Tennessee Got It Right
The Tennessee state legislature's new bill is a death warrant for pandemic-era policies and a welcome return to the old normal.
The Volunteer State is officially the first to take a decisive step toward ending the pandemic. On October 30, the Tennessee state legislature passed a bill to end mask mandates in the state, to protect individuals from public or private vaccine mandates, and to provide unemployment benefits for employees who leave their place of work due to a vaccine mandate, among other provisions.
The bill was passed out of conference committees in both the state house (58-22) and state senate (25-6) Saturday during a special legislative session convened to counter the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for businesses, which has yet to be elucidated in more than a press release. In addition to making mask mandates largely toothless, the bill also prevents a governmental entity, school, or local education agency from mandating that a person receive a COVID-19 vaccine, and prevents private business or schools from requiring proof of vaccination as a condition to access their premises, facilities, products, or services. Private businesses, government entities, and schools are also prohibited from taking any adverse action against a person to compel him or her to provide proof of vaccination if the person objects to receiving a Covid-19 vaccine for any reason. Medicare and medicaid providers are exempt from this mandate.
In its final version, which awaits the governor’s signature to become law, the bill is softer on private businesses than originally, according to local news reports, after Gov. Bill Lee’s office confirmed Ford Motor Company and other manufacturers with plants in the state expressed concerns with some of the proposals being considered. The lawmakers agreed to exempt certain industries—including health care facilities, food distribution or consumption facilities, and entertainment venues—from the vaccine and mask mandate bans. Private businesses reliant on federal money can also apply to the state to be exempt from the ban.
Notably, however, the plan takes significant steps toward stopping the spread of federal Covid mandates by reasserting the preeminence both of state power over federal power and of the duty of the state legislature over the use of health bureaucracies to make prudential public health decisions in consideration of all factors (not merely biologic ones). The bill includes prohibitions which severely curtail county health departments’ power, including stopping health officials from quarantining Tennesseans who merely came in contact with an individual with Covid-19 but remain asymptomatic. The bill adds that “a local health entity or official, mayor, governmental entity, or school does not have the authority to quarantine a person or private business for purposes of Covid-19,” only the state commissioner of health.
The legislature certainly could have gone further to end the unending malaise—for example, by not making carveouts for protected industries—but it’s still a remarkable step forward, made even more so by the fact that it came from the legislature itself, not merely by the blunt tool of a governor, as in most red states that have attempted similar strides. The state—toward which, of course, as a born-and-raised Tennessean, I am irreparably biased—is an example of precisely the only way that we return to real life from the biomedical security state that has weighed so heavily on the American people these past 20 months.
Tennessee got it right; which state will be next?
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Child Vaccination: Signed, Sealed, Delivered
The FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine for 5-year-olds is just another avenue for the bureaucracy to assert ownership over your children.
Christmas came early for the biomedical security state: 28 million children are now eligible for the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine, after the FDA approved the shot for emergency use in children as young as 5 years old on Friday afternoon. If past is prologue, it won’t be long before K-12 age students see an onslaught of vaccine mandates for school, whether at the federal or state level, and perhaps even in private associations.
The mRNA shot is purported to be 90.7 percent effective at preventing symptomatic Covid in children aged 5-11, though testing on this age group has been limited. Earlier this week, a member of an FDA panel on vaccinating kids announced that “we’re never going to learn about how safe the vaccine is for kids until we start giving it.” Parents who aren’t discomforted to hear of their children’s new use as guinea pigs can give them shots as early as Wednesday, according to the New York Times.
The risk of infection for children, on the other hand, is almost nonexistent. The rate of deaths per Covid infection in kids is 0.001 percent. Moreover, a breakthrough study from the U.K. last week found people inoculated against Covid were just as likely to spread the Delta variant of the virus to contacts in their household as those who haven’t had shots. In other words, parents and grandparents will be just as likely to catch the virus via their kindergarten-age kids even with the expanded vaccine eligibility. So what’s the point?
For those at risk of severe infection from the virus, vaccines seems to protect against more severe symptoms; for everyone else—especially young children—it’s hard to say what it does offer. Why take a shot for 90 percent protection when you’re already practically 100 percent safe from the virus? Why the political push to get shots in ever younger adolescent arms, kids who aren’t even of voting age, when the safety and efficacy of the drug remain uncertain? Then again, our biomedical managers seem to err always on the side of the solution that lines their pocketbooks, so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by this.
But they also walk in lockstep with the rest of the bureaucracy in its efforts to replace the parental role in the child’s life as early as possible. The Covid vaccine is just another avenue through which they can flex this power. From universal Pre-K education to what should and shouldn’t be allowed in their bodies, the bureaucracy is more present in the lives of American children than too many children’s father is.
That alone should tell us something is wrong.
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You Must Bend The Knee
The conservative movement must learn to speak the language of power dynamics
You must participate in the sacraments of liberalism.
At least, that’s what Cricket South Africa effectively told players on the South African cricket team when it mandated players must take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement hours prior to playing a T20 World Cup game. One player, a wicketkeeper-batsman by the name of Quinton de Kock, refused to play in the team’s Tuesday game against the West Indies in protest of the national cricket board’s directive. Each of the South African players on the field took a knee before the contest—some of whom had never protested on the field before—and managed to secure a victory against the West Indies without one of their stars.
Before Cricket South Africa forced its athletes to kneel at the altar of anti-racism, it gave players the option to protest in their own way. At the start of previous matches, some players kneeled or stood with their fists raised, while others, de Kock among them, stood in silence with their heads down and hands to the side or behind their back out of respect. However, people who think themselves as the progressive muttawa found de Kock and other players’ observance of this performative ritual insufficiently venerated black lives.
In the past, de Kock had declined to comment on why he didn’t take a knee, but decided to issue a response after sitting out of the game against the West Indies.
“I felt like my rights were taken away when I was told what we had to do in the way that we were told,” de Kock expalined. He believes other players who did not sit out and took a knee also felt uncomfortable with the mandate.
“I did not, in any way, mean to disrespect anyone by not playing against West Indies, especially the West Indian team themselves,” de Kock added. “Maybe some people don’t understand that we were just hit with this on Tuesday morning, on the way to a game.”
The South African cricket star also responded to accusations of racism stemming from his refusal to kneel. “For me, Black lives have mattered since I was born. Not just because there was an international movement,” de Kock said, explaining that he has a mixed-race family—his step-mother is black and half-siblings are mixed-race. “I didn’t understand why I had to prove it with a gesture, when I live and learn and love people from all walks of life every day. When you are told what to do, with no discussion, I felt like it takes away the meaning.”
“If I was racist, I could easily have taken the knee and lied, which is wrong and doesn’t build a better society,” de Kock went on to say. “I’ve been called a lot of things as a cricketer … Stupid. Selfish. Immature. But those didn’t hurt. Being called a racist because of a misunderstanding hurts me deeply. It hurts my family. It hurts my pregnant wife.”
Ultimately, Kock apologized “for all the hurt, confusion and anger that I have caused,” and said he would take a knee moving forward “if me taking a knee helps to educate others, and make the lives of others better.”
Sure, the Black Lives Matter movement takes on a much different context in South Africa than the United States, given South Africa’s system of apartheid lasted into the 1990s and has been embroiled in racial unrest for some time now—but don’t expect the enforcers of anti-racism and its kindred ideologies to spare America on account of South Africa’s sins. Regardless of where and in what contexts these forces operate, they often employ similar strategies to tilt the political landscape in their favor, and the right needs to get to work unraveling those strategies.
So, no, I don’t blame de Kock for bending the knee. I blame the right for allowing a culture that forced de Kock into kneeling in the first place. At the end of the day. de Kock and his family’s livelihood depends on being able to play cricket. When de Kock started playing cricket, this condition on his employment wasn’t in place, and as ludicrous as it was for Cricket South Africa to create this barrier to entry, it now exists and has effectively changed the bargain between worker and employer.
Conservatives, and Americans more broadly, aren’t accustomed to thinking that athletes are workers given their celebrity status and the oodles of money they’re paid. It’s true, they’re not the same as your everyday nine-to-fiver. Nevertheless, de Kock can serve as a stand in for any worker. Like typical laborers, de Kock is subjected to power structures readily abused by its overlords. In de Kock’s case, it’s Cricket South Africa, but it could have just as easily been a corporation’s human resources department forcing him to attend a mandatory diversity, equity, and inclusion training where he must reject his white privilege or face termination had de Kock become an accountant or something of the sort.
Standing alone, de Kock, despite his wealth and fame, never had much of a chance, which is why de Kock’s story illustrates why the conservative movement, if it wants to be successful (sometimes I have my doubts), must learn to speak the language of power dynamics. The libertarian ethos that causes some conservatives to say “just change jobs” or “pick up and move” are wholly incompatible with our present political moment, and will only result in defeat. If this is all the resistance a famous athlete can muster when powerful institutions decide to project their power in abusive, ridiculous ways, imagine how hopeless and voiceless millions of workers in the U.S. and abroad must feel.
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Sudan’s Problems Run Deeper Than Democracy
Sudan’s problems are beyond something a change in governmental structure can fix
On the same day a U.S. envoy left Sudan, the Sudanese military executed what seems to be a successful coup against the civilian leaders of the country long embroiled in civil conflict.
Sudan’s top general, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, reportedly spearheaded the coup effort just over a month after the Sudanese government apparently staved off another coup attempt. The 61-year-old general, once the inspector general of the Sudanese armed forces, became the head of the Sovereign Council when Omar al-Bashir was removed from power in 2019. As chairman of the Sovereign Council, Burhan essentially served as the head of state. However, Burhan’s rule was scheduled to soon come to an end as the Sudanese government was set to transition to further civilian control.
Over the weekend, United States Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman met with Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, Burhan, and other Sudanese leaders in Khartoum in an attempt to avoid further crisis and keep Sudan on the march towards liberal democracy. During the high-stakes meeting, Burhan and other military leaders reportedly told Feltman that they wanted Hamdok to disband the transitional government’s cabinet and appoint new ministers.
In response, “I said that our assistance and the normalization of our relationship [shorthand for things like sanctions lifting] derived from forward momentum on the transition. If the transition is interrupted or the constitutional documents violated, that would call into serious question our commitments,” Feltman told Foreign Policy. “That’s diplo-speak but surely even the generals understand it.”
Burhan and the generals may have understood it, but they certainly didn’t follow it. Mere hours after Feltman’s plane left the tarmac Monday, the military coup was well underway.
The coup dismantled the Sovereign Council and transitional government, established after the ousting of Bashir in 2019 in which the military and civilian leaders shared power “to build a modern, democratic nation-state” under the August 2019 Draft Constitutional Declaration. Military forces detained Hamdok and his wife, along with other government ministers Monday for resisting the coup attempt. Defending Hamdok’s detention, Burhan said “no one arrested him [Hamdok], no one assaulted him” when taking the prime minister into custody. During his detention, Hamdok and his wife were put up in Burhan’s house, where the general said the pair met, and that Hamdok was free to leave when “the situation stabilizes” and “he feels safe.” Hamdok and his wife returned home Tuesday.
Before Bashir was removed from power in a 2019 coup, his three decades of rule were defined by civil war, economic turmoil, corruption, and charges of genocide and war crimes brought by the International Criminal Court, which would still like to try him on these matters. Bashir’s ousting was welcomed by the United States. It spent decades attempting to cast Bashir’s Sudan as an international pariah like that of the Kims of North Korea, labeling the state a sponsor of terrorism and enacting crippling sanctions against the country. At one point, U.S. officials, including diplomat Princeton Lyman, even tried to meet with members of a plot to depose Bashir, which included Salah Gosh, Sudan’s former director of national security with a previous relationship with the CIA, at a hotel in Cairo in 2012. Gosh and his co-conspirators never showed.
However, in the two years Bashir has been out of power, the country as a whole doesn’t seem much better off. Sudan’s Sovereign Council brought with it the promises of liberal democracy—expanded participation of women, anti-discrimination and anti-corruption practices, and human rights protections. The fulfillment of some of these promises would likely be beneficial to Sudan’s stability in the long run, and there has been some movement in that direction since Bashir’s ousting, which partly explains why relations with Sudan were improving during the Trump administration. However, Sudan’s problems are much more fundamental, and beyond something a change in governmental structure can fix. In fact, the very pressures that led to Bashir’s removal and calls for large-scale reform—namely, unrest due to poverty, unemployment, inflation, and corruption—have persisted to this day.
In April of last year, inflation soared to upwards of 99%, and could be much higher, given the little information that comes out of Sudan’s economy. The price of food and other essential goods skyrocketed, in part thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. In July, Sudan was forced to devalue its currency and attempted to rein in black market transactions as it faced an economic crisis.
In response to the coup, the Biden administration froze $700 million in assistance meant for Sudan’s transitional government to incentivize Sudan’s military leaders to restore it. State Department Spokesman Ned Price told journalists from the podium Monday that the Biden administration will hold “those who may be responsible for derailing Sudan’s path to democracy” accountable for their actions. “Potentially, of course, our entire relationship with this entity in Sudan will be evaluated in light of what has transpired unless Sudan is returned to the transitional path,” Price added, and did not rule out the possibility of reimposing sanctions.
For longtime readers of TAC, it shouldn’t come as a shock that a country marred by civil wars and ethnic and religious conflicts under the dominion of a revolving door of Islamist strongmen isn’t the ideal cradle for democracy. Since 1958, there have been 35 plotted or attempted coups in Sudan. Only five have been successful in their attempts to replace the government—not including the current one, given its success is yet to be fully determined. Nevertheless, the foreign policy establishment continues to have fever dreams of a MENA region that resembles that of western Europe. Now that this project has failed in Sudan, much less South Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan, and a host of other countries, maybe our foreign policy elite will wake up. Odds are, they won’t.
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Politico’s New Owners Are Hungry For More Influence In American Media
From CIA psyop to media oligarch
What if I told you that some of the most prominent American political and business news outlets aren’t owned by Americans, but Germans. Sounds like something out of the middle of last century, but it’s true.
I got interested in the subject after the New York Times reported some of the findings of an investigation into allegations that the German tabloid Bild and its then-Editor in Chief Julian Reichelt created a toxic working environment for women. Reichelt allegedly had intimate relationships with several female subordinates, one of whom was a trainee eleven years his junior starting in 2016.
The female trainee claimed Reichelt told her in November of 2016 that, “If they find out that I’m having an affair with a trainee, I’ll lose my job,” in testimony she gave investigators hired by Bild’s parent company Axel Springer, a transcript of the testimony obtained by the Times read. Despite these apparent concerns, the affair continued, and when Reichelt was promoted to editor in chief in 2017, he gave his lover a high-profile media job she was ill equipped to do given her inexperience. Afterwards, Reichelt continued to meet with his subordinate in hotel rooms in the Berliner Fernsehturm—where Axel Springer also has offices.
“That’s how it always goes at Bild,” the female employee testified. “Those who sleep with the boss get a better job.”
Once the investigation into Reichelt and other power players at Bild concluded, a statement from Axel Springer announced its findings and said that while Reichelt made “mistakes,” it did not change “the enormous strategic and structural changes as well as the journalistic achievements that have taken place under the management of Julian Reichelt.”
Throughout the ordeal, Reichelt maintained that he did not abuse the responsibilities of his position; however, he did issue an apology in the statement released by Axel Springer. “What I blame myself for more than anything else is that I have hurt people I was in charge of,” Reichelt said.
Reichelt took a 12-day leave of absence, but was able to return to his job after the company concluded his behavior did not qualify as a fireable offence, and was joined by a female co-editor, Alexandra Würzbach, who took control of personnel decisions.
Reichelt seemed able to withstand the media frenzy surrounding Bild’s work environment and allegations of sexual misconduct until the Times’ story caught the attention of an American audience. A day after the Times story was published, Reichelt was fired. Axel Springer, who defended Reichelt despite his mistakes and allowed him to keep his job, said Reichelt failed to keep private and professional matters separate. In the statement, Axel Springer CEO Mathias Döpfner thanked Reichelt for his work and praised his achievements before announcing Reichelt would be succeeded by Johannes Boie.
Axel Springer’s decision to can Reichelt at this particular moment was interesting to me. Bild is no small deal—it’s the most-circulated tabloid in all of Europe. I even took up reading Bild to keep up with current events when I studied in Berlin for a semester. And, if you thought the Times report was juicy, the reports from Bild’s German competitors as this story developed were even juicier. Der Spiegel initially reported the news of the inquiry into Reichelt’s conduct, which was not yet completed, with the headline “‘Screw, Promote, Fire.’” Der Spiegel said Bild was operating under “the Reichelt system.”
“The editor in chief was said to have invited female trainees and interns to dinner via Instagram. Young female employees were sometimes quickly promoted. Their fall from grace was similarly rapid,” the report claimed.
Axel Springer was under an immense amount of pressure, yet it decided to keep Reichelt on even though the investigators’ findings effectively confirmed what Bild’s competitors were reporting of its work environment under Reichelt. It’s hard to imagine an American media figure in a similar position surviving such an onslaught for such a long time. Many haven’t, which is what really got me digging. The best explanation I have for Axel Springer deciding to fire Reichelt upon the story making massive inroads with an American audience is to maintain its business ambitions in the United States.
Axel Springer is the largest digital and periodical publishing house in Europe, operating across 40 countries with holdings and licenses in six continents. Beyond Bild, they publish Die Welt, the German edition of Rolling Stone magazine, and Poland’s largest daily tabloid Fakt. Axel Springer has been a mainstay in European media since the immediate aftermath of World War II, when the journalist Axel Springer founded the company and named it after himself. After Bild launched in 1952, it skyrocketed to success, reaching peak-readership in the mid-1960s by feeding its audience sensationalized stories of politics, entertainment, and sports, as well as sillier reading topics such as horoscopes.
But that’s not the only secret to Axel Springer’s success. Two former CIA officers once told The Nation in an interview that Springer, who admitted in his autobiography that he had hardly any money to establish and operate the publishing house, allegedly received $7 million from the CIA to get the company off the ground and promote an Atlanticist perspective in line with American interests.
To this day, Axel Springer’s website proclaims its fidelity to this Atlanticist perspective.
Now, the media leviathan the CIA funded to advance American interests has turned its eye on swallowing up some of America’s most prominent publications, increasing its control over the dissemination of print information in an industry already dominated by a few select media conglomerates and American tech billionaires.
In 2015, Axel Springer purchased Business Insider for nearly $450 million. A $343 million purchase increased Axel Springer’s ownership share of the company from 9% to 97%—the other 3% is owned by Jeff Bezos.
Upon the sale, a press release from Business Insider read, “The addition of Business Insider’s 76 million unique monthly visitors will increase Axel Springer’s worldwide digital audience by two-thirds to approximately 200 million users, making the company one of the world’s six largest digital publishers in terms of reach.”
“With the acquisition of Business Insider, we continue with our strategy to expand Axel Springer’s digital reach and, as previously announced, invest in digital journalism companies in English-speaking regions of the world. Business Insider has set new standards in digital business journalism globally,” Döpfner said in the press release.
Axel Springer was also able to acquire Morning Brew in October of 2020, but still sought to expand its holdings in the United States. In March, the German publishing company was in talks to purchase Axios for between 400 to 450 million dollars before talks fell through. Despite this minor setback, Axel Springer was able to further cement itself in the American media market in August when it purchased Politico, which Axel Springer was already working with on Politico Europe, a 50-50 joint venture between the companies. As part of the sale agreement, which valued Politico at over $1 billion, Axel Springer took the remaining 50% of Politico Europe.
If Axel Springer refused to fire Reichelt in light of the Times’ report—action that was certainly deserved, and should have been taken immediately after the investigation’s conclusion—the company could have jeopardized hopes of acquiring more American media outlets, given the prolonged impact the Me Too movement has had on the American media apparatus.
The other reason Axel Springer may have decided to make the move now is that the controversy has finally reached back to its own parent company. In 2020, the U.S. based private-equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) became Axel Springer’s largest shareholder by purchasing a 43.54% stake in the company worth $3.2 billion. KKR now owns approximately 48% of Axel Springer, and has helped it purchase outlets to expand its influence around the world, but particularly in the United States.
I find the story rather fitting. What started as a CIA psyop to promote free market ideals and an Atlanticist world view has resulted in the embrace of the media industry’s oligopolistic practices to expand its control over the dissemination of information, and aligned with America’s financial sector in order to do so. It’s harder to think of a better story that summarizes the current state of global capital.
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Is In-N-Out Conservative?
The burger that just leveled up was already a superior sandwich.
After one brave In-N-Out burger location in San Francisco refused to enforce the city’s vaccine mandate on its diners, conservatives started flocking to the chain to support the restaurant.
The city health department shut down the iconic burger chain’s San Francisco location last week, prompting In-N-Out’s chief legal and business officer Arnie Wensinger to tell the San Francisco Chronicle: “We refuse to become the vaccination police for any government.”
Always ahead of the curve, San Francisco has been requiring patrons to show proof of vaccination at most indoor businesses since August—including bars, restaurants, gyms and large events. Los Angeles, another hub for In-N-Out, is not far behind, with its own vaccine mandate set to begin on November 4. The San Francisco Department of Public Health shut down the restaurant because employees “were not preventing the entry of Customers who were not carrying proper vaccination documentation,” according to a statement from In-N-Out.
The company has since paid two fines for refusing to enforce the order, but has reopened its Fisherman’s Wharf location for drive-through and outdoor dining. Meanwhile, another In-N-Out in Contra Costa County was also closed for failing to check customers’ vaccine status.
One customer, Michelle Woolard, told a local news station: “I think it’s horrible and it’s government overreach. We are eating here tonight because we want to support In-n-Out.”
Wensinger called it “unreasonable, invasive, and unsafe” to ask staff to “segregate customers into those who may be served and those who may not.” Because, yes. Yes it is.
As The American Conservative associate editor Declan Leary described recently, devotion to fast food chains is often disappointing, to say the least, even among the brands that aren’t obnoxiously woke like Starbucks. Chick-Fil-A is no beacon of Christian values, and McDonalds, though it has shown some promise by refusing to get involved in race-based activism, still supports LGBTQ+ causes and fries its fries in canola oil. Yes, I said it.
Is In-N-Out actually worthy of the praise?
Started as a family business in Balwdin Park, California, the fast food chain certainly has the roots to contend for the slot. Not to mention, its burger has been a cult classic for good reason, in a large part thanks to the brand’s commitment to fresh, local ingredients. This commitment gives In-N-Out a unique, twofold market advantage: a better-tasting burger than almost any other fast food chain and exclusivity to the western half of the county, meaning it’s not just a delicious dining experience, it’s also a pilgrimage for the loyal devoted.
The brand is also one of the only fast food chains in America to have achieved its success without departing from the original company vision: a simple menu, fresh ingredients, Christian values, and a damn good burger.
Can In-N-Out be more than just a damn good burger? Does it need to be? Either way, the company that prints Bible verses on its pink lemonade cups and douses its patties in Thousand Island dressing is surely doing something right on multiple levels. Maybe it’s not the perfect trad dining experience, but at least it’s pushing back for the sake of normal people. Will other restaurants follow?
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Hauling in the Supply Chain
Hawley's new proposal would require more than 50 percent of the value of critical goods to be produced in the U.S. in order to be sold stateside.
Josh Hawley is giving Pete Buttigieg a run for his money.
While the transportation secretary and his male partner finish out their third month of paternity leave, with the United States in a supply chain crisis that both Buttigieg and the White House have told Americans they should just deal with, the Missouri senator has introduced a bill to address a major part of the problem: namely, our global-dependent supply chain.
Hawley says the bill will end the United States’ “dangerous over reliance on foreign factories” by bringing manufacturing back to American soil. Using the language of national security, the Make in America to Sell in America Act would require multinational corporations to make more of their goods in the United States.
The bill would direct the Department of Commerce, in consultation with the Department of Defense, to produce an annual report detailing which manufactured goods, both finished and intermediate, are crucial for U.S. national security—or, importantly, are crucial for the protection of the U.S. industrial base, an inclusion which broadens the bill’s reach significantly. Those goods which the DoC and DoD identified would be required to produce more than 50 percent of the value of that good within the United States in order to be sold in the domestic commercial market. The bill would also allow domestic manufacturers to petition the International Trade Commission and the DoC for enforcement actions against importers of goods that fail to meet the new standards.
Hawley told Fox Business:
For decades, Washington elites shipped American jobs overseas while factories throughout the country were shuttered, leaving us perilously reliant on foreign manufacturing. The COVID pandemic, disastrous lockdown policies, and Joe Biden’s war on American energy have exposed just how misguided these choices were and everyday Americans are now paying the price.
Executive Director of American Compass Oren Cass, a member of The American Conservative advisory board, was cautiously approving in a tweet about the bill on Thursday.
“Interesting proposal from @HawleyMO today on local content requirements for critical supply chains. This is something we discussed with him at the @AmerCompass event last year.”
American Compass Research Director Wells King told The American Conservative the bill moves the reshoring debate in a constructive direction.
“The Made in America to Sell in America Act is a promising proposal that centers on one of the simplest yet most effective tools in industrial policy: local content requirements,” King said in an email. “Compared to other policies like tariffs, quotas, or subsidies, local content requirements are simpler, require less discretionary authority, and pose fewer drawbacks. They can be an appropriately blunt instrument for achieving a blunt good, and they’ve been adopted successfully to achieve a goals for technological and industrial development in the past.”
The remaining question, as King points out, is which industries would be subject to the requirement.
According to Hawley, the requirement would go into effect three years after the bill is enacted—potentially so businesses have ample time to move their manufacturing back home, or perhaps to garner support from his fellow legislators who will be campaigning for reelection before that. Nevertheless, it’s a step in the right direction, and a notable one from a party that has been as slow to act on moving the supply chain stateside as they are quick to talk about it on national media.
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Brent Bozell’s Revenge
The New Right was inevitable—we'd been warned from the beginning that the old consensus couldn't last.
I joined the millennial libertarian Stephen Kent on his video podcast Right Now this week, together with fellow zoomer and National Review ISI fellow Nate Hochman, to discuss the death of the fusionist consensus and re-emerging tensions between libertarians and conservatives. We talked about Pete Buttigieg cosplaying as the mother of a newborn, the values and limitations of the American Founding, and William F. Buckley Jr.’s first career as a CIA operative.
More importantly, though, we talked about the American conservative movement’s troubled and troubling relationships with both freedom and responsibility. I have always maintained, with Cardinal Newman, the primacy of the latter: “Conscience has rights because it has duties; but in this age, with a large portion of the public, it is the very right and freedom of conscience to dispense with conscience, to ignore a Lawgiver and Judge, to be independent of unseen obligations.”
It is the conservative’s duty to stay conscious, and to remind his neighbor, of unseen obligations. We talk on Right Now about restoring this order of priorities as regards not just the polity but the family as well, which I remind my libertarian interlocutor is (and has long been understood to be) the fundamental building block of a functional society.
Kent, immersed in Beltway libertarianism as he is, is taken aback:
I don’t want to mischaracterize it or be hyperbolic, but what you’re talking about—about building a family and sort of, like, having it be oriented towards, like, building a society, service to the people—that sounds like Marxist ideas, like that sounds like some sort of Soviet… I mean, that sounds like the kind of thing that, like, China or the Soviet Union would have propagated.
I am reminded of the late L. Brent Bozell Jr., whom we discussed on Right Now, and who more than half a century ago warned that the absolute prioritization of individual freedom would spell the death not just of conservatism but of everything we hope to conserve. Of those who sense the totalitarian impulse in any political attempt to define man’s purpose, Bozell noted:
What the freedom-first people fail to understand is that the Communist proposal to “change man” is an answer to a problem they have created. The Communist answer is to give man a nature, and thus a purpose outside of himself — exactly the thing that six hundred years of Western “progress” have progressively denied him.
I spoke with Stephen and Nate about the impossibility of neutrality in law, and the inescapable fact that any law is founded on a moral claim. When the moral claim you seek to enshrine in law is the absolute supremacy of individual choice over and against any outside authority—and when you establish an entire political movement on the basis of that claim—you set yourself on the path to ruin.
We’ve been on that path for decades, as I note in my last remarks on Right Now:
How did we get here? It all ties back to the absolute maximization of individual freedom—and freedom not properly understood. Freedom from is the only kind of freedom that the American right seems to understand. … We start with freedom from government, we insist on liberating ourselves from the tyrants in Washington, on any matter, regardless of the morality of a given law that the people in Washington are trying to impose. Then it moves down to freedom from your state government, to freedom from your town, to freedom from your homeowner’s association, to freedom from your family or any hypothetical family that might tie you down and minimize your options. And then, inevitably, it will lead back up, once you’re this atomized individual, to freedom from religion, from any obligations of conscience.
Once it starts, it doesn’t stop. There is no saying that freedom is the absolute good, freedom is our highest political principle, but we’re also going to maintain social order, we’re going to preserve religion as a private matter, and we’re going to allow people to pursue visions of the good outside of the public square. It doesn’t work.
Here’s Brent Bozell, more succinctly: “The story of how the Free society has come to take priority over the good society is the story of the decline of the West.”
Watch the full interview with Stephen Kent here:
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A Lotto Wasted On A Vaccine Push
Why I'm glad vaccine lotteries have apparently failed.
Recently, Business Insider published a great expose on how states have attempted to use the predilections of the poor and dispossessed to increase their Covid-19 vaccination rate by creating vaccine lotteries with virtually no success. I, for one, am pleased these vaccine lotteries have proven to have a negligible effect. Not because I don’t believe the vaccine is effective. I do. I’m vaccinated myself, so don’t waste your breath lecturing me on spreading vaccine misinformation.
The report is worth reading in full, but the main takeaway of Business Insider’s report is that states wasted at least $89 million on vaccine lotteries that failed to impact vaccine uptake among targeted communities.
What started in Ohio, which coaxed residents into getting the vaccine this spring through a $1 million lottery dubbed “Vax-a-Million,” ended up catching on like wildfire throughout the United States, Insider noted. Maryland and New York offered their own versions, respectively called “VaxCash” and “Vax and Scratch,” as did 16 other states.
An initial analysis from the Associated Press found that Ohio’s “Vax-a-Million” seemed to work, given that vaccinations spiked 33% in May. Nearly 120,000 people over 16 years old got vaccinated the week after the lottery was announced, whereas just under 90,000 were vaccinated the week prior. The news seemed to be cause for celebration.
However, an analysis of Covid-19 vaccination data from April to July published in JAMA Health Forum last week found that the correlation between state vaccine lottery announcements and increased vaccination rates was “very small in magnitude and statistically indistinguishable from zero.”
Andrew Friedson, a coauthor of the study and associate professor of economics at the University of Colorado Denver, told Business Insider, “There’s a lot of hype around these programs, and we can’t find any evidence that they helped.”
Ultimately, “these were not a great use of funds,” Friedson and his peers concluded.
Friedson apparently told Business Insider that the authors of the study were disappointed with their findings because they hoped the lotteries would have encouraged increased vaccination rates. He added that those millions devoted to such lotteries could have been devoted elsewhere, because “there’s an opportunity cost to spending money. Every dollar that you’re spending on a lottery, you could have been spending on something else.”
Certainly, it’s a bummer those dollars were wasted on vaccine lotteries. Despite that, there are two main reasons why I’m still pleased these vaccine lotteries failed. First, lotteries in general have long worked to undercut the dignity of America’s middle and lower class, who increasingly find themselves unable to get ahead. States use lotteries to exploit the vices and addictions of the most downtrodden in our society—the very people government policy should be attempting to stabilize so their personal chaos does not reverberate through their communities—to raise tax dollars, and whisk away all moral concerns by saying the money raised goes towards children’s education or another good cause. But, state lotteries are nothing more than state-sanctioned gambling, and with far worse odds in most cases that other casino games.
Opposition to government toleration, much less organization, of gambling was once a central tenet of conservatism in America, as TAC Senior Editor Helen Andrews pointed out in a recent piece:
Keeping gambling illegal was once a pillar of social conservatism, up there with abortion and school prayer. Any time a Southern governor proposed getting a state lottery, the Christian right would leap into action. That began to change in the 1990s, when Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich became the first national politicians to tap casino owners for large donations… Gambling was a vice that bore the same relation to genuine economic activity as drugs to food, a mere simulacrum with the added side effect of eroding personal character. It could be tolerated but not encouraged. By the time it became necessary to muster actual arguments against the spread of gambling in the 1990s, social science had supplanted morality in the public sphere.
Wait Bradley, the difference between regular state lotteries and vaccine lotteries is that people are spending their money on lottery tickets, money that could go elsewhere to improve their livelihoods, whereas vaccine lotteries come at no cost to the participant, other than getting a Covid jab, a vaccine lottery defender might retort. (I won’t even bother quibbling with the lunacy that the public choice theorist might forward to defend state lotteries.)
I don’t see how changing the entrance fee from cash to doing something to your physical body, which they otherwise may not have felt comfortable doing, makes things much better. It certainly does not remove the moral hazard of getting people, some as young as 12 in the case of North Carolina, hooked on this kind of gambling.
The other reason I’m encouraged by the negligible effect vaccine lotteries had on vaccine uptake is it proves what conservatives have been saying all along since the vaccine became widely available. The proliferation of the mostly-effective Covid-19 vaccine means that we can return to normal right this minute. That everyone who wants to get the Covid-19 vaccine has either gotten it or certainly had the opportunity to do so. Those who don’t want it, aren’t, even if you wave a chance at cash in their face. I’m no choice maximalist, but that is their prerogative.
Friedson also acknowledged this in his interview with Business Insider, “If you buy into the idea that vaccines are dangerous – and I can’t stress enough that that this idea is wrong – but if you believe that there’s something sinister going on with this vaccine, it’s unlikely that a payment is going to convince you, regardless of how big it is.” Right, so why the hell are we still wearing masks?
Another argument some may forward in defense of vaccine lotteries is the alternative is vaccine mandates. If we abandon strategies to nudge citizens in one direction or the other, governments on the federal, state, or municipal level, or corporations, will outright shove people into line to get their Covid vaccine.
This is a false binary.
Where conservative politicians have a governing majority, they should work to outright ban governments, corporations, or other powerful institutions from creating vaccine mandates that function as a precondition for employment, commerce, or societal participation, while pursuing policies that return us to normal. Doing so would demonstrate a real commitment to the base and coalition that helped elect Donald Trump in 2016 because this is yet another case in which the Covid, culture, and class wars collide.