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.
The professional conservative movement should be moving massive amounts of money to support parents' efforts and harden them as a target of this leftist onslaught.
By Joy Pullman•
For the first time in ages, the political right has had a massive boon dropped right into its lap. Democrats are shaking in their boots over the political implications of their institutional support for the state-sponsored racism known as critical race theory.
Their initial attempts to Jedi mind trick away people’s concern by insisting CRT isn’t real failed, and even Nancy Pelosi mouthpiece Politico is reporting how CRT in schools is deeply offending the independent and Democrat voters crucial to the Democrat Party’s competing grievance groups.
So what is the institutional right doing to capitalize on this amazing opportunity? A few states are banning it from classrooms — amid the usual friendly fire butt-covering for do-nothing Republican politicians — while Democrats prepare for total war to maintain their control of the national child-indoctrination apparatus known as public schooling.
If the conservative movement and Republican Party were serious like the left is serious, here’s what it would be doing to use the CRT uproar for tactical advantage instead of maxing out their energies on chest-thumping panel discussions and TV appearances while parents with kids and full-time jobs try to do all the groundwork without air cover.
The nation’s largest teachers union announced it’s filled a $5 million war chest to provide legal defenses for any teachers caught pushing CRT. The Biden administration has nominated to a key U.S. Department of Education legal post a leftist extremist who previously wielded federal power to institute racist policies that forced schools to discipline children according to their skin color instead of their actions: “Under her leadership, civil rights investigations became tools of harassment to coerce changes in school policies.”
These institutions are going to use the might of the federal government, an army of lawyers, and the nation’s largest teachers union to defend their territory. Who is helping parents go on the offensive against state-sponsored racism?
One-man journalist army Chris Rufo is recruiting lawyer volunteers via Twitter. That’s great, but he shouldn’t have to do this himself. The professional conservative movement should be moving massive amounts of money to support parents’ efforts and harden them as a target of this leftist legal onslaught. Stop platforming leftist propaganda outlets and start hiring effective marketing strategists, investigative journalists, and scads of lawyers.
Max Eden points out in City Journal that when racial extremist Catherine Lhamon underwent confirmation hearings as Joe Biden’s nominee for assistant secretary of USDOE’s Office of Civil Rights: “Republican senators… did not challenge Lhamon on her record on school discipline. Nor did they ask any questions on the issue at the forefront of so many voters’ minds: critical race theory.”
Later, one senator, Ranking Member Richard Burr, sent Lhamon written questions about racial extremism and Llamon dodged, claiming she could not answer any “hypothetical” questions. Eden notes:
While Burr deserves credit for forcing Lhamon to make her ambivalence about racial discrimination a matter of public record, it is a shame that no Senator was willing to ask her any of these questions directly during her hearing. The American people deserved to witness her reluctance to condemn racial discrimination. The exchange could have made national news and framed Lhamon’s nomination as what it likely is: a referendum on whether or not the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights should permit anti-white racial discrimination.
Republican senators are not elected by the people of their states to rubberstamp racial extremism. The least we ought to be able to expect them to do is probe and bring out nominees’ unfitness for office, then vote against those nominees as a consequence. Explaining that vote to constituents should be a no-brainer. Get better, Republicans. Kids being recruited by racists are counting on you.
It should also be a complete no-brainer to make effective opposition to critical race theory a litmus test for public office, including appointments and judges. Not just saying “I oppose CRT,” but displaying an effective track record of opposing it or things like it, or presenting a specific plan about how the candidate proposes to combat it with the power he wants voters to grant him.
We’re talking about an ideology that pushes eight-year-olds to rank themselves and their classmates according to their racial and sexual (?!) “privilege,” demonizes people according to their skin color, says babies can be racists, and encourages leading children in chants to an Aztec god. Opposing CRT should be like taking candy from a baby. If a candidate can’t or won’t do it, he’s worthless and better disposed of.
How does one dispose of weak public officials who won’t stop taxpayer dollars from funding racists? Pressure. The Republican Party and all its various local branches should make CRT opposition a requirement for getting their campaign dollars and other assistance.
If primary season is coming up, primary them. If it’s not, run ads pressuring them. Send journalists to look into the public money and institutions politicians oversee and whether it’s funding CRT, and ask them to comment on why this is allowed. Get allies to go on TV and ask why Politician A who oversees the education committee wouldn’t comment about evidence of tax dollars funding racism. This is politics 101, people. Lefties do this in their sleep.
Richard Hanania pointed out earlier this year that, months into the CRT explosion, National Review editor Ramesh Ponnuru and Republican Sen. Tom Cotton publicly stated that neither had any policy ideas about how to fight cancel culture. Hanania responded by noting that the cancel culture use of “racism” to tar and feather perfectly normal and nonbigoted ideas is backed by an entire legal apparatus that has accreted over the years under the “disparate impact” doctrine, sprouted from race-conscious “diversity” laws and jurisprudence.
“Disparate impact” is, of course, what critical theorists use to absurdly accuse the United States, babies, and white males of inherent and systemic racism. It is very much linked to policies that can and should be reformed. Hanania gives these suggestions for such anti-CRT reforms:
1) Eliminating disparate impact, making the law require evidence of intentional discrimination.
2) Getting rid of the concept of hostile work environment, or defining it in extremely narrow and explicit terms, making sure that it does not restrict political or religious speech.
3) Repealing the executive orders that created and expanded affirmative action among government contractors and the federal workforce.
This is a starting point for think tanks to delve into various laws and regulations to put out actually useful whitepapers. Give politicians and bureaucrats a map of exactly what policies the real antiracists want them to search out and destroy. That way we can better hold them to it.
Philanthropists should get together and stick a bunch of money into an endowment — or endowments! — that distributes “critical race theory escape scholarships” for families stuck in school systems that are trying to make their kids racists.
State lawmakers should sponsor bills to create “antiracism choice scholarships” that make state funds available to families in school districts that are found to be teaching racism. As Chris Bedford notes, this is the time to institute universal backpack funding so parents never have to negotiate with racial terrorists again. Churches should step up to their historic commitments to provide a Christian education to all Christian children, and to serve the poor, by starting schools or crowdfunding CRT escape scholarships.
State think tanks should help fundraise for any and all of these, or provide startup funding and assistance to groups of parents to start non-racist charter and private schools, education “pods,” and homeschool communities. The possibilities for direct action to give affected children immediate lifeboats out of desperate situations are myriad.
Parents need help using research skills such as filing open records requests to find out what their school systems are doing with their kids and tax dollars. They may also need lawyers to send threatening letters and even file lawsuits if school districts refuse to disclose this public information. This kind of discovery, and amplifying it, would be largely the work of journalists if the profession weren’t such a mess.
Again, Rufo is amazing, but he should be duplicated as much as possible. Get the guy a research assistant, and journalists and lawyers to extend his work to as many school districts as possible. How many parents really know what their children are being told in school? Very few.
Scared parents in my local district in a red state recently sent around an “I do not consent” form letter to bring to school this fall stating that they don’t want their children taught critical race theory. How is that enforceable? How would they know if the school went ahead and ignored them? Why is it even a thing that parents should feel the need to send letters like this to an institution they are funding and sending their children to? Who is backing them up?
I know who it should be: Those with the resources to make their concerns heard and enforced, through as many avenues as possible. The time to press this advantage — one of the few people on the political right have right now — is immediately, and as hard as possible. Don’t squander this moment. Who knows if and when another one like it will arise.
A comprehensive analysis of abortion laws in Europe released Tuesday found almost every country limits elective abortion to 15 weeks gestation, putting the policy in place on much of the continent in line with new restrictions adopted by the State of Mississippi.
“The European comparison is useful in highlighting how Roe v. Wade and the abortion industry are outdated and out of touch, but our goal isn’t achieving some international happy medium,” said Chuck Donovan, the president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute. The aim, he said, was to use science “to demonstrate the reality that human life exists in the womb and that the right to life is an inalienable human right
The Mississippi law, enacted in 2018, was immediately challenged by pro-abortion rights supporters as an unreasonable incumbrance on the reproductive rights of women as established by the United States Supreme Court. Current precedent allows for elective abortions to occur through the ninth month of pregnancy, subject to the ability of individual states to impose restrictions on abortion after the viability of the unborn child has been determined.
As a matter of law, viability is currently held as occurring at approximately 24 weeks gestation though many doctors and scientists say it can and does happen much earlier. That standard will be tested when the Mississippi law comes before the high court this fall in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which abortion opponents hope will result in the benchmark being cut by as much as half.
The Lozier Institute report found by comparing abortion restrictions in 47 of 50 European countries that 39 placed limits of elective abortions at 15 weeks gestation or earlier. The other eight prohibit it altogether.
“Mississippi’s law brings the United States a small step closer both to European and global norms,” said Lozier Institute associate scholar Angelina B. Nguyen, J.D., the study’s author. “No European nation allows elective abortion through all nine months of pregnancy, as is effectively permitted in several U.S. states, and America is one of only a small handful of nations, along with China and North Korea, to permit any sort of late-term elective abortion.”
The latest analysis builds on a previous Lozier Institute study regarding abortion laws worldwide released in 2014. It found the United States to be among a handful of countries, including North Korea and China – notorious for its policy limiting the number of children a couple may have – that allowed elective abortions for any reason more than halfway through a complete pregnancy or after 20 weeks.
Lozier Institute President Chuck Donovan said, “American elites often hold up Europe as an example. First, we demonstrated that more than two-thirds of the planet goes further than America in protecting life. Now, we’ve demonstrated that almost every European nation goes further than America in protecting life. Mississippi’s commonsense limits on late-term abortion are well within the mainstream of American popular opinion and clearly within the mainstream of European political opinion.”
Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act, which passed overwhelmingly with bipartisan support in 2018, limits elective abortion to 15 weeks. The law was invalidated by lower courts (Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization) and will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in the fall of 2021.
In Biden's America, the action is outside the Beltway
It took a few days away from the nation’s capital for me to appreciate how boring the place has become. Recently I returned from a trip to California and discovered that I hadn’t missed anything—no presidential scandal, no legislative logrolling, no surprise vacancies on the Supreme Court. Yes, the pace of events slows down in Washington every summer. Congress goes on recess and metro residents travel for vacation. But 2021 is different. This year, D.C.’s irrelevance is neither seasonal nor exceptional. It’s the norm.
Since Bill Clinton’s impeachment, the city has been the site of momentous events and world-defining debates. The fallout from the 2000 election, 9/11, the war on terrorism, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the surge, the financial crisis, the election of Barack Obama, Obamacare, the Tea Party, the debt ceiling, the response to the Arab Spring, the 2013 government shutdown—they all testified to the centrality of Washington.
Donald Trump’s descent on the escalator in 2015 intensified press coverage. His victory in 2016 upped the political stakes. The Trump presidency unfolded in spectacular, captivating fashion. It was a live-broadcast, four-year, nonfictional telenovela, complete with a climactic twist and a tragic ending. On occasion, the cast traveled to Singapore, Hanoi, Helsinki, and Mar-a-Lago. But the main set was the Oval Office.
Well, the show is over and the thrill is gone. It used to be that the federal city—and its chief executive—drove the national conversation. But President Biden purposely limits his exposure to remain as uncontroversial as possible. “Boring news cycle deals blow to partisan media,” read the headline of an article in Axios on June 29. The piece tracked a fall in web traffic, app user sessions, and social media engagement since President Trump left office. Biden’s chief of staff, Ron Klain, tweeted out the story. “Sorry not sorry,” he wrote.
After 12 years of highly visible celebrity presidents, the current occupant of the White House is a 78-year-old who eschews social media, rarely gives one-on-one interviews, limits himself to about one public event a day, calls on pre-selected reporters at press conferences, often refers to notes, and returns home to Delaware most weekends. Joe Biden’s spending plans may be gargantuan and foolish, his decisions on the border and on Afghanistan may be impetuous and disastrous, and his offhand remarks may be puzzling and odd, but no one gets worked up about him personally. Last month Doug Rivers of the Hoover Institution observed that voters don’t consider Biden an ideologue. It doesn’t matter that Biden’s goals are more ambitious than Obama’s: Far greater numbers of voters said that Obama was “very liberal” than say the same of Biden today.
This low-key presidency combines with tight margins in Congress to diminish Washington’s importance. Unlike his two most recent predecessors, Biden is not an omnipresent figure. The 50-50 Senate blocks the progressive wish list from becoming law. The result is a devolution of controversy to the state, municipal, and local levels of government. Not in two decades covering politics, for example, have I seen state legislatures receive as much attention as they have in recent months.
Meanwhile, the big political news is Democrat Eric Adams’s victory in the New York City mayoral primary. What’s unique about Adams is that he ran the first New York campaign in decades with national implications. His triumph underscored the electorate’s concern with rising crime rates. It demonstrated that even Democratic primary voters in a majority-minority city oppose defunding law enforcement.
“According to recent data from the Democratic-oriented Navigator Research,” writes Ruy Teixeira in a recent issue of the Liberal Patriot newsletter, “more Americans overall, including among independents and Hispanics, now believe violent crime is a ‘major crisis’ than believe that about the coronavirus pandemic or any other area of concern.” This alarm over rising crime manifested itself locally before becoming apparent to officials in Washington, including Biden, who scrambled to announce a crime reduction plan in late June.
The most glaring sign of the Beltway’s detachment from national life has been the movement against critical race theory (CRT) in public schools. Like the Tea Party, this movement is spontaneous, self-organizing, and uncontrolled. Unlike the Tea Party, however, it is focused on a hyperlocal (yet super-important) issue: K-12 instruction. As of this writing, the anti-CRT movement fields candidates for school boards. Congress is an afterthought.
The national politicians who amplify the movement’s rhetoric are piggybacking on a grassroots phenomenon. And while the fight against CRT has implications for federal policy, it is not as though the right’s answer to far-left school boards is national curricular standards. On the contrary: The parental revolt over “woke” education bypasses Washington, transcends party lines, and has clearly defined and limited goals.
What’s fascinating about the anti-CRT campaign is that its most prominent antagonists are not elected officials. The Tea Party pitted rebels such as Jim DeMint, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz against the Republican establishment and Barack Obama. But the participants in this most recent iteration of the culture war are different. The anti-CRT spokesman Christopher Rufo of the Manhattan Institute is a documentarian and activist, and Bari Weiss and Andrew Sullivan are journalists. The most famous advocates of so-called antiracist education are Nikole Hannah-Jones, lead writer of the New York Times‘s 1619 Project, and Ibram X. Kendi of Boston University. Fights over CRT don’t take place in the halls of Congress, but on Morning Joe.
Maybe political entrepreneurs in the coming months will appropriate and elevate the issues of voter ID, crime, and anti-American pedagogy into national campaigns. Maybe the anti-CRT movement will follow the Tea Party and use the 2022 election to springboard into the Beltway. Maybe the next president will impress himself or herself into the national consciousness in the manner of an Obama or a Trump. Or maybe the next president will be Trump.
For now, though, Joe Biden is president. Congress is deadlocked. Both the left and right are more interested in values than in entitlements. The media track the states, the cities, the schools. Why? Because the real action is happening in places like Atlanta, Tallahassee, Austin, Phoenix, New York City, and Loudoun County. Not in Washington, D.C.
President Joe Biden signed into law Thursday a bill making June 19 a federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery but not everyone sees it as progress closing the racial divide keeping Americans apart. Members of the Project 21 black leadership network – which has used the anniversary as an opportunity to encourage other black Americans to celebrate their liberty and self-sufficiency in a nation that offers unlimited opportunities for two decades – said the effort may distract attention from the real problems the black community faces daily.
“Far too many Americans, regardless of their ethnic background, are unfamiliar with Juneteenth. The blessing of liberty was irrevocably granted on June 19, 1865, to those who remained enslaved in Texas, not knowing they had been freed more than two years earlier. For them, this was their declaration of freedom,” said Project 21 member Derryck Green. “While I am agnostic on a national holiday, I don’t want the commemoration hijacked by racial activists who would use it as another tool to demonize white Americans under the pretense of racial justice. As we’ve seen since last summer, this has been destructive to the American experiment.”
The bill, which was passed overwhelmingly by the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday after a unanimous vote in the Senate, commemorates the June 19, 1865, arrival of Union troops in Galveston, Texas who brought with them news the Civil War had ended, and that President Lincoln had abolished slavery throughout the Confederacy two-and-a-half years earlier through the Emancipation Proclamation.
Galveston’s former slave population began celebrating its freedom annually on the anniversary of this day. “Juneteenth” grew to become a motivating and stabilizing commemoration for black Texans experiencing the uncertainties associated with their newfound freedom and full integration into American society.
“Juneteenth is already everything but a national holiday since 47 states, local governments, and even private companies recognize it,” said Project 21 member Martin Baker. “Juneteenth was an acknowledgment of the Emancipation Proclamation, which history tells us only applied to the states in rebellion. If we want to celebrate an all-encompassing ‘Freedom Day,’ perhaps we should choose December 6 – the anniversary of when the 13th Amendment was ratified.”
During the debate over establishing the new holiday, some lawmakers raised concerns about its cost. Members of Project 21 however, said they were more concerned whether its creation would be politicized. For example, Senator Ed Markey said when introducing the Juneteenth holiday legislation: “Today we commemorate. Tomorrow, we fight.”
“It is surprising the number of black Americans – let alone all Americans – who are not yet aware” of Juneteenth’s significance, Project 21’s Marie Fischer said. “But to make this a federal holiday is not something I feel is in the best interests of the country, especially now,” she continued before going on to question whether it would help bring the nation together.
“I constantly hear everyone talking about unity, but would a federal holiday end up being a unifier? Or would it give fuel to those who support critical race theory by pointing out a day that marks one group as an oppressor and another as the oppressed? Such a holiday could be easily hijacked by those who insist that blacks only advance when it benefits white elites. Nothing seems to get pushed these days unless it fits a specific narrative,” Fischer said.
“Juneteenth should prompt us not just to take inventory of how far we’ve come, but also realize that – despite the racialized claims of ‘white supremacy’ or ‘systemic racism’ – blacks have the agency and ability to control our own lives,” Green added. “This includes becoming full participants in society.”
The law establishing “Juneteenth” as an officially recognized federal holiday comes roughly a year after the nation was rocked by violent protests following the murder of George Floyd, an African-American man, by a Minneapolis police officer. It will be the eleventh such day, joining a list that includes Christmas, New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving and Independence Day, explorer Christopher Columbus and slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
Keep the STOP Act to halt the Opioid Epidemic
The Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention Act, more commonly known as the STOP Act is a bipartisan bill, that was signed into law in October 2018 in order to reduce the amount of illicit items traveling through the U.S. Postal Service in the United States. This law was specifically designed to help close an existing loophole that has allowed illicit drugs, which have contributed to the nation’s opioid crisis, to be transported into the United States via USPS.
Unfortunately, the forces in Washington, DC are considering measures that would effectively pause the progress in compliance, or adjust the compliance thresholds of this law, either of which would negatively affect the identification and prevention of the spread of illicit and illegal distributions.
The Postal Service Should Do What Other Shippers Do to Reduce Illegal Drug Shipments
The STOP Act requires the USPS to gather advance electronic data (AED) for inbound international packages. It requires foreign postal operators to include fields such as the item identifier, sender’s full name and address, recipient’s full name and address, stated content description, unit of measure and quantity, weight, declared value, and date of mailing. With the tightened security, it helps reduce the number of bad actors who use the USPS loophole to get drugs into the country. This reform was pushed for by both lawmakers and stakeholders for years. The STOP Act is a sensible, necessary, solution to deadly epidemic in the United.
The need for solutions like the STOP Act has been in the works since 2016 and regrettably the deadly opioid crisis has continue to spread and we still desperately need this precaution in 2021. Preliminary federal data found that 87,000 Americans died of drug overdoses over the 12-month period that ended in September. This marks the highest amount since the opioid epidemic began in the 1990s. The data shows that the coronavirus pandemic unquestionably exacerbated the trend as the largest increase in overdose deaths occurred in April and May of 2020.
It is disappointing that the Biden administration is passing up on an opportunity to keep Americans safe. While the USPS was able to increase the number of inbound international packages reporting AED to 67 percent in January of 2020, it failed to reach its goal of 100 percent of packages by the deadline imposed in the law, January 2021. Robert Cintron Vice President, Logistics United States Postal Service noted that the coronavirus pandemic impacted international mail shipments, affected their ability to do so, but as our country moves forward it is absolutely imperative that we refocus on this important issue.
The Biden Administration Should Keep America and Americans Safe by Enforcing and Upholding the Law
It is vital that we continue to advocate for these solutions as they have the potential to save lives across the country. Therefore, it is imperative for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to go back to the drawing board on its proposed rules for collection of advance electronic information for international mail shipments, and the frameworks for collaboration between the U.S. Postal Service and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). American citizens depend heavily on these critical safeguards for protecting our mail system. And it isn’t asking too much for the USPS to live up to similar standards of professionalism as other carriers who have been protecting parcels shipped into America for years. Moreover, the USPS shouldn’t allow itself to be used as a mule — shipping illegal and deadly drugs into America — because of its unwillingness to live up to industry standards that protect all Americans.
While migrants from Central America stream to the U.S. border, any positive effects of Biden’s 'root-cause' strategy will be slow and incremental at best.
The journey of Central American migrants to the U.S. border — a perilous trip across thousands of miles of mountains and deserts — starts in places like the dry corridor in western Honduras.
Many of the region’s 1 million small farmers still live in adobe huts with no running water and suffer acts of humans and nature. Corrupt Honduran officials have invested too little in stabilizing or modernizing the region, allowing violent gangs to extort families. Recent droughts and hurricanes have created widespread hunger.
“It’s been one crisis after another,” says Conor Walsh, the Honduras representative for Catholic Relief Services in Tegucigalpa, the capital. “Many people have already migrated and others are evaluating whether they can stay on their farms.”
These longstanding problems throughout Central America are driving the current crisis on the southern U.S. border, where more than 170,000 migrants arrived in March in search of jobs and asylum. As the Biden administration grapples with this mounting surge, it’s also proposing a $4 billion long-term plan to attack the root causes of migration — corruption, violence, and poverty in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.
The initiative is as ambitious as it is familiar. Presidents as far back as John F. Kennedy have pursued similar aims only to come up short. Joe Biden himself ran the troubled Central America initiative during the Obama administration. It encountered the same obstacles that have stymied past U.S. efforts — governmental leaders and business elites who resist good governance and anti-corruption reforms to protect their own interests, according to a study by the Wilson Center, a policy research group in Washington.
Consider Honduras, a showcase of government criminality. President Juan Orlando Hernandez’s election in 2017 was tainted by fraud. He is now under investigation by U.S. prosecutors who have brought a string of cocaine smuggling cases against prominent Hondurans. Members of the National Congress in Tegucigalpa have a habit of embezzlement, thereby robbing citizens of funding for health care, education, and jobs.
Nonetheless, U.S.-funded programs have struggled to make a difference in a nation in which government is a big part of the problem. Catholic Relief Services, for one, has helped boost the corn and bean yields and income of thousands of subsistence farmers in the Honduran dry corridor, offering a glimmer of hope. But a lack of roads, electricity, and credit for farmers means that only a sliver of them benefit from the technical aid. As a result, an unprecedented 47 percent of families in the dry corridor that stretches across Central America are moderately to severely food-deprived, according to an alarming 2017 United Nations study.United Nations World Food Program.
Now comes Biden’s crack at the region. He’s tweaking the U.S. aid playbook in hopes of a better outcome. The administration says fighting corruption is now the top priority since nothing will change until elected officials stop stealing and the governments become more accountable to citizens. Countries will have to meet stricter conditions, such as adopting governance reforms, before receiving aid, and officials face the threat of financial sanctions and revoked visas. The proposed $4 billion strategy, the biggest ever for the region, gives the administration some added leverage.
Vice President Kamala Harris heads the strategy team, which includes White House aide Juan Gonzalez and Ricardo Zuniga, the special envoy to the region. Zuniga was born in Honduras and both men worked on Western Hemispheric affairs in the Obama White House. In March, they traveled to the region and had “very frank discussions” with leaders about transparency, good governance, and anti-corruption, said one administration official.
The Treasury Department followed up those talks with sanctions in late April against Felipe Alejos Lorenzana, a Guatemalan Congressman, and Gustavo Adolfo Alejos Cambara, a former official. They reportedly facilitated payments to lawmakers and judges to try to interfere with the appointment of magistrates and protect against corruption prosecutions, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
“You have to create a system of accountability that goes after the very corrupt elements within these governments,” added Steven Dudley, co-founder of InSight Crime, which investigates organized crime in Latin America. “The people Biden put in place have the experience and ideas, but the bridge between that and actually doing something is long.”
The get-tough diplomacy is already hitting resistance. In early April, Zuniga visited El Salvador to press the case against corruption. But President Nayib Bukele, miffed over criticism from a State Department official about his commitment to the rule of law, refused to meet with the envoy.
The snub would be familiar to a long line of presidents who have stumbled in the region. Since 1960 administrations have strategically deployed about $24 billion in foreign aid to Central America and the Caribbean.
During the Cold War years, aid was meant to reduce poverty to build support against leftist movements in El Salvador and its neighbors. It didn’t work. When the decades-long civil wars in the region finally ended in the 1990s, peace did usher in a long stretch of economic growth and declining poverty rates. In the ensuing decade, as drug trafficking and gang violence soared, the George W. Bush administration took its turn in Central America. It sent assistance to combat crime. But the programs lacked coordination and had a limited impact, according to another Wilson Center report.
The Obama administration had bigger ambitions. It expanded on Bush’s security initiative by adding governance and economic programs. The $2.4 billion “strategy for engagement” for El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras began in 2014 and included 370 projects to make local officials more accountable, reduce crime and create jobs. In an op-ed supporting the strategy, Vice President Biden praised the nations’ commitment to reform and even met with President Hernandez at the White House in 2015 — an endorsement that proved too bullish.
After five years, the Government Accounting Office was blunt in its assessment of the projects that were mostly run by the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development. Those reviewed by GAO achieved only 40 percent to 70 percent of their own technical targets, such as the number of police officers trained. Officials didn’t even bother to evaluate most of the projects or whether they helped improve governance, security, and economic opportunity.
When the biggest wave of migrants in more than a decade hit the U.S. border in 2019, the Trump administration pulled the plug on the Obama root cause strategy. USAID, now run by Samantha Power, a former envoy to the U.N. under President Obama, didn’t provide a spokesperson to comment for this story despite several requests.
Biden, who now has a second chance to get it right, faces his biggest test in Honduras. Its economy, which was once dominated by exports of coffee and bananas to the United States, has produced a number of ultra-wealthy clans resistant to the idea of cleaning up corruption.
Miguel Facusse, whose nephew served as president of Honduras, became rich from palm oil production and consumer products. But his legacy is tainted by accusations from human rights investigations that his security forces were involved in deadly clashes with small farmers over their claim to land in the region where his plantations operate.
As the economy became more service-oriented, former Vice President Jaime Rosenthal made a family fortune estimated in 2015 at $690 million from banking, telecommunications, and other businesses. But before his death two years ago, Rosenthal was indicted by U.S. prosecutors for participating in a money-laundering scheme with Honduran drug traffickers.
Honduras emerged as a cocaine transshipment point between South America and the United States a few decades ago. The 2009 coup in Honduras that ousted President Manuel Zelaya opened the door to more trafficking. Zelaya, a Liberal Party politician, had raised the minimum wage by 60 percent and defended the land rights of small farmers. Even more worrisome to business leaders like Facusse was that Zelaya had become cozy with leftist despots in the region and pushed to amend the constitution in an apparent attempt to extend his own presidency.
Zelaya’s ouster by the military led to a period of internal tumult, forcing the National Police to focus on restoring order, often violently cracking down on protesters. By 2015, 90 percent of cocaine coming to the United States passed through Central America, with Honduras as the major hub. More recently Hondurans have developed labs to produce cocaine, extending its tentacles in the economy, according to a report by InSight Crime.
Today, President Hernandez tops a list of Honduran politicians, military, and police officers who are under investigation or have been convicted of operating what seems like a state-sponsored drug cartel, according to the U.S. prosecutors. They say in 2013 Hernandez, who was then in Congress and campaigning for the presidency, got access to millions of dollars in cocaine from a murderous trafficker. In return, the politician allegedly told the trafficker, who was convicted in a U.S. court in March, that the military and attorney general would protect his operation. The president has repeatedly denied any involvement in trafficking.
The president’s brother, former congressman Tony Hernandez, was involved in every aspect of the cocaine trade. The end game was political power. He funneled millions of dollars in profits into National Party campaigns for three presidential elections, including the two his brother won in 2013 and 2017, prosecutors say. Tony Hernandez was handed a life prison sentence in March.
The Biden administration points to the silver linings in the dark clouds of the region’s recent history. In the last five years, an effort to root out political corruption made remarkable progress before it was quashed. In 2016, large street demonstrations over the looting of at least $300 million from the public health care system — a small amount of which found its way into Hernandez’s first presidential campaign — forced the president to set up an anti-corruption commission in partnership with the Organization of American States. The United States embraced the move with funding and political support.
The commission’s quasi-independence — it was led by Peruvian prosecutor Ana Maria Calderon Boy and others from outside Honduras — keyed its initial success. The commission set up a new unit of vetted prosecutors within the national government. It went on to reveal an embezzlement scam that later allegedly implicated more than 350 politicians, including President Hernandez, according to the Wilson report. Amid the scandal, he essentially disbanded the commission last year — a decision that brought condemnation from a bipartisan group of U.S. House leaders.
The Biden administration now aims to set up a new anti-corruption group as its main weapon. This time even more independence will be crucial if it’s to work. Zuniga, the special envoy, had discussions with nonprofits in Central America that want to form a U.S.-backed civil society commission. It would draw on the expertise of these groups in exposing corruption and operate outside the reach of national governments to shut it down. But local prosecutors would still have to pursue the cases.
“Instead of creating another commission that the governments can kick out, the United States can support nonprofits that have years of experience doing this work,” says Kurt Ver Beek, co-founder of the Association for a More Just Society in Honduras, who joined the talks with Zuniga. “We will make the corruption cases public and, along with the United States, pressure the governments to bring charges.”
The U.S.-backed effort to reform the National Police also got off to a promising start five years ago. The police served as a tool for cocaine smugglers, who easily exploited lowly paid officers with payoffs for dirty work. “Officers hijacked cars from citizens, dealt drugs for gangs, and lent out their services as hitmen,” according to a 2016 report by Ver Beek’s ASJ, the Christian nonprofit, which received funding from the State Department.
The revelation in 2016 that top police officials organized the assassination of Honduran’s anti-drug czar finally forced President Hernandez and Congress to set up another commission. Two ASJ leaders joined the group, which moved quickly to purge a remarkable 5,000 tainted and inexperienced beat cops and top officials — including six generals — equaling a third of the entire force.
The purge was a watershed moment showing that Hondurans could topple a fortress of criminality. But four years later drug smugglers are beginning to penetrate the police again, forcing good officers to choose whether to take a bribe or a bullet. “Traffickers tell cops, ‘I’ll kill you if you don’t help me, or take a bunch of money,’” says Ver Beek, a Cornell University-trained sociologist. “So they take the money.”
American agencies funded other projects such as community policing to reduce crime in Honduras, which a decade ago had the highest murder rate in the world. In her congressional confirmation hearing, Power, Biden’s new USAID administrator, pointed to the agency’s record of crime-fighting in the country as a bright spot to build on. “In districts where USAID had programming aimed at curbing violence, there was a drop in homicide rates,” she told senators in March. “That is encouraging.”
However, extortion of businesses by criminal gangs — a major driver of migration — may be getting worse. Gang members approach small businesses, such as barbers, food merchants and taxi drivers, and demand a small monthly payment that keeps going up until the owner can no longer pay it and flees. Hondurans refer to extortion as a “war tax,” which victimizes as many as half of all small businesses, Ver Beek estimates.
While officials pilfer public funds and gangs drive businesses to close, it’s no wonder that half of the Honduran population remains almost locked in poverty. The high rate hasn’t improved much over the last decade and is twice the level of neighboring El Salvador. As the Obama administration learned, foreign aid alone can’t do much to help kids escape this poverty trap.
USAID’s Future Employment program had ambitions in 2016 to train 7,500 at-risk youth in Honduras and place half of them in jobs to lure them away from gangs. The program struggled to find enough recruits in tough neighborhoods and enough employers willing to take a chance and hire them. Then the Trump administration cut off funding for projects across the three countries. By the end of 2019, fewer than 1,000 participants had found some employment, mostly in retail, in the year following training, according to a USAID evaluation.
While they certainly benefited from a job in the short term, their prospects of upward mobility are dim without more support from the Honduran government. For instance, the country has a federal minimum wage law that’s set above the poverty line and could help close the inequality gap. But almost half of employers ignore it and the government does little to enforce it, academic studies show.
“We have not produced the same kind of results that I’ve pointed to when it comes to physical security and crime,” Power said of USAID’s economic programs. “Hopefully we can begin to make a dent.”
Power could start by changing the way her agency runs projects in places like Honduras, nonprofit veterans believe. Aid experts have criticized the agency for hiring U.S. and international contractors to administer most of the program funding. The setup marginalizes local organizations that better understand on-the-ground issues and misses an opportunity to develop local advocates to push for reforms, says Sarah Bermeo, who specializes in foreign aid in Central America at Duke University.
“U.S. contractors are certainly overused compared to their ability to deliver results,” Bermeo says. “There is certainly room to improve outcomes by increasing the involvement of local groups in the design and implementation of AID-financed efforts.”
Meanwhile, migrants from Central America are streaming to the U.S. border. The increase that began a year ago has accelerated under Biden, threatening to top 1 million this year, the highest total in more than a decade. Biden’s root-cause strategy won’t change anything at the border in the short run. Advocates say progress will be incremental at best and measured in decades, not years.
“It’s going to be difficult but not impossible for the administration,” says Ariel Ruiz Soto, an analyst at the Migration Policy Institute in Washington. “The U.S. investment has to occur over decades for there to be a real change.”
U.S. Customs and Border Protection apprehended or turned away more than 178,600 people at the U.S.-Mexico border last month, marking what continues to be a growing border crisis.
The last time monthly border apprehensions exceeded this total was in April 2001, the all-time record year for illegal immigration with more than 1.6 million arrests. Unlike now, Border Patrol custody numbers back then were trending downward from March 2001, with more than 220,000 arrests.
Of those illegal aliens taken into custody in April this year, more than 111,000 were single adults not seeking asylum and who were subject to expulsion under Title 42. More single adults have been apprehended so far this year than the total number of families that were apprehended in all of 2019 during the last border crisis.
The Biden administration repeatedly denies there’s a border crisis and often blames the influx on former President Donald Trump and normal seasonal surges, but in April last year, border officials caught just over 17,000 illegal aliens at the southern border, the same number of unaccompanied minors who crossed last month.
“Until this administration applies a consequence for coming here illegally, these numbers are going to remain at crisis levels,” former acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf said in a statement. “Make no mistake: this is not just a humanitarian crisis on our border — it is a security crisis that is giving drug cartels and human smugglers a historic opportunity to expand their operations in the Western Hemisphere.”
While the average amount of time migrant children spent in custody fell from 115 hours in March to 28 hours in April, drug seizures keep climbing. Overall, Customs and Border Protection saw a 6 percent increase from March to April. Of those drugs being smuggled across the border by cartels, seizures of heroin increased 97 percent and seizures of fentanyl increased 34 percent, already passing the total numbers from the 2020 fiscal year. As noted by The Federalist’s John Daniel Davidson, the effects of these drugs extend far beyond the border crisis.
Experts estimate the volume of drugs confiscated at the border generally represents maybe 10 or 15 percent of total production. That amount of fentanyl — thousands of pounds — coming over the border has deadly consequences once it reaches U.S. cities and towns. Last year, a record number of Americans (some 90,000, possibly more) died of drug overdose. The increase in overdose deaths from 2019 to 2020, researchers say, was driven by synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Fatal fentanyl overdoses spiked during the pandemic last spring, claiming more than 6,000 lives in May 2020 alone, and as the year went on they never dropped back down to pre-pandemic levels.
When you break it down, Donald Trump’s trade policy was simple. “No more bad deals,” he’d say while flexing America’s economic muscle and bringing miscreant trading partners back into line.
Joe Biden, on the other hand, has yet to make his trade priorities clear.
There are a few things we do know. One, he’s eager to reunite with partners on the world stage. With the pandemic and climate change as the centerpieces of his administration’s international efforts, we can expect trade pacts to be less important. Two, the president says he wants to fix or build back America before he launches any trade initiatives. Three, he wants to be sure trade initiatives will be “worker-centered” but hasn’t explained what that would look like.
Going forward, the priorities for U.S. trade policy overall ought to be bringing U.S. jobs and manufacturing back from overseas and encourage emerging industries to develop new technologies here in the United States. Internationally, as an example, the White House must convince much of the world to eschew products made by Chinese-owned Huawei when building out 5G networks.
At home, the president and his trade team need to make sure that the innovative activities of companies creating emerging technologies on which we’re all dependent are not being crushed by government bodies like the U.S. International Trade Commission, a six-member, independent, quasi-judicial federal agency that settles certain kinds of trade disputes.
Of late, the commission is a place where non-practicing entities (they’re more commonly called “patent trolls”) are violating patent rights. Through expensive and extensive litigation, patent trolls ask the International Trade Commission to find that a company manufacturing and innovating some product is making illegitimate use of a non-practicing entity’s intellectual property — and, because of it, any device using said infringed-upon patents must be banned from the U.S. marketplace.
That is exactly what Swedish telecom giant Ericsson is asking the commission to do to Samsung and a range of other smart devices and its 5G-related infrastructure equipment. Ericsson is a telecom infrastructure equipment manufacturer, but these days close to a third of its operating profit comes from IP licensing.
Ericsson is currently negotiating with Samsung to renew a patent cross-licensing agreement. Instead of continuing to negotiate, Ericsson is using the threat of a massive U.S. import ban on Samsung products to try to get its way.
If Ericsson’s backup strategy prevails and Samsung devices including cell phones and tablets are excluded from the U.S. market, or if it gets the International Trade Commission to block one of its key competitors in the 5G infrastructure market, it would be a disaster. The digital divide would widen just as the Biden Administration is proposing trillions in new infrastructure spending including broadband.
Spending billions of taxpayer dollars on broadband while at the same time excluding Samsung infrastructure equipment and devices from the market makes no sense. The International Trade Commission will have given Ericsson dominant market power in 5G infrastructure equipment and limited device choices for U.S. consumers. It would be shockingly counterproductive to give Apple a virtual monopoly on sales of sophisticated phones while opening the door to Chinese manufacturers like Huawei, ZTE or their home-grown rivals to service the rest of the U.S. market at a time when the U.S. government is working to prevent Chinese tech attacks on U.S. information security.
There is a better way to settle what is essentially a dispute over patent royalties – the traditional court system.
Ericsson took its complaints to the International Trade Commission because it knows that an exclusion order would nearly cripple its rival. At a minimum, it would give it tremendous negotiating leverage.
It’s time for the president to propose and for Congress to reform the International Trade Commission by addressing weaknesses that enable these kinds of manipulative and illegitimate cases.
Biden should spend less time with historians and more with moderates
A liberal president enters the White House in a time of national crisis. He campaigned as a moderate but soon reveals his intent to govern from the left of the center-left. His bold agenda has plenty of fans among journalists and academics who celebrate the expansion of the welfare state. They write stories and deliver soundbites likening the new chief executive to FDR. The end of Reaganism, they say, is at hand.
I’m referring, of course, to President Barack Obama. Shortly after his election in 2008, Time magazine portrayed him as Dr. New Deal, complete with fedora and cigarette holder. “It would seem that Obama has been studying the 1932 Great Depression campaign of Franklin D. Roosevelt,” wrote E.J. Dionne in his syndicated column. “Conservatism is Dead,” announced the New Republic. “It has been that kind of presidency,” gushed Jon Meacham in 2009. “Barack Obama, moving as he wishes to move, and the world bending itself to him.”
Take a moment to recover from that last bit of purple prose. Then recall that two years after Obama’s victory, Republicans won the House. In 2014, Republicans kept the House and won the Senate. And two years after that, Republicans won complete control of the federal government. Conservatism didn’t die—the New Republic did. (It’s been reborn as a monthly.)
Now the same wonks and historians who compared Obama to the architect of managerial liberalism downplay his tenure in office as overly cautious, modest, and risk-averse. They’ve settled on a new, new FDR: Joe Biden. And Biden is ready to play the part. Even if it means risking Democratic control of Congress.
Biden met recently at the White House with a group of historians who, according to Axios, share his view that “It is time to go even bigger and faster than anyone expected. If that means chucking the filibuster and bipartisanship, so be it.” Biden’s “closest analogues,” Michael Beschloss told the news outlet, are FDR and LBJ. E.J. Dionne says Biden represents “a new disposition through which pragmatic forms of government activism add up to a quiet political revolution.” And Biden “loves the growing narrative that he’s bolder and bigger-thinking than President Obama,” writes Mike Allen. No doubt he does.
You would think that, in the midst of all the pandering and praise, the scholars who talked to Biden might have provided him some actual historical perspective. Every president Biden is said to recall, including Reagan, had to endure numerous setbacks, crises, unforced errors, and unanticipated consequences of their own policies. By 1938, the New Deal was exhausted, the economy hadn’t recovered from the Depression, and FDR won his final two terms largely on the basis of his international stature. LBJ’s landslide in 1964 was followed by a shellacking in 1966 and the collapse of the Democratic coalition in 1968. The GOP lost 26 seats in the House in 1982, forfeited control of the Senate in 1986, and when he left office Reagan handed his vice president a giant deficit, the Savings and Loan debacle, and a zealous special prosecutor.
The historians urging Biden to go big on policy aren’t analysts. They are partisan cheerleaders. If they stepped back, they would see that Biden is weaker than the presidents he admires and that vulnerable Democrats are warning the majority against overreach.
The Biden team gave Axios four reasons the president is ready to ditch the filibuster and push through a $3 trillion infrastructure and green energy bill, changes to election law in the “For the People Act,” and possibly an immigration amnesty. Biden has (1) “full party control of Congress, and a short window to go big,” (2) “party activists” are “egging him on,” (3) “he has strong gathering economic winds at his back,” and (4) “he’s popular in polls.”
But the same evidence could also be read as an argument for caution and restraint. Biden has less support in Congress than any of the presidents he emulates. (Reagan never controlled the House, but often had a majority of conservative Democrats plus Republicans.) At the moment, Biden’s party has 219 seats in the House and 50 in the Senate—meaning he can lose just two votes in the lower chamber and none in the upper one. It’s one thing to enact significant legislation on a partisan majority. It’s something else to enact such legislation on a partisan majority of one during a time when a positive COVID test upsets the whip count.
Nor is following “party activists” a certain route to political success. Economic winds change direction. And while Biden is popular, his disapproval rating in the January Gallup poll was second only to Donald Trump’s. Negative partisanship drives Biden to steamroll the Republicans. It also exposes him to political rebuke.
Some Democrats are beginning to express qualms with various aspects of Biden’s approach. Maine Democrat Jared Golden was the only member of his party to vote against Biden’s American Rescue Plan. Henry Cuellar of Texas was among the first congressmen to draw attention to the crisis on the southern border. Filemon Vela, also of Texas, announced his retirement the other day, a few months after his vote share dropped to 55 percent from 60 percent in 2018. Several House Democrats have said they disagree with Nancy Pelosi’s outrageous plot to expel Iowa Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks and replace her with Rita Hart, who lost by six votes last year. And West Virginia senator Joe Manchin has yet to cosponsor the election bill at the center of the Democrats’ campaign to end the filibuster.
In these early days, Biden’s presidency has been less a transformation than a continuation of the partisan stalemate that has existed since the end of the Cold War. Parties win elections, misread electoral victories as ideological endorsements, overreach, and pay for it at the polls. The Democrats for whom the bill will come due first are well aware of this dynamic. They may not be as good on television as Jon Meacham or Michael Beschloss, but they have plenty of insight into the aspirations and concerns of swing voters. Biden may want to have them over to the East Room. Before they are out of work.
Fairfax County Schools recently ditched merit-based admissions process
A group of parents at the nation’s top high school is suing the county school board for adopting new admissions practices that would slash the number of incoming Asian-American students.
The Pacific Legal Foundation filed a complaint Wednesday on behalf of the Coalition for TJ, a parent organization at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. In recent months, the Fairfax County School Board changed how students are admitted to the Alexandria, Va., magnet school in an attempt to boost enrollment of black and Hispanic students.
The coalition claims that the Fairfax County School Board’s newly adopted admissions processes are unconstitutional and would reduce the number of Asian-American students in the incoming freshman class by 42 percent.
In October, the Fairfax County School Board eliminated the merit-based entrance exam for the elite STEM-focused school. In December, the board limited the number of students each of the county’s middle schools can send to the high school. The lawsuit claims that this new process targets Asian Americans because the three Fairfax middle schools known for funneling students to Thomas Jefferson have predominantly Asian-American populations.
Thomas Jefferson is one of several U.S. high schools that have recently moved away from merit-based admissions in favor of practices that achieve desired racial quotas. Last month, the San Francisco Board of Education abandoned the admissions test for the city’s prestigious public high school in favor of a lottery system, claiming the former system “perpetuate[d] the culture of white supremacy.”
Harry Jackson, the parent of a black student at Thomas Jefferson High School, said that the new admissions process hurts gifted students in addition to Asian Americans.
“This is an attack on Asian Americans and on gifted education,” Jackson said at an online press conference on Wednesday. “It represents anti-intellectualism. Under the guise of trying to diversify Thomas Jefferson, they’re not doing anything to uplift the black and Hispanic community. It’s a targeted hit on the Asian community.”
Julia McCaskill, the parent of three students in Fairfax schools, said the district is blaming its failure to boost black and Hispanic enrollment rates on Asian Americans.
“Diversity is the goal for all of us and Thomas Jefferson does not belong to a certain race or group of people,” McCaskill said. “The lack of diversity of black and Latino students is a failure of the [school board], and instead of fixing those issues, they are focusing the hate on Asian Americans.”
Thomas Jefferson is a majority-minority high school. Roughly 70 percent of enrolled students are Asian. Another 20 percent are white and the remaining 10 percent comprises black, Hispanic, and other minority students.
Fairfax County Public Schools communications director Lucy Caldwell told the Washington Free Beacon that the district maintains that its new admissions process “continues to be race neutral and merit-based.” The district values diversity and says it contributes to the “richness” of education at Thomas Jefferson.
In early February congressional Democrats launched an effort to allow unions to implant themselves once again into the lives of workers – whether they’re wanted there or not. The PRO ACT, which the U.S. House of Representatives will soon consider and which, ironically enough, stands for “Protecting the Right to Organize,” would let big labor once again establish a stranglehold over the American economy.
For decades, since President Jimmy Carter’s epic mismanagement of the U.S. economy, the percentage of workers in the private sector belonging to unions has plummeted. The increased cost of membership along with diminishing satisfaction with what unions were able to do to protect the jobs of their members has led more and more of them to seek alternative arrangements.
In some states, worker independence from big labor is made easier by the existence of laws prohibiting agreements between employers and labor unions concerning the extent to which an established union can require employees to be members or to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment either before or after they’re hired.
This concept, known popularly as “right to work” has worked well since it was first introduced in the period just after the end of World War II. It’s now law in more than half the states and others are moving toward adopting it. If the PRO Act passes, right-to-work laws would be eliminated, meaning workers could be forced to join a union or pay fees equivalent to membership dues as a condition of getting or keeping their job.
To protect against this possibility, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul has introduced the National Right to Work Act to preserve the options right-to-work laws make available to workers in states that have them and extend to workers in states that do not. The key point, he says, is that workers, not the unions themselves, should make the relevant decisions regarding membership.
“The National Right to Work Act ensures all American workers have the ability to choose to refrain from joining or paying dues to a union as a condition for employment,” Sen. Paul said. There are 27 states with right-to-work laws on the books, the Kentucky Republican said, adding “It’s time for the federal government to follow their lead.”
More than eight in ten workers believe preserving worker choice in such matters is a preeminent concern, according to a Gallup Poll, with more than seven in ten saying they would vote for a ballot measure protecting right-to-work.
The survey data indicates workers already in unions would like to see their options expanded, likely to leverage efforts at reform. One survey conducted nearly a decade ago for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Fund found that 91 percent of private-sector union members believed there was too much secrecy in how their dues money was spent, 79 percent said union membership should be voluntary, and 63 percent said they would vote out their union leadership for spending dues money on political ads if it could be done by secret ballot to protect them from retribution.
The Paul legislation would repeal six existing statutory provisions allowing private-sector workers and airline and railroad employees to be fired if they don’t pay dues or administrative fees to a union, putting bargaining power back, the senator said, in the hands of America’s workers. A companion bill has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Joe Wilson, R-S.C.
A forgettable speech may be just what the country needs
It was impossible to hear Joe Biden’s Inaugural Address without comparing it to Donald Trump’s. Four years ago, Trump blamed the “American carnage” that propelled his rise to power on a feckless and out of touch elite who had collaborated with nefarious outsiders to rob the middle class of its wealth and status. Trump’s speech was brief (16 minutes long), direct, uncompromising, and unforgettable. It left the political world in shock. George W. Bush spoke for many when he was overheard saying, “That was some weird s—t.” The Trump inaugural foretold a presidency like no other.
President Biden’s inaugural could not have been more different. He is Trump’s opposite not only in ideology but also in background and style. Trump was the only president not to have previous government or military experience. Biden served for almost 50 years in Congress and the West Wing. Trump used social media as a weapon in his politics of polarization and confrontation. Biden has gone out of his way to ignore Twitter, and has relied primarily on traditional media to convey his message.
Trump sought to disrupt the norms of Washington because he and his supporters believed those norms had become a cover for American decline. Biden wants to restore the norms, and to lower the political temperature, because he believes, correctly in my view, that civility and proceduralism stand between America and the abyss. Every aspect of Biden’s inaugural—its structure, its bipartisanship, its quotations, its length—furthered his aim of realigning the office of the presidency with its traditions of institutional decorum.
The speech itself was not memorable. But this prosaic quality was in its own way reassuring. After all, most inaugurals are forgotten. (Can you quote a line from either of Bill Clinton’s, or from either of Barack Obama’s?) Biden’s delivery was much stronger than his text. He recapitulated the themes of his campaign, explained how he believes the nation faces crises of public health, economics, racism, and climate, called for national unity, and pledged to serve all of the people. His peroration was inspiring: “With purpose and resolve, we turn to the task of our time, sustained by faith, driven by conviction, and devoted to one another and the country we love with all our hearts.” Overall, however, you came away with the sense that Biden’s presidency will be defined more by actions than by words.
What stood out most about the entire day was its religious spirit. Biden began the morning with a bipartisan Mass. The benedictions before and after the inaugural program were moving. Garth Brooks offered an incredible rendition of “Amazing Grace.” Biden asked all Americans to participate in a moment of silent prayer. He cited Scripture. And in one of the most interesting passages of his address, he invoked Saint Augustine’s description of a people as “a multitude defined by the common objects of their love.”
For Biden, these common objects are values: “Opportunity, security, liberty, dignity, respect, honor, and, yes, the truth.” Few would argue with this list. But its very universality raises the question of what separates Americans from other peoples, elsewhere, who also love opportunity and security and liberty. It’s easy to come up with a more particularistic catalogue of the common objects of our national love: The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the national motto and symbol, the flag, the Founders, Lincoln, the Capitol building, the land itself. And this difference between transcendental aspirations and concrete loyalties may be one way of thinking about the gulf that separates left from right.
One danger for Biden is that the electorate will come to view his call for unity as a mask for a partisan liberal agenda. There was little policy in the Inaugural Address, but the executive orders he will sign this afternoon and evening, and the legislation he is proposing to Congress, do not herald a future where the parties are reconciled to one another. His presidency might proceed along two tracks, with Biden standing as a symbol of comity and consensus while his administration sustains and expands the Democratic coalition. Biden might want to pay particular attention to a recent Washington Post /ABC News poll showing that 55 percent of independents have “just some” or “no confidence” in his decision-making abilities. Letting Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have their way will not shrink that number.
For now, the ceremony is over. Joe Biden is left with two jobs: End this pandemic and restore faith in America’s constitutional order. His Inaugural Address was a fair start. But speeches won’t be enough. In his videotaped farewell address, President Trump wished his successor luck. President Biden will need it.
Let us begin with this fact: The left always suppresses speech. Since Vladimir Lenin and the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917, there has been no example of the left in control and not crushing dissent.
That is one of the important differences between liberal and left: Liberalism and liberals believe in free speech. (The present leftist threat to freedom in America, the greatest threat to freedom in American history, is made possible because liberals think they have more to fear from conservatives than from the left. Liberals do not understand that the left regards liberals as their useful idiots.)Recommended
The left controls universities. There is little or no dissent allowed at universities.
The left controls nearly every “news” medium. There is little or no dissent in the mainstream media — not in the “news” sections and not in the opinion sections.
The left controls Hollywood. No dissent is allowed in Hollywood.
That is why we have “cancel culture” — the silencing and firing of anyone who publicly dissents from the left, and even “publicly” is no longer necessary. The National Association of Realtors has just announced that if you express dissenting views (on race, especially) in private, you may be fined and lose your membership in the organization — which effectively ends your career as a realtor.
So, we return to the opening question: Why does the left need to crush all dissent? This is a question made all the more stark because there is no parallel on the right: Conservatives do not shut down dissent or debate.
The answer, though the left will not acknowledge it, is the left fears dissent. And they do so for good reason. Leftism is essentially a giant balloon filled with nothing but hot air. Therefore, no matter how big the balloon — the Democratic Party, The New York Times, Yale University — all it takes is a mere pin to burst it.
Leftism is venerated by intellectuals. But there is little intellectual substance to leftism. It is a combination of doctrine and emotion. The proof? Those with intellectual depth do not stifle dissent; they welcome it.
That is why universities are so opposed to conservatives coming to speak on campus. One articulate conservative can undo years of left-wing indoctrination in a one-hour talk or Q and A. I know this from personal experience on campuses. You can, too. Watch the speeches given by any conservatives allowed to speak on a campus — many of these talks are still on YouTube — and you will see large halls filled with students yearning to hear something other than left-wing pablum. Look at their faces, filled with rapt attention to ideas they never heard that are clearly having an impact. Universities are entirely right to fear our coming to speak. We come with the pin that bursts their $50,000-a-year balloon.
That is also why it is so hard to get any of them to debate any of us. In 35 years of radio, I have never mistreated or bullied a guest. I was unfailingly polite to an icon of the left, Howard Zinn, the America-hating author of the America-hating “A People’s History of the United States.” I even invited a UCLA political science professor and violinist, one of seven members of the Santa Monica Symphony Orchestra who refused to play when I conducted the orchestra in a Joseph Haydn symphony in the Disney Concert Hall — solely because I’m a conservative. Despite his public letter, in which he accused me of holding “horribly bigoted positions” and wrote, “Please urge your friends to not attend this concert, which helps normalize bigotry in our community,” I nevertheless invited him on my national radio show. He agreed. I had him in studio for an entire hour and treated him and his wife (who accompanied him) with great respect, despite my contempt for his false accusations and his advocacy of the cancel culture. Every American should hear that hour.
Unfortunately for the emotional and intellectual health of our society, he, Zinn and a few others were anomalies. Of the 100 or so left-wing authors, professors and columnists invited to appear on my show, almost none has responded in the affirmative. They prefer NPR, where they are never challenged.
The opposite, however, is not true: Every conservative intellectual I know says yes to every one of the (very few) left-wing invitations we receive. Of course, we are almost never invited. We regularly invite leftists. Leftists almost never invite us. They claim it’s because we are not up to their intellectual level and they have no desire to waste their time. One would think that the opportunity to publicly show how vapid we conservatives really are would be too good to pass up.