ProPublica, a left-leaning website, kicked off the fun with a report Thursday that Justice Thomas has a longtime friendship with Harlan Crow, a wealthy Texas real-estate developer. The intrepid reporters roamed far and wide to discover that the Justice has sometimes traveled on Mr. Crow’s “Bombardier Global 5000 jet” and that each summer the Justice and his wife spend a vacation week at Mr. Crow’s place in the Adirondacks.
The piece is loaded with words and phrases intended to convey that this is all somehow disreputable: “superyacht”; “luxury trips”; “exclusive California all-male retreat”; “sprawling ranch”; “private chefs”; “elegant accommodation”; “opulent lodge”; “lavishing the justice with gifts.” And more.
Adjectival overkill is the method of bad polemicists who don’t have much to report. The ProPublica writers suggest that Justice Thomas may have violated ethics rules, and they quote a couple of cherry-picked ethicists to express their dismay.
But it seems clear that the Court’s rules at the time all of this happened did not require that gifts of personal hospitality be disclosed. This includes the private plane trips. ProPublica fails to make clear to readers that the U.S. Judicial Conference recently changed its rules to require more disclosure. The new rules took effect last month.
There is never a shortage of people eager to libel the United States as a nation defined by a unique susceptibility to recurring lunacies. Such people should acquaint themselves with human history, including the mass fanaticisms of the previous century, and this one. And with the meager resonance of most made-in-America manias.
[Thomas] Chalmers invents the new quote in Burke’s name on August 4, 1827. He was addressing the University Commissioners of Scotland, trying to win greater investment into education. He ends his argument by showing that even the conservative Edmund Burke would agree to the venture.
Chalmers must have pleased himself with this invention. In his continued advocacy, he repeats it — in 1832, then again in 1835 and 1838. His praise for Burke also grows. Burke ends up writing “one of the weightiest of those sentences, or oracular sayings, which have ever fallen from any of the seers or sages of our land.”
The false version starting popping up everywhere. Not just in London, Edinburgh, and Dublin, but also in Philadelphia, Boston, and Macon, Ga. Burke is no longer the mad “Quixote” and “trumpeter” of conservatism, but now a “splendid man” in Ohio, an “eminent writer” in Baltimore, and the “oracular Burke” in Edinburgh.
By 1835, Chalmers is the first to call this invention a “memorable aphorism.” Others follow suit. By 1852, it appears in books of famous quotes and aphorisms. Through combinations of deceit and ignorance, Burke was transformed into an honorary ambassador for public education.
If you’re rolling your eyes, stop it. This New Age school is also resolutely and admirably antiwoke. Mr. Hills begins the tour by listing the three things he makes clear to visitors “before I let anybody into this building”:
First, “we have zero Covid policy at this point.” He doesn’t mean a zero-Covid policy; he means zero policy regarding Covid. Even by Florida standards, Centner moved quickly to return to normal during the pandemic, and its unorthodox approach drew indignation from local news organizations, one of which went so far as to urge the White House to intervene.
Second, “CRT”—critical race theory—“doesn’t exist in this building. We are all created equal. We all have equal opportunities, and we’re not in the business of telling anybody they may or may not have more privilege . . . based on skin tone. We don’t play that game in this building.”
Third, “we have a young men’s restroom and a young women’s restroom. We don’t allow anybody to pick what restroom they’re going to use.” If a pupil asks a grown-up about sex or sexual identity, “we say, ‘That’s a really great question. That’s probably a better conversation to have with your parent.’ ”
The Centners didn’t start out as culture warriors. “What happened through Covid opened our eyes,” Mrs. Centner says. “Oh my God, there is so much going on that has been going on for the last 20 years that we need to make a stance against.”
They watched the Chinese epidemic closely starting in January 2020 and were ready to act by the time its spread to the U.S. became undeniable. They shut the school down on March 16, 2020. Everything was fully online the next day. “We were probably the first school to go remote in all of Miami, maybe in the country,” Mr. Centner says. “But we were also the first school to reopen in the fall.”
Mrs. Centner sought expert opinions and concluded that the virus posed little threat to the school’s students or its mostly youthful staff. By the time the Miami-Dade County Public Schools announced a “staggered return for selected students” starting on Oct. 5, 2020, Centner was already back to normal.
At the time, normality was a brave act of defiance. Florida businesses reopened much earlier than those in blue states, but local governments and private companies in Miami still demanded that everyone don a face mask in almost all indoor public spaces. Not the Centners, who made masks optional. Some parents “were irate with me,” Mrs. Centner says. “How dare I allow other kids to not wear a mask? I’m putting their family’s lives at risk.”
The school brought in experts to brief parents on the inefficacy of masks. “Several parents took their masks off in the middle of the presentation as they’re learning information,” Mr. Centner recalls. “But most people get pretty stuck in their beliefs.” Some tagged the couple as “wacko” and withdrew their children from the school.
Bottom line: Covid spreads a lot faster and easier than the flu; our steps aimed at stopping Covid were a lot better at stopping the flu than at stopping Covid. Indeed our actions in 2020 and 2021 all but vanquished the flu while seeming to have little effect on the coronavirus.
The corollary goes unnoticed—even though it seemed obvious from day one—because it conflicted with the story we wanted to tell ourselves. In naughty-schoolboy fashion, John Barry, author of an admired history of the 1918 flu, drew the lesson in a recent Washington Times podcast. Whether it came from a lab or a natural setting, the virus was already out of the bag globally before Beijing knew about (or dissembled about) its existence. Our own early testing fumbles were also irrelevant: A fast-spreading, mostly mild or asymptomatic virus—indistinguishable from the cold or flu to most sufferers—was not going be stopped from infecting the U.S. population.
Inevitably, politics takes charge. Our leaders waved their arms unrealistically, but the idea originated with voters and the media that our politicians should somehow save us from encountering the virus at all. I was especially critical of Vice President Mike Pence for his appearance on CNBC on March 27, 2020. But he and others may have believed Job One was preventing panic. For this motive to be evaluated, it needs to be acknowledged. In every other way—public health, the economy, political sanity—our actions collectively produced a large dollop more cost than benefit.