Politics & Policy

Salt Lake Tribune Editorial Board: Utah Should Use National Guard to Keep Unvaccinated in Their Homes

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Soldiers endure a six-mile ruck march back to garrison during the Utah National Guard Best Warrior Competition at Camp Williams, Utah, March 23, 2021. (U.S. Army National Guard/Specialist Bryton Bluth/Handout via Reuters)

Over the weekend, the editors of Utah’s Salt Lake Tribune penned a fairly standard urban liberal cri de coeur about the supposedly backward Covid policies of the red state in which they find themselves. In their view, the state government is waving the “white flag of surrender in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic” because it supposedly disdained “any move or recommendation to mask up” or ” “to make vaccination a requirement of admission to public places and society in general” once vaccines became available.

At any rate, this editorial would have just been another drop in the Covid-panic bucket were it not for one jarring assertion:

Were Utah a truly civilized place, the governor’s next move would be to find a way to mandate the kind of mass vaccination campaign we should have launched a year ago, going as far as to deploy the National Guard to ensure that people without proof of vaccination would not be allowed, well, anywhere.

The mark of a “truly civilized” place, apparently, is to use military force to force unvaccinated individuals to remain in their homes indefinitely. Alas, the Tribune laments, “it may be too late for that, politically and medically.” That’s true. But such an idea has no place in this country; it would likely backfire anyway.

Instead of complaining about their state government, the editors of the Salt Lake Tribune should thank it for declining to indulge their fantasies of biomedical tyranny.

Education

A Win for Parents, a Loss for Aztec Worship in Schools

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Skulls at an exhibition of artifacts at the Templo Mayor Aztec complex in Mexico City, Mexico, in 2017. (Henry Romero/Reuters)

Earlier today, conservative education activist Chris Rufo reported: “Following a lawsuit from parents, the State of California has permanently removed the ‘In Lak Ech Affirmation’ from the state curriculum, which would have forced students to chant to the Aztec god of human sacrifice in order to become ‘warriors’ for ‘social justice.’”

Yes, in case you’ve forgotten (or were unaware in the first place): The state of California wanted to make kids sing ditties to Tezkatlipoka. For those who aren’t familiar with the Aztec deity, he’s the literal god of human sacrifice. Oh, and cannibalism. Just to give you a sense of what kind of culture the California Board of Education is revering, here’s Cameron Hilditch on the history of Aztec ritual human sacrifice:

The remains of more than 40 boys and girls were discovered at the excavation site of the great pyramid, most bearing the marks of severe and prolonged torture. This was to be expected given that the Aztec pictorial codices that have come down to us invariably show the children crying before being sacrificed. The priests of Tlaloc believed the tears of innocent children to be particularly pleasing to the god, and they took great care to ensure that their little victims were crying before and throughout the ceremony so that the smoke of the sacrificial fire would carry their tears up to the god above at the moment of death. The ritual began with the bones of the children being broken, their hands or their feet burned, and carvings etched into their flesh. They were then paraded before the celebrants of the ritual while crying. Insufficient tears from the children were believed to result in insufficient rains for the crops that year, so no brutality was spared. At the end of it all, the mutilated victims were burned alive.

All in the name of multicultural education, of course. Just think of the chants as the Aztec version of Christmas carols.

In fact, the changes to the California curriculum — made at the behest of a mandatory new ethnic-studies curriculum introduced by the state’s Board of Education last March — were actually far worse than incantations to cannibalistic deities, if you can believe it. NR covered it extensively. Beyond Hilditch’s piece on the issue, National Review‘s editors called it “a political catechism, clearly formulated for the purpose of indoctrinating children into the intersectional electoral priorities of the far Left.” And indeed, that’s exactly what it was:

White Christians are accused of having committed “theocide” against indigenous peoples, murdering their gods and replacing them with the god of the Bible. This, students are told, has led directly to “coloniality, dehumanization, and genocide,” and to the “explicit erasure and replacement of holistic Indigeneity and humanity.” In response, students are encouraged to establish for their generation a new social order characterized by “countergenocide” and “counterhegemony,” which will eventually allow for the “regeneration of indigenous epistemic and cultural futurity.”

All this sounds like a figment of a right-wing media fever dream. But it isn’t. As the editors pointed out on the day the vote was taken, California’s new ethnic-studies curriculum is “probably the most radical, polemical, and ideologically loaded educational document ever offered up for public consideration in the free world.”

Luckily, as Christopher Tremoglie reported in the Washington Examiner, “the Californians for Equal Rights Foundation earned a settlement with the California Department of Education and the State Board of Education last week that removes Aztec and Ashe affirmation prayers from an ethnic studies curriculum.” In the grand scheme of things, the legal victory to remove the Aztec chants is a relatively small win. The insane bureaucracy that rubber-stamped the plan will undoubtedly have more horrors in store for California’s parents. Nonetheless, it’s a good place to start.

International

Another Low Blow — Wind Energy Falters (Again)

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Wind turbines at the Ocotillo Wind Energy Facility in California, May 29, 2020. (Bing Guan/Reuters)

One of mankind’s great achievements has been the way that, across an ever-increasing part of the planet, we have reached a level of technological sophistication that has meant that we can go about our business without, extreme events aside, having to worry too much about what the weather is doing.

One of the countless ironies running through current climate policies is that that progress may be about to go into reverse, not because of climate change, but because of policies designed to combat it, and, more specifically, what looks more and more like a premature dash into wind energy. One of the triggers of the prolonged energy-price squeeze in the U.K. was the failure of winds over the North Sea to do what was expected of them in the late summer/early fall. I wrote a bit about this in mid September, and here’s Joe Wallace in the Wall Street Journal, on September 13:

Natural gas and electricity markets were already surging in Europe when a fresh catalyst emerged: The wind in the stormy North Sea stopped blowing.

The sudden slowdown in wind-driven electricity production off the coast of the U.K. in recent weeks whipsawed through regional energy markets. Gas and coal-fired electricity plants were called in to make up the shortfall from wind.

Natural-gas prices, already boosted by the pandemic recovery and a lack of fuel in storage caverns and tanks, hit all-time highs. Thermal coal, long shunned for its carbon emissions, has emerged from a long price slump as utilities are forced to turn on backup power sources.

The episode underscored the precarious state the region’s energy markets face heading into the long European winter. The electricity price shock was most acute in the U.K., which has leaned on wind farms to eradicate net carbon emissions by 2050. Prices for carbon credits, which electricity producers need to burn fossil fuels, are at records, too.

Perhaps “leaning on wind farms” to the extent that the U.K.’s ruling establishment (this is more than a matter of Tory incompetence, although the Conservative Party deserves a great deal of the blame) has decided to do was not the wisest course of action, particularly when combined with — and even more of the blame rests with the Tories for this — moving to a more or less just-in-time supply arrangement for gas.

But that failure by the wind to do what it should was a rarity, a one-off, right?

Right?

Now may be a moment to be start thinking of that Anakin/Padme meme.

The Daily Telegraph today (scroll down a bit):

Power prices have surged to their highest level in a month as an extreme lull in wind threatens to hit supply.

Prices for Monday evening jumped to £1,161 a megawatt-hour – the highest since December 16. At the same time, wind output is set to slide below 1.5 gigawatts, compared to a 10-day average of 6.3 gigawatts.

The surge in prices highlights the pressure on the UK power market as ageing nuclear reactors are shut down and aren’t immediately replaced.

Oh.

Nasdaq (also today):

PARIS, Jan 17 (Reuters) – The German spot price jumped on Monday as wind supply was predicted to fall sharply on Tuesday.

Broker Marex said in a short-term comment that power supply would be lower than expected this week.

Wind supply is significantly reduced day on day and residual load is seen up throughout the region, Refinitiv analyst said, adding that residual load is down compared to last week.

The German Tuesday baseload TRDEBD1 stood at 232 euros ($265.01) per megawatt hour (MWh) at 0956 GMT, 58.6% above the price paid last Friday for Monday delivery.

Oh.

Spot prices can fluctuate wildly (that’s the nature of the beast), but even so, given the importance of Russian gas supplies to Germany and the situation with regard to Ukraine, the timing is . . . not ideal.

Unrelated:

German position that it will not supply defensive weapons to Ukraine is ‘unchanged’, foreign minister @ABaerbock  said at the press conference with the Ukrainian FM @DmytroKulebain Kyiv. ‘Our restrictive position to weapons supply is well-known and is rooted in history’, she said.

Unrelated (via DW):

Germany’s weapons exports reached a record level this year, thanks to the last-minute approval of deals worth nearly €5 billion ($5.6 billion) by then-Chancellor Angela Merkel’s administration. The data, from the Economy Ministry, was requested by a lawmaker with the socialist Left party, and published by DPA news agency on Saturday.

The figures reveal that the agreements were signed off during Merkel’s last nine days in power.

The last-minute deals brought Germany’s total weapons exports to a record €9.04 billion for the whole of 2021, according to the ministry.

The previous record high for German arms exports was €8.015 billion in 2019.

Egypt is the main recipient of German arms, despite criticism over its human rights violations and involvement in conflicts in Yemen and Libya.

Under the last-minute agreements, Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems will deliver three warships to Egypt and a submarine to Singapore, while Diehl Defence will deliver 16 air defense systems to Egypt.

Details of the deals were released just a day before Olaf Scholz was elected chancellor earlier this month, although the exports’ value was not known at the time.

The last-minute deals were approved despite the fact that the government was only acting in an executive capacity, when major decisions are usually avoided.

Scholz  [Germany’s new chancellor, Olaf Scholz] was Vice-Chancellor and Finance Minister in Merkel’s grand coalition between the conservative bloc and the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) and would have been privy to the deals.

Politics & Policy

Biden Could Start By Leveling with People About His Unrealistic Pandemic Promises

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President Joe Biden removes his mask to deliver remarks on the importance of COVID-19 vaccine requirements in Elk Grove Village, Ill., October 7, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

Thinking about Rich’s question of what, if anything, Joe Biden could do to turn things around…

Biden’s problems start with the fact that his always-unrealistic promise to “shut down the virus, not the country or economy,” is now broken on such a spectacular scale. Biden had pretty good approval ratings for how he was handling the pandemic all the way into September, and even into November, his approval ratings were a little higher than his disapproval ratings on this particular issue. But when new cases started approaching 100,000 per day, and no one could find any Covid-19 tests on store shelves, the bottom fell out.

CBS News:

His job rating on handling COVID is down to the lowest point in his presidency, and when asked specifically why they don’t think he’s handling it well, two-thirds cite information about the outbreak being confusing. Few attribute it to a lack of vaccinations.

The allegedly kindly Biden has rarely hesitated to demagogue and scapegoat others for problems he failed to solve, and for much of 2020, Biden relished blaming the unvaccinated as the reason the pandemic hasn’t ended. But the unvaccinated are now down to about 13 percent of American adults. The unvaccinated aren’t the reason why Omicron is so contagious, and the unvaccinated aren’t the reason why so many Americans can’t find tests. Biden’s traditional rhetoric that “this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated” isn’t quite as accurate as it used to be. Yes, the unvaccinated are much more likely to get seriously sick, require vaccination, and die. But lots and lots of fully-vaccinated and boosted Americans caught Omicron and had to stay home sick, too.

Since Omicron arose, the administration’s messaging has been atrocious. Biden keeps saying, “How about making sure that you’re vaccinated, so you do not spread the disease to anyone else,” even though the vaccinated can indeed spread the virus to others.

Biden says he wishes he had ordered 500 million tests two months ago, forgetting that he pledged to deliver 300 million tests three months earlier.

Vice President Kamala Harris says no one warned the administration about the potential danger of variants.

It is as if Biden and Harris believed that once they were in office, Covid-19 would fade away because of the sheer force of their personality – and that the Covid-19 pandemic was primarily a problem of President Trump not listening to the experts and following “THE SCIENCE!”

It turns out that Covid-19 is not just a problem caused by having a Republican president. It is, right now, an extremely contagious virus that is going to result in mild symptoms for most people but that has the potential to cause serious life-threatening problems for the elderly, immunocompromised, etc. Maybe the Omicron wave will get us to something akin to herd immunity. But when a virus becomes endemic, it means it never really goes away, like the common cold. In other words, Biden will never “shut down the virus.”

What can Biden do? He can start by leveling with people. One of the reasons people are in such a sour mood right now is that the vaccines were oversold – specifically, they clearly don’t stop 95 percent of infections. The good news is that the vaccines reduce serious illness, hospitalization and death — and that’s really important! But the vaccines don’t prevent you from catching the virus, and they can’t guarantee you will not get sick, particularly against Omicron.

The approval processes at the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have mostly been a black box – unless you’re looking for the arguments, you won’t find them. In September, Biden said all Americans would need boosters, but until November 18, the FDA recommended that only the elderly or those with comorbidities should get boosters; the next day, they said all adults should get one. Biden should acknowledge that not all scientists, doctors, and medical experts agree, and stop arguing as if “THE SCIENCE!” speaks with one clear voice. A little humility, and respectful acknowledgment of dissenting voices, would go a long way.

Biden needs to avoid the Lucy-and-the-football dynamic that has characterized policies during this pandemic – the sense that you, the citizen, have never done enough to prevent the spread. Israel has conducted a study on a fourth shot, and the results seem pretty underwhelming. Three shots is probably going to be fine for most Americans; there isn’t much point in starting up a new argument in a few months about whether Americans with “only” three shots should count as “fully vaccinated.”

Biden could acknowledge that wearing masks has not proven effective against the highly contagious omicron variant so far. Biden’s mask rhetoric hasn’t changed — “please wear a mask. If you’re in a — you know, I think it is part of your patriotic duty” — even as the cities with the strictest masking rules see the same Omicron spike as everywhere else.

There are other dumb rules that Biden never seems to get around to criticizing. Sonoma County wants to restrict the spectators to youth sports to 20 percent of capacity – while in nearby San Francisco, the Golden State Warriors play to sellout crowds. The editorial board of the Salt Lake City Tribune wants to “deploy the National Guard to ensure that people without proof of vaccination would not be allowed, well, anywhere.” Minneapolis enacted, and then rescinded, a proposal requiring kids 2 to 4 to show proof of a negative test to enter a restaurant.

These are dumb ideas; imagine what a refreshing change it would be if a Democratic president took some time to rebuke those proposals.

Instead, ten months after passing a $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill, Biden is expected to ask for a “substantial” amount in another massive batch of Covid relief. Biden is an old senator; he’s convinced a problem must get solved if you throw enough money at it.

In other words, Biden’s approach to the pandemic hasn’t changed much since he took office, even though the Omicron wave is significantly different. When you continue the same approach, you should expect the same results.

Education

Chicago Parents Turn to Catholic Schooling amid Public-School Shutdowns

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A sign hangs outside of Pulaski International School after Chicago Public Schools, the nation’s third-largest school district, said it would cancel classes since the teachers’ union voted in favor of a return to remote learning, in Chicago, Ill., January 5, 2022. (Jim Vondruska/Reuters)

Last week’s five-day shutdown of public schools in Chicago on account of teachers’-union demands has put a new spotlight on area Catholic schools as a superior alternative. Per the Chicago Tribune:

After the latest battle between Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union led to canceled classes for 330,000 students, the phone lines at many of the city’s Catholic schools were jammed with calls this week from weary parents, inquiring how to enroll their children.

Greg Richmond, superintendent of the Archdiocese of Chicago Catholic Schools, said it’s too early to gauge the impact of the latest CPS shutdown on enrollment at the 157 archdiocesan-run schools in Cook and Lake counties, including 85 Catholic elementary schools and high schools in the city.

But in fall, months before the latest standoff between CPS and the CTU shuttered city schools for five days, the archdiocese schools reported a 5% jump in student enrollment — the first increase the school system has seen in 40 years.

“I know from talking with parents that there’s a lot of frustration right now,” Richmond said.

The Tribune notes that some of this reconsideration preceded the most recent instance of teachers’-union malevolence (and even preceded the pandemic itself), and also that Catholic-school enrollment is still declining in the area and nationwide.

But still, many parents are finding it hard to resist the promise of education that returned to in-person instruction at the beginning of the 2020–2021 school year while the area’s public schools have been hostage to teachers’-union demands.

As a proud product of Catholic schooling myself, I am heartened by this news. But more important are the parents who are now receiving reliable in-person instruction for their children. The more the merrier.

Books

Thinking of Howard Thurman on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

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Howard Thurman’s 1949 book Jesus and the Disinherited was very influential on Martin Luther King Jr. If you don’t know much about Thurman or that book, you can read the piece I wrote on it last year. Better yet, read the actual book. It’s only about 100 pages long, and Thurman demonstrates a deep understanding of hatred, discrimination, and fear — and the ethic of love that Jesus modeled as a better way forward.

Conservatives rightly oppose critical race theory being taught in K–12 schools, and racial essentialism is a betrayal of King’s legacy. The Left has created a strawman argument that says conservatives don’t want to teach about racism at all. Conservatives need to make sure that stays a strawman. Assigning Jesus and the Disinherited would be a good alternative to CRT-infused reading.

Yes, Jesus is in the title, but Thurman’s work speaks to Christians and non-Christians alike. In fact, the book will likely prove more challenging to a Christian reader because Thurman shines a bright light on the dark side of American Christianity, which was far too tolerant of racial discrimination for far too long.

His prose is accessible, and he references many other literary works, from Shakespeare to African-American spirituals, that students could engage with as well. Jesus and the Disinherited is a rich book, and its influence on King’s civil-rights activism is immediately apparent to readers. We’d be much better off as a country if more people read Thurman, and fewer people read Robin DiAngelo.

The Economy

Train Robberies in LA up 356 Percent in 2021

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Local resident Luke Mines takes photos as he looks at the mess on railway tracks littered with the remains of items stolen from passing freight trains, in Los Angeles, Calif., January 14, 2022. (Gene Blevins/Reuters)

Thieves are stealing directly from Union Pacific freight trains in downtown Los Angeles, and the problem has exploded in just the past year.

According to Union Pacific, train robberies increased by 356 percent from October 2020 to October 2021. Lupe Valdez, a spokeswoman for the company, told CBSLA that an average of 90 containers are compromised per day. “I have been with Union Pacific for 16 years, and I have never, ever seen this situation to this degree,” she said. (Check out these photos from the Los Angeles Times, and you’ll see what she means.)

Union Pacific has its own private police force that arrests looters. It then turns them over to Los Angeles city and county authorities for prosecution — except those prosecutions haven’t been happening, Union Pacific says.

From a CBSLA report on the situation:

“What my officers tell me on the ground is many times people come back and say, ‘I just got out and I’m back. They can’t do anything to me,’ which I think is insane in terms of our situation, with what we’re faced with,” [Union Pacific spokeswoman Lupe] Valdez said.

Union Pacific has reached out to the District Attorney, blaming lenient sentencing laws for part of the problem, saying its private police force arrested more than 100 people in the last three months, but never got called to testify in a single case.

CBSLA also reports that Union Pacific is looking to avoid that stretch of track entirely, and FedEx and UPS may route their shipments to avoid Los Angeles County.

Last month, Union Pacific wrote a letter to George Gascon, Los Angeles County’s district attorney, asking him to reconsider his office’s policy of not prosecuting various misdemeanor charges. Adrian Guerrero, a Union Pacific spokesman, told Fox News, “While rail theft is a national issue . . . it’s a state issue here in California. . . . The difference is how the criminal justice system and how local law enforcement hold these criminals accountable with legal consequences, and that is not the case in LA County.”

The most populous county in the United States is becoming too dangerous for freight trains to pass through without being looted. This debacle throws another wrench into supply chains. But unlike other aspects of the supply-chain crisis, this issue is much easier to solve: Prosecute and punish people who rob trains.

Sports

A Funny Kind of Nationalism

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After all Novak Djokovic has been through, it will be a relief to see the poster boy for Serbian nationalism safely home in Monte Carlo.

Politics & Policy

Trump vs. DeSantis

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There has been a spate of reporting about Trump being irked with Ron DeSantis lately. Here’s an example from the New York Times. If Trump actually does run in 2024 (for now, his obvious play is convincing everyone he’s going to run), DeSantis will have a ticklish choice: On the one hand, he may figure that he’s young so he can wait, but it is unlikely that he will retain the status he currently has in the party for years to come; on the other, running in 2024 would run the risk of Trump absolutely shredding his image in the GOP forevermore. I’d guess most — almost all? — potential candidates facing some version of this choice will decide to sit it out if Trump goes for the third time.

U.S.

Why Were Authorities So Evasive About the Synagogue Gunman’s Motive?

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J. Edgar Hoover F.B.I. Building in Washington, D.C. (Mary F. Calvert/Reuters)

Actual statements from our president, midday Sunday:

Q    Mr. President, do you know more about the motivations of the person?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, I don’t.  I — there’s speculation, but I’m not going to get into that.  I will — I’m going to have a press conference on Wednesday, and I’ll be happy to go into detail of what I know in detail at that time.

Q    Do you know why he targeted that specific synagogue, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, no, I don’t.  We don’t have — I don’t think there is sufficient information to know about why he targeted that synagogue or why he insisted on the release of someone who’s been in prison for over 10 years, why he was engaged — why he was using antisemitic and anti-Israeli comments.  I — we just don’t have enough facts.

Biden says the gunman’s motivation was a mystery, and then mentions that he was “using anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli comments.” Call me crazy, but I think the antisemitic and anti-Israeli comments might give a hint as to his motivation!

The hostage-taker called for the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist who was found guilty in 2010 of attempting to kill U.S. military officers while in custody in Afghanistan in 2008, a law enforcement official told the Associated Press. Siddiqui was sentenced to 86 years in prison and is currently imprisoned at Carswell Air Force Base, near Fort Worth.

Why on earth did Matthew DeSarno, the special agent in charge of the FBI Dallas Field Office, initially say, “we do believe from our engagement with this subject that he was singularly focused on one issue, and it was not specifically related to the Jewish community. But we are continuing to work to find motive”? (Thankfully the FBI backtracked and issued an updated statement declaring, “this is a terrorism-related matter, in which the Jewish community was targeted, and is being investigated by the Joint Terrorism Task Force.”)

Who, or what, is served by contending that it is impossible to know the true motive of a gunman who attacks a synagogue and takes hostages and demands the release of a convicted al-Qaeda operative? Why is it so vertoben to say “jihadism” or “support for al-Qaeda and Islamist terror groups”? Why were authorities so reluctant to say antisemitism was a motive, as if the gunman had chosen to target a synagogue at random?

Is it that authorities are now so afraid of being accused of inciting anti-Muslim hate crimes that they are reluctant to acknowledge the obvious?

The quickest and easiest way to convince people that the threat of jihadism is much, much worse than they thought is for law-enforcement authorities to appear as though they’re hiding something or afraid to speak the truth.

 

Health Care

Those Administration-Ordered Covid-19 Tests Will Arrive Late, but We Will Probably Still Need Them

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A sign informs customers that COVID-19 tests are out of stock at the entrance of a CVS pharmacy in Miami, Fla., January 5, 2022. (Marco Bello/Reuters)

Given a choice between having too many instant Covid-19 tests around and having too few, one would always choose having too many. So it is not necessarily a disaster that the Biden administration has now ordered one billion Covid-19 tests to distribute to the public for free. (With about 330 million Americans, that comes out to about three tests per person.)

Starting Wednesday, January 19, Americans will be able to order their free Covid-19 tests, and according to the White House, “tests will typically ship within 7-12 days of ordering.” If we generously assume that shipping takes only one day, then these government-purchased tests ordered on the first day of availability will start to arrive anywhere from January 27 (eight days from January 19) to January 31 (12 days from January 19).

Some people may wonder, considering the spectacular explosion of Covid-19 cases, whether the Omicron wave will have peaked by the time the tests arrive.

Has Omicron peaked? U.S. surgeon general Dr. Vivek Murthy said on CNN’s State of the Union yesterday that it depends on what part of the country you’re in. “But the good news is that there are parts of the country, New York, in particular, and other parts of the Northeast, where we are starting to see a plateau and, in some cases, an early decline in cases. The challenge is that nothing — the entire country is not moving at the same pace. The Omicron wave started later in other parts of the country. So we shouldn’t expect a national peak in the next coming days. The next few weeks will be tough.”

So the country will probably still need quite a few tests as January ends and February begins.

But the scale of the Omicron wave is jaw-dropping. Since Thanksgiving, the U.S. has had about 18 million new cases — which is roughly the number of cases from the beginning of the pandemic to mid-December 2020. The country currently has 23 million active cases; the highest peak before the Omicron wave was 10 million. And while the Omicron variant is not as likely to kill a person as previous variants, since Thanksgiving, about 71,000 Americans have succumbed to Covid-19 — which is about as many Americans who died from the virus from the start of the pandemic to early May 2020.

If President Biden had kept his promise that “this winter, you’ll be able to test for free in the comfort of your home and have some peace of mind,” more Americans would have known if that tickle in their throat or dry cough was a cold, the flu, or Covid-19 — and those Omicron wave numbers would likely be at least a little different.

 

Sports

Sympathy for an Icon of Free Choice

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Serbia’s Novak Djokovic in action during his match against Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff at the Davis Cup at Olympiahalle in Innsbruck, Austria, November 27, 2021. (Leonhard Foeger/Reuters)

Kevin Williamson argues quite logically that Novak Djokovic, tennis star, does not have any right to enter Australia while ignoring Australia’s rules, not even if he’s rich and famous, and likely to win the Australian Open. And that is all true, and anyone who traveled to Australia before Covid would have been impressed — possibly even a little surprised by — how vigilant Australia is about who is entering their country, and what they are bringing with them. Australia’s natural environment has lots of delicate ecosystems that can be disrupted if you break their quarantine and introduce the wrong plants, bugs, or animals to the continent.

But I wonder whether the logical argument might be based on a mistaken set of facts, or at least an unclear set of facts. After all, it had seemed that after a delay, Djokovic had gotten the okay to fly to Australia, only for the situation to change later last week. According to The Age, the Australian government had changed its case against allowing Djokovic into the country. The government had conceded that Novak Djokovic “entered Australia with a valid medical exemption and poses a low risk of contracting the virus.”

Immigration minister Alex Hawke (perfect name in this regard) had changed the government’s position. Instead of Djokovic’s star power being an asset, it was a liability. From The Age:

The minister describes Djokovic as a “high profile unvaccinated individual” who has publicly indicated his opposition to getting the jab and demonstrated an “apparent disregard” for basic COVID rules such as isolating after a positive test.

“Given Mr Djokovic’s high-profile status and position as a role model in the sporting and broader community, his ongoing presence in Australia may foster similar disregard for the precautionary requirements following receipt of a positive COVID-19 test in Australia,” Mr Hawke wrote.

“In particular, his behaviour may encourage or influence others to emulate his prior conduct and fail to comply with appropriate health measures following a positive COVID-19 test, which itself could lead to the transmission of the disease and serious risk to their health and others.”

At one point in the hearing, Djokovic was described as a potential “icon of free choice.”

If you squint you can see reason for the alarm. Most media reports have tended to try to divide the world into the science-believers and the subversive “anti-vaxxers.” And Djokovic, who has long-documented superstitious beliefs and scrupulosities when it comes to his body, makes for a juicy anti-vaxxer foil. But the world is more complicated than that. We see pretty clearly that the case for the vaccines is overwhelming the older and unhealthier you are. And millions of people in America who did get vaccinated seemed to have skipped the opportunity to vaccinate their minor children. Is this an anti-vax position? I don’t think it is — I think it is evidence of people who understand a chart and made a judgment call.

The case that a 34-year-old tennis champion who has already recovered from Covid is in desperate need of a vaccine to protect the safety of others simply doesn’t add up. Australia was faced with the possibility of coming near to acknowledging this, and undercutting their own slightly irrational approach to a disease whose spread can no longer be stopped by vaccines. The immigration minister’s rationale had nothing directly to do with the spread of disease, but with maintaining his government’s credibility.

Of course Australia, being a sovereign country, has a right to deny entry to any foreigner — to revoke their visas after their arrival at the airport — just because they don’t like the look of their mustache. But civilized countries set out laws and rules for governing how to treat foreign nationals, and try to follow them fairly, as a further demonstration of their legitimacy among their own citizens, and often as a courtesy to their own citizens who do business with foreigners, marry them, or just like to watch them play tennis. It’s not clear to me whether Australia is following their own rules or doing so fairly. And the punishment levied — a ban on entering Australia for three years — seems disproportionate as well.

The Djokovic controversy was, for Australia’s government, an opportunity to back away from the ledge of irrationality. They missed it.

White House

What Biden Should Do

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Someone was asking me a little while ago what I would do if I were Joe Biden and wanted to try to stop the bleeding. I thought of three things, all of which would help only at the margins: Immediately pivot to leading the parade on the bipartisan negotiations on the Electoral Count Act and get to a signing ceremony at the White House with Republicans in attendance; take showy, symbolic actions on shortages and inflation, like, say (assuming he has the authority) using the National Guard at the ports — even if it doesn’t do anything, it would make the point that he’s taking the problem seriously; and fire Anthony Fauci, who now is a symbol for at least half the country of everything wrong with the pandemic response and the messaging around it, a dismissal that could be the occasion for more fully embracing a “live the virus” versus a “covid zero” strategy.

And that’s all I’ve got. I’m not a miracle worker!

Economy & Business

Sign of the Times

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Politics & Policy

Joe Biden, the ‘I Don’t Care What You Care About’ President 

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It’s been pretty obvious for a while now that part of Biden’s problem is that he’s not focused on what voters care about, especially inflation. This new CBS poll unmistakably confirms it.

 

 

Education

Blowing the Whistle on a Spreading Plague

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“Social justice” ideology is a plague of the mind that’s been spreading rapidly throughout American higher education. No state is immune.

The Martin Center sought to find out how bad it has gotten in North Carolina and so we commissioned a study by Professor Scott Yenor (Boise State U.) and Anna Miller (Idaho Freedom Foundation). We have recently published that study, “Critical Social Justice in the UNC System.”

Yenor and Miller have done a terrific job of documenting the spread of the social-justice ideology, which is presented as truth, not a debatable set of notions.

Officials and educational leaders in other states should consider doing similar analyses. It’s important to attack this plague before it does any more damage.

National Review

Summer Writing and Editing Internship at NR

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National Review is accepting applications for its summer editorial internship. Interns will receive a modest stipend, participate in every part of the editorial process, and have opportunities to write. Applicants should have an excellent academic record and some experience in student or professional journalism. If you wish to apply, please send a cover letter explaining your interest, a résumé, and two of your best journalistic writing samples (no more, please), all as PDF or Word files (no links, please), to internship.applications (at) nationalreview.com.

Politics & Policy

Gallup Records 14-Point Shift in Party Identification During 2021

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A voting sign is in Bronx, N.Y. June 23, 2020 (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

Gallup reports that Joe Biden has presided over a remarkable resurgence in support for the Republican party:

On average, Americans’ political party preferences in 2021 looked similar to prior years, with slightly more U.S. adults identifying as Democrats or leaning Democratic (46%) than identified as Republicans or leaned Republican (43%).

However, the general stability for the full-year average obscures a dramatic shift over the course of 2021, from a nine-percentage-point Democratic advantage in the first quarter to a rare five-point Republican edge in the fourth quarter.

At the start of 2021, Democrats had benefitted from a dramatic shift. By the end of 2021, though, this had disappeared — and worse:

Both the nine-point Democratic advantage in the first quarter and the five-point Republican edge in the fourth quarter are among the largest Gallup has measured for each party in any quarter since it began regularly measuring party identification and leaning in 1991.

The bottom line:

The year 2021 was an eventful one in politics, after a similarly eventful 2020 that also saw major shifts in party preferences. In early 2021, Democratic strength reached levels not seen in nearly a decade. By the third quarter, those Democratic gains evaporated as Biden’s job approval declined. The political winds continued to become more favorable to Republicans in the fourth quarter, giving the GOP an advantage over Democrats larger than any they had achieved in more than 25 years.

World

Ukraine, Sanctions, and the Russian Economy

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Russia’s President Vladimir Putin attends a bilateral meeting with Swiss President Guy Parmelin, after the U.S.-Russia summit, in Geneva, Switzerland, June 16, 2021. (Denis Balibouse/Reuters)

I do not know (of course) what the Russians’ next move with regard to Ukraine will be, although yet more cyberattacks seem as close to certain as anything might be. I do know, however, that the U.S. and its allies will continue to threaten sanctions should certain lines (a direct military “incursion”?) be crossed. That’s how it should be, and if those lines are crossed sanctions should follow.

But Russia is in a far better position to cope with economic (at least) sanctions than it has been in the past, and it knows it.

From the Financial Times:

Rather than destabilising Russia’s economy, western sanctions imposed since 2014 have propelled Moscow to pursue a conservative macroeconomic policy designed to transform the country into a financial fortress.

External shocks such as the Covid-19 pandemic demonstrated the resilience it had developed.

The central bank’s war chest has grown more than 70 per cent since late 2015 and now houses more than $620bn of foreign currency reserves.

High oil and gas prices have helped Russia pump up its rainy-day National Wealth Fund with $190bn in cash. The government predicts the fund will have more than $300bn in 2024.

Frugal fiscal policy has also kept gross government debt low, at about 20 per cent of gross domestic product. It is also forecast to fall to 18.5 per cent by the end of 2023, well below the forecast median 54 per cent level of its peers. Moreover, the proportion of foreign investors holding Russian sovereign bonds has sunk to a fifth of the total, making the country far less vulnerable to external shocks or a sudden sell-off than it was before.

Russian corporates are also better insulated from the shocks of any future sanctions. Total foreign corporate debt was $80bn last year — nearly half the $150bn total when the first sanctions were imposed in March 2014 . . .

When the US imposed sanctions on Rusal, Russia’s largest aluminium producer, in 2018, the effect on global markets was also so disruptive that the Treasury had to negotiate a climbdown. Today, this could similarly deter any sanctions against VSMPO-Avisma, which remains the largest supplier of titanium for Boeing’s aeroplanes.

Russia has also been successful in replacing imports, particularly of agriculture.

And it remains to be seen just how far America’s European allies (or some of them anyway) will be prepared to go along.

The FT:

Imposing sanctions on a major natural resource producer like Russia isn’t easy either.

Europe imports more than 40 per cent of its gas and more than a quarter of its crude oil from Russia.

And it doesn’t seem much of a stretch to imagine that Russia is already reminding its European customers who is boss.

Politico:

The Kremlin always likes to pretend that gas and politics can be kept apart. But the Europeans aren’t standing for that anymore.

EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager on Thursday gave the strongest indication to date that Moscow’s gas-export monopoly Gazprom risked another round of antitrust action from Brussels. The normally tight-lipped Dane gave a rare insight into her thinking on what would be a highly politically charged case by implying that Moscow appeared to be manipulating the market as energy prices soar and Russia masses troops on the Ukrainian border.

“It is indeed thought-provoking that a company, in view of increasing demand, limits supply,” she told reporters on Thursday.

“That is quite rare behavior in the marketplace,” she added, explaining that she had already received “a lot of responses” in her probe into Gazprom’s practices.

The “normally tight-lipped Dane” (not a description I’d use for Vestager, an ambitious self-promoter) may be about to discover that, when it comes down to it, the EU’s much-vaunted “rules-based” order doesn’t count for very much.

There are, of course, a good number of reasons for the current surge in gas prices in Europe, but Russia appears to be playing its part. That’s not, in Vestager’s sad little phrase, “thought-provoking,” it is merely Russia doing what Russia might be expected to do.

Politico:

Seeking to explain the gas price surge, Fatih Birol, head of the International Energy Agency, also pointed the finger at Gazprom on Thursday.

“We see strong elements of ‘artificial tightness’ in European gas markets, which appears to be due to the behaviour of Russia’s state-controlled gas supplier.”

Russia said last year that it would boost supplies to Europe once it filled up its own reserves, but that’s not happening. Instead, the Siberia-to-Germany Yamal pipeline has been flowing in reverse from Germany to Poland for more than three weeks.

“This does suggest that, while Gazprom is reportedly meeting its nominations from European buyers, it is holding potential spot supplies off the market for either geopolitical or economic (to keep the price high) reasons or a bit of both,” wrote Mike Fulwood, senior research fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies.

Meanwhile, VOA reports:

Gazprom, Russia’s giant state-owned energy company, is slated to finalize an agreement in 2022 for a second huge natural gas pipeline running from Siberia to China, marking yet another stage in what energy analysts and Western diplomats say is a fast-evolving gas pivot to Asia by Moscow.

They see the pivot as a geopolitical project and one that could mean trouble for Europe.

Known as Power of Siberia 2, the mega-pipeline traversing Mongolia will be able to deliver 50 billion cubic meters of Russian gas to China annually. It was given the go-ahead in March by Russian President Vladimir Putin, and when finished it will complement another massive pipeline, Power of Siberia 1, that transports gas from Russia’s Chayandinskoye field to northern China.

Power of Siberia 2 will supply gas from Siberia’s Yamal Peninsula, the source of the gas exported to Europe. Western officials worry that the project could have serious geopolitical implications for energy-hungry European nations before they embark in earnest on a long transition to renewables and away from fossil fuels . . .

The new Sino-Russian energy project, which Putin discussed with his Chinese counterpart, President Xi Jinping, during a December 18 video conference, will give Moscow even more leverage when price bargaining with Europe and boost China as an alternative market for gas, according to Filip Medunic, an analyst with the European Council on Foreign Relations.

“Russia remains Europe’s main gas supplier, but Europeans urgently need to understand the changes it is currently making to its energy transport infrastructure—as these changes could leave Europe even more at Moscow’s mercy,” he outlined in a study earlier this year.

Such a pipeline would take years to build, but the fact Putin is discussing it right now delivers a clear message. It is worth adding that, tensions over Ukraine aside, the EU’s turn away from fossil fuels may, among its other geopolitical consequences (none of them positive on any realistic scenario), be driving China and Russia even closer together.

World

Ukraine: Putin’s Next Move(s)?

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Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with government members via a video link in Moscow, Russia, January 12, 2022. (Sputnik/Alexei Nikolsky/Kremlin via Reuters)

Some interesting thoughts from James Sherr of The International Centre for Defence and Security, Tallinn. These were written nearly two weeks ago, so events have moved on, but it is still worth noting Sherr’s views on the form that a Russian military intervention might (or might not) take.

In his opinion:

The war that the West dreads most — an all-out invasion of Ukraine — is unlikely. It is not that the battalion tactical groups on Ukraine’s borders are insufficient for invasion. They will be good at it, but not for what comes afterwards. The Russian military leadership is better informed than those Western commentators who believe that Ukraine’s army will disintegrate in hours and stay dead. But whether they know it or not, they will be opening the door to people’s war. It will be waged by reconstituted forces, veterans of the Donbas conflict, volunteer insurgents, saboteurs as well as special forces who know, at least as well as their Russian counterparts, how to wage war in places and by means the adversary does not anticipate.

But the last thing we can expect is the kind of ‘off-ramp’ and ‘face-saving retreat’ that Washington hopes to prepare. Things have gone too far for that. It is time Western democracies understood that in Russia, authority does not depend upon institutions, but respect.

Rather, Sherr expects one or both of the following to occur:

The first, as I wrote in March, would be an occupation in force of what Russia already occupies, viz., the Donetsk and Luhansk pseudo republics. The second or simultaneous scenario, also mooted by the author has been set out in detail by Frederick Kagan and other experts at the Institute of Warviz. the deployment of ‘airborne and/or mechanised units to certain locations in Belarus’.

These deployments would have three merits. First, in all likelihood, they would be unopposed. Second, they would create a new military-political reality for Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic states and, to be sure, a substantial augmentation of threat. Third, they might be sufficiently justifiable in legal terms and sufficiently ambiguous in political terms to defer or dilute Western counter-measures and undermine Alliance cohesion as well.

So far as the Belarus route is concerned, “the new military-political reality for Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic states” is a traditional one, blending weaponry with geographical access. Russia already has a lengthy border with both Latvia and Estonia, but its only border with Poland and Lithuania is provided by the relatively small Kaliningrad exclave. Adding Belarus as a possible jumping off point for action against those two remains highly unlikely (Poland and the Baltic states are in NATO), but adds a little more pressure to a region that already has more than enough of it. More important, perhaps, it gives the Russians another route to Kyiv.

Meanwhile Reuters reported this over the weekend:

Kyiv believes a hacker group linked to Belarusian intelligence carried out a cyberattack that hit Ukrainian government websites this week and used malware similar to that used by a group tied to Russian intelligence, a senior Ukrainian security official said.

Serhiy Demedyuk, deputy secretary of the national security and defence council, told Reuters that Ukraine blamed Friday’s attack – which defaced government websites with threatening messages – on a group known as UNC1151 and that it was cover for more destructive actions behind the scenes.

It’s no secret that Belarus is a close ally of Russia (translation: Putin keeps its leader, Alexander Lukashenko on a fairly tight leash), but while an overt act of (cyber) aggression by Belarus on Russia’s behalf is in itself not hugely surprising, the timing is . . . interesting.

Culture

Quarters, Couplets, and More

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Mayor Rudy Giuliani examines a wax likeness of himself outside the future site of Madame Tussaud’s wax museum in Times Square in 2000. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Impromptus today, as usual, is a grab-bag — grab what you like. I begin with politicians, especially of the slippery kind. The shape-shifting kind. You remember what Herbert Hoover called FDR? “A chameleon on plaid.” There are many chameleons among us, in politics, in media, and in many another sphere.

Putting my column to bed, I thought of a song. I’d like to mention it here. Do you know “The Dodger,” one of the “old American songs” arranged, indelibly, by Aaron Copland?

Yes the candidate’s a dodger,
Yes a well-known dodger.
Yes the candidate’s a dodger,
Yes and I’m a dodger too.

He’ll meet you and treat you,
And ask you for your vote.
But look out boys,
He’s a-dodgin’ for your note.

Yes we’re all dodgin’
A-dodgin’, dodgin’, dodgin’.
Yes we’re all dodgin’
Out away through the world.

Many years ago, I heard Samuel Ramey, the great bass from Colby, Kan., sing this song in recital at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Seated in the first row was Rudy Giuliani. When Ramey was finished with the song, he said, “Sorry, Mayor.” Giuliani made a gesture that said, “Hey, no problem.”

If you’d like to hear “The Dodger” — sung by Ramey, accompanied by Warren Jones — go here, at about 3:05.

In a column last week, I said,

Let’s talk pronunciation. When I was growing up in Michigan, a lot of people said “vanella,” instead of “vanilla”: “I’ll have a vanella shake.” Now, the coach of the New England Patriots is Bill Belichick. But I hear many, many Americans say “Belicheck.”

I further said,

You know the word “quarter”? I think I said “corter” until I was about 20 — not “kworter.”

Writes a reader from Michigan (now in Connecticut),

“Vanella”? Yes, and I still pronounce it that way. At Dexter M. Ferry School in Grosse Pointe we had a morning “melk” break in kindergarten. And of course there was a favorite, “Melky” the Clown. [For an article about Milky the Clown, a Detroit TV character, go here.] I used to wonder if Melky Cabrera of the Yanks was actually “Milky” Cabrera.

Marvelous.

Another reader writes,

Jay,

Impromptus reminded me of when I first got to school in Boston. I was walking down Beacon Street and someone stopped me to ask for change. He said, “Do you have fah kotters for a dollah?”

It took me a sec, and I said, “Do you mean corters?”

Marvelous.

Donald Mace Williams is a poet, novelist, and journalist. He is also a friend of mine and a sterling gentleman. He has written a couplet, titled “If the Plague Continues.”

When Omicron has filled its quota,
May its successor be Iota.

Terrific.

Thank you to one and all. Again, today’s Impromptus is here.

Education

Community-College Students Need Skills and Knowledge, Not DEI

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Unfortunately, the powers that be in North Carolina’s community colleges have decreed that the hideous diversity, equity, and inclusion triumvirate will be “embedded” in the curriculum.

In today’s Martin Center article, Ashlynn Warta reports on the bad news. Enrollments and funding are down. She writes, “With such obvious financial stress, one would think the community college system is taking steps to better manage its resources and hopefully reduce its financial burdens. However, with the establishment of the System Advisory Council Initiative on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), the system has unfortunately decided to spend its resources on a frivolous, if not insidious, ideological initiative.”

The DEI obsession is evidently impossible for educrats to resist.

Warta doesn’t see any reason for this new “diversity” initiative: “It is very easy to apply and become admitted to a community college. Community college open admissions are non-competitive and unselective, one need only have a high school diploma or a GED certificate to become accepted. These colleges are already extremely accessible to people from all backgrounds. Additionally, community colleges serve the communities in which they are located. If the student body from a given small community isn’t ‘diverse’ enough, that is outside of the colleges’ control.”

It’s a waste of time and money, but that’s what government officials specialize in.

Education

School Closures Reveal Progressivism for What It Is

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(maroke/iStock/Getty Images)

Rebecca Bodenheimer, in Politico, on how school closures in Oakland during Covid exposed the gap between her progressive politics and the reality of progressives:

There was no recognition of the fact that we were advocating for our kids, who were floundering in remote learning, or that public schools across the country (in red states) opened in fall 2020 without major outbreaks, as did private schools just miles from our home . . . While many Black, Latino and Asian parents felt similarly about wanting their kids back in the classroom, their voices were swept under the rug as union representatives continually claimed only “rich white parents” wanted schools reopened. The irony of the accusations of racism launched mostly at white moms, but also occasionally at parents of color, is that most often they have come from fellow white women who purport to represent the views of Black and Latino parents . . .

University of California, Berkeley professor Mark Brilliant, a reopening advocate in Berkeley, spoke about having to reevaluate his “ideological priors” when he saw Democratically controlled states like California — where teachers unions are particularly powerful — failing to reopen schools. “Science, public education, public institutions, equity? Like if those aren’t things that mobilize people who profess to be progressive, I don’t know what are,” he told me by phone last spring. “It’s been just a source of tremendous pain, disenchantment, disillusionment that people didn’t just rise up and say, ‘No, this is unacceptable.’” It is this deep sense of alienation that neither Democrats nor the mainstream media has reckoned with — at least until the gubernatorial election in Virginia.

Score another victory for Robert Conquest’s First Law: “Everyone is conservative about what he knows best.” A lot of progressive and liberal parents had to grapple with this contrast over the past two years, between their general principles about what they “should” do and think, and their actual experience of what was best for their own children.

Film & TV

Is Jeopardy! Too Professional?

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Tom Nichols, himself a former five-time winner, thinks so:

Mastering that little clicker is everything. . . . Why does this matter? Because the more times you use the buzzer, the better you get at it. It really is a learned reflex. It takes a little getting used to, and then you develop a rhythm . . . Watch the veterans play after they’ve won a few games. They have cracked the code, which, as paradoxical as it seems, includes completely ignoring the host. The losers—again, you can watch this happen—are very focused on looking at the host, but the winners are looking at the board. They’re reading ahead, forming an answer, and waiting for the light to go on. In my best moments on the show, it was me and the board, that little light, the buzzer, and nothing else.

If you’ve done all this even two or three times, new players are at an instant disadvantage. No one wants to play against a returning champ. . . . What makes it worse is that players like James Holzhauer basically turned the game into a full-time job before they even got there. As I said at the time, it was about as interesting as going to the Sportsbook room at Caesars Palace and watching guys handicap the ponies or figuring out the spread in a college-basketball game. Don’t get me wrong—Holzhauer’s damn smart. But when he finally lost, it was to someone who had literally written a graduate thesis about Jeopardy. That’s a bit more commitment than you’ll find in the average player. The charm of the game, the thing that made it beloved to so many people, was that you weren’t watching a brute-force match between a Vegas odds guy and a Jeopardy scholar; you were watching a New York City cop and a librarian from Tucson, Arizona, and a homemaker from Dubuque, Iowa, battling it out with little more than a high-school education and some quick recall.

Politics & Policy

Smart University of Chicago Students Challenge Their Authoritarian Administrators

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A woman walks through the Main Quadrangle at the University of Chicago in Chicago, 2015. (Jim Young / Reuters)

Like most American college and university administrators, those at the University of Chicago have gone to extremes in their response to Covid. Sadly, the students usually just accept whatever the officials decree.

But not at the University of Chicago. The editorial board of Chicago Thinker student newspaper has thrown down the gauntlet with a lengthy, well argued attack on the school’s booster mandate. Read it here.

Will the university’s leaders listen to their students? Will they respond? Or will they keep acting the way authoritarians like to–just pushing ahead in the unshakable belief that they are always right.

Hat tip: Don Boudreaux

Washington Post Editorial Board: Congress Should Authorize Federal Vaccine Mandates

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Sign on the door of a restaurant in Times Square in New York City, December 7, 2021. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

The editorial board of the Washington Post thinks that in the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision striking down the OSHA employer vaccine mandate, Congress should pass a law giving OSHA that authority:

The Supreme Court’s ruling that President Biden’s vaccine mandate was an overreach, beyond the powers given to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration by Congress, should be an impetus for others who do have the authority to push ahead with vaccine mandates. Congress ought to explicitly authorize federal vaccine mandates. It’s now clear, from a year’s experience, that vaccines prevent serious disease, and mandates work to get more people vaccinated.

Go for it, Democrats. Go try to pass a law requiring all Americans to either get vaccinated (and boosted!), or lose their jobs. This is a 50–50 issue at best. (Interestingly, more than half of federal workers in one survey said they opposed the Biden administration’s vaccine requirement for federal workers.) A decent percentage of people who are vaccinated and pro-vaccination do not support firing employees who refuse to get vaccinated. But go ahead, Democrats. Give Republican challengers in this November’s House and Senate elections one more issue to bring up in attack ads.

“I’m vaccinated, and I hope you are, too. But I also recognize that vaccination is a personal choice, and no one should make you do something you’re not comfortable doing. But Congressman So-and-so thinks that Washington should force your boss to fire you if you’re not vaccinated. This November, you get to decide whether the federal government will treat you like a citizen, or like a subject.”

Media

Muppet News Flash

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The Democratic Agenda May Be Dead,” reads the Slate headline.

In other news, the pope is rumored to be Catholic (though some conservative sources dispute this), and you don’t even want to know what bears do in the woods.

Elections

An Election Model That Bears Grim News for Senate Democrats

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(Erin Scott/Reuters)

Sean Trende at RealClearPolitics takes a first look at how Joe Biden’s grisly approval rating (41.6 percent at this writing) bodes for Senate Democrats:

At 42%, the model envisions virtually no chance for Democrats to hold the Senate and predicts a loss of four seats as the most likely outcome. At 42%, the Colorado Senate seat could potentially come into play, assuming that Republicans produced a credible candidate (remember that a relatively unheralded candidate held Sen. Michael Bennet to a six-point margin in 2016).

A net loss of four seats, while small in absolute terms compared with Republicans’ nine-seat midterm pickup in 2014, eight in 1994, or six in 2010, would be very bad news for Democrats, especially because the 2024 Senate map is very hostile and offers nearly no chance for a four-seat Democratic revival. Trende’s model held up very well in 2014, and was far ahead of the curve in projecting what happened that year despite the scoffing and scorn of many left-leaning analysts.

This is only a first look, of course. Good candidates will make a big difference, and for now, Republicans still seem to lack a really top-shelf recruit in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Colorado, Nevada, or Missouri, while Larry Hogan continues to dither in Maryland. Some of the states on that list can doubtless be won by less-than-impressive candidates, and some Republicans already in the race may look a lot more impressive after several more months on the campaign trail, but it remains likely that at least some contested seats will be lost for the want of a Generic Republican candidate. Still, you’d much rather be holding Mitch McConnell’s hand right now than Chuck Schumer’s.

Politics & Policy

Let’s Insist on the Separation of Science and State

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Writing for AIER, Robert Wright explores “The Government Scientific Agency Oxymoron.”

Wright’s key observation: “Government bureaucracies cannot ‘do’ science because their incentives are all wrong. Science flourishes only in a competitive environment.”

Correct. Government can, however, subvert science. That’s an ugly history, from Lysenko to Fauci.

Read the whole thing.

Politics & Policy

Every Progressive Fundraising E-Mail This Weekend

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President Joe Biden delivers remarks on voting rights during a speech on the grounds of Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Ga., January 11, 2022. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Friend,

This week showed the scale of the challenge we face. In 2020, Donald Trump tried to use the Electoral Count Act to steal the presidential election. Now, cynical Republicans want to distract and divide us by fixing it. We must not let them get away with this. If we are truly to remedy this problem, then recalcitrant Democrats such as Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema must show some independence of mind and fall neatly into line with the rest of their party. It is only when public figures use their votes to realize the desires of other people that our democracy will be saved.

Diversity is our strength. But unless we are united, that diversity is meaningless. With your help, we can fill the next Congress with inspiring bisexual women such as Kyrsten Sinema, and then demand that they follow a set of partisan instructions issued by white men such as Chuck Schumer and Joe Biden.

As President Biden explained this week, there are just two sorts of people in the United States: Americans who are loyal to his agenda, and Jefferson Davis. To help end the division that his critics have caused, we are asking you to chip in $5, $20, or whatever you can afford, so that we can primary competitive Democrats during the coming Republican wave, and send the rest to Nikki Fried down in Florida.

Yours,

The Progressive Democracy People’s Coalition Alliance (it/ot)

U.S.

Seattle Power Company Sued for Violating the Rights of Fish

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A span of highway on the Skagit River, May 2013. (Cliff DesPeaux / Reuters)

I have been warning the green warriors that “nature rights” will someday come back to bite reneweable energy projects. For example, electricity-generating windmills kill millions of birds and bats. If these animals have the “inalienable right to exist, flourish, regenerate, and evolve,” and if anyone can sue to enforce the rights of nature as nature-rights laws tend to provide, then lawsuits to shut down the windmills for violating birds’ rights is only a matter of time.

Seattle City Light is now under that very threat because of the electricity-generating dams it operates. Only instead of birds suing, it is fish — salmon to be specific. In a case brought by Native Americans, a court is being asked to declare that the rights of the fish are being violated under a nature rights legal theory. From the KUOW story:

Salmon can’t go to court, but the Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe says the fish at the heart of its and other Northwest tribal cultures should have legal rights.

The tribe has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Tsuladxʷ in Sauk-Suiattle Tribal Court to assert those rights in the tribe’s traditional territory in Washington’s North Cascades. “These rights include, but are not limited to, the right to pure water and freshwater habitat; the right to a healthy climate system and a natural environment free from human-caused global warming impacts and emissions,” the suit states.

“Not just to declare that they have rights, but that also you and I have a duty to protect those rights,” said Jack Fiander, Sauk-Suiattle tribal counsel. “We’re sort of like their trustee and they’re our minors.”

The suit accuses Seattle City Light of violating the salmon’s and the tribe’s rights by operating three dams on the Skagit River with no way for fish to get past them.

About one-fifth of Seattle’s power comes from these dams, which don’t produce emissions.

“But Wesley,” you say, “the fish’s rights can be protected by building a salmon ladder or some such thing, without taking down the dam.”

Maybe. But many in the nature rights movement would say that the dams violate the rights of the river to flow freely. Indeed, several rivers in the world already have rights and there is an attempt in Florida to grant such rights to “water” in the state Constitution. In such a topsy-turvy world, the dams would have to come down altogether for violating the river’s rights.

When we give up human exceptionalism, we go a bit mad and soon are eating our own tails. The green movement — which thinks it is attacking capitalism and fighting global warming — will find that out sooner rather than later if they succeed in granting rights to the natural world and its various elements.

Politics & Policy

Glenn Youngkin’s Excellent Inaugural Address

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Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin speaks during his election-night party in Chantilly, Va., November 3, 2021. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)

Republican Glenn Youngkin was sworn in today as the 73rd governor of Virginia, joined by incoming lieutenant governor Winsome Sears and incoming attorney general Jason Miyares, both Republicans. Youngkin defeated Democratic former governor Terry McAuliffe by about two points last November, a major upset.

Youngkin’s inaugural address hit all the right notes. It was primarily unifying, focusing on the history of Virginia, lamenting the suffering caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and praising Virginians for their heroism. He also emphasized that Virginia just elected “the most diverse leadership in commonwealth history, sending a message that Virginia is big enough for the hopes and dreams of a diverse people.”

Youngkin affirmed that the “spirit of Virginia is not about government deciding for us what is best for us” and affirmed the goodness of the Founding, calling America “the most exceptional nation the world has ever known . . . a country birthed on the fundamental notion of freedom.”

He didn’t shy away from hitting several policy issues that distinguished his incoming administration from the policies of the previous governor, Democrat Ralph Northam, and from McAuliffe’s campaign promises.

“We know that when our children don’t go to school it harms their learning and development, so let me be clear: We must keep our children in school five days a week,” he said. He also emphasized an issue that he capitalized on in the close of the campaign: parents’ rights.

“Parents should have a say in what is taught in school, because in Virginia, parents have a fundamental right to make decisions with regards to their child’s upbringing, education and care,” he said. “To parents I say we respect you. And we will empower you in the education of your children.”

Youngkin pledged to address the rising cost of living, promising to suspend for a year the tax increase on gas and eliminate the grocery tax altogether, as well as “double the standard deduction on income taxes, rein in skyrocketing property taxes, provide the largest tax rebate in Virginia’s history, and cut taxes on our military veterans’ retirement benefits.” His administration’s goal is to create 400,000 jobs and 10,000 new startups during his time in office.

He also promised to protect qualified immunity and “fully fund” law enforcement, including higher salaries and better training and equipment, as well as invest in community-policing programs. “Like so many, I’m troubled by the recent attacks on our police,” Youngkin said. “The vast, vast majority of these heroes perform an incredibly challenging and dangerous job with extraordinary professionalism.”

As a Virginia resident, I was overjoyed to see Youngkin defeat McAuliffe, and I’m encouraged by the tenor he took in his remarks today.

Politics & Policy

Another Reason to Stop Calling Them ‘Liberals’

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People line up for a COVID-19 test in New York City, January 4, 2022. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

The Washington Examiner reports on a Rasmussen poll on attitudes toward governmental Covid policies. Not surprisingly, it found hefty percentages of Democrats in favor of harsh, repressive actions against Americans who disagree with them on Covid.  Among Democrats, 55 percent approve of fines for those who refuse vaccination (but also 19 percent of Republicans). Should the government take children away from parents who won’t get vaccinated? Yes, said 29 percent of Democrats. What about people who challenge government Covid policies on social media? They should be fined and/or imprisoned, say 48 percent of Democrats.

A “live and let live” philosophy used to prevail in this country, but that has largely been replaced with a statist ethos — “obey or else.”

(Hat tip: Todd Zywicki)

Politics & Policy

An Unintentional Politico Love Note to Ron DeSantis

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Then-Republican candidate for Florida governor Ron DeSantis holds a rally in Orlando, Fla., November 5, 2018. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

Gary Fineout of Politico tries his best to make Ron DeSantis sound scary, but ends up just illustrating how dramatically his leadership differs from that of Joe Biden, who has such a weak grip on his own Congressional caucus that he was reduced this week to intemperately comparing them to Jefferson Davis, Bull Connor, and George Wallace, and then pretending he didn’t mean to. The Florida governor, by contrast:

Gov. Ron DeSantis has become arguably the most powerful governor in Florida’s history…With one year left in his first term in office, DeSantis’ consolidation of power has become clear: Democrats, who are in the minority, are unable to stop him. And Republicans in the Florida Legislature are enthusiastically carrying out his wishes or are unwilling to buck him. “He’s become the 1,100-pound gorilla in state government,” said Tom Lee, a Republican and former Senate president who dealt with four different governors during the 18 years he was in the Legislature. Lee’s wife is Secretary of State Laurel Lee, a DeSantis appointee. “Gov. DeSantis is extremely popular relative to most of his predecessors. With that goes a tremendous amount of power.” One current Republican legislator granted anonymity to speak about the governor offered a more blunt assessment: “They are not going to embarrass Ron DeSantis. Ron DeSantis is essentially the speaker of the House, the president of the Senate and the chief justice of the Supreme Court right now.”…

Some longtime Capitol veterans and insiders say that many GOP legislators have little inclination to resist or cross DeSantis because he will cut off communication. “There are no second chances,” said one former legislator, who was granted anonymity to speak freely about the governor. “It’s well known you can’t go against him. If you cross him once, you’re dead.”

Even Democrats are reduced to complaining that DeSantis gets his way because…the voters like him.

State Rep. Anna Eskamani, a Democrat from Orlando, said DeSantis is too popular with rank-and-file Republican voters for Republican legislators to challenge his actions. “In addition to his veto pen, Republican lawmakers see him as appealing to their base, so if they question him they’re questioning the base which would hurt them on the campaign trail,” Eskamani said. “So not only do they consent to his extreme agenda but some try to appeal to it by filing their own bills grounded in the culture wars.”

History

The Last King of America: Andrew Roberts on King George III

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Detail of King George III in Coronation Robes, by Allan Ramsay (1713–1784) (Wikimedia/Public Domain)

In his long and distinguished career, British historian Andrew Roberts has produced world-class biographies of Winston Churchill and Napoleon, several histories of World War II and the men who led the countries who fought that war, and other great conflicts in world history. Roberts’s new book is The Last King of America: The Misunderstood Reign of George III, a biography of the monarch who led England during the American Revolution and who has been made into something of a caricature by Americans, most recently by his portrayal in the musical Hamilton as a preening, stuck-up (but funny) king of England. In this interview and in his book, Roberts goes to great lengths to deconstruct that distortion and, in the process, give us an extremely nuanced and detailed portrait of the man who created the conditions for America’s independence. Roberts also explains in great detail the dynamics between the British parliament and the nascent American government, including a fascinating account of the writing of and subsequent British reaction to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

Recorded on December 3, 2021

Music

A Classical-Music Philistine Experiences Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle for the First Time

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From Wagner’s Ring des Nibelungen (Wikipedia )

The New Year’s resolution is a capricious thing, often arbitrarily made, haltingly followed, and quickly abandoned. Perhaps that will be the case for my New Year’s resolution to increase my exposure to and knowledge of classical music, which I know embarrassingly little about. I have set about remedying this deficiency in classic amateur fashion: i.e., haphazardly, guided by what little knowledge I do have. Which is why, not long into my resolution, I decided to jump into the deep end and listen to all of Richard Wagner’s opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen.

Yes, that’s right: Over the past few days, I attempted to absorb the entirety of the epic operas the famed 19th-century German composer labored for 26 years to complete. The version available on Spotify, performed by the Berlin Philharmonic and conducted by Herbert von Karajan, runs about eleven hours long. I listened to it fully aware that operas are typically not meant simply to be listened to; that this one, in particular, demands to be experienced as a “total work of art”; and that, every year, people fall over themselves to do so at the Bayreuth Festival in Germany. Add to the deficiency of my listening that I do not know German, and so even reading a summary of the story didn’t help me much (broadly speaking, it’s about an intergenerational struggle over a powerful Ring — but not that one).

Ergo, much of my listening experience was just sort of letting the impressive array of instrumentation wash over me while some Germanic babbling occasionally interrupted. People who actually know what they’re talking about are probably having heart attacks reading this right now, so my advance apologies to them. And yet, even so stunted a musical mind as my own was still capable of appreciating the work. This was easiest when a famous individual composition made its glorious appearance, such as the “Ride of the Valkyries” (famously used in Apocalypse Now, and elsewhere), or “Siegfried’s Funeral March” (which bookends John Boorman’s Excalibur).

These were not the only parts of what I listened to that I enjoyed, however; despite my not fully grasping their import, many others stirred up sentiments in me that I simply do not encounter in popular music (though progressive rock gets close). I also noticed how these compositions and others are teased in leitmotif form before they make their full debuts, and then referred back to after, throughout the entirety of the work as a whole. The anticipation and recursion were both very rewarding.

And they served to demonstrate how influential Wagner has been in music. Again, stunted mind here, so I am most equipped to recognize this in terms of film scores. Many of the best scores with which I am familiar seem strikingly Wagnerian in their structure and intent. Indeed, Wagner’s own work here seems like a score to a film that does not exist (and that would of course be prohibitively long if it did). So give him credit for that.

I was probably foolish, in neophyte fashion, to dive headfirst into Wagner. But I don’t regret doing it anyway. I will now likely proceed along my resolution in a more systematic fashion, following advice offered to me from someone at National Review who understands this world much better than I.

U.S.

Thieves Steal Directly from Freight Trains in California

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Package debris alongside a train track in Los Angeles, Calif. (via Twitter/@johnschreiber)

The CBS affiliate in Los Angeles has a story about thieves stealing goods directly from stopped trains. The pictures are jarring, and the video segment is worth watching in full (it’s less than three minutes long).

Here’s a brief video from CBSLA photojournalist John Schreiber:

The tracks are owned by Union Pacific. The CBSLA report says:

Sources told CBSLA that the locks Union Pacific uses are easy to cut, and officials with the Los Angeles Police Department said they don’t respond to reports of a train robbery unless Union Pacific asks them for help, which they said is rare.

Union Pacific has its own police force, and it told CBSLA that it would increase patrols and use technology to help crack down on the thefts.

These thefts are ongoing, and they have been happening for over a month. According to the report:

While CBSLA was on the scene with cameras, one person was seen running off with a container used to hold smaller packages, and a Union Pacific officer was spotted chasing after two other people who appeared to be rifling through packages.

CBSLA also obtained video of University of Southern California Campus Police arresting a suspected thief last month. According to officers, the suspect’s bag was filled with stolen goods taken from the train tracks.

A source with knowledge of the issue told CBSLA that Union Pacific cleaned up this area of tracks three months ago, and again only about 30 days ago, though the area is already littered with new discarded boxes.

As conservatives, it’s tempting to say, “Told you so.” California progressives have been soft on crime, and they’re reaping what they have sown. But 40 percent of American imports come through the Los Angeles port complex. This episode illustrates one way that the entire country suffers from the breakdown of the rule of law in California. It’s in all of our best interest that California be better governed, and conservatives shouldn’t give up hope on restoring some sanity there.

World

Yes, It Sure Looks Like Vladimir Putin Is Calling Biden’s Bluff

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu visit the Mulino training ground to observe the military exercises Zapad-2021 staged by the armed forces of Russia and Belarus in Nizhny Novgorod Region, Russia, September 13, 2021. (Sputnik/Sergei Savostyanov/Pool via Reuters)

I don’t agree with everything Damon Linker writes over at The Week about the growing conflict between the U.S. and its NATO allies against Russia regarding Ukraine, but the general gist seems accurate, and it is a point that didn’t get enough emphasis in today’s Morning Jolt discussing President Biden’s blundering first year:

How did we get here, seemingly on track toward either direct military confrontation with a nuclear-armed state nearly 5,000 miles from American shores, or poised to back down and retreat in the face of a frontal challenge to a military alliance led by the United States?

The answer is that we got here by bluffing — and the evident decision of Russian President Vladimir Putin to call our bluff.

Linker contends, with good reason, that the U.S. sent signals that it and NATO were willing to fight – or at minimum, use every policy tool short of military action – to ensure the continued territorial integrity of Ukraine. The U.S. claimed this was our stance, even after Russia rolled into Crimea. Vladimir Putin doesn’t believe that the U.S. and its allies are willing to do anything he’s not willing to endure. He certainly doesn’t act like a man who’s worried about another round of sanctions.

Biden seemed to think he could restore and strengthen America’s alliances just by showing up, giving a few speeches, and not being Donald Trump. But our European allies don’t seem nearly as interested in standing up to authoritarians, and European leaders aren’t so eager to cut business ties with Russia. The way Biden handled the withdrawal from Afghanistan didn’t reassure our allies, and the Biden administration has made its share of avoidable diplomatic blunders like the submarine deal that blindsided France.

Restoring American leadership” always sounds so easy when you’re on the campaign trail. Leadership is always a lot harder once you’re actually in office.

Linker is right that a Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine, and a weak response from the U.S. and its allies, would not “destroy NATO altogether.” But it would raise serious questions about just what the point of NATO is. No, NATO would not have failed to come to the aid of a member nation; it will have just offered a half-hearted, minimally-effective response to a Russian invasion of a country that applied for NATO membership in 2008, after NATO had declared its “support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine” and “we reiterate the decision made at the 2008 Bucharest Summit that Ukraine will become a member of the Alliance with the Membership Action Plan (MAP) as an integral part of the process; we reaffirm all elements of that decision, as well as subsequent decisions, including that each partner will be judged on its own merits.  We stand firm in our support for Ukraine’s right to decide its own future and foreign policy course free from outside interference.”

In other words, if Russian troops roll into Ukraine, and the response from the U.S. and its allies is not swift and punishing, Putin will demonstrate that that NATO doesn’t really mean what it says. Sure, America’s foreign policymakers could and should bluff less. But another alternative is to mean what we say.

White House

Kamala Harris’s Address to the Nation on the Way Forward about the Things

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Vice-President Kamala Harris speaks to American and French reporters during a press conference at the InterContinental Le Grande Hotel in Paris, France, November 12, 2021. (Sarahbeth Maney/Pool via Reuters)

Vice President Harris, on the heels of her Today interview, addressed the nation about the administration’s Covid-19 strategy. The following is a rush transcript:

My fellow Americans,

Today is a day, the dawning of a day, and the time is now.

Many have approached me, often in the produce sections of this great country, and they say to me, “Momala, we need to do something about this Omicron.” Momala, that’s a joke I have with people, and you — we need to be serious now, okay?

Now, I’m not here to talk about which virus is right and which virus is wrong. But I have been tasked by this president — our president, understand? — to have a conversation. A conversation, about Omicron. And I was ready, after declaring victory at the border, to lead that conversation.

And so today, I am called upon to “defeat coronavirus, and take my time.” His words.

Make no mistake, that is exactly what I intend to do.

I want to start by reading something that was retweeted by Ron Klain. It was sent by a non-binary exchange student from Hawaii with hearing difficulties whose only access to a phone came through Lifeline. Even against these challenges, this individual managed to post in perfect English: “Liberate us.”

How profound. How extraordinary. It reminds me dearly of the time I said “Fweedom.”

Liberation. Isn’t that what we all need? So America, I’m going to need you to listen. Because this is a surge, okay? And for those who want to tap on the brakes, ease off the gas, to somehow do less than we’re all committed to doing, together, forever, as one single body of humanity, for the good of the . . . all of us, I just think: Joe Biden did not raise us a quitter. And for that, I am so proud. This virus is going to require action. And not just action, but reaction, and satisfaction, the satisfaction we all get from waking up every day, putting on our shoes, having a bowl of oatmeal, walking out the door, and having a — I mean, a real, genuine: Con. Ver. Sa. Tion. And let’s not forget, we have the tests. I don’t know how many, or where they’re from or where they’re going, but they’re going somewhere, possibly Saint Cloud, and that is all that matters. Right? But we also need to talk about the things.

And that is what I really wanted to talk about today, and I’m glad you brought it up.

We have the things — and we do have them, don’t let anybody tell you we don’t — and we can use the things as the tools to hammer the nails of this virus back, back into the ground where it came from. And we know where this came from, don’t we? That’s right: Florida, where it leaked out of a Benihana. In Tampa. Probably. I will have to check my notes. If only we had had the resolve then to do what has to be done now, with the things.

And so we need to keep doing that, those things, every single day and — America, I want to tell you a story.

It’s a story about a little girl, a little girl who was worried about a country that was preparing to let its guard down. And that little girl, she wanted to build back better-er, to ensure that every classroom has a sneeze guard, that every household has a compact quarantine cell, that every mask has a microphone and a small speaker so we can put an end to muffling, that we as a society have the digital infrastructure — which, by the way, we’re going to need a lot more money — to transmit real-time CDC guidance directly to your smart glasses. That is how we declare victory, America.

And that little girl? I think her name was Susan. I can’t remember, because my aides were supposed to send me an email. Actually, they did, but it should have been opened for me, and it wasn’t.

And so my staff and I, we’re going to have to have a conversation.

Good night. And let’s go Branson.

White House

If Biden Backtracked Any Faster from Tuesday’s Speech, He’d Be Moonwalking

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President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the grounds of Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Ga., January 11, 2022. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

If you want a barometer of how well Biden’s disastrously ill-considered speech in Georgia on Tuesday went over, look at how the White House is now spinning it:

President Joe Biden was not making a “human” comparison between opponents of pending voting rights bills and historical racists and segregationists in his address in Atlanta this week, the White House says. In his speech calling for new voter protections, Biden asked whether lawmakers wanted “to be the side of Dr. King or George Wallace,” “John Lewis or Bull Connor” or “Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis.” The comparison generated some blowback afterward, but press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden was not drawing a personal link between current lawmakers and notorious southern segregationists and the president of the Confederacy. “I think everybody listening to that speech who’s speaking on the level, as my mother would say, would note that he was not comparing them as humans, he was comparing the choice to those figures in history and where they’re going to position themselves as they determine whether they’re going to support the fundamental right to vote or not,” she said Friday.

Maybe my favorite criticism came from Nancy Pelosi, who may be 81 years old, but at least is self-aware enough — probably from working with a lot of twentysomething House staffers — to realize that some of Biden’s references may also have gone over the heads of people under 60: “Nobody knows who Bull Connor is. . . . You know, if we’re making the case to say, ‘We’re going to be with Martin Luther King or Bull Connor’ — who’s that?” Frankly, by 2024, the median Democratic voter may be someone who doesn’t know who George Wallace was, or for that matter, who John Lewis — the namesake of one of their bills — was.