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Why old books get new attention and other commentary

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Why old books get new attention and other commentary

From the left: Why Old Books Get New Attention

It’s “odd to find progressives defending capitalist values, as if there were no considerations other than property rights where culture is concerned,” snarks The Nation’s Katha Pollitt. Yes, Dr. Seuss Enterprises owns the rights to the six books it discontinued over a “few offending pictures and words.” But if “we insist on holding cultural history to contemporary standards, what will we have left?” And let’s face it, “of all the racist, sexist, classist things children are exposed to, decades-old children’s books seem pretty low on the list. Consider our de facto segregated public schools and neighborhoods, our crumbling de facto segregated public housing” and “the shocking violence of everyday life to which so many children are exposed.” But ­“attacking old books is easier than making the ­social and economic changes that would improve the actual lives of real children and their parents.”

Conservative: The Big Tech ‘Conspiracy’

Would Adam Smith shrug at cancel culture if it’s private corporations doing the dirty work? Many conservatives think so, assuming “free-market purity” is on their side, observes Daniel McCarthy in Spectator USA. But in fact, the Scottish sage “warned in ‘The Wealth of Nations’ that ‘people of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and ­diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.’ ” That’s what’s happening with Amazon’s censorship of books like “When Sally Became Harry” and the Big Tech collusion to destroy Parler. “The tech companies that control and constrain online communications in the United States are indeed ‘a conspiracy against the public,’ not to raise prices — though that warrants a closer look — but to impose their politics and morals on everyone.” To push back, Americans need a “new philosophical critique of this power and of the commissars who wield it” — “a critique as radical as the thought of Adam Smith was in 1776.”

Media watch: Always the Same Frame

“The first step to reform is admitting you have a problem. And the press simply can’t do it,” sighs National Review’s Charles C.W. Cooke. The ­media insist on seeing every story as “the reaction of the Republican Party.” Take “Axios’ summary of Sunday’s ‘60 Minutes’ debacle.” Axios said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is “seizing on a juicy chance to ingratiate himself with the GOP base by bashing the media.” That’s the story — “his reaction to being so brazenly lied about” — not “the press’ penchant for deliberately spreading baseless conspiracy theories.” What matters “is not that CBS’ flagship ‘news’ show has exhibited such unyielding corruption,” but that the show’s “victim” has received “a political gift.”

Legal beat: Biden To Rapidly Flip Courts Back

“Almost certainly by the end of this Congress, the majority of lower-court seats will be filled by Democratic appointees,” reports Bill Scher at the Washington Monthly. Yes, former President Donald Trump got a record 231 judges confirmed (not counting the Supreme Court) and “left office with seven of the 13 appellate-level courts staffed by a majority of Republican appointments.” But “the federal judiciary has 97 current and future vacancies,” 52 of them last GOP-held, and Democrats’ narrow Senate control will be enough to let Biden have his way now that filibusters don’t apply to judicial confirmations. The reality is “full partisan and ideological control of the federal judiciary is elusive. By design.”

Iconoclast: Videos Don’t Tell the Full Story

People are suggesting we “skip” trials when videos capture crimes, like Derek Chauvin killing George Floyd — but, warns The Week’s Bonnie Kristian, that’s “fascism.” As “digital surveillance expands,” we should “commit ourselves to due process” and reject the “arrogance and naiveté required to imagine we have a right to forever alter a man’s life because we think we absorbed the unfiltered truth from a camera.” When watching a filmed event, we don’t consider the context or what might be missing. Sure, video can add “to our understanding,” but “even the clearest footage is no substitute for due process.”

— Compiled by The Post Editorial Board

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Opinion

COVID can’t unfairly let pols treat believers like second-class citizens

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COVID can’t unfairly let pols treat believers like second-class citizens

When Christians met in each other’s homes for prayer or Bible study, they had to be careful. Such gatherings were illegal, and the organizers never knew who might inform the authorities.

Although that sounds like a scene from the Soviet Union, it in fact describes the situation in California under COVID-19 regulations that the Supreme Court blocked last Friday. By issuing an injunction against Gov. Gavin Newsom’s restrictions, the Supremes reaffirmed that politicians must comply with the Constitution when they decide how to deal with a pandemic.

The main rule at issue in this case limited at-home religious gatherings, whether inside or outside, to people from no more than three households. If two people from different households joined a host for a prayer meeting or Bible study session, for example, no one else was allowed to come.

As the petitioners noted, that limit “does not permit an individual to gather with others in her own backyard to study the Bible, pray or worship with members of more than two other households, all of which are common (and deeply important) practices of millions of contemporary Christians in the United States.” Meanwhile, California was allowing much larger groups to gather in other settings: inside stores, barbershops, nail salons, tattoo parlors, movie studios and (in some counties) restaurants, for example — or outdoors at restaurants, wineries, gyms, movie theaters, zoos, museums, sporting events, concerts, political demonstrations, weddings and funerals.

The upshot was that Californians could “sit for a haircut with 10 other people in a barbershop, eat in a half-full restaurant (with members of 20 different families) or ride with 15 other people on a city bus.” But they were not allowed to “host three people from different households for a Bible study indoors or in their backyards.”

Justice Elena Kagan, who objected to the Supreme Court’s injunction in a dissent joined by Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, argued that the Golden State’s regulations did not implicate the First Amendment to the US Constitution, because they were neutral and generally applicable. The state “has adopted a blanket restriction on at-home gatherings of all kinds, religious and secular alike,” she noted.

The petitioners argued that Newsom’s rules nevertheless amounted to “a subtle but unmistakable religious gerrymander.” Five justices were inclined to agree, concluding that the plaintiffs were likely to prevail in their claim that the restrictions on private religious meetings violated the First Amendment.

This isn’t the first time that the high court has called attention to the impact of COVID-19 control measures on religious freedom. It blocked enforcement of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s onerous restrictions on houses of worship in New York last November, vacated a decision upholding Colorado’s limits on religious services in December and reached similar conclusions in four cases involving state and local regulations in California two months later.

By now, the court said, it should be clear that public-health regulations are subject to strict scrutiny “whenever they treat any comparable secular activity more favorably than religious exercise,” and that the relevant consideration is “the risks various activities pose, not the reasons why people gather.” To pass strict scrutiny, a state has to “show that measures less restrictive of the First Amendment activity” — such as face masks, physical distancing and more generous group limits — “could not address its interest in reducing the spread of COVID.”

Kagan is certainly right, based on the court’s pre-pandemic precedents, that disease-control measures can be constitutional even if they incidentally impinge on religious freedom. But Kagan, Breyer and Sotomayor always seem willing to accept politicians’ public-health judgments, even when they are scientifically dubious, change in the midst of litigation or result in policies that privilege politically influential industries or explicitly treat religious gatherings as a disfavored category.

At this point, it isn’t clear that Kagan and her allies on the high court can imagine any disease-control policy that would violate the Free Exercise Clause, provided it was presented as necessary for the protection of public health, as such policies always are.

Twitter: @JacobSullum

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Opinion

The mindless mask regime might be here to stay, unless YOU resist it

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The mindless mask regime might be here to stay, unless YOU resist it

The masks might be forever. We have to come to terms with the fact that a large chunk of the US population will be wearing masks in public for years, maybe even decades to come.

Even if we unquestionably achieve herd immunity, even if 100 percent of the population is vaccinated, even if COVID cases nationwide drop to zero and even if the coronavirus by some miracle learns to communicate in a human language and tells us, forthrightly, “Well, you beat me,” some Americans, especially those in blue metropolises, will continue to cover their faces — and shame you for not going along.

It’s a massively depressing thought.

For more than a year, public-health authorities have urged us to put up with temporary inconveniences, always with the soothing promise that it will be only a little while longer. But recently, NPR cheerfully reported about the growing number of people who see masks as a source of Permanent and Absolute Safety.

Flu and other respiratory illnesses are down this year owing to our ubiquitous face coverings, our state-run news agency tells us, so maybe we should just keep wearing them. Meanwhile, the rapper Will.i.am and Honeywell have introduced a super-duper smart mask that runs $300. The “Xupermask” allows the wearer to chat on the phone or listen to some dulcet music while signaling her virtue.

None of this should give anyone the slightest bit of confidence that the days of ubiquitous mask wearing will soon be behind us.

Yes, masks reduce the transmission of airborne illnesses. You know what else reduces transmission? Staying in a protective plastic bubble in your living room and never venturing into the dirty, filthy, infectious outdoors. And even if it makes sense to wear a mask in tight indoor quarters, it is utterly unscientific and, yes, moronic to wear them outside, and yet blue-state denizens insist.

Sigh. The mask fanatics — some of whom hold advanced degrees that make them no wiser as human beings — can’t be reasoned with.

The awkward moments with double-masked parents at kids’ birthday parties, the ridiculous restaurant rituals, the seething public glares from masked to maskless on our streets — all will continue. They will say it’s but a small price to pay for Health Most Holy and Sacred Safety. Huge swaths of Americans will literally be lost to our sight and recognition.

It’s a sinister phenomenon that runs radically counter to our cultural history.

Many cultures embrace face covering. Western culture, however, isn’t among them. Western culture revels in the human face and form. That is why “Westernization” is so often associated with immodesty in the East (often unfairly, for celebrating the face needn’t entail baring the backside or plunging décolletage).

A future in which millions hide behind protective masks as they wander around is a steep departure from the Western ideal, rooted in both the Greco-Roman celebration of the human form and the Genesis teaching that God formed man and woman in his image.

The typical conservative reaction — to blame government — doesn’t quite apply here. It’s mainly cultural forces that promote masking in needless places. And private actors have lined up eagerly, with Big Tech actively suppressing science that questions the efficacy of mask-wearing.

Yet we still can resist the phenomenon. We can fight against this faceless future with our own refusals. We can proudly display our lipstick, smile at a passerby and even be understood clearly when we speak. Put simply, we can go back to a normal past, when people’s faces brightened our day instead of terrifying us.

Of course, there is some marginal safety upside to wearing a mask; there always has been. But in the more sensible recent past, most people realized that such small protection wasn’t worth hiding our faces night and day.

We should treat with compassion our fellow citizens who sheepishly embrace the forever-mask regime — but not too much compassion. Those of us who value things like basic human interaction shouldn’t feel shy about mocking those who cling to the facial security blankets or who don high-tech, celebrity-endorsed visage eviscerators. It’s OK to acknowledge that a world without faces isn’t one we want to inhabit.

So let’s bare our faces to the nice, fresh air, pucker and smirk at every available opportunity. Don’t be daunted by the masked masses. Plenty of us want to see your face.

Twitter: @BlueBoxDave

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Opinion

Post-Wright mayhem helps no one — yet cynical pols fan the flames anyway

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Post-Wright mayhem helps no one — yet cynical pols fan the flames anyway

Outrage at the death of Daunte Wright is warranted, but rioting and looting only make everything worse — as do fan-the-flames comments from cynical politicians.

Video footage strongly suggests the shooting was accidental: The Brooklyn Center officer, Kim Potter (who stepped down Tuesday “in the best interest of the community”), thought she was firing her Taser instead of her gun as Wright resisted arrest.

It’s all horrible: Wright was just 20. Yet the mayhem that followed was terrible, too. Within hours, hundreds of “protesters” gathered. Some threw bricks and cans at cops, jumped on their vehicles and even “shot up” a police station, as the chaos spread to Minneapolis and beyond. The ensuing looting rampage all but destroyed several businesses, including a Foot Locker, a T-Mobile and a men’s clothing store.

This isn’t protest, it’s jumping on an excuse to run amok. (Same in Portland, where the folks who’ve been doing rolling riots for months now used the excuse to shoot fireworks and other objects at cops, smash windows and try to set a dumpster on fire.)

This, when local authorities are rushing to do the right thing: conduct a full investigation, figure out what went wrong and take steps to prevent a recurrence. Even if Potter were a racist murderer — and there’s zero sign of that — burning everything down only hurts the community.

Yet politicians holding top jobs couldn’t resist fueling the fire. As news of the shooting broke, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz immediately tweeted about “another life of a Black man taken by law enforcement.” New York’s scandal-swamped Gov. Andrew Cuomo tweeted, “We cannot stand by and watch as a flawed system again and again devalues the lives of Black men & women” — essentially egging on the violence.

Most cynical were “Squad” members Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.): Wright’s death “wasn’t an accident” but “government-funded murder,” Tlaib insisted. “From slave patrols to traffic stops,” Pressley said.

Their prescription? “No more policing, incarceration and militarization,” declared Tlaib. Lunacy: Minority communities resent crime as much as any other, if not more so. In a Gallup survey last year, more than 80 percent of blacks and Hispanics nationwide said they want at least as much, or even more, policing in their neighborhoods. So why does the Squad want to deny them the protection they seek — and need?

Because their shtick is to play to radicals (mostly white ones) nationwide. Riots and looting that set back minority neighborhoods are just the necessary price for forwarding . . . their own personal ambitions.

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