1. The High School Deplorables, MAGA hats, the March for Life, Covington Catholic—and the mob.

The Wall Street Journal, January 23, 2019, Pg. A14, Editorial

Of the most culturally deplorable boxes one can check in progressive America in 2019, the boys of Covington Catholic High School have most of them: white, male, Christian, attendees at the annual March for Life in Washington, and wearers of MAGA hats. What’s not to dislike? So when four minutes of video footage emerged online this weekend showing the students appearing to harass a Native American Vietnam veteran named Nathan Phillips, America’s media and cultural elite leapt to judgment.

A short video clip of student Nick Sandmann supposedly “smirking” as Mr. Phillips banged his drum in the student’s face went viral, and instantly the boys of Covington Catholic in Kentucky were branded racists.

Only it turns out there was a much longer video, nearly two hours, showing that almost everything first reported about the confrontation was false, or at least much more complicated. The boys had been taunted by a group of Black Hebrew Israelites, who shouted racist and homophobic slurs. Far from the boys confronting Mr. Phillips, he confronted them as they were waiting near the Lincoln Memorial for their bus.

Many of these early critics have now apologized or walked back their initial condemnations. But these social injustices perpetrated on social media are not so easily redressed. Covington Catholic was closed Tuesday for security reasons. 

Most of those who so eagerly maligned these boys will face no lasting consequences, while the boys themselves will always have to wonder, when they are turned down for a job or a school, whether someone had Googled their name and found only half this story. This is an ugly moment in America, all right, but there are few things uglier than a righteous leftist mob.


2. Abortion-Rights Bill Passes in New York, Cuomo signs measure, as Legislature approve plan requiring insurers to cover contraceptives. 

By Jimmy Vielkind, The Wall Street Journal, January 23, 2019, Pg. A8A

New York legislators passed a bill on Tuesday granting women the affirmative right to abortions under the state’s public-health law, a move that symbolically falls on the 46th anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.

The push comes partly as a reaction to the confirmation last October of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Abortion opponents want Justice Kavanaugh at some point to provide the decisive vote striking down Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that established a constitutional right to early-term abortions.

Advocates are advancing legislation in Rhode Island and New Mexico to repeal antiabortion statutes that could take effect if Roe is overturned and said the New York vote would give them momentum.

“Courts can no longer be a reliable backstop to anti-reproductive health politicians. And because we don’t expect the attacks to stop, that is why we have to focus on states,” said Leana Wen, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.


3. Democratic field moves left on a bet the nation will follow, Presidential candidates lean into a liberal shift by the party’s voters.

By David Weigel and Jenna Johnson, The Washington Post, January 23, 2019, Pg. A1

For years, Democratic presidential candidates have been skittish about taking positions that were considered too liberal, for fear of scaring off moderates and independent voters. That caution seems to be gone, along with soul-searching about making explicit appeals to conservative voters.

It has been replaced by confidence — whether real or mistaken — that a more liberal and populist Democratic Party can form a majority out of voters who either support the sweeping changes candidates have proposed or will vote for anyone other than President Trump.

The party’s swift shift has left vulnerable several Democratic candidates or likely ones who have voting records and previous stances that are out-of-line with current Democratic thinking. Those who defend their earlier stances risk seeming stuck in time to party that’s quickly transforming, while those who have changed their positions risk being labeled as flip-floppers and opportunists.

Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), who announced her candidacy for president Monday, has faced questions about her actions as a prosecutor and attorney general of California, including her push to criminalize truancy and punish parents whose children miss school or arrive late.

The Catholic Association, which opposes abortion, reacted to Harris’s campaign announcement in a statement that highlighted her support of abortion rights and said that “this mentality did not serve Hillary Clinton well in key battleground states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin and Michigan.”


4. Judge overturns antiabortion law.

By Associated Press, The Washington Post, January 23, 2019, Pg. A3

A state judge on Tuesday struck down Iowa’s restrictive “fetal heartbeat” abortion law, which would have been the most restrictive antiabortion law in the nation.

Polk County District Judge Michael Huppert found the law unconstitutional, concluding that the Iowa Supreme Court’s earlier decisions that affirm a woman’s fundamental right to an abortion would include the new law passed last year.

The law would ban an abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected. That can happen as early as six weeks into pregnancy.

The legal challenge by abortion providers Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the Emma Goldman Clinic had halted it from taking effect last July. The Iowa Supreme Court in June struck down an earlier law that required a 72-hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion.


5. Religious bigotry seen in judicial backlog.

By Valerie Richardson, The Washington Times, January 23, 2019, Pg. A1

Conservatives are turning up the heat on Senate Democrats to fill the growing number of federal judicial vacancies, blaming the backlog in part on Democratic hostility to the traditional religious beliefs of some White House nominees.

The Judicial Crisis Network has rolled out a $1.5 million cable and digital ad campaign accusing Democrats of “taking their obstruction to disgraceful new lows, shamefully bullying nominees, attacking them because of their faith.”

On the other side are conservatives who are increasingly alarmed by what they see as the Democratic Party’s “religious litmus test” for nominees, particularly Catholics.

U.S. Circuit Court Judge Amy Coney Barrett was grilled about her Catholic faith during her 2017 confirmation hearing. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, told her that the “dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s a concern.”

Sen. Kamala D. Harris, California Democrat, and Sen. Mazie K. Hirono, Hawaii Democrat, were accused last month of bigotry for quizzing judicial nominee Brian Buescher about his membership in the Knights of Columbus, a 137-year-old Catholic fraternal service organization.

In written questions, Ms. Hirono asked Mr. Buescher whether he would quit the Knights if confirmed, prompting a backlash from Catholic and religious freedom groups.


6. Science Won’t End This Debate.

By Mary Ziegler, The New York Times, January 23, 2019, Pg. A23, Opinion
Ms. Ziegler is a law professor.

It was perhaps, at first glance, an unusual feature of the 2019 March for Life that it downplayed what many have come to think of as the central claim of the anti-abortion movement: that the unborn have a constitutional right to life.

Instead, march organizers focused on proclaiming that science was on their side. They circulated material on “when human life begins,” whether abortions are ever medically necessary and when fetal life becomes viable. They praised legal restrictions based on what science supposedly says about fetal pain.

In return, abortion-rights advocates, citing studies from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the University of California, San Francisco, fired back that the March for Life peddles “junk science” and that its positions “fly in the face of evidence.”

This year’s skirmish wasn’t actually unusual, however. Rather, it was revealing of a larger shift in the terms of the abortion debate. Over the past few decades, the abortion wars have become as much a fight about science and medicine as they are about the law and the Constitution.


7. Amid wall debate, pope visits Panama with migration in mind. 

By Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press, January 23, 2019, 12:11 AM

Pope Francis is looking to leave the sex abuse scandal buffeting his papacy behind as he heads to Central America amid a standoff over President Donald Trump’s promised wall at the U.S.-Mexico border and a new caravan of migrants heading north.

History’s first Latin American pope, the son of Italian immigrants to Argentina, has made the plight of migrants and refugees a cornerstone of his papacy. He is also expected to offer words of encouragement to young people gathered in Panama for World Youth Day, the church’s once-every-three-year pep rally that aims to invigorate the next generation of Catholics in their faith.

The pope is expected to urge young people to create their own opportunities, while calling on governments do their share as well.


8. Squandering Moral Capital.

By George Weigel, First Things, January 23, 2019

The morality of tyrannicide is not much discussed in today’s kinder, gentler Catholic Church. Yet that difficult subject once engaged some of Catholicism’s finest minds, including Thomas Aquinas and Francisco Suárez, and it was passionately debated during the Second World War by German officers—many of them devout Christians—who were pondering the assassination of Adolf Hitler. (Their efforts were known and tacitly approved by Pius XII, but that’s another story.)

With the 30th anniversary of the Revolution of 1989 coming this fall, we’ll all be reminded that there are alternatives to killing tyrants or surrendering to evil: Awakened consciences can discover nonviolent tools of resistance to tyranny, tools preferable to assassination. And consciences are awakened when men and women hear a summons to moral heroism—to living in the truth, which is the greatest of liberators. That is why the current stance of the Holy See toward Latin American tyrannies is so disconcerting. For rather than calling the people of hard-pressed countries like Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua to effective, nonviolent resistance against tyrants on the model of Poland and Czechoslovakia in the 1980s, the Vatican is constantly bleating about “dialogue” with murderous thugs who’ve demonstrated for decades that they’re only interested in maintaining their power, masking their gross personal ambition and greed with a fog cloud of gibberish about “the revolution.” 

It has seen a papal initiative in Syria that, however well-intended, provided cover for the Obama administration to back off its “red line” about Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons against his own people. It has seen a Vatican that refuses to use the words “invasion,” “war,” and “occupation” to describe Vladimir Putin’s Anschluss in Crimea and his war in eastern Ukraine, which has killed more than 10,000 and displaced more than a million Ukrainians, many of them Ukrainian Greek Catholics. It has seen a Vatican deal with China that is widely regarded as a kowtow to ruthless, aggressive authoritarians. 

Where is the moral challenge to tyranny? Where is the summons to heroic resistance? Great moral capital is being squandered, in a world that desperately needs a moral compass.


9. A nod to the World Youth Day you won’t hear about in Panama. 

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, January 23, 2019

Pope Francis heads for Panama today to celebrate World Youth Day, the global Catholic youth festival launched by St. Pope John Paul II in 1986. Given his experience working with young people in his native Poland, John Paul had a sort of “Field of Dreams” intuition that if you build it, they will come … and come they have, in the millions, every two or three years for more than three decades now.

Assuming the past is prologue, there will actually be two highly distinct World Youth Days in Panama: The event as recounted in media coverage, and the same event as experienced by the people actually taking part. That’s been the case with basically every edition of WYD – for that matter, with most papal trips of any sort – and there’s no reason to think this one will be any different.

Reporting about the trip will likely be dominated by a couple of unavoidable themes, involving both scandal and politics.

Both the abuse scandals and immigration debates are critical parts of the Catholic story these days. Journalists have no choice but to pursue them, and if we didn’t use World Youth Day as an opportunity to do so, readers and viewers would rightly accuse us of malpractice.

Still, it’s important to be clear that scandal and politics aren’t the only story that will be unfolding over the next several days. Here’s a quick guide to other things which, almost certainly, will also be happening.

Vocations will be born and strengthened … Marriages will be hatched … Conversions will occur … Catholicism will seem cool 


10. Pope to meet youth in Panama, where continents and oceans intersect. 

By Inés San Martín, Crux, January 23, 2019

For Pope Francis, the next five days may well feel like a blur: He’ll be traveling some 12,000 miles in all, with 10 speeches, a keenly anticipated meeting with the bishops of Central America, a lunch with young people from five continents, a penitential liturgy and confessions at a prison, an open-air Way of the Cross, then he’ll cap it off with a Sunday Mass for tens of thousands – set to start at 8:00 a.m. to try to prevent heat strokes.

All that, naturally, to be followed by an airborne press conference in which the pontiff is virtually certain to field some tough questions about the Church’s clerical sexual abuse scandals, including an upcoming Feb. 21-24 summit on the subject called by Francis.

That is, in a nutshell, the schedule for Francis’s trip to Panama for World Youth Day, which opens today. For a man who turned 82 last December, it’s an experience designed to test even his legendary stamina.

World Youth Day, an international gathering founded by St. John Paul II in the mid-1980s and sometimes dubbed the “Catholic Woodstock,” is one of the largest regularly held religious festivals in the world. The choice of Panama for this year’s edition is especially symbolic, since the country is often perceived as a bridge – or, more accurately, a canal – between east and west, as well as north and south on the American continent.

It offers a perfect stage for the pope to address the young people in the region, including those from neighboring countries such as Honduras, El Salvador, Colombia, Nicaragua and Guatemala. All have been affected by violence, a product of civil wars, organized crime, guerrilla insurrections, or a combination of all three.


11. Covington Catholic Is the Terrible Sequel to the Kavanaugh Case.

By David French, National Review Online, January 22, 2019, 2:44 PM

Over the last 72 hours, I’ve been asking myself a simple question: What would happen if a group of Black Israelites had spent an hour taunting my son’s high-school football team? How would they have reacted if a Native American elder had walked into their midst – apparently not saying anything intelligible to them, but rather banging a drum and chanting inches from one kid’s face. Would they have thought that was an effort at “peacemaking,” or just more taunting? What would they have said if some of the people walking with that elder had yelled insults at them?

I ask those questions, but I’m pretty sure I know the answer. The boys wouldn’t have reacted all that differently from the kids at Covington Catholic. They would have sung different songs, they would have chanted different chants, and maybe one or two of the kids would have lofted an obscene gesture in the direction of the Black Israelites. In other words, they would have been kids, and barring some sort of overt criminal act, the blame for any tension that followed should rest with the adults who behaved so aggressively and strangely.

But this is America in 2019, and it’s full of rage and hate. And parents of young men know that hostile people would instead want to destroy your child’s life. They would want to destroy your own livelihood. They would wish violence on him and you. They would try to destroy your school, and they would mock your faith. And then, even when their rage is proven to be unfounded, they would spend days hunting through your background and your school’s history to try to find some reason to hate you anyway.

So long as the Covington Catholic story remains in the news – so long as activists continue to comb through internet archives and social media to try to damn the school, its students, and parents to social-justice hell – this story is Brett Kavanaugh, the sequel.

That’s the message that sent a shudder up the spine of husbands and wives during the Kavanaugh hearings. That’s the message that sends a shudder up the spine of moms and dads as we watch men and women try to ruin the Covington Catholic kids. This isn’t just a media scandal. When we see the hate, some of us see our sons, and we know that in America today, their futures, their reputations, and – given the prevalence of death threats – perhaps even their very lives are in the hands of an angry mob.

It’s that concern for our kids that makes Chris Hayes correct. After initial missteps, the Right is largely united. There exists out there a level of hate – and an eagerness to believe the worst – that not one of us should tolerate, and that not one of us should visit upon our foes.