifles and homicides — and slowly appreciated the value of a professionally trained police force to respond to problems such as these.

The CHOP crowd so adamantly rejected everything that had come before, that they effectively refused to learn from previous human experience — and found themselves flailing powerlessly in the face of predictable problems of human society. They didn’t know what they didn’t know, at least until the moment they needed to know it — and then either refused to learn or scrambled to accumulate knowledge on the fly. They insisted their vision was harmony, not anarchy — but wanting something does not make it manifest in reality.

Sometime soon, the rest of the people in Seattle will look at how their city officials responded to this and either make a change in leadership, endorse the ad-hoc embrace-then-rejection-but-refusal-to-truly-criticize approach of Mayor Jenny Durkan . . . or move out.

The overwhelming majority of elected officials in America’s biggest cities are members of the Democratic Party and subscribe to a progressive ideology. After the death of George Floyd, almost all of these officials chose to symbolically stand with the protesters and make pro forma objections to the looters and rioters. (Few mayors matched the full-throated clarity of Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.) Now the protests have mutated from a specific objection to police misconduct and racial disparity in the criminal-justice system to a general appetite for mayhem directed against statues of elks, saints, Founding Fathers, and an erratic Cultural Revolution against terms such as “master bedrooms” and old sitcom episodes. (The attack on the statue of abolitionist Frederick Douglass in Rochester, N.Y., is so spectacularly opposed to the professed message of the recent protests one has to wonder who actually chose to topple that particular statue. The statue is too damaged to be repaired.)

Big-city elected officials of all stripes, but particularly Democrats, have more or less assented to mobs tearing down statues — or removed statues themselves, against legal injunctions. Mayors acquiesced to the will of the angry mob during an ongoing pandemic that has made urban life much less appealing and escaping to the suburbs or rural areas much more appealing.

At the roulette wheel of governance, many of America’s mayors and city councils took all of their remaining chips and bet it all on green. They’re hoping their dicey response to ongoing crises hits the jackpot. We will see in the coming year whether people flock into American cities, excited and inspired and thrilled at the sight of the abdication of the streets to the protesters and statue-topplers or whether the existing residents of the city look at this chaos and say, “To hell with this, I’m moving out,” and whether cities’ employers go with them.

Conservatives have little or no ability to influence what is happening on the streets of America’s biggest cities right now. We are almost entirely outside the existing power structure of these places. Many urban Democrats will attempt to blame Republicans for their problems and insist that suburban commuters are the root cause of their troubles, or federal policies set in Washington, or any other scapegoat that comes to mind.

But the policies of Minneapolis and Los Angeles and San Francisco and Washington and New York City cannot be changed from Tarrant County in Texas or Sioux County, Iowa, or the Jacksonville suburbs. So many Democrats will desperately want to avoid confronting the hard truth that deep blue city policies have failed to satisfy blue-city constituencies.

Thus we have angry young urbanites tear down statues because that action is simple and easy compared actually changing life on the ground for the average citizen of one of America’s big cities. Baltimore’s homicide rate for 2020 is on pace to surpass last year’s record-breaking total, but those protesters sure showed that statue of Christopher Columbus who’s boss. Impassioned actions against pretend problems will be used in an attempt to distract from absolute haplessness in the face of real problems.

America’s wealthiest and most powerful corporate leaders are eager to embrace the “all of us are responsible” narrative — therefore no one is particularly responsible, certainly not the almost entirely all-white, exceptionally wealthy people on those corporate boards. America’s urban elected leaders are eager to embrace an explanation of systemic national and societal failure — because that ensure no serious focus upon the failure of particular leaders and particular policies.

Nothing significant will change until residents of America’s big cities demand better from their leaders. Those of us who live outside those cities cannot demand it for them.

Sometimes cities make a comeback. In the early 1990s, the problems of crime and disorder in the streets of New York City grew so intolerable, the city electorate became willing to do what many thought it would never do: Elect a Republican. Rudy Giuliani didn’t turn around America’s biggest city all by himself, but it probably wouldn’t have happened without him as mayor setting a completely different tone and set of priorities. Not every city was willing to change its approach. Other big American cities didn’t make changes in the face of worsening problems, and never quite got that 1990s–2000s renaissance. The rest of the country — perhaps even the surrounding region — enjoyed growing prosperity, declining crime rates, and a better quality of life, but certain cities remained mired in crime, poverty, failing schools, addiction and abuse, simmering social tensions, and a pervasive sense of societal failure.

None of these statue-toppling mobs and protests would be taking root if the locals felt like they were being well-served by government. The idea that this will lead to some sort of lasting progressive resurgence imagines that there will be an expansion of already-large government in these places, and that its new laws will somehow be enforced without institutions assigned the duties of law enforcement. Big government and strict enforcement do not easily coexist in this country. The “Broken Windows” theory of law enforcement can work when turnstile jumpers realize they need to leave firearms, knives, drugs, and other items that could get them a heavier sentence at home. When police use a deadly chokehold against a man accused of selling cigarettes on the streets without a license, it vividly demonstrates how an effort to deter crime through strict enforcement of laws cannot function alongside an expansive nanny state.

Duckworth: We Should Listen to the Arguments for Removing George Washington Statues!

The Washington Post: “As Joe Biden pushes ahead with his search for a running mate, Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) has quietly emerged as a serious contender, according to three people with knowledge of the selection process, one of several developing dynamics as the search enters its final weeks.”

Oh, you mean the anti-Mount-Rushmore running-mate option?

DANA BASH: “That may be true, but George Washington, I don’t think anybody would call him a traitor and there are moves by some to remove statues of him. Is that a good idea?”

DUCKWORTH: “I think we should listen to everybody. I think we should listen to the argument there, but remember that the president at Mount Rushmore was standing on ground that was stolen from Native Americans who had actually been given that land during a treaty.”

Not Every “Boom” You Heard This Weekend Was a Firework

Over at Iran’s main nuclear fuel enrichment site, the Israelis allegedly set off their own fireworks this weekend:

A fire at Iran’s main nuclear fuel enrichment site caused significant damage, setting back the country’s nuclear program by months, the government acknowledged on Sunday, after initially saying the destruction was minor.

A Middle Eastern intelligence official with knowledge of the episode said Israel was responsible for the attack on the Natanz nuclear complex on Thursday, using a powerful bomb. A member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps who was briefed on the matter also said an explosive was used . . .

Just since Thursday, explosions occurred at two power plants in Iran, and there was a chlorine gas leak at a chemical plant, all of which the government described as accidents. The previous week, an explosion hit a missile production facility at the Khojir military complex in eastern Tehran, which officials said was caused by a gas tank’s detonating.

You think you’ve got a tough job? Imagine working for the Iranian equivalent of the Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration. Or maybe the job is pretty easy; on every piece of paperwork, under “cause of accident” there’s only one box to check listed and it says “the Israelis.”

ADDENDUM: Above, I mentioned the clarity of Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms when the protests outside CNN center turned violent. This weekend, she demonstrated similar clarity after a shooting that killed an eight-year-old girl — pointing out that police violence is not the only violence that harms African Americans.

“We’ve had over 75 shootings in the city over the past several weeks,” Bottoms said. “You can’t blame that on APD [Atlanta Police Department].” She added, “Enough is enough. You can’t blame this on a police officer. You can’t say this is about criminal justice reform. This is about some people carrying some weapons who shot up a car with an 8-year-old baby in the car. For what?”

U.S.

A Historic — and Encouraging — Jobs Report

Loading...
People line up outside Kentucky Career Center before it opens to find assistance with their unemployment claims in Frankfort, Ky., June 18, 2020. (Bryan Woolston/Reuters)

This is the last Morning Jolt until July 6. Be safe, and enjoy Independence Day Saturday as much as you can.

On the menu today: some insanely good numbers on the jobs front, a long look at what ails this country, and how 2020 went so wrong for so many of us.

Maybe the Most Jaw-Droppingly Good Jobs Report in U.S. History

Holy smokes, this news is so off-the-charts good, at first glance people might think it is a misprint: The U.S. economy added 4.8 million jobs in the month of June, and the unemployment rate dropped from 13.3 percent to 11.1 percent. We knew that as lockdowns lifted and businesses reopened their doors, employers would bring back laid-off workers. Economists expected a little under 3 million.

Yes, we’re still far from where we were before the pandemic; a 20-million-job-loss month like we had in April is not going to be overcome quickly. And it’s possible that hiring may slow down, as more businesses temporarily shut down again in response to the recent COVID-19 resurgence, particularly in the Sun Belt states. But there’s no realistic way to look at this morning’s jobs report and express disappointment or say that it could have or should have been better.

May’s numbers were revised upward, to 2.7 million rehired. If the late, great Stuart Scott were here, he would say, this economy must be butter, because it’s on a roll.

Happy Birthday, America — We’ve Got a Lot to Accomplish before the Next One

No getting around it: The United States is in rough, rough shape as it approaches its 244th birthday.

Let’s run through what’s gone wrong, attempting to skip over the usual partisan finger-pointing that you can get almost anywhere else.

A terrible virus came along that created the kind of public-health threat the country hasn’t faced in a century. Luck, geographical distance, better planning, milder viruses, or some combination of those factors meant that the United States was either untouched or minimally touched by the first SARS, H1N1, MERS, West African Ebola, and Zika viruses. Americans have been conditioned to believe that reports of new contagious viruses in far-off lands sounded scary but would have minimal impact on their daily lives, if any impact at all.

Our country’s government, at all levels, made mistakes, because government is made up of human beings. You can point to no shortage of policy mistakes made by President Trump, or governors such as Andrew Cuomo of New York, Phil Murphy of New Jersey, Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, or New York City mayor Bill de Blasio.

Some critics of the U.S. response to the virus plausibly contend that for all of the cases and deaths we know about, there are more that are still uncounted. But that applies to all governments around the world — particularly habitually dishonest authoritarian regimes. The Chinese government would have you believe that it ranks 22nd in the world in the number of cases, and that a country of a billion people has had merely 3,000 new cases since early March. We know the situations in Russia, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Indonesia are bad. What we don’t know is just how bad.

Even countries with democratic governments and relatively reliable numbers paint a grim picture. As of this morning, the U.S. has endured 395 deaths for every 1 million citizens. France has endured 457 for every 1 million; Sweden — which many people wanted to believe had cracked the code on how to get through the crisis quickly — is at 532; Italy at 575; Spain at 607; the United Kingdom at 647; and Belgium at an astounding 842.

Some countries may have responded to this virus better than we did, but they are generally smaller, less populous, had experience with a previous serious virus, and/or have populations that are more trusting of their government and more inclined to obey strict rules and to assent to government monitoring of their movements and activities that Americans are unlikely ever to accept.

In response to this threat, America responded with unprecedented measures, mostly enacted at the state level. Starting in mid March, we more or less shut down the country other than supermarkets, pharmacies, and essential businesses. Our leaders knew that the economic consequences would be catastrophic but figured those consequences would be an acceptable trade-off for the number of lives that move would save. But it appears few of them thought through the far-reaching social consequences.

More Americans are dependent on food banks than ever before. Many hospitals and doctors delayed “elective” medical procedures, and millions of Americans put off going to the doctor. The number of drug overdoses is not merely increasing each month, but it is increasing at a higher rate each month. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently surprised some people by urging that school districts attempt to get kids back into the classroom as much as possible this fall:

The importance of in-person learning is well-documented, and there is already evidence of the negative impacts on children because of school closures in the spring of 2020. Lengthy time away from school and associated interruption of supportive services often results in social isolation, making it difficult for schools to identify and address important learning deficits as well as child and adolescent physical or sexual abuse, substance use, depression, and suicidal ideation. This, in turn, places children and adolescents at considerable risk of morbidity and, in some cases, mortality. Beyond the educational impact and social impact of school closures, there has been substantial impact on food security and physical activity for children and families.

Lockdowns had the potential to be an effective short-term strategy to slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2. But they were never sustainable — it’s somewhat remarkable that the public honored the lockdowns as long as they did — and the lockdowns were supposed to buy time for governments to work out a more sustainable policy. But a good formula for living with the virus never really emerged.

Certain governors and health-policy experts seemed to believe that public patience was inexhaustible and that unprecedented restrictions could be sufficiently enforced everywhere they were needed. They didn’t seem to understand the country they live in.

We are the country of the Texas Rangers and Wyatt Earp and Teddy Roosevelt and Eliot Ness and Frank Serpico — icons of law, order, and justice. But we are also a country literally founded by people who violently rejected the existing legal and political authority when they deemed it unjust or draconian, and those who defied the law shaped our culture and sense of self-identity as well, from the Tea Party patriots at Boston Harbor to Nat Turner to John Brown to Billy the Kid to Sitting Bull to Mae West to Cesar Chavez to Martin Luther King to Randall Terry.

That first thread of “law and order” in our culture was destined to manifest itself in the “Karens” — private citizens who appointed themselves the enforcers of these new and abnormal restrictions, convinced that they were taking up this task out of a sense of altruistic desire to protect others, but satisfying a deep-rooted itch to judge others and publicly shame them whenever possible, basking in the endorphin rush of an impromptu ceremony affirming their own moral superiority. That second thread, of rebellion, was perhaps equally destined to manifest itself in the form of rifle-carrying protesters marching into the gallery of the Michigan state Senate and yelling at the lawmakers below them.

If the economy had not been shut down in Minnesota, would George Floyd have been out of work? Would he have allegedly tried to use a counterfeit $20 bill and then been in that particular place and time where former police officer Derek Chauvin would arrest him and hold his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes?

For generations, leaders of mostly white police forces have insisted that they wanted to restore trust with the African-American community. While there are success stories here and there, by and large those efforts have failed. Too many African Americans have stories of being pulled over for no discernable reason, treated like a dangerous criminal when they had committed no crime, and seemingly routine encounters with police that keep going terribly wrong and end with a black man dead. They feel “born suspect” — and that’s on top of local public schools that offer poor education, public housing that is substandard, fewer opportunities for hiring and promotion, and the scourge of addiction ravaging their communities.

I don’t think we fully appreciate how much the still-ongoing protests are, for young people, the only game in town. Just what else is there to do in still-heavily-locked-down America? They can’t go to the movies. They can’t go to a ballgame. In most places, they can’t go to a public pool. The gyms are just starting to reopen in most places, at limited capacity. In California, many beaches are closed. Heck, even the libraries are still closed in most places. Since early spring, school has consisted of unevenly run online learning where nothing is graded and attendance is more or less optional. Summer jobs and summer programs are few and far between. How do you date when all the traditional activities are barred, and you’re supposed to stay at least six feet away from any stranger, and preferably with a mask?

In a normal summer, how much of young people’s mental energy is spent on enjoyable leisure, from the NBA to pickup games of sports to Marvel movies and other summer blockbusters? Think about how many teenagers make money in the summer working at an amusement park or the local cineplex or the snack bar at the local pool. Maybe if they’re lucky the local McDonald’s is still open. Think about how many of your favorite summer memories involve being around other groups of people. The pandemic lockdown rules took all of that away from America’s young people this summer.

Why are we shocked that young people are flocking to house parties and bars at night and protests during the day? What else have we left them to do?

ADDENDUM: Every now and then, you wonder what the people who are around the president behind closed doors see. Because in yesterday’s interview with Fox Business News . . . the president seemed very “low energy,” as he once said of Jeb Bush.

U.S.

Individual Actions Matter

Loading...
Gov. Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.) waits for the start of the NASCAR Cup series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Fla., Jun 14, 2020. (Wilfredo Lee/USA TODAY via Reuters)

On the menu today: an update from a reader who is the head of research for a top-ten U.S. hospital, some really intriguing rumors about retirements at the U.S. Supreme Court, and another batch of stories that don’t fit the preferred “coronavirus is devastating the red states! narrative.

Individual Actions Can Mitigate the Pandemic Better than State Policies

Upon my return last week, I knew I wanted to check in with a reader of mine who is the head of research for a top-ten hospital in this country to get his perspective on the recent increase in cases in southern and western states.

This medical director hates to see hospitals canceling elective procedures, as Texas is now doing in eight counties, but sees it as a necessary step:

In order to do our usual surgery and medicine caseloads, we have to have some number of intensive care beds open, to be prepared for unexpected problems. When there’s a pandemic that’s threatening to send lots of people to the hospital, and some of them to intensive care; the first thing you do is put off elective surgery. My sense is — though I haven’t talked to anyone in Texas or California — that’s where they are now. It’s not good, but it’s not the kind of desperation we saw in my part of the country in April, when we were creating auxiliary ICUs out of regular hospital wards and turning convention centers into convalescent hospitals. Hospital administrators are right to worry — it’s part of what we pay them for — but as long as there isn’t an unexpected turn in the pandemic, they have the tools to handle it, though not without hardship. All of us in the places that got slammed in the spring learned a lot from this experience, and the patients in the southern and western states will be better off for it.

He doesn’t buy the argument that states reopened too early:

I’m sure we would have fewer patients in the hospital and fewer dying if we had stayed in lockdown another month, but the price was too much to pay.  Even if you don’t buy the argument about the harms of keeping people out of work and school, the delay bringing back routine medical care is costing lives too.

I’ve come around to the conclusion that the George Floyd protests were minor spreaders of the coronavirus — not as bad as young people gathering in bars and throwing parties, but not the non-factor that supporters of the protests want to believe they were. This medical director sees it similarly:

The protests slowed down the decline in hospital cases in my metropolitan area and my state, but it didn’t cause a second spike.

As in New York City and San Francisco, contact tracers in Orlando, Fla., are not asking patients if they participated in any protests. But with that said, when asked Monday about any correlation between the racial-justice rallies about two weeks ago and the recent record-high numbers, Orange County health director Raul Pino said, “I don’t think that’s a coincidence.”

Also note this sentence in the Los Angeles Times this morning, discussing cases in California: “Health officials have attributed the rising numbers to a combination of factors: the further reopening of many businesses, mass protests over the death of George Floyd and clusters of cases from private gatherings.” Oh, have they now?

This medical director sees three areas of the country at different stages of the pandemic:

All this is strengthening my take on the data from our urban vs rural areas, which is that if you are close to New York City, your first wave was short and sharp and painful, but it’s over. If you were farther away, it didn’t rise as fast, but it declined more slowly too. And the first wave in rural areas has been more of a slow burn that’s still going on and will have ups and downs. Aside from the malpractice of governors who insisted that nursing homes take back COVID-positive patients who were discharged from the hospital, what government did or didn’t do didn’t make a huge difference.

But this medical director warns that what individuals do makes a significant difference:

Doing anything indoors among other people does raise the risk of making the pandemic worse, even if you’re young and healthy and unlikely to die from an infection. Keep ordering takeout instead of sitting at the bar. Yes, wear a mask when you’re shopping or at the reopened gym and [colorful expletive], make sure the mask covers your nose as well as your mouth! This morning I heard from one of our doctors, young people going to bars and gyms and ignoring masking and social distancing are as dangerous as a lit match.

Intriguing Murmurs in Washington about the Supreme Court

Hey, who wants another giant Supreme Court nomination fight thrown atop everything else that’s happened in this crazy year?

Our old friend Bob Costa: “After reading my latest Post report, Hugh Hewitt tells his radio audience this morning that he hears from several leading conservatives that Justice Alito, 70, is considering retirement, and adds that he also hears the Alito family is ready to leave Washington, D.C.”

Costa’s report states, “Justice Clarence Thomas, a conservative appointed by George H.W. Bush, is privately seen by Trump’s aides as the most likely to retire this year. While Thomas has not given any indication of doing so, the White House and Senate Republicans are quietly preparing for a possible opening, according to a White House official and two outside Trump political advisers who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private conversations.” Thomas is 72.

Because the news cycle of 2020 appears to be running on Adderall, Bath Salts, cocaine, and Jolt Cola, perhaps it’s inevitable that we get simultaneous retirements of Alito and Thomas, and the nominations of Judges Amy Coney Barrett and Amul R. Thapar, and an all-out confirmation battle Ragnarök that makes the Kavanaugh nomination look like an amiable tea party.

What’s the one thing that might make drifting-away former or nominal Republicans who are sick of Trump’s constant drama keep him around for four more years? How about appointing two more young solid Supreme Court justices, and knowing that Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 87 and that Steven Breyer turns 82 next month?

Meanwhile, out beyond Washington . . .

A quick look at other coronavirus developments across the country . . .

Nevada: “A new website from the creators of Instagram shows that the COVID-19 transmission rate in Nevada is the highest in the country. According to these estimates, Nevada has the highest transmission rate with 1.56 average, meaning that one infected person on average will infect between one and two people.”

New Jersey: “Coronavirus hospitalizations on Tuesday climbed nearly 9 percent — from 992 to 1,080 as of 10 p.m. with 70 of the state’s 71 hospitals providing data. The number of patients on ventilators went up by one to 178, while 217 are receiving critical care, up from 211 a day earlier . . . Most Atlantic City casinos are holding their ground and planning to reopen in time for the July 4 weekend.”

Michigan: “During a press conference Tuesday, Whitmer and the state’s chief medical executive, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, discussed the rising COVID-19 cases across the state. Khaldun said every region in the state is seeing an increase in daily cases, although regions such as Detroit, Kalamazoo, Jackson and Saginaw all have daily case counts below 20 cases per million people. The Grand Rapids and Lansing regions are above that level, with Lansing exceeding 40.”

California: “Despite California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s early and aggressive effort to contain the virus, Covid has come raging back. It’s a resurgence in a state where some residents thought they had the virus beat. Los Angeles County alone now has more coronavirus cases (103,000) than about 45 other states. The state topped 220,000 cases today and will surpass 6,000 Covid deaths. New Covid cases there are now averaging more than 5,000 a day, up 33 percent from a week ago. Before last Monday the state had never recorded 5,000 cases in a single day.”

The national media could just as easily write headlines such as, “Democratic governors under fire as coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage their states,” but far too many individuals and institutions are wedded to a narrative of good and smart Democratic-leaning states and bad and dumb Republican-leaning ones.

ADDENDUM: Allahpundit puts his finger on a subtle but significant trend: More and more elected Republican officials are criticizing or crossing the president — “Trumpers of convenience have been bolder lately about disagreeing with him as his polls have declined.”

A president’s power comes from the authorities of his office and his political capital. Trump’s endorsement didn’t mean much in some recent GOP congressional primaries. If Republican officeholders are increasingly skeptical that Trump will be in office past January 20 of next year . . . why should they go along with him when they disagree?

Culture

Playing the Blame Game

Loading...
Demonstrators walk in front of the Washington Monument during a protest in Washington, D.C., June 6, 2020. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

You’ve almost made it halfway through 2020, which means that so far, you’ve witnessed and survived a global pandemic, a worldwide economic crash, riots, looting, the strike on Qasem Soleimani, and murder hornets. Oh, and the impeachment of the president, but that feels like so long ago I had to check to make sure it was this year.

On the menu today, some of the most powerful people in America have identified the root cause of the country’s inequities and discrimination, and it’s not them, it’s you.

The Convenience of Anti-Racism as a Corporate Brand Identity

New York Times columnist Charles Blow, discussing George Washington and all of the Founding Fathers who owned slaves: “I say that we need to reconsider public monuments in public spaces. No person’s honorifics can erase the horror he or she has inflicted on others. Slave owners should not be honored with monuments in public spaces. We have museums for that, which also provide better context. This is not an erasure of history, but rather a better appreciation of the horrible truth of it.”

That’s a pretty vivid display of our national political dysfunction right there. What started as a national consensus that the police should not kill those in their custody without due process has turned into a call to remove the Washington Monument.

Earlier this month I talked about how many people prefer symbolic gestures to actual problem-solving, because actual problem-solving is difficult.

We would like to see equal justice in the eyes of the law, which would require law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, juries, and the rest of the justice system to purge out any remaining conscious or subconscious sense that African Americans are not entitled to the presumption of innocence that everyone else is. But that would be difficult. So instead we get Hulu to remove an episode of The Golden Girls where characters are wearing mud masks that could be mistaken for blackface.

We would like to see equal opportunity, where African Americans and anyone born with disadvantages and challenges in life can overcome those disadvantages and challenges and thrive and live their own vision of the American dream — treated as equals in the workplace, in the marketplace, and in the eyes of their fellow citizens. But that would be difficult. So instead we get the makers of Dungeons and Dragons to remove the concept of “evil races” like Orcs or “Dark Elves” from the game.

We would like to see the full picture of American history taught to our children, including the sins and failures of our forefathers and ourselves, not to demonize those who came before us but to recognize where we have not lived up to our ideals so we can get closer to that ideal with each generation. We would like to see the portrait of what made America expanded to include the contributions of easily overlooked or forgotten Americans.

But that would be difficult. So instead we get a new name for “Eskimo Pies.” (The Inuit people have real problems in their lives, beyond what people are calling frozen desserts.)

All around us, we see denunciations of systemic racism permeating some of the most powerful institutions in America . . . from the people who have been running those institutions for at least a generation.

Vogue editor Anna Wintour declared her magazine “has not found enough ways to elevate or give space to Black editors, writers, photographers, designers and other creators. We have made mistakes too, publishing images or stories that have been hurtful or intolerant. I want to take full responsibility for those mistakes.” She’s still going to keep running the place with an iron fist, though.

Mercedes announced a new all-black car for the 2020 Formula One season as part of “a pledge to improve the diversity of our team and our sport, and a signal of the team’s commitment to fighting racism and discrimination in all its forms.” The company’s Formula One workforce is still only 3 percent minorities.

The CEO of WarnerMedia, Jason Kilar, declared that racism is a problem at his company, and that he heard from “people — whether they’d been at WarnerMedia for one year or 20 years — that in many ways they had never felt truly seen or heard.” He was a senior vice president at Amazon, founded Hulu, joined the board of directors for DreamWorks animation, and was on the board of directors of Univision. WarnerMedia, like many companies, gets less diverse the higher you look on the corporate ladder.

Back on June 9, Bill Gates declared on Twitter, “I am committed to listening and learning more about systemic racism and what I can do with my actions and words to help create a more equal and just future. Black lives matter.” This was the richest man in the world from 1995 to 2017. Microsoft’s worldwide staff is 4.4 percent black.

It’s a similar story at some of the corporate brands most associated with African-American athletes: “Neither Adidas’s six-person executive team nor its 16-person board of directors includes a black member. None of the 10 executives currently listed on Nike’s executive leadership website are people of color.”

At the end of May, Marvel Studios made a high-profile pledge — “We stand against racism. We stand for inclusion. We stand with our fellow Black employees, storytellers, creators and the entire black community. We must unite and speak out.” That pledge was complicated a few weeks later when actor Anthony Mackie, who plays Sam Wilson/The Falcon, observed, “I’ve done seven Marvel movies where every producer, every director, every stunt person, every costume designer, every PA, every single person has been white. We’ve had one black producer; his name was Nate Moore. He produced ‘Black Panther.’ But then when you do ‘Black Panther,’ you have a black director, black producer, a black costume designer, a black stunt choreographer. And I’m like, that’s more racist than anything else. Because if you only can hire the black people for the black movie, are you saying they’re not good enough when you have a mostly white cast?”

One of the most infuriating aspects of our national discussion of racism is the number of extremely powerful people who offer variations of the argument, “This is everyone’s problem, and all of us have been part of the problem.” Even if that’s true, some of us are a much bigger part of the problem than others! Chances are you haven’t had much say about who gets hired at Vogue, Mercedes, WarnerMedia or Microsoft, Nike, or Adidas. You haven’t been deciding which model goes on the cover of your magazine, greenlighting films and television shows, or hiring software engineers. Concepts such as “collective responsibility” and “systemic inequities” probably look really appealing to someone who wants to shift the blame from himself.

Over at Tablet, Kat Rosenfield offers an insightful piece comparing the way society’s most privileged women are approaching the current anti-racism movement to the way they approached women-focused self-help books. “Like any other luxury lifestyle choice, this one is an ongoing investment. As a marketing strategy, convincing women that social justice is best achieved through endless self-interrogation is brilliant. The savviest brands on offer turn the profitable allure of unattainability into a core part of their ethic.”

Empathetic leadership sure would do a lot of good right now. Unfortunately, we have a president who just this weekend retweeted a video of a supporter shouting “white power,” and his primary challenger decreed that any African American hesitant about supporting him over the incumbent “ain’t black.” Somehow, out of roughly 328 million Americans, we’ve managed to bring the presidential race down to the two white septuagenarians in public life who are most tone-deaf, oblivious, unjustifiably self-confident, and relentlessly cringe-inducing on issues of race.

Trump is just incapable to acknowledging racism in any way that could conceivably reflect badly on the police or his supporters — maybe that’s somewhat redundant — and Biden believes Trump is self-destructing and doesn’t want to make any waves. The idea of tearing down the Washington Monument as a gesture of anti-racism probably never crossed Joe Biden’s mind — but it’s unlikely he’s going to risk any political capital, four months away from Election Day, telling any woke activist or progressive columnist that they’ve gone too far and sound like a lunatic. If Biden ever does get asked about this — the former vice president’s last press conference was April 2 — he would probably reject the idea, but Biden is not going to bring it up, and he’s not going get into a fight with an African-American progressive New York Times columnist if he can help it.

(For Americans who still want to believe that President Trump understands and appreciates the conservative worldview, it is not encouraging that Trump instinctively defended former president Woodrow Wilson.)

ADDENDUM: For something much lighter and cheerier, I had another chance to talk about the New York Jets upcoming season with Scott Mason of TurnOnTheJets. I mean, Adam Gase is still around, so it’s not that much lighter and cheerier.

U.S.

The Virus Is Still There, Whether We Like It or Not

Loading...
A healthcare worker administers an antibodies test in Los Angeles, Calif., April 24, 2020. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

On the menu today: a look at how dramatically the outlook for the coronavirus changed in little more than a week, how the claim that the protests didn’t spread the virus isn’t quite accurate, and a comparison of wearing masks in public and carrying firearms in public.

What’s Changed in the Past Week?

“Geraghty spends too much time on this subject. COVID is over.” — some guy on the Internet, June 19. I guess I shouldn’t give him too much grief; he later clarified that while he believes the pandemic wasn’t over, the coronavirus was over as a public-policy matter.

The last day I wrote a Morning Jolt, the United States had 2,297,190 cases. As of this writing, Monday morning, the country has 2,637,180 cases, a jump of 339,990 cases in nine days.

Yes, yes, I know that the number of cases by themselves is not the most important metric, that a significant percentage of those who are infected will be asymptomatic, and that most of those who are not elderly or immunocompromised will recover fine. Keep reading, man.

The last day I wrote a Morning Jolt, 121,407 Americans had succumbed to the coronavirus. As of midnight last night, the death toll was up to 128,438, meaning that the country has endured 7,031 deaths in nine days — although this figure includes 1,800 “probable” deaths that New Jersey added, most of which occurred before that nine-day window and that were officially counted during that time period. The good news is that the daily death rate is down from earlier in the spring, but deaths are a lagging indicator, and the current ongoing spike in cases in the Western states is going to hit some number of elderly or immunocompromised who will not pull through. If we’re lucky, few of the newly infected will be in the higher-risk categories. If we’re not . . . this is going to be a long, bad summer.

We don’t have precise numbers for perhaps the second-most consequential measure of the pandemic, hospitalizations, but hospitalization rates are increasing in quite a few states. While I was gone, hospitals neared total capacity or ICU capacity at Texas Medical Center in Houston, Austin, and Travis County, Texas; six major hospitals in Hidalgo County, Texas, two major hospitals in Laredo, Texas; all hospitals in Pima County, Ariz.; St. George, Utah; Fresno County, Calif.; Homestead Hospital in Fla.; Yakima County, Wash.; the Tri-Cities area in Wash.; Orangeburg County, S.C.; and perhaps some others that I missed. It is not hard to find hospital administrators who are worried about hitting capacity in the coming weeks. If doctors and hospital administrators are concerned, you probably ought to be concerned, too.

Early on in the pandemic, a lot of loud people put down their chips on, “not that bad” and “Everyone else is being a Nervous Nellie. I know better than all of those eggheads with medical degrees.” Sorry, guys. The roulette wheel came back with “a really bad pandemic.” Warm weather is not protecting us as much as some hoped; perhaps the spread in the Western states reflects people spending more time indoors with the air conditioning on.

We bent the curve and largely kept our hospitals from being overwhelmed. And then we reopened our society and our economy — and held large gatherings in the form of protests — and the curve bent back up again in a significant number of states.

The coronavirus will end as a public-policy matter when it ends as a health matter.

We need to be realistic about what we’re facing and how our lives will not be back to normal for a while longer.

Most school systems will not start full-time in-person classes in the fall. The decision of whether to shut down a particular business is likely to be driven more by the virus and testing than by government mandates. Down in the Hilton Head Island area, several restaurants closed of their own volition to test all employees after some employees tested positive. The PGA Tour, Major League Baseball, and other sports will be dealing with player and staff absences after positive tests. We are still a long way from out of the woods.

One of the most depressing aspects of the rise in cases over the past two weeks has been the persistent desire to hammer the new wave of cases into some sort of “my party’s governors are good and your party’s governors are bad” narrative, most often of the “blue states rule, red states drool” variety. Yes, Texas, Florida, and Arizona are getting hit hard right now, and those state governments were on the more lenient side of the lockdown policies and a bit quicker to reopen. But California, Oregon, Washington, and Nevada are all getting hit hard with waves, too.

Our Kyle Smith gave New York governor Andrew Cuomo a much-deserved drubbing for his insane proclamation of victory over the coronavirus in his state. No one seems to want to discuss this, but New Yorkers are still dying of the coronavirus in significant numbers. From Friday, June 19 to Sunday, June 28, 380 New Yorkers succumbed to the disease. In the same time period, Florida has had 363 deaths, Arizona has had 307 deaths, and Texas had 270 deaths.

New cases are down in the Northeast, but deaths from the coronavirus are still occurring in those mostly blue states. The six states with the most deaths Friday were California (63), Massachusetts (50), New York (48), New Jersey (45), Arizona (45), and Illinois (41).

The country is in month six of a pandemic, more than a half a million people around the world are dead, and some people still can only perceive the virus as an opportunity to dunk on states and a party they don’t like.

The Protests Weren’t Super-Spreaders, but They Weren’t Non-Spreaders, Either

The protests spurred by the death of George Floyd may not be the primary factor spreading the virus around the U.S. in recent weeks, but that doesn’t mean they were not a factor at all. Massachusetts health officials conducted 17,617 tests on protesters statewide and found that 2.5 percent of them came back positive for COVID-19. That is a low percentage, but it still adds up to 440 people. We don’t know if those people caught the virus elsewhere or at the protests, and yes, most of the protesters were young and appeared healthy. But if I invited you to an event where 17,600 people would be in attendance, and 440 of them were carrying a contagious disease that could put you in the hospital for a long stretch or even kill you, how comfortable would you be attending that event?

Meanwhile, in other parts of the country . . .

South Carolina: “South Carolina racial justice activists said they would postpone future demonstrations or move them online after at least 13 people who took part in previous protests tested positive for the novel coronavirus.”

Los Angeles: “In the last week, positive cases within the LAPD workforce jumped from 170 to 206, Chief Michel Moore told the civilian Police Commission on Tuesday. ‘This was a 21% increase and is about twice the rate of our historic rate of change over the history of the pandemic,’ he said.”

Louisiana: “The Police Association of New Orleans called on the City to test all New Orleans Police Department officers after a high-ranking officer contracted COVID-19. The letter, written by PANO attorney Eric Hessler, says the unidentified NOPD official ‘was present at . . . numerous protests’ and interacted with several protesters before testing positive for the coronavirus.”

The protests don’t appear to be super-spreader events, and we can breathe a little easier (through our masks, six feet apart) that they weren’t. But there’s that nagging sense that certain public officials didn’t want to recognize the possibility that the protests could be spreading events. Like New York, “‘San Francisco does not have data related to protesters who have tested positive because the testing sites are not asking people if they have recently participated in demonstrations,’ city spokesperson Cristina Padilla said.”

“You Can Get More with a Kind Word and a Mask than with Just a Kind Word”

One aspect of the ongoing inane public argument about wearing masks is nagging at me. Yes, in March, the CDC and Dr. Fauci and the surgeon general discouraged wearing masks. They said things that were either misleading or not true that generated an initial public skepticism about the effectiveness of masks; this was apparently driven by a fear that the public going out and buying masks would mean that doctors, hospitals, and first responders wouldn’t have enough. They attempted a “noble lie,” and it backfired on them.

But that was in March. By April, the CDC started encouraging cloth masks. It’s now the end of June. The messaging from public-health officials has been pretty consistent for the past three months: Masks provide at least some protection — more for the people around you than for yourself. If nothing else, you keep people’s sneezes and coughs from having the full projection. Doctors have been telling people “over your mouth and nose when you cough and sneeze” since the discovery of germs, and nobody whines that that recommendation is an infringement upon their rights or freedoms.

People don’t object to covering mouths and noses because they can see the droplets. Talking and exhaling do the same thing, except you can’t see the droplets. Lots of Americans carry firearms, both for their own protection and for the protection of others. They do so because they see the firearm as a useful tool to prevent harm. Think of the mask as a firearm against viruses.

We can argue about whether people are wearing them effectively or whether this makes them touch their face more or whether this makes them believe that they’re bulletproof. But there’s a reason that medical personnel who work with infectious (and immunocompromised!) patients wear masks. Cops know bulletproof vests won’t protect their head or limbs, but they wear them anyway. If wearing a mask reduces the viral load going out, and if wearing a mask can reduce the viral load you’re taking in even partially, hey, why not, right? In most of these circumstances, you’re shopping for groceries, not running an ultra-marathon. You can stand a little discomfort in exchange for those improved odds of preventing transmission to yourself or to others.

But it’s turned into a culture-war issue now, and the world of the Right is increasingly driven by a reflexive contrarianism: “If you say I must do X, then I will refuse to submit to your will that I do X; if you say I must not do X, then I will do X.”

ADDENDA: Thanks to Alexandra DeSanctis for filling in for me for the past week. When people start sending me effusive fan mail to forward to her, it’s usually a sign I should get back to work . . .

. . . Coronavirus made this recent trip to the Hilton Head area an odd one. South Carolina is one of those states experiencing a spike in cases, but as far as I could tell, the people who most needed to wear masks were doing so in the situations where it made the most sense. The one grocery store we visited required them. In the restaurants, wait staff was wearing masks, and patrons were seated fairly far apart. Patio seating was much more popular, anyway. People didn’t wear masks much outdoors, but beachgoers naturally keep about six feet away from each other — and if you’re going to broach that invisible barrier, it’s usually only for a moment.

But my assessment is shaped by where I was — and this trip didn’t include a visit to Sea Pines, Savannah, or Beaufort. We stuck with take-out from our favorite restaurants, explored the Pinckney Island Wildlife Refuge, didn’t watch a movie or shop or browse Barnes and Noble like we usually do. Bits and pieces of “normal life” are out there, if you look in the right places.

Law & the Courts

Obamacare Continues to Crumble

Loading...
A man walks past the Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., June 25, 2020. (Al Drago/Reuters)

On the menu today: The Trump administration asks the Supreme Court to invalidate the entire Affordable Care Act now that the individual mandate is no longer in effect, the Senate passes a bill to sanction China for eroding the limited autonomy of Hong Kong, and a quick refresher on a couple of the biggest Supreme Court decisions still outstanding this term.

Trump Administration Takes Aim at Obamacare

Late last night, officials for the Trump administration sent an 82-page brief to the Supreme Court, joining officials from nearly two dozen states in a lawsuit arguing that the erasure of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate has made the entire law unconstitutional.

In 2017, when Republicans in Congress failed to repeal and replace Obamacare, they settled for removing the individual mandate, the penalty levied against those who have no health-insurance coverage. Now, the administration is throwing its weight behind the argument that the removal of that key portion of the law invalidates the rest of it.

“Nothing the 2017 Congress did demonstrates it would have intended the rest of the A.C.A. to continue to operate in the absence of these three integral provisions,” solicitor general Noel Francisco wrote in the brief. “The entire A.C.A. thus must fall with the individual mandate.”

One Republican strategist recently told the New York Times that it’s “pretty dumb to be talking about how we need to repeal Obamacare in the middle of a pandemic.” And Nancy Pelosi has already hit the Trump administration for the brief, issuing a statement late last night: “President Trump and the Republicans’ campaign to rip away the protections and benefits of the Affordable Care Act in the middle of the coronavirus crisis is an act of unfathomable cruelty.”

Here’s some more detail from the Times on the origins of the administration’s decision to formally oppose the entire ACA:

The case the court will hear grows out of a lawsuit that Republican officials in 20 states, led by Texas, filed against the Department of Health and Human Services in February 2018, seeking to have the health law struck down. After Democratic victories in the 2018 midterm elections, two states, Wisconsin and Maine, withdrew.

When the case was argued in the trial court, the Trump administration, though a defendant, did not defend the law, siding instead with the plaintiffs. But unlike Texas and the other states, the administration argued at the time that only the law’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions should be struck down, but that the rest of the law, including its expansion of Medicaid, should survive.

Last year, however, the administration expanded its opposition, telling a federal appeals court that the entire law should be invalidated. In the meantime, another 17 states, led by California, intervened to defend the law, as did the House, now controlled by Democrats.

And here’s how the Wall Street Journal helpfully summarizes the arguments of those opposing the law:

A coalition of Republican-leaning states, led by Texas, then sued to strike down the entire health-care law, arguing that by eliminating the penalty, Congress implicitly destroyed the law’s constitutional basis in the congressional tax power. A federal district court in Texas agreed, in a decision upheld by the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in New Orleans.

Officials from Democratic states, meanwhile, are lobbying the Supreme Court to ensure that the ACA remains constitutional, arguing that, according to the WSJ, “even if Congress’s power to impose an insurance mandate ended with the elimination of the tax penalty . . . the rest of the law should stand, including a ban on insurers denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions and other provisions intended to expand the number of Americans with health care.”

Repealing and replacing Obamacare has long been one of Trump’s key promises and talking points, and this roundabout attempt to somehow take apart what remains of the law might represent a last-ditch effort from an administration facing reelection. It remains an open question whether that gamble will pay off, especially considering that Democrats are all too happy to use the issue to portray Republicans as heartless for targeting the ACA during a pandemic.

This Bloomberg column from our own Ramesh Ponnuru last summer cautioned Republicans about the ways in which this lawsuit could actually be quite damaging to the GOP, and our editorial view here at NR is that the lawsuit is a mistake. Seeing the administration jump on the bandwagon isn’t the best development.

Senate Sanctions China for Violating Hong Kong’s Autonomy 

By unanimous consent, the Senate has passed legislation mandating sanctions on Chinese officials who attempt to curb Hong Kong’s already limited autonomy, an effort to protect human rights in the region. The bill would also place sanctions on companies that do business with those same officials.

The Senate also passed yesterday a resolution sponsored by Senator Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) specifically condemning the new national-security law that China has imposed on Hong Kong. “Beijing must know that its actions have consequences,” Hawley said.

Though some in the Trump administration have argued that these sanctions might make it more difficult for the U.S. government to conduct effective diplomacy with China, officials now say that the text of the bill gives the White House a great deal of flexibility in how the sanctions are levied.

The WSJ has more on why the Senate took this step:

The sponsors say China’s introduction of new national-security laws in Hong Kong made the legislation more urgent. Those laws, they say, dealt a blow to the territory’s autonomy as Beijing moves to stop pro-democracy protests that have challenged Chinese President Xi Jinping. . . .

Besides creating potential diplomatic tension as Chinese officials and government entities are blacklisted, the bill has additional teeth by targeting the financial sector. Banks found knowingly doing business with blacklisted officials and agencies would also be placed under sanctions.

One of the Trump administration’s remaining points of contention is a provision in the bill that gives Congress the ability to override a president’s decision to waive or terminate sanctions through a joint resolution of disapproval, according to people familiar with the matter. Such a resolution would have to pass both the House and Senate by a veto-proof two-thirds majority.

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the Chinese embassy said that “Hong Kong affairs are China’s domestic affairs that allow no external interference” and asked the U.S. to “immediately stop meddling with Hong Kong affairs and China’s domestic affairs as a whole before it is too late.”

Though congressmen have already introduced a companion bill in the House, and it is expected to pass on a bipartisan basis there as well, it remains an open question how aggressively Trump administration officials will choose to enforce these sanctions if and when the legislation is passed.

Waiting on the Supreme Court

I mentioned at the end of my Morning Jolt on Monday that we could see some big decisions coming down from the Court over the course of the week. That turned out not to be the case, at least for the couple of remaining cases that I have my eye on.

There are still more than a dozen cases pending that have been argued before the Court since January, but only a handful had arguments before April, and those are most likely the ones that we can expect a decision on early next week. Here’s a quick refresher on a couple of the most significant remaining cases.

One of them, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, has to do with school choice, specifically a tax-credit scholarship program enacted by Montana in 2015. The program offers a tax credit to taxpayers who donate to an organization that offers scholarships to students so they can attend private schools.

The case before the Court is a challenge to the ruling from Montana’s Supreme Court, which determined that the tax-credit program violates the state’s Blaine amendment. Montana is one of more than three dozen states that still has such an amendment in effect — holdovers from a period of intense anti-Catholic bigotry — blocking public funding for any “sectarian purpose,” including religious schools.

The petitioners argue that the Montana Supreme Court ruling violates the First Amendment’s religion clauses and the 14th Amendment’s equal-protection clause. The case presents a great opportunity for the Court to overturn the unconstitutional Blaine amendments once and for all.

The second case of interest is June Medical Services v. Russo, in which abortion providers are challenging a Louisiana regulation that requires abortionists to have admitting privileges at local hospitals in order to perform surgical abortions. The policy seeks to level the playing field, requiring abortion clinics to follow the same admitting-privileges regulation that currently applies to all other surgical centers in the state.

Of particular interest in the case are two questions. First, the regulation at issue is quite similar to the Texas law that the Court struck down in 2016 in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. For a Court looking to begin slowly reversing ludicrous decisions on abortion policy, June Medical might present the perfect opportunity. And second, the case deals with a sub-question of whether abortion providers have standing to challenge regulations on behalf of women; the state argues, quite convincingly, that the interests of abortion providers are actually distinct, and perhaps contrary to, the interests of women.

For more clarity on that and more, we’ll have to wait at least until Monday.

ADDENDUM: It’s been great filling in for Jim this week. See you all next time.

Elections

Problematic Polling for Trump

Loading...
President Donald Trump addresses a joint news conference with Poland’s President Andrzej Duda in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, D.C., June 24, 2020. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

On the menu today: New polling suggests that Trump needs to make up ground in swing states between now and Election Day, Senate Democrats refuse even to debate a Republican effort at police reform, and a congressman has proposed a new way to protect statues and memorials to U.S. presidents and Founders.

Biden Moves ahead of Trump in Key Battlegrounds

I pointed out in yesterday’s Morning Jolt, the latest national survey from the New York Times and Siena College shows Joe Biden with a fairly significant lead over President Trump, with 50 percent support to the president’s 36 percent among registered voters across the country.

We are, of course, still several months out from the election and lots can change in just a little time, so it’s not as if these numbers spell certain doom for Trump’s reelection effort. Nevertheless, they’re worth taking a look at, and they’re something both campaigns use to determine strategy, especially in terms of which demographic groups to reach out to, which to count on, and which to count as a loss.

Because of the way the Electoral College works, though, state-level polling tends to be far more useful in campaign strategy — and more useful in suggesting likely outcomes — than national surveys. This morning, the Times and Siena are out with a second wave of data, this time looking at the Biden–Trump matchup among voters in several key swing states.

In a poll of nearly 4,000 registered voters, conducted between June 8 and June 18, Biden held a lead of at least six points in each of six swing states that Trump won in the 2016 general election. Let’s go through the numbers in a little more detail.

In Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, all states that Trump won by less than one point in 2016, Biden has a lead of at least ten points. In Florida, which Trump won in 2016 by just one point, Biden is up by six points, 47 percent to Trump’s 41 percent. In Arizona and North Carolina, states that Trump took by a four-point margin last time, Biden is up by seven and nine points respectively.

Here’s some analysis from the Times on these numbers:

Mr. Trump’s once-commanding advantage among white voters has nearly vanished, a development that would all but preclude the president’s re-election. Mr. Biden now has a 21-point lead among white college graduates, and the president is losing among white voters in the three Northern battleground states [Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania] — not by much, but he won them by nearly 10 points in 2016.

Four years ago, Mr. Trump’s strength in the disproportionately white working-class battleground states allowed him to win the Electoral College while losing the popular vote. The surveys indicate that the president continues to fare better in these relatively white battleground states than he does nationwide.

But the survey certainly doesn’t portend sheer gloom for Trump, as the Times analysis points out:

With a little more than four months to go until the election, there is still time for the president’s political standing to recover, just as it did on so many occasions four years ago. He maintains a substantial advantage on the economy, which could become an even more central issue in what has already been a volatile election cycle. And many of the undecided voters in these states lean Republican, and may end up returning to their party’s nominee.

It’s true, though, that these numbers aren’t terribly encouraging for Trump and could reflect any number of factors, including the recent dip in the president’s overall popularity. Some of that disapproval is almost certainly related to general anxiety over the coronavirus outbreak and, in part, the way Trump has handled it. This survey seems to bear that out.

For instance, just 41 percent of all voters surveyed said they approve of Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, 37 percent of voters in Michigan said they believe Trump “treated their state worse than most” in his coronavirus response, likely the result of his sparring with Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer over her unnecessarily strict shutdown policies.

On the economy, Trump does much better, netting a 56 percent approval rating among all voters surveyed, compared with just 40 percent who disapprove. Voters also prefer Trump to Biden by a double-digit margin when it comes to handling diplomacy with China. In these battleground states, Trump has the support of 86 percent of those who said they voted for him in 2016 (a drop from 92 percent in the Times/Siena survey last fall), while Biden wins 93 percent of voters who backed Hillary Clinton in 2016.

One very notable point from the survey, and an encouraging sign for the president, is that Biden has made almost no gains among non-white voters in battleground states, even in the wake of the past month of social unrest.

It’s a mistake to put too much faith in poll numbers, especially with a few months to go until Election Day, but this survey gives the Trump campaign plenty of reason to focus hard on key battlegrounds he won in 2016 and stop running expensive cable ads in Washington, D.C.

Democrats Aren’t Interested in Compromising on Police Reform 

In the Senate yesterday, Democrats blocked a Republican bill aimed at police reform, refusing even to debate the legislation or consider a series of amendments aimed at assuaging the Democratic coalition’s alleged concerns about the bill.

Here’s more from Wall Street Journal reporting:

The impasse hardened Wednesday when Senate Democrats blocked a Republican bill they deemed inadequate and the GOP criticized Democrats for being unwilling to even begin debate on the legislation. The Democratic-controlled House is expected to pass a rival bill Thursday, but the GOP-run Senate has said it has no intention of taking it up, leaving lawmakers blaming each other.

“This bill lost because it was woefully inadequate,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said of the GOP bill Wednesday. “It never would have passed and McConnell provided no path to improve it,” he said, referring to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.).

Republicans countered that they had been ready to negotiate on any aspect of the bill, but were thwarted by Democrats’ unwillingness to even begin debate.

Schumer, it turns out, isn’t telling the truth at all. In a speech on the floor yesterday afternoon, Senator Tim Scott (R., S.C.), who led the coalition to draft the GOP bill, offered to include an amendment for every concern that Democrats had raised in their talking points opposing the legislation.

“If you don’t think we’re right, make it better. Don’t walk way,” Scott said ahead of the vote. “Vote for the motion to proceed so that we have an opportunity to deal with this very real threat to the America that is civil, that is balanced.”

But Democrats refused to heed his call, voting in an almost entirely united bloc not to proceed to debate — the sole exception was West Virginia’s Democratic senator Joe Manchin.

The GOP bill would restrict police use of chokeholds by withholding federal funds from departments that allow the practice, as well as increase funding for police body cameras. It would also establish a national database on police use-of-force incidents and use grants to incentivize police departments to inform the FBI of serious injury or death during such incidents.

At NRO earlier this week, we had a great piece detailing some of the ways in which the authors believed the GOP bill went too far and areas in which it didn’t go far enough, which is worth taking a look at if you’re not sure what to make of the legislation. But unfortunately, it doesn’t matter all too much at this point, as Democrats have shown they’re more interested in clinging to their talking points and villainizing Republicans than in making actual progress toward reform.

Republican Lawmaker Moves to Protect Monuments

Representative Jim Banks, a Republican from Indiana, is introducing a bill that would make it a federal offense, punishable with up to ten years in prison, to desecrate any memorial to a former U.S. president or a Founding Father.

The “Defending America’s Heritage and Culture Act” would amend the Veterans’ Memorial Preservation and Recognition Act of 2003 — which already protects veteran memorials from vandalism and destruction — to include statues and memorials to former U.S. presidents, as well as the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Banks’s proposal follows on the heels of President Trump’s tweet earlier this week, in which he said he had “authorized the Federal Government to arrest anyone who vandalizes or destroys any monument, statue or other such Federal property in the U.S.” It’s not clear what authorization Trump was referring to, but this legislation from Banks would certainly give law enforcement the authorization they need.

ADDENDUM: I had the chance to do an interview with Larry O’Connor on his WMAL radio program yesterday afternoon, talking about my latest article for NRO, in which I explained that Frederick Douglass spoke highly of the Emancipation Memorial in D.C., contrary to what Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton claims. I highly recommend taking a few minutes of your morning to read Douglass’s full speech dedicating the memorial at its unveiling.

Culture

Primary-Contest Results Trickle In

Loading...
Ky. State Representative and Democratic Senate candidate Charles Booker arrives at a campaign stop in Louisville, Ky., June 23, 2020. (Bryan Woolston/Reuters)

On the menu today: Results are in for just a few of yesterday evening’s primary contests, a New York Times survey shows Joe Biden with a comfortable lead against the president, and the most recent statue-toppling sentiments are now being directed at . . . Abraham Lincoln and Jesus.

Mail-In Ballots Delay Election Results

Yesterday featured primary contests in several states, including New York, Kentucky, and Virginia. In New York and Kentucky, most of the results are being delayed by a massive uptick in mail-in ballots, certainly the result of concerns about COVID-19 and related poll closures.

Kentucky featured a Democratic primary contest between two candidates for U.S. Senate — state representative Charles Booker and former Marine pilot Amy McGrath — both of whom are hoping to face Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell in a few months. But they’ll have to wait quite a while to find out their fate.

According to the Associated Press, state officials in Kentucky said the delays caused by COVID-19 closures meant they wouldn’t release any further information about the results until next Tuesday — and that the AP, therefore, won’t be calling a winner in that race until then. The New York Times has more details:

In Kentucky, fewer than 200 polling places were opened on Tuesday, a drastic reduction from the 3,700 locations that are often used in a typical election year. Absentee ballot requests soared in the state’s two largest cities, Louisville and Lexington. Yet a number of jurisdictions have indicated that on Tuesday they will only tabulate votes cast that day, or those cast that day combined with those cast during in-person early voting.

That would mean that potentially hundreds of thousands of absentee votes would not be counted until after Tuesday evening.

Mr. Booker was expected to run up a large margin in Louisville, his hometown and the largest city in the state, so the question was whether Ms. McGrath could overcome that advantage in more rural areas of eastern and western Kentucky.

Working in her favor is the nature of voting in the coronavirus age: Ms. McGrath banked a number of ballots from voters well before Mr. Booker’s late surge.

As of about midnight, with a little over half of the state’s precincts reporting, McGrath was leading Booker with 44.7 percent of the vote to his 36.5 percent.

Meanwhile, COVID-19-related delays are costing us clarity in New York, too, and final results from several contested Democratic primaries have yet to roll in. One of the most widely watched primaries was in New York’s 16th District, covering the Bronx and Westchester County, where progressive hopeful Jamaal Bowman seeks to unseat longtime Democratic congressman Eliot Engel.

Bowman had managed to lock up support from the progressive wing of the party, including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as well as Senators Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.). Engel pulled in establishment support, with the endorsements of Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, and Nancy Pelosi.

As of about 2 a.m., Bowman had a substantial lead over Engel, with 61 percent of the vote to Engel’s 35.6 percent. That’s with votes from about 60 of 732 precincts remaining to be counted.

Finally, in Virginia, Daniel Gade won the GOP primary for the chance to face incumbent Democratic senator Mark Warner in November. Gade, a retired Army officer who lost a leg to a roadside bomb while serving in Iraq, drew nearly 70 percent of the vote while facing two competitors.

According to The Daily Progress, a Charlottesville newspaper, Gade “advised President George W. Bush on military and disability issues and was Trump’s appointee to serve on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but withdrew his nomination after a lengthy delay in the Senate over his confirmation.”

We may not have gotten clear results in some of yesterday’s biggest races, but progressive dreamers around the world can breathe a big sigh of relief about one thing: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won her primary contest last night quite handily.

A New Poll Suggests Trouble for Trump

A survey of registered voters across the country found that Joe Biden currently has a sizable lead over President Trump — especially among women and non-white voters — with 50 percent support overall to Trump’s 36 percent. The survey was conducted by the New York Times and Siena College, polling 1,337 voters between June 17 and June 22.

Answering the question “If the 2020 presidential election were held today, whom would you vote for?” several key demographic groups preferred Biden by a fairly large margin. Among women, for instance, Biden leads the president by 22 points; his lead among men shrinks to just three points.

The former vice president also has an advantage among younger voters. More than half of respondents between 18 and 29 said they’ll vote for Biden, compared with just one-quarter who said they’d support Trump. But that gap shrinks almost entirely among older voters; Trump and Biden are tied at 44 percent among voters ages 45 to 64 and virtually tied with voters older than that.

Black voters favor Biden by a 74-point margin — just 5 percent say they support Trump — but that lead shrinks quite a bit among Hispanics, 64 percent of whom said they’d back Biden compared with 25 percent of whom said they’d back Trump. Among white voters, Trump remains just slightly ahead, with 44 percent support to Biden’s 43 percent.

One area where Trump stands out is among white voters with no college degree, who prefer him to Biden by a nearly 20-point margin. Among white voters with at least a college degree, Biden has a 28-point lead. Trump and Biden are tied when it comes to support within their own parties: Eighty-five percent of self-identified Democrats said they’ll back Biden, and the same percentage of self-identified Republicans plans to back Trump.

Election Day is, of course, still too far away for polls to have a whole lot of bearing on what outcomes we might expect. As the last few months have illustrated, a lot can happen in just a short period of time to rapidly change public opinion. But if I were the Trump campaign, the president’s numbers in some of those key demographics would certainly have me a little worried and thinking hard about an effective strategy to make up ground in the interim.

Abraham Lincoln and Jesus Must Go

Hold on to your hats for this one, folks. The “anti-racist” brigades trolling the country for statues to deface and rip down have now trained their scrutinizing gaze on none other than . . . Abraham Lincoln.

That’s right. Outraged Americans rioting over racial injustice are now promising to topple a monument to the man who issued the Emancipation Proclamation — and, not only that, but a monument funded by formerly enslaved people to honor Lincoln specifically for having issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

The fecklessness, ignorance, and sheer idiocy of our new progressive purity police apparently knows no bounds.

Gathering at the statue yesterday evening, a mob vowed to rip the statue down on Thursday night at 7 p.m., helpfully announcing to law enforcement precisely when to show up and prevent them from carrying out this reprehensible act of vandalism.

And it’s not just the mob on this one. The District of Columbia’s non-voting congresswoman, Eleanor Holmes Norton, has joined their ranks, announcing that she plans to introduce legislation to formally have the memorial removed from Lincoln Park in Capitol Hill, referring to it as “problematic.”

In a statement, Holmes Norton insisted that, while the recently freed men and women who paid for the statue were understandably “grateful for any recognition of their freedom,” the statue itself needs to go because it depicts Lincoln standing over a kneeling African man. It didn’t, she said, “take into account the views of African Americans.”

That’s a patently false reading of the statue’s history, which, as she herself acknowledges, was actually underwritten by freed African Americans. Holmes Norton claims that Frederick Douglass “expressed his displeasure” with the statue, but this seems to be a rather aggressive misreading of Douglass, who, in a lengthy oration dedicating the memorial, had this to offer, among other glowing lines about it and the man it honors:

we, the colored people, newly emancipated and rejoicing in our blood-bought freedom, near the close of the first century in the life of this Republic, have now and here unveiled, set apart, and dedicated a monument of enduring granite and bronze, in every line, feature, and figure of which the men of this generation may read, and those of after-coming generations may read, something of the exalted character and great works of Abraham Lincoln, the first martyr President of the United States.

I hate to say I told you so, but it’s like I saw this coming when I wrote on Monday, “If the new progressive purity tests mean that [Ulysses] Grant has got to go, no one can stand.”

It appears the “anti-racist” zealots are out to prove me right. On Twitter a couple of days ago, far-left activist Shaun King argued that statues depicting Jesus as a “white European” need to come down because “they are a form of white supremacy.” Lest you think King is a constituency of one, note that thousands of individuals liked and shared this ludicrous sentiment.

One thing that has been vastly understated about the seemingly never-ending Statue Wars is how utterly devoid of intelligence most of these “arguments” are, if they exist at all. There is no actual reason in the world why people sincerely aiming to improve the lot of black Americans would want to rip down a statue honoring the president who, inarguably, has done the most for that group than any other single person in American history — not to mention why they’d want to rip down a monument commemorating the precise moment at which that man extended the freedom promised at our nation’s Founding to those who had been enslaved.

What started with lots of Americans rightly reiterating the value of every innocent human life and decrying the evil of racism has devolved into unintelligent mobs flexing their power indiscriminately simply for the sake of getting what they want. The actual substance of what they want was never the point.

ADDENDUM: I am happy to report that, as most things in the world appear to be getting steadily worse, it seems as if the glorious return of baseball is actually on the horizon.

U.S.

Will Andrew Cuomo Take Responsibility?

Loading...
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference during the outbreak of the coronavirus in New York City, New York, June 10, 2020. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Alexandra DeSanctis here. I’ll be filling in for Jim this week, notwithstanding what it says in your email inbox.

On the menu today: Andrew Cuomo somehow thinks his policies aren’t at all to blame for the enormous number of COVID-19-related deaths in New York nursing homes, a look ahead at some of the Democratic primaries on the docket this evening, and it looks like the University of Michigan will be backing out of hosting a presidential debate this fall.

Cuomo Doesn’t Want to Own Up

In an interview on MSNBC yesterday, New York governor Andrew Cuomo refused to accept any blame for the number of COVID-19 deaths among nursing-home residents in his state. It seems clear at this point that, based on conservative estimates, at least 6 percent of the New York’s more than 100,000 nursing-home residents have died of the disease during the state’s outbreak.

Instead of acknowledging the role that his decisions almost surely played in that disaster, though, Cuomo has consistently blamed the federal government and the CDC and, in this interview, wrote off criticism of his policies as a “political charade.”

MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle asked Cuomo about his much-criticized order that required nursing homes to continue housing residents who had tested positive for COVID-19. “Sixty-three hundred [residents] died in New York nursing homes. That is the most in this country,” she said. “The more time that’s passed, the more your office can look into this. Do you take responsibility for that order and the role it may have played in those deaths?”

But Cuomo appeared uninterested in taking responsibility of any kind:

Let’s look at the facts, right? Rather than the political rhetoric. Yes, we had more people die in nursing homes than anywhere else, because we had more people die, because the federal government missed the boat and never told us that this virus was coming from Europe and not from China.

The federal government and the CDC and all of them failed to handle this pandemic and warn this nation. So New York had more cases and more deaths and more deaths in nursing homes because that’s who the virus affects. It affects senior citizens. We know that. You look at any state, and they had a tremendous number of deaths in nursing homes.

Cuomo tried to use a similar argument last week in a local radio interview, telling the host that “the nursing home is an unfortunate situation on two levels,” adding,

Number one, people in nursing homes died. The nursing home is pure politics — the Republicans in Congress, they think there’s a vulnerability. . . . We had the worst case in the United States because the federal government had no idea what was going on. Where was the CDC? And where was the NIH? And where was everybody?

In a lengthy, well documented New York Post column over the weekend, Michael Goodwin outlined Cuomo’s many attempts to duck blame for his policy and explained why he shouldn’t be given a pass for refusing to own up to its failures. Here’s some of what Goodwin had to say:

Thousands of New York’s elderly died likely because of [Cuomo’s] blunders — yet he heartlessly refuses to acknowledge a single mistake to grieving families.

His biggest blunder was the infamous March 25 Department of Health order that required nursing homes and rehabilitation centers to admit COVID-19 patients being discharged from hospitals. It stands as one of the worst decisions in New York history because it condemned the most vulnerable to hellish deaths surrounded by strangers while no friends or relatives were allowed to visit.

The order gave nursing homes no warning, no help and no way to reject contagious patients. To prevent discrimination, it even said the homes could not ask if the patients being forced on them had tested positive.

Officially, New York says the coronavirus claimed 6,200 lives in nursing homes, or about 25 percent of the state total of nearly 25,000 fatalities, but the actual total is certainly higher. Some estimate that nursing home deaths are closer to 12,000.

Goodwin pointed out, too, that the public was unaware of the order for several weeks, and when a reporter asked Cuomo about how the state was handling the risks of such a policy, he replied, “That’s a good question, I don’t know,” before deferring to state health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker, who claimed that “the necessary precautions will be taken to protect the other [nursing home] residents.”

But, as Goodwin explains, that can’t have been true: “Because the order took effect immediately, without inspections or even conversations with managers, the state had no idea which of the 600 long-term-care facilities had sufficient space and staff to segregate COVID-19 patients. Nor did the state know if the facilities had any protective equipment for nurses and others who would care for infected patients.”

While Cuomo is right on some level that a general lack of preparedness across the country was part of the reason that New York got hammered by COVID-19, he ought to take responsibility to his own blunders in the aftermath of the outbreak. Plenty of other states managed to implement policies to limit death rates among the elderly, especially those in nursing homes, most notably Florida, which has a disproportionately large number of elderly residents but thus far has had a lower death rate than New York. Cuomo’s policy of shuttling infected elderly people back into nursing homes across the state was careless at best and deadly at worst. A good leader would be able to admit it.

Democrats Face Off in Tight Primaries

This evening, there will be primary elections in Kentucky, New York, and Virginia, along with congressional runoff elections in Mississippi and North Carolina. In particular, today’s contests will feature the Democratic primary in Kentucky’s Senate race, where Amy McGrath and Charles Booker are fighting for a chance to unseat Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell in November.

It seems pretty unlikely that either of the candidates have much of a shot to remove the majority leader, especially in a state that Trump carried in 2016 by 30 points, but they’re locked in a tight race for the chance. Booker, an African-American state representative, has been focusing his campaign on police violence in recent weeks as he faces McGrath, a former Marine pilot who until recently was thought to have the primary locked up.

In New York City, meanwhile, long-time Democratic congressman Eliot Engel, who represents the state’s 16th District covering the Bronx and Westchester County, is facing a challenge from his left. The most likely contender for an upset is Jamaal Bowman, a school principal with several endorsements from progressive politicians, including Senators Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), as well as Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who pulled off a similar primary victory from the left two years ago in the nearby 14th District.

Young, left-wing challengers have also mounted primary campaigns against a few other Democratic fixtures of the New York political scene, such as Representative Carolyn Maloney, who is running against several younger candidates, including Suraj Patel, who challenged Maloney in 2018 and managed a surprising 41 percent of the vote.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of voters mailing in absentee ballots has risen steeply from typical elections, which could result in a fairly lengthy delay between voting and finding out who won. Here’s more from the New York Times on that possibility:

In New York, absentee ballots are not fully counted until a week after the election. And those ballots could represent about half of all votes cast in the primary.

In Kentucky, absentee ballot requests have soared in the state’s two largest cities, Louisville and Lexington. Yet a number of jurisdictions have indicated that on Tuesday, they will only tabulate votes cast that day, or those cast that day combined with those cast during in-person early voting.

That would mean that potentially hundreds of thousands of absentee votes would not be counted until after Tuesday evening.

Whenever those results roll in, they’re worth paying attention to, especially in New York. The outcome of efforts to unseat longtime Democratic establishment leaders in favor of younger, more vocally progressive politicians will say a lot about the policy platform the Left will embrace in coming years.

University of Michigan to Cancel Its 2020 Debate 

According to reporting from the Detroit Free Press, and confirmed by the New York Times, the University of Michigan plans to formally announce today that it will pull out of its agreement to host the second presidential debate between President Trump and presumed Democratic nominee Joe Biden. The event had been slated for October 15, but school officials are concerned about bringing huge amounts of media and campaign traffic to campus amid the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Times reports that the October 15 debate instead will be held at Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, which hosted the first two of last summer’s Democratic primary debates.

The other two presidential debates are still scheduled to take place at universities, first on September 29 at the University of Notre Dame and then on October 22 at Belmont University. While I hope both schools make the best decision for the health and safety of their campus communities, I have to admit I’m also hoping Notre Dame can find a way to beat Michigan at hosting a presidential debate.

ADDENDUM: I wrote yesterday about the moral panic tearing across the country, resulting in mobs defacing and ripping down statues. NR’s editors have an excellent editorial on the subject. The instance of San Francisco rioters targeting a monument to Ulysses S. Grant seems as good an occasion as any to recommend to you Ron Chernow’s 2017 biography, which I’ve been working my way through for about a week. I’ve only read about 20 percent of it so far, but I already know any “anti-racist” effort to target Grant has nothing to do with principle and everything to do with misplaced rage.

U.S.

The Current Moral Purge

Loading...
A statue of Theodore Roosevelt outside the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan is seen after it was announced that the statue will be removed, in New York City, New York, June 22, 2020. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Alexandra DeSanctis here. I’ll be filling in for Jim this week, notwithstanding what it says in your email inbox.

On the menu today: Outraged rioters spent the weekend indiscriminately toppling pretty much any statues they could get their hands on, President Trump returned to the campaign trail for a rally in Tulsa, and another quick reflection on the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s Bostock ruling.

The Canceling Craze Carries On

In a column last week, my boss Rich Lowry made some astute points about why conservatives don’t need to reflexively defend the continued presence of each and every Confederate monument, and I largely agreed with much of what he said.

I’m deeply uncomfortable with the notion that we can remove a few statues here and there as a means of atoning for the more unfortunate parts of our country’s history by erasing all traces of them from public view. That prospect is even more unnerving these days, considering the moral panic and cultural revolution unfolding around us.

But I’m also sympathetic to the argument Rich made, that, in the case of the Civil War at least, plenty of these remaining monuments are in place to glorify people who not only derided the founding principles of our nation but also actively attempted to sever the Union. Here’s how he put it:

Statues of Confederate leaders are an unnecessary affront to black citizens, who shouldn’t have to see defenders of chattel slavery put on a pedestal, literally.

It is impossible to evaluate these monuments without considering the context of why they were created in the first place. Many of them were erected as part of the push to enshrine a dishonest, prettied-up version of the Confederacy — they weren’t a testament to our history, but a distortion of it.

Finally, if we want to learn about, say, Robert E. Lee — and we should — we can do it without staring up at a 60-foot-tall statue of him on a major Richmond, Virginia, thoroughfare.

We should make distinctions, of course. Big statues in prominent public spaces erected to make a point about the supposed glories of the Confederacy should come down and be transferred elsewhere (ideally to museums or battlefields). But this should always be done lawfully and with due deliberation, not via mob action or under mob pressure.

That last point is the really important one. What we’re seeing across the country right now, and what we saw with particular vengeance over the weekend, is an indiscriminate craze in which sometimes rightfully angry yet ill-informed and violent people are making themselves busy ripping down statues of anyone and everyone they can find.

It’s one thing for a locality to vote on removing an outdated statue honoring a Confederate leader, to take it down or move it to a museum, a context where it’s no longer an honor or a “glorification” but just part of our history. It’s another thing entirely for mobs to spend their free time rampaging through parks and meting out “justice” as they see fit.

Though I mostly agreed with what Rich laid out in his column, I think he underestimated both the present fury of the mob and the cultural power that mob is currently wielding. He noted that conservatives “fear where the slippery slope of a campaign of woke iconoclasm will lead — first it’s Jefferson Davis, then Thomas Jefferson, finally George Washington” and suggested that this fear is mistaken. He’s right, of course, to distinguish between the Confederacy and Washington — but evidently not everyone is interested in making those sorts of distinctions.

In San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park on Friday evening, about 400 rioters toppled a statue of Ulysses S. Grant — yep, the Ulysses S. Grant who led the Union to crush the Confederacy, abhorred slavery, and, as president, oversaw the ratification of the 15th Amendment, went after the Ku Klux Klan, and placed African Americans in leadership roles in the government.

If the new progressive purity tests mean that Grant has got to go, no one can stand.

And apparently that’s actually where this is headed: The same rioters in San Francisco also ripped down a statue of Francis Scott Key, who wrote the lyrics to what is now our National Anthem, and a statue of Catholic saint Junipero Serra, who was responsible for founding missions up and down the coast of California to feed, clothe, and educate Native Americans, teaching them to plant and sustain themselves more successfully in prospering communities (“colonialism” of the worst kind, I’m sure).

This followed news of rioters in several cities ripping down statues not only of Confederate general Robert E. Lee, but also of Christopher Columbus and Winston Churchill. In Portland, Ore., they lit a statue of George Washington on fire then knocked it over.

These rioters don’t necessarily represent mainstream sentiment, even on the left, but there’s something in the air these days, and leaders are looking for reasons to concede points to the mob. News broke last night, for instance, that a statue of Theodore Roosevelt that has stood outside the entrance to New York City’s Museum of Natural History for eight decades will be removed.

For what it’s worth, the museum president said that the problem with that particular statue is its “hierarchical composition” — it depicts Roosevelt on horseback with a Native American man on one side and an African man on the other — and that the museum still honors Roosevelt as “a pioneering conservationist.”

But elsewhere in New York City, city officials are demanding that a statue of Thomas Jefferson be removed from City Hall.

These sorts of moral purges — driven by anger, fear, and often a desire to wield raw power — don’t represent an honest, careful effort to understand, contextualize, or even lament the grimmer parts of our nation’s history. They’re a frightening crusade to remove from public sight and memory any person whose life didn’t entirely reflect or conform to the progressive creed, which is, in the end, everybody.

Trump Delivers His First Speech Since the Pandemic Began

In Tulsa, Okla., on Saturday evening, President Trump spoke to a crowd and marked his first rally since the coronavirus pandemic began several months ago. Most of the coverage has, rather unsurprisingly, focused less on the actual speech than on the size of the crowd — though perhaps that’s to be expected, given that the president and his campaign tend to focus a great deal on crowd size themselves and promised that this rally would be packed to the gills.

Here’s more from the Wall Street Journal:

President Trump’s campaign planned for a raucous show of force at a rally in Oklahoma but has found itself in a back-and-forth with critics over crowd size Sunday, as the campaign looked ahead to an event in Arizona on Tuesday.

Trump aides blamed the news media for the smaller-than-expected crowd because of coverage of protests and coronavirus infections leading up to Saturday’s rally in Tulsa, Okla. The campaign also said that protesters outside the arena blocked people from entering, though Wall Street Journal reporters at the event didn’t see that happen. Tulsa police said the protests outside the arena were largely peaceful. . . .

About 6,200 people attended the rally at the 19,000-seat BOK Center, Tulsa officials said Sunday. Mr. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were also supposed to speak to an overflow group outside the arena, but that was canceled as the crowd dwindled.

It doesn’t seem especially shocking that the crowd at an indoor rally would be smaller than the campaign had expected. Despite the protests and riots that have unfolded all across the country in recent weeks, most states are still in the cautious reopening phases of recovery, and certainly plenty of people might reasonably be concerned about the health risks of gathering indoors alongside a crowd of several thousand people.

Trump spoke for about an hour and 40 minutes, aiming some attack lines at Joe Biden, but often wandering off script into various digressions. “His lines going after Biden were very effective, particularly on Biden being a tool of the radical left. But I’d like to see that focused message take up more space in the overall speech, because it will resonate with wobbly suburbanites,” Scott Jennings, an adviser in George W. Bush’s White House, told Politico. “He shouldn’t waste his best lines in an ocean of stuff that won’t ultimately work or matter.”

Up next, the president will head to Arizona for a “Students for Trump” event and a border-security event. Later this week, he’ll deliver a speech in Wisconsin, a key battleground state that he won by less than one point in 2016. According to the RealClearPolitics polling average, Biden has a five-point lead in the state so far this election cycle, and the latest survey showed him leading Trump by four points.

How to Think about the Court

In his Sunday column, Ross Douthat had, as usual, plenty of wisdom, this time directed at conservatives distressed about recent outcomes in Supreme Court cases. Though he didn’t mention the Bostock case by name, his thoughts clearly were an effort to parse how conservatives invested in the culture war should think about Neil Gorsuch’s recent opinion.

Here’s some of what he had to say:

In 1864, while Grant and Sherman prepared their offensives, Abraham Lincoln didn’t demand that the Supreme Court declare slavery unconstitutional. Instead he pushed the Senate to amend the Constitution to abolish it. . . .

Today constitutional amendments have become unimaginable, Congress barely legislates, and the Supreme Court manages our social and cultural debates. Our affirmative action system was designed by Lewis Powell and amended by Sandra Day O’Connor. The boundaries of voting rights and free expression are policed by John Roberts. Our abortion laws reflect the preferences of Anthony Kennedy. And now anti-discrimination law and religious liberty protections will reflect what Neil Gorsuch, author of the new decision, thinks is right and good.

The whole column is well worth a read, and while it’s intensely discouraging to consider the mess social conservatives often find ourselves in when it comes the Court, it helps to think through the problem on a theoretical level and realize it isn’t always as simple as ensuring “our guy” is in the Oval Office to appoint more of “our guys.”

ADDENDUM: Glad to be filling in for Jim this week, and prepare yourselves for another long week of Supreme Court decisions. Among the cases yet to be decided are Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, a school-choice case, and June Medical Services v. Russo, a case on a Louisiana law regulating abortion-clinic safety.

U.S.

The Virus Doesn’t Care about Hypocrisy

Loading...
People give away masks and gloves to demonstrators during a protest against police brutality and racial inequality in the aftermath of the death George Floyd during the coronavirus outbreak in Brooklyn, N.Y., June 13, 2020. (Caitlin Ochs/Reuters)

This will be the last Jim-written Morning Jolt until June 29. After a long period where travel and contact with senior citizens were discouraged, I’m finally getting to see my folks again — and really hoping the situation in South Carolina gets better. If you’re among the readers I usually see in one way or another down there, I hope you’ll understand if we don’t meet face to face this year.

Democratic Hypocrisy Will Not Protect You from the Virus

It’s not making national news, but local health officials in various cities and towns across the country are reporting that people participating in or working near the recent protests have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Seven Nebraska National Guardsmen who were embedded with law enforcement in Omaha and Lincoln during the protests have tested positive. A Lexington, Ky., police officer who worked at local protests tested positive. Individual protesters in Topeka, Kan., Boulder, Colo., and Charlotte, N.C., tested positive.

But considering the large sizes of the crowds at these protests and how close people were to each other, these are small numbers. This could mean that various factors kept the spread of the virus relatively low — occurring outdoors, enough protesters wearing masks, plenty of sunlight, warm temperatures. Perhaps the protesters moved around enough during the rallies and marches so that few protesters have sustained contact with each other.

It is also possible that some protesters who have not been tested yet are positive but asymptomatic or are suffering from mild symptoms and are hoping it’s just a summer cold. (We know that New York City doesn’t want to know if people who tested positive attended a George Floyd protest.) Most of the protesters were young and appeared to be in good health.

But Minnesota enacted a widespread testing program for protesters in that state, and the results are surprisingly good news:

Of the 3,200 people tested so far at the four popup sites across the metro, 1.8 percent have tested positive for Covid-19, says [Kristen Ehresmann, the Minnesota Department of Health director of infectious disease]. HealthPartners, one of the largest health care providers in Minnesota, also reported to the state that it had tested about 8,500 people who indicated that attendance at a mass gathering was the reason they wanted a test. Among them, 0.99 percent tested positive. These numbers have been one of the few pleasant surprises since the outbreak began, says Ehresmann. “Right now, with the data available to us, it appears there was very little transmission at protest events,” she says. “We’re just absolutely relieved.”

In Boston, “Health officials said 14 out of 1,288 people tested positive for coronavirus at a Roxbury pop-up site that was set up following large demonstrations in Boston calling for change after the death of George Floyd.”

We’re seeing a rise in cases — and more ominously, a rise in hospitalizations — and it doesn’t appear to be driven by participation in the protests. But what is driving it?

We’re still seeing outbreaks among prison inmates and employees. Eleven children and seven staff members have tested positive in Florida’s largest group home for foster children. In Tampa General Hospital, 55 out of 8,000 hospital employees tested positive, and same for 500 of the 90,000 employees of Delta Airlines. Two meatpacking plants in Utah shut down after recent outbreaks. A cluster of cases traced back to a Florida bar.

What do almost all of these locations have in common? They’re situations where people could have prolonged exposure to an infected person, probably not wearing a mask, indoors.

In fact, we’re seeing a surprising number of cases among young people that can be tracked back to parties — a high school graduation party in South Carolina, a college graduation party in Wisconsin, an unsanctioned prom and beach party in Texas, a party in southwest Wyoming.

Boulder County, Colo.: “‘Some of the gatherings had multiple people like 20 people. One was identified as having up to 50 people in those gatherings,’ said Carol Helwig, the communicable disease epidemiology program manager for Boulder County Public Health. ‘It was reported that there was no use of masks and no social distancing. For young people, it’s the most social time of our lives and we understand the need to gather socially but we are hoping that when people gather that they are following the guidelines.’”

Bucks County, Pa.: “Twelve people in Bucks County who attended Memorial Day parties at the Jersey Shore have tested positive for the coronavirus. The Bucks County Health Department discovered this cluster of COVID-19 cases through contact tracing. One positive case led to the 11 others.”

Oxford, Miss.: “State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs blames an outbreak of COVID-19 cases in Oxford on fraternity parties. During Gov. Tate Reeves’ coronavirus press conference Thursday, Dobbs said there were 381 news cases and five deaths. He further stated there had been a cluster of cases in Oxford linked to fraternity parties.”

All over Texas, really: “There are certain counties where a majority of the people who are tested positive in that county are under the age of 30, and this typically results from people going to bars,” Governor Greg Abbott said during the conference. “That is the case in Lubbock County, Bexar County, Cameron County.”

Most of these cases are among young people who will probably only experience mild symptoms and should make a full recovery. But here and there you’ll see young people whose infections are serious enough require hospitalization, like a 30-year-old man in Scottsdale. In Florida, 103 children under the age of 18 had to be hospitalized after infection. It’s a small percentage, but no parent wants to see their child in the hospital.

A common mentality among conservatives these days is that almost all Democratic officials, and certain public-health experts, set their credibility on fire for coming down like a ton of bricks on anti-lockdown protesters but then blessing and in some cases participating in George Floyd protests. (For what it’s worth, Dr. Anthony Fauci said the protests were a “perfect setup” for spreading the virus.) No doubt, we’ve got a supply of hypocrisy that could fill up the underground tanks of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. My governor, Ralph Northam, posed for selfies on the beach without a mask on May 24 and then two days later signed an executive order requiring masks to be worn indoors, with criminal penalties for the establishment.

But the fact that Democrats are hypocrites does not alter any of the facts around the virus. As far as we can tell so far, participation in the protests turned out to be a low-risk activity. But if someone in those 1 percent of protesters who was infected or got infected walks into a nursing home, the consequences could be substantial anyway. Or if one of those 1 percent lives with someone who is immunocompromised.

A lot of people will want to believe that because the coronavirus wasn’t that bad at the protests, the virus is gone, or that everyone’s built up immunity. But every gathering involves some element of risk. Maybe you’ll be lucky.

As noted yesterday, the increase in cases is happening in states such as Florida and Texas and Arizona, but also in California and Nevada and Oregon.

Some governor out there is going to try to put lockdowns in place again, and it is going to go badly. A lot of Americans found the lockdowns economically ruinous, psychologically agonizing, and intolerable, and the government response to the George Floyd protests convinced these Americans that the lockdowns were a bunch of nonsense. Dumb rules such as bans on surfing and drive-in church services; dumb decisions such as the arrest of a dad playing catch with his daughter; and nutty arbitrary restrictions such as permitting drywall but not paint in Michigan convinced plenty of Americans that the lockdowns represented petty fascism and micromanaging governors on a power trip. It is trendy to argue that the coronavirus presented a test of Americans’ patience and self-discipline — and that the public failed. That may well be true, but the coronavirus also represented a test of the seriousness and self-discipline of our elected officials, and a lot of those figures flunked the test, too. The moment called for Abraham Lincoln, and instead we got the gubernatorial equivalent of South Park’s Eric Cartman bellowing “respect my authority!”

We don’t need another lockdown, but we do need a restoration of early-pandemic caution and discipline. (One of the enormous problems in how we’ve been discussing the pandemic is that many lockdown foes see any message of caution as an ipso facto endorsement of the lockdowns, and how they were enforced.)

The recent experiences with infections at parties suggests that it’s probably too early to restore our old habits of large gatherings without social-distancing measures. The experience with the protests and the contrast with workplaces suggests we should wear masks whenever we’re coming within six feet of someone outside our household. We would be wise to minimize our time that we’re indoors with others outside our household and maximize our time outdoors.

Nobody wants to hear this, but life isn’t just about being told what you want to hear.

President Trump wants to move on to his rallies. The Democrats want to move on to ever-intensifying denunciations of structural racism in American society. The Washington media want to move on to the juicy parts of John Bolton’s book.

It’s just a shame the coronavirus isn’t ready to move on.

ADDENDUM: Not much of an addendum today, other than an acknowledgement that a lot of days I write “addenda” which is plural or “addendum” which is singular and use them incorrectly. When this happens, it is often because I started with two ideas and then went back and removed one, or started with one and then added another and didn’t change what I had originally written.

U.S.

A Relationship Doomed to Fail

Loading...
President Donald Trump listens as his national security adviser John Bolton speaks during a presidential memorandum signing in the Oval Office, February 7, 2019. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

On the menu today: contemplating the relationship between Donald Trump and John Bolton and whether it was destined to end this way; how the mandatory social distancing of the pandemic quarantines set the stage for the hunger for connection met by the George Floyd protests; and data suggests an exodus from America’s biggest cities started before the coronavirus and the protests.

How Did Trump and Bolton Think Their Working Relationship Was Going to End?

In 1987, the infamously temperamental New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner hired Billy Martin to manage the team . . . for the fifth time in just over a decade. From 1973 to 1990, Steinbrenner made 20 changes of manager, and perhaps no relationship in baseball was ever as perfectly toxic, dysfunctional, and volatile as that of Steinbrenner and Martin. While both had achieved a significant level of success in life and the sport, their passions ran hot and neither man was inclined to back down or compromise. What made the on-again off-again working relationship so bizarrely funny was how frequently the two were willing to give it another try, no matter how badly their previous encounter had ended. But the fifth time wasn’t the charm; Martin lasted less than half a season in his final stint as Yankees manager.

With that in mind . . . just how did Donald Trump and John Bolton think their working relationship was going to end?

Donald Trump is a quasi-isolationist nationalist critic of the Iraq War and George W. Bush’s foreign policy in general. He has no interest in democracy promotion and minimal interest in human rights, sees American foreign policy almost exclusively in economic terms, and is a frequent critic of U.S. alliances who is convinced he personally can reach good deals with hostile states like Russia and North Korea. John Bolton is the walking definition of a hawk. He regularly endorses regime change and military action against states hostile to the United States, is a fierce critic of Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un, and is inclined to believe that negotiations with leaders of hostile states are simply opportunities for American leaders to get taken to the cleaners by con artists.

Sure, you can find agreements here and there — both men criticized the Iran nuclear deal, Bolton has his own skepticism of “the international community” and multilateralism, and both men see themselves as strong friends of Israel. But the two men’s worldviews and values were so different — on precisely the sorts of matters that a president and national-security adviser need to work on! — that not only was conflict inevitable, the pairing was all but guaranteed to conclude with an explosive clash of two adamant personalities. Both men exhibited some hubris in the decision to work together. Trump was unrealistically certain Bolton would stay in line and play good soldier as the administration pursued policies Bolton deemed egregiously consequential mistakes. Bolton unrealistically believed he could steer Trump away from his own lifelong instincts and towards the foreign policy direction he preferred.

Bolton was approaching 70 years old when he took the job as Trump’s national-security adviser. Bolton didn’t need to stay on good terms with anyone for future career prospects.

Four things can be simultaneously true:

One: The anecdotes from Bolton, describing Trump as erratic, uninterested in details, easily flattered by foreign leaders, and far too credulous when listening to their pledges and explanations, are disturbing. Of course, the Trump that Bolton describes is not all that different from what we have seen and heard from him in public. The president has colossal confidence in his own persuasiveness and ability to make a deal, and once negotiations start, Trump always wants to believe that any agreement reached represents a grand step in the right direction.

Two: Bolton’s steadfast refusal or reluctance to testify during the impeachment hearing does not reflect well on him. Bolton apparently believes that what the president says behind closed doors, when the cameras aren’t watching, in negotiations with foreign leaders is vital and shocking information of utmost importance to the future of the country that the American people need to know . . . after they’ve paid $32.50 hardcover.

Three: Bolton’s refusal to testify probably had little or no impact on the outcome of the trial in the Senate. People who believe his testimony would have convinced 19 Republican senators to remove Donald Trump from the presidency are fooling themselves.

Four: A White House national-security adviser writing a denunciatory tell-all book and releasing it the summer before a presidential election, as payback for policy and personal disagreements, sets a terrible precedent for future presidents. Whether or not you think Donald Trump deserves loyalty from his staff, the President of the United States deserves to have his conversations within the White House about policy and decisions — and his conversations and negotiations with foreign leaders! — not blasted out for the whole world to evaluate.

Now the president is predictably furiously denouncing Bolton on Twitter — once again ignoring the fact that he himself chose to hire him — and the worse Bolton is, the worse Trump must be for hiring him. And for Bolton, the more he insists, as he did this morning on ABC News, that Trump is “not fit for office . . . doesn’t have the competence to carry out the job . . . erratic, foolish, irrational, a conspiracy theorist who is stunningly uninformed . . . unable to distinguish between the country’s interest and his personal interest . . .” we are left to ask . . . why did John Bolton agree to work for him?

The Pandemic, the Protests, and Our Much-Needed Human Sense of Connection

For all that’s wrong in this country, and how frustrating the daily news cycle can be, I still believe that most Americans are good people who want to help others, and many are extraordinary.

A new report finds Americans gave nearly $450 billion to charities in 2019, a 2.4 percent uptick from the previous year when adjusted for inflation. And that’s not all big foundations, charitable trusts, and corporations — 70 percent of that sum was from individuals. When faced with a crisis — 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Harvey — Americans want to help.

One of the great frustrations of the coronavirus pandemic was what we as Americans were asked to do, and how insignificant it felt compared to scale of the problem. A contagious virus that could kill someone, particularly if that person was elderly or immunocompromised, had invaded our shores, and we as Americans were asked . . . to wash our hands and stay home. (Everything was canceled anyway.) It was one of the most high-risk moments in modern history, and we were asked to sit on our couches, watch Netflix, and order take-out.

Perhaps some Americans chafed against the lockdowns out of selfishness or shortsightedness, but I suspect a big ingredient is that when a crisis hits, many Americans want to mobilize. They want to do something, to feel useful. Many of us hate sitting around and waiting; for some of us, there is no emotion more painful than feeling helpless.

Also, during and in the aftermath of a crisis, almost all of us experience that human instinct of wanting to come together in groups. This is why every culture on earth has some sort of funeral or ritual for gathering after death. We know we are not meant to go through hardship alone. And we were instructed to social distance when we needed social connection the most.

Unfortunately, the average American can’t research treatments and potential vaccines.

If doing baking-soda-and-vinegar volcano science projects in our kitchens would have helped find a cure faster, finding baking soda and vinegar would become as hard as finding toilet paper earlier this year.

No doubt, the tens of thousands who marched in the streets were genuinely outraged by the police role in the death of George Floyd and widespread lasting tensions between police forces and minority communities. But the protests also represented the lone officially sanctioned or blessed gatherings of large groups since the second week of March. No wonder those protests, demonstrations, marches, and rallies occurred in more than 2,000 cities and towns. They were the only game in town, so to speak. People who had felt helpless in the face of a microscopic virus for months suddenly had an opportunity to do something that they believed, and were told, would create a better world.

Are they creating a better world? Some police forces are altering their policies and methods of subduing suspects, Congress is contemplating legislation, and President Trump signed an executive order that urges police departments to adopt stricter use-of-force standards and create databases to track officer misconduct. Without the protests, it is unlikely any of those changes would have happened.

But along the way, malcontents torched buildings, looted stores, and left graffiti and wreckage all over the downtowns of America’s cities. The National Park Service is still trying to get the graffiti off the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution in Philadelphia. Destroyed police squad cars, broken glass everywhere, boarded-up storefront windows, the smoldering embers of fast-food joints . . . enraged by the Trump administration and response to the coronavirus, George Packer declared in The Atlantic that the United States was a failed state. Certain protesters seemed determined to ensure that the country looked like one.

Speaking of America’s Cities . . .

Daniel Henninger calls attention to this eye-opening Brookings report by William Frey about population shifts in America’s cities. That exodus from the cities that people, including myself, thought the pandemic would trigger? It many places it started before the coronavirus arrived: “Among the 68 urban core counties with populations exceeding 500,000 people, 30 registered a population loss in 2018 to 2019, and 60 grew less or lost more population than in 2014 to 2015.”

ADDENDA: Kevin Williamson: “The class war in our country is business class vs. first class; in automotive terms, it’s E-Class vs. S-Class. Everybody’s comfortable. And that produces some odd outcomes: Nobody’s going to do one g**damned thing about how they conduct business in Philadelphia or Chicago or any other corrupt, Democrat-dominated city, but there are going to be some “new representation and inclusion standards for Oscars eligibility,” and we are going to be treated to — joy of joys! — a deep national discussion on whether some Broadway stars don’t have it quite as good as other Broadway stars. The bloody-snouted hyenas have looked up from the kill just long enough to announce the creation of the Goldman Sachs Fund for Racial Equity.”

Most Popular

Year Zero

Every cultural revolution starts at year zero, whether explicitly or implicitly. The French Revolution recalibrated the calendar to begin anew, and the genocidal Pol Pot declared his own Cambodian revolutionary ascension as the beginning of time. Somewhere after May 25, 2020, the death of George Floyd, while ... Read More

Year Zero

Every cultural revolution starts at year zero, whether explicitly or implicitly. The French Revolution recalibrated the calendar to begin anew, and the genocidal Pol Pot declared his own Cambodian revolutionary ascension as the beginning of time. Somewhere after May 25, 2020, the death of George Floyd, while ... Read More

COVID’s Comeback

We’re living in Groundhog Day. For the second time this year, COVID-19 is sweeping the country and we don’t have any great options for dealing with it. We didn’t squander the past four months, exactly, but we demonstrably failed to get to a place where we can enjoy an open society without the virus taking ... Read More

COVID’s Comeback

We’re living in Groundhog Day. For the second time this year, COVID-19 is sweeping the country and we don’t have any great options for dealing with it. We didn’t squander the past four months, exactly, but we demonstrably failed to get to a place where we can enjoy an open society without the virus taking ... Read More