Religion

Jesus Present in Midtown Manhattan

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photo by Kristin Meyer
(Kristin Meyer)

The actress Patricia Heaton often retweets good news and good deeds with the words “More of this please.” That was my reaction to a Eucharistic procession in New York City earlier this week. Tim Busch writes about it in the Wall Street Journal (the Houses of Worship column there is a long-standing treasure) today:

The Big Apple saw two parades on Columbus Day — or rather, one parade and one procession. Hours after the more famous march, up Fifth Avenue, about 100 Catholics, myself included, trooped up Sixth Avenue and skirted Times Square. We were carrying Jesus Christ through the city’s heart.

Our event was a Eucharistic procession, which traces its roots to Roman times, and even further back to Jewish traditions. Early versions featured prayer and singing as the faithful either traveled to or circled around a holy site. In the Middle Ages, processions grew to include the Eucharist, bread that Catholics believe becomes the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ, and that is normally consumed in Holy Communion. Eucharistic processions became a common means of responding to those who denied the Catholic understanding of Communion. They occur world-wide to this day.

We started at the Shrine and Parish Church of the Holy Innocents, a few blocks south of Times Square. Auxiliary Bishop Edmund Whalen of New York consecrated the host during the preceding Mass. It was then placed in a golden monstrance — a sunburst-like vessel with a transparent center — in preparation for the procession. It was a beacon of hope in a dispiriting time.

He shared some stories from along the way:

Confusion filled the faces of virtually everyone we passed. Phones came out to record us. More than one person stopped to ask questions. Thanks to a police escort, we constantly kept moving. As people saw us coming, they crowded on corners. Some stayed there after we passed, wondering what they’d just seen.

Standing out was the point. We wanted people to ask what kind of craziness compelled us, and also to see a stark contrast with their normal lives. Sure enough, we passed souvenir shops hawking profanity-laced T-shirts as well as cabdrivers yelling at each other and equally irritable street vendors. Virtually everyone we passed was in a hurry — whether traveling by foot, bicycle or car. But we walked slowly and deliberately, pursuing not a destination but a deeper devotion to the Lord in our midst.

The procession grew as we went. Toward the start, a delivery driver named Rick approached one of my colleagues and asked what we were doing. A former Anglican, he wanted to know why we believe the Catholic Church is the true Christian church. After learning about the nature of the procession, and our desire to send a message of love and mercy, he said that’s exactly what New York City needs. After five minutes of conversation, he hugged my colleague and went back to his delivery truck.

Another friend was approached by a bicyclist. A student studying for his GRE, he wanted to know more about Catholicism — specifically why we took time out of our day to do such an odd thing. He said that sometimes he goes to a Catholic church in Queens because it’s quiet and beautiful. This young man ended up walking with the procession for 10 blocks. Before leaving, he asked if he could come to Mass. My friend said anytime. The doors of every Catholic church are open.

The Feast of Corpus Christi in June is also a time for Eucharistic processions. This summer was a time of anti-police violence in Washington Square Park, but two Catholic Churches on either side of the park had Eucharistic processions that Sunday. They didn’t make headlines, but they undoubtedly brought peace to hearts that day. I experienced that day processing around St. Joseph’s Church what Busch describes from Monday: people stopping, looking, wondering. One young man thought it was a Gay Pride parade, commenting that it must be the most progressive Church. We didn’t have a police escort because of all of the funding cuts, but there was no danger because most people seemed to have no idea what we were doing. Walking around the block at St. Joseph’s means walking past the Stonewall Inn and national park — which could be considered Gay Pride central, and during Gay Pride month. And we did so in love, bringing Jesus.

Eucharistic processions are especially powerful after our recent lived experience of being locked out of churches during the pandemic shutdowns. I’m far from the only one who longed to be in the Eucharistic presence of Jesus. I’m so grateful for priests willing bring Jesus to the streets. I know priests who during the shutdowns, drove around with the Eucharistic Lord to the homes of parishioners. When New Rochelle had a first big outbreak, a priest drove through the streets with a hand of blessing. At a time of tremendous fear, these processions and actions and recourse point to what Christian hope is all about: the love of Jesus Christ and the power of the Resurrection, which is victory over death. It’s also a reminder: We Christians must live the joy of this hope in the midst of the world. It’s our duty, and why wouldn’t we share the love of Jesus?

I also loved the Eucharistic procession this week because it included Sisters of Life and Missionaries of Charity. To know them is to know the love of God better.

(For more on Catholic belief in the Real Presence, this is a resource.)

The Economy

Supply Chains: It’s Not Just Us

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Container ship at the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro, Calif., September 29, 2021. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

With all the focus on America’s shipping delays, it’s easy to forget that the world’s biggest shipping backup is in southern China, not southern California.

That’s according to the Financial Times this morning, which reports that “a typhoon closed the ports [in Hong Kong and Shenzhen] for two days this week — but although weather often disrupts shipping, this just added to the problems from previous jams since the pandemic began. In August, a single Covid case paralysed a terminal for a fortnight in the major Chinese port of Ningbo, outside Shanghai.”

The waiting times for ships at U.S. ports are longer (seven to twelve days at Los Angeles/Long Beach and six to seven days at Savannah, compared to one to three days at Shanghai and Shenzhen), but there are more ships waiting at the Chinese ports, according to the FT. A lot more — 97 are currently waiting in Shenzhen, and 73 are waiting in Shanghai, compared to 53 and 20 at Los Angeles/Long Beach and Savannah, respectively.

Given the magnitude of global trade, it may seem odd to be talking in merely double-digit numbers, but that’s part of what makes this problem so difficult. Container ships are massive, and that’s the only way they are profitable. The economies of scale of huge ships mean that customers can transport freight for tiny fractions of a cent per pound. Since the ships are so large, there really aren’t that many of them. One cancellation or delay can have huge ramifications simply because it’s difficult to get another ship in to replace it.

Regardless of what humans do, there are entirely natural factors that affect trade no matter what. The same FT story quotes Lars Mikael Jensen of the shipping company Maersk: “We’re getting into the winter period in the northern hemisphere that will bring a return to normal challenges — snow, wind and the closures of terminals. . . . I can’t judge if we’re over the worst.”

Though U.S. ports shifting to 24/7 operations is the right call, it does nothing about Chinese ports shutting down for one case of COVID. That’s partly why the chair of DP World, one of the biggest terminal operating companies in the world, thinks that supply-chain problems could persist for the next two years. (To give you perspective on how international the shipping industry is, that link is to a story in a British newspaper about dependence on China based on an interview with a man named Sultan bin Sulayem whose Dubai-based company operates terminals in over 40 different countries.)

The price of a shipping container is a market price that is set by factors all around the world. The U.S. is a big player in that market, of course, but it doesn’t have market power to set prices. The Drewry World Container Index currently sits at nearly $10,000 per container. It was below $2,000 a little over a year ago. That’s a global market price — U.S. actions alone do not do much to move it.

The secretary of transportation being on unannounced paternity leave through this crisis looks bad politically, and the American people deserve to know when cabinet officials are out of commission. But there’s not much Pete Buttigieg can really do about this problem. (You have to wonder what the point of having a federal transportation secretary is if a national transportation problem is something he can’t do much about, but that’s another subject for another time.) There aren’t many national problems in transportation. Most problems are either intensely local (e.g., inefficient operations at a particular port) or broadly international (e.g., the high price of a shipping container).

Americans should do what they can to solve those local problems, which will in many cases involve city and state governments more than the federal government. But we shouldn’t deceive ourselves into thinking a perfectly crafted American government response will make our transportation problems go away.

Economy & Business

Er . . . This Is Pete Buttigieg We’re Talking About, Right?

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Secretary of transportation nominee Pete Buttigieg listens during a confirmation hearing in Washington, D.C., January 21, 2021. (Stefani Reynolds/Reuters Pool)

As mentioned in the tail end of today’s Morning Jolt, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg deserves some grief for being away from his job for the better part of two months, as America’s supply-chain problems got worse. If the head of a federal department is going to be away from the office for two months while a major problem is getting worse . . . wouldn’t it have made sense for someone else to be named the acting secretary for the duration?

But this morning, some of the criticism is going over the top, by implying that the physical presence of Buttigieg in the office would have made a dramatic impact on the severity of the current supply-chain crisis.

Eh . . . really? This Pete Buttigieg? This guy’s focus was all that stood between some better, more manageable outcome and our current empty-shelves mess? If Buttigieg had never missed a day of work, do you really think the current supply-chain disruption would be all that different?

Isn’t the other uncomfortable fact for the administration that Buttigieg has been out on paternity leave for two months, and no one noticed?

Impromptus

Extraordinary People

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Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker kicks a field goal against the Indianapolis Colts on October 11, 2021. (Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

Today, my column is about a gathering of democracy leaders and human-rights activists: the Oslo Freedom Forum, held in Miami this year. The people you meet are almost too extraordinary for words. The things they do, the sacrifices they make, the spirit they evince . . .

Let’s have some mail, here in the Corner. In yesterday’s Impromptus, I wrote,

I like William Shatner, a lot. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an episode of Star Trek — I am not a sci-fi guy, although I’ve always intended to read the celebrated novels of Robert A. Heinlein, Philip K. Dick, Isaac Asimov, and others. But I met Shatner once, in a green room, before a panel show we were both on.

A reader writes,

Jay Nordlinger has not read any (or much) science fiction? Well, I’m certain you’re receiving many recommendations, but let me just say that Heinlein was one of two individuals most responsible for my being a conservative. The other one? George Will, of course! Both taught me that you can be pro-science and pro-reason and still land on the violet end of the political spectrum.

Oh, and my book recommendation to you: the Hyperion Cantos series by Dan Simmons. It’s The Canterbury Tales redone as science fiction, and beautifully written to boot.

Speaking of books: Yesterday, I had a post on capitalism and its moral basis. I, and readers, made a list of books that spell this out. A reader responds, “To add some balance to your list on morals and markets: The Grapes of Wrath and Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

Two quick comments — taking the second book first: It need hardly be said that a slave economy is not a free economy. You could call it the antithesis of one. I think of one of the great slogans in American history: “Free Soil, Free Speech, Free Labor, and Free Men.”

As for the Grapes of Wrath business: Soviet authorities decided to show John Ford’s movie in 1940. They wanted audiences to see how poor the United States was. But this decision backfired on the authorities: because the people who saw the movie were astounded that the Joads, poor as they were, had a car.

I make a note in my column today: Andrei Sannikov, the Belarusian statesman and former political prisoner, told me that the Soviets always censored images of supermarkets in Western movies.

End on some football? (With some singing?) Yesterday, I wrote,

Earlier this season, Justin Tucker kicked my NFL team, the Detroit Lions, in the gut. He did it by kicking a game-winning field goal as time ran out. Tucker plays for the Baltimore Ravens. His kick was a 66-yarder — the longest field goal ever kicked in the NFL.

My friend Cristina informs me that the guy is also a singer. Want to hear him sing “Ave Maria”? Okey-doke: here.

Mitch Adams, an attorney in Tyler, Texas, writes,

I always get excited when you mention someone in your Impromptus of whom I know something independently of what you have to relate about him.

Justin Tucker and I are both alumni of the University of Texas. He was a music major, which is a little unusual for football players in a program like our alma mater’s.

Anyway, he’ll always be one of my favorite Longhorns for doing to A&M in ’11 what he did to your Lions this year. And that game against the Aggies was the last time we played them before they left for another athletic conference. It’s a great video clip to watch on YouTube. Gotta love a dogpile.

Yup, that’s here. And, again, for my column today, go here.

Biden Dismantles the Ban on Hiring Illegal Immigrants

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Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas attends a news conference along with U.S. Border Patrol Deputy Chief Raul Ortiz, in Brownsville, Texas, August 12, 2021. (Go Nakamura/Reuters)

A new memo from DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on worksite enforcement of immigration laws garnered some media and political attention because it prohibits ICE from conducting worksite raids for illegal aliens. But the memo is more than just the latest in a series of anti-immigration-enforcement directives by this administration. Rather, it represents the Left’s rejection of the very concept of illegal employment.

Step back to 1986, when President Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act. The law was structured as a grand bargain that exchanged amnesty for settled illegal aliens in exchange for a first-ever prohibition against the employment of

Education

Colleges Should Have an Exit Exam

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( gorodenkoff/Getty Images)

Due to federal student-aid subsidies, college has been transformed from a fairly reliable learning experience into just an experience for many students. They don’t want anything approaching academic rigor; they want fun and a credential that they assume will open the door to prosperity. To an alarming extent, schools have chosen to accommodate them by lowering standards and inflating grades.

Would it help if college students took an exit exam to show how much or how little they have learned?

In today’s Martin Center article, Shannon Watkins argues for such an exam.

“According to a 2021 report by the Association of American Colleges and Universities,” she writes, “60 percent of surveyed employers said that ‘critical thinking skills’ is ‘very important,’ but only 39 percent reported that recent graduates are well-prepared in this area. Similarly, 56 percent of employers consider ‘application of knowledge/skills in real-world settings’ to be very important, but only 39 percent thought recent graduates were able to perform this task well. And 17 percent of employers below age 40 report having ‘very little confidence’ in higher education. ”

Some college grads certainly have improved their capabilities, but many others have not. It would be useful to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Watkins notes that Professor Richard Vedder has proposed a National Collegiate Exit Exam (NCEE). He points out that we have exams for specialty areas like law and accounting and argues for a post-college exam: “There is no reason we cannot do the same in higher education, perhaps developing [an NCEE] that tests for critical-reasoning skills as well as knowledge that college-educated persons should possess.”

One such exam exists, the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA). Few colleges use it, however. Evidently they’d rather not let the world know how little some of their students have advanced.

Watkins concludes, “Exit exams may also provide useful information on the overall quality of a given university. If an institution has poor learning outcomes, then prospective students may be inclined to opt for a different college. This sort of accountability could give colleges the incentive they need to prioritize high-quality instruction or else risk losing their competitive edge — and perhaps their funding.”

Religion

SBC Executive Committee President Ronnie Floyd Announces Resignation

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(Pixabay)

Ronnie Floyd, president and CEO of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), announced his resignation today. He will serve in his current role through October 31.

Floyd’s resignation comes after the Executive Committee voted, after much debate, to waive attorney-client privilege for the independent investigation into how the Executive Committee has handled sexual-abuse allegations in the past. At the annual meeting in June, the convention approved a motion that demanded an independent investigation, and it stated that attorney-client privilege should be waived so investigators would have all the information they needed. Waiving privilege is an extraordinary measure, and the Executive Committee struggled for weeks to come to a resolution on whether to do it. They finally did vote to waive privilege, over Floyd’s objection.

“As President and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee, I have fiduciary
duties,” Floyd wrote in his resignation letter. “The decisions made on Tuesday afternoon, October 5th in response to the 2021 Convention now place our missionary enterprise as Southern Baptists into uncertain, unknown, unprecedented and uncharted waters. Due to my personal integrity and the leadership responsibility entrusted to me, I will not and cannot any longer fulfill the duties placed upon me as the leader of the executive, fiscal, and fiduciary entity of the SBC.”

The question of waiving privilege put the SBC on the verge of a constitutional crisis. Constitutionally, decision-making power in the SBC originates solely with the messengers assembled in convention. The messengers clearly directed the Executive Committee to waive privilege. Had it not done so, it’s not clear what the next constitutional recourse would have been. Many pastors and state conventions had issued letters saying they were prepared to withhold funding for the denomination if the messengers were not obeyed.

Executive Committee members opposed to waiving privilege said the convention would be open to tremendous liability, and its mission work could be harmed. In his resignation letter, Floyd said that $702.6 million had been given to the denomination through various channels in the previous fiscal year. Members opposed to waiving privilege are concerned that plaintiffs in potential lawsuits could see that number as a huge target.

You can read the full letter and a write-up from Baptist Press here.

Media

When All Else Fails, Media Blast Ron DeSantis for Being ‘Divisive’

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Florida governor Ron DeSantis listens to questions from 60 Minutes reporter Sharyn Alfonsi during a press conference in March. (60 Minutes/Screengrab via YouTube)

I’m in awe of the lack of self-awareness of the Bloomberg reporter who pressed venture capitalist David Sacks to explain how he could possibly host a fundraiser to support Florida Governor Ron DeSantis when DeSantis is allegedly “divisive.”

However could that have happened? Well, the media relentlessly attack DeSantis for such decisions as allowing people to go to beaches because the virus doesn’t spread outdoors, or for having the same science-based masking policy for schoolchildren that obtains in the U.K. and much of the rest of Europe, then when they’re proven wrong refuse to admit error but move on to some other critique. If he’s “divisive,” it’s because of the media’s 24/7 campaign to tear him apart for the crime of being successful.

Emily Chang of Bloomberg seemed bewildered that a venture capitalist might like the way DeSantis managed Florida, whose economy notably recovered quickly during the pandemic despite its heavy reliance on tourism. Sacks sagaciously replied,

Why is he inherently more divisive than, say, [California Gov.] Gavin Newsom or someone on the other side of the spectrum? Words like ‘polarizing’ and ‘divisiveness,’ they assume a normative baseline in which everybody agrees, everybody in the tech industry agrees because they all come from a certain information bubble. And anyone who deviates from that orthodoxy is perceived as divisive. I would argue that the country — there’s a multiplicity of views, and you’re not divisive just because you don’t agree with the orthodoxy of Silicon Valley.

Common sense. Sacks, by the way, has donated to both Democrats and Republicans.

Economy & Business

The U.S. Supply Chain Makes No Sense

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The port of Long Beach as a record number of cargo container ships wait to unload in Long Beach, Calif., September 22, 2021. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

I wrote for Politico today on how we crimp our logistics with a bunch of rules and practices that are completely irrational:

So, there’s no underestimating the challenge here. Everyone along every part of the U.S. logistics chain is pointing fingers at each other, and everyone deserves some blame, whether it’s the ports, the truckers, the warehouses, the railroads or other players.

Yet the situation also highlights how, as Scott Lincicome of the Cato Institute persuasively argues, our logistics system is beset by idiotic policies and practices that make it hugely inefficient. There is a tendency in the political debate over infrastructure to assume that more — and more spending, in particular — is better, but it matters how you are making use of what you already have.

Consider our ports. U.S. facilities are nowhere near the top-performing facilities around the world. They are generally less automated and less efficient than those in other advanced economies. It takes, for instance, twice as long on average to move a container from a large ship at the Port of Los Angeles than it does at top ports in China. Ports in Asia operate 24 hours a day, matching the 24-hour-a-day pace of factories, whereas, until now, the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach were operating only 16 hours a day.

The White House made a pointed, if understated, reference to this in its recent fact sheet on its new logistics push, “Unlike leading ports around the world, U.S. ports have failed to realize the full possibility offered by operation on nights and weekends.”

Uh, yeah.

International

Ireland Gives up Its Tax Policy, for What?

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Ireland’s Prime Minister Micheal Martin arrives for a face-to-face European Union summit in Brussels, Belgium, May 24, 2021. (Olivier Hoslet/Pool via Reuters)

For years Ireland defended its low corporate-tax rate, 12.5 percent, as a matter of national sovereignty and part of an overall economic strategy that lifted the country out of poverty and into becoming one of the richer nations in Europe. The idea was to facilitate foreign investment in Ireland’s English-speaking workforce. American companies that wanted access to the European Union’s market did just that. Just a few years ago, government ministers there would call Irish taxation policy it a “red line” issue. Both parties currently running the government in Ireland ran on protecting Ireland’s tax sovereignty.

And then, a week ago, Ireland gave it up to join an OECD minimum-corporate-tax pledge of 15 percent. Irish media presented this as an inevitable evolution of the country’s position. They had to — there was hardly any debate about it in public at all. In September, the taoiseach, Micheál Martin, explained that a tax hike couldn’t be ruled out. Which was instantly translated by the island’s media as an assumption that a tax hike was inevitable. And because inevitable, probably good, yeah?

Now, there were perhaps good reasons for modifying Ireland’s economic strategy. It seems to me that Ireland’s strategy does facilitate multinational investment in Ireland and that it reaps rewards in jobs. But this comes with a price in which American and other foreign executives have a hugely outsized voice in Irish concerns. The system in Ireland also seems to favor foreign investment over native entrepreneurship. These are debates and discussions that should have been had. It could have resulted in parties taking contrasting positions and winning mandates from voters to make a generational change.

Instead, it was all presented as a fait accompli.

Media from other countries were quite clear that what had happened was that Ireland capitulated. Fig leaves were handed out. Hadn’t the Irish and others prevented there from being a global minimum effective tax of 21 percent?

This OECD agreement matters in part because it was instigated by the United States and other nations that want the running room to tax more than they do currently. The willingness of sovereign nation-states such as Ireland to build an economic strategy around low taxation was putting a limit on the taxing ability of other states.

I’m very curious to see how this plays out in the long term for Ireland. But, for now, it seems enough to observe that this is another sign that, for good and ill, the neoliberal era that began in 1979 is drawing to a close.

Economy & Business

What Has Biden’s ‘Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force’ Been Doing Since June?

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President Biden speaks in Elk Grove Village, Ill., October 7, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

President Biden, yesterday:

I want to thank my Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force, which we set up in June, led by Secretaries Buttigieg, Raimondo, and Vilsack, and by my Director of National Economic Council, Brian Deese.  I want to thank them for their leadership.

If the president set up his Supply Chain Disruption Task Force in June, and the headlines in mid-October are…

CNN: “The global supply chain nightmare is about to get worse”

Bloomberg: “Christmas at Risk as Supply Chain ‘Disaster’ Only Gets Worse”

Reuters: “U.S. supply chain too snarled for Biden Christmas fix, experts say”

MSNBC: “Truck driver shortage fuels supply chain issues”

Virginia Business: “Turkeypocalypse? Supply chain issues threaten Thanksgiving main course”

Financial Times: “DP World head says supply chain problems could last for two years”

The Guardian: “‘You never know what you’re going to get’: US supply chain woes leave schools scrambling to feed kids lunch”

… then has the Supply Chain Disruption Task Force really been such a sterling success? Does Biden really want to tell the world that he told  Buttigieg, Raimondo, and Vilsack to focus on this problem four months ago, and the current messes, headaches, and worsening problems are all they have to show for their efforts?

Or was the job of the Supply Chain Disruption Task Force to disrupt supply chains? Because if that’s what they thought the objective was, everything makes more sense now.

A Further Reply to Jonah Goldberg on Reaganite Third Parties

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President Ronald Reagan delivers his address to the nation on Space Shuttle Challenger, January 28, 1986. (Ronald Reagan Library/National Archives)

I wrote on Tuesday a response to Jonah Goldberg’s call for a third party to revive Reagan/Buckley classically liberal conservatism against the illiberal aspects of Trumpism within the Republican Party. Charlie and Michael responded as well. Now, Jonah has written a reply over at The Dispatch. I will quote his reply to me:

Dan’s proposed solution is to duke it out in the primaries. I loathe the primary system, but that’s an argument for another day. The salient point here is: That’s not working. I understand why Republicans who care solely about winning have no particular interest in monkey-wrenching the party. But for

World

24/7 Port Operations a Step in the Right Direction

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Container ships wait off the coast of the congested ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in Long Beach, Calif., October 1, 2021. (Alan Devall/Reuters)

President Biden announced yesterday that the Port of Los Angeles, the busiest port in America, would begin to operate 24/7 to help alleviate the supply-chain constraints that are causing delays and increasing prices around the country.

Let’s hope this isn’t a temporary measure. Operating 24/7 is not extraordinary by global standards. The U.S. was the outlier for not running on nights and weekends. The port should continue to operate 24/7 simply as a matter of global competitiveness, regardless of the present logjam.

Biden’s action was a good use of the presidential bully pulpit, and it was refreshing to see the president do something other than promise to blow taxpayer money for a change. A zillion federal dollars won’t fix many of our port’s problems, which have more to do with unions and inefficient labor practices. Twisting the longshoreman union’s arm into agreeing to 24/7 hours is a step in the right direction, and it doesn’t add a line item to the federal budget.

It is only a step, though. As the Wall Street Journal notes, the neighboring Port of Long Beach moved to 24/7 operations last month, and it hasn’t fixed many problems just yet:

The Port of Long Beach struggled to increase cargo flows after it extended its opening hours, with truckers complaining that restrictions put on them for picking up and dropping off containers were too onerous. Shortages of truck drivers and warehouse workers have also posed problems across supply chains. It remains unclear how many of the terminals in Los Angeles will operate 24/7 and when those operations will begin.

Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said details of the overnight hours are still being worked out with companies in the supply chain.

Ports are not just public entities. The port itself is owned by the government (in this case, the City of Los Angeles), but the terminals are privately operated. The Port of Los Angeles has seven container terminals, three dry bulk terminals (which handle things like minerals and chemicals), three breakbulk terminals (which handle things like fruit and steel), seven liquid bulk terminals (mostly for oil products), and one automobile terminal. Each of those terminals is run by a different terminal operating company.

Then, there are the various trucking companies and railroads that move goods from the port to warehouses and stores across the country. They aren’t just concerned with the Port of Los Angeles since they have regional or national networks that they serve, and they’ve suffered labor shortages independent of what’s going on off the coast of Southern California.

Ports also involve tugboat operators, customs officials, freight forwarders, and the Coast Guard — the point is it’s not as easy as changing the hours to get better results. President Biden knows that, which is why he said, “For the positive impact to be felt all across the country, and by all of you at home, we need major retailers who order the goods and the freight movers who take the goods from ships to factories and to stores to step up as well.”

There are more intermediate steps between production and consumption than most people care to think about, and it’s a miracle that anything ever gets anywhere. It’s an incredible triumph of human civilization that we’ve made that miracle commonplace to the point that it’s expected. No single person or action can put the system that makes that miracle possible back together, simply because no single person or action put it together in the first place. There are no simple fixes, and though moving to 24/7 operations is the right call, don’t expect any major improvements right away.

Media

Rogan Pushes Back

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Joe Rogan on The Joe Rogan Experience (via YouTube)

This was a really revealing clip.

Millions of people have been prescribed Ivermectin by doctors, under the theory that it has demonstrable antiviral effects. But because a few people seem to have bought out a horse dewormer that contains Ivermectin in it — the FDA and mainstream media went all in describing people who took Ivermectin as people who were taking horse paste.

Now, maybe Ivermectin isn’t all that effective on COVID. Most people recover from COVID and if you take Ivermectin during that process you may falsely attribute recovery to the drug itself. That’s all hearsay.

The interesting question is: Why do people in medical and media institutions think it is helpful to lie about such things? Why do it when obvious lies are so shattering of their credibility? You can see Dr. Gupta struggle with an answer to that.

NR Webathon

Medicine for Media Malpractice

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) takes questions at her weekly news conference with Capitol Hill reporters at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., July 22, 2021. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)

Two days ago, Nancy Pelosi said the quiet part loud.

When asked by a reporter whether Democrats have failed to convince the public that $3.5 trillion in social spending is necessary, Pelosi responded, “Well I think you all could do a better job of selling it, to be very frank with you, because every time I come here I go through the list: medical leave, climate, the issues that are in there.”

Now, more than ever, we are beginning to see what state-run media would look like in America. It ain’t pretty:

Media Continue to Ignore Evidence That Joe Was Involved in Hunter’s Shady Business Dealings

MSNBC Defends Stacey Abrams’s Stolen-Election Lies with Disinformation

New York Times Falsely Labels NYC Gifted Classes ‘Racially Segregated’

To make matters worse, our own Jim Geraghty explained yesterday how American news organizations have turned a blind eye to Biden’s utter failure in Afghanistan. Not us!

And this morning, Charlie Cooke argued that Biden’s minions in the press have enabled his blatant abuse of power by running cover for him and hoping the rest of us might not notice.

We at National Review are exposing and standing up to that hypocritical, liberal media apparatus, boldly declaring the truth without regard for person or interest and holding our leaders in Washington to account. Today, I am asking you to help us continue that charge by donating to our Fall webathon.

Whether you give $5, $10, $50 or $500, your contribution supports our journalism at a time when a free and independent press is critical to the future of our democracy. With you — our loyal readers — by our side, we will continue to sound the alarm on the lies of the establishment press and remain America’s vital source of conservatism, objective truth, and sanity.

Politics & Policy

Biden Makes a Bad Program Worse (but What Else Would You Expect)?

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President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the economy at the White House in Washington, D.C., October 8, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

As I have said more times than I could count, the federal government’s incursion into college finance was one of America’s worst blunders. It has spawned all kinds of bad effects, and those bad effects then lead the politicians to “fix” them in ways that just lead to further waste and fraud.

In this Minding the Campus article, Andrew Gillen writes about what the Biden administration has just done to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.

Gillen explains that, “PSLF was launched in 2007 and provides accelerated loan forgiveness for politically favored workers.  Other college graduates with student loan debt need to make payments for at least 20 years before qualifying for loan forgiveness, but PSLF offers forgiveness after just 10 years of repayment to those that work for the government or some non-profit organizations.”

The assumption behind it was that if you work for government or a non-profit, you are more deserving than a person who finds employment in the grubby private sector.

What has Biden done?

Gillen goes through the changes — for example: “The old rules required a minimum of 120 on-time full payments to be eligible for forgiveness. Now, the Biden administration has waived ‘the requirement that payments be made in the full amount and on-time.’ Would a one-cent payment made five years late count toward the required 120 payments? If so, that’s an Orwellian definition of ‘payment.’”

So easy to be generous with other people’s money!

There’s more. Read the whole thing.

If the U.S. is ever to get its fiscal house back in order, one thing that must happen is to stop federal lending — to anyone.

Culture

Happy Birthday, Ike

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Dwight Eisenhower was born this day in 1890. The virtues he embodied were under-appreciated in his time and sorely missed in ours.

I’ll see your “Zombie Reaganite” and raise you.

Culture

A Conversation Worth Revisiting

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If you have never had the opportunity to enjoy William F. Buckley’s conversation with Mortimer Adler on the subject “How to Speak, How to Listen,” you should do yourself a favor. And if you have, you should listen again. It is time well spent.

Listening, it occurred to me that WFB would have been a very good podcaster. Though maybe he gained something from the apparatus that went along with having a talk show.

Mortimer Adler wrote a famous booked called How to Read a Book. One quirk of his career is a reminder of less rigidly bureaucratic times: He received a doctorate from Columbia without ever having received an undergraduate degree. He was refused an undergraduate degree because he declined to take a required swimming test. Columbia later gave him an honorary bachelor’s.

Economy & Business

Minds, Morals, Markets

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Frédéric Bastiat (1801–50) (Giov / Wikimedia Commons)

In Impromptus today, I lead with William Shatner, who, yesterday, went up into space — for real. Other issues in this column include vaccine mandates, the surliness of the public, and language. Is it time to throw in the towel on “to advocate for”?

Yesterday, I had a column that asked, “Do you have other recommendations or favorites?” Let me paste that item before getting to the mail — getting to the responses:

Radek Sikorski was in high dudgeon, and rightly so. He said, “We need to restore the moral basis of capitalism. The thievery exposed by the Pandora Papers has to stop.” To that, I said, “Amen.” This was on Twitter.

Someone responded, “Honest question: where might one read more about this concept of the moral basis of capitalism?”

I had three quick recommendations: The Roots of Capitalism, by John Chamberlain. Capitalism and Freedom, by Milton Friedman. And The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, by Michael Novak. We could all add to that list, amply. Do you have other recommendations or favorites? If so, let me know . . .

Here are some further nominations: The Law, by Frédéric Bastiat. Economics in One Lesson, by Henry Hazlitt. The Mind and the Market, by Jerry Muller. Wealth and Poverty, by George Gilder. A Conflict of Visions, by Thomas Sowell. Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, by Ayn Rand. And Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy, by Robert Sirico.

Now, all of those books and those people are different from one another — witness Ayn Rand and Father Sirico. But they belong to a family, broadly speaking, as well.

Do you know what Rand said to WFB when they first met? “Young man, you are far too intelligent to believe in God.” When Bill related this to Wilfrid Sheed, another novelist and writer, Sheed said, “That was a helluvan icebreaker.”

For my review of Lang Lang, the Chinese pianist, in recital at Carnegie Hall on Tuesday night, go here. Excerpt: “The talent that this fellow has — even when you want to kill him — is mind-boggling.” True dat.

Have a great day.

P.S. Let me put one more on our list, if you don’t mind — a striking volume called “The Economy in Mind,” by Warren Brookes.

P.P.S. Then we have those Scots, and those Austrians . . . I’ll stop now.

Health Care

COVID-19 Hospitalizations Continue to Rise in the North and Decline in the South

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Emergency Medical Technicians move a patient outside of Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, N.Y., April 20, 2020. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

I don’t want to beat a dead horse; it’s just that every week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services updates its figures on how many Americans are in the hospital because of COVID-19, and for three straight weeks, states in the northern part of the country have seen increases – sometimes dramatic ones – in their hospitalization rate, while states in the southern part of the country have seen decreases. The numbers for the two-week period ending October 13:

Michigan
14-day change: 23 percent increase
Hospitalizations per 100,000 people: 20

Minnesota
14-day change: 18 percent increase
Hospitalizations per 100,000 people: 18

North Dakota
14-day change: 12 percent increase
Hospitalizations per 100,000 people: 35

Pennsylvania
14-day change: 12 percent increase
Hospitalizations per 100,000 people: 27

Montana
14-day change: 10 percent increase
Hospitalizations per 100,000 people: 46

A handful of other states in the north

South Dakota
14-day change: 6 percent increase
Hospitalizations per 100,000 people: 23

Wisconsin
14-day change: 4 percent increase
Hospitalizations per 100,000 people: 22

Colorado
14-day change: 3 percent increase
Hospitalizations per 100,000 people: 18

Utah
14-day change: 2 percent increase
Hospitalizations per 100,000 people: 18

New Mexico
14-day change: 1 percent increase
Hospitalizations per 100,000 people: 17

Thankfully, every other state had their hospitalization rate stay flat or decrease. But take a look at the eight states with the most dramatic decreases in the past two weeks:

Georgia
14-day change: 32 percent decrease
Hospitalizations per 100,000 people: 28

Texas
14-day change: 32 percent decrease
Hospitalizations per 100,000 people: 26

Alabama
14-day change: 37 percent decrease
Hospitalizations per 100,000 people: 24

South Carolina
14-day change: 37 percent decrease
Hospitalizations per 100,000 people: 26

Mississippi
14-day change: 38 percent decrease
Hospitalizations per 100,000 people: 17

Hawaii
14-day change: 41 percent decrease
Hospitalizations per 100,000 people: 12

Florida
14-day change: 44 percent decrease
Hospitalizations per 100,000 people: 18

Louisiana
14-day change: 46 percent decrease
Hospitalizations per 100,000 people: 11

The trends aren’t entirely uniform; a handful of northern states also saw dramatic declines in the number of people hospitalized for COVID-19; Rhode Island saw a 30 percent decrease and Maine saw a 31 percent decrease – and both of those states had low rates of hospitalizations per 100,000 people, in large part because of their high vaccination rates.

What does this tell us? That while vaccination rates are important, even having a small percentage of a state’s population unvaccinated can result in big burst of hospitalizations when the Delta variant passes through a region. And because human behavior is often weather-driven, spending more time indoors in bad weather or extreme temperatures and more time outdoors when the weather is good, hot summers, cold weather, and perhaps rainy weather are going to lead to the virus spreading more quickly. As the weather in the northern states gets cooler, with more rain or snow, residents will spend more time indoors – and likely spread COVID-19 more quickly. This isn’t automatically going to turn into more hospitalizations; vaccination is pretty darn good at preventing hospitalization. But we shouldn’t be surprised if this trend of higher hospitalizations in the north and fewer in the south continues — and this doesn’t mean that one part of the country is better or more moral than the other.

It is also worth keeping in mind that this list is measuring and ranking the states by the rate of change in the hospitalization rate, not the state’s hospitalization rate. This week Michigan ranks as having the worst or highest increase, but having 20 hospitalizations per 100,000 people is not nearly as bad as Montana having 46 hospitalizations per 100,000 people. Texans can feel good about their state having 26 people in the hospital per 100,000 people this week, but the decline is partially because they had so much room to fall; two weeks ago the Lone Star state had 37 people in the hospital per 100,000 people.

PC Culture

Netflix Dealing with ‘Unprecedented’ Internal Revolt as Employees Threaten Walkout over Dave Chappelle

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Comedian Dave Chappelle greets the audience before receiving the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., October 27, 2019. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

Netflix’s staffers apparently “raised concerns about” (i.e. tried to censor) the latest Dave Chappelle special The Closer even before it aired, according to a Bloomberg News report that says the outcry is “unprecedented in [Netflix’s] history.” Employees are planning one of those French-style, temporary symbolic, meaningless walkouts on October 20. Ted Sarandos, the co-CEO of Netflix, should respond by docking the pay of every employee who leaves his/her/their post.

Chappelle’s special is not transphobic, and as I wrote the other day, the man is struggling openly with how to be polite and sensitive without ruling any topic out of bounds for his comedy. He notes in the special that he cringes at his previous use of the word “trannie,” which he wouldn’t use today, and speaks sympathetically and at great length about a transgender individual named Daphne with whom he struck up a friendship and whose family backs Chappelle. Daphne committed suicide in 2019, and Chappelle is broken up about it.

Nevertheless, transgender-supporting Netflix employees are using company Slack channels, as New York Times employees did, to air internal grievances. Bloomberg reports that “one leader of Netflix’s transgender employee group” wrote on Slack:

Our leadership has shown us that they do not uphold the values for which we are held. I encourage us to state clearly that we as Netflix employees are stunning not simply when we are doing the work that our roles demand of us, but also when we challenge the very principles of our company.

Sarandos came out strong in defense of Chappelle’s right to speak his mind and Netflix’s to air his thoughts, saying, “Some talent may join third parties in asking us to remove the show in the coming days, which we are not going to do. Chappelle is one of the most popular stand-up comedians today, and we have a long-standing deal with him. . . . As with our other talent, we work hard to support their creative freedom — even though this means there will always be content on Netflix some people believe is harmful.”

The other co-CEO, Reed Hastings, wrote on a company message board, “We will continue to work with Dave Chappelle in the future. We see him as a unique voice, but can understand if you or others never want to watch his shows.”

No doubt Netflix would prefer the employee unrest simply goes away, but it would be wiser to state clearly that it won’t be bullied by mobs, even internal ones.

White House

Biden: The Bully in Chief Reappears

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President Joe Biden takes questions from reporters before boarding Air Force One in Lansing, Mich., October 5, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

You can always tell when Biden’s White House aides panic over the president’s sliding approval numbers. They send him out to bully people.

Last month, he ordered private employers to mandate vaccinations for their employees. This week, new inflation numbers prompted Biden to call out companies involved in the global supply-chain bottleneck.

If the private sector doesn’t step up, we’re going to call them out and ask them to act,” Biden told reporters.

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, followed up by acknowledging consumer concerns about Christmas deliveries. When asked if the administration can guarantee holiday packages will arrive on time, Psaki said, “We are not the Postal Service or UPS or FedEx, we cannot guarantee.”

No kidding, but Biden’s view is that the global supply-chain crisis is something that can be fixed through force of will. As economist Tyler Cowen of George Mason points out, there are many causes for the bottleneck: labor shortages at factories and ports, energy shortages, ships getting stuck sideways in canals, bad weather, unexpectedly high demand for some goods, and more.

Cowen discusses a couple of problems that are linked to government intervention. On labor shortages: “In some cases government benefits may be keeping them from working. That adds further delays to trade networks.” Biden’s decision to extend overly generous unemployment benefits is still biting back.

Then Cowen points to energy problems: “Many countries have sought to move to greener energy supplies, but without first having sufficient alternatives in place. Japan and Germany decided to abandon their previous nuclear power commitments, and more recently China has seen power shortages.” And in the U.S., Biden has rattled the energy-investment sector by killing the Keystone Pipeline and discouraging domestic-energy production.

Cowen also notes that, “If networks for energy and international trade are not working well, many other parts of the economy will be malfunctioning.”

Biden could do things that stop making the supply-chain problem worse. But instead, he’s playing King Canute and cracking the whip on the private sector to, damn it, fix the entire problem. All this just proves how little Biden understands his job or comprehends economics.

Culture

21 Things That Caught My Eye Today: Seminarians Attacked in Nigeria; Planned Parenthood Deception; & More

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1. Vatican News: Bandits attack Seminary in Kaduna, abduct 3 seminarians

Six seminarians sustained various degrees of injuries during the attack and they were accompanied by a dispatch of soldiers to a hospital in Kafanchan where they were treated and discharged after being confirmed to be stable.

2. Leigh Fitzpatrick Snead: Planned Parenthood’s highly deceptive Supreme Court brief

In one Orwellian passage after another, the brief talks about how abortion “saves lives.” It features anecdotes of women whose pregnancies were life-threatening even though the Mississippi law at issue in Dobbs includes a “medical emergency exception.” 

As wrenching as the brief’s stories might be, they are manipulative misdirection. They ignore entirely the fact that an increasingly small percentage of abortions are sought to preserve a mother’s life or physical health. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion research organization that grew out Planned Parenthood, only 3 percent of all abortions are attributed to physical problems affecting a woman’s health.

3. Naomi Schaefer Riley: Social justice crusaders are putting kids in foster care system at risk

Across the country, advocates influenced and sometimes even trained by Casey Family Programs espouse the view that the child-welfare system is racially biased and structured to break up minority families rather than protect children. In response, they say, the system should try to keep kids in their homes, reunify them more quickly if they have been removed or keep them with extended family because they share the same racial background. 

Almost anything, they argue, would be better than placing them with a family of another race. 

Despite all the evidence to the contrary, the idea that the child-welfare system is racist has taken hold, and legislators are now trying to act on it.

4. A child’s death in Schenectady draws scrutiny in Family Court

Since Charlie’s death five days before Christmas, the Times Union has been tracking the fallout as separate legal actions have wound through family and criminal courts, and most recently, state Supreme Court. As a condition of covering the highly sensitive Family Court proceedings, the Times Union agreed not to use Charlie’s last name in this article or the names of any other children.

Continue reading “21 Things That Caught My Eye Today: Seminarians Attacked in Nigeria; Planned Parenthood Deception; & More”

Politics & Policy

Joe Biden’s Permanent IRS Audit

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( Natalia Bratslavsky/Getty Images)

We on the right never stop saying this, and we never stop being right: Whenever Democrats say they merely want to “ask” a few “millionaires and billionaires” to “pay their fair share,” find out where your wallet is and get a firm grip on it. They’re coming for you. They’re always coming for you. Milking ordinary citizens for more money in the interests of collectivism are the two central projects of the Democratic Party.

The Democrats are no longer hiding the fact that their mammoth, radical, breathtaking New New Deal, mildly labeled the “reconciliation bill,” includes a provision to unleash the IRS on anyone who ever sees a $600 transaction in his bank account. That’s the vast majority of the working population of the United States, and most of the rest as well, including the retirees. Matt Walsh has an illuminating phrase for this outlandish proposal: a “permanent IRS audit.” Dealing with the IRS once a year is plenty for most of us. Do you really want the IRS, with all of its powers, to rake over your finances every single time your bank account sees a $600 transaction? How many entirely innocent and law-abiding Americans are going to be caught up in this dragnet, and be forced to spend non-refundable time and money explaining themselves to the IRS?

The Democrats very obviously think ordinary Americans — we’re not talking about the super-rich, who can afford the cleverest accountants — are hiding a vast trove of ill-gotten gains that rightfully should be turned over to the Democratic Party to spend as they see fit. To put this as plainly as possible: The Democratic Party wants to take as much of your money as it can get away with because it thinks it knows better than you do what to do with it.

The Economy

Inflation Plateaus, But Will It Come Down?

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(jokerpro/Getty Images)

Another month, another higher-than-normal top-line inflation number. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today that the consumer-price index was up 0.4 percent in September over August, and the index is 5.4 percent higher than it was in September of last year. The monthly increase is 0.1 percentage points higher than the increase from July to August, and the annualized rate has been 5.4 percent for three of the past four months now. The plateau in the annualized rate is encouraging, but the plateau is at roughly twice the desirable rate of inflation.

The Biden administration says there’s nothing to worry about, and that could be cause for concern. As Jim pointed out today, they have a record of “arguing that the problem is not really a problem” on everything from the economy to Afghanistan to the border. The American people seem to be catching on to the administration’s general incompetence, and their word is not deserving of our trust.

Some other voices have started to chime in by saying that higher inflation might not be that bad, and in fact, the Fed should target higher inflation. These are not risks worth taking. The ability of independent central banks to keep inflation low and stable is a relatively new development in monetary history, and it is not something to toss aside in favor of other narrower goals.

Nobody is more aware of that than Jerome Powell and his colleagues at the Federal Reserve. Fed Vice Chairman Richard Clarida said on Tuesday that he still believes inflation to be transitory and does not anticipate any major changes to the Fed’s plans for monetary policy in response to inflation. He did say, however, that if inflation expectations begin to move upward, “monetary policy would react to that.”

The Fed’s maintaining its position on inflation being transitory carries much more weight than the Biden administration’s doing so. The Fed has the power to reduce inflation if it wants to. It can raise interest rates and contract the money supply. Fed governors are choosing not to exercise that power because they believe the current inflation will resolve itself once various post-pandemic bottlenecks are cleared.

The Fed governors are not running for reelection. They do not care what their approval ratings are. They don’t have the same incentives to lie that elected politicians have. Above all else, they don’t want to be the central bankers who end a decades-long winning streak on inflation. They don’t want to be the ones remembered in the history books as putting the American economy back into ’70s-style malaise.

We have reason to believe that this bout of inflation is different from the 1970s. The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas publishes a trimmed inflation measure that cuts out many of the most volatile categories of consumer spending. As Gaurav Saroliya points out for AllianzGI, that measure was very close to the top-line inflation rate in the ’70s, which indicates that inflation was very broad-based. Today, the Dallas Fed’s trimmed inflation rate is about half the top-line rate. “Right now, what we are really seeing is rapid price growth in a handful of price categories reflecting the rise in input and freight costs. In contrast, in the 1970s, the entire inflation distribution of product categories had persistent shifts higher,” Saroliya writes.

“Different from the ’70s” does not equal “good,” however, and this month’s inflation report does show causes for concern. In the past, the administration could comfort itself by pointing to a huge increase in used-car prices that was pulling up the average. Not anymore. Used-car prices have decreased for the second straight month, so none of the overall price-level increase can be attributed to used cars.

Food prices are up 0.9 percent over last month; the previous month’s increase was only 0.4 percent. Food is 4.6 percent more expensive than it was a year ago. That’s in line with food companies’ raising their prices, which they have said they will be doing as they expect higher inflation. Food inflation is historically more volatile than overall inflation, and the annualized rate is about the same as it was in 2011, which is not generally remembered as a terribly inflationary period. That’s little comfort to people having a hard time affording groceries now, though.

Despite those causes for concern, bondholders in the short, medium, and long terms still don’t seem alarmed by inflation. The Fed is committed to its monetary policy and isn’t letting elected politicians sway it. Those are both tremendous reassurances in a time of overall uncertainty. But the Fed had better be right, because if it’s not, bringing inflation back down could come at the cost of higher unemployment.

The Supply Chain and Shipping Mess Is Partly the Administration’s Fault

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Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg speaks at a news conference in the parking garage at Union Station in front of new EV charging stations in Washington, D.C., April 22, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

The worsening supply chain issues plaguing the country do not have one single cause.

To get caught up, I urge you to read my colleague Dominic Pino, here, here and here to start. Two key points: “The federal government could spend a quadrillion dollars on ports, and it wouldn’t change the contracts with longshoreman unions that prevent ports from operating 24/7 (as they do in Asia) and send labor costs through the roof… The pandemic merely immanentized a crisis that was long brewing. The problems we are now enduring won’t be solved by a pandemic-emergency stopgap measure. They require real changes

Politics & Policy

Loudoun County Public-School System Suddenly Discovers Due Process

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An anti-critical race theory sign is held at a Loudon County School board meeting in Ashburn, Va., June 22, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

As I noted on the Corner yesterday, Virginia’s Loudoun County public-school system has been inundated by an explosion of negative media coverage surrounding credible allegations that school officials covered for a transgender student accused of raping a ninth-grade girl in the women’s bathroom — and aggressively prosecuted the victim’s father for his angry response. Now, LCPS has released a vague, bureaucratic statement that says a lot of words without saying almost anything at all. 

National Review’s Caroline Downey ably covered the finer details of the statement already, so I’ll just note the irony of the school board’s sudden concern for ensuring that “students have not been deprived of due process,” not to mention “the integrity of the criminal investigation” and “resolution process.” I’m sure Scott Smith, the alleged victim’s father, would have loved some of that sober commitment to procedural integrity and due process when the Loudoun County prosecutor — who is closely aligned with progressive school-board members and officials — retaliated against his attempts to tell the story of his daughter’s sexual assault by trying to put him in jail.

Politics & Policy

RBG Criticized National-Anthem Protests, and Katie Couric Covered It Up

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Left: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg sits at the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., June 1, 2017. Right: Katie Couric attends the Vanity Fair Oscar party in Beverly Hills during the 92nd Academy Awards, in Los Angeles, Calif., February 9, 2020. (Jonathan Ernst, Danny Moloshok/Reuters)

In her newly released memoir, Going There, Katie Couric writes that she edited out comments from Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in which the Supreme Court justice accused those who kneel during the national anthem of showing “contempt for a government that has made it possible for their parents and grandparents to live a decent life.” Couric, the Daily Mail reports, claims that she believed the 83-year-old justice was “elderly and probably didn’t fully understand the question.” Couric, who fashions herself an intrepid journalist, says she was “protecting” the “Notorious RGB” — a woman who until her last days was offering decisions on the most important legal questions in the nation and celebrated widely by the Left — from political backlash.

Interviews are often edited for length and clarity, of course, but in this case, there’s no excuse for leaving out the interaction. If RBG was genuinely unable to answer a simple question regarding flag protests, as her friend New York Times columnist David Brooks suggested to Couric, any genuine journalist would have immediately sensed the interaction as newsworthy. If RBG understood the question — which it seems to me is the case as she offers a completely coherent and normal answer about spoiled athletes disrespecting the American flag — it would also have been newsworthy. This was the year Colin Kaepernick began his protests. Couric included RGB’s describing the protests as “dumb and disrespectful” because, in our warped discourse, it is far less incendiary than pointing out protesters are bequeathed “decent lives” by their nation.

It’s worth remembering that Couric isn’t new to helpful edits. In 2016, she was forced to apologize after creatively making gun-rights advocates look as if they were speechless after asking them a question about background checks and terrorists. One of the interviewees recorded the interactions (something everyone should do) in which they immediately responded to Couric’s misleading premise. Watching her abdicate journalistic responsibilities is unsurprising. It’s just another reminder that those given access by huge corporate-media organizations often work to protect their political tribe rather than do their jobs.

Health Care

Study: Americans Increased Unhealthy Habits During Lockdowns

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(Motortion/Getty Images)

We’ve already seen plenty of evidence that restrictions imposed by governments to curtail the spread of coronavirus have worsened America’s obesity epidemic, particularly among children. This is even worse than you might think, given that obesity both makes one likelier to suffer seriously from coronavirus, and likelier to die from it.

A recent UCLA study adds more data to the health effects of lockdowns. “Changes of Exercise, Screen Time, Fast Food Consumption, Alcohol, and Cigarette Smoking during the COVID-19 Pandemic among Adults in the United States,” published in the current edition of the peer-reviewed Nutrients magazine, surveyed Americans about their health habits in October of last year. It found that, among those surveyed, “the time spent on exercise decreased by 31.2%, while screen time increased by 60.4%. Alcohol consumption increased by 23.2% and smoking by 9%.” Oddly, it also found that fast-food consumption decreased; one researcher involved with the study attributed this to stay-at-home orders and closure of fast-food restaurants.

Those involved with the study add a few caveats. One seems reasonable to me: the fact that it was conducted in October of last year, during a particularly intense period for coronavirus, and at a time when we didn’t have vaccines. The hope is that things have gotten better restriction-wise since then, and that people have begun to shed their unhealthier habits. Another caveat seems less reasonable to me, however. Dr. Jian Li, a study co-author, admits that restrictions had negative health effects, but nonetheless states that they “are vital to reduce human-to-human infection of COVID-19.”

This mindset is a reflection of the sort of monomaniacal attitude that public-health “experts” decided to take toward coronavirus. It was essentially identified as the only health problem worth addressing. But one can identify coronavirus as a serious problem without letting it crowd out all other health concerns. Indeed, in the case of lockdowns, it seems obvious that this singlemindedness actually made the pandemic worse, as excessive restrictions encouraged sedentary behaviors that made people more susceptible to serious cases. This is just one reason why lockdowns of the extent and duration we saw in the U.S. deserve to be remembered as a mistake — perhaps an understandable one, at first, but a mistake all the same.

Politics & Policy

Pelosi Confirms Bait-and-Switch Budgeting

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) holds her weekly press conference in Washington, D.C., August 6, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

Media outlets are full of stories about how moderate Democrats are forcing progressives to lower the price tag of their $3.5 billion Budget Buster bill.

But in reality, that is not what’s happening. House speaker Nancy Pelosi shed some crocodile tears over how “disappointed” she was in having to lower the bill’s cost and promising Congress will do “fewer things well” to get it passed.

But sharp questioning by a reporter revealed the real strategy. Pelosi confirmed that Democrats will cut the bill’s cost by only authorizing its programs for, say, five years, so that the remaining years of its ten-year time horizon don’t show up in the budget scorekeeping.

“We will not diminish the transformative nature of what it is,” Pelosi promised. She then admitted budget gimmickry will be at the heart of the bill — “So, mostly cutting back on the years.”

Punchbowl News says that “Cutting back on the number of years for which a program is authorized is a bit different than doing a few things well. It’s actually the opposite.”

If a private-sector CEO tried this bookkeeping sleight of hand, they would be put in jail for fraud.

Culture

‘Flunk Joe Biden’

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President Joe Biden looks on as he delivers remarks on the U.S. debt ceiling from the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. October 4, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

I admit I laughed when I heard the first reports of college football fans chanting, “F*** Joe Biden” during games. Pithy! And exactly the sort of high-spirited, essentially harmless joke I associate with college football games. (We did a lot of obscene chanting at the Yale Bowl, mainly because we lost a lot and we were all giddy on blackberry schnapps. The game itself became of secondary concern.)

When “F*** Joe Biden” started to go mainstream, though, I got a little queasy. College culture is one thing, but let’s not make the wider culture more vulgar than it already is. I’d rather kids not hear, much less chant, obscenities. (I live in New York City, so this is a lost cause here, but I’d like to think there are still places out there where people at least try not to swear in front of children.)

Luckily, for those of us who care about the degradation of the culture, a brilliant compromise came along: The sanitized version of “F*** Joe Biden” is “Let’s go Brandon.” After an NBC reporter started hearing the chant while interviewing NASCAR driver Brandon Brown at Talladega, she instantly spun this to her audience as, “Let’s go Brandon.” This hilarious, spur-of-the-moment instance of a supposedly neutral broadcaster taking a turn toward state propaganda to save the embattled reputation of the party leader itself went viral. Now chanting or saying “Let’s go Brandon” stands as an effective double joke about both Joe Biden’s incompetence and the media’s desperate urge to carry water for him. (A third element: The lefty media, meaning nearly all of the media, were slow to grasp the joke because the media routinely ignore content that is negative about Joe Biden even though his approval rating is now in Trump territory at 43.0 percent. Trump’s average was 42.8.)

The only problem with “Let’s go Brandon” as a meme is that it got so popular so quickly that it’s bound to turn into a tired cliché pretty soon. Maybe even in the next 96 hours.

PC Culture

‘Empirically Dubious, Massively Simplistic’

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Our progressive friends won’t take it from National Review. But maybe they’ll listen to one of their own, Ruy Teixeira. Via Thomas Edsall’s very interesting column this morning:

It is remarkable how willing liberal elites have been to countenance [Ibram X.] Kendi’s extreme views which ascribe all racial disparities in American society to racism and a system of untrammeled white supremacy (and only that), insist that all policies/actions can only be racist or anti-racist in any context and advocate for a Department of Anti-Racism staffed by anti-racist “experts” who would have the power to nullify any and all local, state and federal legislation deemed not truly anti-racist (and therefore, by Kendi’s logic, racist). These ideas are dubious empirically, massively simplistic and completely impractical in real world terms. And to observe they are politically toxic is an understatement.

There is much more of interest here.

Music

‘Brown Sugar’ Gets Canceled

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Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones performs in Marseille, June 26, 2018. (Jean-Paul Pelissier / Reuters)

After hearing the record thousands of times, I was unaware that the Rolling Stones’ classic “Brown Sugar” is about enslavement because I can’t understand anything Mick Jagger says in the entire first verse. All I hear is: “uh uh uh uh uh uh JUST AROUND MIDNIGHT.”  Turns out the lyrics are these:

Gold coast slave ship bound for cotton fields
Sold in the market down in New Orleans
Scarred old slaver knows he’s doing alright
Hear him whip the women just around midnight

Well, that’s clear enough. Someone noticed that the Stones aren’t playing the song on their current tour, seemingly for the first time ever, which led to a New York Post headline saying that “Rolling Stones retire classic rock song ‘Brown Sugar.’” In the body of the story, Keith Richards is less absolute, saying, “We might put it back in.” He seemed to be smarting about feeling pressure to dump the song when he told the LA Times, “I don’t know. I’m trying to figure out with the sisters quite where the beef is. Didn’t they understand this was a song about the horrors of slavery? But they’re trying to bury it.”

The chorus of the song comes from the point of view of a gleeful slave master who enjoys having sex with or raping the women he owns, so it’s not exactly clear about the “horrors” part, but I think we can assume that the Stones, who revered black American blues musicians and got the band’s name from a Muddy Waters LP, are not fans of slavery. A listener might object that the upbeat, rollicking nature of the song makes it a celebration of the acts it describes, but then again, the tune has been played on popular radio for 50 years without causing undue uproar. Suffice it to say that the Stones enjoy visiting dark places in their songs without endorsing their characters or their viewpoints. “Sympathy for the Devil” isn’t really a celebration of Satan.

I find it noteworthy that the urge to cancel rock songs for their supposed licensing of immorality was entirely a right-wing or Christian phenomenon when it got started in the Sixties and now appears to be entirely a left-wing phenomenon.

P.S. I won’t miss “Brown Sugar” because I don’t really like it in the first place. I’m more of an “Emotional Rescue”/”Miss You” guy. And the ballads! Sue me.

Politics & Policy

Low Voter ‘Passion’ Is Good for the Republic

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Jim Geraghty pointed to a Washington Post column in which Karen Tumulty wrings her hands about women “taking a break” from politics. Indeed, diminished political “passion” or low voter turnout isn’t necessarily undesirable, as it’s often a sign of general contentment with the state of the world. The outsized role government plays in our lives has sparked a destructive religious fervor in politics. This obsession — from our misguided celebration of “engagement and activism” to the politicization of every cultural event — has damaged the fabric and comity of American life. Politics is a poor substitute for family, faith, work, or community. Perhaps, if we’re lucky, this ebb in passion will motivate voters to once again seek out more rewarding and decent religions than politics, because a fixation with elections rarely leads to any constructive place. As George Will helpfully pointed out in a recent Reason podcast, authoritarianism isn’t about barring people from politics but rather engulfing their entire existence in it.

Media Continue to Ignore Evidence That Joe Was Involved in Hunter’s Shady Business Dealings

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Then—Democratic 2020 presidential nominee Joe Biden and his son Hunter celebrate onstage at his election rally in Wilmington, Del., November 7, 2020. (Jim Bourg/Reuters)

In September 2019 then-presidential candidate Joe Biden claimed that he never discussed business with his son Hunter, who had leveraged the family name to rake in overseas cash from Chinese Communists and Ukrainian energy interests. “I have never spoken to my son about his overseas business dealings,” Biden said. “Here’s what I know. Trump should be investigated.”

Trump, of course, was the target of numerous criminal and journalistic investigations. One would imagine that the mounting evidence that Biden not only knew Hunter was selling influence but that he may have benefited financially would spark a cursory journalistic curiosity.

Alas, most of the

NR Webathon

Growing Up with National Review

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James L. Buckley, Ronald Reagan, Barry Goldwater, and William F. Buckley Jr. in 1975 (Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images)

I remember when I first started reading National Review. It was just after the 2008 presidential election, the first such contest to which I could pay attention as a somewhat-intelligent, semi-self-aware young adult (I was 15). But I was seriously uninformed. So I was grateful to discover, tucked away in the periodicals section of my high-school library, a copy of William F. Buckley’s august magazine. This also got me reading National Review Online, which, at about twelve years old then, was, in a sense, my “peer.” I’ve been faithfully reading both ever since, since February of last year as an employee thereof. Sometimes, I have trouble believing my luck.

Our readers all have their own stories of discovering NR, which has become such an important part of the lives of so many, an island of sanity amid vast seas of insanity (and worse). Readers also know that this enterprise depends not only on their readership but also on their support, financial and otherwise. Which is why we are grateful for the contributions that NR-niks have already made to the ongoing Fall 2021 webathon, to which you can donate here.

Carol gives $20, noting, “I wish it could be more. It’s a great cause.” We are grateful for every dollar, Carol; each gift shows genuine sacrifice and affection on the part of the giver. We accept it graciously, not taking anything for granted.

Elizabeth gives $100, recognizing NR’s role as Sanity Island. “Thank you for fighting against the insanity that is doing so much damage to this great country.” You’re quite welcome, Elizabeth. We must also thank you, however, for your support, without which Sanity Island would hardly amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.

Tim gives $500, and exhorts us to “keep chipping away,” as one of my high-school teachers liked to say. “Appreciate your passion. Keep pushing.” We appreciate your own passion, Tim, and will do our best to fulfill your exhortation.

Richard gives $100. “A wonderful publication. Bravo.” Thanks, Richard. I would only add that you are a wonderful supporter. Bravo.

These are only a few of the generous souls who have already contributed to the ongoing Fall 2021 webathon. We would be honored if you joined them. No donation is too small. Somewhere out there is a high-school student about to discover the timeless wisdom of NR for the first time. With your help, we can ensure we are there for him — and for everyone else.

Impromptus

Starting, and Stopping, the Music

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The German tenor Jonas Kaufmann rehearsing in Vienna, February 22, 2017 (Leonhard Foeger/Reuters)

My Impromptus column is a grab-bag today, as usual, beginning with General Ray Odierno, who passed away a few days ago. According to many who worked with him, he was a model of an American army general. I met him once, with a group of journalists in 2008. We were in Faw Palace, one of Saddam Hussein’s former pads. My column also touches on Bright Sheng, the composer who got into hot water at the University of Michigan, where he teaches; the Saudi government, which is buying a Premier League team; and the new Babi Yar memorial center in Kyiv. I end with something lighter (as what could not be?): Jeremy Paxman and “the liberty to be crotchety.”

On the musical front, here is a review of Jonas Kaufmann, the German tenor, and Helmut Deutsch, the Austrian pianist, in Carnegie Hall. I will note something here in the Corner. Everyone has a smartphone now, and people take pictures and record videos during a concert. As Kaufmann was singing his sixth and final encore — Strauss’s “Cäcilie” — he stopped and made a plea to the audience: “Please respect the rules. Stop filming!” This garnered some of the biggest applause of the night.

Last night, Lang Lang, the Chinese piano sensation, performed in Carnegie Hall (review to come). The hall was packed with young Chinese people who seldom go to concerts but adore Lang Lang. They snapped and filmed all through. The ushers went nuts, marching up and down the aisles, policing.

In my Impromptus on Monday, I had a note on “Eskimo”/“Inuit,” for I had been rebuked for using that first word. I got some mail, including from Alaska. The mail is very interesting. The gist of it is: It depends. Some Eskimos or Inuits like “Eskimo,” some like “Inuit,” and, of those who like “Inuit,” some are offended by “Eskimo” and some aren’t.

Then there is the whole debate about “American Indian,” “Native American,” etc. Perhaps we don’t need to reopen that one right this second.

A reader writes, “Jay, I offer you some assistance for your next caroling session.” He then suggests an alternative version of “The Christmas Song,” by Robert Wells and Mel Tormé. You know the original, right?

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,
Jack Frost nipping at your nose,
Yuletide carols being sung by a choir,
And folks dressed up like Eskimos.

Our reader suggests,

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,
Jack Frost champing at the bit,
Yuletide carols being sung by a choir,
And folks dressed up like Inuit.

The carol might be sung, our reader suggests, by “Nat King Solar Panel.”

Anyway, a merry Christmas to all. Or rather, a happy Wednesday to all. Again, for today’s Impromptus, go here.

Biden, July 19: No Serious Economist Thinks Unchecked Inflation Is on the Way

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President Joe Biden gestures during a meeting with Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin at the White House, June 28, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

President Biden, speaking with reporters, July 19:

Q    Yes, thank you, Mr. President.  At what point would you consider inflation unchecked to a point at which you would either consider taking action or you would want to see the Fed take action?

THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah.  There’s nobody suggesting there’s unchecked inflation on the way — no serious economist.  That’s totally different.

The New York Times, October 10: “There Is Shadow Inflation Taking Place All Around Us”

CNBC, yesterday: “Central banks such as the Federal Reserve should be prepared to tighten policy in case inflation gets out of control, the International Monetary Fund warned in

Economy & Business

Watch Out for Those Billionaires Wielding $601

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Then-Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen in Washington, D.C., in 2017. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Janet Yellen says that the IRS needs to look into all banking transactions that exceed $600 because otherwise billionaires will cheat on their taxes:

This, of course, is nonsense. As it so happens, $600 is the threshold at which businesses are obliged to report paying independent contractors. If Yellen believes that the IRS is losing out on transactions such as these — and that, as a result, it needs to see aggregate inflows and outflows that exceed $600 — then she should say so. But pretending that by “high income individuals with opaque source of income” she means “billionaires” instead of small businesses owners represents an absurd insult to our intelligence.

Elections

A Conservative Third Party Won’t Work

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Voters at the polling station in PS 250 during the New York City primary mayoral election in Brooklyn, N.Y., June 22, 2021. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

While I have immense respect for our former colleague Jonah Goldberg and agree with the end state he is seeking, I must side with Charlie against Jonah’s idea of a Reaganite-conservative third party. I would add that the idea is not purely theoretical. In my home state of New York, we actually have a Conservative Party that was designed to serve exactly the role that Jonah envisions, and which he suggests as a role model. At one time, that was a workable model. It ran William F. Buckley Jr. for mayor of New York City in 1965, and while that race was futile (it was won by liberal Republican John Lindsay), it made an important statement. The party got James Buckley elected to the Senate in 1970, over the objections of the Rockefeller-dominated New York Republicans. Its backing helped launch Alfonse D’Amato to a Republican primary victory and a Senate seat in 1980. As recently as 1990, it split the general-election vote evenly for governor between the Republican Pierre Rinfret’s 21.4 percent and the Conservative Herbert London’s 20.4 percent. Mario Cuomo, who won that race, was defeated four years later when George Pataki unified the two factions.

How well does that work in the 21st century? In 2010, the Conservatives nominated moderate Republican Rick Lazio, who lost the Republican primary to the proto-Trump candidate Carl Paladino (to my regret, I voted for Paladino out of bitterness over the consultant-driven fiasco of Lazio’s 2000 Senate campaign). Lazio withdrew from the race, the Conservatives fell in line behind Paladino, and Andrew Cuomo cruised to victory in what was otherwise a great Tea Party Republican year. Ever since, the party has been at best an empty shell, at worst a racket. In 2016 and 2020, it endorsed Donald Trump for president. I have little optimism that a third party of this nature that gained actual power would not be swiftly corrupted. The history of truly influential third-party movements in America — the Anti-Masons, Free Soilers, the Know-Nothings, the Populists, the Progressives — has been one in which their real power only happened when they fused with one of the major parties or brought down the temple Samson-style, like the Breckenridge Democrats of 1860.

The battles that Jonah wants to fight are very much worth fighting. But the place to fight them is in Republican primaries. If we cannot win them there, we will not improve matters by handing power to Democrats who have no intention of ever allowing it to be given back.