Politics & Policy

The Democrats’ Problem in One Paragraph

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Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) speaks before signing legislation passed by the House during an enrollment ceremony to memorialize the people killed in the Pulse Nightclub shooting in 2016 in Orlando, Fla., on Capitol Hill, June 16, 2021. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

The New York Times reports that:

Ms. Sinema of Arizona has privately told colleagues she will not accept any corporate or income tax rate increases. But recent discussions by Senate Democrats about adding a carbon tax to the bill to both combat climate change and help replace that revenue have run up against concerns raised by three House Democrats from Texas. In a letter to Ms. Sinema and Mr. Manchin, they expressed their opposition to several provisions in the bill aimed at combating climate change, and also came out against increasing a minimum tax on overseas income from U.S. companies above where it was set in 2017.

The Democrats have other challenges, of course. But this one is neatly indicative of their problem overall. They can’t lose a single vote in the Senate; they can’t lose more than three votes in the House; and yet there exist profound disagreements as to what the party should do — and how. In normal circumstances, this would lead to the swift realization that radical change should be off the table. But these are not normal times, alas.

Sports

In Defense of Sports

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Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker (9) celebrates after his game winning 66-yard field against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field, in Detroit, Mich., September 26, 2021. It was the longest kick in NFL history. (Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports)

Pedro Gonzalez has written an article for the Spectator that makes some good points about obesity and pornography in America today, but errs by excessively condemning sports. Gonzalez’s article begins by taking on the corrosive social and cultural effects of Internet pornography — an issue that I wholeheartedly agree is a serious problem, as I have written on multiple occasions. But then, Gonzalez moves on to sports: “As with watching porn, there is evidence that the more one watches sports, the more physically impotent one becomes,” he writes. “The physical consequences of watching sports, like those of porn consumption, ultimately make men distracted, weaker, fatter, and less virile.” 

It is true, as Gonzalez points out, that Americans who watch lots of sports are exposed to nonstop messaging about unhealthy food and drink. And there are studies purporting to show that “watching sports on TV [is] associated with a higher risk of obesity.” Furthermore, “the moral, civic, and spiritual parallels are even clearer and more disturbing,” he writes. As with so much of modern American life, athletic leagues and sports programs have been co-opted by the Left: The alliance between most of the name-brand professional sports leagues and the radicalism of last summer’s Black Lives Matter movement was no secret. Why should we be giving our time and money to people who hate us? “To watch sports today is to subsidize the enemies of decency and virtue, all the while allowing ourselves to physically and morally wither,” Gonzalez argues.

There’s something to this critique of the direction that America’s professional athletic leagues have gone in recent years. But the solution to this problem is not to abandon the long, proud tradition of the nation’s sports culture altogether. Sports are, and almost always have been, a foundational part of American identity. Professional baseball cards, Babe Ruth, Cracker Jack; Roger Staubach’s game-winning Hail Mary pass in a 1975 NFL playoff game; a flu-ridden Michael Jordan’s 38-point win in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA finals — these cultural icons, and the mythos that grows up around them, are woven into the fabric of our national story. There is also a distinctly ancient character to the legends we tell about the great moments in American sporting history, prizing great feats of masculine virtu as things to be glorified, honored, and striven toward. To make that point is not to be naïve about the recent corruption of our sports culture at the hands of the woke activists who have commandeered so many of our institutions — it’s simply to say that there’s still something there worth fighting for.

In fact, sports may just be one of the most potent potential sources of American renewal available to the Right: For all of the flaws with the leadership of organizations such as the NFL, the NBA, and the MLB, the communities and ways of life that have grown up around these institutions provide one of the last surviving forums for genuine male bonding and friendship. Cigar parlors are largely gone; barber shops are not what they used to be. But Saturday football is still a place where men can be men together, one of the few intact all-male spaces left in the public square.

Any serious plan to recover a healthy American masculinity cannot neglect these spaces. To tear them down rather than attempt to recover them is to make the perfect the enemy of the good.

Economy & Business

Dems: Tax Cuts ‘Cost’ Us, but a $3.5 Trillion Bill Is Free

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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer attends a news conference with mothers helped by Child Tax Credit payments at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., July 20, 2021. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)

On Friday, Phil Klein did an excellent job debunking Joe Biden’s contention that a $3.5 trillion welfare-state expansion bill will “cost nothing.” Over the weekend, this nonsensical characterization of the widest-ranging and most expensive spending bill in American history metastasized among the liberal punditocracy.

Liberal pundits contend that the $3.5 trillion welfare-state expansion “costs perhaps zero” because it is “paid for.” Even if we concede that the reconciliation bill contains the kind of tax hikes that can offset short-term outlays, the expenditure does not change. Simply because you can afford a car (or in this case, your parents can afford to buy you one) doesn’t mean the car doesn’t cost anything. Helpful liberals tried to frame the difference in “gross” and “net” costs. But every penny of the bill is money taken from someone, either today or tomorrow — usually from a more useful part of the economy. (Or, likely, it will be lots more debt spending. That isn’t “zero,” either, even if our political parties act like it.)

Of course, the bill also creates new baseline spending in perpetuity. There is not a single welfare-state expansion in the past century that did not undergo mission creep and near-constant growth, and none came in anywhere close to its estimate costs. Medicare was famously projected to spend $9 billion on Part A by 1990 but ended up with a $67 billion price tag.

One of the most popular criticisms of GOP tax cuts is that they “costs” us. The notion that allowing Americans to keep more of their own earnings is tantamount to government “giving” them something is specious. Tax rates were not handed to us on stone tablets, they were cooked up by legislators. The state has no claim to all your income, so it doesn’t let you “keep” anything. It can only take. So, tax cuts don’t cost you, especially when taxation is no longer used merely as a tool for to raising revenue but as means of redistribution.

Politics & Policy

Florida’s ‘Fully Vaccinated’ Rate Is the Same as Other Anti-Vax, Science-Hating States Delaware, Hawaii, and Pennsylvania

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Syringes of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine at a pop-up community vaccination center in Valley Stream, N.Y., February 23, 2021. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

I had a look at the New York Times’s COVID-19 vaccination tracker this morning, and boy was it alarming to see how far Florida has fallen behind under that noted anti-vaccination extremist, Ron DeSantis.

Oh, wait. No, it wasn’t.

Per the Times, Florida is 17th among all states in having delivered at least one dose of the vaccine to its citizenry; it is tied for 20th among all states in its fully vaccinated rate — it has the same percentage here as anti-vax hothouses such as Delaware, Hawaii, and Pennsylvania, and is just two percentage points behind California; and, having vaccinated 96 percent of its senior population, it is thirteenth overall in the 65+ category — ahead of a whole bunch of mouth-foaming, anti-science, slacker-jurisdictions such as Illinois, New Jersey, Virginia, Washington, Oregon, Michigan, Minnesota, Colorado, and Washington, D.C.

As ever, those who are telling you that they understand the patterns here are doing nothing more than selling political snake oil. Ignore them.

White House

Job Alert: National Review Is Seeking a White House Correspondent

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The White House in Washington, D.C., August 5, 2021 (Brent Buterbaugh/National Review)

We have just posted an ad for a White House correspondent. Some details:

National Review is looking for an energetic writer with a strong background in reporting and an analytic mind to serve in a newly created position aimed at holding the executive branch accountable. The ideal candidate should be able to deliver a regular mix of news and reported commentary that will break free of the normal constraints of Washington “access journalism.” Ultimately, this journalist will provide readers with an honest account of what is actually happening in the White House and within the broader administration, and produce coverage that others are forced to follow.

To be successful, the correspondent will have to be able to write both news and analysis, and to do so at varying lengths, and within a range of deadlines; to find creative ways to produce scoops in one of the most competitive beats in journalism; and to be able to shift gears between filing shorter posts on breaking news and writing broader pieces that could appear either online or in print.

Applicants should have a strong grasp of National Review’s mission, legacy, values, and an understanding of its readership.

More details on the position and instructions on how to apply, here.

Education

Is North Carolina State in Good Hands?

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(dejankrsmanovic/Getty Images)

Today, the Martin Center runs an interview our Shannon Watkins did with the chancellor of North Carolina State University, Randy Woodson.

Woodson came to NC State from Purdue twelve years ago, and the university has avoided the kinds of scandals that have plagued many other large universities. His academic background is in plant molecular biology.

Noting that NC State was a land-grant university, Woodson explains the school’s mission: “We were founded with a specific mission of meeting the practical needs of the country, in fields like agriculture and engineering. In addition to the broader mission of higher education, NC State has always been a university about the needs of the state of North Carolina, particularly as it relates to those practical and applied disciplines like engineering, textiles, and agriculture, but underpinned with a strong liberal arts education.”

NC State has received a “green light” rating with regard to free speech from FIRE, meaning that it has no policies that adversely affect the freedom of students and faculty members to express their views. The school has had speakers from all over the political spectrum on campus, without any serious problems. So, Shannon Watkins asked, why hasn’t the university adopted the Chicago Principles? Woodson’s reply was that he “wasn’t certain where we stand” on that. My suspicion is that there are faculty members (and perhaps administrators) who think that those go “too far” in protecting free speech and punishing disruptions.

When Watkins inquired about his background and preparation to be a university leader, Woodson responded, “If you ask a faculty member what they want in a leader, they, more often than not, will say someone that’s had to be successful doing what they do: teaching, research, and carrying out the service that university faculty are expected to do. And so I think the credibility [of] having been a professor and [of] having been a successful scientist in a university setting, may have enabled me to be a chancellor. But really, most of the skills that I use every day as a chancellor are things that I learned growing up in a wonderful household with great parents that helped me learn how to treat other people.”

Books

Check Out The Hidden Nazi

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If you’re a history buff, you can’t go wrong with my buddy Dean Reuter’s The Hidden Nazi: The Untold Story of America’s Deal with the Devil, which is being published in paperback this week after its initial success in 2019.

Many of us in NR-world know Dean as the senior VP and general counsel of the Federalist Society, and as the editor of a couple of excellent volumes on law and national security (including one on counterterrorism edited with our friend John Yoo, to which I contributed a few years back). But Dean is also a fabulous writer in his own right, and a meticulous researcher.

In The Hidden Nazi, he joined forces with two other tireless researchers — Colm Lowery and Keith Chester — to unearth the shocking story of Nazi general Hans Kammler, top-tier member of Hitler’s Wehrmacht who was singularly responsible for some of the worst monstrousness of the concentration-camp system.

Kammler’s position in the inner sanctum also made him responsible for the regime’s programs on rockets and secret weapons, which were among the most advanced of the era and thus a coveted prize of Russian and Western intelligence agencies. Kammler became the Nazi that time forgot because of his “suicide” at the war’s end. But there was no suicide — certainly not as related. As the authors compellingly show, Kammler was in American custody postwar, well after he’d supposedly taken his own life.

With the pace and suspense of great historical fiction — except here, it is all too real — Reuter & Co. piece together the story of what happened to Kammler and why. Like most stories the government laboriously conceals beneath mountains of paper and trails of misdirection, it is a story that is vital to tell — pregnant with lessons of lost history and warnings about official mischief that are, to say the least, highly relevant today.

Congratulations to Dean and his co-authors on the release of the paperback. Do yourself a favor and pick it up!

Health Care

New York Governor to Vaccinated: You’re the Smart Ones Who Are Listening to God

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New York Governor Kathy Hochul along with former New York City Mayor and Chairman of the 9/11 Memorial & Museum Michael Bloomberg speak to the press in New York, N.Y., September 8, 2021. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

This week, the rubber meets the road on New York state’s plan to fire medical and nursing home workers who refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Upstate Medical University employees who cannot prove by 5 p.m. Monday that they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19 won’t be allowed to work Tuesday and will likely be suspended without pay.

That is the warning Syracuse’s largest hospital sent out Friday in an email to employees who have not yet turned in paperwork verifying they’ve received the shot.

…Already, Van Duyn nursing home — the county’s second-largest long-term care facility — has halted new admissions as a contingency against the deadline, a spokesperson confirmed Friday.

In New York, workers who are terminated because of refusal to be vaccinated are not eligible for unemployment insurance without a doctor-approved request for medical accommodation.

When asked whether vaccine mandates are worthwhile if they exacerbate the pressure on hospitals they were supposed to relieve, mandate supporters contend the severe consequences and dismissal of unvaccinated employees are worth it in the end, even if they create short-term staffing problems. The justification is that unvaccinated medical and nursing home staff represent a danger to patients and residents. But those who are fully vaccinated can still catch the virus and can still transmit the virus, although they do so less intensely than the unvaccinated.

In Pennsylvania, a hospital chain decided natural immunity from past infection is as good as immunity acquired from vaccination, and is allowing staff who already had COVID-19 defer their shots for up to 12 months from the date tested positive.

The new governor of New York, Kathy Hochul, said Friday she is prepared to sign an executive order if necessary to declare a state of emergency to mitigate staffing shortages. Options include deploying the National Guard, partnering with the federal government, and asking the federal government to expedite visa requests for medical professionals.

According to the governor’s office, as of September 22, 84 percent of all hospital employees in New York state were fully vaccinated. As of September 23, 81 percent of staff at all adult care facilities and 77 percent of all staff at nursing home facilities in New York State were fully vaccinated.

On Sunday Hochul attended mass at the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn and addressed the congregation.

“I prayed a lot to God during this time and you know what – God did answer our prayers,” Hochul said. “He made the smartest men and women, the scientists, the doctors, the researchers – he made them come up with a vaccine. That is from God to us and we must say, thank you, God. Thank you.  And I wear my ‘vaccinated’ necklace all the time to say I’m vaccinated. All of you, yes, I know you’re vaccinated, you’re the smart ones, but you know there’s people out there who aren’t listening to God and what God wants. You know who they are.”

At this hour, despite the governor declaring that everyone in the state must listen to God and do as God wants, there is no complaint from Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

U.S.

Suggested Viewing for General Milley

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Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Army General Mark Milley at a news briefing at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va. August 18, 2021 (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

Here’s having a crack at offering an unsolicited recreational suggestion for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, because it proves timely and irresistible: On Tuesday, September 28, at 3:45 p.m. Eastern Time, the good folks at Turner Classic Movies will broadcast the highly regarded 1964 movie, Seven Days in May, its plot centering on a fictional Joint Chiefs boss, played here as a plotting, far-right egomaniac and quite well by Burt Lancaster, who schemes with military and big-tech higher-ups to oust the Constitution-loving liberal president, played quite well, also, by Fredric March.

By lore, director John Frankenheimer was encouraged by President John Kennedy to turn the 1962 novel (of the same name) by Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey – who used General Curtis LeMay as a model for the fictional General James Mattoon Scott – into the cautionary cinematic tale.

Admittedly, there’s a good chance that General Milley may have already seen it, back before he started to spend his time reading books to bone up on the realities of white rage. If so, let the suggestion apply to all: It’s a well-made and entertaining movie, and a reminder of that long-ago time when liberals strutted as the protectors of America’s founding documents. Hey, here’s the trailer:

Seven Days in May (1964) trailer, via YouTube

Law & the Courts

A Few Bad Apples in Uniform

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New York Police Department officers get ready to control demonstrators at a protest against government policies and supporting the Black Lives Matter movement in New York, September 7, 2020. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

When I write about police corruption, as I did today, I reliably hear complaints that I am making too much out of a “few bad apples.”

Well.

San Diego, March 2021

Former San Diego County Sheriff’s Captain Marco Garmo was sentenced to two years in prison today for years of unlawful firearms transactions and for an array of corrupt conduct relating to unlicensed marijuana dispensaries operating in his former jurisdiction.

In pronouncing sentence, U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel said that Garmo’s conduct demonstrated arrogance reaching a level where Garmo was “almost becoming a mob boss of sorts” in picking winners and losers and dispensing unlawful favors to friends and family.

New York, May 2021

The FBI and NYPD arrested two current police officers and one retired officer in connection with purported corruption schemes involving everything from tow trucks to heroin trafficking.

One of the cops, the feds allege, even bragged to others about how much crime he had committed while on the job, at times using racist language.

Detroit, August 2021

Subsequently, the drug trafficker offered Officer Mosley a cash bribe of $15,000 in exchange for not pursuing criminal charges based on the three-kilogram drug seizure. Officer Mosley agreed to the deal. On May 2, 2019, Officer Mosley collected $10,000 in cash left for him by the drug dealer in the backyard of an abandoned house in Detroit. On May 23, 2019, Officer Mosley accepted another $5,000 in cash left for him by the drug trafficker at the same abandoned house. In exchange, Officer Mosley gave the drug trafficker the original copy of his confession.

New Jersey, February 2021

One by one, in a series of court confessions that stretched out over 10 months, five rogue Paterson cops admitted they were part of a conspiracy involving illegal traffic stops, shakedown robberies and assaults on civilians.

Massachusetts, October 2019

Our team showed how the department exceeds budgetary limits by millions of dollars buying weapons, has zero oversight of purchases, and in some cases procures goods from businesses that recently ran afoul of the law and were investigated and fined by Mass Attorney General Maura Healey. In February, we also identified questionable state police contracts with the Arizona-based Taser International for electronic control weapons and consumables, specifically calling attention to how “Taser paid [a lobbying] firm, Lynch Associates, more than $100,000 for ‘relationship development in the Public Safety sector.’” And how Lynch “also happened to be lobbying for Taser’s biggest Massachusetts client, the state police.”

Those and several other revelations turned up in the federal case brought against former State Police Association of Massachusetts President Dana Pullman and Lynch Associates namesake Anne Lynch in August. Both were arrested at their homes, with shocking subsequent headlines about caviar and campaign contributions, but the allegations of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and obstruction of justice in the Pullman case are just the latest potholes in a marathon of bad behavior. From several dozen troopers facing criminal charges in an expansive payroll fiasco, to drunk-driving drill instructors and other one-offs, the follies continue.

Hawaii, November 2020

A U.S. judge sentenced a former high-ranking Honolulu prosecutor to 13 years in prison Monday and her retired police chief husband to seven years, saying she stole money from her own grandmother and then used his law enforcement power to frame her uncle for a crime he didn’t commit — all to maintain the couple’s lavish lifestyle.

Arizona, September 2021

A police officer in Douglas, Arizona, resigned last year after he was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for allegedly colluding with drug traffickers on the U.S-Mexico border, Phoenix New Times has learned.

Arizona, May 2011

Authorities in Arizona have arrested three employees of a sheriff’s office known for its tough stand on illegal immigration, accusing them of aiding human traffickers and drug smugglers.

Texas, September 2020

A Williamson County grand jury has indicted Sheriff Robert Chody on an evidence tampering charge in the destruction of reality TV show footage that showed deputies chasing and using force on a Black man who died last year.

Alabama, July 2021

Sheriff Mike Blakely was at a casino when he called one of his employees and asked her to send him money from a safe holding cash belonging to inmates in the Limestone County jail in north Alabama, court testimony revealed.

. . . Blakely, a Democrat, is serving his 10th term as the elected sheriff of Limestone, a fast growing county in the Huntsville metro area. He is charged with 11 crimes of theft and abuse of power, including using his position for personal gain by obtaining interest free loans from the inmate money safe.

Etc.

How about them apples?

Health Care

Baby’s Parents Refuse to End Life Support, Lose Custody to State

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A doctor holds a stethoscope in the Intensive Care Unit at the Melun-Senart hospital near Paris, France, October 30, 2020. (Benoit Tessier/Reuters)

Keaton Crull, a three-month-old baby from Indiana being treated in Kentucky, is about to be removed from life support over his parents’ objections. That’s because they no longer have a say. Their parental rights over his medical decisons were stripped–and it looks like that drastic step might have been taken because they refused to give up on him.

Keaton has a serious case of muscular dystrophy and has broken bones from birth that are not healing properly. He is on pain control. The doctors say that Keaton’s health is worsening and he won’t live a year, and so the life support is futile. But according to the parents, doctors previously said he would only live a month. These things can be very uncertain.

Doctors want to remove life support and the parents have no say. From the ABC57 story:

“They took custody of him on… I want to say the 22nd (August),” Kyle says.

According to confidential documents we obtained from a Kentucky Child Protective Services hearing, doctors at Norton claim the Crulls abandoned their son by being “minimally involved,” so the state of Kentucky took custody of Keaton, which gives the hospital the authority to make medical decision instead of the Crulls.

“They expect us to stay there with him 24/7 and we can’t,” Kyle explains. “We have other kids and bills and stuff like that that we have to maintain, so we made a decision, as a family, to go down there on the weekends,” Kyle says.

“I made the hospital aware that I would be working between 5 a.m. and 3 p.m., so I couldn’t take every call that I got, especially being a new employee,” Jennifer says, adding her last job didn’t work out because of Keaton’s constant need for care…

“On the 29th (September), there’s going to be court and, basically, me and my wife have to give a defense of why our son should get this medicine and why we should continue to fight for his life and not give up on him,” Kyle says.

Hard cases make for bad decisions. The question is: Where should the decisional benefit of the doubt be given? I say with family. A few points. Continue reading “Baby’s Parents Refuse to End Life Support, Lose Custody to State”

Film & TV

Why David Lynch Failed to Capture the Greatness of Dune

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Emperor Shaddam IV (José Ferrer, at left) confronts a Guild Navigator early in David Lynch’s 1984 version of Dune. (Movieclips/via YouTube)

In writing about the greatness of Frank Herbert’s 1965 epic sci-fi novel Dune in the latest issue of National Review in advance of the release of Denis Villeneuve’s forthcoming film version, I alluded to “a misbegotten prior adaptation.” By that, I meant director David Lynch’s 1984 attempt to bring Herbert’s vision to screen. Lynch, then fresh off The Elephant Man (and having turned down the opportunity to direct Return of the Jedi), is now probably best known for the exquisite weirdness of his work, particularly as manifested in the TV series Twin Peaks. Yet he largely considers Dune a disaster, a product of his inexperience with large-scale film production and of over-interference by the studio.

Writing for Tor.com, however, Lincoln Michel finds something to admire in Lynch’s Dune: It is quite appropriately weird:

It’s not that the criticisms of the film are all wrong. The awkward pacing, the confusing plot, the big exposition dumps in dialogue. It’s a mess. But it’s a beautiful mess that’s far more memorable than the average aesthetic-free, polished-to-dullness blockbuster SFF films of today. So while we all wait for Denis Villeneuve’s version of Dune—one I have some hopes for, I should say—to be released and replace it in the pop culture consciousness, I want to praise David Lynch’s Dune for keeping science fiction strange.

To say that Lynch made a weird film is like saying water is wet. But put Dune in context. It was released one year after Return of the Jedi, a film more concerned with corporate toy sales than otherworldly visions. Science fiction literature was still full of mind-expanding ideas and boundary pushing concepts of course, but Hollywood was successfully turning the genre into something safe, kid-friendly, and prepackaged for the masses. In this context, Dune was a breath of fresh spice in a mutated human’s space-folding aquarium.

There is something to this, I think. Dune created an immersive world somewhat rooted in our own — all the characters are human after all (well, except the Harkonnens) — yet also wholly distinct from it. At its best, Lynch’s Dune does capture that. Michel is right to identify this scene as one of the best in that movie — even if it also is guilty of a big exposition dump:

My main problem with Lynch’s Dune, aside from the obvious criticisms, is that it doesn’t get the book, especially some of the stuff that makes it weird. As I explained in the magazine, Dune does not depict a simple hero’s journey of Paul Atreides, its main character. It is, rather “a warning about the dangers of false messiahs, of trusting overly in charismatic leaders, and of mixing politics and religion.” Lynch’s Dune does not capture this subtlety. Hence, Paul’s travails in the film are fairly rote and conventional and seem almost superficial, leading inexorably to some triumph that feels relatively unearned and is not presented as somehow marred or malicious. Moreover, Lynch’s Dune ends with a narration stating that Paul

had become the hand of God, fulfilling Fremen prophecy. Where there was war, [he] would now bring peace. Where there was hatred, [he] would bring love. To lead the people to true freedom, and to change the face of Arrakis.

Yes, Paul fulfilled Fremen prophecy . . . because he and his mother, a member of the all-female Bene Gessert religious order of civilization-manipulating psychics, had taken advantage of prophecies “planted” on Arrakis at some prior time. As for bringing peace and love where there was war and hatred . . . immediately after Dune ends, Paul leads the Fremen on a jihad that, by the time of Dune Messiah, the first Dune sequel Frank Herbert authored, has “killed sixty-one billion, sterilized ninety planets, completely de­moralized five hundred others.”

And as for changing the face of Arrakis: This large-scale ecological transformation is something hinted at in Dune, but not meaningfully achieved on the desert world until the reign of his son Leto II, the God Emperor of Dune. And it’s a good thing, too: The sandworms of Dune, whose life cycle produces the spice (drug) mélange on which civilization depends, are fatally allergic to water. But Lynch’s Dune ends with Paul having magically produced rain on Arrakis. This is not in the original text. If it were, all the sandworms would be killed; off-screen in Lynch’s Dune, if it were being semi-faithful and insisted on keeping the rain but insisted on showing the results, you would hear the behemoth moans of the sandworms as they expired.

So while David Lynch’s Dune, despite some of its obvious flaws, does capture some of the essential weirdness of Frank Herbert’s vision, it fails on account of a lack of faithfulness to the text that makes the story less weird than Herbert had made it. Whether Villenueve will succeed where Lynch failed remains to be seen.

PC Culture

The Word ‘Women’ Is Evidently Too Controversial for the Lancet

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The once respected British medical journal the Lancet continues its devolution into another hopeless liberal institution. Now, the word “women” has evidently become too controversial.

National Security & Defense

Republicans Tout ‘a More Conservative Direction’ in Defense-Policy Bill

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The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Barry gets underway at Yokosuka, Japan, to support MALABAR 2021 exercises and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, August 23, 2021. (Mass Communication Specialist Third Class Justin Stack/US Navy)

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) sailed through the House of Representatives last night, but 75 Republicans voted against the annual defense-policy measure. For the most part, they expressed concern that the bill makes women eligible for the draft and expands diversity, equity, and inclusion training in the military.

Nevertheless, the Republican Study Committee (RSC), the largest caucus of House conservatives, sees reason for optimism in what it deems unprecedented policy victories included in the legislation. The group’s members don’t think it’s a perfect bill, but they made the most of what they had — and achieved some tangible results.

Representative Jim Banks, the group’s chairman, told National Review that RSC members were able to get some crucial amendments into the legislation. “This year the RSC has worked to shape the NDAA in a more conservative direction beginning with the House Armed Services Committee process all the way to the floor. I can say that, as a fact, the final product we’re voting on today is a better bill because of Republican Study Committee’s hard-fought efforts to improve it,” he said.

In an internal RSC document obtained by National Review, Banks’s team detailed the measures for which conservatives successfully fought, as well as those that their Democratic counterparts were able to block.

In many cases, Democrats were willing to get onboard with RSC proposals that scrutinize how President Biden’s foreign policy emboldens a number of U.S. adversaries. Those amendments require reports on how Russia benefits from the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, the extent to which U.S. sanctions relief has helped Iran build up its military, and how sanctions relief boosted Syria’s Assad regime and the Taliban.

The Nord Stream 2 provision makes sense in light of the bipartisan outrage at the Biden administration’s willingness to let the project move forward. The RSC reporting proposal complements an amendment put forward by Representatives Michael McCaul and Marcy Kaptur imposes new mandatory sanctions on those involved in constructing the pipeline, and it eliminates a waiver the Biden administration used to shield the Nord Stream 2 corporate entity and its CEO from sanctions.

But other successful RSC measures are a bit more surprising, since they’ll likely make it more difficult for the Biden administration to follow through on its priorities. An amendment by Representative Nicole Malliotakis, for example, would require the administration to compile a report on “all malign operations by Iran conducted on United States soil,” including attempted terrorist attacks, kidnappings, and cyber attacks. As the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Behnam Ben Taleblu put it to me: “It’s imperative that once these operations are known and exposed, the regime is made to pay a price.” That might complicate the Biden administration’s efforts to reenter the Iran nuclear deal.

Unsurprisingly, however, Democrats voted down or blocked a number of other proposals. Measures to potentially designate the Taliban as a state sponsor of terrorism, prohibit the Defense Department from recognizing the Taliban-controlled government for Afghanistan, and block Russia and China from selling the group arms failed.

The RSC document also points out that House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Gregory Meeks blocked a bipartisan amendment to remove an existing waiver that might now allow the Taliban to buy oil from Iran. Meeks’s rationale, according to RSC, is that this would limit a future administration’s ability to provide humanitarian assistance.

As the minority party in Congress, Republicans didn’t get everything they want, but conservatives can take comfort in more than a few of the changes that made it into the bill. RSC staffers are working with the Senate side to preserve these amendments in a markup session that will take place in the coming weeks.

Politics & Policy

Latest Bogus White House Spin: Biden’s $3.5 Trillion Plan Actually Costs Nothing

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President Joe Biden delivers remarks on Afghanistan during a speech in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, D,C., August 31, 2021. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Axios has a report out about how President Biden’s team is finally coming to the realization that with razor thin majorities in Congress, maybe it was a bit of overreach to try to shove a sweeping social agenda into one massive bill and then ram it through on a pure party-line vote. But in the meantime, they are settling on a new bogus spin to sell the $3.5 trillion bill: In reality, it costs nothing.

The report notes, “In branding some Democrats wish had started months ago, White House chief of staff Ron Klain said Sept. 15 at the SALT financial conference in New York: ‘The net cost of Build Back Better is zero.'”  Now, White House spokesman Andrew Bates tells Axios: “The bill’s price tag is $0 because it will be paid for by ending failed, special tax giveaways for the richest taxpayers and big corporations, adding nothing to the debt.”

To start with, there is no evidence that Biden’s plan raises enough money to pay for the spending, because there is no final legislation. So far, Democrats have been talking about a $3.5 trillion spending bill, but the tax hike package approved by the House Ways and Means Committee raised about $2.1 trillion. Democrats are so far away from getting any sort of final bill that there isn’t even anything on the spending side for the CBO to evaluate. Biden’s proposals could cost much more than $3.5 trillion. Remember, for months supporters claimed the $550 billion infrastructure bill was going to be fully paid for, but then the CBO estimated that it actually would add $256 billion to deficits — in other words, about half paid for.  It’s also worth remembering that Democrats have made no commitment to pass legislation that is fully offset. The reconciliation instructions they are operating under allow for any legislation to add $1.75 trillion to the debt.

Let’s for a moment put this aside and assume that Democrats will find enough taxes to raise to offset all of the new spending. It still does not mean legislation is cost free as it will certainly cost money to the individuals and businesses who would have to pay higher taxes. Also, as I wrote in more detail a few months ago, just because the government raises taxes enough to finance new spending, it doesn’t mean that the new spending has no fiscal impact. Any time the government raises taxes to pay for newly-passed spending it taps revenue sources that are no longer available to meet existing obligations. Increasing spending, in every circumstance, increases the burden on government finances.

Some liberals have been complaining for months that when the 2017 Republican tax bill was being described, it was always from the perspective of net cost. But when discussing significant changes to one side of the ledger (in that case, revenue) it makes perfect sense to discuss what the net effects would be. So if Democrats were planning to offset the new $3.5 trillion by cutting $3.5 trillion in spending from elsewhere in the budget, they would have a much better case. But they aren’t, they are talking about imposing higher costs on taxpayers, and saying something is cost free.

The White House formulation — that the tax hikes involve “tax giveaways” — is an effort to make tax cuts and spending into the same thing categorically. But unless we’re talking about actual “giveaways” (such as tax credits that can exceed a person’s actual tax obligations), tax cuts merely allow people to keep more of their earned income. To suggest reducing tax rates amounts to a “giveaway” is a fundamentally authoritarian perspective, that views all money as the property of the federal government by default, with every untaxed dollar treated as a government transfer payment.

The Biden White House spin is a deeply dishonest way of presenting things. It would be like a business spending $1 million to expand, raising prices to pay for the expansion, and claiming that the expansion cost $0.

Politics & Policy

‘Reconciliation Abomination’

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Today on The Editors, Rich, Charlie, and Michael discuss the abysmal infrastructure and reconciliation bills, AOC’s House-floor playacting, and the grossness of the Gabby Petito coverage. Listen below, or follow this podcast on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, or Spotify.

How Should Conservatives Do More Than Conserve?

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The Statue of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., August 5, 2021 (Brent Buterbaugh/National Review)

Bruce Abramson has a column at RealClearPolitics complaining that conservatives should focus less on conserving and resisting change, and more on going on offense to roll things back. As with many such arguments, the devil is in the details, and Abramson offers none. His column is interesting only because it is a generic example of a whole field of writing. Typically, it opens with a canned potshot at Bill Buckley that glosses over the complexity of the man’s approach to different situations over time. Then we get this:

Shouting “Stop!” is only a smart strategy when you’re ahead. It doesn’t help

Politics & Policy

Poll: Americans Still Don’t Understand Roe

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Anti-abortion marchers rally at the Supreme Court during the 46th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., January 18, 2019. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

A Fox News poll out yesterday found that about two-thirds of Americans say they don’t want to see Roe v. Wade overturned, even though respondents were evenly split on whether abortion should be legal — the latest evidence that most Americans don’t understand the legal landscape Roe has created.

The poll surveyed about 1,000 registered voters across the country between September 12 and September 15 and found that 65 percent of voters say Roe should be allowed to stand compared to 28 percent who say it should be overturned.

But when asked whether abortion should be legal, respondents were perfectly split: Forty-nine percent said it should be legal, and 49 percent said it should be illegal. The pro-life position had gained several points since the last time poll Fox News took on this question.

The results indicate yet again that most Americans are entirely unaware of the effect that the Court’s rulings in Roe, companion case Doe v. Bolton, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey had on U.S. abortion policy. Unless and until Roe and subsequent abortion decisions are overturned, abortion simply can’t be made illegal.

Under the Court’s abortion jurisprudence, states can enact only the most marginal of pro-life protections, things like informed-consent laws, parental-consent laws, 24-hour waiting periods, and some loose gestational-age restrictions. But even those restrictions, if they manage to make it through legal challenge, remain essentially unenforceable because of Doe’s mandate that they include an exception for “maternal health” defined broadly to include a mother’s physical, mental, emotional, financial, and even familial health.

In short, under Roe and successive cases, states are essentially unable to restrict abortion, let alone make it illegal. But as this poll has demonstrated once again, most Americans don’t know that.

Politics & Policy

No, Mark Milley’s Insubordination Was Not ‘Courageous’

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Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley testifies before the House Armed Services Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., July 9, 2020. (Michael Reynolds/Reuters)

Bob Woodward thinks General Mark Milley’s secret talks with the Chinese military were “courageous.” In the face of the existential threat that Donald Trump posed to the republic, “the one courageous person who did something was General Milley,” the Washington Post journalist told Stephen Colbert in a Tuesday night interview. 

And what was that act of courage, exactly? Among other things, it included a high-ranking military official going behind a sitting president’s back to open a line of communication with the general of a hostile foreign power’s military — in this case, General Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army. An unelected leader intentionally undermining a democratically elected one; you know, for the sake of democracy. 

In Milley’s — and Woodward’s — mind, this was an act of patriotic concern for the common good: Without the general’s intervention, we’re told, Trump might have started a war with China. Milley wasn’t “seizing power,” Woodward told Colbert. Rather, he was “putting in precautions to make sure, if Trump’s going to blow up the world or do something that’s against American interests or in fact against Trump’s interests, he’s going to at least be there at the table saying, ‘No!’”

But of course, seizing power was exactly what Milley was doing. The nation’s highest-ranking military officer was taking matters into his own hands because he trusted his own judgment better than that of the man that Americans had elected to preside over the federal government. As the editors of National Review wrote last week, “Generals don’t get to have their own personal foreign policies. Period. They answer to the elected branches, and they must carry out every lawful directive and policy set by the people’s representatives.”

Woodward might call Milley’s violation of this principle courageous. Others would call it outrageous. Regardless, the justification the general offered for his actions was absurd on its face: Trump was erratic, emotionally immature, and prone to mood swings, yes, but he was not a warmonger. (David Harsanyi made this point at further length last week.

More importantly, Donald Trump was the president of the United States. Mark Milley was not. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff might be convinced that his leadership would have been more sound than that of the man that Americans sent to the White House in 2016, but — as luck will have it — our Founders gave us a political system in which unelected appointees don’t get to make those kinds of determinations. 

Woodward may not care much for the principles of American government. General Milley certainly doesn’t. But that’s the nice thing about America: Self-government means that we don’t — or shouldn’t — have to give a damn about what septuagenarian has-been journalists and military brass with savior complexes think. 

PC Culture

Scientific American: Star Wars, Jedi Are Problematic

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Yoda in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (LucasFilm/IMDb)

Sometimes, something gets published that is just so mind-bogglingly stupid, simply to read it is exasperating, and to comment on it seems simultaneously easy (for its aforementioned stupidity), pointless (for the likelihood that anyone who reads it can easily figure out how stupid it is), and counterproductive (for risk of inadvertently giving it greater audience than it deserves).

Weighing this swirling mix of competing imperatives, I ultimately choose to present to you an article in Scientific American titled, “Why the Term ‘JEDI’ Is Problematic for Describing Programs That Promote Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.” The subtitle helpfully adds: “They’re meant to be heroes within the Star Wars universe, but the Jedi are inappropriate symbols for justice work.”

Five authors saw fit to attach their names to this article; let their names be known: J. W. Hammond, Sara E. Brownell, Nita A. Kedharnath, Susan J. Cheng, and W. Carson Byrd.

Now, you may not have known that “JEDI” had become an acronym for this purpose (I didn’t), so thank goodness these five authors provided an explanation:

The acronym “JEDI” has become a popular term for branding academic committees and labeling STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine) initiatives focused on social justice issues. Used in this context, JEDI stands for “justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.” In recent years, this acronym has been employed by a growing number of prominent institutions and organizations, including the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. At first glance, JEDI may simply appear to be an elegant way to explicitly build “justice” into the more common formula of “DEI” (an abbreviation for “diversity, equity and inclusion”), productively shifting our ethical focus in the process. JEDI has these important affordances but also inherits another notable set of meanings: It shares a name with the superheroic protagonists of the science fiction Star Wars franchise, the “Jedi.” Within the narrative world of Star Wars, to be a member of the Jedi is seemingly to be a paragon of goodness, a principled guardian of order and protector of the innocent. This set of pop cultural associations is one that some JEDI initiatives and advocates explicitly allude to.

Ah, but there are problems with this! Star Wars displays “Orientalist” tropes, conflates alienness with nonwhiteness, stinks of capitalism, affirms sexism, reinforces ableism, and more. But the most ridiculous aspect of this article needs to be quoted in full:

The Jedi are inappropriate mascots for social justice. Although they’re ostensibly heroes within the Star Wars universe, the Jedi are inappropriate symbols for justice work. They are a religious order of intergalactic police-monks, prone to (white) saviorism and toxically masculine approaches to conflict resolution (violent duels with phallic lightsabers, gaslighting by means of “Jedi mind tricks,” etc.). The Jedi are also an exclusionary cult, membership to which is partly predicated on the possession of heightened psychic and physical abilities (or “Force-sensitivity”). Strikingly, Force-wielding talents are narratively explained in Star Wars not merely in spiritual terms but also in ableist and eugenic ones: These supernatural powers are naturalized as biological, hereditary attributes. So it is that Force potential is framed as a dynastic property of noble bloodlines (for example, the Skywalker dynasty), and Force disparities are rendered innate physical properties, measurable via “midi-chlorian” counts (not unlike a “Force genetics” test) and augmentable via human(oid) engineering. The heroic Jedi are thus emblems for a host of dangerously reactionary values and assumptions. Sending the message that justice work is akin to cosplay is bad enough; dressing up our initiatives in the symbolic garb of the Jedi is worse.

Now, there are plenty of criticisms one can make of Star Wars. There are even plausible in-universe criticisms of the Jedi, who after all failed to notice the rising threat of their enemies, the Sith, and seem to keep getting wiped out by the same. In response to these five (!) authors, however, one is tempted to point out that every criticism of the Jedi they make is far truer of the Sith, and to wonder what popular culture can hold up against the ever-intensifying lens of wokeness (see also, Harry Potter).

But to do so, again, seems pointless — as pointless as this article itself was. This is the kind of content that should have never escaped the weed-soaked dorm rooms of gender-studies majors, much less have made it into what is theoretically supposed to be a respected scientific periodical. It is said that only a Sith deals in absolutes, but if it makes me one to say that this is time- and resource-wasting garbage of the first order, then so be it.

Politics & Policy

Greg Mankiw vs. Biden’s CEA

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The Harvard economics professor looks at the Council of Economic Advisers’ contention that the 400 richest households in the U.S. pay lower average tax rates than everyone else. The White House gets this result by including unrealized capital gains in the denominator even though they are not taxed. Mankiw comments:

The problem is that this question has little connection to the policies now being discussed. As I understand it, the essence of the plan under consideration is not a tax on the unrealized capital gains of the 400 richest families. Instead, the plan aims to raise the corporate tax rate, which in turn is paid by the many shareholders, workers, and customers of the companies. (Economists debate the relative incidence.) In addition, the plan aims to raise the tax rates applied to the already-taxed income earned by people making more than $400,000 a year. I would guess that this latter group includes about 1.5 million taxpayers. Needless to say, 1.5 million is a much larger number than 400. And the finances of the 400 are in no way representative of the finances of the 1.5 million.

Don’t get distracted by this shiny object.

Advocates of a corporate-tax increase perform a similar maneuver when they say that it’s needed because many corporations pay no taxes at all in some years. What they don’t mention is that many corporations would still have zero-tax years under the Democrats’ plans.

The good news for progressives is that their talking point will still be available to help justify the tax increases after this one.

World

U.N. Secretary-General Wants International Speech Code

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The United Nations logo is affixed to a window on a window in the United Nations headquarters in New York, September 21, 2020. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

This should have received a lot more attention than it did. A couple of weeks ago, U.N. secretary-general António Guterres issued a report that would limit free discourse on issues such as global warming, the pandemic, and other focuses favored by the internationalists. From,”Our Common Agenda:” 

Now is the time to end the ‘infodemic’ plaguing our world by defending a common, empirically backed consensus around facts, science, and knowledge. The ‘war on science’ must end. All policy and budget decisions should be backed by science and expertise, and I am calling for a global code of conduct that promotes integrity in public information.

That sounds disturbingly like imposing speech codes that would stifle heterodox opinions and promote orthodoxies favored by U.N. bureaucrats.

You think I’m exaggerating? Decide for yourself (my emphasis):

26. The Internet has altered our societies as profoundly as the printing press did, requiring a deep reimagining of the ethics and mindsets with which we approach knowledge, communication and cohesion. Along with the potential for more accessible information and rapid communication and consultation, the digital age, particularly social media, has also heightened fragmentation and “echo chambers”.

Objectivity, or even the idea that people can aspire to ascertain the best available truth, has come increasingly into question. The goal of giving equal balance to competing points of view can come at the expense of impartiality and evidence, distorting the public debate. The ability to cause large-scale disinformation and undermine scientifically established facts is an existential risk to humanity.

Guterres is really saying he want an official “echo chamber” of approved discourse. Thus, he writes:

While vigorously defending the right to freedom of expression everywhere, we must equally encourage societies to develop a common, empirically backed consensus on the public good of facts, science and knowledge. (His emphasis.)

The second part of that sentence belies the first. How is freedom of expresson defended when the powers that be would determine the “consensus” of “facts, science, and knowledge”?  Moreover, that approach would be profoundly anti-science, which is a method of determining facts about the natural world that requires dissent, skepticism, and ongoing challenges to be effective.

Guterres wants the U.N. to be in control of discourse:

A global code of conduct that promotes integrity in public information could be explored together with States, media outlets and regulatory bodies, facilitated by the United Nations. With recent concerns about trust and mistrust linked to technology and the digital space, it is also time to understand, better regulate and manage our digital commons as a global public good.

That really means Internet companies and social-media outlets empowered to shut out U.N.-unapproved perspectives from cyberspace — you know, the kind of censorship in which Twitter engaged when it blocked the dissemination of the New York Post‘s accurate Hunter Biden “laptop” story and YouTube removing videos of scientists discussing COVID in ways that differed from those promoted by the WHO.

Guterres has shown where the globalists want to take us. Thankfully, the U.N. doesn’t currently have the legal or coercive power to compel speech codes. For the sake of freedom, we must keep it that way.

House Democrats Pass Extreme Abortion Bill

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) holds her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill August 6, 2021. (Gabrielle Crockett/Reuters)

Democrats have been threatening for years now to “codify Roe v. Wade,” by which they appear to have meant enacting the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA), one of the most pro-abortion pieces of legislation Congress has ever considered.

By a narrow 218-211 vote, House Democrats passed the bill late this morning. The vote was nearly party line: Every Democrat except for one voted for the bill, and every Republican voted against it.

It’s been interesting to watch Democrats discuss the bill and struggle with its title, the “Women’s Health Protection Act.” The “women’s rights” movement of late has been engaged in a campaign to

Immigration

Joe Biden Gets Angrier at People Who Enforce Immigration Laws Than at People Who Break Them

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U.S. Border Patrol agents sit on horses near the banks of the Rio Grande River as migrants cross the river in Ciudad Acuna, Mexico, September 20, 2021. (Daniel Becerril/Reuters)

A few weeks ago, Charles Cooke wrote about President Biden’s propagating an “upside-down system,” in which he is spectacularly engaged in and energetic about things that don’t concern him whatsoever, and apathetic and uninvolved about things that are rightly his responsibility:

In the areas that don’t concern him in the slightest — say, the decisions of a given school board in Natrona County, Wyo. — Biden is engaged, combative, and near impossible to shut up. And in the areas over which he has a global monopoly on responsibility — say, a foreign-policy crisis that was the direct result of his own poor decision-making — he is impotent, shifty, and conspicuously elsewhere. As Biden claims, the buck often stops with him. Trouble is, it’s the wrong buck.

Today brings another example of Biden’s out-of-whack priorities in his stewardship of the presidency. His administration has acted in a spectacularly incompetent fashion in dealing with a surge of illegal trespassing on the southern border, issuing pointless statements and explanations to cover up the fact that its actions (and inactions) enabled the crisis and continue to facilitate it. Biden can barely be bothered to shore up border enforcement, much less actively to discourage people from continuing their illegal crossings.

He can, however, easily be prompted to join the pile-on over a fake narrative about Border Patrol agents using “whips” to secure the border. Here is what he said this morning:

“It was horrible to see what you saw, to see people treated like they did — horses barely running them over people being strapped,” Biden said at a press conference at the White House on Friday. “It’s outrageous. I promise you those people will pay.”

Biden added, “There will be consequences. It’s an embarrassment. But beyond an embarrassment is dangerous, it’s wrong.”

Biden is angrier at the people trying to enforce the nation’s laws than at the people trying to break them. (The border-patrol officers involved have reportedly been placed on administrative leave.) It’s hard to think of a more upside-down system than this. The real embarrassment here is Biden, and the situation he has created on our southern border.

Something Strange Is Happening at the Commerce Department — and across the Biden Administration

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The Chinese flag flies over the American flag in Shanghai, China, July 30, 2019. (Aly Song/Reuters)

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo told the Wall Street Journal that she sees one of her responsibilities as promoting U.S. business engagement with China. “I actually think robust commercial engagement will help to mitigate any potential tensions,” she said in an interview published this morning.

That’s troubling for a number of reasons.

First, the Biden administration seems to be accommodating Beijing on a number of fronts. Raimondo’s comments on boosting U.S. business engagement with Chinese firms come as the Biden administration reportedly nears a deal with Huawei to drop U.S. charges against the company’s CFO, whose extradition from Canada the Trump administration sought

Politics & Policy

The Debt Limit: All Games, No Fun

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From my Bloomberg Opinion column:

But if you look at the issue from the perspective of Thune and the other Republicans, you can see why Democratic efforts to shame them into voting to raise the debt limit are failing.

There is a long bipartisan tradition of opposition parties inveighing against the irresponsibility of the party in power for debt-limit increases.

“America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership,” said Senator Barack Obama in 2006. “Americans deserve better.” Senator Joe Biden voted with him as Republicans, then in the majority, raised it on their own. When Obama and Biden became president and vice president, their view of which stance on the debt ceiling was responsible changed dramatically.

There is also a tradition of bipartisan deals that enable an increase in the debt limit.

The difference this time: “Republicans are being asked to give up the opportunity to take shots at Democrats over the debt-limit increase without getting any policy victories in return.”

Politics & Policy

What Do Political Appointees Do?

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Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

My AEI colleague Scott Gottlieb’s new book about the COVID-19 pandemic, Uncontrolled Spread, is out this week, and I would recommend it to you very highly. The book is full of insights and lessons from the pandemic response, and argues for some important changes to our public-health system to help the United States be better prepared for future outbreaks.

But one theme that really stood out to me in the book has to do with a more fundamental question of governance, and of the relation between professional expertise and political leadership at the federal level.

Gottlieb points to some extremely serious failures and lapses on the part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — the federal government’s lead public-health agency. Anyone who has worked with the CDC for any length of time could tell you stories of shocking incompetence. I certainly have some myself. And some of the particular failures of the agency in dealing with COVID-19 were prefigured by prior failures — around testing, for instance, and around data collection and other key issues.

But in searching for explanations for the CDC’s failures, some observers and journalists incline carelessly to blame political interference in the agency’s work, and to imagine that the CDC might be more effective if it were more independent. Michael Lewis points this way in his own recent book about the pandemic — which I found to be an engaging and fast-paced but ultimately wrongheaded book.

Gottlieb, who has a lot of experience with the federal public-health agencies going back two decades, comes to an entirely different conclusion. Federal agencies, Gottlieb writes, “have politically appointed leadership that are subject to Senate confirmation for a reason. The role of a politically appointed chief is to help align an agency with the objectives of Congress and the executive branch, and to be accountable to both. However, there’s a mutual concession in this arrangement. A politically appointed agency head has a twin obligation to educate political leaders about an agency’s prerogatives and to maintain the delicate line between an agency’s core mission and the political goals of elected officials.”

In other words, political appointees in federal agencies aren’t just compliance czars for the president, nor are they, in Alexander Hamilton’s memorable phrase, “obsequious instruments of his pleasure.” They do keep the agency connected to the priorities of the country’s elected leaders, but they also keep those leaders connected to the priorities of the agency. And a big part of the CDC’s weakness for decades now has been the absence of political appointees who might help keep it both grounded and connected.

The CDC rarely has more than three or four political appointees, while its career staff consists of roughly 20,000 people. None of its appointees, not even its director, is confirmed by the Senate, unlike the leaders of all the other HHS sub-agencies. There is no obvious reason for this. The agency is also based in Atlanta, and so is routinely left out of policymaking discussions in which its leaders should have a role. Even in the age of videoconferencing there is no substitute for being in the room. And the net effect of all this is not independence but weakness, and ultimately also incompetence. The CDC lacks people internally who will hold it to account, and who will speak up for it in intra-administration debates. The absence of political appointees renders it insular, defensive, and disconnected.

The past two years should lead to a wholesale transformation of the CDC, and Gottlieb offers a lot of ideas about what that should involve. But among other things, such a process should aim for the greater integration of the CDC into the structure of our system of government, not its greater isolation.

Political distortion of the technical work of administrative agencies is real, and can be a serious problem. But the usual clichéd story of bureaucratic independence and political interference — a story particularly in fashion when Republicans are president of course, but which persists even in Democratic administrations — gets the character of that problem wrong, and often miscasts the basic function of political appointees in government agencies.

Law & the Courts

Evading Judicial Supremacy

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(Bilderbuch/Getty Images)

I am not sure why these alumni of the University of Chicago Law School believe that their having walked the same sidewalks as Jonathan Mitchell, the inspiration for the Texas law against post-heartbeat abortions, gives their insights about that law any extra weight. But it’s worth giving the content of their argument a little attention:

Mr. Mitchell should know better than to construct a law deliberately intended to evade federal law. That approach is neither smart nor creative — it is lawless.

No matter what you believe about Roe v. Wade, deliberately creating a state law to dodge current Supreme Court precedent is dangerous. It erodes the rule of law and undermines our legal system.

The statement’s author or authors have traded brevity for precision. They may mean that it is lawless, dangerous, etc., to pass a law that conflicts with Supreme Court precedent, even if the law’s drafters believe that precedent to be grievously out of sync with the Constitution — indeed, even if the law’s drafters are correct in believing that. In that case, their objection goes well beyond Mitchell’s handiwork to encompass, for example, the Mississippi ban on abortions after 15 weeks, which doesn’t present any novel procedural issues; or the federal ban on partial-birth abortion, which essentially thumbed its nose at an existing precedent but then got upheld anyway. If that’s what they mean, they are making a standard criticism of anti-abortion laws.

Or they may have a more specific objection in mind: that it is lawless, dangerous, etc., to write a law that is insulated from review by the federal courts. But the Texas law is not drafted to be protected to be immune to judicial review altogether. What it avoids completely is any pre-enforcement injunction. This has become an important part of the legal landscape, but it is not a basic building block of our constitutional system and was rarely used for much of our history. Think of a landmark constitutional case from before the 1980s or so, and you’re almost always going to find a law that was implemented and then challenged as unconstitutional, and a court that was considering the actual application of the law rather than a hypothetical situation.

Either version of the objection assumes that political actors are bound to subordinate their view of the Constitution to that of the Supreme Court even when the Court has it wrong. That assumption goes well beyond anything that John Marshall ever said about the rule of law, and contradicts what Abraham Lincoln did. It posits that state governments, as well as the other branches of the federal government, are bound to refuse to assert their powers to check the courts even in ways that the Constitution appears to leave open to them.

It assumes, that is, that the rule of law is equivalent to judicial supremacy. If Chicago teaches that lesson, it’s to Mitchell’s credit that it didn’t take with him.

World

Biden Backs Down on Extradition of Huawei Exec Meng Wanzhou

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Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou leaves B.C. Supreme Court for a lunch break during the first day of her extradition hearing in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada January 20, 2020. (REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson)

The Biden administration has reportedly reached a deal with Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou to resolve the charges under which the U.S. sought her extradition from Canada.

According to the Wall Street Journal’s report on the news: “The agreement, which is expected to be entered in court later Friday, will require Ms. Meng to admit to some wrongdoing in exchange for prosecutors deferring and later dropping wire and bank fraud charges, the people said.”

That’s good news for Meng and Huawei, which the Biden administration has lifted pressure from in recent months. Consider what the Department of Justice initially alleged: a scheme in which Huawei pretended to have no links to Skycom, its Iranian subsidiary, in violation of U.S. sanctions:

Most significantly, after news publications in late 2012 and 2013 disclosed that Huawei operated Skycom as an unofficial affiliate in Iran and that Meng had served on the board of directors of Skycom, Huawei employees, and in particular Meng, continued to lie to Huawei’s banking partners about Huawei’s relationship with Skycom.  They falsely claimed that Huawei had sold its interest in Skycom to an unrelated third party in 2007 and that Skycom was merely Huawei’s local business partner in Iran.

Then, Huawei allegedly lied to Congress, the FBI, and other financial institutions about its dealings in Iran. As the U.S. government investigated the company’s conduct, Huawei “tried to obstruct the investigation by making efforts to move witnesses with knowledge about Huawei’s Iran-based business to the PRC, and beyond the jurisdiction of the U.S. government, and by concealing and destroying evidence of Huawei’s Iran-based business that was located in the United States.”

The Justice Department’s apparent decision to reverse some of these charges, and take Meng’s admissions to others, is a major reversal from what it alleged just two years ago. Presumably, the evidence hasn’t changed. What has changed, though, is the urgency with which the Biden administration aims to placate Chinese complaints.

Huawei took two Canadian citizens, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, hostage on false charges in retaliation for Meng’s detention by Canada. The upside of this deal is that the Biden administration might well free them, though that’s far from guaranteed and officials would be doing so with a signal to Beijing that it’s willing to back down on the rule of law in exchange for a chance at jumpstarting stalled bilateral cooperation.

Politics & Policy

House Republicans Push the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act

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House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) delivers remarks on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., June 23, 2021. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

In response to House Democrats’ effort to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act today, Republicans in the House have offered the text of the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act as their motion to recommit.

If passed, the move would send the Democrats’ bill back to committee, blocking its passage and amending it to include the born-alive provisions. The pro-life bill requires doctors to provide the same medical care to newborns who survive an attempted abortion as they would to any other newborn of the same gestational age.

Republicans have pushed the born-alive bill for the last several congressional sessions, each time blocked by Democrats, who insist that the bill is either redundant or unnecessary. In fact, there is no existing federal law requiring doctors to provide medical care to  newborns after a failed abortion, and there are documented cases of such infants being neglected and left to die.

Politics & Policy

The Cost of the Biden Plan: A New Estimate

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In a new study published by the Club for Growth Foundation, Dan Mitchell and Robert O’Quinn assess the macro-economic effects of President’s Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda to expand the welfare state.

Their study summarizes a lot of scholarly academic research on the negative relationship between the size of government and economic growth. They also look at studies published by establishment organizations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the European Central Bank (ECB) to further document the negative effects of higher government spending on economic growth.

The authors apply a recent CBO study showing that ten-percentage-point increase in government spending as a percent of GDP would reduce real GDP growth rate by 1.1 percent per year. They then apply those findings to Biden’s proposal, which the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates — once budget gimmicks are eliminated — would cost $5.48 trillion instead of $3.5 trillion over ten years.

What did they find?

Based on this analysis, Mitchell and O’Quinn find that the GDP growth rate will be 0.2 percentage points lower over the next ten years if Biden’s plan is approved. That would reduce GDP by $3 trillion over ten years and reduce total compensation for workers by $1.6 trillion over ten years. The long-run consequences would be particularly severe for younger people, who would suffer a 4 percent drop in lifetime consumption.

People can argue with the exact numbers but directionally this seems correct. Here is a good summary of the paper.

Media

From the Desk of Chauncey DeVega

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(Pixabay)

If you ever took a college course that began with the prefix neuro-, then you know about the corpus callosum, which is the band of nerves that serves as the main connection between the two hemispheres of the brain. In neurolinguistics, the corpus callosum is a popular subject for undergraduates, because severing it creates the opportunity for stupid neurolinguistic party tricks, e.g.:

Split-brain patients (those who have had their corpus callosum severed) provide evidence for language lateralization. If an object is placed in the left hand of split-brain patient whose vision is cut off, the person cannot name the object, but will know how to use it. The information is sent to the right side of the brain, but cannot be relayed to the left side for linguistic naming. However, if the object is placed in the person’s right hand, the person can immediately name it because the information is sent directly to the left hemisphere.

Intentionally severing the corpus callosum — the surgery is called a corpus callosotomy — is an uncommon but by no means unheard-of surgery, used to help manage severe cases of epilepsy that do not respond to other therapies.

But you’ll get a rather different and fanciful account of the procedure over at Salon, where Chauncey DeVega — you’ll remember him as the ace reporter who claims that I am secretly a black man in the employ of National Review for the purposes of transferring negative stereotypes about urban blacks to rural whites — characterizes the corpus callosotomy as a “heinous medical experiment.”

Years ago in a high school anatomy class, I saw film footage of a man — perhaps a prison inmate or a patient at a mental hospital — who “volunteered” for a heinous medical experiment. His brain was bisected, meaning the left and right spheres were surgically split from one another. He survived the procedure, but his left and right hands now behaved as if they belonged to two different people. The man was told to use his right hand, the one over which he still had conscious control, to seize control of the left hand. The left hand continually escaped, and the two hands essentially began fighting with each other. He begged the doctors for help, but they were too busy obsessively noting every detail of the “subject’s” behavior. Our teacher told us the film came from her “private collection.”

If you are wondering where the anti-science/anti-vaccine mentality comes from, there it is.

“Alien Hand Syndrome,” which is what DeVega is describing, is sometimes associated with corpus callosotomy, though it also may be associated with strokes, Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease, or even migraines. It was for a brief glorious period known as “Dr. Strangelove Syndrome,” until the fuddy-duddies in the scientific community decided that was inappropriate. It shows up from time to time in medically oriented entertainment such as House.

Bizarre stuff.

But if you really believe that high-school students are being shown films of prison inmates subjected to torture in the form of experimental brain surgeries, then I know a pizzeria in Chevy Chase that you are going to find just fascinating.

Politics & Policy

Congress Needs to Know, but Won’t Find Out, What Happened with Capitol Security on January 6

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Protesters scale a wall as they storm the U.S. Capitol Building during clashes with Capitol police at a rally to contest the certification of the 2020 presidential election results in Washington, D.C., January 6, 2021. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

In my column this morning, I waded back into January 6. Meanwhile, congressional investigators are pressing ahead with their (inherently and deliberately partisan) probe into what happened and have subpoenaed several Trump administration witnesses. As I have written before, there is no particular need to investigate Donald Trump’s culpability for the riot — we can conclude that adequately from the public record — and there are problems with investigating the rioters themselves while criminal prosecutions are ongoing. But it is imperative for Congress to investigate how the Capitol’s security was so easily overcome.

Christopher Miller, the acting secretary of defense in the waning months of Donald Trump’s term, gave Vanity Fair reporter Adam Ciralsky access to follow him and his two chief deputies in the aftermath of January 6. Ciralsky’s story opens with this tidbit:

On the evening of January 5 . . . the acting secretary of defense, Christopher Miller, was at the White House with his chief of staff, Kash Patel. They were meeting with President Trump on “an Iran issue,” Miller told me. But then the conversation switched gears. The president, Miller recalled, asked how many troops the Pentagon planned to turn out the following day. “We’re like, ‘We’re going to provide any National Guard support that the District requests,’” Miller responded. “And [Trump] goes, ‘You’re going to need 10,000 people.’ No, I’m not talking bulls**t. He said that. And we’re like, ‘Maybe. But you know, someone’s going to have to ask for it.’” At that point Miller remembered the president telling him, “‘You do what you need to do. You do what you need to do.’ He said, ‘You’re going to need 10,000.’ That’s what he said. Swear to God.” . . . I asked the acting SECDEF why Trump threw out such a big number. “The president’s sometimes hyperbolic, as you’ve noticed. There were gonna be a million people in the street, I think was his expectation.” Miller maintained that initial reports on the anticipated crowd size were all over the map—anywhere from 5,000 to 40,000. “Park Police—everybody’s so hesitant to give numbers. So I think that was what was driving the president.”

If you credit that account — more on that in a moment — it is an exonerating fact for Trump in two ways. One, it contradicts the notion in some quarters that Trump intended for the January 6 demonstrators to seize the Capitol by force. Had he planned on that, he would not have tipped off his defense secretary that such a large troop presence would be required. (Of course, my own view was always that Trump was morally and politically responsible for the riot through his recklessness, not because he actually wanted the Capitol taken by a mob. That is Miller’s view as well.) Two, as the article continues, Miller and Patel — the latter, proudly a Trump loyalist, one of the people subpoenaed — insist that they had all the authority that was needed from the president to actively protect the Capitol:

To hear Patel tell it, they were on autopilot for most of the day: “We had talked to [the president] in person the day before, on the phone the day before, and two days before that. We were given clear instructions. We had all our authorizations. We didn’t need to talk to the president. I was talking to [Trump’s chief of staff, Mark] Meadows, nonstop that day.” . . . “The D.C. mayor finally said, ‘Okay, I need more,’” Kash Patel would tell me. “Then the Capitol police—a federal agency and the Secret Service made the request. We can support them under Title 10, Title 32 authorities for [the] National Guard. So [they] collectively started making requests, and we did it. And then we just went to work.” What did Miller think of the criticism that the Pentagon had dragged its feet in sending in the cavalry? He bristled. “Oh, that is complete horses**t. I gotta tell you, I cannot wait to go to the Hill and have those conversations with senators and representatives.” . . . Miller and Patel both insisted, in separate conversations, that they neither tried nor needed to contact the president on January 6; they had already gotten approval to deploy forces.

Trump being Trump, he went beyond Miller’s account and claimed after the fact that he had requested 10,000 troops and been denied by Nancy Pelosi. If Miller is accurate, this is not a wholesale fabrication but a Trumpian exaggeration from a grain of truth to a story with vaguely similar facts but a whole different conclusion.

The reality is that we do not know the full story of how the federal executive and legislative branches and the District of Columbia government responded. That is why it is important for Congress to get this on the record. But given who is running the congressional probe and how it is being conducted, there is little reason to believe we will end up with the truth.

Politics & Policy

Still No Sign of Biden’s Predicted Post-Afghanistan Rebound

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President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the administration’s continued drawdown efforts in Afghanistan in a speech from the East Room at the White House in Washington D.C., July 8, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

More evidence disputing the “Biden will rebound once Afghanistan is out of the news” argument, from the Pew Research Center: “Fewer than half of U.S. adults (44 percent) now approve of the way Biden is handling his job as president, while 53 percent disapprove. Since spring, public confidence in Biden has declined across several issues… About half still express confidence in his handling of the coronavirus and the economy – but majorities have little or no confidence in him in four other areas. Positive evaluations of several of Biden’s personal traits and characteristics have shown similar decreases. Compared with March, fewer adults say Biden cares about people like them, and fewer describe him as standing up for his beliefs, honest, a good role model and mentally sharp.”

Only 43 percent of Americans think Joe Biden is mentally sharp? How could that possibly happen?

Intriguingly, even Democrats are losing their enthusiasm about Biden. “On his job rating, for example, there has been a 13 percentage point decline in the share of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents who approve of Biden’s performance (from 88 percent in July to 75 percent today).”

Politics & Policy

Why Pick a Fight Over Iron Dome Funding Now?

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From left: Rep. Ayanna Pressley, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rep. Ilhan Omar, and Rep. Rashida Tlaib hold a news conference on Capitol Hill, July 15, 2019. (Erin Scott/Reuters)

The House Democratic progressive “Squad” effort to eliminate U.S. assistance for Israel’s “Iron Dome” missile defense system seemed to come out of nowhere. Israel and the Palestinians haven’t been in the news much, the Iron Dome system was most notably used in May, clearly most Democrats in the House and Senate are just fine with U.S. assistance for a defensive missile system, and the claims that this is a good idea in the name of reducing spending are laughable.

The slim Democratic majorities in Congress have plenty on their plate as is. Progressives and swing-state representatives still can’t find agreement on the infrastructure bill. President Biden’s approval rating is sinking. The Republicans are licking their lips and can’t wait for the midterms. The last thing Democrats needed was a big, messy, internal fight about assistance to Israel.

So what gives? What spurred Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar to pick this fight on this issue now?

Could it be that Tlaib can sense that she and the other members of the Squad are about to get dealt a big defeat on the infrastructure spending bill – either being forced to settle for significantly less spending than they publicly demanded, or sensing that the whole massive infrastructure bill is going down in defeat – and she or they wanted to have some other big, symbolic fight to reassure their progressive supporters that they were fighting the good fight?

Put another way, if you were Tlaib and you felt really good that your party had enough votes to get your preferred version of the spending bills passed… would you pick this fight over Iron Dome funding here and now?

Politics & Policy

Majority Says Biden Isn’t ‘Mentally Sharp’: Poll

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President Joe Biden delivers remarks on evacuation efforts and the ongoing situation in Afghanistan during a speech in the East Room at the White House in Washington, D.C., August 20, 2021. (Ken Cedeno/Reuters)

A majority of Americans now say that President Biden is not “mentally sharp,” according to a new poll from the Pew Research Center.

The survey, which like other polls shows Biden’s overall approval rating sinking, found that just 43 percent said the phrase “mentally sharp” described him either “very well” or “fairly well,” an 11 point drop from the same poll in March, while 56 percent said the phrase describes him “not at all well” or “not too well.” This was his worst showing in any of the personal characteristics surveyed.

This is evidence in support of something I have suspected for weeks, which is that the Afghanistan blunder does not alone explain the collapse of Biden’s approval ratings. That is, people often don’t prioritize foreign policy as an issue, so it was remarkable to witness Biden’s approval nosedive so quickly. As I speculated in an Editors podcast a few weeks back, the dramatic drop in may not have been directly related to the nuances of Afghanistan policy, but to the fact that the crisis showed Biden to be weak, lacking command, kind of out of it, and frankly, too old.

Biden’s botched handling of the crisis drew attention to his lack of mental acuity in ways that previous rehearsed performances did not, and that likely made a lot more people uneasy. Though one poll does not prove anything (nor does it establish a causal relationship) it does at least suggest that his polling issues go beyond merely Afghanistan.

Economy & Business

The Shipping Crisis Is Not Just Due to COVID

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Shipping containers sit on the dock at a container terminal at the Port of Long Beach-Port in Los Angeles, Calif., April 7, 2021. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

Scott Lincicome’s newsletter for The Dispatch yesterday was about the shipping crisis currently taking place in America. He emphasizes two things that are important to remember about the problem.

First, shipping is a global industry, but this crisis is largely an American problem. “According to the 2020 World Bank/HIS Markit ‘Container Port Performance Index,’ for example, not one U.S. port ranked in the top 50 global ports in terms of getting a ship in and out of a port,” Lincicome writes. “The highest ranked U.S. port (statistically) was Philadelphia at 83, with Virginia close behind at 85 and NY/NJ at 89. Oakland came in at 332, while LA/LB [Los Angeles/Long Beach] ranked a dismal 328 and 333, respectively.”

Why are our ports so far behind? Not because we don’t spend enough on infrastructure, as the Biden administration would have you believe. The federal government could spend a quadrillion dollars on ports, and it wouldn’t change the contracts with longshoreman unions that prevent ports from operating 24/7 (as they do in Asia) and send labor costs through the roof. (Lincicome finds that union dockworkers on the West Coast make an average of $171,000 a year plus free health care.) The unions also fight automation at American ports today, “just as they fought containerized shipping and computers decades before that,” Lincicome writes.

Second, the pandemic is not the primary cause of the crisis. The pandemic merely immanentized a crisis that was long brewing. “Much of the current mess in the United States was decades in the making, reflecting systemic labor and trade policies that decrease the efficiency and flexibility that U.S. ports — and the economy reliant on them —enjoy in the best of times and desperately need in the worst,” Lincicome writes. The problems we are now enduring won’t be solved by a pandemic-emergency stopgap measure. They require real changes to the way the industry works that will be difficult to design and implement and will encounter heavy resistance from interest groups that benefit from the status quo.

As I wrote in June, the textbook economic case for free trade assumes there are lots of boats and functioning ports to receive them. There are tremendous gains from trade to be had, but the public and private sectors need to work together to make our ports more efficient so we can more fully realize them.

Education

Ron DeSantis Is Right about School Quarantines

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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis talks to the media in Miami, Fla., August 29, 2019. (Marco Bello/Reuters)

Ron DeSantis is nothing if not a lightning rod for attention to his COVID policies, which have often gone his own way based on his own analysis of the science, the liberty interests of Floridians, and (as is true of everyone in power) the politics. Yesterday, DeSantis took a hard line against schools that attempt to quarantine students who haven’t tested positive:

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced on Wednesday that the state Department of Health issued a new rule banning schools from mandating quarantines for non-symptomatic students who were in close contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19. DeSantis said the state would be following a “symptom-based approach to quarantining,” and called the change “long overdue.” He cited parents’ work schedules and missed school days as main reasons why Emergency Rule 64DER21-15 was necessary. “[Parents] get a call maybe the night before, saying ‘Hey, your son or daughter was quote exposed and they’re going to have to quarantine.’ That makes it very difficult for them to continue doing their jobs and continuing to put food on the table,” he said.

DeSantis, supported by the Florida surgeon general, noted the strong interest that parents have in their kids being in school in person whenever possible:

“Parents have the right to have their healthy kids in school,” he said. “In-person education is important for a students’ wellbeing, their educational advancement, and their social development. The idea that schools are somehow a big problem when it comes to spread of the virus has been refuted yet again. Not only is the forced quarantining of healthy children disruptive to a student’s education, but many folks in Florida are not able to work from home.”…DeSantis later added that taking students out of school poses “a huge, huge burden” on both the student and their families.

He’s right. As he noted, like many of the precautions taken at the beginning of the pandemic, making kids stay home from school if they were merely exposed to someone else was a common-sense response to an unknown, fast-moving virus, but one that was not actually based on scientific study. That’s fine as an initial precautionary response, but it’s not April 2020 anymore, and it is high time we stopped pretending that it is. We have inflicted enough on a whole generation of children already. European schools have not taken precisely the same approach as Florida, but they, too, have long emphasized keeping as many healthy kids in school as possible, and have not had much in the way of outbreaks as a result. The CDC has relented on advising quarantines of uninfected, healthy kids. Even the New York City school district is backing off on quarantines, albeit with its own restrictions and over the vocal resistance of the teachers’ union:

[Mayor Bill] de Blasio announced Monday he will relax quarantine protocols, effective next week. “When there is a positive test in a classroom, the unvaccinated students in that classroom will not have to quarantine if they are masked and 3-feet distanced,” he said. “That will allow more kids to safely remain in the classroom.”

It’s time to get back to normal.

Politics & Policy

‘Unconventional Methodology’ . . .

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. . . is a very polite way of writing — something that isn’t very polite.

From the New York Times:

The White House’s calculation of what the wealthiest pay in taxes is well below what other analyses have found. The difference comes from the White House officials’ decision to count the rising value of wealthy Americans’ stock portfolios — which is not taxed on an annual basis — as income. It finds that between 2010 and 2018, those top 400 households, when including the rising value of their wealth, earned a combined $1.8 trillion and paid an estimated $149 billion in federal individual income taxes.

Which is to say: Rich people have more income if we take a lot of stuff that isn’t income and call it income.

Democrats are embarrassed by the actual numbers, because those numbers show that high-income households already pay federal income taxes that are far disproportionate to their share of income.

Film & TV

Exploiting Women

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What is this supposed to mean?

Personally, I see the return of tabloid-style coverage of missing girls as a sign of desperation by cable-news networks, a return to the old standards that worked well enough for them commercially before Trump, even if I find the whole thing utterly tasteless and corruptive.

But Christopher Cuomo has a television show on CNN and can do news segments on other missing girls if he believes their stories are important and overlooked nationally because of bias. He has the power to “be the change he wants to see in the world.” Will he do it? Or is the point to be seen as self-flagellating on social media? Or is it to vainly wish that a tweet will create sufficient demand for coverage?

Media people genuinely believe that setting the direction of the public’s attention is a moral choice. Well, they can put their resources where their convictions are.

If there is an argument that the “missing white girl” story is a form of exploitation on television — and there is such an argument — then what Cuomo is doing here is exploiting Reatha May Finkbonner on social media. It’s tasteless and corruptive, too.