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It’s Time to Put a Leash on the FTC

By Peter RoffThe Western Journal

The U.S. economy has stopped growing. Prices are up. Job creation is slowing. The value of wages is declining.

Yet, instead of looking for ways to stimulate economic growth, Washington policymakers are pushing tax hikes and spending that will drag things down even further.

What’s happened in the energy sector is a perfect example of how the Biden administration has made things worse.

The president’s drive to power the economy with renewables has ravaged the energy sector. The right way to ease the fuel crisis is to incentivize domestic producers to produce more oil and natural gas. Instead, he went hat in hand to the Saudis to beg them to pump more oil while releasing a million barrels a day from America’s critical petroleum reserves that should only be used in times of national emergency like war and natural disasters.

These bad policy moves that have handcuffed U.S. producers through regulatory means are not an anomaly. The entire economy is imperiled by attempts by the veritable alphabet soup of federal rule-making agencies to force corporate leaders to adopt politically progressive ideas even as they threaten the interests of shareholders and consumers.

The Federal Trade Commission, one of the government’s most powerful regulatory bodies, is especially guilty of this. Supposedly independent of the executive branch, under the leadership of its Biden-appointed chairman, Lina Khan, it is now trying to use power it may not have to regulate some of America’s biggest companies.

Khan is a radical anti-free marketeer whose attitudes and actions are informed by no practical, real-world business experience, as documented by a recent report produced by the Committee to Unleash Prosperity.Advertisement – story continues below

She’s an academic and an ideologue who thinks big business is bad and needs the input of Washington-based ivory tower experts to decide what it can and cannot do. She’s bringing central planning back from the storage locker at the Harvard University School of Business where it’s been kept since the late 1980s.

That runs headlong into the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in West Virginia vs. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in which the court reined in the ability of federal agencies to make policies and expand their purview without specific congressional authorization. Hopefully, that will keep Khan coloring within the lines, at least for a while.

Even without that decision, though, the FTC’s power has been reined in significantly over the last few years. An April 2021 high court unanimous ruling barred the commission from continuing to impose large fines on companies when adjudicating regulatory matters. Going forward, the justices will have two more chances to address the fundamental unfairness of the administrative trial procedures regulatory agencies like the FTC commonly employ.

The constitutional guarantee of due process as it’s understood in criminal courts doesn’t hold in the same way when you’re before an administrative law judge overseeing a regulatory matter. Their approach is much more one-sided, with the agency put in the position to serve as prosecutor, judge and jury. That is unfair even to those accused of the worst violations of agency regulations.

It’s no wonder the FTC’s rate of success for cases it has brought over the last 25 years approaches 100 percent, even when the initial decision came down in the defendant’s favor.

It’s doubtful the agency will change course on its own. Despite West Virginia vs. EPA, Khan is likely to continue to look for ways to expand the FTC’s areas of influence. If that happens, the efforts to strip away its statutory authority will continue and probably be successful.

Rather than battle it out in court, with taxpayers paying the price, Congress should take the lead to ensure it can only intervene in cases where the consumer welfare standard can be legitimately shown to have been violated.

Needless new regulations punishing companies that have a bottom line enforced by a bureaucrat who has never worked in the real world will not restart the engine of economic growth but probably will prolong the recession.


Misguided Policy Proposals Won’t Solve America’s Energy Crisis

By George LandrithTownhall

Source: AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

Americans are experiencing an energy crisis with gasoline and diesel fuel at historically high prices. President Biden has been releasing a million barrels a day from the nation’s strategic oil reserve and it is now at its lowest level in decades. Likewise, it is unsettling to watch the President travel abroad begging for oil rich nations to produce more oil. Another typically hot summer is driving up energy demands for electricity and adding to the feeling that this energy crisis is real and isn’t merely a function of high gas prices. 

All of this is happening while the Administration is arguing that we should be driving electric vehicles. But as even Elon Musk, the number one producer of electric vehicles in the U.S. has pointed out, there simply isn’t enough electricity nor can our electrical grid handle the demand of millions of electric vehicles plugged in every night to recharge. 

One of the problems with complex issues is that policymakers often suggest absurdly harmful solutions that won’t work in real life. America’s current energy woes cannot actually be solved by a sudden switch to electric vehicles. Nor can the problem be solved by depleting the strategic oil reserve. But oddly enough these are not the most absurd policy suggestions. Some of the proposed solutions are even more misguided. 

For example, some have suggested that we repeal the Jones Act, which requires ships operating within the United States between two or more U.S. ports to be American ships with American crews. They seem to think that allowing foreign ships with unvetted and unknown foreign crews to sail up and down America’s 25,000 miles of inland water ways will somehow solve our energy problems, a policy prescription that borders on the insane or at least the inane. 

When pressed, they use the energy crisis and argue that liquefied natural gas (LNG) could be shipped more cheaply in the United States via foreign vessels as the American fleet isn’t currently prepared to ship massive quantities of LNG (which requires a specialized fleet). But here’s the problem with this policy prescription — pipelines are by far the cheapest and safest way to transport natural gas and petroleum products across the United States. So, if you’re worried about the expense of transporting LNG, you should support the construction of more pipelines, not the repeal of the Jones Act. 

If you repeal the Jones Act, all you would gain a relatively expensive way to transport LNG that would also pose more risks and dangers. In exchange, you would also lose all the benefits of the Jones Act. 

The Jones Act is a critical part of our military readiness and ability to supply our military. Former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Paul Selva said, “I am an ardent supporter of the Jones Act. [The Act] supports a viable ship building industry, cuts cost and produces 2,500 qualified mariners. Why would we tamper with that?” Admiral Paul Zunkunft also said, “You take Jones Act away, the first thing to go is these shipyards and then the mariners…. If we don’t have a U.S. fleet or U.S. shipyard to constitute that fleet how do we prevail?” 

But the Jones Act isn’t just important to our military strength, it actually helps border security and homeland security as well. The law allows the primary focus of our security efforts to be on the outer perimeter of our country and the American ships and American crews who are both vetted and trained become the eyes and ears on America’s inland water ways. The taxpayer doesn’t have to pay them or pay for their boat to do that. They do all of that while they’re doing their normal job. 

As Michael Herbert, former Chief of the Customs & Border Protection’s Jones Act Division of Enforcement said, “We use the Jones Act as a virtual wall. Without the Jones Act in place, our inland waterways would be inundated with foreign flagged vessels.” 

The truth is — if we were to repeal the Jones Act, any foreign ship, with an unknown and unvetted crew, carrying unknown cargo, equipment, and even weapons, could sail up the Mississippi and along America’s vast inland water ways, gaining access to America’s heartland.

Once you know the facts, it is clear that those suggesting we repeal the Jones Act — whether they realize it or not — are really suggesting that we allow Chinese, Russian, North Korean, and Iranian ships and crews, which would likely be carrying spies and covert operatives, to deploy inside America’s heartland with high-tech listening devices and tools of sabotage. They are also suggesting that America’s military capacity be significantly weakened and undermined. 

Given that pipelines are both cheaper and safer, and don’t undermine our national security, or bring foreign powers into our heartland, they would be a far better solution to transporting LNG and petroleum products. It is time to put an end to the senseless talk of repealing the Jones Act. 


March 25, 2015 is the day on which dictatorship came to full fruition in Hungary!

The perversion of justice

By Grand Ph.D János Palotás

Honorary Associate Professor

International Expert in Law, Finance, Economics

Exclusive influence over legislation also means having exclusive power. This fact is proof beyond any doubt of the presence of a dictatorship, which at the same time rules out the independence of the courts, as they are bound by law. I wonder whether judges and courts still strive to deliver judgments in the service of justice.

Today, I think with even greater respect than before of those officials, police officers, investigators, prosecutors and judges who are not the subject of the critical passages that can rightfully be gleaned from my writing. Those who are not the subject of the critical passages that can rightfully be gleaned from my writing. They are the ones who still carry out their daily work as a vocation for the fulfilment of justice. There are many who have not given up, while realizing that we are not talking about exceptional cases either in legislative omissions or in enforcement. They also see that procedures and judgments incompatible with the law are not exceptional, but have become systemic in Hungary. 

My legal contributions could even be considered desperate appeals for social justice and the recognition that dictatorship cannot be the future of Hungary. 

It is impossible to detail in a few newspaper pages the legal nonsense that has become systemic in Hungary. This is why I have decided to highlight a few typical areas in my now eight articles, which are expanding month by month and complementing each other. I hope to provide a more detailed explanation in a consolidated book format in the fall.

My aim is to provide an insight into the legislative activity of the Government and the Parliament in the service of dictatorship, the procedural and adjudicative practice of the Constitutional Court, the Curia, the Budapest Metropolitan Court of Appeal, the Budapest Metropolitan and Budapest Regional Courts, and some of the lower courts within their jurisdiction (such as the Monor District Court). All of this is complemented by specific cases that can help hundreds of thousands of citizens recognize their situation. Algorithms that have become standard for individual procedures (a set of rules built on each other) do not depend on the specific types of cases. A large number of confusions and distortions in the changing understanding of decision-makers can be identified in the proceedings of public authorities, government agencies, police, prosecutors and courts. This is why my examples can even be considered public affairs, as they affect the lives of all of us. 

The end of democratic legislation, and thus the collapse of justice-centered enforcement of the law, was marked crucially by Viktor Orbán’s rise to power in Hungary in 2010. This negative process has been only accelerated by the adoption of the Fundamental Law in 2011. In my previous article of March 26, I pointed out that in 2013, with the Fourth Amendment to the Fundamental Law, the series of pre-existing legal abuses of Orbán’s rule reached a new and all-time high. This was when the latest restriction on the powers of the Constitutional Court was introduced into the Hungarian Fundamental Law (Article 12(5)). 

According to this provision of the Fundamental Law, if the (Orbán) Parliament intends to introduce any nonsense into the Fundamental Law by means of legislation, the Constitutional Court (CC) is not allowed to examine the conformity of the amendment with the provisions of the Fundamental Law, while in case of any objection regarding constitutionality, only the CC would be entitled to give an opinion on the matter. Thus, the CC cannot have any control over Orbán’s legislation, while all other branches of power have solely executive power, so the implementation of the law adopted by the Parliament in Hungary is an unquestionable obligation for them, i.e. Orbán’s power had then became exclusive!

Orbán and his puppet government, including the parliamentary voting machine that provides the backdrop for his power game, did not sit idle after that. Thus, we are now dealing with the tenth amendment that could not even be included in the Fundamental Law imposed on us in 2011, without any social legitimacy or consensus, assuming that anyone in Hungary had the right to examine it.

At the same time, Hungary is a Member State of the European Union, and every Hungarian citizen is also an EU citizen, so the EU’s bodies would have an obligation to protect the rights of their nearly ten million citizens. So not all is hopeless as long as Orbán does not withdraw Hungary from the EU. I should note that Orbán has all the necessary powers to do this today! For the EU to take effective action against the exclusive power of Orbán, it is not a necessary prerequisite that the Hungarian opposition, which has the right to representation through elections, initiate effective EU action according to the legal procedures of the European Union. However, the fact is that the opposition does not do so, and indeed explicitly accepts in its statements, for example, the 2022 election result, which has the effect of restraining any action by the EU bodies. 

As to why the opposition does not initiate the procedures described in detail in my articles, I cannot answer that question, unfortunately!

The systemic changes that the last 12 years have brought about in almost all areas of the executive branch, from the highest levels to the daily life of the district courts, could be illustrated with enough examples to fill volumes of books. 

A good recent example is that, during the emergency caused by the coronavirus epidemic, Viktor Orbán sent political messages before the election to the e-mail addresses provided as part of the mandatory registration for vaccination, as part of the government’s information campaign on the epidemic. The National Election Office found this to be in order and the Data Protection Commissioner did not think he should deal with it. However, the Curia, as the highest body for administering the law, found this to be unlawful. The CC, however, annulled the decision of the Curia despite the fact that it constantly rejects citizens appealing against decisions of judicial forums, arguing that the CC is not a fourth judicial forum and will only overturn a court’s decision if it is based on applicable law that is incompatible with the Fundamental Law, i.e. if it is to be repealed, and that the CC refuses to review the decision if the Curia may have misapplied applicable law. 

Hundreds of thousands of people are still affected by the decades of fraud perpetrated by three separate brokerage firms that went bankrupt in 2015, under the auspices of the Hungarian National Bank (HNB). The series of bankruptcies in 2015 was the largest ever in the Hungarian investment market, yet it triggered some interesting reactions from the government. The State Audit Office (SAO) of Hungary (for reasons that are verifiably untrue) has abruptly stopped its annual audit of the HNB’s financial supervisory activities in the state-controlled investment market. The SAO is equally unconcerned about the illegal and corrupt investments of public entities, which have distorted the investment market with nearly HUF 300 billion of public money and prevented independent market supervision. The HNB has also taken the view that, even though a monitored market will always involve three players (investor, service provider and the state), it does not need to investigate its own liability. Finally, after forming a joinder, 1,652 injured parties applied to the courts to investigate the liability of public bodies in accordance with Hungarian and EU law. The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has ruled, in a precedent judgment which is also binding on Hungarian courts, that such an investigation cannot be rejected by a national court without an examination of the merits. For almost four years it seemed that the competent council of the Budapest Metropolitan Court (Dr. András Tamás Kovács, Judge), accepting this, would proceed with the investigation, and for years held a series of hearings in a very fair atmosphere. Then, after the summer recess in 2020, it took an unexpected turn and closed the case before the start of an investigation on the merits, rejecting the plaintiffs’ right to bring the action. According to the judgment, some of the parties had received compensation and were therefore no longer entitled to find out who was responsible for their damages. Another group of litigants was rejected, arguing that they could not have brought “only an action for a declaration of liability”. Then, when one of the plaintiffs tried to convert the proceedings still pending in the case into an action based on the judgment, which was otherwise precluded by its statutory terms, the Court ruled that the damages were barred by the statute of limitations. However, this is conceptually impossible because the activities of the defendant public entities were not investigated by the court of first instance. And what has not yet been established cannot be barred by the statute of limitations. The council of the Budapest Metropolitan Court of Appeal, headed by Dr. Katalin Hőbl, not only upheld the absurd judgment of the first instance, but also imposed a heavy “penalty” on the plaintiffs by ordering the joint litigants without even being petitioned to pay tens of millions instead of half of the legal costs determined at first instance (indeed by almost thirty times that amount) and excluding the right of appeal. This case is still pending before the Curia for a final ruling at national level. At present, the Curia is still accustomed to ruling in accordance with the law, the judge’s oath and justice, but even here the government will have the option of referring the matter to the CC.

Finally, an example of the impact on small-town judiciaries of Orbán’s decimation of Hungarian judges through “forced retirement” after 2010, subsequently ruled illegal by the ECtHR and the EU. Subsequently, the justice system has experienced that the law can not only be used, but also abused, and that the authorities do not have to reckon with any consequences, they can regard despotism as their virtual legal power. Since 2018, the Monor District Court, together with the local Guardianship Office, the police, the prosecutor’s office and the government office of the district, has been investigating the parental supervision of three minor children. In this case, one parent imprudently asked the authorities for help because of the other parent’s violent actions, which also resulted in injuries, and the influence of the other parent on their 5-7 year old children for years, through false and degrading allegations against the parent in question, which have been proven by a forensic expert since March 2020. 

However, the local influence of the parent from the local intellectual community, whose claims have been refuted by a forensic expert appointed by the authorities, is now enough in Hungary to either not reach a decision or to reach one in favor of the parent who is engaging in ongoing harmful behavior. More than two years after the forensic expert reached their findings, court decisions documented the unlawful parental behavior, the Monor Police Department has not yet reached the conclusion of its investigation and is not affected by the fact that three minor children may be at risk. In addition to the disinterest and partiality of the authorities, the Monor District Court’s judgments of first instance in several proceedings, none of which were delivered in a manner consistent with the truth or the law, should also be included.In the context of the proceedings still pending today, it is perhaps encouraging to note that in all of the proceedings already closed, the final second instance judgment of the Budapest Regional Court has restored justice in the cases of judicial excesses that were presumably not free of small town conspiracies.  In Monor, no decision on custody of the children could be made after four years, and joint custody, which is a threat to the children’s development, is still in force today, while the age of the young children at risk has doubled. Unfortunately, it is also true that disregarding the destructive impact of time, especially in the case of children, is a bias not unique to the Monor District Court. 

I cannot reconcile myself to the fact that not even the age of our defenseless young children is an incentive for our authorities to consider having an immediate duty to take a decision!


Americans’ Trust In Government, Media, And Other Major Institutions Nosedives To Record Low

By Jordan BoydThe Federalist

American flag
DAVID DIBERT/PEXELS

Confidence in major U.S. institutions such as the government, media, law enforcement, and Big Tech is at a record low and has not improved at all since 2021, a new report from Gallup found.

Of the 16 institutions Gallup measured Americans’ confidence in, “Congress” ranked the worst, with only 7 percent of those surveyed claiming they trusted the legislative body. That’s a 5-point drop since Gallup’s 2021 poll.

“The presidency” and “the U.S. Supreme Court” also lost a noteworthy amount of Americans’ trust since last year. While the presidency clocked 38 percent confidence last year and SCOTUS received 36 percent, both branches of government dropped into the low- to mid-20s in 2022.

Specifically, the court had a 25 percent vote of confidence with Americans before the Dobbs v. Jackson decision was released, and the presidency held 23 percent of Americans’ trust. That’s even lower than President Joe Biden’s current 38 percent approval rating.

Other institutions such as church or organized religion (31 percent), the criminal justice system (14 percent), big business (14 percent), newspapers (16 percent), and police (45 percent) marked their lowest votes of confidence since the 1990s, according to Gallup.

Americans have also significantly lost trust in the media. Only 11 percent of those surveyed said they have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in “television news.” That confidence goes up to 16 percent with newspapers but, much like the TV news category, is still down 5 points from just last year.

Trust in the media is drastically split along partisan lines. While only 8 percent of Republicans and 8 percent of independents say they still have faith in TV news, 20 percent of Democrats reported confidence in broadcast media. When it comes to newspapers, only 5 percent of Republicans and 12 percent of independents say they have confidence, compared to 35 percent of Democrats.

Only small businesses and the U.S. military seem to have captured more than 50 percent of Americans’ vote of confidence.


Who’s In Charge?

Biden's drift and weakness

By Matthew ContinettiThe Washington Free Beacon

“Which way am I going?” asked President Biden when he ended Thursday’s press conference at the NATO summit in Madrid. He began to exit stage right, before someone redirected him toward stage left. This combination of ignorance and indecision was not new. Throughout his 18 months as president, Biden has been confused, uncertain, sluggish. He behaves as if he is guided by unseen forces. He moves on a course set by hidden captains.

People notice. Every time I speak to a conservative audience, I am asked who is really in charge in the White House. My answer has been that the president is in command. After all, institutions take on the character of their leaders. If all the White House has to offer is excuses, if decisions are made either slowly or randomly, if the communications team and the president and vice president seem to live on different planets, if incompetence and mismanagement appear throughout the government, it is because the chief executive allows it. No conspiracy is required to explain the ineptitude. This is Joe Biden we are talking about.

Lately, though, I have been having second thoughts. Not that Barack Obama or Ron Klain or Dr. Jill are running the show in secret. What I have been wondering, instead, is whether anyone is leading the government at all. There is no power, either overt or covert, in or behind the throne. The throne is empty.

Think of the economy, the border, and Ukraine. From time to time, Biden addresses these issues. He may even answer questions about them. The White House sends out press releases describing its latest initiatives. Vice President Harris or the second gentleman pops up somewhere to talk about all the good she and he are doing.

Yet each of these elements—the president, his staff, his spokesperson, his vice president, his policy—comes across as disconnected, discombobulated, as if each inhabits a separate sphere of activity. Whether because of Biden’s age, or his weekend trips to Delaware, or years of remote work, or lower-level staff turnover, or a painstakingly slow decision-making process, or ideological stubbornness, or a lack of a strategic plan, this administration drifts from crisis to crisis, and from one bad headline to the next. And nothing improves.

The June 29 Reuters/Ipsos poll has Biden’s job approval rating at 38 percent. By far, Americans say the economy, unemployment, and jobs are the most important problems facing the country. What is Biden’s plan? He blames Vladimir Putin and the energy industry for high gas prices. He says it’s the Federal Reserve’s job to reduce inflation. He asks Middle East autocrats to pump more oil rather than easing the burden on domestic fossil fuel production. He wants more spending, more tax hikes, more regulation. Will Congress give him what he wants? Okay, you can stop laughing.

The result: America slouches toward stagflation because the alternative—reducing (non-China) tariffs, suspending “Buy American” provisions, reversing his entire energy policy, dropping his tax plans, committing to spending cuts—is unacceptable to the president.

Earlier this week, authorities found at least 50 dead people in a tractor-trailer on the side of a road in El Paso, Texas. The victims were illegal immigrants who had paid human traffickers to bring them to the United States. This ghastly discovery was a reminder of illegal immigration’s human toll, and of the inadequacy of Biden’s migration policies. One reporter asked White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre for her response to Republican critics. “The fact of the matter is the border is closed,” Jean-Pierre said, “which is in part why you see people trying to make this dangerous journey using smuggling networks.”

Closed? Unauthorized crossings hit another milestone in May, when Border Patrol encountered some 239,000 individuals. At that time, however, authorities could expel illegal migrants under public health regulation Title 42. The status of the Remain in Mexico program was unclear. Biden, of course, wants to end Title 42, and the Supreme Court ruled on June 30 that he has the authority to shut down Remain in Mexico. If you think the border is “closed” now, just wait.

Biden could explain to the nation why it is in our interest to admit as many asylum-seekers as possible, even if a rise in illegal entries and in cross-border human and drug trafficking is the consequence. Or he could admit that his policies are responsible for a humanitarian disaster and withdraw his earlier executive orders. Or he could use whatever political capital he has left to pass an immigration reform bill that combines legal pathways to entry with workplace enforcement. But he won’t do anything. Why? Because he is either satisfied with the situation or simply overwhelmed by it. Neither option is reassuring. And the problem grows worse.

Where Biden is most engaged is Ukraine. He warned against the invasion, rallied NATO against Russia, encouraged Sweden and Finland to join the Western alliance, and committed America to supply Ukraine with aid and weapons. “The generic point is that we’re supplying them with the capacity—and the overwhelming courage they’ve demonstrated—that, in fact, they can continue to resist the Russian aggression,” Biden told reporters Thursday. “And so, I don’t know what—how it’s going to end, but it will not end with a Russian defeat of Ukraine in Ukraine.”

Shouldn’t the leader of the Free World have some idea of how this brutal conflict might end? The war has taken a horrible human toll. Its effects on energy and food markets have been devastating. The goal should be to end the war.

How? Not by giving Putin what he wants. By giving Ukraine what it needs to push Russia back to the pre-war line of control. A Russia on defense is more likely to sue for peace.

Biden makes this prospect more difficult by limiting the systems we provide to Ukraine, by dribbling them out over time, and by insisting that we won’t provide Ukraine with weapons that could strike targets inside Russia. From the start of the war, Biden has been more interested in signaling to Russia what he won’t do than in causing Putin to fear what he might do. His self-constraint extends the fighting rather than shortens it and provides Russia the space for its slow roll through eastern and southern Ukraine. The war has become another disaster that Biden allows to play out in the background, in between bike rides and scoops of ice cream from Starkey’s.

American aid to Ukraine is just and necessary. Since 1947, the policy of the United States has been to “support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.” But Biden won’t be able to sustain the domestic support for American involvement in a years-long war of attrition. He needs to match his actions with his words and drop his inhibitions on the aid we provide the Ukrainians. And he could do so while launching a peace initiative, thereby restoring coercive diplomacy as a tool of American foreign policy.

Coulda, woulda, shoulda. Decisive leadership is not Joe Biden’s calling card. And so, the crises continue to mount. And Americans are left with feelings of aimlessness and fear.


What I Learned From My Father About The Prodigal Son

We can see ourselves as the prodigal or elder son at different stages of life, but we ultimately are called to progress to spiritual fatherhood.

By MIKE KERRIGANThe Federalist

man walking holding little boy's hand

PIXABAY

When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” So said Mark Twain, and so have felt countless sons. Well past twenty-one, I continue to be astonished at how much my old man has learned.

A memory illustrates. Early last year, I was driving home from Mass with my family on Sunday morning. There the readings had included the Gospel of Luke’s parable of the prodigal son. It’s the tale of the headstrong son who demanded and squandered his inheritance and then begged for forgiveness, his older brother who never rebelled, and the father who loved them both.

I had always identified with the prodigal son, and figured everyone else did, too. This is partly due to my Irish heritage which, according to William Butler Yeats, means I have an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustains me through temporary periods of joy.

I said this to my wife, Devin, as we drove home from church. She said she understood the sentiment, but admitted at times feeling a certain kinship with the dutiful elder son. We clearly had interpreted the lesson differently, which surprised me. I decided to consult my father to break the tie.

I called him from the car, asking which character in the parable he identified with most. “Easy,” he answered. “The father.” Believing God alone had been, well, perpetually cast in that role, I never thought picking the father was an option. It seemed my dad, when faced with multiple-choice options (a) or (b), was puckishly choosing (c) as a write-in answer. Or so I thought.

Weeks later I shared the breezy exchange with Dr. William Muse of Knoxville, Tennessee. Muse, a contemporary of my father, is a dear friend whom I figured could use a smile. We were together in Dallas where he was tending to his daughter, Amanda, who was dying of cancer. Sad of heart but undaunted in his Catholic faith, he somehow found time to counsel me.

“Read this,” he said, pitching me Catholic priest and writer Henri Nouwen’s spiritual classic “The Return of the Prodigal Son.” It’s a meditation inspired by the author’s response to a reproduction of Rembrandt’s eponymous and hauntingly beautiful painting. How strange the book was there in Amanda’s bookcase, my own poor man’s tolle lege experience“Your dad is not wrong. None of you are.” 

I devoured the book. It taught me that while we tend to be each actor — prodigal son, elder son, even the father — at different stages of life, we ultimately are called to progress to spiritual fatherhood. That is, we’re called to love one another exactly as the compassionate father did, with self-emptying hearts of mercy.

After all, neither the justice the prodigal son demanded nor the justice the elder son expected ultimately satisfies. Knowing this, the father gave his heirs freely and fully not the mere justice they sought but the far greater mercy they needed. 

Justice may even the scales, but in mercy, the world is remade anew. As a broken world, so a penitent man. As we need merciful forgiveness, so must we grant it. As we are loved by God, so must we try to love one another. For nothing you have not given away, as C.S. Lewis wrote, will ever really be yours.

In other words, in the parable of the prodigal son we are, in fact, called to identify with the father, just like my old man said. 

A Dutch painter inspired a fellow countryman priest centuries later, whose book helped a Tennessee doctor explain the true meaning of fatherhood to a North Carolina lawyer, but make no mistake. I was once again astonished at how much my old man had learned.


Spiraling Violence in Chicago: Causes and Solutions

The following is adapted from a lecture delivered on February 28, 2022, at the Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship on Hillsdale’s Washington, D.C. campus, as part of the AWC Family Foundation Lecture Series.

By Matt RosenbergHillsdale College Imprimus

For several years prior to 2020, violent crime in America’s major cities was on the decline. But since the riots that summer following the death of George Floyd, it is heading in the opposite direction.

Murders nationwide in 2020 rose a stunning 29.4 percent over the previous year, the largest annual increase since the FBI began tracking that data in the 1960s. The number of murders in Chicago climbed even more sharply, rising 55 percent. It was as if a switch had been flipped. At least ten major U.S. cities hit new murder highs in 2021, but Chicago led the way with 797, the city’s highest number in 25 years. 

Chicago’s violent crime epidemic is not limited to murder. The city’s 3,561 shooting incidents in 2021 were up 63 percent over 2019. Expressway shootings in Chicago-Cook County rose even more dramatically, from 51 in 2019 to 130 in 2020 to 273 in 2021. These expressway shootings pushed Chicago’s actual 2021 murder total north of 800. 

Expressway killings aren’t counted in the official city numbers because expressways are under state jurisdiction. But try telling that to Chicagoans. “It’s almost like a modern, 21st century form of dueling,” said Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly. “[People get into fights with] each other on social media, they threaten one another and they say . . . ‘Let’s take this out to the expressway.’”

One of Chicago’s expressway murder victims was a dearly loved wife, mother, grandmother, and special education teacher named Denise Huguelet. Sixty-seven years old, she was being driven home from a White Sox game last summer when she became collateral damage in a shootout on the Dan Ryan Expressway.

Then there are the carjackings, 1,836 of them in Chicago in 2021—a 204 percent increase over 2019. One victim was a Democratic state senator. Her husband had a gun and returned fire. In another incident, a Cook County judge had to pull her three-year-old son to safety before the carjackers drove off.

Will McGee was 18 and looking forward to joining the military after graduating from Excel Academy on the South Side, where he’d been voted homecoming king. He had saved up to buy a new Chevy Equinox and was behind the wheel when he was carjacked last November. He surrendered the vehicle and tried to run away but was shot dead in the back. The SUV was found abandoned shortly afterward.

Gangs have stoked the carnage with a sub-genre of hip hop music called “Chicago Drill.” Rival gangs call each other out in Chicago Drill raps, and bullets often fly as a result. Chicago’s gang world used to be dominated by a small handful of gang leaders, and homicides were usually tied to drugs and territorial conflicts. But as the federal government took down the older generation of leaders, gangs fractured and multiplied on a block-by-block level. Today’s gangs are run by young knuckleheads who throw down angry words on little screens and use shooters who in some cases have barely reached puberty and struggle to hold and aim their weapons. 

The fact that violent crime increasingly leads to the deaths of innocent citizens is a major reason for the exodus of Chicago’s black population, down one-third since 1980. It also explains why increasing numbers from the surrounding suburbs—and tourists in general—are shunning the city.

***

So there’s violent crime aplenty in Chicago. But punishment? Not so much. 

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that in 2020, police made carjacking arrests in only eleven percent of cases. And Cook County prosecutors working for State’s Attorney Kim Foxx approved felony charges in less than half of that eleven percent.

Chicago reported a 53 percent rate of “clearing” or solving murders in 2019. But that number was inflated. A misguiding technical term was applied to nearly six in ten “cleared” murders: “cleared, closed exceptionally.” The term “closed exceptionally” means that a murder has been declared solved, but without the filing of criminal charges—usually because prosecutors decide police evidence is insufficient.

Too many Chicagoans are dead due in part to a broken criminal justice system. 

Denny Zheng was 24. He’d recently completed a master’s degree in statistics at the University of Chicago. Last November, as he walked near the campus in Hyde Park, he was robbed of his laptop computer and cell phone, then shot dead. The charged suspect was 18 years old and on probation for aggravated carjacking and armed robbery. Before his arrest, he sold the laptop and phone for $100.

Ella French was 29 and a Chicago police officer. She was killed during a traffic stop last August. The charged suspect was on probation for felony robbery. 

In July, 73-year-old Keith Cooper, a grandfather and a veteran, died of a heart attack after being punched in the head during an attempted carjacking in Hyde Park. The charged suspect, by then an 18-year-old adult, had been on probation for juvenile carjacking.

In December 2020, retired Chicago firefighter Dwain Williams, 65, was slain during a carjacking attempt by a group of young men. One had five juvenile convictions and four pending cases, including one for an alleged home invasion and kidnapping. Another was out on bail before trial for stolen vehicle possession and aggravated unlawful use of a weapon.

In January of this year, eight-year-old Melissa Ortega was shopping with her mother on 26th Street, the main drag of Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood. She was shot and killed in a gang-related shooting gone awry. The charged suspect was a 16-year-old on probation for three armed carjackings within the previous year.

Easy probation has become a license to kill. Why won’t judges properly assess risk, even in juvenile cases? The answer is all too clear: criminal justice has morphed into what advocates on the bench and in prosecutors’ offices describe as “social justice.” But where is the justice for the victims and their families? The rush to empty out jails and prisons is costing lives. 

The movement for bail reform only compounds the problem. Since 2017, under Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans’ direction, suspects charged with felony gun violations and overtly violent felonies are often released on low-cash or no-cash bail. 

Evans has repeatedly argued that only a small percentage of released felony suspects have been charged again before trial. But he has not always been trustworthy in his use of data. In 2020, he released a report claiming there was no significant increase in crime after bail reform was enacted in Chicago. Only 147 felony defendants released before trial on low-cash or no-cash bail within the previous year and a quarter, he asserted, had been charged with new felony offenses. But the actual number was at least four times higher than that according to a Chicago Tribune analysis, which it was able to complete only after winning a public records appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court. Evans’ office had failed to count at least six different felony crime categories as felonies. 

***

What can be done to address Chicago’s violent crime epidemic? Here are some ideas for legal reform suggested by the cases cited above:

  • Reapportion the county budget to build and operate more courtrooms with more judges for speedier trials. 
  • Stop releasing people charged with violent felony crimes—including juveniles charged with armed carjacking—on low-cash or no-cash bail. 
  • Repeal state legislation that will outlaw most cash bail by 2023. 
  • Repeal the 2016 statute that severely restricts the ability of county prosecutors to charge juveniles with felony armed vehicular hijacking. 

Unfortunately, the last two recommendations would require action by the Illinois Legislature, which has been under one-party (Democratic) rule for decades and has shown no serious interest in stopping crime.

Chicago should also employ smarter policing tactics, which would need to go hand-in-hand with stronger political support for the police. Residents of black neighborhoods say they want better police and more of them—and contrary to what too many Chicago politicians seem to believe, improved police accountability isn’t incompatible with supporting police in their efforts to make the streets safer. 

One way to improve policing is by returning to regular foot patrols in high-crime districts. In February 2013, under Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Chief Garry McCarthy, Chicago launched a foot patrol program called Operation Impact in the city’s 20 highest-crime hot zones. After 14 months, murders in those zones dropped by almost half, shootings by 43 percent, and overall crime by 25 percent. Police said targeted gang and narcotics interventions may also have helped. 

But Operation Impact didn’t last. Today such a program might require three or four cops to walk a beat together, with back-up in nearby cars. This in turn would require more police funding, not defunding, and real support for the police by Chicago’s mayor and city council. 

Chicago politicians, like city politicians elsewhere, too often blame “gun violence” for the city’s murder epidemic, as if guns shoot themselves. Chicago police, to their credit, took more than 12,000 illegal guns off the streets in 2021 alone. But the supply is endless, and now includes “ghost guns”—guns without serial numbers made from mail-order parts. The vast majority of Chicago residents are law-abiding, and they should be able to defend themselves with legally obtained firearms. 

In addition to legal reforms and improved policing, it’s time to stop making excuses for what one brave Chicago alderman, Ray Lopez, has called “the borderline collapse of the family unit in many of our neighborhoods” and the effects of “generational gang life.” Political leaders need to stop walking on eggshells when it comes to talking about the breakdown of the nuclear family in low-income black communities. Young men need fathers—without fathers they flounder.

According to City of Chicago data, in every year from 1999 to 2009, more than 80 percent of all black women who gave birth were single. Among Latinos, that figure rose from 45 to 55 percent during that period, while for whites and Asians the numbers were dramatically lower. 

More broken homes are directly correlated with more violent crime. Annual Chicago Police Department reports show that the neighborhoods with the highest murder rates are the same neighborhoods in which births to single mothers are highest. Among children raised in households headed by two biological parents, regardless of race, studies find greater educational attainment, higher adult income, and lower rates of incarceration.

Failing public schools also contribute to Chicago’s violent crime crisis. Fewer than two out of ten black fourth- and eighth-graders achieve the “proficient” level in reading and math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. High school SAT results are equally dismal.

A bright spot worth mentioning is the achievements being made by public charter schools. A University of Chicago study found that students at public charter high schools had better attendance and test scores than those at non-charter public high schools. More was required of them to advance to the next grade and to graduate. Teachers reported a higher level of trust and collaboration with their colleagues and a greater willingness to innovate. Classes were more academically demanding. 

Sadly, however, the Chicago Teachers Union has used its broad powers to strike—powers granted by state lawmakers—to restrict competition, insisting on a charter school growth cap in their last two contracts. When the current cap expires in 2024, it should not be renewed by Chicago’s mayor and school board.

What Chicago ultimately needs are school vouchers, which must be enacted by state legislation—an unlikely prospect—or by a voter-approved constitutional amendment.

***

Another means of curtailing violence in Chicago is through poverty remediation and neighborhood economic development—which doesn’t simply mean government dispensations. 

In Woodlawn, at 63rd and Martin Luther King Jr., is a fast-food dive where men step up to passing cars and collect cash in return for drugs. Walking south on MLK, I passed a woman with a thousand-yard glassy-eyed stare. Other pedestrians were loping around in little circles, looking lost. 

Investment in such neighborhoods is a wager, and no one likes long odds. But just down the street on MLK, Pastor Corey Brooks is placing his bet. Brooks heads New Beginnings Church and its non-profit arm, Project H.O.O.D., which offers parenting classes, remote learning co-ops, online financial education lessons, and a popular construction industry training program. Eighteen black female electricians graduated from a certification course last summer. Brooks is in the midst of raising millions of dollars for a state-of-the-art community center equipped for career and technical training.

Trade skills are important, but so is meeting workplace expectations. On Halloween in 2020, Brooks’ church organized a Harvest Party for parents and children. I came across Brooks there counseling an agitated young man who was in the Project H.O.O.D. construction training program. The man was upset because his Latino job site supervisor confronted him about being late to work and not filling out timecards. It was a heated conversation, but Brooks held his ground, telling the young man that to keep a good construction job you’ve got to be on time and do what the boss says. He also told him he’d better get used to Latinos, because they’re skilled in the building trades.

***

In November 2020, I visited Chicago’s Roseland district, southeast of Woodlawn. The same Michigan Avenue that’s home to the Magnificent Mile shopping district downtown looks a lot different on the city’s South Side. Much of it looks like a war-torn city in Syria. 

Dutch settlers in the 1840s referred to Roseland as High Prairie. In the 1850s it became an important stop on the Underground Railroad for slaves escaping to freedom in Canada. As recently as the early 1970s, Michigan Ave. in Roseland was a robust marketplace with distinctive architecture. Subsequently, however, as gang violence increased, the area came to be known as the Wild One Hundreds. During my visit, nearly every building on Michigan Ave. was trashed or empty. 

Antoine Dobine lives in neighboring West Pullman. Interviewed by NBC News, he recalled that Roseland was 

a beautiful area in the 70s. It was like a family atmosphere. But . . . a lot of families left, and a lot of families moved in and didn’t have those same values. . . . We need all these parents who got these gun toters and gangbangers on their couches . . . to say, “Hey, child, get out of my house and put that gun down.” . . . I know there’s people living in these homes that’s sick and tired of things going on like I’m sick and tired, [but they] won’t . . . speak up.

Political change in Chicago is essential. Year after year, two-thirds of the city’s registered voters fail to vote in local elections. The main group that does vote consistently is a group that benefits greatly from the status quo: public employee union members. Voting is suppressed by the fact that local elections are held in odd years during cold winter months, but until the majority of citizens—who are being harmed by the status quo—seizes control of their own destiny, little will change.

Change at the family and individual levels is equally essential. Malik Tiger made such a change, and in doing so came to understand the true meaning of self-determination. He grew up in Roseland, and his father served ten years in jail. By age 17, Malik was charged in his first gun case, and a spiraling pattern of crime, gunshot wounds, and jail time followed. Then he decided he had had enough.

“I feel like at the end of the day, change has to come from within. You have to get tired,” Malik said. “You have to look at yourself in the mirror and be disgusted with who you are.” Through a violence prevention program, he turned things around and landed a job at the Greater Chicago Food Depository. 

“I just had a newborn son,” Malik said. “I have my own apartment. I’m doing good for myself.” Bumping into the judge who sentenced him in 2013 on juvenile gun charges, he received encouragement for the changes he’d made. “The judge looked at me as an individual, as a strong black man who was trying to go forward and trying to do the right thing to take care of his family.”

The Left today has badly misappropriated the word “equity,” using it to mean equality of outcome—something to be achieved through affirmative action and economic redistribution. But real equity, in the old sense, cannot be given. Real equity requires the old fashioned virtues. It is inextricable from full ownership of your own course in life.


How to bring school choice to public school families

Providing the option of small-scale customization to families who are happy with their public schools may be exactly the reform strategy the school choice movement has needed for decades.

By Christian BarnardReason Foundation

How to bring school choice to public school families
172068379 © Nd3000 | Dreamstime.com
COMMENTARY

In Michigan, thousands of state residents have signed a petition that would establish education savings accounts for students. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed similar legislation last year but if the petition makes it to the state ballot and passes this fall (and it is looking like it will), it would create one of the largest school choice programs in the country by commanding as much as $500 million in annual funding to provide flexible spending accounts for low-income and special needs students. Under the proposal, students could access $7,830 each year to pay for private school tuition and other customizable services such as tutoring or transportation.

But Michigan’s program wouldn’t just serve students who decide to leave their public school to homeschool or attend a private school. It would also make $500 available annually to qualifying students who remain in public schools and provide $1,100 annually for public school students with disabilities. While those amounts are only a fraction of the funds that would be available to students who withdraw from public school, it would be the first time a school choice proposal puts education dollars directly in the hands of students who remain in public schools. 

This would be a big deal because granting the option of small-scale customization to families who are happy with their public schools may be exactly the reform strategy the school choice movement has needed for decades.

Opting out of a public school system to transfer to a private school is a big change for most families. Even with access to a publicly-funded private school scholarship, a change of that degree might not be worth it for families who are only somewhat unhappy with their public school. This reality can help to explain why private school choice programs have grown at a slow pace over the last few decades and why the U.S. spends less than 0.4 percent of public education funds on private school choice programs.

It should also be noted that most families are generally happy with their public schools. A 2021 Gallup Poll found that “73% of parents of school-aged children say they are satisfied with the quality of education their oldest child is receiving.” There simply isn’t enough dissatisfaction with the current system at this time to catalyze a large-scale shift away from traditional public schools and toward a customized, private sector-led education system.

Because of this, school choice proponents need policy solutions that meet most families where they are, something Michigan may be on the cusp of accomplishing with its education savings account (ESA) for public school students. 

Most families might not be ready to leave the public K-12 system, but they would be excited for a chance to customize on the margins. While many parents can’t imagine curating their child’s entire curriculum, they can certainly envision the benefits of having some funds to pay for an SAT tutor, enroll their student in a financial literacy course at a community college, or buy them a laptop.

This incremental step can introduce education choice to a large swath of previously unreached public-school families, whetting their appetites for more customization. And while there are already programs in other states that resemble something like a public school ESA, Michigan would build on these programs by providing public school students with even more flexibility over how they can use their funds.

For more than 20 years, the private school choice movement has focused on bringing a lot of choice to a relatively small contingent of families lucky enough to have access to vouchers, tax-credit scholarships, and ESAs. Maybe it’s time for school choice proponents to consider Michigan’s approach of also giving a taste of choice to the majority of families who, understandably, aren’t ready to leave their traditional public schools.


Americans Should Heed NASA’s Concerns Over Around SpaceX Starlink

By George LandrithNewsmax

space x logo on a building
(Getty Images)

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has raised concerns about SpaceX’s plans to put more than 30,000 Starlink satellites into orbit to create its satellite internet system.

To put that into perspective, Sputnik was launched 65 years ago and there are less than 3,000 functioning satellites orbiting the Earth. NASA questions whether SpaceX’s automated collision avoidance system would be effective given the dramatic increase of satellites that would be in orbit.

While SpaceX claims there is “zero risk” of its Starlink satellites colliding with other satellites or spacecraft, NASA sees that calculation as dangerously misguided.

As proof that NASA is right, in 2019, there was a potential collision (the risk was 10 times higher than the threshold requiring a collision avoidance maneuver) involving a Starlink satellite. SpaceX did nothing to avoid the collision with a European Space Agency (“ESA”) satellite. So it was left to the ESA to avoid the collision.

SpaceX blamed its failure to take any action or even respond to the possible collision on an email snafu. That doesn’t instill confidence.

Elon Musk has made headlines with Tesla electric cars, SpaceX’s Falcon rockets and SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet service. But there has been a consistent question about safety and taking short cuts.

Problems and collisions with Musk’s automated or driverless cars have been blamed on others with little recognition of the shortcomings of the vehicles’ safety systems. Likewise, SpaceX’s Falcon rockets have had a number of explosions that destroyed the rocket and cargo, yet SpaceX has been opaque about its failures and cavalier about safety concerns.

While the promise of expanding high-speed broadband internet all over the globe via satellite is promising, the issue of space junk and debris is a growing safety concern. And it has life and death consequences and could become an economic disaster as well.

Space debris, satellites, and spacecraft are carefully tracked so that potential collisions can be predicted and avoided. Transparency and communication are needed because when a satellite’s trajectory is changed to avoid a collision, new collisions become possible — like on a crowded freeway, swerving to miss a pothole could create other accidents.

Similarly, if two satellites have collision avoidance systems, it is helpful if they can predictably do their avoidance jobs so that they don’t accidentally both adjust themselves into the path of the other and thus fail to avoid the collision.

Government space agencies and space sustainability experts have noted that Starlink’s planned constellation of satellites is a threat to satellite safety, including the International Space Station (ISS). And NASA says that launch safety windows become much smaller when the number of objects flying around the earth at 18,000 miles per hour dramatically increases.

study concludes that SpaceX’s satellites have been involved in about 1,600 close or highly risky collision encounters which turns out is about 50% of all possible collisions. Imagine what happens if SpaceX increases by more than 16 times the number of satellites it has in orbit.

These collisions are a problem not merely because the two satellites would be destroyed, but because the collision would create a dense field of space junk and debris which would continue to orbit around the planet at speeds of up to 18,000 miles per hour. Even a small chunk of metal (like a nut or a bolt) can do considerable damage traveling at that high speed.

A typical 9 mm handgun shoots a relatively small bullet at about 820 miles per hour. So imagine the energy and damage that could be done by an object traveling about 20 times faster. And imagine many thousands or even millions of pieces of space debris that can be created when two satellites collide and the dramatic increased risk of future collisions that would ensue.

Given Musk’s track record of being a bit cavalier about safety concerns and passing the buck when safety issues are raised, we should be careful about blindly jumping on board with his plans.

While there is a great deal of promise in expanded satellite systems that could revolutionize communications, we must make sure we don’t make satellite technology nearly impossible to maintain because of massive space debris fields that could have been avoided with responsible and transparent safety systems.

If the U.S.’s national security satellites or our communications satellites were at risk because of some Russian oligarch’s irresponsible space launches or because of the totalitarian Chinese regime’s provocative actions in space, it seems safe to say that we would not cheer them on. So perhaps we should expect more from Elon Musk, SpaceX, and Starlink.

As NASA points out, it isn’t asking too much that the project be “conducted prudently, in a manner that supports spaceflight safety and the long-term sustainability of the space environment.” And if we would expect this of Russia and China, we should expect this of American companies as well.


Eyes Wide Shut

A Democrat looks at what his party can’t see

By Ruy TeixeiraNational Review

(Roman Genn)


As a lifelong man of the Left who very much wants the Democratic Party to succeed, I regret to report this: The Democrats and the Democratic brand are in deep trouble. That should have been obvious when Democrats underperformed in the 2020 election, turning what they and most observers expected to be a blue wave into more of a ripple. They lost House seats and performed poorly in state legislative elections. And their support among non-white voters, especially Hispanics, declined substan­tially.

Still, they did win the presidency, which led many to miss the clear market signals this underperformance was sending. That tendency was strengthened by the Democrats’ improbable victories in the two Senate runoffs in Georgia, which gave them full control of the federal government, albeit by the very narrowest of margins.

At the same time, Trump’s refusal to concede the election — his bizarre behavior in that regard probably contributed to the GOP defeats in the Georgia runoffs — and his encouragement of rioters who stormed the Capitol on January 6 led many Democrats to assume that the Republican brand would be so damaged by association that the Democratic brand would shine by comparison. And yet, two years later, the Democrats are in brutal shape.

Biden’s approval rating is in the low 40s, only a little above where Trump’s was at the same point in his presidential term, which of course was the precursor to the GOP’s drubbing in the 2018 election. Biden has been doing especially poorly among working-class and Hispanic voters. His approval ratings on specific issues tend to be lower, in the high 30s on the economy and in the low 30s on hot-button issues such as immigration and crime. Off-year and special elections since 2020 have indicated a strongly pro-Republican electoral environment, and Democrats currently trail Republicans in the generic congressional ballot for 2022. It now seems likely that Democrats will, at minimum, lose control of the House this November and quite possibly suffer a wave election up and down the ballot.

Most Democrats would prefer to believe that the current dismal situation merely reflects some bad luck. The Delta and Omicron variants of the coronavirus did undercut Biden’s plans for returning the country to normal, interacting with supply-chain difficulties to produce an inflation spike that angered consumers, but that is not the whole picture. Democrats have failed to develop a party brand capable of unifying a dominant majority of Americans behind their political project. Indeed, the current Democratic brand suffers from several deficiencies that make it somewhere between uncompelling and toxic to many American voters who might otherwise be the party’s allies. I locate these deficiencies in three key areas: culture, economics, and patriotism.

Culture. The cultural Left has managed to associate the Democratic Party with a series of views — on crime, immigration, policing, free speech, and, of course, race and gender — that are far from those of the median voter. That’s a success for the cultural Left but an electoral liability for the Democratic Party. From time to time, Democratic politicians, like Biden in his State of the Union address on March 1, try to dissociate themselves from unpopular ideas such as defunding the police, but the cultural Left within the party is still more deferred to than opposed or ignored. Their voices are amplified by Democratic-leaning media and nonprofits, as well as by party officials and activists. Increasingly, a party’s national brand defines state and even local electoral contests, and Democratic candidates across the ballot have a very hard time shaking the party’s cultural-Left associations.

To understand this state of affairs, we must understand the trajectory of the American Left in the 21st century. It is now out of touch with its working-class roots and dominated by college-educated professionals, typically younger people in big metropolitan areas and university towns. They fill the ranks of media, nonprofits, advocacy groups, and foundations and are overrepresented in the infrastructure of the Democratic Party. They speak their own language and highlight the issues that most animate their commitments to “social justice.”

Those commitments are increasingly driven by identity politics, which originated in the 1960s movements that sought to eliminate discrimination against, and establish equal treatment of, women and racial and sexual minorities. Gradually, the focus has mutated. Advocates now attempt to impose a narrow worldview, emphasizing the need to oppose multiple, intersecting levels of oppression (“intersectionality”) based on group identification. In place of promoting universal rights and principles — the traditional remit of the Left — advocates now police others on the left, including those within the Democratic Party, pressuring them to use an arcane vocabulary for speaking about purportedly oppressed groups and to prohibit logical, evidence-based discourse by which the assertions of those who claim to speak on behalf of minorities and other demographic groups could be evaluated.

Is America really a “white supremacist” society? What does “structural racism” mean, and does it explain all the socio­economic problems of non-whites? Is anyone who raises questions about immigration levels a racist? Is constant specification of personal pronouns necessary and something the Left should seek to popularize? Are trans women the same as biological women? Are those who ask the question simply “haters” who should be expelled from the left coalition? This list could go on. Politically predetermined answers to the questions are simply to be embraced by Democratic progressives, in the interest of “social justice.”

The Democrats have paid a considerable price for their militant identity politics, which lends the impression that the party is distracted by, or even focused on, issues of little relevance to most voters’ lives. Worse, the focus has led many working-class voters to believe that, unless they subscribe to the progressive worldview and speak its language, they will be condemned as reactionary, intolerant, and racist by those who purport to represent their interests. To some extent these voters are right: They are looked down upon by substantial segments — typically younger, well educated, and metropolitan — of the Democratic Party. An emerging rupture in the Democratic Party’s coalition along lines of education and region is clear.

This rupture was made deeper by the election of Donald Trump in 2016. On the left, the dominant interpretation of white working-class support for Trump was that it reflected racism and xenophobia: As America became more multicultural and multiracial, working-class whites didn’t like their alleged loss of status and privilege. This interpretation was odd, since Democratic progressives had just spent many decades sternly denouncing the American neoliberal economic model, arguing that it was ruining the lives and communities of all working people.

The Trump years further deepened the influence of identity politics on the Democratic Party, particularly in the wake of the nationwide protest movement following the murder of George Floyd. That left its stamp on the 2020 edition of the Democratic Party, notwithstanding their old-school standard-bearer, Joe Biden.

It has also left its stamp on how Democrats have handled difficult cultural issues since the election. They have fallen prey to what I have termed the “Fox News fallacy” — the idea that, if Fox News and the like are criticizing the Democrats on an issue, the criticism must be unsound and the disputed policy should be defended at all costs. That reflex has not served the Democrats well as Biden’s term has evolved.

Start with crime. Initially dismissed as simply an artifact of the Covid shutdown and as vastly exaggerated by conservative media, the rise in violent crime is clear, and voters are highly concerned about it. They include black and Hispanic voters, as indicated by polling data and confirmed by Eric Adams’s base of support in the New York mayoral contest. No wonder more Democratic politicians are running as fast as they can away from any hint of “defund the police,” the slogan that, beloved of the activist Left, was put on the ballot in Minneapolis . . . and soundly defeated, especially by black voters. According to a recent poll from Pew Research, black and Hispanic Democrats are significantly more likely than white Democrats to favor more police funding in their area.

Despite Biden’s assertion in his recent State of the Union address that funding the police is a good idea (followed by his new budget proposal), Democrats still seem far from “Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime,” the felicitous slogan of former U.K. prime minister Tony Blair. Fox News may exaggerate, but voters do want law and order — carried out fairly and humanely, but law and order just the same. Democrats — with some exceptions, including Eric Adams — are still reluctant to emphasize their commitment to cracking down on crime and criminals. It is no surprise, then, that Republicans, according to a recent Wall Street Journal poll, are favored over Democrats on the crime issue by 20 points.

Another example of the Fox News fallacy can be seen in the immigration issue. The Biden administration initially insisted that the surge at the border would subside as the hot-weather season arrived. Most Democrats echoed that line, invoking the idea that the issue was mostly a Fox News talking point.

Not so. It is now apparent that the perceived liberalization of the border regime under the Biden administration did encourage more migrants to try their luck at the border. An astonishing 1.7 million illegal crossings at the southern border were recorded in the 2021 fiscal year, the highest total since at least 1960, when the government first started keeping track. To stem the tide, the administration has scrambled to deploy whatever tools it has at its disposal, including some left over from the Trump administration. That upset immigration advocates, who staged a (virtual) walkout on top Biden officials in late 2021 to protest the policies.

These and other pressures, as well as the desire not to agree with Fox, have led most Democratic politicians to treat the topic of border security gingerly (though Biden in the State of the Union address did at least allude to the need to “secure the border”). As a result, there is no clear Democratic plan for an immigration system that would both permit reasonable levels of legal immigration and provide the border security necessary to stop illegal entry.

Voters have noticed. In the Wall Street Journal poll previously cited, Republicans are favored over Democrats by 26 points on border security. And Biden, as noted earlier, has abysmal approval ratings on the immigration issue, typically in the low 30s.

Democrats would do well to remember that public-opinion polling over the years has consistently shown overwhelming majorities in favor of more spending and emphasis on border security.

Finally, consider critical race theory, or CRT, a particularly flagrant example of the Fox News fallacy. Democrats refuse to admit that there might be a problem here. Originating in aca­demic legal theory, “critical race theory” has been used as shorthand by the Right, who have made it a catch-all term for the intrusion of race essentialism into teacher training, school curricula, and the like. The standard Democratic comeback to criticism about CRT in the schools is to say that any voters, including parents, who worry about CRT are manipulated by right-wing media into opposing proper teaching about the history of slavery, Jim Crow, redlining, and so on.

Voters’ worries about CRT cannot be bludgeoned away so easily. Parents are far more worried that their child is taught — no matter the name of the theory — to see everything through a racial lens than they are concerned that she is learning about historical instances and practices of racism.

This issue has become caught up in general dissatisfaction with how Democrats have handled schooling issues during the pandemic. In Virginia, voters already upset about parental burdens and academic deficits from extended school closures became additionally concerned that an emerging focus on “social justice” pedagogy and policies was detracting from instruction in traditional academic subjects.

“Many swing voters knew, when pushed by more-liberal members of the group, that CRT wasn’t taught in Virginia schools,” according to the Democratic firm ALG Research, in a memo on focus groups with Biden–Youngkin voters in suburban Virginia:

But at the same time, they felt like racial and social justice issues were overtaking math, history, and other things. They absolutely want their kids to hear the good and the bad of American history, [but] at the same time they are worried that racial and cultural issues are taking over the state’s curricula. We should expect this backlash to continue, especially as it plays into another way where parents and communities feel like they are losing control over their schools in addition to the basics of even being able to decide if they’re open or not.

Again, these issues cannot be waved away simply by dismissing complaining parents as racists or dupes of Fox News. This is particularly the case for Asian parents. It would be difficult to overestimate how important education is to Asian voters, who see it as the key to upward mobility — a tool that even the poorest Asian parents can take advantage of. But Democrats are seen to be anti-meritocratic and opposed to standardized tests, test-in elite schools, and programs for the gifted and talented — areas where Asian children have excelled.

Because of its record on these and other cultural issues, the party’s — or, at least, Biden’s — attempt to rebrand Democrats as unifying, speaking for Americans across divisions of race and class, has so far failed. Voters are not sure Democrats can look beyond identity politics to ensure public safety, secure borders, high-quality nonideological education, and economic progress for all Americans.

The Democrats find themselves weighed down by those whose tendency is to emphasize the identity-politics angle of virtually every issue. Decisive action that might lead to a rebranding is immediately undercut by a torrent of criticism (Biden is getting some of this right now) or simply never proposed.

Nevertheless, Biden and the Democrats must persist in their efforts to rebrand. The alternative would be to cede to Republicans a culture-war advantage that would mean not just probable defeat in 2022 but the continued failure of Democratic efforts to forge a clear majority coalition for years to come.

One obvious issue on which to rebrand is crime. Democrats should build on Biden’s recent, tentative steps in this direction.

Consider that Democrats are associated with a wave of progressive public prosecutors who seem quite hesitant about keeping criminals off the street, even as major cities suffer a spike in murder, carjackings, and other violent crimes. This is twinned to a climate, of tolerance and non-prosecution for lesser crimes, that is degrading the quality of life in many cities under Democratic control.

This has got to stop. Weakness on crime not only damages the Democrats’ brand but harms some of their most vulnerable constituents.

“It’s time the reign of criminals who are destroying our city, it is time for it to come to an end,” London Breed, the Democratic mayor of San Francisco, said in December. “And it comes to an end when we take the steps to be more aggressive with law enforcement, more aggressive with the changes in our policies, and less tolerant of all the bullsh** that has destroyed our city.”

Strong words. But Breed — and Adams — are on to something. Normie voters hate crime and want something done about it. They’re not impressed by talk about the availability of guns when it fails to include talk about enforcing the law against criminals who use the guns.

Biden (or some other leading Democrat) could say something like this, as recommended by the excellent Charlie Sykes at The Bulwark: “We must continue the fight for social justice, but it should not come at the price of public safety. In some of our biggest cities we have folks who think that we shouldn’t put criminals in jail or downplay the dangers of violent crime. They are wrong. We have to protect our families and our neighborhoods.”

And then name some names. Maybe it’s not time for a “Sister Souljah moment.” But how about a Chesa Boudin moment? I bet London Breed would have your back. 

Economics. Just what is the Democrats’ plan for the economy? Right now, it seems to boil down to their legislative accomplishments, past and future, which will result in a “better” economy. Voters, however, are foggy about what those legislative accomplishments consist of and are not sure the economy has landed in a better place yet.

Neither are they sure where the economy is supposed to be going under the Democrats’ watch. In that sense, voters may be on to something when they see Democrats as preoccupied with social issues. Parties face an opportunity cost when allocating their limited attention and resources; Democrats have not had an obvious and unifying laser-like focus on economic growth and the creation of good jobs.

To the extent that Democrats have an overarching economic story, it is that a dramatic expansion of the social safety net and a rapid move to a clean-energy economy will result in strong growth and an abundance of good jobs, someday. But the story is muddled. It’s not getting through.

A standard Democratic take on that problem is that their economic ideas and accomplishments are great but haven’t been properly communicated. I think the problem runs far deeper. Consider the debacle around the Build Back Better bill.

That was the multitrillion-dollar bill that Democrats were, until recently, trying to maneuver through Congress. Dem­ocrats talked about the care economy, a Green New Deal, and other big ideas associated with Build Back Better, but what they added up to was not clear. Would the bill have created a more dynamic American capitalism, one capable of lifting up broad segments of the country that had been left behind? Build Back Better appeared to be a means of funneling money to a wide variety of Democratic priorities. Some of the spending would have supported useful expansions of the notably stingy American welfare system, and some of it would have supported useful public investments not provided for in the infrastructure bill, particularly in clean energy.

None of that, though, would have led to more productivity, higher growth, and an American economy less unequal across regions.

It is a mistake to lose sight of the need for faster growth. Growth, particularly productivity growth, is what drives rising living standards over time, and Democrats presumably stand for the fastest possible rise in living standards. Faster growth also makes the achievement of Democrats’ other goals easier. Hard economic times typically generate pessimism about the future, not broad support for more democracy and social justice. In contrast, when the economy is expanding and living standards are steadily rising for most people, they see better opportunities for themselves and are more inclined toward generosity, tolerance, and collective advancement.

Yet much of the Democratic Left still regards with suspicion the goal of more and faster economic growth, preferring to focus on the unfairness of the current distribution of wealth. This reflects not just a laudable concern to reduce inequality but also a feeling that the fruits of growth are poisoned, encouraging unhealthy consumerist lifestyles and, worse, causing the climate crisis. The latter view has, on the left, led to the vogue for the idea of “degrowth.”

Given such views, it is not surprising that growth does not rank high on the Democratic Left’s list of economic objectives. We saw that in the endless debate around Build Back Better, which was driven by the House’s Progressive Caucus. Almost none of the debate was about how well the bill, at whatever level of funding and with whatever programmatic commitments, would promote growth. That was dismissed as something only conservatives would care about.

Closely related to Democrats’ relative indifference to economic growth is their lack of optimism that a rapid advance and application of technology can produce an abundant future. More common is fear that a dystopian future might await us thanks to AI and other technologies. This is odd, given that almost everything ordinary people like about the modern world, including relatively high living standards, is traceable to technological advances and the knowledge embedded in them. From smartphones, flat-screen TVs, and the Internet to air and auto travel to central heating and air-conditioning to the medical devices and drugs that cure disease and extend life to electric lights and the mundane flush toilet, technology has dramatically transformed people’s lives for the better. It is difficult to argue that the average person today is not far, far better off than her counterpart in the past. “The good old days were old but not good,” as the Northwestern University economic historian Joel Mokyr puts it.

Doesn’t the Left want to make people happy? One has to wonder. They show more interest in figuring out what people should stop doing and consuming than in figuring out how people can have more to do and consume. They rarely discuss the idea of abundance, except to disparage it.

These attitudes help explain why the Democratic Left does not tend to feature technological advance prominently in its policy portfolio. The Biden administration did manage to get the U.S. Competitiveness and Innovation Act through the Senate, and the closely related America COMPETES Act through the House (the two bills have yet to be reconciled into one), but they would provide far less funding and probably have far less impact on scientific innovation than the originally proposed bill, the Endless Frontier Act. Nobody on the left seems to be particularly exercised about this step down — or even to be in much of a hurry to reconcile the two current bills.

If there is to be an abundant clean-energy future, not a degrowth one, it will depend on our ability to develop energy technologies beyond wind and solar. The same could be said about a wide range of other technological challenges that could underpin a future of abundance: AI and machine learning, CRISPR and mRNA biotechnology, advanced robotics and the Internet of things.

That’s why it’s inadequate for Democrats to focus narrowly on a clean-energy, Green New Deal–type future. Make no mistake: What Americans want is an abundant future, not just a green one. For better or worse, combating climate change does not rank high on voters’ priority list (14th in a recent Pew Research poll). Investment in clean-energy technologies needs to be embedded in a broader “abundance agenda” (to use Derek Thompson’s phrase) that drives up the supply of innovation and can deliver not just the avoidance of disaster but a better life for all.

Patriotism. Today’s Democrats have difficulty embracing patriotism and weaving it into their political brand. “There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America,” Bill Clinton said not so long ago. Even more recently, when Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008, he said, “If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our Founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.”

For his part, Joe Biden does try to inject a little of that old-time patriotism into his remarks from time to time. It’s not really taking, though. A big part of his party is singing a different tune, loudly. “The version of ‘history’ that progressives want to teach young people,” the liberal commentator Noah Smith observes, is in general

a cartoonish story in which America is the villain — a nation formed from racism, founded the day the first slave stepped onto our shores, dedicated thereafter to the repression and brutalization of people of color. This “history” ignores America’s deep and powerful tradition of anti-racism, the universalistic egalitarian ideals of the Declaration of Independence, the abolitionist movement that was present from the very beginning, the Founders’ conception of the U.S. as a nation of immigrants, America’s role in the ending of European colonialism, its position at the forefront of liberal democratic reforms and experimentation, the promotion of global standards of human rights following WW2, and so on.

Consistent with that analysis, the think tank More in Common identified a group they termed “progressive ac­tivists,” who were 8 percent of the population (but punch far above their weight in the Democratic Party) and “deeply concerned with issues concerning equity, fairness, and America’s direction today.” On the whole, they were “more secular, cosmopolitan, and highly engaged with social media.”

These progressive activists’ attitude toward their own country departed not just from that of average Americans but from that of average non-white Americans. Black, Hispanic, and Asian Americans were highly likely to be proud to be Americans and highly likely to say they would still choose to live in America if they could choose to live anywhere in the world. Progressive activists were loath to express such sentiments.

This is a problem. One of the only effective ways to mobilize Americans behind big projects is to appeal to patriotism, to Americans as part of a nation. Indeed, much of what America accomplished in the 20th century was under the banner of liberal nationalism. Yet many in the Democratic Party blanch at any hint of nationalism — one reason so many are leery of patriotism — because of its association with darker impulses and political trends. Yet, as John Judis has pointed out, nationalism has its positive side as well, in that it allows citizens to identify on a collective level and support projects that serve the common good rather than only their immediate interests.

Given all that Democrats hope to accomplish, it makes no sense not to appeal to Americans’ patriotism and love of country. That too has to be part of Democrats’ rebranding. They must insist that their party is a patriotic party, and they should not shrink from emphasizing the competitive aspect of patriotism. America is indeed in competition with other nations, notably China, and it is not xenophobic to say that America is a great nation that can win that competition.

ADemocratic Party that does not rebrand in these three crucial areas dooms American politics to continued stalemate and polarization — an unpleasant prospect. Conversely, given the serious problems and weaknesses of Republicans, a Democratic Party that occupies the cultural center ground, promotes an abundance agenda, and is unabashedly patriotic has a real shot at a long future of political success.


Memo Indicates Biden Admin Does Not See Border Surge Ending Soon

By Joseph SimonsonThe Washington Free Beacon

Getty Images

The Biden administration is expanding the size of migrant processing facilities on the southern border, a sign it does not see the immigration crisis ending any time soon.

An internal document sent to senior Customs and Border Protection officials, obtained by the Washington Free Beacon, describes plans by the agency to construct three permanent processing facilities for up to 1,000 migrants at a time in Del Rio, Laredo, and El Paso, Texas. An existing temporary U.S. Border Patrol processing site in Yuma, Ariz., will double in size and also be made permanent.

CBP’s expansion of permanent processing facilities comes as the Biden administration has given no indication of how it plans to decrease the number of attempted crossings at the southern border. In January, immigration officials arrested more than 75,000 migrants at the southern border, an increase of 6 percent over the previous month, despite migration generally dropping during winter months due to colder temperatures.

CBP did not respond to a request for comment.

“Border Patrol working as processing dummies is the new normal,” one senior Department of Homeland Security official told the Free Beacon. “Enforcement and protecting the border is secondary now.”

The decision was made, according to the document, after analyzing surge patterns from migrants. The permanent facilities will replace temporary facilities in the same sectors. The sectors in the memo have faced some of the highest numbers of migrants in the entire country. Del Rio, for example, saw more than 259,000 migrants apprehended in the 2021 fiscal year. 

CBP’s memo says the plan to replace temporary facilities was made out of cost concerns. The new sites, the memo says, will also help “sustainably meet operational needs.” The memo does not elaborate on how these new facilities will cut costs.https://c405c5a6fca1dd65a7f92d69bb1e0d81.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

President Joe Biden has largely avoided commenting on the border crisis, although members of his administration, such as Press Secretary Jen Psaki and Vice President Kamala Harris, have said they are focused on “root causes” rather than border security. DHS secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has admitted to Border Patrol agents that there are few signs of a slowdown in attempted crossings. In leaked remarks last month, Mayorkas said, “The job has not gotten any easier over the last few months and it was very, very difficult throughout 2021.”

“I know apprehending families and kids is not what you signed up to do. And now we got a composition that is changing even more with Cubans, Venezuelans, Nicaraguans, and the like, it just gets more difficult,” Mayorkas said. 

Republican lawmakers and current and former DHS officials have criticized the Biden administration for redirecting Border Patrol agents, whose chief responsibility is securing the border, to processing facilities. Last June, Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) said that agents distracted by lengthy processing responsibilities present opportunities for cartels to “move large quantities of illicit narcotics, like fentanyl, into the United States.”

The 2021 fiscal year saw more migrant apprehensions than any other year on record, with law enforcement reporting more than 1.6 million arrests and more than two million migrant encounters.


Press Release: Coalition of Pro-Life Leaders Call on Congress to Stop Medicaid Funding of Faulty Prenatal Tests

Rampant false positives lead to tragic, unnecessary abortions


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 14, 2022
Contact: George Landrith, [email protected]


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, a coalition of leading pro-life groups sent a letter to Congress highlighting a disturbing report regarding prenatal genetic testing, and the rampant false positives that have caused many women to terminate their pregnancies based on wrong information.

The coalition urges Congress to stop any Medicaid funding of these prenatal tests, and to require informed consent to users of the prevalence of false positives.

“Prenatal genetic testing has become standard in American health care, now used by more than one-third of pregnant women,” said Frontiers of Freedom President George Landrith. “Accuracy is crucial because the stakes are so high: Some choose to terminate their pregnancies based on testing results. While any abortion is a tragedy, those based on false positives are especially awful. When the New York Times is reporting false positive rates as high as 85 percent, it is time for Congress to step up and do something about it.”

The letter, addressed to Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Steve Daines (R-MT), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Health, and Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Brett Guthrie (R-KY), Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Health.

The coalition letter can be found in full HERE and below:

February 14, 2022


Honorable Debbie Stabenow, Chair
Honorable Steve Daines, Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Healthcare
U.S. Senate Committee on Finance
219 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-6200


Honorable Anna Eshoo, Chair
Honorable Brett Guthrie, Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Health
U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce
2125 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-6115


Dear Chair Stabenow, Ranking Member Daines, Chair Eshoo and Ranking Member Guthrie:

We write to you today on behalf of the millions of pro-life Americans we represent across the country to express our concern regarding the faulty science underpinning prenatal genetic testing. This situation requires immediate attention from Congress because these all too often inaccurate and flawed tests have tragically misled pregnant women into terminating otherwise healthy pregnancies. We therefore respectfully request that both the Senate Subcommittee on Healthcare and the House Subcommittee on Health investigate whether the Center for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) is properly regulating non-invasive prenatal tests (NIPTs). 

These tests, which are marketed to expectant families as a way to determine whether their unborn child suffers from a rare genetic condition, are wrong a remarkable 85% of the time according to one recent report  Considering the fact that these unreliable tests are now used by more than a third of pregnant women in America and that many families have tragically opted for an abortion when a potentially false positive is rendered instead of seeking another test to confirm the result, the lives of millions of unborn children are at risk.

While there are many companies involved in the rapidly expanding field of prenatal testing, none is more responsible for pushing these tests on unsuspecting, vulnerable, pregnant women and their unborn children than Natera. The company’s Chief Executive Officer Steve Chapman has described Natera as “by far the market leader, testing roughly 25% of all pregnancies in the U.S. and growing rapidly.” Shockingly, Natera and other NIPT makers are misleading pregnant women into believing these tests accurately detect extraordinarily rare chromosomal microdeletion disorders when, in fact, they are correct in only 15% of cases. Even with regards to Down Syndrome, the disorder the tests most accurately detect, only 33% of low-risk pregnant women who receive a positive test result are actually carrying unborn babies with the disorder.

Outrageously, a trade association for the companies that sell the tests, the American Clinical Laboratory Association issued a statement calling reporting from the New YorkTimes on this issue “misleading.” The statement went on to say that “These tests, like all screening tests, are optional and intended to provide a preliminary assessment of the potential risk for certain health issues and are not equivalent to, nor intended to be used as, diagnostic tests for specific fetal conditions.” Pregnant women, however, are frequently mislead, either intentionally or otherwise, into believing that the results of these tests are near certain. In fact, the New York Times further found that out of 17 patient brochures the paper reviewed, ten never even mentioned the possibility of a false positive. 
 
In light of these concerning reports, we respectfully request that lawmakers on Capitol Hill take immediate action. First, Congress should ensure that anyone receiving an NIPT is warned that the tests are largely inaccurate. Second, the financial models of these testing companies are based on Medicaid covering the costs of these tests for average and low risk pregnancies. Just as the Hyde Amendment prevents the use of federal funds to cover the cost of abortion, under no circumstances should Medicaid be extended to cover tests that may mislead women into killing their unborn children.

Thank you for your immediate attention to this important matter. At a time when our health care system should be doing everything it can to encourage healthy pregnancies and to promote a culture of life, we look forward to you exercising your jurisdiction to protect Americans from companies that prey on the fears and anxieties of expectant parents and their families.

Sincerely,

Robert Chambers
Vice President of Policy and Legislative Affairs
American Family Association

Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie
Senior Fellow
Catholic Association

Chad Connelly
President
Faith Wins

Tim Head
Executive Director
Faith and Freedom Coalition

Kristan Hawkins
President
Students for Life of America and Students for Life Action

Colleen Holcomb
President
Eagle Forum

Dr. Alveda King
Founder
Speak for Life

George Landrith
President
Frontiers of Freedom

Dr. Jeanne Mancini
President
March for Life Action

Ed Martin
President
Phyllis Schlafly Eagles

Penny Nance
President
Concerned Women for America

Terry Schilling
President
American Principles Project


Cc: Chiquita Brooks-LaSure
Administrator
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services


# # #


‘Wake Up Call’: Maryland County Returns Police to Schools After Shooting

First school shooting in Montgomery County history follows vote to remove police from school buildings

By Matthew Foldi and Haley StrackThe Washington Free Beacon

Police vehicles are parked in front of Great Mills High School after a shooting on March 20, 2018, in Great Mills, Md. / Getty Images

Maryland’s Montgomery County became the latest Democrat-run jurisdiction to reverse its decision to remove police officers from schools after it suffered the first school shooting in the county’s history last week, in which a 15-year-old boy was shot last Friday by a classmate.

The district announced on Monday after the shooting that police would temporarily return to every high school in the county, a reversal of a March 2021 decision by county lawmakers to yank funding from its longstanding School Resource Officer program. The lawmakers voted to replace in-school law enforcement with mental health resources, including 50 new social workers and 40 restorative justice training sessions in the county. The shift was designed to keep students “safe, holistically,” according to Montgomery councilman Will Jawando.

But the mental health measures proved ineffective last Friday, when 17-year-old Steven Alston Jr. shot his classmate in a school bathroom at Magruder High School. Law enforcement wasn’t notified about the shooting until the victim was discovered between class periods and brought to the school nurse. When police arrived at the school, they found the shooter in a classroom with his gun, which he had disassembled, and a magazine holding nine rounds of ammunition. The shooter’s classmate remains in the hospital in critical condition.

“This was deeply felt across the entire system—and it was a wake up call on a number of different levels,” Montgomery councilman Gabe Albornoz, a Democrat, told the Washington Free Beacon. “This was the first time there had been a gun incident where a gun was fired within a school during the school day in the history of our school system.”

St. Mary’s County sheriff Tim Cameron told the Free Beacon that his county’s School Resource Officer program, virtually identical to the program Montgomery County scrapped, is an important component of safety and security in schools.

“The idea of the SRO is to prevent the event from ever happening—to stop the event before it actually occurs,” Cameron said. “I can’t say what would’ve happened, but I sure would have liked to have the opportunity for an SRO to have been in that school and perhaps prevented that.”

Following anti-police protests that swept the country in response to the murder of George Floyd, Montgomery County and more than 50 school districts nationwide dumped police programs. Montgomery is not the first to realize the decision put students at risk.

Last fall lawmakers in Alexandria, Va., held an emergency session after a string of violent incidents at the start of the school year. The public school system voted to reinstate armed officers after a student brought a loaded gun into Alexandria City High School. And Milwaukee Public Schools unanimously blocked officers from patrolling campuses in June 2020—but in the first eight weeks of the following school year, administrators called police more than 200 times.

Clyde Boatwright, the president of Maryland’s Fraternal Order of Police, told the Free Beacon that SROs are necessary to keep students safe. Without them, “gangs will be prevalent, assaults will be prevalent, and then there’s going to be a rush to try to insert officers back in the building to stabilize the building.”

“Just the mere presence of a police officer deters a lot of crime,” Boatwright said.

Albornoz said now there is growing support in his county for reinstating the SRO program.

“​​There’s no question that there’s an interest, especially in the short-term, in having more police presence,” Albornoz said. “And there are conversations going on right now in meetings being held between law enforcement, schools, health and human services, and key partners and stakeholders to determine whether or not there should be a police presence beyond just these two weeks as well.”

Boatwright said activists pushing to remove police from schools are acting against the interest of the majority.

“The loud minority should not have a say that directly affects the greater majority of people who actually want safe schools,” Boatwright said.


The Top Ten Ways to Get Yourself Surveilled by the IRS

By Geraldshields11 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28960642

The Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee took another whack Thursday at a Biden Administration proposal to force banks to report to the IRS on their account holders’ private annual aggregate financial activity.

The administration has repeatedly pushed back against its critics who claim the initiative will lead to banks reporting individual transactions to the IRS. Opponents of the initiative say that no matter where the threshold for reporting is $600 as originally put forward or $10,000 as it is now, the reporting of aggregate data will still act as a trigger for more audits.

Experts in tax policy say that even at the $10,000 level, most Americans could still expect to have their private information turned over to the IRS. What the Biden Administration wants targets people who are not payroll wage earners, meaning tradesmen and women, independent contractors, farmers, and others who do not get paid a set wage every two weeks.

“Democrats’ IRS surveillance scheme is not about going after high earners and wealthy corporations, but instead is about going after working Americans and Main Street job creators — who Democrats assume are tax cheats,” the committee said in a release that also identified the top ten ways to get yourself surveilled by the IRS:

  1. Sending your child to college. You worked hard, you saved, and now that investment in your child’s future pulls you into the IRS dragnet.
  2. Working as a blue-collar worker. If you’re a local contractor, plumber, or hairdresser — or simply don’t get paid on a W2 — you will have your bank accounts monitored.
  3. Taking out a loan to buy equipment. Want to start a new business or invest in your current one? That’ll cost you your privacy. 
  4. Sending money or loan money to family members. Have you ever helped a loved one financially who has fallen on tough times? Biden wants the IRS to know.
  5. Providing financial support to elderly parents. Do you help pay household expenses for your elderly parent or grandparent? If so, their account will be swooped up in the IRS surveillance scheme.
  6. Receiving Democrats’ “cash-for-kids” welfare. If you receive the Child Tax Credit payments by paper check — you’ll have your bank account monitored. 
  7. Receiving dependent care flexible savings account reimbursements. If you pay for childcare using the Democrat’s beefed-up dependent care flexible spending account (FSA), your account will be reported to the IRS.
  8. Taking up a part-time gig as an Uber driver. Do you work hard and make $200 or more on nights and weekends driving for Uber? Gas is expensive but it’s nothing compared to that IRS audit that will be triggered as part of the Biden bank surveillance scheme.
  9. Selling goods at a farmer’s market or Etsy shop. Do you create something or grow something and sell it directly to a consumer? If you did and deposited those dollars into a bank account, you’ll be reported.
  10. Saving for and making a large purchase. Want to buy a new car? Or do some home renovations? Or take your family on a trip to Disney World? Your bank accounts will wind up in a dragnet.

BONUS:

  1. Purchasing groceries for a family of four. With the cost of groceries skyrocketing under Bidenflation – your account will be reported to the IRS even sooner.
  2. Going on Democrats’ expanded unemployment benefits. Ironically enough, if you’ve been receiving Democrats’ overly generous unemployment benefits that have paid you more to stay home than to reconnect to work, you’ll also qualify to have the IRS monitor your account.

Despite the apparent levity of Thursday’s release, the issue remains serious. The government’s increasing desire to surveil private activity using the new technologies made available by Big Tech is worrisome. Privacy, as we have known it for most of our lives, may become outmoded yet there’s a practical side to this too. 

The revenues needed to pay for Biden’s big government Socialist agenda aren’t there and the higher taxes included in the Bernie Biden budget resolution won’t generate them. under the current tax code. Remember, the latest analysis says the new spending and benefits included in their proposal is nearly twice as big as the $3.5 trillion over ten years is advertised as being. That’s a lot of money — and thinking you can find it by upping the number of audits is like saying it can be found between the couch cushions. The increased reporting to the IRS to trigger more audits exists primarily so the politicians who want to spend more money enlarging the welfare state can say it’s paid for. If instead, we fined politicians for telling lies, the budget would soon be balanced with plenty of money left over. 


The Little Stalin Inside Attorney General Merrick Garland’s Foul Mind

By Dr. Miklos K. Radvanyi

On March 16, 2016, former President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland – then the Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit – for Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States of America to succeed Antonin Scalia.  The President and his Democrat allies in the Senate pitched him as an old-fashioned moderate lawyer who also won approval and praise from senior Republican figures.  The Merrick Garland nomination failed spectacularly in the Senate.  Five years later, President Biden nominated Merrick Garland to the post of Attorney General.  In announcing his nomination, President Biden called him “a consensus building voice.”  This time he was confirmed by a vote of 70-30 and sworn in on March 11, 2021.

Proving that not all gold that sparkles, Attorney General Merrick Garland has proven himself to be another political hack in the garb of a seemingly impartial arbiter of legal disputes on the top of the nation’s constitutional pyramid.  Recently, penning a memo to the FBI and state attorneys general, Merrick Garland opined thus:  “While spirited debate about policy matters is protected under our Constitution, that protection does not extend to threats of violence or efforts to intimidate individuals based on their views.”  Almost certainly, his memo was triggered by the National School Boards Association October 1st letter, in which they asked the Justice and Homeland Security Departments – as well as the FBI – to investigate “a form of domestic terrorism” directed against school board members, staff and students.  To wit, parents’ objections to Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist indoctrination, instead of teaching and educating their children, will warrant political persecution by Merrick Garland’s DOJ as the new political wing of the Democrat Party.

This newest anti-American idiocy by the “moderate” Merrick Garland brings to mind the myth of Pavel/Pavlik Morozov from the early 1930s in Stalin’s “Workers’ Paradise.”  The “heroic deed” of this thirteen-year-old Siberian boy was that he accused his father, the head of the local governing council or Soviet, to falsify safe conduct passes for formerly rich but by then dispossessed peasants, called Kulaks.  His father was taken away and summarily shot.  Some months later, Pavel/Pavlik and his younger brother Fedya were found murdered in the nearby forest.  The OGPU, the forerunner of the KGB, arrested all of the boys’ relatives, charging them with murder and opposition to Stalin’s plan to form collective farms across the Soviet Union.  Their crime of allegedly killing the boys was compounded by Article 58, Section 8 of the Soviet Criminal Code, which defined any opposition to Stalin as domestic terrorism against the state.

In addition to not a single fact turned out to be true, Stalin used this invented story to peddle a new hysteria of domestic terrorism against him and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.  For starters, all of Pavel/Pavlik’s relatives were also shot.  After all the relatives were exterminated, the myth about the child-saint and child-martyr to the Communist cause was made an object of almost religious adulation.  His “heroism,” namely, informing falsely on his father was (mis)used to create a morbid Communist cult about loyalty to the state as opposed to loyalty to one’s family.  “Be like Pavlik, children were told from the moment they took the oath as pioneers,” the newspaper Tribuna exhorted the young Communists on the anniversary of his death.  Moreover, “Study hard, love your motherland, expose the enemies of Soviet power, and be merciless with traitors.”  Almost half-a-century later, when the Soviet Union ceased to exist, Pavel/Pavlik’s father and all of his relatives were officially “rehabilitated.”

Parents are rightfully angry.  At least, since the death of the hard criminal George Floyd who graduated to false sainthood, they are convinced that schools can get nothing into perspective.  To add ill-educated insult to the burgeoning and seemingly unbreakable tyranny of an aggressive as well as arrogant  minority educators, they feel being stuck between some teachers’ hatred of everything American and the overwhelming rage of Democrat politicians that make their job as parents increasingly impossible.  In this tragically miserable situation, the entire Biden administration in general and Merrick Garland’s DOJ in particular, have become a morbidly hollow, moot dummies, the satirized form of a bunch of little Stalins.  And as the original Joseb Besarionis Dzhugashvili who throughout his life wore the mask of Stalin, Merrick Garland put the mask of a ruler on his face that transforms him from an educated lawyer to a bureaucratic despot.  Meanwhile, Americans over whom he pretends to rule slowly but surely begin to hate him.  In the end, like Stalin’s Soviet Union, political hacks like President Biden, members of his administration, including Merrick Garland, will deservedly disappear without too much notice inside the huge pile of history’s garbage dump.  


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