Politics & Policy

Princeton Should Be Ashamed of Itself

Loading...
Princeton University campus in 2013. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

Joshua Katz, a tenured classics professor at Princeton whose criticism of left-wing activism at the university provoked outrage and protests on campus, has officially been fired. Zachary Evans reports:

Princeton University’s Board of Trustees fired classics professor Joshua Katz, the university said in a Monday statement, claiming that the longtime faculty member “failed to be straightforward” during a 2018 investigation into a relationship between Katz and an undergraduate student.

Katz told National Review that he learned that he’d been fired only after the New York Times called his wife, and said the university sent his notice of termination to the wrong email address. The Washington Free Beacon first reported that Princeton was planning to fire Katz.

Katz was briefly suspended from the university in 2018 over the consensual relationship with a student, which occurred about 15 years ago.

But for anyone who’s been paying attention, it’s pretty obvious that the real reason for Katz’s termination was political. In particular, as Evans notes, allies of the professor “have claimed that the firing was motivated by the professor’s criticism of Princeton’s ‘anti-racism’ initiatives. In a 2020 essay for Quillette, Katz criticized a faculty letter stating that ‘Anti-Blackness is foundational to America,’ and referred to a student group called the Black Justice League as ‘a small local terrorist organization that made life miserable for the many (including the many black students) who did not agree with its members’ demands.’”

As a result of the activist-led backlash to those comments, the Princeton administration has been gunning for Katz’s head for some time. Katz’s controversy-inducing comments about the Black Justice League being “a small local terrorist organization” were added to Princeton’s mandatory freshman-orientation course on the university’s legacy of racism, posted on the school’s official website. The section added denunciations of Katz from his colleagues and the university president himself, noting that “President Eisgruber condemned the words used by Katz” and that “the Classics Department made a strong statement against his views as well, arguing that they were ‘fundamentally incompatible with our mission and values as educators.’” But most scandalous of all, the portrayal of the comment itself was dishonestly edited to make it sound more provocative. As I reported earlier today:

The line that was initially included on the webpage conspicuously omitted the parenthetical clause “(including the many black students),” without any ellipsis to indicate that part of the sentence had been excluded, thus framing Katz’s comments in more racially charged terms.

In October, eight Princeton professors filed an internal complaint demanding “an investigation into who doctored Professor Katz’s quote and who edited and posted the page without identifying and correcting that error.” The Princeton website has quietly revised the passage, adding the “(including the many black students)” clause back to the quote. But no investigation appears to have occurred, and the school has not issued a public correction or an apology, nor has it contacted the freshmen who went through the orientation to notify them of the omission. It has subsequently refused calls to take the quote down, with Eisgruber saying earlier this year that he would “resist any suggestion” to edit the website.

And not only did Princeton not give Katz the courtesy of notifying him before publicly announcing his termination; administrators didn’t even allow him to resign. As I wrote today, Katz “was in talks about a tentative deal that would have allowed him to resign — but negotiations broke down after the university administration insisted it retain the right to publicly say the president had recommended his dismissal, the professor’s lawyer confirmed to National Review. . . . Katz offered to resign weeks ago — but the administration was not willing to go forward without the ability to note his impending termination.”

Shameful, cowardly stuff. But what else can we expect from the leadership of our elite universities these days?

Politics & Policy

Providence, R.I., Spending Federal Covid Relief Funds on Reparations

Loading...
The Rhode Island state capitol building and lawn on Capitol Hill in Providence (sgoodwin4813/Getty Images)

More than 18 months after the economic crisis caused by lockdowns ended, there is still an enormous amount of unspent funding hanging around. The city of Providence, R.I., has hit on a seemingly new reason for spending the money: reparations for black and indigenous people.

The American Rescue Plan Act — a gargantuan $1.9 trillion spending package meant to enable the Biden administration to claim credit for taking bold and decisive action to end an economic crisis that was already over as of early 2021 (GDP growth was 6.3 percent that first quarter, following growth of 33.8 percent and 4.5 percent in the last two quarters of 2020) — shoveled so much money out to the cities that it has taken them some time to puzzle out what to do with the windfall. Providence is spending a $124 million federal grant on housing, infrastructure, and other things that have nothing to do with the pandemic, plus $10 million on reparations, via a yet-to-be-determined method.

Mayor Jorge Elorza says, “Reparations can take a lot of different shapes. We know that $10 million is not enough. We can’t right all the wrongs of the past, but we can take an important first step.”

Providence is a city of about 181,000, of whom about 18 percent are black or indigenous. A $10 million reparations package would, if distributed via direct cash payouts, amount to about 33,000 people getting a check for $300 each.

Media

AP Gives PR Boost to Black Lives Matter

Loading...
A protester carries a Black Lives Matter flag in Elizabeth City, N.C., April 27, 2021. (Jonathan Drake/Reuters)

We often hear about the nexus between progressives and the media. Make no mistake, there is most certainly a bias. And the relationship was on full display in last week’s Black Lives Matter newsbreak by the Associated Press.

The scoop in question concerns a 63-page financial disclosure form about BLM financial flows, given its status as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Per the IRS, these forms — termed 990s — are a matter of public record, so the public can scrutinize nonprofits operating tax-free. BLM recently filed its 990 for the year 2020-21, during which its expenditures came into question. Watchdogs had been awaiting the recent filings, to get a better look at BLM’s finances.

Before the report was to be released, though, BLM leaked it to the Associated Press. This gave the AP an “exclusive” story that no other outlet possessed — a story that would minimize criticism and maximize the (few) positives. This story would then be picked up by other outlets, whose coverage would riff off the AP in an effort to run something as quickly as possible.

In short, BLM did this to lay the groundwork for more favorable coverage of itself. Indeed, while the document was factual, and the AP’s report gave readers insight into BLM finances, the analysis was skewed. The report touted BLM’s “scrappiness” as a young foundation and assumed that “black charities” are often wronged by the “white philanthropic landscape.” This, while including details such as the following:

The tax filing shows that nearly $6 million was spent on a Los Angeles-area compound. The Studio City property, which includes a home with six bedrooms and bathrooms, a swimming pool, a soundstage and office space, was intended as a campus for a Black artists fellowship and is currently used for that purpose, the board member said.

This arrangement was essentially public. As the AP’s copy reads: the “Form 990 [was] shared exclusively with The Associated Press” — moments before it was to be shared with the world. Plus, curiously, BLM has also been promoting the AP’s story on its own website — encouraging viewers to read it in order to combat “misinformation” about the group.

So this worked out well for them.

International

Finland’s Greens Now Fully behind Nuclear Power

Loading...
AREVA project lead Jean-Pierre Mouroux inside the OL3 EPR nuclear reactor being built at the Olkiluoto nuclear power plant in Eurajoki, Finland, in 2016. (LEHTIKUVA/ Martti Kainulainen/ via Reuters)

First, Finland applies to join NATO, now this.

In a historic shift, Finland’s Green Party voted overwhelmingly to adopt a fully pro-nuclear stance at its national meeting.

The party manifesto now states that nuclear is “sustainable energy” and demands the reform of current energy legislation to streamline the approval process for SMRs (small modular reactors). Finland’s is the first Green Party to adopt such a position.

“I am very happy and proud,” said Tea Törmänen, who attended the conference as a voting member as chair of the Savonia/Karelia chapter of Viite, the pro-science internal group of the party. “This is a historical moment in the history of the green movement, as we are the first green party in the world to officially let go of anti-nuclearism.”

The action was taken at the two-day Vihreät De Gröna (Green Party) party conference, which included 400 participants representing local party groups and other interest groups from across the Nordic country. It ended yesterday in the town of Joensuu. . . .

Finland’s Green Party holds 20 seats in the national parliament and is part of the government coalition, holding the foreign ministry, the internal ministry and the ministry of environment and climate.

And for a bonus point:

The Finland branch of Fridays for Future, the group started by Swedish climate campaigner Greta Thunberg, released a statement last December disavowing an anti-nuclear statement by Greta and other climate youth leaders.

The Finnish Fridays for Future group wrote in response that: “Opposition to nuclear power will complicate and increase the already enormous task [of addressing the climate emergency].” They continued: “If we want to stop global warming below 1.5 degrees, we need every possible means, including nuclear power, to achieve that goal.”

Incidentally, my opening sentence should not be read to suggest that there is a direct link between the shattering of the two taboos. Finland’s Greens have been moving in this direction for a while.

See this for example (from 2020):

The Greens are not categorically against building small nuclear reactors as a means of combatting climate change, Green Party Chair and Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo said on Saturday’s morning show broadcast by the Finnish Broadcasting Company.

Essentially, Finland’s Greens appear to be recognizing that the strain of 1970s environmentalism which was centered on opposition to nuclear power is not compatible with belief in a climate “crisis” (and dealing with it). Whatever one may think about the reality of a climate crisis (something different from an acceptance of climate change), at least Finland’s Greens are recognizing that attempting to manage it will involve trade-offs of the type that many climate fundamentalists refuse to recognize, either through stupidity, or because at some level they regard net zero as a form of punishment for a sinful mankind: It is supposed to hurt.

It’s encouraging that the EU Commission’s proposed “green taxonomy” is following a similar logic. We’ll have to see if it gets through. Meanwhile, Germany continues to stick with its anti-nuclear stance, one largely embedded in longstanding superstitious dread and an even more longstanding German obsession with “nature.” The latter, of course, has been part of the country’s political and psychic landscape for a long time, not always in a good way.

But back to Finland:

The latest public opinion polls from Finland show a strong majority in support of nuclear power in the country as a whole. The latest poll, conducted in 2021, showed 74 percent backing nuclear, with only 18 percent opposed. This represents a huge shift from 2011 — in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster — when 42 percent opposed the technology.

The Russian attack on Ukraine is also likely to have solidified support for nuclear, as Europe rushes to extract itself from a dependence on Russian oil and gas…

Politics & Policy

The Pence Mission

Loading...
Former vice president Mike Pence sits for an onstage interview at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., November 30, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Jonathan Martin reports on the groundwork that Mike Pence is laying for a 2024 presidential run with a special focus on how Pence is separating himself from Trump. For instance, Pence is campaigning with Georgia governor Brian Kemp, who similarly refused to let Trump cajole him into disputing the 2020 election results. Pence also refers in his speeches to his gratitude toward people who thank him for standing up for the constitutional process on January 6, 2021. He also refuses to rule out a run if Trump decides to run.

Now, I personally don’t think Pence would stand a chance against Trump one-on-one. In his days as governor of Indiana, I wish Pence had been as defiant in defense of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act with Apple Computers as Ron DeSantis has been on the Florida education bill with Disney.

Also, it may be tiresome for Pence, but naturally the media will focus relentlessly on his relationship with Trump and try to elicit more and more from him about his willingness to run against Trump.

If I were Ron DeSantis, Bill Lee, or another ambitious Republican and wanted to run for president in 2024, come what may, I’d want Pence to be in the field. Pence is likely to be a focus for Trump’s ire. And the drama between Trump and Pence would be a great opportunity to present oneself as a candidate for looking ahead in hope, rather than back in anger.

Religion

Whoopi Goldberg Does Theology Wrong

Loading...
Whoopi Goldberg at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party in Beverly Hills, Calif., in 2016. (Danny Moloshok/Reuters)

Presumably because of her role in Sister Act, Whoopi Goldberg feels an expertise in Catholicism. This morning on The View, she weighed in on the Nancy Pelosi Communion issue.

She told San Francisco archbishop Salvatore Cordileone that it’s not his job to tell her not to present herself for Communion. Except that is his job. He’s the pastor of the souls in his care. Goldberg went on to say that Communion is bread for sinners.

First of all, Catholics believe that bread becomes the Body of Christ during the consecration of the Mass. So that ups the stakes of what we are talking about — God Himself. Pelosi has written previously about how it is hard to believe what the Church teaches about the Eucharist — even going so far as arguing with her granddaughter about it on her First Communion day. Which suggests Pelosi is more Protestant in thinking about Communion — and she wouldn’t be alone. But the Real Presence is Catholic doctrine. And a lot of the things we Catholics spend time doing in the Church (Eucharistic adoration I’m about to head to; why some of us were in agony not being present at Mass during the Covid shutdown) don’t make sense if that isn’t true.

Secondly, Catholics are supposed to be in the state of grace when we present ourselves for Communion — no mortal sins on our souls. And to receive the grace of reconciliation in Confession, we need to be truly sorry and seek not to sin again. After Confession — as has been my experience as a human being — I will sin again, but I actually really don’t want to. Which is why I need God’s grace to do better; to change.

Pelosi is in the position where not only is she supporting legal abortion and confusing people by saying that’s quite fine for a Catholic, she’s now pushing for more abortion. By everything we can see in her public positions, she isn’t looking to be forgiven and stop what she’s doing on this front. Which is why her archbishop felt he had to do something.

In an interview with Gloria Purvis for America magazine, Cordileone spoke with great reverence about the person and soul of Nancy Pelosi. The pastor is doing his job. Much of the politics and commentary around this is hurting, not helping, people hurting and confused and miserable and angry because of legal abortion.

Education

The Diversity Mania Swallows Up Another School

Loading...

These days, almost every academic opening winds up being filled by someone who is throughly imbued with “progressive” ideology. If you’re not “woke” don’t bother applying.

A case in point is the School of Journalism at the University of North Carolina. In today’s Martin Center article, Shannon Watkins writes about the school’s new dean, Raul Reis. He has announced that DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) will “permeate everything the school does.”

UNC’s J-school was already far gone, but it’s clear that DEI will now utterly saturate the school. The “journalists” it graduates will be even more zealous than ever in pushing the leftist agenda. Watkins points out that academic freedom will take a beating as faculty members will be expected to pledge allegiance to the diversity ideology.

Perhaps UNC’s Board of Governors will exercise some oversight and not allow Reis to turn UNC’s J-school into his leftist utopia, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Politics & Policy

How One City Will Use Federal Covid Money

Loading...

Providence, R.I., is going to squander millions coming from Uncle Sam on reparations, “affordable housing,” and other leftist boondoggles, as we read here.

Of course, the Constitution gives Congress no authority to toss money around to cities for any reason. Too bad that the limits on its power to tax and spend were eviscerated back in the 1930s.

Some grifters will pocket lots of money. The city’s problems will be as bad as ever. And the government’s debt will go up some more, burdening future generations. But so what? This is “good politics” for the Dems.

Hat tip: Bill Jacobson.

Religion

Mary Eberstadt on Pelosi and Her Archbishop

Loading...

In the Washington Post:

Everyone sins, and there is no such thing as an unforgivable sin. But leading others to sin, repeatedly and impenitently, is uniquely grave. . . .

For many years, some Catholics in public life have been enjoying illicit dual religious citizenship — pro-church on Sunday yet followers otherwise of a gnostic creed that deems abortion an untouchable totem.

Now, thanks to Archbishop Cordileone, the “personally opposed” option is less viable. Public figures who want simultaneously the political benefits of “choice” and the personal consolations of being Catholic might have to decide once more which of these two masters they will serve. A new kind of choice is upon them.

Politics & Policy

State of Abortion in the U.S.

Loading...

A few minutes of commentary on Montse Alvarado’s excellent EWTN show In Depth Friday night:

Politics & Policy

FBI Appears to Have Referred to Sussmann as ‘the US DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE’ in Document Opening Investigation of Supposed Trump–Russia Back Channel

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

I have a column up on the homepage this morning about the curious fact that Michael Sussmann, currently on trial for making false statements to the FBI, had a badge that permitted him to enter FBI headquarters and roam around the place. As I detail, that seems awfully peculiar since Sussmann has not been a Justice Department lawyer for many years — he is a highly paid private attorney whose clients (famously, the DNC with respect to its hacked servers, which were withheld from the FBI) sometimes take positions opposed to the government’s.

This intriguing fact seems to have escaped much notice at the trial last week. I theorize that this is because neither Sussmann lawyers nor Special Counsel John Durham’s prosecutors see upside in highlighting it. Regardless of that, I conclude, “the public deserves an explanation of why Sussmann had a badge allowing him to enter and wander around FBI headquarters, and why the FBI brass took such extraordinary measures to conceal Sussmann’s identity as the source of the Trump–Russia information.”

On that last point, this morning we have this remarkable report from the Washington Examiner’s Jerry Dunleavy. Astonishingly, when the FBI wrote up its standard “EC” (electronic communication) that opened the investigation into the allegation that Donald Trump had established a communications back channel with Russia, it claimed that the information had come to the bureau from “the US DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE.” In fact, it came from Sussmann, a lawyer for the Clinton campaign.

As I said when asked by the Examiner for comment, this seems outrageous to me. It was one (maddening) thing for the FBI’s top officials to decide to conceal Sussmann’s identity from the agents who were tasked with assessing the information that Sussmann had provided. But it is quite another thing to say that the information came, not from a confidential informant, not from a Clinton campaign lawyer, but from the Justice Department.

The trial is continuing this week and some of the agents involved in the investigation-opening document may be testifying. Perhaps there will be some explanation.

Culture

The House of Lord’s Only ‘Female’ Hereditary Member

Loading...

There are many quirks to the British political system. One such is the system of hereditary titles and male primogeniture in the upper parliamentary chamber, the House of Lords.

Take Matthew Simon, born in 1955, the inheritor of the Barony of Wythenshawe. Matthew now identifies as a woman and goes by Matilda. And yet, the Telegraph reports, “Matilda Simon was this week given permission to contest the next by-election for one of the upper chamber’s remaining 92 hereditary seats.” Simon is actively seeking out this title, in other words. And if Simon wins, the House of Lords will ostensibly change from having zero to one “female” hereditary member.

Sam Leith, writing in The Spectator, notes:

Whichever side of the trans debate you stand on – whether you think that biological sex is an immutable characteristic that needs recognition, or that a self-declared gender identity is enough to make you a woman in fact as well as in law – it is surely impossible to have it both ways. If Matilda Simon is a woman, she doesn’t qualify to inherit a male peerage. Indeed, if she’s a progressively minded person you might wonder why she’s so keen to take advantage not only of a hereditary membership of the upper house, but of the still more reactionary custom of male primogeniture. In so doing, be it noted, she leapfrogs her elder sibling Margaret – who as a natal woman is unable to inherit the title.

As many of its critics have pointed out, the trans movement is not really about equal rights but about special privileges. About entitlement, no matter how illogical or sexist.

White House

Ron Klain’s Desperate Spin

Loading...
Ron Klain and then-vice president Joe Biden at a meeting with organization leaders responding to the Ebola crisis at the White House in 2014. (Larry Downing/Reuters)

Polishing a turd isn’t easy, but White House chief of staff Ron Klain gives it a good try:

In the CBS News poll he’s discussing, Biden’s job approval indeed moved up… from 42 percent to 44 percent — with 56 percent still disapproving. In the CBS News poll from May 2018, President Trump’s job approval was 4o percent… and we all know how the 2018 midterms turned out for Trump’s party.

And as you might suspect, Klain is really cherry-picking when he points to “solid public confidence” on Covid and jobs.

On Covid, the pandemic is no longer a major factor in American life, which has more to do with the vaccines and tens of millions of American catching Omicron this winter than any particular Biden policy. And yet even here, just 53 percent say Biden is doing a “very good” or “somewhat good” job. The other 47 percent are “somewhat bad” or “very bad.”

On the issue of jobs, Klain is rephrasing the question, “looking ahead to the next few months, are you generally optimistic or pessimistic about jobs in your community?” In the survey, 52 percent say optimistic, 48 percent say pessimistic. As noted in today’s Morning Jolt, there are 11.5 million unfilled jobs in the country right now. We don’t lack job openings, we lack workers and applicants for those jobs. We are learning the hard lesson that an avalanche of new job openings does not necessarily mean a thriving economy and prosperity for everyone.

And other questions reveal that even if a slim majority of Americans feel good about job creation in their community, they don’t feel good about the economy as a whole. Just 26 percent say they feel “very good” or “fairly good” about the economy — only 6 percent say “very good” — while 69 percent say they feel “fairly bad” or “very bad about it, with 39 percent saying “very bad.”

Biden’s job approval on the overall economy is just 36 percent, and just 30 percent of respondents approve of how he’s handling inflation. Biden is at 40 percent approval on immigration, crime, and abortion. It’s a terrible poll for a president six months before the midterm elections, and no amount of hand-waving by Klain will change that.

Elections

Who Lied to This Lady? Pretty Much Everyone 

Loading...

The Washington Post ran an article on the surge in early voting in Georgia, which was supposed to be in the grips of Jim Crow 2.0. It ended with this anecdote:

Patsy Reid — 70 years old, Black and retired — said she was surprised she didn’t encounter problems when she voted early this month. Reid cast her ballot for Abrams in the Democratic primary but feared that her vote could be discounted given reports of voter suppression against people of color in Georgia.

“I had heard that they were going to try to deter us in any way possible because of the fact that we didn’t go Republican on the last election, when Trump didn’t win,” Reid said. “To go in there and vote as easily as I did and to be treated with the respect that I knew I deserved as an American citizen — I was really thrown back.”

As I note in a piece over on the home page, that’s the voice of someone who’s been repeatedly lied to. Of course, the army of disinformation scolds and fact-checkers haven’t been out in force, or out at all, lamenting all the misinformation that was spread from the president on down about the Georgia electoral system.

Economy & Business

Today in Capital Matters: FTC Troubles and Housing

Loading...

Joshua Wright and Derek Moore, former FTC officials, write about how the agency can repair the broken trust between employees and leadership:

Morale at the agency is extremely low, and the situation is dire. But we think there are ways [Lina] Khan can repair the breakdown in trust that has occurred between her and the career civil servants that staff the commission. And she must. The role of the FTC in protecting American consumers is simply too important for lawmakers and the public to watch as its institutional capital rapidly circles down the drain.

Earlier this month, the Office of Personnel and Management released results from its yearly survey of federal employees. Normally, this is an opportunity for FTC leaders to take a victory lap. Over the course of more than a decade and until this year, the FTC ranked consistently toward the top of a list of similarly sized agencies.

This year’s results are quite different. Suddenly, the FTC’s rankings are at or near the bottom. From our perspective, the most concerning results reflect a sharp disconnect between FTC staff (mostly apolitical federal employees) and management (presidential appointees and their hand-picked senior staff). In 2020, prior to the change in administrations, 87 percent of FTC staff answered favorably when asked whether senior leaders “maintain high standards of honesty and integrity.” In 2021, after Khan and her team took over, that number dropped to 53 percent. Similarly, the number of staff who answered favorably to the question of whether “senior leaders inspire motivation and commitment” moved from 80 percent to 42 percent. These declines are substantial and concerning, and they reflect a sharp break from consistent and positive results over a long period.

Kevin Hassett writes about the housing market, and how it could wind up with the Fed’s monetary policy:

The economics of the near future of the housing market is not as scary as one might think given the large increase in prices and the coming additional tightening of the Fed. New construction will slow sharply, and the downward pressure on the price of existing homes from new supply will moderate sharply as well. Stagflation is a strange thing in the housing market. The low growth wants to push the price down, but the inflation wants to push it up. If history is a guide, then, one shouldn’t panic about the state of the housing market.

For the recession we are probably entering, the most likely outcome is that home prices decline somewhere between the 1982 rate and the rate from 2008. After a 19.8 percent increase over the past year, the odds are that most American homeowners will end the recession playing with house money.

White House

Think of Those Poor, Struggling White House Staffers

Loading...
Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre holds a media briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., July 29, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

Bloomberg:

President Joe Biden’s decision on whether to forgive student debt will be personal for many of his aides, who are among the millions of Americans carrying loans for college and graduate school.

At least 30 senior White House staffers have student loan balances, according to 2021 financial disclosures Bloomberg News obtained from the Office of Government Ethics, including Biden’s new press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, and Bharat Ramamurti, deputy director of the National Economic Council.

Collectively, they owe as much as $4.7 million, the documents show, including one legislative aide who reported owing between $500,000 and $1 million. Generally, only senior or well-paid White House staff have to file financial disclosures, and they don’t have to report debt less than $10,000, meaning the total number of Biden’s aides with loan balances is certainly higher.

From a May 6 profile of Karine Jean-Pierre:

According to the 2021 Annual Report to Congress on White House Personnel, as the deputy assistant to the president and principal deputy press secretary and senior adviser, Jean-Pierre’s salary was $155,000 per year. She will get a bump in pay upon taking over Psaki’s assistant to the president and press secretary roles and will make $180,000 a year, which places her among the most highly compensated staffers in President Biden’s administration.

Jean-Pierre joined the faculty of Columbia University in 2014 as a lecturer at the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), teaching courses on campaign management. According to Glassdoor and Indeed the typical Columbia University Lecturer salary sits around $65,000.

As a staffer for Elizabeth Warren, Ramamurti made $91,874.88 in the 2016 fiscal year, $108,833.25 in the 2017 fiscal year, and $111,999.92 in the 2018 fiscal year. He then moved to the Warren presidential campaign, and from there, Senator Chuck Schumer appointed him to the Congressional Oversight Commission to oversee pandemic spending.

Commission members who were not federal employees were paid “at a rate equal to the daily equivalent of the annual rate of basic pay for level I of the Executive Schedule for each day (including travel time) during which such member is engaged in the actual performance of duties vested in the Oversight Commission,” and reimbursed for travel expenses. For fiscal 2020, Level I of the Executive Schedule is $219,200 annually.

In Biden’s 2021 disclosure of White House salaries, Ramamurti is being paid $130,000 per year. (In the Trump administration, the deputy director of the National Economic Council was paid $165,000.)

National Review

NR Is Hiring a Part-Time Editor

Loading...

National Review is hiring a part-time associate editor. Primary duties include editing articles, blogposts, and newsletters for NationalReview.com — as well as feature-length articles and other copy for the print magazine as needed. This position can be remote. Applicants should be familiar with, and enthusiastic about, National Review, its history, and its mission.

The part-time associate editor will be part of a team of editors handling copy from a range of in-house writers and contributors, including economics pieces from our Capital Matters unit. The ideal applicant will have excellent writing and editing skills; experience with digital and print publishing; the ability to balance a wide range of tasks on short deadlines and work well with writers, editors, and Web producers; and a strong interest in and understanding of politics and policy. The ideal applicant is also versatile and able to handle a range of duties (including editing news copy) when needed.

Some nighttime and weekend work will be required, in order to respond to content needs. This is a part-time, freelance position, though would likely require at least 20 hours a week.

Applicants should submit a résumé and a cover letter explaining their interest to editorial.applications (at) nationalreview.com.

Place “Associate Editor – YOUR NAME” in the subject line.

Culture

Bill Maher Transcends the Culture War

Loading...

In response to Bill Maher: Trans Kids Are ‘Cannon Fodder’ in the Culture Wars

Kyle highlights Bill Maher’s Friday monologue, expressing liberal skepticism of the transgender craze affecting children. Kyle describes Maher as a “National Review kind of Democrat.” I think of Maher’s positioning in this debate more as a European kind of liberal. The easiest way for American liberals to question trans orthodoxy is to align themselves with what their European counterparts are doing, i.e., putting the brakes on the trans train. As I wrote in reference to Florida, this is also the most strategic move for conservatives since it transcends the pettiness and parochialism of the culture war.

Capital Matters

Labor Relations and Thought Control

Loading...

The notion of the exploitative employer has been a standard critique of capitalism, and not always without reason (curiously, the way that communist states treated workers in their factories has been subject to a rather less sustained critique, in the West anyway), but the degree of intrusiveness of some contemporary employers, who appear to be engaged either in changing the way that their employees think or, at least, pretend to think, goes beyond anything that could have been dreamt up by the robber barons of old.

There are plenty of stories to pick from, but here’s a recent one (via the Daily Telegraph) from KPMG, in the UK:

KPMG will make unconscious bias training mandatory and linked to bonuses from next month, just over a year after its previous boss called the idea “complete c–p”.

The accounting giant’s 15,300 UK staff could have their bonuses slashed if they refuse to attend future lessons on bias, which will highlight how discussing skiing holidays, gap years and private schooling can isolate others.

The move, which marks the first time KPMG has made this training compulsory, comes just over a year after its former UK chief Bill Michael stepped aside following an outburst in which he told workers to stop “playing the victim card”.

His remarks also saw him call unconscious bias “complete c–p”, triggering a backlash from staff who argued that dismissing the concept was “reckless” and reflective of his own privilege. Mr Michael later apologised for his comments. . . .

That some would-be commissars within KPMG’s staff appear (for one reason or another) to support the ideological indoctrination of their colleagues is neither here nor there — there are fanatics and opportunists within any organization — but it would be good if some of those who pride themselves on their support for employee rights started pushing back on the extent to which some employers are currently attempting to get into the heads of those who work for them.

I’m not holding my breath.

Culture

Bill Maher: Trans Kids Are ‘Cannon Fodder’ in the Culture Wars

Loading...
Bill Maher (HBO/YouTube)

Bill Maher is still a Democrat, but he’s become the kind of Democrat who posts NR headlines on Real Time and makes points that echo the ones we make all the time here. In other words, he’s a National Review kind of Democrat. Welcome, Bill.

In a piercing and astute Friday monologue on his HBO talk show, Maher noted that “if something in the human race is changing at a previously unprecedented rate, we have to at least discuss it,” and cited polls showing that the percentage of Americans identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transsexual is roughly doubling every generation, now surpassing 20 percent: “If we follow this trajectory we will all be gay in 2054. When things change this much this fast, people are allowed to ask, ‘What’s up with that?’ All the babies are in the wrong bodies? Was there a mix-up at the plant?” He noted that when adults used to ask children what they wanted to be when they grew up, “They meant what profession.”

Maher said he was happy for gay (etc.) people who get to openly be their authentic selves, adding, “We should all be mindful of respecting and protecting. But someone needs to say it: Not everything’s about you. And it’s okay to ask questions about something that’s very new and involves children.”

Maher worries that “we’re literally experimenting on children. Maybe that’s why Sweden and Finland have stopped giving puberty blockers to kids.” As he spoke, Maher posted the headline of this NR piece.

What are we doing to kids who say they’re transgender?

We just don’t know much about the long-term effects although common sense should tell you that when you reverse the course of raging hormones there’s going to be problems. We do know it hinders the development of bone density, which is kind of important if you like having a skeleton. Fertility and the ability to have an orgasm seem also to be affected. This isn’t just a lifestyle decision. It’s medical. Weighing tradeoffs is not bigotry. Yet when a book questioning the sudden uptick in transitioning children was released, a trans lawyer with the ACLU tweeted, ‘Stopping the circulation of this book and these ideas is 100 percent the hill I will die on.’ How very civil liberties of him.

Maher said that increased frankness is likely a factor in the polls showing more and more sexual minorities, saying, “And that’s all to the good.” But he added, “Some of it is: It’s trendy. ‘Penis equals man? Okay, boomer.’ Remember, the prime directive of every teen is: Anything to shock and challenge the squares who brought you up . . . And if you haven’t noticed that with kids, doing something for the Likes is more important than their own genitals, you haven’t been paying attention.”

Maher pointed to the skepticism of Dr. Erica Anderson, a transgender 71-year-old psychologist who questions the spike in transgender children. “The L.A. Times summarizes, ‘She’s come to believe that some children identifying as trans are falling under the influence of their peers and social media.’ If you attend a small dinner party of typically very liberal upper-income Angelenos, it is not uncommon to hear parents who each have a trans kid having a conversation about that.”

Why are kids in major liberal enclaves suddenly announcing they were born in the wrong bodies in numbers never dreamt of even a decade ago? Maher suggests there is a mind contagion at work. He asks, “What are the odds of that happening in Youngstown, Ohio? If this spike in trans children is all natural, why is it regional? Either Ohio is shaming them or California is creating them.”

Maher thinks a little frankness is in order: “If we can’t admit that in certain enclaves there is some level of trendiness to the idea of being anything other than straight, then this is not a serious science-based discussion. It’s a blow being struck in the culture wars using children as cannon fodder.”

When it comes to the long-term health of our kids, some parents seem to think gender transitioning is the one safe thing that children can do: “I don’t understand parents who won’t let their nine-year-old walk to the corner without a helmet, an Epipen and a GPS tracker — and God forbid their lips touch dairy — but ‘hormone blockers and genital surgery? Fine.’”

To summarize: “Never forget children are impressionable and very, very stupid . . . Maybe the boy who thinks he’s a girl is just gay. Maybe the girl who hates girly stuff just needs to learn that being a girl doesn’t mean you have to act like a Kardashian. Maybe childhood makes you sad sometimes and there are other solutions besides ‘hand me the d*** saw.’’

And we seem to have forgotten that kids have phases: “They’re kids, it’s all phases. The dinosaur phase, the Hello Kitty phase . . . genderfluid? Kids are fluid about everything. If kids knew what they wanted to be at age eight, the world would be filled with cowboys and princesses. I wanted to be a pirate. Thank God nobody took me seriously and scheduled me for eye removal and peg-leg surgery.”

Politics & Policy

Who Among Us Has Not Chased Down an Unarmed Black Jogger with a Shotgun?

Loading...
Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman speaks to striking healthcare workers from University of Pittsburgh Medical Center outside the corporate headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pa., November 18, 2021. (Quinn Glabicki/Reuters)

The media really, really want a far-left Democrat named John Fetterman to win a Senate seat in Pennsylvania this fall, facing off against either Dr. Mehmet Oz or former hedge-fund CEO David McCormick, one of whom will be the GOP nominee.

Fetterman stands 6’8” and dresses like a mechanic/lumberjack, and the media’s hope is that a set of Bernie Sanders–like policy positions can be slipped past the electorate provided that their advocate looks like a guy who has multiple Trump flags draped over his house. Fetterman supports Medicare for All (i.e., abolishing your health-insurance plan and dumping you onto a federal one), says there should be no legal limits on abortion, backed Bernie Sanders for president in 2016, calls Elizabeth Warren a “luminary,” thinks biological males should be allowed to participate in girls’ and women’s sports, and wants a “de facto” moratorium on fracking.

Oh, and he chased down a black jogger with a loaded shotgun in 2013. The jogger said Fetterman pointed the shotgun at his chest; Fetterman denies this but allows that his intent was to detain the jogger. At the time, Fetterman was mayor of a small town in Pennsylvania. Trip Gabriel of the New York Times frets, “The GOP use of this 2013 incident . . . has begun.” Gabriel previously published a detailed account of this episode that puts the gentlest imaginable spin on events but . . . Fetterman chased down an innocent, unarmed black jogger with a shotgun and detained him. 

Gabriel thinks the GOP is opportunistically publicizing this episode which, as ancient history (way back in 2013, when the earth was young and before chasing down unarmed black people for no reason was discovered to be wrong), should be forgotten by all involved as it gives us no useful information about the character of a man running for the U.S. Senate. In other words, this is a “GOP pounces story,” or Gabriel wishes it were. The media would have us believe it is unfair for Republicans to draw attention to a Democrat chasing down an unarmed black jogger with a shotgun; naturally, Democrats would not be opportunistic about the situation and would quietly let the matter rest were Fetterman a Republican.

World

‘I Would Never Have Him Any Different’

Loading...
Vladimir Kara-Murza (Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)

Vladimir Kara-Murza is a political prisoner, arrested on April 11. National Review readers are well familiar with him. He is a Russian politician, journalist, and democracy advocate. I have written about him, and podcasted with him, several times. I will have a piece about his case in our next issue. In the meantime, I have done a podcast with his wife, Evgenia Kara-Murza: here. She is doing all she can to sound the alarm about her husband and win his release.

For 15 years, Vladimir Kara-Murza worked alongside Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader. They were very close friends. Nemtsov was godfather to one of the Kara-Murzas’ children. He was murdered in February 2015, gunned down on a bridge near the Kremlin. Kara-Murza himself was almost murdered — twice, in poison attacks. Yet he would not leave Russia, for exile. He insisted on continuing his work in his own country, despite the obvious dangers.

In 2017, I asked him what his wife, Evgenia, thought. He said, “If you ask her, she’ll say, ‘I knew what I was signing up for.’” He then said — blushing slightly — “I’m grateful to have such a woman in my life.”

Here is Evgenia herself, speaking in our podcast: “When we were dating, 20 years ago, I was looking at him and thinking, ‘You know, I can imagine spending my life with this man. He’s smart, he’s funny, he’s honorable. He has so much integrity.’ Later, when the poisonings and persecutions began, I thought, ‘I wish our lives could be a little more boring.’ But I do admire Vladimir. I’ve always admired and respected him for his principled stand, and I would never have him any different.”

About Vladimir’s insistence on working in Russia, rather than abroad, Evgenia says this: “He believes that he would not have the moral right to call on people to fight if he were not sharing the same risks.”

Evgenia Kara-Murza worked for a time as a translator: between Russian and French, and between Russian and English. Eventually, however, she joined Vladimir in his political work and his human-rights work. He was “drowning in projects,” she says. And how could you choose? How could you choose between, for example, advocacy of personal, targeted sanctions against wrongdoers, and advocacy in behalf of political prisoners? Vladimir thought it necessary to do it all.

On March 15, he gave a speech to the Arizona legislature. “These are very dark times in Russia,” he said. “These are times when we have hundreds of political prisoners, and that number is only going to grow.” Less than a month later, Kara-Murza himself became a political prisoner.

“I’m continuing his work while he cannot do it,” says Evgenia.

I think of Avital Sharansky, wife of Natan, or Anatoly, as he was in the Soviet Union. She married him in 1974. The next day, she left for Israel. She had a visa, he did not. (Hence, he was a refusenik, someone denied an exit visa.) In 1977, he was arrested, and spent nine years in the Gulag. Brutal years. Abroad and free, Avital campaigned for him. She was very effective at it. A few years ago, Natan remarked to me, “The biggest mistake the KGB made was letting Avital out.”

Today, Evgenia Kara-Murza tells me, “I’ve never been a public person, and I’ve never enjoyed being in the public eye. I am a quite introverted person, so I like working from home, and I like taking care of the kids, but unfortunately the situation sometimes changes, and I emerge when my husband is either poisoned or thrown in jail, because this is my partner, my soulmate, and I am prepared to do everything I can to bring my children’s father home.”

Again, to hear her, in a podcast, go here.

Politics & Policy

A Professor and the American Heritage

Loading...
‘Washington as Statesman at the Constitutional Convention,’ by Junius Brutus Stearns (image via Wikimedia)

Akhil Reed Amar is a famous law professor, working at Yale. He went to Yale College and also the law school — and became a professor there at 26. He is a Yale lifer, and very happy to be. He is in love with America, with American history, with the Constitution. Critics may call him a romantic. According to him, he sees clearly. He has written several books about the Constitution, including The Words That Made Us.

Earlier this month, Amar wrote a piece for the Wall Street Journal called “The End of Roe v. Wade.” In it, he explains why he, a pro-choice Democrat, believes that Roe is a bad decision — and why Justice Alito’s leaked draft, overturning the decision, is correct.

Amar and I have done a leisurely, wide-ranging, and, I believe, very interesting podcast: here.

We begin with his name: “Akhil Reed Amar.” An Indian first name, an English middle name, and an Indian last name. There must be stories behind that, and there are. Of his name, Amar says, “It’s a reflection of my blended identity.” His two brothers also have “Anglo” middle names, to go with their Indian first names and Indian last name.

Their parents grew up in India under the British Raj. (Their mother also did some of her growing up in Africa.) In India, they were trained as doctors. Independently, they went to the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor, in the 1950s. There they met, at the medical school. Akhil was born in Ann Arbor on September 6, 1958.

And “the Constitution gives me the greatest birthday gift ever,” says Amar, in the form of American citizenship. It’s right there in the first sentence of the Fourteenth Amendment. Like many Americans, though not all, Amar thinks he hit the jackpot, with this citizen business.

Akhil’s father had a mentor at the U of M: Reed Nesbit, the chairman of the urology department. Akhil Reed Amar’s middle name comes from this Dr. Nesbit. “We are a loyal family, a grateful family — grateful to America,” says Amar. His father became a professor, at the University of California, San Francisco. Of course, Akhil himself became a professor.

“India, America, mentoring, gratitude — it’s all there, in the name,” he says.

He did most of his growing up in Walnut Creek, Calif., about 15 miles northeast of Oakland. In those days, he says, it was more rural than it is now. But even now “it’s where the cosmopolitan culture of the San Francisco Bay Area meets the inland culture of the great Central Valley of California.” He went to Las Lomas High School — and crossed the continent to Yale.

He arrived there, sight unseen, on his 18th birthday — September 6, 1976 (“a great year,” he says, “our bicentennial year”). The first week, he met a brilliant senior, Richard Brookhiser, who has long been a jewel in the National Review crown. It was Amar who suggested the idea, and title, for Rick’s book on Lincoln and the Founders: Founders’ Son. A damn good book.

Young Amar’s plan was to complete his studies, then go back to California. But, captivated by Yale, he stayed.

In college, he majored in economics. But while he was studying economics, he fell for history, hard — especially American history. So he wound up double-majoring. Two of his great American-history teachers were Edmund Morgan and John Morton Blum. At the law school, he studied with Charles Black, Bruce Ackerman, Owen Fiss, Guido Calabresi, Burke Marshall — “many great mentors,” he says.

In our podcast, we address a variety of questions: the role of judges (versus that of legislators, for example); the size of the Supreme Court; life tenure; the litigiousness of Americans; political correctness, or wokeness, on campus.

Amar is a very old-fashioned professor, by the way. He does not want to create people in his own image and likeness. He wants to mentor everyone — left, right, or center — and help each person be the best he can be. The bullying of conservative students by Jacobinical types, he deplores.

At the end of our podcast, I ask him something like, “What do you wish people could know about the Constitution?” He makes three points.

It was epochal, the U.S. Constitution. People voted on it. Nothing like that had ever happened before. There had been very little democracy in the world. The Constitution was a big bang. You can speak of “B.C.” and “A.D.” — before the Constitution and after the document. “We Americans should be very proud of that,” Amar says.

“We Americans”? Amar stresses that his forebears lived elsewhere. But so what? “I can affiliate with this project.” So can anyone else. “It’s open.” Americanness is a matter of belief, not a matter of blood. The idea of America as a creedal nation seems badly out of fashion. But Amar does not mind being out of fashion. Besides, when you have tenure, you can — and should — say whatever the hell you want.

I am reminded of Mark Haidar — né Mahmoud Haidar — with whom I podcasted last year. He is a computer engineer and tech entrepreneur in Dallas. I met him at the George W. Bush Presidential Center, where he plays a role. Haidar grew up in Lebanon. One day, two employees of the United Nations showed up at his school. They brought two computers. This was “the day that changed my life,” Mark told me.

Let me quote from a post I wrote:

He found something called “Encarta.” This was an early Microsoft encyclopedia. He began reading about the United States and discovered the Declaration of Independence — which excited him. He knew, in his core, it was true: Human beings have rights that no man or system can negate.

Thereafter, he had a tradition. Every time he got a new notebook in school — like a spiral notebook — he would write in it the words “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

Back to Akhil Reed Amar and the Constitution. A lot of people were fiercely opposed to the Constitution, he says, and voted against it. The country (such as it was) was badly polarized. But the losers accepted the outcome and kept working within the fledgling democracy. The winners listened to them. Soon came the Bill of Rights. Democracy involves give-and-take — and without it, says Amar, we’re “doomed.” (I, less polite, say “screwed.”)

You might find this old-fashioned professor, and unapologetically old-fashioned American, refreshing. Again, our podcast is here.

Economy & Business

Lazy Thinking about the Cause of Inflation

Loading...

Among “progressives,” government can never be the cause of problems; it can only be the solution. Conversely, private-sector action must always be to blame. They seem incapable of examining their arguments for possible flaws in reasoning. So when it comes to inflation, we get the sort of lazy thinking that Professor Don Boudreaux dissects here.

A writer seeks to explain inflation by claiming that it’s due to increasing corporate greed for profits. Boudreaux patiently rips that explanation to shreds.

Enjoy it, but remember it — we’re going to be suffering inflation for a long time, and this and similar statist attempts to show that it’s due to bad behavior in the productive sector will no doubt be heard over and over.

Capital Matters

Always Charging the Same Car

Loading...
A Tesla Model S electric car at a dealership in Seoul, South Korea, July 6, 2017. (Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters)

“Communism”, said Lenin, “is Soviet power plus the electrification of the whole country.”

It didn’t end well.

And nor, I suspect, will be the administration’s drive to electrify the U.S. auto sector at a pace that displays the same sorts of refusal to accept reality that was once the province of Soviet central planners.

The Wall Street Journal:

Auto makers also still face a significant risk that consumer demand won’t keep pace with supply. This is Detroit’s Big Three have been lobbying hard for President Biden’s Build Back Better plan. The bill would provide $12,500 tax credits for electric cars made at union auto plants in the U.S. and extend the current $7,500 credit through 2031 for nonunion plants.

Translation: People are unlikely to want electric cars in large enough quantities.

The reasons for that extend beyond EVs’ expense. To be sure, charging with electricity is cheaper than filling up a car with gas (low bar) at the moment, but it takes so long that it’s best to bring a book or two, or even start writing one. That should be fun for long family vacation trips. Some details here.

And when it comes to the expense of EVs, The Wall Street Journal has news:

[E]lectric cars are still on average 35% more expensive than gas-powered ones, and the price disparity is likely to increase as demand for critical minerals grows.

Many of those critical minerals come from our Chinese friends. That may not be too wise. Supply-chain security and all that.

But wait, surely we can mine many of those minerals ourselves.

Potentially, yes, but (via Energy Monitor from late February):

Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden has rolled out an ambitious Build Back Better Act that includes the goal for half of new cars sold in the country in 2030 to be zero emissions. However, the same administration does not seem to be acting to secure a stable supply chain to achieve those goals.

Just last week, the government cancelled the leases of Twin Metals Minnesota to mine for cobalt, nickel and copper. Currently, there is only one operating mine in the US that produces nickel, and even though the country has large reserves of lithium, there is only one big operating lithium mining project, the Silver Peak Mine in Nevada.

The country is in the best of hands.

More from the WSJ:

Most EVs today can’t go more than 250 miles on a charge (and less in cold weather). Drivers worry for good reason that they’ll run out of juice on the road. President Biden hopes to alleviate this so-called range anxiety by subsidizing a nationwide network of charging stations. This won’t solve the problem. Public charging stations are nowhere more ubiquitous than in California’s Bay Area. But a recent study found that less than three-quarters of charging stations worked. In many cases the plugs, screens or payment systems were broken, or connector cables weren’t long enough to reach the car’s port. Imagine if 25% of the nation’s gasoline stations weren’t working and drivers didn’t know until they got out of the car whether they’d be able to fill up.

Much still needs to be worked out before widespread adoption of EVs is feasible. Yet the Biden administration and states like California plan to use fuel-economy and emissions mandates to force auto makers to phase out conventional vehicles. What happens if electric cars don’t sell? Perhaps auto makers would lobby politicians for higher gasoline taxes to boost EV sales, as they are doing in Europe. More likely they’d discount electric cars and raise prices on gasoline-powered ones to compensate. The alternative would be bankruptcy.

Central planning is, it seems, working as well as it always does.

There should be no mandatory phasing-in of EVs, under any circumstances, but to ‘encourage’ their adoption until problems of this type have been worked out is a blend of madness and arrogance all too typical of central planners on the rampage.

But at least we have a reliable electric grid, well-equipped to cope with the extra demand that EVs would put on it.

The Wall Street Journal (also from February):

The U.S. electrical system is becoming less dependable. The problem is likely to get worse before it gets better.

Large, sustained outages have occurred with increasing frequency in the U.S. over the past two decades, according to a Wall Street Journal review of federal data. In 2000, there were fewer than two dozen major disruptions, the data shows. In 2020, the number surpassed 180.

Utility customers on average experienced just over eight hours of power interruptions in 2020, more than double the amount in 2013, when the government began tracking outage lengths. The data doesn’t include 2021, but those numbers are certain to follow the trend after a freak freeze in Texas, a major hurricane in New Orleans, wildfires in California and a heat wave in the Pacific Northwest left millions in the dark for days.

The U.S. power system is faltering just as millions of Americans are becoming more dependent on it—not just to light their homes, but increasingly to work remotely, charge their phones and cars, and cook their food—as more modern conveniences become electrified….

All is well.

World

Covid-Crazed Australia Ousts Its PM

Loading...
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks during a joint press conference held with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at Admiralty House in Sydney, Australia, February 28, 2020. (REUTERS/Loren Elliott)

Australia’s general election on Saturday was, for them, a blockbuster political trial for Scott Morrison (or ‘Sco-Mo’), the prime minister and leader of the Liberal-National Coalition. After four years in office, his government was judged by a jury of, quite literally, all its citizens in a compulsory vote. The pandemic, economic crisis, and existential challenge from China gave them a full plate of issues on which to issue their verdict.

As of this writing, it has been decisive. Overwhelmingly, the Liberal-Nationals were defeated by the socialist Anthony Albanese, whose Labor Party will assume government, possibly with a majority. Sco-Mo’s concession wraps it up. Keep the name Albanese in mind; you’ll hear it more often, now. Sco-Mo, meanwhile, is headed for the political doghouse.

It didn’t always seem this way. Sco-Mo is a conservative and, all else being equal, there was quite a bit to like about his record. He was the poster child for an American ally, who defined what it meant to be a “hardliner” on China. Even as China’s shadow looms large over Australia – as its largest trading partner with military supremacy – Sco-Mo has refused to let his country be treated like, as one Wolf Warrior Chinese diplomat put it, “gum stuck to the bottom of China’s shoe.” Besides that, one saw in Sco-Mo a Burkean conservative – who stood up to the “climate change” policy craze, cancel culture, and illegal immigration in a rather impressive fashion.

And yet, despite all this, Australia under Morrison became associated with Covid tyranny. It became a draconian police state with his “Zero Covid” strategy: Nobody could enter or exit their homes, armed cops and surveillance drones whizzed around to monitor compliance, and protests of any kind were totally banned. Small-time dissenters were arrested by police and hauled away.

In a peacetime Western democracy, these curbs were in a league of their own. Sco-Mo and Australia’s state premiers had total authority over people’s lives. Individual rights were stripped away, and fear of the state took its place. Ironically, it was comparable to China’s “Zero Covid” dragnet policy, where some have been welded shut into their homes to ‘stop the spread.’ Even as he battled China abroad, Sco-Mo and regional officials turned Australia into Shanghai at home.

Now, although he promised no more lockdowns before the election, Sco-Mo has been kicked to the curb by voters — though a host of other issues beyond Covid factored into this decision. Still, I wrote last month that his loss would be deserved. So it is, even if the lefty Albanese may not be much better.

Politics & Policy

Governor Hochul’s Knee-Jerk Attack on the First and Second Amendments

Loading...

As sure as the sun rises in the east each morning, after the shooting in Buffalo, statist politicians pounced on it to declare that we need less freedom and more government “protection.”

A case in point: New York governor Hochul’s attack on the First and Second Amendments, as detailed here by Judge Andrew Napolitano in the Washington Times.

Authoritarians like Hochul never miss an opportunity to claim that we must give them more power. That has been working for them since the New Deal. Time for Americans to wise up and tune them out.

Politics & Policy

Too Bad We No Longer Live in a Serious Country

Loading...

I strongly suggest Professor Wilfred McClay’s remarks at the 2022 Bradley Prize Awards.

Video available here.

Much of our “leadership” acts like the emperors of the last centuries of the Roman Empire. They’re in it for themselves, enjoying power and pelf at the expense of the remaining productive people, oblivious to the future. Not serious.

Law & the Courts

Why Did Sussmann’s Attorneys Put Robby Mook on the Witness Stand?

Loading...
Robby Mook, then-campaign manager for presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, talks to reporters onboard the campaign plane enroute to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in 2016. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

In 20 years as a prosecutor, it never ceased to amaze me how often a defense case at trial ends up helping the government far more than it helps the defense. Is that what happened today when, as Isaac Schorr reports, Michael Sussmann’s defense called Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign manager, Robby Mook?

Probably. That is to say, it looks like a harebrained move now.

Remember, prior to trial, the defense persuaded Judge Christopher Cooper to suppress tweets posted by Hillary Clinton on the eve of the election about the bogus claim that Donald Trump had a secret communications back channel to the Kremlin. This was a blow to special counsel John Durham, who has been trying to prove that Sussmann’s alleged false statement — claiming he was not representing a client, though he was actually representing the Clinton campaign, when he brought the FBI the now-discredited back-channel evidence — was part of a broader political dirty trick orchestrated by the campaign, and perhaps by Clinton herself.

Yet, putting Mook on the stand predictably opened the door to the introduction of the very Clinton tweet the defense had been trying to keep the jury from seeing. When Mook bracingly testified that Clinton herself approved the campaign proposal to leak the back-channel smear to the media, that enabled Durham to do exactly what he had hoped to do: place Sussmann’s alleged false statement in a larger context of a Clinton-driven conspiracy.

So why did Sussmann’s lawyers do it? I believe it was done in the service of the preposterous defense they are trying to sell the jury.

Sussmann would like to have been in a position to challenge the allegation that he represented the Clinton campaign at the relevant time. But he can’t. The evidence is overwhelming. He was billing his time to the Clinton campaign. He was strategizing with the campaign’s operatives on campaign initiatives. And the defense concedes that Sussmann was working on the campaign’s behalf when he tried to get the New York Times interested in the back-channel claim.

Consequently, since Sussmann can’t credibly deny that he was representing the Clinton campaign, he is trying to parse what the scope of that representation was. Under this theory, even if he is working for the campaign, and being paid by the campaign, he shouldn’t be seen as representing the campaign’s interests if he did things that the campaign supposedly opposed.

Consistent with this spin, Sussmann’s defense claims that the campaign did not want anyone to bring the FBI the back-channel information. Sussmann’s counsel theorizes that if the information were brought to the FBI, the bureau would then have leaned on the Times to delay publication of the Trump–Russia back-channel story to give agents time to investigate. That, we’re to believe, would disserve the campaign’s interests because the campaign wanted the Times to publish the story.

In this telling, Sussmann essentially betrayed the campaign, out of personal loyalty to the FBI and a personal, patriotic sense of duty developed in his years as a Justice Department national-security lawyer. Ergo, even though he may technically have been representing the campaign, Sussmann wasn’t really representing the campaign when he went to the bureau.

This is where Robby Mook comes in.

The defense called Mook to elicit his claim that there was no way that the campaign he was managing would agree to bring any evidence about Trump and Russia to the FBI. The Clinton campaign “did not trust” the FBI, Mook inveighed. Remember, the Clintonistas continue to claim that the bureau’s then-director, James Comey, hung Clinton out to dry with his damning public statements about her email scandal (though they conveniently omit that Comey also publicly decreed that she should not be indicted).

In putting Mook on the stand, the defense wanted an assertion from the highest official in the Clinton campaign that the campaign would not have approved Sussmann’s bringing the information to the FBI. Mook delivered, and further elaborated that Hillary Clinton herself approved the leak to the media. This supports the defense theme that the Clinton campaign wanted the Trump–Russia collusion narrative to be a media-driven story, not an FBI investigation.

Based on that, the defense hopes the jurors will say to themselves, “Gee, maybe Sussmann wasn’t representing the Clinton campaign after all.”

Again, it’s a ridiculous defense. Sussmann was representing the campaign, which has claimed attorney–client privilege in connection with documents Durham has sought for the trial, and which paid for Sussmann’s time for the visit to the FBI. Sussmann collaborated with the campaign in preparing to meet FBI general counsel James Baker. And quite obviously, as the campaign’s lawyer, Sussmann had a professional duty of fealty to his client; he would never have pursued a personal agenda to help the FBI if it were to the detriment of his client’s interests.

A lawyer either represents a client or he doesn’t. There is no Monday-morning quarterbacking, in which if something doesn’t go as planned, the client gets to say the lawyer wasn’t really representing him.

Moreover, the truth of the matter is that the Clinton campaign absolutely wanted to entice the FBI into investigating the Trump–Russia back-channel claim. That’s why you won’t hear a single campaign official assert, under oath, that he or she directed Sussmann not to go to the FBI.

It was not a matter of whether the campaign “trusted” the FBI; the campaign was trying to use the FBI. If the bureau could be persuaded to investigate, then the story would be more damaging to Trump, and more media outlets would spotlight it on the eve of the election. It would be the October surprise the Clinton campaign was banking on. That’s why, when Clinton posted her tweet, it referred to a statement by her then-adviser (and now Biden national-security adviser) Jake Sullivan, to wit: “We can only assume that federal authorities will now explore this direct connection between Trump and Russia.”

The defense that Sussmann was hoping Robby Mook would prop up is a frivolous defense. But it is the defense that Sussmann is running with, because it’s all he’s got. Calling Mook was not irrational. But on net, it was a mistake.

PC Culture

Another Bit of Academic Foolishness

Loading...
Latino leaders and immigration reform supporters gather at the University of Colorado to launch “My Country, My Vote,” a 12-month voter registration campaign to mobilize Colorado’s Latino, immigrant and allied voters, October 28, 2015. (Evan Semon/Reuters)

The perceived need among academics to pander to “underrepresented” groups is insatiable. Consider the invented term “Latinx.”

In today’s Martin Center article, Garion Frankel does so and regards it as “failed academic activism.”

Frankel, himself of Hispanic origin, writes, “Every time I receive an email from Texas A&M asking me to take part in a ‘Latinx’ group or activity, it makes my blood boil. It’s another example of the paternalistic panderings of the academic elite. It’s humiliating. Latinx’s similarities to Orwell’s Newspeak (intentionally ambiguous language used to spread political propaganda) have been well-documented, as has academia’s general lack of cultural awareness. But universities’ commitment to the word goes deeper than merely pandering to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. If DEI were the only goal, universities would treat Latino college students as people rather than as potential assets.”

The purpose of this bit of linguistic nonsense is to try to create more students with a revolutionary spirit. That’s always foremost in the minds of “progressives.” Fortunately, it seems to be a flop.

Frankel explains, “The reason Latinx is failing where Chicano succeeded is simple. While the Chicano movement saw academics turning student activists towards the very real problems affecting millions of people with similar backgrounds and values, today’s academics are asking people to change the way they talk and how they see themselves in order to cater to the desires of an extremely small minority of Latinos.”

Religion

Scalia on Retreats

Loading...
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia delivers remarks at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., March 14, 2005. Scalia spoke to guests at the Woodrow Wilson Center on “Constitutional Interpretation.” (Shaun Heasley/Reuters)

On the latest episode of the Editors podcast, I referenced some spiritual advice given by the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Here is the excerpt, taken from a 1998 speech he gave to a group of students from his alma mater, Georgetown University:

I somehow got out of the habit of making retreats. The world crept in — which is what those of us who do not enter the seminary or the convent (and perhaps many of those who do) have to worry about. I have gotten back into the habit in the last ten years, and I recommend it to you. If you don’t have a weekend to spare once a year to think exclusively about the things that really matter — well, you haven’t planned your life correctly.

Science & Tech

Wisconsin Representative Mike Gallager: UFOs Could Be ‘Us from the Future’

Loading...
Rep. Mike Gallagher (left) and John Hillen at the National Review Institute conference, “The Case for American Power,” May 9, 2022. (Isaac Schorr)

Following an open congressional hearing Tuesday on the subject of what we’re now supposed to call “unidentified aerial phenomena” but used to just call UFOs, Representative Mike Gallagher (R., Wis.) entertained the possibility that UAP could be “us from the future.”

Appearing on the Pat McAfee Show the day after the hearing, Gallagher suggested one possibility that hasn’t been considered for unresolved UAP sightings, in addition to foreign adversaries or extraterrestrials, is that they could be our own technology going back in time to our present.

“Go back 200 years, and you would say, ‘You guys don’t have cars, Internet, good machine guns; what’s going on?'” Gallagher said. “So go from our point in history, forward 200 years, and whoever’s left, at that point, if we can avoid nuking ourselves, is gonna say, ‘Wait, you guys can’t bend space and time? We figured that out like 50, 100 years ago.”

He added that there’s some scientific basis for this hypothesis, and that it is considered “more plausible” than other theories by “serious people” with credentialed backgrounds who have looked into the question. “We already, my understanding — and again, I’m not a technologist — there is technology, technically, that can do teleportation of something called neutrinos, and technology that proves subatomic particles can move faster than the speed of light. Einstein tells us that’s true. Theoretically, time travel is possible,” he said. “So, that is the third hypothesis: People in the future, us, have figured out how to bend space and time, and it’s our technology coming back from the future.”

Gallagher stressed that he was not “privileging” this theory “over another one,” but was merely emphasizing that “we’ve gotta go into this debate, not foreclosing anything just because we think it’s dumb to talk about aliens, and the Washington Post will call you a conspiracy theorist.”

His comments came after a hearing of a House intelligence subcommittee on Tuesday in which he participated, bringing up a still-unexplained 1967 incident at Malmstrom Air Force Base in which an unidentified object allegedly rendered nuclear weapons housed at the base inoperable, as well as a disputed memo from a past director of national intelligence, Thomas Wilson, which supposedly outlined a whole host of government programs dealing with and overseeing evidence of extraterrestrial encounters.

Gallagher was left dissatisfied by both the open and closed portions of the hearing, as two government officials representing the Pentagon’s Airborne Object Identification and Management Synchronization Group were unable to answer his questions adequately. “I’m still frustrated with the lack of answers,” Gallagher said. “Yesterday was just fundamentally unacceptable.”

The Wisconsin congressman believes a better approach for this important issue, which has critical national-security implications regardless of the ultimate explanation, would be to declassify as much as possible, involve the private sector, and try to get to the true bottom of the mystery. “Let’s follow the evidence wherever it leads. And I don’t yet know where it’s gonna lead. But let’s just follow it.” He believes, furthermore, that, when it comes to the UAP discussion, “the genie is out of the bottle,” and people are going to keep talking about it regardless.” The conversation has increased so much, and there’s a lot of serious people who are interested in it.”

Indeed there are, Representative Gallagher. Indeed there are.

White House

Ctrl+F: ‘Election Conspiracy Theorist’

Loading...
Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre holds a media briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., July 29, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

Today’s New York Times features a profile of Karine Jean-Pierre, the new White House press secretary. Suffice it to say that, were Karine Jean-Pierre a Republican, the likelihood that the New York Times would have published 1,400 words about her without mentioning that she’s a serial election truther is nil.

Economy & Business

Diversity Signaling

Loading...
A Wells Fargo bank is pictured in Dallas, Texas October 9, 2008 (Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters)

A few months ago, I wrote a hopeful piece about why, maybe, worries over woke capitalism were overblown. I noted that some companies talk woke but don’t change their behaviors. I also noted that some on the left do not actually like the concept precisely because it leads to lots of signaling and little concrete actions. Apparently, they have learned that lesson from trying to increase diversity in companies. Here is what I wrote then:

Other woke gestures are also likely to fall short of progressives’ political expectations. Corporate America’s en­thu­siasm for “diversity training,” for instance, will surely line the pockets of diversity consultants, but the training is unlikely to achieve its stated goal. On this front, the work of Iris Bohnet, a public-policy professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School, on “diversity training” is telling. “Sadly enough,” she writes, “I did not find a single study that found that diversity training in fact leads to more diversity.”

Well, here is some more evidence coming from Wells Fargo’s pursuit of diversity through fake interviews. The New York Times reported yesterday that

Joe Bruno, a former executive in the wealth management division of Wells Fargo, had long been troubled by the way his unit handled certain job interviews.

For many open positions, employees would interview a “diverse” candidate — the bank’s term for a woman or person of color — in keeping with the bank’s yearslong informal policy. But Mr. Bruno noticed that often, the so-called diverse candidate would be interviewed for a job that had already been promised to someone else.

If you read the article, you learn that seven current and former Wells Fargo employees confirm that they were told to interview black and female candidates even though the position had already been filled.

The interviews, they said, seemed to be more about helping Wells Fargo record its diversity efforts on paper — partly in anticipation of possible regulatory audits — rather than hiring more women or people of color. All but three spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were afraid of losing their jobs at Wells Fargo or their new employers.

Wells Fargo’s spokesperson says that if it is happening, it’s not coming from the top. Well, that’s a relief!

On that note, here are two excellent Great Antidote podcasts on related issues (full disclosure, the host is my daughter). One is with NR’s Phil Klein on what he calls Fight Club Conservatives. The article that inspired the interview is this one. The second, which came out today, is with Brian Knight of the Mercatus Center on woke capitalism, what it is and what it is not. Hope you enjoy them.

Politics & Policy

The Washington Post Gives a Boost to Pelosi’s Cynical Baby-Formula Bill

Loading...
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi gestures as she speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., March 3, 2022. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

As Dominic Pino noted yesterday, GOP congressman Peter Meijer of Michigan offered a pithy explanation of why he voted against a bill purporting to address the baby-formula shortage: 

NR contributing editor Daniel Foster wonders why Speaker Pelosi thought she could get away with this stunt:

This headline in the news pages of the Washington Post provides an answer: “Nearly 200 Republicans vote against bill to ease baby formula shortage.

To repeat myself, this is the headline of a news story, not an opinion article. But not a single sentence in the Washington Post news story even attempts to explain how the $28 million boost to FDA salaries would actually help ease the formula shortage. Here are all of the quotations from Democratic officials in the article: 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that the 192 Republicans who opposed the bill are the latest example of the party’s unwillingness to address the issues that matter most to Americans.

“We see a baby formula as something that’s at the kitchen table,” she said in her weekly news conference. “So, we think from the standpoint of the kitchen table, that there is no comparison” between Democrats and Republicans.

“I mean, they don’t even vote for domestic terrorism,” Pelosi added in reference to Republicans’ overwhelming opposition to a bill Wednesday night aimed at curbing homegrown violent extremism. “It’s nuts.”

Other Democrats criticized the GOP after the vote.

“If Republicans had it their way the formula shortage would continue so they could cynically exploit recalls for political gain and racial divide,” said Chris Taylor, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “Democrats worked to deliver solutions, but when given the opportunity to solve problems Republicans abandoned the American people.”

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) questioned the motivations and commitment to problem-solving of the GOP.

“Republicans aren’t interested in solutions. They’re interested in theater and chaos,” he tweeted Wednesday. “House Democrats offered a baby formula solution to help your family. Almost every House GOP member voted against it.”

Law & the Courts

Talking Dobbs and the Leak

Loading...

I was on Pete Turner’s Break It Down Show last week discussing Dobbs, the big leak, and the future of Roe. (I was wrong about having the common cold; I had tested negative for Covid, but a later test showed that I was, in fact, positive. It was not fun.)

Politics & Policy

UFO Hearings Are Good, Actually

Loading...
Ronald Moultrie, who oversees a newly formed Pentagon-based UAP (unidentified aerial phenomena) investigation team testifies before an intelligence subcommittee in Washington, D.C., May 17, 2022. (Joey Roulette/Reuters)

The Washington Post editorial board published a mostly reasonable piece yesterday titled “Congress has time for UFOs — but not for pandemic funding.” The board writes:

This is a good moment to appreciate the central lesson of this public health catastrophe: It will surprise, and surprise again. We must keep our eyes open for unexpected change. . . . That’s why it is inexplicable that Congress has yet to act on legislation funding the purchase of vaccines, tests and treatments for use in the autumn. No one knows how the pandemic will evolve, but failing to allocate funds is an abdication of responsibility. Other nations are already lining up to buy coronavirus shots. How is it that a House committee this week could hold a hearing on UFOs while legislators drag their feet on money for therapeutics and vaccines?

Okay, yes. Vaccines and therapeutics are good, and Congress should be acting to secure them for Americans in need.

But . . .

Congressional hearings on UFOs are pretty cool, too. As the Post details in a separate piece on the hearings: 

Congress held a rare public hearing Tuesday into the existence of what the government calls unidentified aerial phenomena, more commonly known as UFOs, a subject of scrutiny by the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence agencies following an increase in sightings by military personnel and pilots in recent years.

By taking testimony from senior government officials, lawmakers intended to bring “out of the shadows” a Defense Department organization that has been tracking the sightings, said Rep. André Carson (D-Ind.), chairman of the House Intelligence subcommittee on counterterrorism, counterintelligence and counterproliferation.

I mean, c’mon. Let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater — we can walk and chew gum at the same time here. Secure funding for Covid treatments, yes. But there’s no need to kill the most interesting congressional hearings of the year while you’re at it. 

White House

Bloomberg: Joe Biden Is Being Pressured to ‘Cancel’ Student Loans by Corrupt, Self-Dealing Aides

Loading...
President Joe Biden takes questions as he delivers remarks on administration plans to fight inflation and lower costs at the White House in Washington, D.C., May 10, 2022. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

The rank self-dealing on display in the push for student loan “cancellation” is beyond grotesque. I have wondered for a while why Joe Biden is even considering such a ridiculous, suicidal, and downright illegal policy, and now I know: Because the people closest to him stand to benefit from it enormously, and they’re pushing their case whenever they can.

Per Bloomberg:

President Joe Biden’s decision on whether to forgive student debt will be personal for many of his aides, who are among the millions of Americans carrying loans for college and graduate school.

At least 30 senior White House staffers have student loan balances, according to 2021 financial disclosures Bloomberg News obtained from the Office of Government Ethics, including Biden’s new press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, and Bharat Ramamurti, deputy director of the National Economic Council.

Or, to put it another way: Many of Biden’s aides are using their position in the White House to lobby the head of the federal government to force other people to pay off their debts.

Those debts are considerable:

Collectively, they owe as much as $4.7 million, the documents show, including one legislative aide who reported owing between $500,000 and $1 million. Generally, only senior or well-paid White House staff have to file financial disclosures, and they don’t have to report debt less than $10,000, meaning the total number of Biden’s aides with loan balances is certainly higher.

The gall on display here is astonishing. A few weeks ago, we learned that Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — who makes $174,000 per year and drives a Tesla — wants you to pay off the $17,000 she still owes in student debt. Now we learn that there are several AOCs within striking distance of the Oval Office. There’s a word for this sort of thing: Corruption.

Markets

The U.S. Is Entering a Severe Energy Crisis

Loading...
Current gas prices are shown as they continue to rise in Carlsbad, Calif., March 7, 2022. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

The U.S. is entering a severe energy crisis, and the Biden administration is whistling past the graveyard.

JPMorgan commodities analyst Natasha Kaneva predicts a “cruel summer” ahead.

“With expectations of strong driving demand — traditionally, the U.S. summer driving season starts on Memorial Day, which lands this year on May 30, and lasts until Labor Day in early September — U.S. retail price could surge another 37% by August to a $6.20/gallon national average,” she wrote in her May 17 research note.

This morning, the national average gas price is $4.59 per gallon — yet another all-time record. The average price in the state of California is $6.06 per gallon. Because prices in California are usually a dollar to $1.50 more than the national average, if Kaneva’s projection is accurate, Californians will be paying $7 to $7.50 per gallon by August.

If gas hits $6 per gallon, there are a lot of U.S. households who will struggle to afford the gas they need to commute to their jobs.

You can’t fix this by blaming “greedflation.” You can’t fix this by blaming Vladimir Putin. You can’t fix this by releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve – which, by the way, is at its lowest level since 1987. (The U.S. also ended the winter with the least natural gas in storage in three years.)

No, the only way you can get prices to come down is to increase the supply of refined gasoline getting to the gas stations, and the only way to do that is to increase refinery capacity. Oil producers are starting to increase capital expenditures – a 60 percent increase from the third quarter of 2021 to the fourth quarter. After a steep drop in early 2020 because of the pandemic, U.S. domestic oil production is increasing; the U.S produced 11.3 million barrels per day in February – the most recent month that Energy Information Administration figures are available –which is around the production levels of the first few months of 2019.

But none of that bigger supply of crude oil does anyone any good unless it runs through a refinery to get turned into gasoline or diesel fuel. A wise administration would be doing everything possible to expand capacity at existing refineries and to clear red tape obstructing the construction of new ones.

Alas, we do not have a wise administration.

Music

Vangelis, R.I.P.

Loading...
Photo of Vangelis ijn the 1970s. (Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Two pop-culture references seem to dog runners such as myself most. The more annoying one is when people shout, “Run, Forrest, Run!” at us as we trot along, alluding to the Tom Hanks Baby Boomer fantasia Forrest Gump. The other doesn’t even require words: Just some fake slow-mo combined with imitated piano and synth notes. It comes, of course, from 1981’s Chariots of Fire, which contains probably the most famous — and most-parodied — running scene in cinema history:

The man responsible for this gorgeous, inspiring, transcendent synth soundscape is the Greek musician and composer Evángelos Odysséas Papathanassíou, who died earlier this week at 79. In his professional career, he went simply by Vangelis. Starting out as a rock musician for such acts as Aphrodite’s Child, Vangelis hit his stride as a creator of film scores in the 1980s, in which he used an array of synthesizers to become a kind of orchestra unto himself.

Apart from Chariots of Fire, Vangelis’s best work was, I think, in Ridley Scott’s 1982 film Blade Runner. Scott turned to Vangelis to create the moody sonic backdrop of the film’s neo-noir atmosphere. Blade Runner is a wholly immersive work from its opening scenes; it wouldn’t be complete without Vangelis’s score guiding you in:

Scott and Vangelis sustain this tone throughout. Just listen to this and try not to imagine yourself alone in a skyscraper of some futuristic city at night, looking out the window at the chaos below and wondering what it all means:

Vangelis was not asked to return for Blade Runner 2049, Denis Villeneueve’s worthy 2017 sequel. He claimed to be okay with that. “You can never repeat certain things,” Vangelis told NPR in 2016. “It’s only once in a lifetime. It’s like doing another Chariots Of Fire. It’s impossible.”

His work is, indeed, unrepeatable. I’d argue, moreover, that it has transcended its 1980s milieu to achieve timeless status. R.I.P. to a virtuoso.