Good Morning!  

Writing in this morning’s Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan shares an old politico’s quip: 

“I have many firm principles and the first is flexibility.” 

Flexible principles seem to be at the heart of the unfolding dysfunction surrounding current budget negotiations in Washington:

1.   Build Back Better Framework: The Bad and the Ugly 

From National Review: 

From a conservative standpoint, nothing good was ever going to come out of a massive reconciliation bill passed by President Biden and congressional Democrats.  

The proposal would spend $400 billion to create new programs to offer universal preschool for every three- and four-year-old and to subsidize child care. In addition to the cost, studies have shown that universal pre-K programs have not had the promised long-term academic benefits. And even some who are more sympathetic to the idea of federal funding have raised concerns about an approach that would focus on expanding programs in public schools, even though many parents have their children in schools run by private day-care providers, faith-based organizations, or local non-profits.  

Another measure would seek to limit child-care costs to 7 percent of income for families with household income up to 250 percent of the state median income. To provide some idea, the national median income is $67,521, making 250 percent nearly $170,000. (In Maryland, it would apply to families making up to $236,000). It is unclear how the child-care work force would expand quickly enough to meet the huge surge in demand created by this program. But both the child-care and universal pre-K programs would be funded for six years, creating a greater risk that they could become permanent as they gain dependents and create a greater constituency. 

  1. The Obsolete Science Behind Roe v. Wade 

From The Wall Street Journal: 

The Supreme Court will soon reconsider the decision in Roe v. Wade (1973), which made abortion legal in America through all nine months of pregnancy. At that “point in the development of man’s knowledge,” as Justice Harry Blackmun put it in Roe, there was simply no consensus about when life begins. In other words, the fetus could not be said with any certainty to be alive and therefore wasn’t worthy of legal protection. 

As a diagnostic radiologist—whose youngest patients are fetuses, who are very much alive—I submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization urging the justices to rethink Roe, a case premised on a claim about science. I was joined by two other female physicians, a neonatologist and an obstetrician, who also value their youngest patients, believing that whether inside their mothers or born, premature or full-term, they are worthy of respect and protection. 

Ultrasound technology was in its infancy in the 1970s, when there was much more uncertainty about life before birth. The first ultrasound machines, introduced in 1958, were enormous, and the images were rudimentary. It was only in the later 1970s that fetal ultrasound became widely available, with increasingly detailed images of recognizably human babies. Black-and-white ultrasound images are now found on refrigerators of expectant parents across America. New three-dimensional images have put a human face on the person once dehumanized as a mere clump of cells. 

A healthy baby at 15 weeks is an active baby. Unless the child is asleep, kicking and arm-waving are commonly seen during ultrasound evaluations. The fetal spine is a marvel of intricacy, and it is most often gently curved as the fetus rests against the mother’s uterine wall. Often, I watch as babies plant their feet against the uterine wall and stretch vigorously. Sometimes a delicate hand—with all five fingers—approaches the face and appears to scratch an itch. Fingernails aren’t visible, but they are present. We can see how the bones of the leg meet the tiny ankles and the many-boned feet. 

At 15 weeks, the brain’s frontal lobes, ventricles, and thalamus fill the oval-shaped skull. The baby’s profile is endearing in its petite perfection: gently sloping nose, distinct upper and lower lips, eyes that open and close. With the advent of 3D ultrasound, we can now see the fetal face in all its detail. 

These are the patients I encounter daily in my work as a radiologist. Clearly human, clearly alive, no longer mysteriously hidden from the eyes and knowledge of man, they ask us to consider them not disposable nonhumans but valuable members of our human family. 

Yes, our understanding was different in 1973. But in Roe’s own terms, we have arrived at a much different “point in the development of man’s knowledge” about life in utero. The Supreme Court’s judgement should reflect that advancement and put an end to the casual cruelty of unfettered abortion. 

  1. Florida school board member takes elementary school students on field trip to gay bar: ‘SO honored’ 

From Fox News: 

A Florida school board member chaperoned a group of elementary school children on a field trip to a gay bar, according to photos of the trip she posted to social media.  

“I was SO honored to be invited to chaperone Wilton Manors Elementary’s field trip to the incredible Rosie’s! The students and I had a fun walk over and learned a lot about our community! A huge thank you to Rosie’s Bar and Grill for hosting this special field trip every year!” Broward County School Board member Sarah Leonardi posted on her official school board Facebook page Wednesday.  

The post, which was examined by Fox News Thursday morning, shows photos of children in a popular Florida gay bar, Rosie’s Bar and Grill, including a photo of the group posing next to the restaurant’s sign. 

RELATED: Students Allowed to Dance Inappropriately at High School Assembly 

  1. University Requires Christian Club to ‘Balance’ its Speakers with Opposing Viewpoint. What? 

From The Daily Citizen: 

If you’re a Christian student club on the campus of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) and you want to bring a Christian speaker to an event, you must bring “reasonable political and ideological balance on subjects of politics and government” if you want to use any student activity funds to pay for the speaker. 

A new lawsuit filed on behalf of the Ratio Christi student club at UNL alleges the school’s policies violate the First Amendment. The club is represented by attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). 

According to the complaint filed in a federal district court, Ratio Christi planned to bring in a respected philosopher, Dr. Robert Audi, who had taught at UNL for several decades, to speak at an event. Audi is a Christian. 

The club requested $1,500 in student activity funding to pay for the event but was told by UNL that it must “provide another spokesperson with a different ideological perspective” to counterbalance Audi’s Christian views. 

  1. ‘House Of Horrors’: Woman, Boyfriend Arrested After Abandoned Children Found Living With Skeleton Of Sibling 

From the Daily Wire: 

Earlier this week, three underage teens were found abandoned in an apartment that contained the skeletal remains of their 8-year-old sibling. 

Described as a “house of horrors” by the Daily Beast, the children had been surviving “in part thanks to a neighbor who brought them food and charged their cellphone after the home’s power was recently cut off.” This neighbor had been helping the kids – aged 7, 10, and 15 – for a couple of weeks after the 15-year-old boy said his parents had left months earlier, according to police. 

One of the surviving children said their sibling, identified as Kendrick Lee, had been dead for a year and that his body remained in the home during that time, decomposing. 

Law & Crime reported that authorities say 31-year-old Brian Ward Coulter allegedly beat the child to death and that the mother, 35-year-old Gloria Yvette Williams, allegedly helped in a cover-up. The two adults allegedly abandoned the children months before they were found.  

  1. Sports Betting Expansion Threatens to Ensnare the Next Generation 

From The Daily Citizen: 

Legal sports betting has become ubiquitous – an ever-present reality once upon a time relegated to the cloistered casinos of Las Vegas and Atlantic City. 

When the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in 2018 – a 1992 law that banned commercial sports betting in most states – experts foresaw the current explosion happening in real-time today. 

From the NFL to Major League Baseball, betting commentary is everywhere. It’s becoming normalized. Even some of our favorite announcers and analysts have become spokespeople, slipping in advertisements for online outlets as part of the running commentary surrounding the games. 

According to the Legal Sports Report, Americans have wagered $65 billion since the High Court ruling. That’s $5 billion more than the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the country of Lebanon for the last three years combined. 

And that’s legal betting.  By some estimates, Americans illegally wager upwards of $150 billion a year. 

Given the proliferation and normalization of gambling, parents would be wise to discuss the downsides of wagering. Ads depicting it as glamorous and the way to easy money are lies.  

The best bet is not bet at all. Gambling addiction has mushroomed as gambling has spread, bringing with it a host of harms, including destroying marriages and families. Gambling also preys on the vulnerable and the poor. It promises everything and delivers nothing. Yes, people win from time to time – but a stopped clock is also right twice a day. 

While the Bible doesn’t specifically address gambling or call it a sin, it regularly warns about the love of money and our problem with greed.  

“Wealth gained hastily will dwindle,” wrote the writer of Proverbs, “but whoever gathers little by little will increase it” (13:11). 

  1. To Baby Brains, Language Is Language, Whether Signed or Spoken 

From Neuroscience News: 

Baby brains are hungry for language. New parents are urged to talk to their babies to help their minds develop properly. Now, a group of UConn researchers have shown that “talking” doesn’t just mean speech—sign language exposure is equally as nourishing. 

“We find early exposure to language, whether signed or spoken, supports the development of typical cognitive skills,” says Corina Goodwin, a psycholinguist at UConn. 

Deaf children born to hearing parents often have developmental delays. Research has convincingly linked such delays to inadequate language exposure early in life, and so pediatricians and audiologists often push hard for parents to surgically implant hearing technology in deaf babies. But that approach assumes that sound equals language. It’s based on research that looks only at deaf children raised in families that only use spoken language. Almost none study the cognitive development of deaf children raised with sign language. 

The UConn researchers have changed that. They recruited 123 children between three and seven years old. There were 46 children with typical hearing, and 77 were deaf or hard of hearing. Of the deaf or hard-of-hearing participants in the study, 26 had been exposed to American Sign Language, or ASL, from birth by a deaf parent, while the others had been exposed to language only later on in toddlerhood: 28 to ASL and 23 to spoken English. 

  1. The World is in Desperate Need of Wisdom 

From The American Conservative: 

Can it be true that 82 percent of Americans trust public school teachers—that is, ordinary people with bachelor’s degrees, many of whom spent the last year hiding their vacations from their Zoom students—more than any other group or class with the exception of doctors and nurses? Do fewer than half of my fellow citizens believe that “sincerely held religious views” are more important than government “rules and regulations” of any kind? Apparently more than half of them believe that women should be able to hire hitmen to deal with their unborn children.  

It is hard to escape the conclusion that something is seriously wrong with a country in which people are apparently more likely to be in favor of abortion or smoking cannabis (regardless of its legal status) than they are of religious exemptions to military service or allowing parents to spank their children if they deem it necessary. The fideistic awe with which we regard scientists, doctors, and the wealthy confirms my worst instincts about what we value in the United States, namely, anything that can be considered useful or practical at the expense of our spiritual and aesthetic instincts.  

  1. The Art of Book Collecting 

From First Things: 

There are many reasons to collect books: admiration for an author, fascination with a subject or time period, love of the physical beauty of specially printed or “press books.” There are scholarly reasons, too. The discipline of “critical bibliography” is the study of material books themselves, the history and vagaries of given texts. The premise of the discipline is that the physical book and all the elements comprising it—editing, printing, binding, illustrating, indeed all the “book arts”—can effect the transmission of the intellectual content, whether intentionally or accidentally. In previous eras, it was book collectors—amateurs, and often very learned amateurs—who, through intelligence and diligent sleuthing, acquired and eventually bequeathed to scholarly posterity the physical objects, the artifacts, of the scholar’s task.  

There are, of course, pitfalls to collecting books, moral and otherwise: greed, idolatry, debt, boorishness. But I think book collecting in itself is a good thing. It’s not about mere accumulation, but the disciplines of taste, technique, and study. And it’s about passion, and love, and imagination. The key to good collecting is a guiding idea or principle rooted in a passionate interest and an intelligent understanding. Any one of us, on almost any financial level, can participate in curating a small portion of civilization. 

  1. How Cheesecake to Go Saved the Cheesecake Factory 

From the Wall Street Journal: 

The Cheesecake Factory traces its origins to Evelyn Overton, a mother of two from Detroit, who started baking cheesecakes in the 1940s after clipping a recipe from a newspaper. She and her husband moved west to open The Cheesecake Factory bakery in 1972, and found success selling her creations to restaurants in the Los Angeles area. In 1978, her son, David Overton, opened a Cheesecake Factory restaurant in Beverly Hills, Calif., to showcase his mother’s baking. Mr. Overton kept adding menu items, and expanded the chain to malls across the U.S., to the Las Vegas Strip, and to international outposts including Beijing and Bahrain. Mr. Overton remains chief executive of the now $2.15 billion company. 

Everywhere it expanded, the company has pushed pages of choices and portions that guarantee a doggie bag. 

“The Cheesecake Factory is about as American as you can get when it comes to choice,” Mr. Gordon said. 

When Covid-driven closures cut deeply into sit-down business in Cheesecake Factory’s cavernous, lavish dining rooms, the 208-restaurant chain emphasized to-go orders to help buttress sales. It worked: The chain is averaging more than $3 million in to-go orders per location this year, more than double its typical amount before the crisis. 

Cheesecake, in particular, travels well, and people order it at all hours. The company said it sold more cheesecake as a percent of sales last year than it did before the pandemic. “You have a few more people who are just getting slices at nine o’clock at night delivered to their house,” said David Gordon, the chain’s president. 

Now more customers are returning to Cheesecake Factory’s 10,000-square-foot dining rooms too.