Dear Nordstrom, Meet My Husband (He Already Has Dirty Jeans)

by Ericka Andersen

I may be a little late to the party on making fun of the $425 Nordstrom jeans, fashioned to appear caked with mud to showcase a man who is “not afraid to down and dirty,” but I simply must weigh in.

As my husband left this morning at 7am to head over to Home Depot in his actual dirty jeans, I remembered these fake jeans that caused such a ruckus on social media this week.

Since we bought our first home a year ago, my husband has been wearing out his old jeans like crazy. They’re torn and damaged forever more, splattered with paint from belt loops to ragged cuffs from dragging through the dirt.

Though an accountant by trade, he took last week off work to spend working on our house. He pulled out old bushes and weeds, planted new trees, landscaped the front garden, fixed the flailing brick wall in the back, covered and organized everything that needed mulch. He planted flowers, cleaned out the garage, washed my car, fixed my tail light, aired up my tires, checked my oil, fixed the the toilet, mowed the lawn — and oh yeah, he also mowed the neighbor’s lawn because she was having trouble with her lawnmower.

I can’t tell you the amount of t-shirts ruined by his hard work, the jeans (approximate price $50) now “heavily distressed” (the Nordstrom description of their pricey version) by rain, mud, paint, and probably baby spit.

That’s right, did I mention he’s also pretty much the world’s greatest dad? Last summer, when our baby was only 6 months old or so, he would come from work every day, strap on the baby carrier and go out to water the flowers, pull the weeds and fix random things like the fence while carrying our son around while I finished up working for the day. He dutifully follows our 1-year-old around the house, playing any and every game with him for hours. He spent more time up in the night with our newborn than I did.

My husband doesn’t love his job. But he loves his family, he works hard and he has overcome more in life than almost anyone you’ll ever meet (another column for another day). He’s also a veteran, which makes me the most proud wife of all. The fact that Nordstrom thinks any man needs to buy fake “Americana workwear” is a sad statement on our culture. It doesn’t matter if you are a banker or a roofer (which my Dad was so I grew up with tar paint stains on our carpet not to mention every pair of jeans in our home) — no man should have need to buy fake dirty jeans.

But, if you are that kind of guy does, we’ll sell you my husband’s old ones for real cheap.

Belgium Catholic Psychiatric Institutions to Euthanize

by Wesley J. Smith

From the indispensable Bioedge story:

Nonetheless, in a surprise move this week, the board controlling the institutions of the Brothers of Charity announced that from now on, it will allow euthanasia to take place in their psychiatric hospitals.

In a statement posted on their website the Brothers of Charity explain the policy shift. “We take seriously unbearable and hopeless suffering and patients’ request for euthanasia. On the other hand, we do want to protect lives and ensure that euthanasia is performed only if there is no more possibility to provide a reasonable perspective to treat the patient.”

Euthanasia for psychiatric patients has already happened dozens of times in Belgium. But from now on it will probably be easier for people suffering from schizophrenia, personality disorders, depression, autism, or loneliness to access it. In fact, it will be hard to find an institution in Belgium where euthanasia is not being offered as an option.

Words fail me.

Krauthammer’s Take: On Dealing with North Korea, ‘We Don’t See Anything from China’

by NR Staff

Charles Krauthammer called recent North Korean actions “a deliberate provocation,” and said that U.S. reliance on China in this whole matter is questionable.

It seems to be a deliberate provocation by the leadership in Pyongyang, but it is not, as John Roberts pointed out, the kind of ICBM that would threaten us. It is still liquid-fueled, so it is not advanced in its technology. It seems to me simply a deliberate provocation with us at the Security Council, with our secretary of state presiding over the meeting, with all the threats, with the president saying we are near, or at least there’s a threat of a major, major conflict here – trying to challenge the Trump administration to say, “Show us what you’ve got.” And what the administration seems to be saying is, “We’ve got China.” Well, we don’t see anything from China. We just heard that the Chinese are in contact with the North Koreans to try and put pressure on them not to test. Well, they did test. So I think we are now at point where we are going to see whether the Chinese connection is an illusion whether Trump was taken in by the meeting with Xi, president of China, or whether this is really a process where they have agreed to do things over time, but we haven’t seen a thing yet, and this is a way for the North Koreans to try, at least preliminarily, to call the American bluff.

RFRA Does Not Apply to State Law

by Wesley J. Smith

Response To...

ACLU Sues Catholic Hospital over ...

The ACLU suing a Catholic hospital for refusing to permit surgeons to excise healthy organs as a treatment for gender dysphoria is merely the latest legal case broght against a Catholic hospital for following Catholic moral teaching.

The attacks on doctors and hospitals exercising moral refusals to perform controversial interventions are going to get more intense. Indeed, medical conscience is going to be one of the most important and contentious issues in the coming decade, impacting controversies such as abortion and assisted suicide–in which current conscience legal protections are under pressure among medical associations–as well as pharmacists being forced to dispense the morning after pill, and other contentious questions that rub against the practice of medicine and nursing.

But I am afraid Alexandra’s hope that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act will protect the California hospital is in vain. The RFRA only applies to federal laws and regulations, which is why Hobby Lobby was able to prevail in its case before the Supreme Court.

But a Washington pharmacy that sued based on the religious beliefs of its owners to keep from being forced by a state regulation to dispense abortifacients–conscience refusals explicitly disallowed in the regulation–have, so far, lost in every court. One reason is that Washington does not have a state RFRA.

Similarly, California hasn’t and won’t pass its own RFRA. Hence, the Catholic hospital being sued will have to rely on other legal theories for protecting its right to follow Catholic moral teaching.

I discuss more about the issue of protecting medical conscience here.

ACLU Sues Catholic Hospital over Sex-Reassignment Surgery

by Alexandra DeSanctis

On Wednesday, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against Mercy San Juan Center in Carmichael, Calif., after the hospital — which is part of the Dignity Health chain in the state — refused to perform gender-reassignment surgery for a woman who wished to “transition” into a man.

Evan Michael Minton wanted to receive a hysterectomy at Mercy San Juan Center as part of that sex-change process, and the hospital refused to perform the surgery because of its affiliation with the Catholic Church. The Church’s long-standing doctrine on gender and sexuality maintains that sex-change operations are contradictory to the intrinsic truth of human nature and therefore immoral.

The ACLU lawsuit was filed in San Francisco and alleges that the hospital discriminated against Minton last summer when it cancelled the scheduled procedure. Minton was later able to receive the procedure at another Sacramento hospital, but is seeking reparation for the initial disappointment after the hospital’s decision.

“It devastated me, and I don’t want it to affect my transgender brothers and sisters the way it affected me,” Minton said.

The lawsuit argues that the denial was a violation of California’s Civil Rights Act, which, in part, prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.

“The services we provide are available to all members of the communities we serve without discrimination,” hospital officials stated.

Catholic bishops in the U.S. have created a set of guidelines, based on Church teaching, that direct the way Catholic hospitals treat patients. These directives do not permit sterilizations for any reason, including for the purpose of a sex-change.

The state’s anti-discrimination law does not include any religious exemptions, but if the case makes its way to federal court, the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) offers strong conscience protections for religious citizens and groups.

RFRA — which was introduced in Congress by then-representative Chuck Schumer and signed into law in 1993 by President Clinton — established a strict-scrutiny test, requiring the government to demonstrate a compelling state interest in forcing religious citizens to violate their faith. The state is also required to pursue that end using the least restrictive means possible, so as to give religious Americans as much freedom as possible while still protecting the civil rights of others.

In this case, it is likely that RFRA would protect the Church and this hospital, since Minton was easily able to receive the requested hysterectomy at a nearby hospital and therefore there was no compelling state interest in forcing Mercy San Juan Center to perform the procedure.

Here’s Some Evidence ESPN’s Politics Are Impacting Its Audience

by David French

In the great sports wars of 2017, put me in Dan McLaughlin’s camp. Yes, ESPN has a business problem. It took on huge fixed costs when it paid billions for live sports at the very time that increased cord-cutting and decreased bundling meant that its subscriber base was bound to shrink. At the same time, however, its hard-edged ideological turn did it no favors. While there’s not yet any reliable metric to measure the number of lost subscribers from simple cord-cutting versus the lost subscribers from political disgust, the folks over at Deep Root Analytics were able to dive into the data in one interesting market, Cincinnati:

Deep Root Analytics specializes in local television measurement by segmenting the population into political, advocacy and commercial groups and matching those segments into observed TV viewership data via set-top boxes and smart TV data. This allows Deep Root to produce customized ratings and indices for every program and daypart on broadcast and cable TV – including data on ESPN’s viewership among loyal Democrats and Republicans.

We analyzed viewership data in a large media market in a swing state (Cincinnati, OH) for the entirety of 2015 and 2016. Also, to control for any changes in partisan identification between 2015 and 2016, Deep Root Analytics analyzed viewership among the same audiences across both years.

And what did they find?

Specifically, in 2015, the ESPN audience on average skewed Republican across all dayparts, ranging from 12% more Republican (Early News, Late Fringe, Overnight) to 21% more Republican than Democratic (Early Morning).

In 2016, every daypart on ESPN became less conservative, with Daytime being only 2% more Republican than Democratic, while Late Fringe and Overnight programming became 10% and 12% more Democratic than Republican – a 22 and 28 point shift, respectively.

And here’s their chart. The numbers are interesting indeed:

Yes, this is only one city, but the numbers shouldn’t surprise anyone. People like watching like-minded outlets, and it makes sense that as ESPN migrates Left, so will its viewers. Yet this also seems like a great way to shrink the pie of potential viewers and make your appeal, to quote This Is Spinal Tap, a bit “more selective.”

The Preexisting Mess

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Many Republican moderates are balking at the latest version of a health-care bill because they fear it would result in hardship for people with chronic health conditions. But the same sort of confusion that has bedeviled Republicans on health policy before is distorting this debate. The impact of this legislation on people with these conditions is likely to be much smaller than people think.

The bill includes the MacArthur-Meadows amendment, which is being discussed as though it allows states to get waivers releasing them from regulations protecting people with preexisting conditions. People, including journalists and legislators, have the impression that states would just dump these people on high-risk pools — returning to a pre-Obamacare dispensation that worked badly for many people.

The amendment would be much more limited than that, and people with preexisting conditions would have several protections that were not in place before Obamacare.

States would be able to waive Obamacare rules on preexisting conditions only for people who do not maintain insurance coverage. If you are someone with one of those conditions who has gotten coverage through Obamacare (or otherwise gotten coverage), the Obamacare regulations will still apply: In no state will it be possible for an insurance company to charge you more than a person without such a condition. If you are someone who has insurance and develops one of these conditions, you too will be covered by the Obamacare regulations. Insurers will not be able to charge you extra, either, under any waiver.

And maintaining insurance coverage will be easier than it was pre-Obamacare, because people without access to Medicare, Medicaid, or employer coverage will have a tax credit to purchase insurance on the individual market.

So the only people who might be adversely affected by a waiver of the Obamacare rules — if a state applied for one — would be those who have a preexisting condition but have not used their credit to buy insurance. And even they would have to have access to a high-risk pool for the regulations to be waived.

People with preexisting conditions, then, would have a triple safety net even in a state that took maximum use of the waivers: Tax credits, regulatory protection contingent on continuous coverage, and high-risk pools would all benefit them.

One advantage of this system over Obamacare is that it would strengthen the incentive for healthy people to buy insurance (since buying coverage would mean also buying the ability to renew that insurance at nondiscriminatory rates). It could enable lower premiums and higher coverage rates than Obamacare, without Obamacare’s fines for people who don’t buy insurance.

And the potential downside of this policy change would, by design, be carefully contained.

Different Republicans have different objections to the health legislation. If it fails, so be it. But it would be a shame if it failed because people didn’t understand what it does.

What Growth Can’t Fix

by Ramesh Ponnuru

In the Wall Street Journal, Stephen Moore says that if reforms to the tax code and other economic policies boost economic growth, we would have much less reason to worry about the federal debt. Assuming annual average growth of 3 rather than 1.9 percent over the next thirty years, he writes, would generate “new tax revenue to Washington of about $2.5 trillion each year.‎ That money ought to be more than enough to pay all the bills and cover most of the unfunded costs of Social Security and Medicare.”

Higher economic growth would be a great boon for all kinds of reasons, and it’s certainly true that it could help with debt reduction. What complicates matters is that higher growth can also yield higher spending. More growth should mean higher wages, and Social Security benefit levels are tied to wages. As a result, the Social Security shortfall might even end up larger in terms of dollars (although not necessarily as a percentage of the economy). If we want spending and revenues to bear a reasonable relationship to each other in our future, there’s no way around structural reform to entitlements.

Trump to NRA: ‘You Came Through For Me, and I Am Going to Come Through for You.’

by Jim Geraghty

The relationship between President Trump and the National Rifle Association is an awkward odd-couple partnership where both sides get most of what they want. Trump wanted the group’s endorsement, election support and votes in November 2016, and the NRA wanted a president who would avert a Hillary Clinton-appointed fifth anti-Second Amendment Supreme Court Justice, and sign some pro-gun pieces of legislation into law.

The attendees of the NRA Annual Meeting in Atlanta still had full-throated enthusiasm for Trump, the first president to address the group’s annual conference since President Reagan did so in 1983. Red “Make America Great Again” hats and Trump-Pence t-shirts were still in style, and they warmly welcomed the president; Trump said how pleased he was “back with my friends at the NRA — you are my friends, believe me!”

Trump’s speech at the NRA convention in Lexington, Kentucky last year, accepting the group’s endorsement, was a rambling, largely-improvised, not-terribly-gun-rights-focused speech that the attendees enjoyed primarily because of the pledge to beat Hillary Clinton. (Discussing his sons’ gun collections, Trump said, “They have so many rifles, so many guns, that even I get concerned. I say, ‘That’s a lot!’”) One year later, there’s not much sign Trump’s off-the-cuff speaking style has changed. But he’s got a huge, surprise presidential victory to brag about, and Trump enjoys retelling the story of the campaign with relish.

“Remember the last time we were all together? We had a big crowd then, too, so we knew something was happening,” Trump said, smiling. “What fun that was, November 8! Wasn’t that a great evening? You remember? They said, ‘Trump has won Michigan!’ They go, ‘Michigan, how?’ Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, all the way up, we ran up the East Coast… They said ‘there’s no route to 270,’ we ended up with 306. Big sports fans said that was the single most exciting thing they ever seen, and they’ve seen Super Bowls, and boxing championships, and it meant a lot.”

Most politicians who address the National Rifle Association just add a few lines to their standard stump speech, and today Trump returned to his greatest hits. He boasted of the dramatic decline in attempted border crossings, praised Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly for the progress in removing criminal aliens, and stopping drugs. He pledged to build the wall, and the attendees roared in approval. “We’ll build a wall. Don’t even think about it. Don’t even think about it. Don’t even think about it. That’s an easy one.”

Trump remains allergic to discussing policy details. He didn’t mention national concealed carry reciprocity, the top national legislative priority of the NRA. Discussing his commitment to veterans, he declared, “At the VA, people are seeing a big difference, we are working very hard. I have been telling you we’re going to do it, and we’re doing it.”

But towards the end, Trump returned his attention to his prepared remarks and hit the notes one would expect of a Republican president addressing a key constituency with specific goals.

“I will never, ever infringe upon the right of the people to keep and bear arms,” Trump said. “Freedom is not a gift from government, freedom is a gift from God.”

He emphasized a promise – or perhaps a part of a deal: ”You came through for me, and I am going to come through for you.”

Is Trump the perfect lawmaker for America’s gun owners? Not really. But his election has prevented the enactment of a lot of bad laws and the nomination of bad judges, and now that he’s in office, he has at least created the potential to enact good legislation and the confirmation of at least one good Supreme Court Justice. Considering the grim outlook of one year ago, the NRA will gladly take today’s situation.

Ted Cruz Puts the Second Amendment Center Stage

by NR Staff

Senator Ted Cruz did something unusual at today’s NRA-ILA Leadership Forum: He made a speech about the Second Amendment. More specifically, Cruz cast the 2016 election as a “referendum” on the Supreme Court and its fealty to the Bill of Rights. Cruz explained the importance of the 2008 D.C. v Heller decision, and reminded the audience that there are many courts still defying it — in particular, the Fourth Circuit, which recently rewrote the ruling in order to uphold a Maryland ban on “assault weapons.” Cruz finished by suggesting that there may be another vacancy on the court “either this summer or next summer,” and urged the crowd to fight as hard for a Gorsuch-style justice as they did over the last few months.

Rick Scott, Not Quite Announcing a Senate Bid at the NRA Convention, but Close

by Jim Geraghty

Florida Governor Rick Scott didn’t come out and say he’s running for the U.S. Senate in 2018 at this year’s NRA Annual Meeting… but he sure as heck sounded like he was putting together an argument in favor of running.

Speaking before several thousand NRA members in Atlanta, Georgia, Scott’s remarks focused upon the Supreme Court, not the normal top priority of a governor, but it makes sense if that governor is term-limited and his home state is trending Republican and a vulnerable Democratic senator, like Bill Nelson, is up for reelection.

Referring to the 5-4 Heller decision that struck down a Washington D.C. restriction on the ownership of handguns, Scott asked, “Shouldn’t it be 9-0 in the defense of freedom and liberty? Shouldn’t it be a prerequisite to believe in the Constitution to be a Supreme Court justice?”

Pointing to the near party-line vote that confirmed Justice Neil Gorsuch, Scott declared, “I believe it is crucial to increase the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate. It is nice that we have 52 Republican senators, but that means the confirmation of any future Supreme Court nominee depends upon the two least conservative members [of the GOP Senate caucus]. I won’t name any names, but that makes me uncomfortable.” All Republicans voted for Gorsuch, but some senators, like Maine’s Susan Collins and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, did not vote to confirm President Trump’s Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.

Pointing to Democrats’ filibuster of Gorsuch, Scott warned, “they will do it again” and contended, “a number of senators did not represent their states. These senators need to be retired. Unfortunately, one of my senators is very far to the left.” Scott pointed out that the Nelson had voted for Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, and against Neil Gorsuch.

He praised the assembled attendees has having “done great… but we have to keep fighting.” Like fighting to elect him to the Senate next year? Scott wasn’t quite so explicit… but his decision would instantly make Florida one of the most competitive contests in the 2018 cycle.

Is Congress Going To Bailout Puerto Rico?

by Veronique de Rugy

The island of Puerto Rico has been in big trouble for some time now because of its leaders’ fiscal irresponsibility and overspending. The result has been a deep financial mess on top of tragically awful economic prospects. After months of debate, a fiscal plan had been put in place — a process started by Congress — and on May 1, the island is supposed to start a bankruptcy-like process.

Even though bankruptcy is clearly better than a bailout, I have expressed my concerns about it. While it sounds good on paper, it can only be productive if the special interests that created the situation in the first place do not continue to dictate the terms of the bankruptcy. Now, I should say that I have some faith that the process could be successful in this case. That’s because the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act, a.k.a. PROMESA, signed by president Obama on June 2016 after it gained the support of both Democrats and Republicans in Congress has Andrew Biggs, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, as one of the members of the Control Board. Also, from what I read, the federal board already has a good fiscal plan which was voted on in March with some austerity and cost saving measures and a baseline for the looming debt restructuring talk. Also, Republicans in Congress have been pretty consistently and rightfully opposed to bailing out the island. It increases the chances that the changes implemented will put Puerto Rico on a better fiscal footing. 

But then, I came across this tweet by President Trump, which claims that the Democrats would like to bail out Puerto Rico

Politico reports that “Democrats have been pushing to help Puerto Rico cover a Medicaid shortfall.”

What? Yes, the island has a Medicaid shortfall because it burned through the $6.4 billion in Medicaid money it was given through Obamacare more than two years ahead of schedule. They expanded Medicaid eligibility and increased provider-payment rates with the money without any attempt to be good stewards of taxpayers’ money. Is the idea that we should bailout them out and create even more incentives for them to behave badly?

What’s more, with the May 1 deadline coming up, it is a terrible idea because it will send the signal to those in the island who aren’t genuinely committed to reforms that they can take bankruptcy proceedings lightly because Washington will ultimately always be there to bail them out. Bailing Puerto Rico now would send the signal that the Control Board isn’t to be taken seriously and would give an opportunity for the Puerto Rico government to do counter-productive things with the money freed up by this infusion of cash. It is obviously a terrible policy and it won’t help the people in Puerto Rico in the long run.

 

‘Free’ College Is a Bad Idea — Attaching Strings to It Doesn’t Help

by George Leef

One way for politicians to engage in grandstanding is to tell people they’re going to give them free stuff. Another is for them to tell people they have a plan to promote general prosperity. Twist those together and get get the current political hoopla over supposedly free college education with strings attached. That’s my topic in this article on the Martin Center’s site today.

Politicians start with the assumption that if more of their citizens had college credentials, they’d earn more and make the state better for business development. Then they assume that the best way to get more people into and through college programs is to subsidize them even more than ever — all the way down to being free. But to create the appearance of fiscal propriety, they mandate that the beneficiaries work and pay taxes in the state for some period of time. And on top of all that meddling, they’re apt to specify which kinds of college programs are beneficial enough to merit being “free.”

None of that helps.

It shifts costs where they don’t belong and interferes with labor market mobility. It also interferes with the market for education by “privileging” (to use a favorite word of the progressives) certain kinds of governmentally-run colleges over all other types of education and training.

States can’t pull themselves up by the bootstraps with “free” education any more than they can with any other socialistic measure. Adam Smith had it right when he wrote, “Little else is required to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice; all the rest being brought about in the natural course of things.” Sadly, that’s a message that most politicians just don’t care to hear.

NRA’s Chris Cox: Gorsuch Confirmation was a ‘Monumental Victory for American Freedom’

by Jim Geraghty

How is Chris Cox, the director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, feeling about the new Trump administration so far? He’s practically bursting with effusive praise for the new president and his team.

“He was our candidate, the most proudly pro-Second Amendment nominee in American history,” Cox said in the inaugural address of the NRA convention’s Leadership Forum. “So we made the earliest endorsement for president the NRA’s history. And all of you had his back from that moment on.”

From Cox’s perspective, the election of Donald Trump in 2016 has already brought tangible benefits for America’s gun owners. “Now, thanks to you, a true defender of constitutional principles, Justice Neil Gorsuch, sits on the U.S. Supreme Court! His appointment alone is a monumental victory for American freedom.”

Cox went on to praise selected members of Trump’s cabinet, calling them “an all-star team of principled leaders.” He began with Vice President Mike Pence, calling him, “committed to faith, family, and the God-given principles that make this country great. And thanks to you, he’s fighting for us every day.”

He said that Attorney General Jeff Sessions will need “a hazmat suit to clean up the poisoned, politicized disgrace of a legacy left by Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch. But if anyone has the passion and integrity to restore the rule of law, it’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions.”

He added that America’s “enemies truly fear us again, because General James “Mad Dog” Mattis runs the Department of Defense.” Mattis’ name garnered loud applause and plenty of audible “oorah”s.

Cox said that the organization will continue to push for National Right to Carry Reciprocity, which would allow concealed carry holders to lawfully carry their weapons outside of their home state.

‘Hey, I’m a nationalist and a globalist.’

by Rich Lowry

That was Trump in this Wall Street Journal story about his NAFTA back and forth. He wasn’t any more illuminating in this Washington Post story

Trump publicly claimed Thursday that his phone calls with Peña Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau persuaded him to give negotiations a chance.

But a senior administration official said Trump had already decided to hold off on signing the NAFTA termination letter before his phone calls with Mexico and Canada.

In the interview, Trump recounted his internal deliberations: “In one way, I like the termination. In the other way, I like them — a lot, both of them. We have a very good relationship. And it’s very hard when you have a relationship, it’s very much something that would not be a nice act. It would not be exactly a friendly act.”

But, the president added, he reserves the right to change his mind. “I can always terminate,” Trump said. “They called me up, they said, ‘Could we try negotiating?’ I said, ‘Absolutely, yes.’ If we can’t come to a satisfactory conclusion, we’ll terminate NAFTA.”

All of this goes to how up for grabs Trump is, even on what has been a core issue for him. Has an administration ever staked out such a bold position on as consequential an issue as NAFTA termination and then back-tracked so swiftly in one day?

Viewpoint Diversity on Campus

by Peter Augustine Lawler

So I’ve been criticized for not talking about the actual content of higher education — that is, for being negligent about specific “content” as opposed to “method” in general. Higher education isn’t mainly about picking up the flexible skills required for critical thinking, problem solving, and so forth. That’s because high-level literacy depends on deep immersion in content. And high-level communication — or, better, sharing of knowledge and opinion — depends on a shared immersion in lots of content. Not only that, but the recent hyper-emphasis on “how” students learn rather than “what” they learn is a big factor in emptying out the mission diversity in American higher education. It seems like every school in the country is trying to reconfigure everything around “high-impact practices”; each claiming that that change will bring something distinctive to its campus.

I’ve also been criticized for putting my hopes for the future into sustaining the wonderful moral and intellectual diversity among institutions of higher education and not into insisting on freedom of speech as the safe space for expression of diverse — and often genuinely radical — viewpoints on every particular campus.

Just for the record, here’s some stuff that came up in my classes over the past month and engendered or brought out genuine diverse viewpoints among Berry students:

1. Alexis de Tocqueville observed that there’s very little genuine diversity of thought in our country. Middle-class Americans have fundamentally the same opinions. The middle class aspires to be a universal class, clamping down on dissent in both theory and in practice. Was this ever true? Is this more or less true today? The answer to the latter question, of course, is both.

2. Was Roe v. Wade rightly decided?

3. Is IVF (in vitro fertilization) immoral?

4. Is Nietzsche right that what we call liberalism is a cowardly, whiny, leveling form of herd morality that’s incapable of perpetuating indispensable relational institutions?

5. Is Nietzsche right that our devotion to human rights is an incoherent and ultimately futile way of trying to perpetuate Christian values in the absence of real Christian belief?

6. Should we be stunned by the uncanny relevance of a point of agreement between Marx and Tocqueville? Both see that modern democracy might well culminate in an extreme form of the division between mental and physical labor and produce a coldly complacent ruling class that’s incapable of connecting its economic privileges with civic responsibilities.

7. Has even higher education become a kind of scripting of all the details of life, with the imperative of mechanical measurement to perfect productivity in mind? And so sacrificing all controversy to public relations — or consumer sensitivity?

8. Has transhumanism become the nerd religion or, better, a hugely inauthentic superstition of our cognitive elite that centers itself in Silicon Valley?

9. In what ways are religion strong where democracy is weak? And vice versa? Tocqueville and Marx seem to agree that the resurgent religiosity of the Americans is evidence of how restlessly miserable much of our lives are. Marx thinks we will be religious until the revolution that abolishes the distinction between state and society comes. It probably will never come. Tocqueville thinks religion addresses real human longings that middle-class (capitalist) life can only divert us from, with very uneven success. Does that mean religion has a real future?

10. Should we have a regulated market in kidneys, as the only plausible way of getting people off the hell-in-life that is dialysis?

11. Are the requirements of the present marketplace much more easily met by women than be men? And are men, as a result, gradually becoming superfluous?

12. Do we have no idea what real human perfection is, because we locate progress in history and technology and not in the lives or moral and spiritual destinies of particular persons? Is that why, for example, we now overemphasize collaboration or “teamwork” in higher education? There’s no “I” in teamwork, and that means its function is to divert us from the existential questions with the technological ones.

I hope I have managed not to give my own answers to this questions, just as I hope that the declarative sentences illuminate the questions and do not direct the verdict.

If you can discuss these freely in class, then you have enough safe space to be liberally educated. That doesn’t mean there’s complete openness anywhere. There are always some limits on what can be said, including some reasonable ones.

If you’re offended by the questions, then you really don’t want viewpoint diversity in particular classes.

BREAKING AND RE-BREAKING NEWS: Trump to Cut Taxes for the Rich

by Rich Lowry

I thought it was telling that the New York Times had a blaring headline yesterday about Trump cutting taxes for the wealthiest, a clearly stilted way to present the news of his tax plan. It was coupled with a story about the plan putting GOP deficit hawks in a tough spot. Then, today, the Times had more or less the same stories leading the paper. One gets the feeling these are the two stories about the tax plan that the paper is going to write over and over again during the debate. From my crumpled editions:

‘Why the polls are wrong about Trump. Again.’

Kate O’Beirne: A Woman in Full Who Made the World Better

by Kathryn Jean Lopez

From our mutual friend Ann Corkery:

Kate’s own book was called “Women Who Make the World Worse.” Kate made the world far better. A happier place, a more joy-filled place, thanks in part to a stiletto-heeled sense of humor second to none. Kate was quick and full of sass. I was about to write “irreverent,” but the hallmark of her humor was really an irreverent reverence. Once, when we were touring Saint Peter’s in Rome and were at the balcony window where the newly elected pope steps out to greet the crowds, Kate peeked behind the sheer curtains to see St. Peter’s Square below. A monsignor pulled her back and she said, “Oh, I wanted the faithful to say, ‘Habemus Papam! We have our first blond pope!’” On another occasion, just after there was some concern about Pope Francis and the direction of the extraordinary synod, Kate immediately emailed me: “It’s finally official: I’m now more Catholic than the pope.”

Kate used her Catholic humor for more than laughter. She was instrumental in bringing many people into the church. To one brilliant adult potential convert she said, “You are just too smart not to be a Catholic.” She was the godmother of Robert Novak who converted later in life. At one awards dinner for him, she said, “I am Bob Novak’s godmother. Imagine how cute he was at his baptism.” Obviously, she delighted everyone who struggled to imagine the famed conservative scourge of journalism – the so-called “Prince of Darkness” — in baptismal white.

Another iconic conservative, legal scholar Robert Bork, was 76 years old — even older than Bob Novak was when he joined the church — when Kate helped him through the conversion. Glancing at his two Hibernian-named sponsors, Kate O’Beirne and John O’Sullivan, Judge Bork quipped that he was becoming not just Catholic, but an Irish Catholic.

“Beware the sin of pride, Bob,” Kate quipped right back.

In 1995, Bill Buckley wrote Kate to thank her, presumably, when she come on board National Review.  “Now,” he said, “I have NOTHING to fear.” One of the last things Kate said to a small group of girlfriends was this: “When you have faith, you have nothing to fear.”

More here.

This Should Be the Best of Times For Gun Owners. And Yet…

by Jim Geraghty

From the last Morning Jolt of the week…

This Should Be the Best of Times For Gun Owners. And Yet…

ATLANTA, Ga. – This should be the happiest National Rifle Association Annual Meeting in many years, and it probably will be. Gun owners can celebrate the victory of a president the NRA endorsed, pro-gun majorities in the House and Senate, and Judge Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court.

And yet….

The first NRA convention I attended was in 2010 in Charlotte, and the political talk has always been focused on defense, stopping a powerful foe who would like to restrict or perhaps outright ban private ownership of firearms. But today, Barack Obama is retired. Hillary Clinton is walking in the woods in Chappaqua. Nancy Pelosi is still around, but she’s the minority leader in the House, and Democrats will need a wave in 2018 to make her Speaker again. Gun owners certainly don’t like Chuck Schumer, but he, too, is in the minority. Michael Bloomberg still has his billions for activism, but no longer runs New York City. Eric Holder is back in private practice.

As always, there are plenty of state level fights. Legislative efforts for “constitutional carry” – the right to carry a firearm without a permit, because the U.S. Constitution is the only permit you need – are moving ahead in Alabama, Texas and South Carolina. Wisconsin State Attorney General Brad Schimel says he supports adopting constitutional carry in his state.

But considering GOP control of Washington, one might have expected “concealed-carry reciprocity” – national legislation declaring that if you have a concealed carry permit in one state, is must be recognized by all other states — to have been either featured in President Trump’s 100 days agenda or rapidly approaching passage. The bill has 188 cosponsors in the House, but has been sitting in subcommittee since January.

Justice Gorsuch is a fantastic win for the administration, but there’s still a lot of lower court judicial vacancies to fill:  Circuit courts need nominees for 19 vacancies, and district courts are waiting to fill more than 100 vacancies. President Trump has yet to nominate his own director for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions has only six of the 26 assistant attorney generals and other major support staff he’s supposed to have at the Department of Justice.

Congress did pass, and Trump did sign, a bill that rescinded an Obama administration rule, requiring the Social Security Administration to send the names of anyone who was deemed mentally impaired and uses representative payee to help manage their benefits to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System to block the purchase of firearms.  The American Civil Liberties Union opposed the Obama rule because “it advances and reinforces the harmful stereotype that people with mental disabilities, a vast and diverse group of citizens, are violent. There is no data to support a connection between the need for a representative payee to manage one’s Social Security disability benefits and a propensity toward gun violence.”

Still, this should be the golden age for Second Amendment advocates, and by extension, conservatives. (On the Venn Diagram, the two circles representing these groups overlap a lot but not completely.) And yet…