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Masks Are So Last Year

Despite vaccines and the lowest death rate since March 2020, we are making policy that fails to match reality.

Just as mask mandates and other pandemic-era restrictions seemed to be behind us, numerous cities across the country have reversed course. From Washington, D.C., to San Francisco, mayors and public health officials have revived indoor mask requirements for the vaccinated and unvaccinated alike.

The abrupt change was due to the CDC changing—once again—its guidance on indoor masking, with CDC Director Rochelle Walensky arguing that the new Delta variant is much more transmissible than the original strain. The implication appears to be that the vaccinated are not as protected as previously thought and that the high transmissibility of the new strain will inevitably lead to more hospitalizations and deaths.

The problem with all of that, of course, is that it’s not really true.

Despite sensationalist proclamations from media outlets that X number of fully vaccinated individuals have tested positive for the virus, the actual contextual data are clear. While 125,000 fully vaccinated Americans have tested positive and 1,400 of them have died, those numbers respectively represent just 0.077 percent and 0.001 percent of those vaccinated.

It’s also worth noting that the seven-day rolling average for daily Covid deaths was 549 when the CDC lifted its mask-wearing guidance in May. The updated number for when the CDC reverted back to masking was just 296, which marks a 46 percent decrease. In fact, the number of daily Covid-19 deaths is the lowest it has been since March 2020. In Washington, D.C., to take one example, there have been just four(!) Covid deaths in the past month. For what it’s worth, there have been nearly three times as many homicides in the same time span.

And yet, we are now discussing closing schools and businesses, bringing back capacity restrictions, imposing vaccination requirements to enter gyms and restaurants, and more. All of this in addition to forcing people to #MaskUp again.

It seems fair to ask, what are we doing?

Much of the paranoia-based policy surrounding the pandemic has been rooted in an obsession with Covid cases. This made some sense in the first few months of the pandemic as cases correlated strongly with hospitalizations and deaths. When cases were on the rise, hospitalizations and deaths would reliably follow. But that was back when natural immunity and vaccination were not part of the equation. Our public health paradigm has shifted dramatically since then, as over 36 million Americans have tested positive for the virus (the true number is likely much higher) and 165 million are fully vaccinated.

Now it is true that daily Covid cases have risen over the past month as the Delta variant spreads predominantly in the unvaccinated population. But again, that has not corresponded with an increase in hospitalizations and deaths for several reasons. First, the vast majority of Covid hospitalizations and deaths have been elderly Americans, 80 percent of whom are now fully vaccinated. This means that most of the new cases are among younger Americans, who are at a much lower risk of suffering severe symptoms.

Furthermore, as more Americans of all ages are vaccinated, some “breakthrough” cases will occur, but be much less serious. Over time, and as we’re already seeing, cases will become more and more decoupled from hospitalizations and deaths—which are and have always been the real concern. If a bunch of people are becoming infected but not experiencing serious symptoms, then that really isn’t much of a problem. It’s especially not a problem of the magnitude that justifies restoring obsolete mask mandates and other heavy-handed impositions.

Early in the pandemic, when we were unsure of the severity of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, did not have widely available (and very effective) vaccines, and had no natural immunity, there was a compelling case for masks, social distancing, capacity restrictions, and so on. We are no longer in that situation, and it’s not only irrational to pretend like we are, but insulting to Americans who have sacrificed more than enough over the past 18 months. It’s time to say enough, and leave masks in the past.

Michael Huling is a graduate student at the Pepperdine University School of Public Policy and an editorial intern for The American Conservative.

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Worse Than a Failure

The Biden administration's commitment to open borders hurts Texans, and Texas must respond.

The City of McAllen, Texas, announced today that 7,000 Covid-19 positive illegal immigrants have been released into their city by the federal government since February, with 1,500 in just the past week. In response, the city has declared a state of disaster. 

In normal times with a normal president, McAllen’s declaration would be seen as evidence of catastrophic failure by the federal government to maintain control of the border. But we are not in normal times and without a normal president, so the crisis has been relegated to the back pages in favor of lurid Cuomo reporting. Still, the media’s cover-up does not absolve policymakers of their responsibility.

McAllen is only 11 miles from the country’s southern border. It is a Hispanic-majority city and has been a reliable, century-long stronghold for the Texas Democrats. Only recently, in the face of the federal government hand-delivering disaster to South Texas, has McAllen elected a Republican mayor. 

The Biden administration is forcing the deadly consequences of their obsessive ideological drive toward open borders on the Rio Grande Valley without the consent of the region’s citizens. Human and drug trafficking cartels have claimed hundreds of thousands of lives in the past decades. So routine is the cycle of terror that while the U.S. has spent trillions of dollars and thousands of lives fighting terror abroad, it failed to notice that more people died of cartel-related violence in the Juarez-El Paso metro region during 2007 than did of Islamic terror in Baghdad during the surge. The dereliction of duty seemed to have hit bottom then, but with the intentional release of Covid-19 positive migrants into American cities, the open-border cult has finally found its new abyss. 

At this point, solutions to the border crisis are no longer worth discussing with the Biden administration. Negotiation with a political class that has intentionally created a crisis in one of its cities is futile. The message is clear: the federal government will create a crisis to achieve its open-borders ideology and crush resistance from those directly impacted. 

The Texas state government must prepare to take extraordinary action to protect its citizens against federal irresponsibility. To his credit, Governor Greg Abbott has committed to finishing the border wall with state funding, allocated billions of dollars to more border security, and has deployed Texas state troopers to control the crisis. In response, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland threatened legal action. 

Now that the migrant numbers and administration intentions are clear, Texas must be prepared to defy federal mandates and continue implementing security measures in the face of Garland’s legal maneuvering. Congress will not act, and the Courts will slog along, but responsible government requires immediate action to defend the people of the Rio Grande Valley. Ideologues have compromised the basic functioning of our federal government; it is past time for states to assert their rights and protect their citizens. 

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Put the Moratorium on Free Rent

It's time to get back to work.

Joe Biden openly admitted on Tuesday that extending the eviction moratorium was, to put it gently, constitutionally dubious. But besides its constitutionality, the question Americans should be asking is whether another moratorium extension is actually good for us.

It may feel good to stick it to the man—the ugly, faceless rental conglomerates and their exorbitant rates—but they aren’t the ones bleeding as a result of the continued moratorium. It’s the mom-and-pop landlords—the regular, middle class Americans—who are hurting. We’ve already seen that private equity is snatching up homes from middle class sellers, pricing many would-be homebuyers out of the market, in order to rent them. After months of missed payments, it seems only logical that middle class rental properties will soon follow, if they haven’t already, centralizing the housing market even further.

It’s been 11 months of rental lenience. It’s time to stop dodging the question and start incentivizing work again.

There are jobs—some undoubtedly better than others—for those willing to work. Companies all over the nation are struggling with labor shortages caused in part by pandemic unemployment payouts, which have made it more profitable for many to stay home than to get a job. Thus, in April, the Labor Department reported a record 9.3 million job openings, while a Chamber of Commerce survey in June found 90.5 percent of companies said of a lack of workers slowed their local economy—twice as many as complained of pandemic-related problems, the Wall Street Journal editorial board reported.

Moreover, the undesirable jobs now offer much higher wages than ever before, to combat worker shortages. Many McDonalds locations, for example, now pay between $11 and $17 per hour. (I recently drove past one near Saline, Michigan—a relatively small Midwest town—advertising a $14 per hour starting wage.) Just four years ago, I worked a minimum wage service job at $7.25 per hour, which was not abnormally low.

More importantly, however, is the concern that free rent (the effective result of banning eviction) creates an expectation for more free rent. How many Americans are capable of paying their monthly apartment bill, yet don’t because they aren’t required to? The longer we pretend consequences don’t exist, the more we create a mentally of entitlement, and the more unjust will seem any requirement to pay for a living space, even when the pandemic is long gone.

We flatter the poor, Machiavelli said, to keep the rich in power. It should be no surprise, then, that the power-hungry don’t want the moratorium to end, as it feeds their political base. But “work was made for man” still implies that man does, in fact, work. A slothful society is to our shame.

It’s time to be men again, and we can start by paying rent.

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Vaccine Passports, a New Segregation

Unvaccinated to the left, please.

NEW YORK CITY - SEPTEMBER 5 2016: NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio. A Katz/Shutterstock

Bill de Blasio is ushering in a new two-class system in New York City. The protected class: those who are vaccinated. The underclass: anyone who doesn’t comply.

As the New York City mayor announced a vaccine requirement for entrance into all restaurants, gyms, performances and other activities in the city on Tuesday, he left no doubt as to the purpose of his controversial move.

“We think it is so important to make clear that if you are vaccinated, you get to benefit in all sorts of ways,” the New York Timesreported de Blasio said in a Monday interview with NY1. “You get to live a better life. Besides your health in general, you get to participate in many, any things. And if you’re unvaccinated, there are going to be fewer and fewer things that you’re able to do.”

It’s the same thing we’ve been hearing since the pandemic began—you’re anti-science if you disagree with us—only this time, it affects whether you can enter a restaurant or go to the gym.

From the party that calls everyone to the right of it a racist, it’s ironic that such discrimination based on jab-status is not merely permitted but applauded. To ask a citizenship question on a census is racist, but to bar entry into a restaurant or cruise ship is just #doingourpart to care for others. Does anyone want to bet illegal immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border will be half as stringently vetted, for either vaccination papers or a negative Covid-19 test?

It’s even more ironic in view of the fact that 59 percent of vaccinated Americans are white, while black Americans represent a mere 9 percent of the vaccinated population, according to statistics from Kaiser Family Foundation as of July 21, 2021. (Hispanic and Asian Americans represent 16 percent and 6 percent, respectively.) In other words, the new segregation looks a lot like the old one.

De Blasio isn’t the first to encourage this new form of medical segregation, though he’s the first to make it law. Last month, Bloomberg News reported that “on cruises that allow them, the unvaccinated are second-class citizens.” The article detailed how on one Royal Caribbean ship, ironically named Freedom of the Seas, those who either haven’t been jabbed or decline to show a vaccine card “will be segregated to one deck of the main dining room and will be banned from some of the better, more intimate for-a-fee dining venues.” This includes families whose children remain unvaccinated.

“If you aren’t immunized and want to see a show, you’ll sit in a segregated area in the back of the theater. And you can only use the gym during specified hours,” Bloomberg wrote. The article also noted that the cost of a cruise is more than $100 higher per unvaccinated passenger, who is required to submit to no less than three separate Covid-19 tests during the cruise.

The proponents of this two-class system claim to be ushering in a new way forward—a better society safer for everyone. One can only hope that later generations will see it for what it actually is: discrimination, with a side of power politics.

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Exit Batman Villain, Stage Left

Andrew Cuomo is about to fall amid sexual harassment allegations. Let's not forget he also utterly mismanaged the pandemic.

Credit: Ron Adar/Shutterstock

Andrew Cuomo is about to fall from grace and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. From the New York Times:

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women, including current and former government workers, breaking state and federal laws and engaging in a pattern of unwanted touching and inappropriate comments, according to a much anticipated report from the New York State attorney general, Letitia James, released on Tuesday.

The 165-page report said that Mr. Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, and his aides cultivated a toxic work culture in his office that was rife with fear and intimidation, and helped enable “harassment to occur and created a hostile work environment.”

The report included at least two previously unreported allegations of sexual harassment from women who accused Mr. Cuomo of improperly touching them, including an unnamed female state trooper and an employee of an energy company. And it highlighted at least one instance in which Mr. Cuomo and his aides retaliated against one of the women who made her allegations public.

The man is a pig and won’t be missed even among the shouters and brawlers of New York politics. Yet it’s also hard not to notice that he’s been disgraced on decidedly left-wing terms. The #MeToo stuff is awful, yet let’s not forget that Cuomo utterly mismanaged the Empire State’s COVID response. He crammed contagious seniors into nursing homes and left an empty medical ship floating in the harbor. He feuded constantly with Bill de Blasio and wielded one of the heaviest lockdown hands in the country. He responded to any criticism of this with arrogance and barking noises.

Yet he was feted by the press, handed a plum book deal, and given a primetime slot at the Democratic convention. Now his former defenders have turned on him. Let’s not forget how wrong they were the first time around.

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Federal Court in Texas Goes Woke

The essential function of the Court is to “create and maintain diversity”.

A statue of Lady Justice with her blindfold. (Wikimedia Commons)

Here’s a pretty astonishing public notice for the appointment of a Magistrate Judge in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas:

Got that?

The essential function of the Court is to dispense justice and create and maintain diversity in the court system. A community’s belief is heightened when the Court dispenses justice that reflects the community’s racial, ethnic, and gender diversity.”

As of publication, the post is still up on the official website of the Court. You can access it here.

We’ve reached the point in the woke religion where it’s no longer enough for our civil institutions to promote diversity. Doing so is now explicitly defined as the essential function of a U.S. District Court.

The second sentence of the notice is nearly as remarkable. One would hope that a “community’s belief” [presumably in the efficacy of the justice system, although the belief’s object is conspicuously left undefined] would be heightened by justice dispensed with perfect impartiality. In other words, a Court that dispenses justice without regard to the racial, ethnic, and gender “diversity” of the community is the only Court worthy of trust. Our country’s history is littered with foreboding examples of a justice system that dispensed justice with far too much regard for the racial and ethnic make-up of defendants. Why is the woke Left seeking to return to a similar system?

One genuinely fears where this could lead. Lady Justice, a common symbol on courthouses throughout America and the broader West, has been depicted wearing a blindfold since at least the 16thcentury. Think about that: so central is the idea of impartiality to a functioning judicial system that a blindfold has become ingrained in the system’s marquee symbol. But now, not only is impartiality apparently obsolete, it’s antithetical to the very function of the court. After all, Lady Justice would be hard-pressed to “create diversity” blindfolded.

It’s worth noting, too, that this isn’t the historically progressive 9thCircuit Court in San Francisco. This is a District Court in Waco, the heart of Texas, and home of Baptist Baylor University. Indeed, McLennan County, of which Waco is the county seat, voted for Trump 60-37% in 2020. It hasn’t gone for a Democrat in a presidential election since 1976.

Notices like this from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas are a reminder that for all the many, “conservative” judges appointed in the Trump administration, our woke ruling class persists unabated. Our country’s elite institutions, the gatekeepers to power in every sector of our society, demand complete obedience to the woke agenda. And they enforce it unceasingly.

In this light, perhaps it’s not surprising that the MAGA rioters from January 2021 and the BLM rioters from June 2020 have met very different fates in our legal system. It’s not hypocrisy, it’s hierarchy. No matter which president appoints the judges, the justice system moves forward, seeking to fulfill its “essential function” of “creating and maintaining diversity.”

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The Modern Church Needs to Get Out of the Sandbox

Feel-good worship services keep Christians in a reprehensible state of childishness.

It’s no wonder the Western Church is going woke. Everything about the feel-good modern church service caters to the lowest common denominator of intelligence and keeps Christians in a reprehensible (not the Matthew 18 kind) state of childishness.

As a new resident of the DMV, I’ve visited a handful of churches of all different stripes in the last month. While I knew the urban church scene would be bigger and more modern, I had no idea the world I would be stepping into.

You’ve heard it all before, through the mega-church grapevine. Twenty-somethings in too-tight jeans performing the same three-line song every week (if you somehow forgot the lyrics, they’re displayed on three different screens throughout a greige building they call, amazingly, a sanctuary). A worship leader reads the holy word of God, while dramatic music accompanies his voice like it’s Memorial Day on the U.S. Capitol lawn. Advertisements on the screens tell visitors to text “JESUS” to 4444 for moral support and to download the church app for Updates on Happenings. Yet in cushy, movie-theatre-style seats to the left and right of you, congregants respond to texts and scroll through Instagram throughout the service, only looking up to pass the offering plate or stand for a song. All the showmanship and drum sets still aren’t enough to hold their attention.

What is most striking about these churches isn’t just their modernity, but the way they treat adult Christians as children, only capable of understanding the simplest truths.

The fact that these churches’ biggest success stories are often from summer camp, or that the pastor speaks like a youth group leader, may be the plainest giveaway of the Benjamin Button syndrome overtaking the modern church.

Historically, the church required something of Christians—show up, yes, but also grow up, by increasing in wisdom and knowledge of holy scriptures, by being discipled. Jonathan Edwards, one of the most popular preachers in the American Revivalist period, was known to weave philosophy and rich textual knowledge into his sermons, while the modern pastor rarely goes beyond basic application of the most inoffensive texts (read: 1 Corinthians 13 ad nauseum). What used to be an exercise in education is the furthest thing from exercise now, requiring nothing but an attendance grade (if that, since several churches post-Covid-19 are livestreamed, meaning you don’t even have to put on pants).

It bears all things (except thorny passages), believes all things (except those that can be explained away with “historical, cultural context”), hopes all things (especially that you’ll join the youth ministry), endures all things (except wooden pews and kneelers).

The modern church talks a lot about being loving, but by treating its congregation like kids, it is failing to raise the church to godly adulthood. A truly loving worship service would involve music that challenges short attention spans and teaches more than just “God is love,” sermons that exegete full passages of the word of God, and even seating that is less comfortable, forcing members to engage as full, embodied spirits in the act of worship.

The writer of Hebrews had words for the “dull of hearing” Christian, who remains in such a childish state.

“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Heb. 5:12-14).

While the church remains in a state of adolescence, it will produce ever more childish Christians, increasingly incapable of the discernment needed to face their cultural moment. And for all their talk about being happy to return to in-person church, who’s to say they wouldn’t fold again in another round of Covid-19 lockdowns?

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Jeff Sessions Was Right

Despite his falling out with President Trump, Jeff Sessions' record has kept him more than welcome in conservative circles.

For the casual Republican observer, the warm welcome for former Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute’s “Future of American Political Economy” conference might have come as a surprise. Former President Trump famously fell out with Sessions, pushing him out of the cabinet and then denying him his former senate seat in the 2020 Alabama Senate primary. But despite the Trump treatment, respect for Sessions remains pronounced on the right. 

The reason is straightforward: In the face of the Biden Administration’s failing immigration policy and the resulting chaos across the Southwest, Jeff Sessions’ consequential reign at the Department of Justice has been clearly and fully vindicated. 

The criticisms from the left are familiar to us now—that Jeff Sessions’ was using his office to launch an unfair crackdown on innocent migrants and that racism was the driving motive. For an activist media and an open-borders Democratic establishment, Sessions provided an easy target. A Southerner with a disappearing dialect, the media directed coastal elitist bigotry towards him in a way that no other Republican, save for Brett Kavanaugh, experienced. 

Whatever the pitch of the media’s animosity, they can’t hide the facts. Jeff Sessions implemented policy that was bringing the border crisis to a close in an innovative, just, and humane way. Zero-tolerance, aggressive DOJ prosecution and the unfairly demonized policy of separating children from human traffickers resulted in the most stable environment the border regions have seen in decades. In the final year of the Trump Administration, border apprehensions were cut in half, an indisputable testament to Sessions’ time as attorney general and his impact on policy across multiple agencies. 

Now, as a result of the Biden Administration’s open-borders ideological obsession, the southern border has become awash in crime, drug and child trafficking, and an unprecedented surge of economic migrants. In just six months, border apprehensions shattered previous records, reaching one million. Additionally, untold thousands are likely crossing undetected, taking advantage of halted wall construction to violate the law and terrorize border communities. The situation is rapidly deteriorating with no clear leadership from President Biden or his incompetent border czar, Kamala Harris. Faced with reversing course and fixing the crisis, the Biden Administration instead chose to ignore the crisis completely. It is likely the crisis will intensify as Democratic leaders choose to pacify immigration interests and the media, hoping to skirt the criticism they helped foment against problem-solvers like Attorney General Sessions. 

In light of this paralysis, it is important to take stock of the lessons of the last few years. Jeff Sessions proved that the open-border interest groups, the media, and the D.C. establishment were dead wrong about the border. Though the wider public may never fully appreciate his record of accomplishment, those conservatives who strive to understand the border quagmire will never forget the selfless contribution Jeff Sessions made to stop crime, save lives, and improve our nation. Americans can only hope another leader with such commitment will rise to meet these challenges soon. 

Editors note: Jeff Session will deliver the keynote address at The American Conservative 2021 Gala on October 7, in Washington, D.C. Tickets and sponsorship here.

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How I Became Post-Post-Political

Everyone in politics wants to be post-something. Maybe that's one root of our problems.

Credit: oatawa/Shutterstock

These days, everyone in politics wants to be post-something.

The most recognizable example of this are the post-liberals, who believe that classical liberalism has fallen away and that something else must inevitably take its place. Others sigh about a post-Christian West; Fareed Zakaria charts the waters of a post-American world. We were supposed to be post-racial for a while, though that didn’t exactly work out. Nationalism was supposed to blossom post-liberalism, except now there are those who think we’re post-nationalist too. Some conservatives say they’re post-fusionist while others are somehow already post-Trump. There are centrist wonks who boast of being post-political altogether; there’s the post-left and the post-right. There’s also the post I want to club my own head with whenever I try to keep track of all this.

Some of this posting is a reflection of the fact that our politics is in flux, that old assumptions are giving way to new ones (or to even older ones). But some of it also strikes me as the usual goth-kid online eye-rolling. We’re so over all that, man. Which makes me not want to be post-anything anymore. Even post-COVID is losing its appeal. I want to be pre-, or better yet, ante-.

Going post-al can be exhilarating, since it implies a void in which something new can be built. But at some point, you do have to get around to the building—and not just building another meme, really building. To that end, maybe it’s time to go post-post, to acknowledge that the past isn’t as easily transcended as we like to think, that it will inevitably inform what we seek to do in the present. And maybe instead of rejecting it, we should study it, respect it, try to improve on it for the sake of our children.

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