It’s Election Day 2021. United States Secretary of State Jeremiah S. Black (1860-1861) once asked and answered the following rhetorical question:
“How shall we avert the calamities with which we are threatened? The answer comes from the graves of our fathers: By the frequent election of new men.”
We begin with a look at two of the more prominent races today:
1. America Watches Governors’ Races in Virginia and New Jersey
From The Daily Citizen:
Americans are watching governors’ races in New Jersey and Virginia. The New Jersey race pits incumbent Democrat Governor Phil Murphy against Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli, while the Virginia race, which has seen the bulk of media attention, features former Democrat Governor Terry McAuliffe against Republican Glenn Youngkin.
64-year-old New Jersey Governor Murphy began his career with investment bank and financial services company Goldman Sachs in 1982, retiring in 2005. From there, he went on to serve as the national finance chair for the Democrat National Committee and as U.S. Ambassador to Germany. He won the race for governor in 2017.
According to Ballotpedia, Murphy has highlighted his response to COVID-19, saying that he “led New Jersey from being one of the hardest-hit states by COVID-19 to a national model in pandemic response.” He also has emphasized education, saying “he would expand access to digital devices for students, increase preschool funding, and establish a program to allow low-income students to receive two years of tuition-free education at public colleges and universities.”
The Virginia race features former Governor Terry McCaullife, who is 64 years old. He helped found Federal City Bank, in Washington, D.C. and joined the holding company Green Tech Automotive. He was elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee and worked as a visiting fellow at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. McCaullife served as governor of Virginia from 2014 to 2018.
The 54-year-old Glenn Youngkin spent 25 years with The Carlyle Group, becoming its co-chief executive in 2017. Youngkin earned an engineering degree at Rice University, attending on an athletic scholarship, and graduated from Harvard Business School with an MBA. He and his wife founded the Virginia Ready Initiative when COVID-19 hit Virginia, an initiative to help people out of work get training and find jobs.
Ballotpedia says that Youngkin has stated, “I will protect and defend Virginians’ Constitutional rights and personal liberties, which are being threatened like never before.” He’s also said, “Virginia’s economy has stalled while neighboring states thrive. Virginia’s businesses are drowning in high costs and red-tape” and “The cost of living in Virginia is too high and continues to rise making the American dream un-attainable for too many Virginians.”
- Supreme Court Justices Grapple with Texas Heartbeat Law During Oral Arguments
From The Daily Citizen:
On Monday the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in two cases involving Texas’ Heartbeat Act, aka S.B. 8, which prohibits abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected.
In the first, brought by abortion sellers in Texas, and in the second, brought by the U.S. Department of Justice, the justices wrestled with the question of whether federal courts can step in before any abortionist is sued for violating the law, and block the law’s effectiveness before a court’s final determination that it is unconstitutional.
The fact that the court would so soon afterwards agree to take up the case and ask for briefs and oral arguments is itself unusual. It might signal that one of the justices in the majority in the September order has indicated some sympathy for the arguments being made by the abortion sellers and the DOJ – at least with regard to the availability of pre-enforcement relief.
And that potential switch may be coming from Justice Brett Kavanaugh, whose questions during oral argument appeared to indicate openness toward allowing some type of federal court injunction to be granted against the Texas law’s enforcement. He appeared to take seriously the arguments from the abortion sellers and the U.S. Solicitor General that if a state could successfully impede the federal courts from addressing violations of constitutional rights with injunctions, other states might impose restrictions on gun ownership, free speech or the free exercise of religion in a similar manner.
- Loudoun County mom says 6-year-old asked her if she was ‘born evil’ because she’s White
From Fox News:
A Loudoun County, Virginia, mom said at a school board meeting this month that she pulled her children from the public school system after her 6-year-old asked her if she was “born evil” because she’s White.
“We had specifically moved them out of LCPS due to the swift and uncompromising political agenda of Superintendents Williams, Ziegler and the school board had forced upon us. First, it was in the early spring of 2020 when my 6-year-old somberly came to me and asked me if she was born evil because she was a White person. Something she learned in a history lesson at school,” the mother said at a school board meeting on Oct. 26. Video of her testimony has since spread on social media.
Education officials and politicians deny critical race theory is taught in K–12 schools, in a pattern of deception that parents are facing nationwide. We’ve heard of white lies, where folks fudge the truth. These are “woke” lies. But we’re now standing up with moral courage as unapologetic parents in a mama bear — and papa bear — movement. And we’re not just standing up against critical race theory. There’s a whole list of dubious woke education polices we’re fighting. These include: the elimination of merit exams for entry into once-elite schools; the elimination even of advanced math; the curating of pornography by some school libraries; and the cover-up of sexual assaults in schools.
4. School Choice Showdown in Michigan
From the Wall Street Journal:
This has been a banner year for school choice across much of the U.S., and Michigan is the latest state to advance the cause. The GOP-led Legislature last week passed choice legislation that will force Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to choose between students and teachers unions.
Bills passed by the state House and Senate create tax-credit scholarships of as much as roughly $7,800 per student. The funds could be used for private-school tuition, tutoring expenses, transportation and more.
Students with disabilities, in foster care, or in families making no more than 200% of the income cap for reduced-price lunches—nearly $100,000 for a family of four—would be eligible. Individuals or businesses that donate to the scholarship funds would receive a tax credit equal to their donation. The legislation allows up to $500 million in credits in the first year. No Democrat voted for the legislation.
The partisan opposition is a shame. A poll sponsored by the American Federation for Children in June reported that 74% of voters support school choice, including 70% of Democrats. The pro-school-choice Mackinac Center last year found 49% of likely Michigan voters—55% of parents—in favor of tax-credit scholarships. Only 34% were opposed.
Standing in the schoolhouse door is Ms. Whitmer, whose spokesman told the Detroit Free Press the legislation is a “nonstarter.” Cost isn’t an issue, as the state is swimming in $6 billion in pandemic K-12 funds from Congress. Ms. Whitmer takes orders from the unions, and this year she’s already vetoed $1,000 voucher-like stipends for elementary students who struggle with reading.
- Fathers Matter
From the Washington Examiner:
Decades of research have proven what anyone with an ounce of common sense has already known for centuries: Fathers matter.
Not only are married fathers proven to help their own children achieve higher levels of education, get better jobs, and earn more income, but neighborhoods with more fathers in them have proven to have more upward social mobility than those neighborhoods dominated by single mothers.
Neighborhoods with more fathers are also safer than neighborhoods without them. Families with fathers appear to help establish a climate of order that makes entire communities less violent.
That’s right — just the mere presence of more fathers in a neighborhood helps all children in the neighborhood.
The public prefers a family in which the mother and the father are married, the father works full time, and the mother has the option of working full time, part time, or staying home. But the Biden agenda forces a different model on everyone.
First, it punishes all marriages, and then among those couples that are married, it gives far more benefits to the ones that have both spouses working. It gives less to families with a mother who works part time and nothing to families with a mother who chooses to work at home.
Not every family is perfect. Divorce happens. Fathers die. Single mothers work their tails off to make the best of a bad situation. But that doesn’t mean we should ignore the very real benefits to children, mothers, and communities of having married fathers in the home. We should definitely not be enacting public policy that punishes families that do.
- The Challenge of Being Human in the Age of AI
From the Wall Street Journal:
The concerns about AI are well-known and well-founded: that it will violate privacy and compromise transparency, and that biased input data will yield biased outcomes, including in fields essential to individual and societal flourishing such as medicine, law enforcement, hiring and loans.
But AI will compel even more fundamental change: It will challenge the primacy of human reason. For all of history, humans have sought to understand reality and our role in it. Since the Enlightenment, we have considered our reason—our ability to investigate, understand and elaborate—our primary means of explaining the world, and by explaining it, contributing to it. For the past 300 years, in what historians have come to call the Age of Reason, we have conducted ourselves accordingly; exploring, experimenting, inventing and building.
Now AI, a product of human ingenuity, is obviating the primacy of human reason: It is investigating and coming to perceive aspects of the world faster than we do, differently from the way we do, and, in some cases, in ways we don’t understand.
The promise of AI is profound: translating languages; detecting diseases; combating climate change—or at least modeling climate change better. But as AlphaZero’s performance, halicin’s discovery and GPT-3’s composition demonstrate, the use of AI for an intended purpose may also have an unintended one: uncovering previously imperceptible but potentially vital aspects of reality.
That leaves humans needing to define—or perhaps redefine—our role in the world. For 300 years, the Age of Reason has been guided by the maxim “I think, therefore I am.” But if AI “thinks,” what are we?
- 2,000 firefighters take medical leave as vaccine mandate takes effect in New York City
From The Hill:
More than 2,000 New York City firefighters took medical leave this past week as the deadline for showing proof of full vaccination has passed and city workers who failed to comply with the mandate now face being placed on unpaid leave.
New York City Fire Department (NYFD) Deputy Commissioner Frank Dwyer called the number of firefighter who have called out sick “very unusual,” according to an NBC News report.
8. Children’s screen time doubled during pandemic — and hasn’t changed much since
From Study Finds:
Children’s screen time has doubled during the pandemic — and it hasn’t gone down since, according to new research. Researchers from the University of California-San Francisco say youngsters are spending almost eight hours a day looking at smartphones, tablets, and televisions, compared to less than four hours before COVID.
Concerningly, this figure does not include the time spent on computers for school work. Researchers focused completely on recreational activities like playing video games, chatting on social media, texting, surfing the internet, and watching or streaming movies and TV shows. Along with contributing to a more sedentary lifestyle, study authors say this shift is also affecting the mental health of many adolescents.
“As screen time increased, so did adolescents’ worry and stress, while their coping abilities declined,” says corresponding author Dr. Jason Nagata in a university release. “Though social media and video chat can foster social connection and support, we found that most of the adolescents’ screen use during the pandemic didn’t serve this purpose.”
Lockdowns, online learning, and social distancing has led to a reliance on digital media for nearly all facets of adolescents’ lives over the last two years.
The study, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, is the first to show an increase using data from across the United States. The findings come from surveys of 5,412 participants between the ages of 10 and 14 who self-reported their screen time both before and during the pandemic.
9. Two New Films About Faith and Skepticism
From the Gospel Coalition:
I heard someone remark recently that, in our secular age, the main struggle skeptics have with Christianity is not just that it is implausible, but that it is immoral. Indeed, as prevailing cultural ethics (in sexuality and gender particularly) continue to diverge from biblical Christianity, arguments for the logic of Christianity (“Is it true?”) will likely not be enough in apologetics. The morality of Christianity (“Is it good?”) will also need defense.
Still, there are multiple fronts in apologetics and no one-size-fits-all approach. Skepticism takes many forms, for many reasons. Each skeptic’s personal story informs questions and doubts, and Christians should engage them accordingly. Two new films underscore this point, illustrating how biography and tailored approaches matter in apologetics—and how God works in a variety of ways to meet individuals in their specific questions and doubts.
The Most Reluctant Convert skillfully narrates C. S. Lewis’s conversion to Christianity in an engaging “one-man show” style format. Send Proof focuses on the supernatural as a stumbling block for many skeptics today, asking, “If miracles exist, where’s the proof?” Both films are worth watching and discussing.
- Dad Surprises His Step Kids with Adoption Papers
In a lovely video shared by Today Show on Instagram, a stepdad could be seen giving gifts to his three stepkids. One could hear the dad joking that he bought them candy as the three young adults opened up their well-concealed gifts.
On reaching the ‘gift’, they all realized they were looking at adoption papers meant to make the man their legal dad.
The three burst into joyful tears as they read the documents before going over to hug their dad in a beautiful embrace.