Many liberals — such as Cass Sunstein, President Obama’s regulatory czar — used to say it was much better for the state to reward people for good behavior than to punish them for what you didn’t like. Giving someone a gift card if they get vaccinated is one example.
But today’s progressives are increasingly ripping off their masks and revealing their authoritarian bent.
Shaun Kenney, a former chair of the Board of Supervisors in Virginia’s Fluvanna County, is appalled. Ever since the beginning of COVID, he told National Review, people have been hit with prolonged and painful economic shutdowns that “treat Virginians as subjects rather than citizens; as children rather than adults.” McAuliffe’s statements demonstrate things will only get worse if he returns to the governor’s mansion after elections this November.
“Government after all is force — and if you give this boy McAuliffe a hammer? You will be treated as a nail,” Kenney concludes.
When I was in the sixth grade of Iroquois Middle School in Irondequoit, N.Y., The Beatles broke up. There ensued a discussion of which rock group would replace them as kings of the hill. Everyone, especially the girls, insisted it would be the Monkees, then at the peak of their fame. I said it would be the Rolling Stones.
The Rolling Stones marketed themselves in their early years as the group of the dark side, which seems odd now considering how derivative their trappings were. For years they imitated the Beatles’s inessentials. The Beatles would record a song with strings; so would they. The Beatles went to India; they cut a single with sitars. The Beatles had a trippy album cover, so did they. It was embarrassing. Lead singer Mick Jagger fancied himself to be pansexual. But there is a photo of him sitting in some club booth next to David Bowie, an authentic no there there weirdo. Jagger looks baffled.
The one time they touched the third rail was at Altamont when the Hell’s Angels, who were providing security, killed a boisterous fan. WFB wrote about this at the end of Cruising Speed, after seeing Gimme Shelter, the movie about the event. Their music was a closed book to him, but he was interesting in the crime as a portent.
Yet the Rolling Stones marched on and on and on, not as Beatles wanna-bes or sympathizers with the devil, but as a roots-rock band avant la lettre: Chicago blues sped up, with an occasional dash of country. The Beatles, musically more inventive, were all over the place. The Rolling Stones stuck to the strike zone.
In their last decades they became their own tribute band; even strike zones can be confining. But in the last few years, they released one good album, Blue and Lonesome, a collection of lesser-known Chicago blues songs, some, their PR material claimed, recorded in one take. At the beginning of COVID they had their first number-one hit in ages with the fortuitously timed track, “Living In a Ghost Town.”
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards still survive, but drummer Charlie Watts was the Maytag washing machine of the group, always working, never broken. The obits said he studied the drumming of jazz bands, especially Duke Ellington’s. I am not percussion-savvy enough to tell that, but I am musically savvy enough — which is to say, sentient — to tell that he kept his bandmates always moving along. The first British invasion ended with the Battle of New Orleans. With Watts’s passing the second comes to a close. Dead at 80, R.I.P.
Washington should be ashamed of the position we put our service members in, but they represent the best in America. These men and women have been run ragged and are still running strong. Their empathy and dedication to duty are truly inspiring.
We came into this visit wanting, like most veterans, to push the president to extend the August 31st deadline. After talking with commanders on the ground and seeing the situation here, it is obvious that because we started the evacuation so late, that no matter what we do, we won’t get everyone out on time, even by September 11. Sadly and frustratingly, getting our people out depends on maintaining the current, bizarre relationship with the Taliban.
The congressmen said they departed Kabul “in a plane that was not full, in a seat designated for crew so that we didn’t take a seat from someone else.”
I can’t bring myself to completely cheer the two congressmen; they did disregard restrictions imposed for safety, and their presence had to have disrupted the regular operations of U.S. personnel, at least a little bit. It’s good that the two men tried to minimize how their visit would impact the ongoing evacuation work, but there’s just no way that two members of Congress can go to the middle of the tensest and arguably most treacherous spot in the world and not tie up some U.S. resources.
But it appears the congressmen went with the right motives and best intentions. They wanted to see the situation at the airport for themselves, to make sure the administration wasn’t spinning them with happy talk. Congressional oversight of the executive branch doesn’t occur only when the president, Pentagon, or State Department find it convenient. Americans have a lot of people who have earned their ire in recent days, but I don’t think these two men belong anywhere near the top of the list.
“It’s as moronic as it is selfish,” said a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to provide a frank assessment of their trip. “They’re taking seats away from Americans and at-risk Afghans — while putting our diplomats and service members at greater risk — so they can have a moment in front of the cameras.”
But the congressmen didn’t take seats away from Americans and at-risk Afghans, it’s hard to see how their presence put our diplomats and service members at greater risk – everybody’s at really high risk already! – and the two congressmen weren’t in front of the cameras in Kabul.
The situation in Afghanistan is a colossal disaster, and it feels an awful lot like a lot of people who don’t want the administration to be blamed are doing everything they can to refocus the country’s ire on two members of Congress who went over there to see how bad it was with their own eyes.
Matt Weidinger notes that the federal unemployment benefit extension will end on Labor Day — and that, despite this termination representing a “benefits cliff” that is “almost six times “steeper” than the next-steepest such cliff in American history,” Democrats are oddly silent about it.
Weidinger attributes this silence to two things. First, that “the cliff was designed by Democrats” as a cynical ploy to “improve the odds that Congress will approve another extension.” Second, that “most red states” have opted out, and thereby caused a situation in which “over 80 percent of those receiving major federal benefits were in states led by a Democratic governor.” Because Democrats would prefer the public not to know any of this, Weidinger suggests, “it is Democrats who are nixing any chance of another extension.”
Weidinger is, of course, correct. But there is something else going on here, I suspect: Namely, that whatever they might say in public, Democrats know that the policy is a drag. President Biden has insisted for months that extending unemployment benefits was not preventing people from returning to work and was not contributing to the labor shortage. In May, Biden said that he didn’t “see much evidence” of a link between paying people to stay at home and people staying at home. In June, Biden told reporters that the problem of people staying at home was real, but that there was a conveniently simple solution. “I remember you were asking me,” he said. “‘Guess what? Employers can’t find workers’ I said, ‘Pay them more!'” Now, with only 39 percent of Americans approving of his “handling of the economy,” Biden has said he is fine with the cutoff, while his allies in the Senate are waxing lyrical about the “grit and ingenuity of the American people.”
According to the illiberal race-hustlers among us, America is a thoroughly racist nation where you only succeed if (and because) you are white. Therefore, we need government to coercively redistribute wealth and allocate important positions by racial quotas. Only through such measures can we attain “equity.”
That theory collapses when examined with any care. A person’s race or ancestry has nothing to do with his success or failure in life. In today’s Martin Center article, Kenny Xu demolishes critical race theory by pointing out that Asian Americans have enjoyed great success in this country, despite not being “white” and often overcoming great obstacles.
Xu writes, “Along nearly every measurable life outcome, Asian Americans outperform whites. Asian Americans have the highest per capita income, lowest per capita crime rates, and highest rates of postsecondary achievement. Despite making up only 6 percent of the U.S. population, Asian Americans account for a whopping 60 percent of top scores on the SAT. Whites, despite making up more than half of the country’s population, only account for 33 percent. America is infected by a peculiar strain of white supremacy indeed if it allows for Asian Americans to beat whites on so many different metrics.”
Being white is not necessary for success in the U.S., as many Asians (as well as people of many other races and nationalities) demonstrate.
What “works” for Asians? Education, foresight, productivity.
Xu continues, “No one denies the fact of slavery, discrimination, or racism; Asians have endured plenty of their own in this country. But they also committed to believing in the highest ideals that our country was founded upon, including the idea that anyone could apply themselves and improve their lot in life. They chose to raise their children to value hard work, study diligently, and commit to excellence. Because of that choice, Asian Americans now outperform everyone, including whites, in a nation that is allegedly based upon white domination.”
As was the case with the Jews a century ago, Asians are now “too successful” and, for that reason, many colleges and universities now have de facto caps on the number of Asian students they admit.
Xu concludes that we should junk CRT and focus on allowing everyone to succeed based on his accomplishments. Oh, but that would wipe out lots of “diversity” jobs and deprive Democrats of much of their rhetoric.
David’s piece on the home page rightly points out that the backlash against humor columnist Gene Weingarten — for dissing all Indian food in a sweeping, misinformed, and rather silly statement — was more than a little overheated.
The dust-up followed a familiar sequence. Weingarten wrote something insensitive. He was called a racist. He held his ground. Then he didn’t. He apologized.
Read David’s piece for the details. But even though Padma Lakshmi likened the writer to a “colonizer,” it’s safe to assume that a guy who praised India’s vast contributions to civilized society in the same breath as he knocked its cuisine probably isn’t a raging racist.
What’s more demonstrable is that Mr. Weingarten simply has terrible taste — for which there’s no accounting, I realize, except here. I feel bad for the man. His buds are burnt, his palate’s parched, his life must have fewer dimensions than an A-ha video. He’s gone tongue-blind if he can’t find something to appreciate from India’s rich culinary canon.
His pre-apology follow-up tweet, later deleted, confirms it:
Took a lot of blowback for my dislike of Indian food in today’s column so tonight I went to Rasika, DC’s best Indian restaurant. Food was beautifully prepared yet still swimming with the herbs & spices I most despise. I take nothing back.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown is requiring everyone — vaccinated and un alike — to wear masks outside, even though the chance of transmission while outdoors is minuscule. But guess which cadre is exempt from the rules that apply to almost everyone else? “Persons experiencing houselessness.” From the directive:
The rule aligns with the exceptions outlined in the recent statewide indoor mask requirements, and does not apply to:
Children under 5 years old;
Individuals who are actively eating, drinking, or sleeping — as well as individuals living outdoors, such as persons experiencing houselessness;
Persons playing or practicing competitive sports, or engaged in an activity in which it is not feasible to wear a mask — such as swimming;
Individuals delivering a speech or performing — such as with outdoor music or theater;
Of course! The USA has become a Salvador Dali painting.
Andrew Cuomo managed one last outrage on his way out the door before his resignation became effective at midnight on Monday: He granted clemency to David Gilbert, along with three other murderers.
Gilbert and Kathy Boudin were the getaway drivers for the 1981 Brink’s armored-car heist that killed Brink’s guard Peter Paige and police officers Waverly Brown and Edward O’Grady, who collectively left behind three widows and six fatherless children, the youngest six months of age. (Three others were wounded.) Gilbert claims that he never intended for anyone to get hurt, and this claim is echoed today by the influential son he had with Kathy Boudin, San Francisco district attorney Chesa Boudin, who said yesterday that Gilbert “never intended harm.”
This was always nonsense. The Brink’s robbery was not just a crime; it was carried out by members of a pair of left-wing domestic-terrorist groups, the Weather Underground and the Black Liberation Army. The people Gilbert and Boudin were driving came armed with M-16s, shotguns, and body armor. Their weapons were powerful enough to blow a huge hole in the reinforced windshield of the armored car:
The killers, who also included Tupac Shakur’s stepfather, waited in ambush for the armored car and gunned down the two Nyack police officers at a roadblock. Gilbert and Boudin were selected as the drivers rather than the robbers simply because they were white, and the gang assumed that they’d be less likely to be stopped by police looking for black suspects. At trial, far from showing remorse, Gilbert and his co-defendants “spent the trial claiming they were political prisoners and freedom fighters and disrupted what they deemed illegitimate proceedings by raising their fists and shouting, ‘Free the land!’” The fact that Gilbert was unarmed does not change the essential fact that he participated in an act of political terrorism.
The left-wing terror group orchestrated a series of bombings in the 1970s. The group was allegedly behind the 1970 firebombing of the home of a New York Supreme Court justice who was set to preside over a trial of members of the Black Panthers. Three Weather Underground members died later that year while making bombs that they hoped to detonate at a social event held at Fort Dix, an Army base in New Jersey. Kathy Boudin was helping make the bombs but escaped unharmed after the explosion.
The Weather Underground bombed the Capitol in 1971, the Pentagon in 1972 (on Ho Chi Minh’s birthday), and the State Department headquarters in 1975. Gilbert was, quite rightly, sentenced to 75 years to life.
Somehow, though, these domestic terrorists have managed to get the radical-chic treatment from supposedly respectable Democratic politicians and academia. One of Gilbert’s co-defendants, Judith Clark, was set free by Cuomo in 2019. Kathy Boudin was released in 2003 after two decades in prison and was hired to teach at Columbia University. Bernardine Dohrn, formerly of the FBI’s Most Wanted List, served another seven months in 1982 for refusing to cooperate with the Brink’s grand jury. When she got out, she settled down with her husband, Bill Ayers, another unrepentant Weather Underground terrorist. “I don’t regret setting bombs, I feel we didn’t do enough,” Ayers told the New York Times in an interview published the morning of September 11, 2001. Ayers and Dohrn took custody of Chesa Boudin, then a toddler, and raised him in their home. Dohrn got a gig at Northwestern Law; Ayers became a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He later received thousands of dollars in education-grant money routed to him by his friend Barack Obama. Obama launched his first political fundraiser in the house where Ayers and Dohrn were raising Chesa Boudin but claimed that he had no idea who they were.
Why do Democrats and liberal academia keep doing this sort of thing? Bill Clinton, for example, pardoned Puerto Rican terrorists. Sixties radicals, even those with undeniable blood on their hands, have all too often been treated sentimentally not only by progressive activists but by mainstream Democrats of Cuomo’s ilk.
There is no traditional counterpart to this on the right, no comparable history of pardoning abortion-clinic bombers, giving professorships to white-nationalist militia leaders, or having cocktail-party shindigs with arsonists. Donald Trump’s worst pardons were typically government officials or soldiers. Even efforts by some on the MAGA right to make a cause celebre of the Capitol rioters or Kyle Rittenhouse have not gained the kind of support from conservative institutions or mainstream Republican politicians that leftist terrorists and rioters have enjoyed for decades.
Letting Gilbert out of jail is one last scandal. It is not at all out of character for Cuomo or his party.
Charlie Watts, the drummer for the Rolling Stones, died today at age 80. Watts had been performing with the band up to the pandemic (he appeared, drumming without drums, on last April’s televised “Together at Home” concert) and had been planning to resume touring until an illness announced earlier this month.
Watts, like his contemporary Ringo Starr, was a drummer’s drummer, content to lay down the foundation of the band’s music rather than jump into the limelight with drum solos or flashy displays. There were a very few big Stones songs such as “Get Off of My Cloud” where Watts took the foreground, but more typically, in songs such as “Paint it Black,” “19th Nervous Breakdown,” or “Street Fighting Man,” he would be front and center only for a few seconds of the song, then slide underneath. Unlike Ringo, he never stepped out from behind the drum kit to sing, act, or write songs. Yet he was essential to the sound and longstanding continuity of what Mick Jagger immodestly often described as “the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band in the world.” He laid down the powerful beats of “Street Fighting Man” on an antique toy drum kit.
Strong, wiry, serious, reserved, and nattily dressed, Watts was in many ways the most quintessential Englishman in the band. A classic Watts story:
One night in Amsterdam in the 1980s, when Richards was celebrating his marriage, he and Jagger stayed up most of the night drinking. At 5 a.m., Jagger called Mr. Watts’s hotel room, according to Richards’s autobiography, and said, “Where’s my drummer?” “About twenty minutes later,” Richards went on, “there was a knock at the door. There was Charlie Watts, Savile Row suit, perfectly dressed, tie, shaved. . . . I opened the door and he didn’t even look at me, he walked straight past me, got hold of Mick and said, ‘Never call me your drummer again.’ Then he hauled him up by the lapels . . . and gave him a right hook. Mick fell back onto a silver platter of smoked salmon on the table and began to slide towards the open window and the canal below it. . . . [I] caught Mick just before he slid into the Amsterdam canal.”
One of the small tragedies of the pandemic’s timing is that a whole generation of aging rockers may be leaving the stage in the next few years having been sidelined when they might have had the chance to take a final curtain call. But after six decades keeping the Rolling Stones rolling, the musical legacy of Charlie Watts is more than secure. R.I.P.
In retrospect, we trained the wrong kind of army for Afghanistan. America and the ISAF tried desperately to use the U.S. army as the model, and it was the wrong approach. The U.S. way of war is very resource-rich: exquisite satellite-based intelligence; high-end technology with precision guided firing; superb air cover (manned and drone) with nearly instantaneous response times; crisp and clear command and control that provided over-the-horizon connectivity; “on time” logistic systems that allowed fuel, food and ammunition to support combat operations; and “golden hour” medical evacuation to sophisticated hospitals. The Taliban had none of that, and while the U.S. was side-by-side with the Afghans, those local partners could fight — by relying on American support.
Think of the American revolution as an analogy: The U.S. and ISAF trained up an army of British redcoats, but what was really needed were more minutemen. . . .
In Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal, Rondi Adamson humorously wrote about Justin Trudeau’s penchant for gendering innocuous phrases, in this case turning “recession” into “she-cession.” Not for the first time, Trudeau appears to think that such contorted language wins women to his side as they fawn over his allyship. Instead, he reveals a fraternity-grade intellect, an “if I pretend I’m feminist, maybe she’ll sleep with me” mentality that is unbecoming an undergrad, let alone the prime minister of Canada.
Shortly after calling a federal election for Sept. 20, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vowed to “counter the she-cession and turn it into a she-covery.” Excuse me while I she-gurgitate. He went on to criticize the Conservative Party, saying that they do not talk of such things “in their lengthy platform.” I guess they’re she-historic.
This isn’t the first time Mr. Trudeau has used “she-cession,” and he is always pleased with himself when he says it. Given that he made these comments and called the election against the backdrop of the impending she-pression in Afghanistan, an embarrassed expression might have been more appropriate.
Mr. Trudeau likes to use language creatively to burnish his feminist credentials. In 2018 he appeared at a town hall in Edmonton, Alberta, and a woman in the audience used the word “mankind” in her question. Mr. Trudeau interrupted her and mansplained: “We like to use ‘people-kind.’ ” After being mocked for it, Mr. Trudeau said he was joking.
You can read the rest of her wonderfully caustic piece here.
If he wishes, President Biden can pretend that everything is going to plan and that what we are seeing on our screens is a triumph. But it’s not, and in no area is this as obvious as his betrayal of the “former Afghan military interpreters or other close U.S. allies” he once flatly promised he would help.
On Monday, a State Department official said that some former Afghan military interpreters or other close U.S. allies, a designated priority group for evacuations, were being turned away from the airport by American officials in order to give priority to U.S. passport and Green Card holders in recent days. The official was not authorized to brief the press, and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The official’s account was supported by interviews with Afghans who have approached the airport in recent days, and with American veterans’ groups and other organizations that have tried to organize evacuations for interpreters and other Afghans at risk from the Taliban.
Clearly, this was not the expectation, as Joe Biden made clear back in June:
The Biden administration will evacuate thousands of Afghan interpreters as the U.S. military withdraws from the country, with planning speeding up this week as Afghan leaders visit the White House and the Pentagon.
“We’ve already begun the process,” said President Joe Biden, speaking with reporters outside the White House on June 24. “Those who helped us are not going to be left behind.”
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said earlier this week that about 18,000 people have expressed interest in using the Special Immigrant Visas for Afghans to come to the United States as Afghanistan has grown more violent with Taliban gains.
“The idea here is to be able to facilitate their departure from Afghanistan to another location so that they can complete the SIV process,” Pentagon spokesman John F. Kirby said June 24, adding that it is not known how many could come to the United States.
From the moment the Afghanistan debacle began to dominate the news, President Biden has steadfastly refused to distinguish between those who are opposed to the Unites States withdrawing troops from the country per se, and those who believe that the White House has badly botched the withdrawal. “How many more generations of America’s daughters and sons would you have me send to fight?” he asked last week.
This question is non-responsive to the charge at hand, which is why an American public that overwhelmingly thinks we should get out is punishing Biden in the polls nevertheless. Americans want to leave, it seems. But they don’t want to leave like this. And Biden, they believe, is firmly in charge of the this.
Has the president grasped this yet?
By all accounts, Biden hopes that, over time, the details of the withdrawal will fade in voters’ memories, while the fact of the withdrawal will pay political dividends. And maybe he’s right to think that! The thing is, though, he has to get there first — and, as of today, he is nowhere near doing that.
In the immediate aftermath of the fall of Kabul, Biden hosted two disastrous press conferences, insisted repeatedly on returning to his vacation, and embarrassed and infuriated his closest international allies by being either completely absent or unacceptably tardy. And he’s still going. Today, the White House announced that the president remains determined to remove all troops by August 31st — even if Americans are still stranded, which, if the math is to be believed, they probably will be. And, as if that weren’t bad enough, the military has already started “reducing troop presence” — slap bang in the middle of a frantic, ongoing, and artificially time-limited evacuation drive — while the U.S. Embassy issues and then rescinds last call alerts for U.S. citizens and the Taliban begins blocking Americans from reaching the airport.
In the interests of accuracy, it may be time now to update the tense. Biden hasn’t merely “botched” the withdrawal. As an active matter, he’s still botching it.
Jack, the worst-case scenario is that we’re seeing preemptive spin for when the Biden administration chooses to leave Americans in Afghanistan after August 31. Based on the administration’s gaslighting — Politico’s words, not just mine! – it seems that the Biden team, having found themselves in a situation with no good options and terrified of a bigger fight with the Taliban, is prepared to claim, “we evacuated every American who wanted to get out, the ones who didn’t come to the airport by August 31 clearly wanted to stay.”
Politico reports that California governor Gavin Newsom’s allies in the abortion-rights movement are going all-in on rescuing him in his recall election, and they’re hopeful that focusing on “abortion access” will help to save him:
Fearful of widespread voter apathy, Democrats and their allies are hammering the message that a GOP governor could veto abortion-rights laws, cut funding for clinics and appoint anti-abortion agency officials, judges and senators in a state that’s long been at the forefront of making it accessible to terminate a pregnancy.
Abortion rights groups like Planned Parenthood and NARAL, as well as the newly formed Women Against the Recall, are phone banking, knocking on doors, posting digital ads and social media messages and holding events with Newsom and other lawmakers as ballots are mailed to voters over the next few weeks ahead of the Sept. 14 recall election.
“As much as people in California support these rights, you can see by the polls that we’ve become a little complacent about what that actually means,” Jodi Hicks, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, said in a livestreamed conversation Wednesday night that was part of the organization’s anti-recall campaign.
Thus far, Planned Parenthood has contributed more than $12,000 to Newsom’s campaign, and NARAL Pro-Choice America has thrown in $10,000. Newsom appears to be more than happy to accept their help and has thrown himself headlong into the strategy: Last week he appeared at an event with Planned Parenthood and portrayed himself as a heroic defender of “reproductive rights.” This strategy might be effective especially paired with the recent negative coverage Newsom’s opponent, conservative talk-show host Larry Elder, has received, including for his opposition to Roe v. Wade.
If progressives in California, where public colleges and universities are required by state law to provide chemical-abortion pills to “pregnant persons,” are trying to help Newsom’s effort by fear-mongering about restricted “abortion access,” the governor must really be in trouble.
The unemployment rate gets most of the attention in conversations on employment, but that’s at 5.4 percent right now, which isn’t a cause for alarm. The government keeps many other statistics on employment too. The unemployment rate is calculated by dividing the number of unemployed persons by the number of people in the labor force. That first component, the number of unemployed persons, is a statistic in its own right, and we can use it to get a different perspective on unemployment by comparing it with the number of job openings.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has kept count of the number of job openings in the U.S. every month since 2000. It’s never been higher than it is right now. There are currently 10.1 million vacant jobs in the United States. There are 8.7 million unemployed persons. That means that if we could match up each unemployed person to an open job, we could employ all of them and have 1.4 million jobs left over.
Of course, it’s not that easy. Everyone can’t do every job, and there’s lots of mismatch between what’s available and what people can do. The Wall Street Journalreports that the biggest gap between vacancies and hiring is in the service sector, which still has not recovered from the pandemic. Of the 10.1 million open jobs, 8 million are in the service sector, yet there were only 659,000 service-sector hirings in July, so the gap will persist for quite some time.
Narrowing in to specific industries, the Journal reports that industries such as education, mining and logging, real estate, finance and insurance, and construction have already pretty much recovered to pre-pandemic job levels. The big gaps still exist in leisure and hospitality, health and social assistance, retail, and professional services.
You might think they’re just lagging behind a little, and they just need some more time to catch up. That may be true, but there was one other detail from the Journal that complicates the story. “By June 2021, economic output had returned to prepandemic levels, but employers had 6.6 million fewer jobs on payrolls,” the piece says. In other words, it now takes 6.6 million fewer workers for the U.S. economy to produce the same amount of stuff as it did before the pandemic.
That’s a huge productivity gain! Businesses were probably able to use the pandemic, intentionally or unintentionally, as a reason to eliminate slack in their operations. They also probably adopted some practices meant to be temporary pandemic measures that they will continue because they were happy with the results. Think of businesses that reduced their office space and are allowing more remote work, for example.
From the labor side of things, each worker is now more productive, which in theory should translate to higher wages. In fact, that’s exactly what we’ve seen. Companies have been paying new workers higher wages, especially in low-level service jobs.
So that’s all good news, but there’s still 10.1 million vacant jobs and 8.7 million unemployed persons.
This is a different kind of problem than the one politicians are used to talking about. Politicians love to talk about “job creation” and boast of the increase in the number of jobs on their watch.
We don’t have a “job-creation” problem right now. The jobs are out there waiting for people to fill them.
The Biden administration wants to spend a ton of money, but that’s totally non-responsive to the nature of the problem. We don’t need make-work jobs on green-energy projects. We need to better match people with the jobs that are already available.
That’s not a problem you can just throw money at and expect it to go away. As Kevin Williamson has said, those are the problems that rich countries such as the U.S. like because rich countries (by definition) have lots of money they can use to solve them. The federal government is pretty good at writing checks. It’s not very good at much else, and writing checks won’t match unemployed persons with vacant jobs.
The first thing that could help is to stop writing checks, specifically the $300-per-month federal supplement to unemployment benefits that people have been receiving since the pandemic started. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said in an August 19 letter to Congress that the supplement would end on September 6 as scheduled and it should not be extended. The expiration of those benefits should push some workers currently on the margin into available jobs.
The present unemployment predicament is a complicated problem that government isn’t very well-equipped to handle. But that doesn’t mean they won’t try, and it will likely result in lots of money being wasted as it’s thrown at a problem that more spending can’t solve.
I’ve noticed something curious amid the unfolding debacle that is the Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. The obvious and correct priority for the U.S. right now, with the decision to withdraw having been made, is to get every American out of the country as soon as possible, given the threat faced from the unstable situation and the resurgent Taliban. So why does Team Biden keep hedging on this? There has been acknowledged confusion about how long U.S. forces will remain, and how many Americans are still in the country. But what to make of the weirdness of the line of multiple administration officials, including President Joe Biden himself, that they are working to get only those Americans who “want” to leave Afghanistan out of the country?
“The president I think was clear that we’ll do whatever we have to do to rescue as many Americans as want to leave Afghanistan, and the secretary’s not going to rule anything in or out in terms of what the possibilities might be there.”
“As the president and his team have made clear, the circumstances in Afghanistan are heartbreaking and we are bringing the Americans who want to come home, home.”
Maybe there is something I am missing here. But I can only imagine that, if you are an American currently in Afghanistan, you want to leave, unless we have some truly audacious souls out there who are making their way over to Ahmad Massoud as we speak. So why on earth is it necessary to qualify this language in any way? Why not just say “all Americans?” Surely it’s not to provide some kind of wiggle room, to lay the foundation for an assumption that any American who proves unable to make it to Kabul within the full-withdrawal deadline Biden has now decided to stick to, lest he anger the Taliban, actually wanted to stay. No, that couldn’t be it.
Update, 2:47 p.m.:
I missed this today, from White House press secretary Jen Psaki:
Addl context on American citizens of what I said: "We are committed to bringing Americans, who want to come home, home. We are in touch with them via phone, via text, via e-mail, via any way that we can possibly reach Americans to get them home if they want to return home…
The legal group goes on to declare it a “disability rights issue” that forces parents of children with disabilities to choose between going to school with maskless classmates, or avoiding school altogether. Putting aside the fact that there is no evidence that it’s dangerous for children to go to school without masks, as Charlie pointed out recently, the statewide bans on mask mandates are not a government infringement on choice. Rather, the bans are merely shifting the choice from school districts to individual parents. If the ACLU were to prevail and the default were to leave it up to the school districts, then it would mean that parents who don’t want their children to wear masks all day would be forced to do so or forgo school. This is another in the long-line of examples demonstrating that the ACLU is just a left-wing group rather than a civil rights organization.
Democratic Jason Crow of Colorado said on Tuesday that it’s not possible for the United States to evacuate all U.S. citizens and Afghan allies trapped in Afghanistan before the August 31 withdrawal deadline that President Biden is reportedly sticking to following Taliban demands that U.S. forces leave by then.
“We have a moral obligation to ensure that we get American citizens out and our Afghan partners out. There are more of those folks in the country, in Afghanistan, right now than we have the capability to evacuate between now and the end of the month,” Crow told reporters on Tuesday. “That’s why the mission must be extended, and we have to do what’s necessary to get people out, and it doesn’t have to do with a date on the calendar.”
“This is not a Taliban-negotiated date, this was a date the United States set,” Crow said, noting that circumstances have now changed since President Biden first announced the August 31 withdrawal date in the spring.
“We have a mission that has to get done,” Crow said. “There is broad bipartisan agreement within the United States Congress and across this country that we have to get American citizens out and we have to get our Afghan partners and allies out.”
“This is a very complicated, very high-risk mission,” said Crow, who served three tours in Afghanistan as an Army Ranger. “But . . . if we aren’t willing to use the U.S. military to protect U.S. citizens and our partners and our friends, then what will we use our military for?”
He added that missions such as these are “why we have the biggest, strongest military in the world, and that is to protect our people.”
CNN is reporting that Joe Biden has preemptively declined to extend his self-imposed deadline for withdrawal from Afghanistan — despite having no guarantees that every American citizen and Afghan refugee who assisted us in our failed 20-year nation-building project will have been evacuated by that time. Considering the ill-planned and incompetent withdrawal efforts thus far, no one should have any confidence that the job will be done in a week. This is just another inexplicable decision in a series of mind-boggling blunders, though Biden reportedly is seeking contingency plans in case his view changes. The Taliban warned that a “violation” of the Trump agreement would lead to “consequences.” But as Biden knows, the United States made no unconditional promise to exit. The Taliban have already broken their agreement many times over. Moreover, why is Biden allowing a third-world Islamic militia to dictate the actions of the world’s most powerful military? It’s just shameful.
Like Rich Lowry, I’ve taken the press treatment of the Afghanistan withdrawal as my latest column subject. I list eight reasons the Biden administration is getting worse press than it’s used to. A sample:
Sixth, the administration’s attempts to blame its predecessor for the situation undercuts its own position. When Biden’s allies say that Trump owns this debacle, they’re conceding it’s a debacle. If things were going well, they would be saying that withdrawal is a great achievement that Trump only talked about but Biden accomplished.
My reader who works for a contractor in Afghanistan, and who is desperately trying to help his former employees dodge Taliban death squads and get out of the country, offers another update. (See here and here for background.)
He reports some good news. “The State Department P2 system seems to still be functioning. Trust me, it is getting pounded with thousands of e-mails a day. My focus is split between P2 referrals and getting our former employees on evacuation flight manifests.”
My reader praises the work of Samaritan’s Purse, so if you’re looking for an organization to support during this crisis, that seems to be a particularly good one. He says he and his company, another defense contractor, and Samaritan’s Purse have “partnered on three flights that brought out 700 people in one day. . . . Our team is blessed with project managers, and retired tradesmen who have all stepped up to the plate to help with the data confirmation and processing of our Afghan staff. They have the hearts of warriors.”
That’s it for the good news, though. The bad news is that he writes, “My days have been consumed. I feel guilty sleeping — but if I don’t, my effectiveness will suffer and it will be worse. A week until the Biden deadline. Do the math. We can’t get everyone out by then. But I can’t think about that right now; I have to stay focused on the mission at hand and stay in the moment.”
But my reader’s assessment lines up with that of Representative Adam Schiff (D., Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, after attending a briefing last night. “Given the number of Americans who still need to be evacuated, the number of SIVs, the number of others who are members of the Afghan press, civil society leaders, women leaders . . . it’s hard for me to imagine all of that can be accomplished between now and the end of the month.”
I have an Impromptus column today, with a variety of items, most of them related to the pandemic. There are a thousand issues within the pandemic, aren’t there? Medical, social, political, psychological, and so on. I hear many people around me say that vaccination is a “personal decision.” I understand that. I also hear people say that vaccination is a matter of public health, or the common good. I understand that, too.
Bummer when things aren’t black and white, isn’t it?
The other day, Arnold Schwarzenegger said something elementary: With citizenship come rights, of course. We got rights. But citizenship entails responsibilities, too. We owe things to one another. Bill Kristol tweeted that, in his judgment, “vaccination is not a ‘deeply personal decision.’ It is a routine public health requirement in a civilized society.”
All of this provides food for thought. In any event, I’m going to publish a little mail.
After writing about Donald Kagan, the late classical scholar, I heard from Neal B. Freeman, an NR luminary, and onetime right hand to WFB. He says,
The Freeman family was blessed to be instructed by Don over two generations. I found his course on ancient Greece to be the best I took. One of my kids felt the same way. (It is recorded that the kid got an A. The father did not.)
Hard to believe, Neal! A sharpie like you?
When JLB, Pitts, and I were helping a handful of students (led by the talented Lauren Noble) to stand up the Buckley Program at Yale, the university pushed obstacles in our way. Don, observing the situation from a distance, agreed to join our inaugural board. It was a post he needed as much as he needed a third thumb. The obstacles began to melt away.
Marvelous. By the way, “JLB” refers to James L. Buckley and “Pitts” refers to Priscilla Buckley — two of the ten Buckley children who included WFB.
I will never tire of reading your Salzburg journals! I love music, Mozart, and Salzburg!
My husband and I visited Salzburg about 30 years ago. We stayed at the Sacher Hotel in a suite overlooking the Old City. I still have one of those “ancient” elongated photos of the Old City framed and displayed prominently.
Thanks for brightening another day!
The subject of another e-mail was “Salzburgers.” A man writes,
That’s what we called ourselves, students from the University of Portland (Oregon) who attended the overseas program in Salzburg: Salzburgers. I was there in ’83-’84. Absolutely LOVED seeing your pictures from the city. Can’t tell you what great memories they bring back.
Pictures trigger memories more than words, probably. I have some pictures in today’s Impromptus, too — from a place in Michigan, on Lake Michigan, called Grand Haven. Again, here. Have a great one.
Her comments at the White House daily press briefing today, claiming that Americans are not stranded in the Afghan capital, are the latest installment of an unconvincing effort to defend the administration’s botched withdrawal from Afghanistan (Jim Geraghty wrote more about the administration’s broader effort to spin itself out of this crisis).
“I’m calling you out for saying that we are stranding American in Afghanistan, when I said we have been very clear that we are not leaving. Americans who want to return home, we are going to bring them home, and I think that’s important for the American public to hear and understand,” Psaki said in response to a question from Fox’s Peter Doocy.
Her claim rests on a dubious interpretation of what stranded means, seeming to suggest that American citizens are not stranded because the U.S. government will eventually bring them home.
But thousands of Americans are currently in Taliban-controlled territory beyond the perimeter administered by U.S. and allied forces at the Hamid Karzai International Airport, as national-security adviser Jake Sullivan confirmed yesterday on NBC’s Meet the Press.
Although the U.S. embassy in Kabul has encouraged Americans to evacuate, it also notified them that it cannot ensure their safe passage to the airport, then on August 21, it advised them not to attempt the trip due to “potential security threats” — as reports emerged that Taliban guards were beating people attempting to get through.
A State Department cable leaked to Politico shows that over 4,000 American citizens, included in a total of 25,000 people, have been evacuated safely from the country.
Meanwhile, officials have turned to more creative solutions to the Taliban blockade of the airport. Although U.S. officials have indicated that American troops would not leave the airport’s perimeter, the Pentagon has admitted that U.S. forces have gone into the city, beyond the airport’s boundaries, to rescue American citizens.
“On occasion — where there’s a need, and there’s a capability to meet that need — our commanders on the ground are doing what they feel they need to do to help Americans reach the airport,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said today.
He didn’t use the word stranded, but members of Congress involved in the effort to rescue Americans stranded in Kabul have done just that.
“We have received nearly 4000 evacuation requests from Afghanistan since I started an email RepKimEvac@mail.house.gov just 4 days ago. Many Americans stranded and even more fearful Afghans,” Representative Andy Kim, a Democrat who has facilitated the evacuation of Americans from Afghanistan, wrote on Twitter.
Representatives Josh Gottheimer, Charlie Crist, and Ken Buck and Senator Tom Cotton, among others, also posted tweets urging “stranded” Americans to contact their offices to receive assistance.
In other words, Psaki’s spin is news to top Biden national-security aides, members of Congress, and anyone even vaguely following this situation, and thousands of Americans remain stranded in Kabul while the White House plays political word games.
President Biden and his top aides pledged to put human rights at the center of U.S. foreign policy, and their emphasis on a loud, though toothless, effort to promote human rights is one of the key instruments with which they have attempted to influence the Taliban’s actions.
From the start of the ultimately successful Taliban blitzkrieg, top administration officials made appeals to the Islamist group’s desire to be accepted as legitimate by the international community, warning it against the brutality that the world has come to associate with its advances. These overtures came mostly from U.S. negotiators in Doha and the White House press briefing room.
U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield noted in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that the Security Council released “a very strongly worded press statement” encouraging the Taliban to respect human rights, a comment widely panned by the administration’s critics.
Unsurprisingly, Foggy Bottom has taken a similar tack, issuing similarly empty statements about human rights, since the start of the Taliban’s new reign in Afghanistan.
After the Taliban swept into Kabul on August 15, the State Department issued a number of statements designed to prove its commitment to the human-rights-centered foreign-policy vision articulated by top Biden officials in the early days of the administration but which only provided reminders of just how hollow their early comments were.
These statements recognized humanitarian workers, victims of terrorism, and persecuted religious minorities, as officials scrambled to contain the fallout of the U.S. pullout. Each of the press releases, issued by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, was a stark reminder of the administration’s decision to leave aid workers and Afghanistan’s religious minorities to the mercy of radical militants, as a new government in Kabul takes power without shedding its deep and abiding ties to al-Qaeda.
“On World Humanitarian Day, we recognize and honor all of the humanitarian aid workers who have sacrificed so much — including, for too many of them, their lives — to answer the call to protect and support the world’s most vulnerable populations. We commend the bravery and compassion of humanitarian aid workers who put the welfare of others before their own,” Blinken said in an August 19 statement marking the commemorative day recognized by the U.N.
Normally, such a perfunctory statement would go unnoticed, but the White House’s handling of the withdrawal has demonstrated scant consideration of the implications for humanitarian workers in the country.
The war-torn country was always a dangerous place for aid groups to operate, but the return of the Taliban has already forced many of them underground, amid the Taliban offensive that the White House failed to anticipate. Newsweek reported that the Norwegian Refugee Council’s staff “had gone into hibernation” after the fall of Kabul and that Save the Children’s work in the country is “currently on pause.”
The State Department also lent its support to religious minorities who will likely face stepped-up Taliban mass atrocities.
“On the International Day Commemorating Survivors of Religious Persecution, we recognize that individuals around the world are harassed, threatened, beaten, imprisoned, and killed for exercising their beliefs,” wrote Blinken in a statement that made no specific mention of Afghan religious minorities, such as the predominantly Shiite Hazaras and Christians, against whom the Taliban have a long history of engaging in indiscriminate violence.
“On this day, we reiterate the responsibility all governments have to protect people from harm regardless of their beliefs and renew our pledge to stand up for the world’s persecuted.”
The statement also neglected to mention an Amnesty International report describing the torture and murder of nine Hazara men in July by Taliban members, though a State Department spokesperson did address the report during a recent press briefing, promising to “continue to condemn these — any reported atrocities precisely because they are violations of the public commitment by Taliban leaders to seek reconciliation for all Afghans. This is what the Taliban have said they want.”
But the Biden administration now seems powerless to follow through on its pledges to prioritize the protection of religious minorities, with the only tool at its disposal to shape Taliban behavior the prospect of future humanitarian aid to a Taliban-controlled Afghan government.
Blinken also issued a statement on the International Day of Remembrance and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism: “Over the past 20 years, the United States and its international partners have made great strides in detecting and disrupting terrorist attacks. The United States is committed to preventing future attacks and to holding terrorists to account for their crimes.”
But the administration’s work to do just that has been hamstrung by the Taliban’s return to power as experts warn of a renewed threat from international terrorist groups. “The terrorism risk to the United States is going to get dramatically worse,” Nathan Sales, a former State Department counterterrorism official, told the New York Times.
Meanwhile, on Fox News Sunday yesterday, Blinken attempted to smooth over comments by Biden claiming that al-Qaeda no longer maintains a presence in Afghanistan. Acknowledging that the terrorist group does in fact continue to operate in the country, the secretary of state said that it no longer has the capability to attack the U.S. homeland — a claim disputed by terrorism experts.
American officials should loudly champion democracy, human rights, and U.S. interests on the world stage; not doing so would be a major failing. But only making lofty, but unsupported, pronouncements damages U.S. credibility, perhaps even more.
It is early to predict the political fallout from the fall of Afghanistan, or to project the 2022 midterm elections. It is even still a little early to draw hard conclusions about what will happen in the California recall in September or the Virginia elections for governor and House of Delegates in November. But we can say this much: There are warning lights flashing for Democrats.
Warning light No. 1: Joe Biden’s plunging approval rating in national polls. In the RealClearPolitics average, Biden was in double-digit positive territory into late June, and just shy of that less than a month ago. …
It’s the start of the new school year in Sweden, and the highly infectious delta variant is starting to hit the country hard, with cases having doubled since the end of July.
In a lot of countries that would mean one thing: lockdown. But not in Sweden. Instead, at Sorgenfri school in central Malmö, the only visible anti-Covid measure is a ban on parents entering the school building . . .
Sweden’s decision to eschew lockdown and leave pubs, restaurants, shopping centres and primary schools open throughout the pandemic generated furious discussion internationally.
Millions of people across the world have been confined to their homes, watched businesses go under, and struggled to stay on top of their studies amid wave after wave of restrictions to prevent the spread of coronavirus . . .
That is not to say the virus has not taken its toll – nearly 15,000 people have died in total, around 1,450 per million. But that death rate is lower than the average for the European Union as a whole (1,684), and well below those of France, Spain, Italy and the UK.
In fairness, it should be noted that the numbers are much lower in Sweden’s Nordic neighbors (Sweden’s per million rate is around three times higher than that in Denmark and some nine or ten times the rate in Norway and Finland) — differences that can be partly be explained by a badly botched handling of the position in Swedish nursing homes during the early stages of the pandemic, and some other local factors, but only partly. The relatively relaxed approach taken by the Swedish authorities has undeniably taken a toll. (I’d stress that “relatively.”) The Swedes were never so laissez-faire as was sometimes claimed. Some restrictions were introduced from the beginning. These were tightened by quite some measure following a second wave last winter, a turn that has not been fully reversed and is unlikely to be for a while. What the Swedes have been trying to do is devise a balanced response to the pandemic, a response that recognizes that managing a pandemic will involve some hard trade-offs. More contentiously, particularly after initial hopes were dashed, they have been — however much they may or may not admit it — trying to reach a level of herd immunity that delivered widespread and lasting, well, immunity.
Nevertheless, Orange quotes Samir Bhatt, professor of public health at the University of Copenhagen, and one of the team at Imperial College who pushed the U.K.’s lockdown strategy:
“Many times I would have thought that the situation would have gone a different way, but it worked for Sweden. . . . They achieved infection control; they managed to keep infections relatively low and they didn’t have any health care collapse.”
Some of this can be attributed to, I suspect, high rates of voluntary compliance — thanks to what Dr. Bhatt, in an elegant turn of phrase, referred to as “a reliance on the intricacies of what makes Swedish culture Swedish culture.” Bhatt added that “if the UK had adopted what Sweden did, I have no doubt . . . that it would have had an absolute disaster.” I’m not so sure if that would have been true in the end. An instinct for self-preservation is something humanity shares across all cultures, even if it kicks in in some places rather more rapidly than in others, and is always vulnerable to the appeal of the irrational. Hello, anti-vaxxers!
The real benefits of Sweden’s radical policy, however, can be seen in the economy, the psychological impact, and in schools.
At the end of the first wave last year, the IMF predicted that Sweden’s economy would contract by 7 per cent in 2020. In the end, GDP shrank by just 2.8 per cent, significantly lower than the EU average of 6 per cent and the UK – a staggering 9.8 per cent.
Sweden’s economy has also bounced back faster than any other country in Europe. By June, GDP had overtaken where it was before the pandemic struck and the economy is estimated to grow by 4.6 per cent this year.
The government avoided splashing out on costly financial-support packages, spending just $22bn (£16bn) – 4.2 per cent of its GDP – on wage subsidies and other measures.
As a result, in 2020, the country recorded the second-smallest budget deficit in the European Union after Denmark, and its national debt has come through the crisis almost unscathed.
“The public finances have been hit relatively lightly compared to most countries, probably due to the fact that we have used less draconian measures,” Urban Hansson Brusewitz, Director General of Sweden’s National Institute of Economic Research told the Telegraph.
The psychological toll of the pandemic also appears to have been less dramatic in Sweden.
The National Board of Health and Welfare reported a continuation in the decline in the number of people seeking treatment for anxiety and depression, particularly among children and young adults.
A large part of this is likely down to the decision to keep primary and lower secondary schools open throughout. Even in upper secondary schools, only children who test positive or have been formally contact-traced are asked to stay home.
Entire schools and classes were quarantined very rarely and only in exceptional circumstances if advised by a local infectious disease doctor. That’s a marked contrast to the UK, where as many as a million children were sent home from school during the “pingdemic”.
“We are very happy that we kept our schools open. I think that that is very important,” explained Sara Byfors, unit chief at the Public Health Agency.
An analysis of national grades published by the Swedish National Agency for Education last month found no evidence that the pandemic had negatively affected children’s educational attainment.
As we have now discovered, COVID-19 has a way of hanging around. One wave was not enough, two waves were not enough, herd immunity has proved frustratingly elusive, and variants (for now Delta, with the troubling Lambda waiting in the wings) are a painful reminder of the powers of mutation. This is a disease, it seems, that we are going to have to learn to live with if we wish to preserve our society in some sort of good order, and that is going to take that balanced approach. “Live with” and lurching from lockdown to lockdown are not the same thing.
And nor (even if it were possible in a country such as the U.S.) is the Maginot medicine pushed in New Zealand by the government of the wildly overrated Jacinda Ardern. Ardern continues to pursue the fantasy of “COVID-elimination,” something that risks severely harming her country in order to save it. And a fantasy is what it is.
New Zealand’s coronavirus cases jumped on Thursday, as questions grew about the government’s response to the pandemic given the slowest vaccination rate among developed countries and the economic pressures of prolonged isolation.
Two weeks ago, when Andrew Cuomo announced that he’d resign his post as governor of New York, I noted that he had still failed to apologize for or even acknowledge his misdeeds. Though through the course of his long-lived scandal he repeated a few times that he was taking “full responsibility” for his actions, he never did any such thing, instead offering excuses and rationalizations to justify himself.
Today, on his last day in office, Cuomo continued that drumbeat, calling his resignation “unfair and unjust,” adding,
when government politicizes allegations and the headlines condemn without facts, you undermine the justice system. And that doesn’t serve women and it doesn’t serve men. Of course everyone has a right to come forward, and we applaud their bravery and courage in doing so but allegations must still be scrutinized and verified.
A far cry from the governor who signed legislation making it nearly impossible for anyone accused of sexual harassment or assault to have due process under the law. It’s astonishing that Cuomo chose to step down from his post before he’d actually admit to having done anything significantly wrong.
The one trait that seems to unify every key figure in this administration is their stubborn belief that somehow they can spin their way out of an extremely difficult situation. The subtext of almost every administration statement since last weekend is, “hey, it’s not as bad as it looks!”
Sunday afternoon, President Biden insisted that the evacuation of Americans and Afghan allies was going as well as anyone could expect. “The evacuation of thousands of people from Kabul is going to be hard and painful no matter when it started and when we began. It would have been true if we had started a month ago or a month from now. There is no way to evacuate this many people without pain and loss, of heartbreaking images you see on television. It’s just a fact… I think that history is going to record this was the logical, rational, and right decision to make.”
Enough! There’s no good spin for this situation, so don’t even try. The administration should just level with the American people and the world, lay out just how difficult the road ahead is, and how challenging the circumstances are, and try to earn some respect through honesty. Winston Churchill did not try to fool the people of the United Kingdom into thinking that everything was fine.
The circumstances in Afghanistan are bad. We haven’t seen any American casualties yet, thank God. But we’ve got thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Afghan allies who need to get out; the Afghan allies face Taliban death squads, and the average Taliban fighter isn’t known for his discipline and careful avoidance of civilian casualties. Local ISIS affiliates intend to kill Americans. The Taliban may well be bluffing when they threaten “consequences” for U.S. forces in the country after August 31, but only a fool would presume they’re bluffing. And after the evacuation is complete, we will have to deal with the Taliban running Afghanistan again, back in its old habit of hosting anti-American terrorist groups once again.
Headlines like “How the White House wants to spin the fall of Kabul,” feel like a sickening demonstration of a moral vacuum, because something like this is too important to be spun. This isn’t a routine scandal, or bureaucratic snafu, or speaking gaffe that needs to be handled by press secretaries working the press. This isn’t even primarily a political or media story. It’s a human story, with enormous geopolitical consequences for the U.S. military and the American people. The overall impression is that Biden, Harris, Antony Blinken, Jake Sullivan, and Jen Psaki are in over their heads, and utterly incapable of meeting the moment. History called, and they let it go to voice mail.
“I thought there was an indication the South was peaking, and I think it’s pretty clear right now the South has peaked,” former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said. “It doesn’t feel that way because we still have a lot of new infections on a day-over-day basis, and the hospitals still have some very hard weeks ahead,” he acknowledged. “They’re still going to get maxed out as the infections start to decline.”
Nationally, it’s a bit harder to say. We still haven’t seen any decline in the national case numbers from the CDC.On the charts of Worldometers, on Friday, August 20, the seven-day average of daily new cases was at 144,001, and yesterday, that average was down to 124,822. We shouldn’t get too excited, as that may just reflect slower reporting of cases on weekends.
If you subscribe to the theory that the virus spreads faster in places where people spend more time indoors — say, in parts of the country experiencing extreme heat that sends people inside for air conditioning — then the cooler temperatures of fall in much of the country should help. But there’s a catch. The weather gets cooler as autumn turns to winter, and later this year the northern states may find themselves with rising case rates, driven by more people spending time indoors as it gets colder outside. There are still plenty of unvaccinated people in those northern states; Vermont still leads the country with a bit more than 75 percent of residents having at least one shot. A bit more than 61 percent of Minnesotans have one shot. One-third of New York State residents haven’t received any shots, and the percentages are similar for Washington State. Barely more than half of Montanans have one shot; less than half of North Dakotans have a shot. Only 54 percent of Michiganders have at least one shot.
Maybe a significant portion of the unvaccinated in those states have lingering protection from past infections. But we’re still talking about a lot of people. New York can boast that 78.4 percent of its residents, age 18 or older, have at least one shot. That’s almost 12 million people! The bad news is, the state still has about 3.3 million people who aren’t vaccinated, and New York has had only 2.3 million diagnosed cases. And a decent chunk of those 12 million vaccinated New Yorkers will need booster shots in the coming months.
The Delta variant may be finishing up with the South, but it may be shifting toward the North in the months to come.
Here is Juan Williams regurgitating White House talking points in The Hill today:
Congratulations to President Biden.
Last week he gave the most effective, most honest foreign policy speech by an American president in the last 60 years.
Biden made no excuses.
And where the last three presidents kicked the can down the road, refusing to end the U.S. war in Afghanistan — even after more than 2,400 Americans died in that fight — Biden took responsibility. He shut it down.
Williams then spends a good chunk of his column attempting to shift the blame for Biden’s disastrous handling of the Afghanistan pullout onto Donald …
Last week, McClatchy DCpublished an article about NARAL Pro-Choice America and its efforts to revamp its digital outreach. In the article, NARAL admits that the group has been losing the online messaging battle with pro-lifers.
In Arizona and Michigan, NARAL found that focus-group participants often used pro-life language when discussing New York’s 2019 Reproductive Health Act, which explicitly legalized abortion for all nine months of pregnancy — for any reason up to 24 weeks’ gestation and with broad exceptions after that point. The article also points out that NARAL’s own research has found that Internet users are likely to find pro-life content on Facebook and YouTube.
This is another helpful sign that the pro-life movement is successfully using the Internet and social-media platforms to bypass the mainstream media, which tend to favor the abortion-rights argument. Websites such as LifeNews, LifeSiteNews, and Live Action provide timely analysis and commentary from a pro-life perspective.
In 2020, Students for Life of America launched a YouTube series called “#Why,” a project in which I’ve participated and which provides hard-hitting pro-life perspectives on a range of life issues. Live Action has its own video series entitled “Pro-Life Replies” which provides pro-life responses to common arguments from supporters of legal abortion.
The McClatchy article indicates that NARAL is planning to hire comedians to assist them with their online messaging, a rather strange tactic. I doubt that efforts will be very successful; ending the lives of innocent unborn children is no laughing matter.
The FDA has finally given formal approval to the Pfizer vaccine, and this will likely pave the way for more widespread adoption of mandates, as there was more legal gray area about mandating vaccines that were only authorized for emergency use. The news comes as New York City announced vaccine requirements for all public school teachers and staff. As the debate over mandating vaccines has come up, one analogy I keep hearing is to the mandates that schools have for the MMR vaccine. Mandates for MMR virtually eradicated measles, with pockets of outbreaks connected to anti-vaxxers. So that has led …
Dear Reader, you will doubtless be relieved to learn that one of the great problems of American society has finally been solved: Harvard Law School has a new seal. Five years ago, the oldest continually operating law school in the United States — founded in 1817 — scrapped the seal it has been using since 1936. The old seal’s design was, as you can see, entirely inoffensive in and of itself:
The grievance that led to “protests and sit-ins” in 2015–16 was that the crest was originally adopted because it was the family crest of Isaac Royall, who at his death …
To signal their “progressive” virtues, college and university leaders have been larding on Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity administrators in recent years. Those administrators are supposed to make all the students feel welcome, to dissolve nasty old stereotypes, and to ensure equal success for everyone.
Like so many other leftist nostrums, the DEI mania is the triumph of (purportedly) good intentions over reality. Having legions of DEI busybodies doesn’t seem to improve things on campus — unless creating make-work jobs for college grads counts.
In today’s Martin Center article, David Waugh of the American Institute for Economic Research looks at the effectiveness of DEI spending and finds it very questionable. In particular, he dives into a recent Heritage Foundation report by Jay Greene and James Paul. Greene and Paul examined 65 representative universities across the U.S., finding that on average, each employed 45 people in DEI positions.
And what do they accomplish?
One of the higher-education fads in recent years is the “campus climate survey.” Those surveys supposedly reveal how well students get along. So, do schools that put more emphasis on DEI bureaucracy have better results? The authors find no such evidence: “There appears to be little relationship between DEI staffing and the diversity climate on campus . . . In general, student reports on campus climate are no better — and often worse, especially for minority students — at universities with larger DEI staff levels.”
The University of North Carolina is near the top in DEI activity, but Greene and Paul don’t see that it makes Chapel Hill more accommodating. Waugh quotes them as saying that, “The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has a large DEI emphasis, with the second-highest ratio of DEI personnel to ADA compliance staff among the institutions sampled. In a campus climate survey, UNC students were asked whether they agreed that they ‘felt a sense of belonging to this campus.’ Overall, 73 percent agreed with this statement, but among African American students the figure drops to 54 percent. Again, having many people with job responsibilities to promote DEI does not seem to close the gap between African American and other students in terms of their feeling of belonging on campus.”
Could it be that this is a waste of money? Could it even be that the DEI mania is counter-productive, with administrators stirring up racial tensions to justify their jobs?
“If you want a friend in Washington,” the old saying goes, “get a dog.” So too for the swamp of Albany. But it appears that the loyalty of man’s best friend only runs one way for Andrew Cuomo. According to a report by Brendan Lyons of the Albany Times Union, the disgraced soon-to-be-ex-governor — who sent a U-Haul to the governor’s mansion on Friday and has moved in with one of his sisters — “has asked staff members at the Executive Mansion if anyone would like to keep his dog, Captain, who has remained at the state-owned residence after the governor moved out last week”:
Two State Police sources told the Times Union on Saturday that the governor had recently asked mansion staff members if anyone would be interested in caring for the dog. Captain — a high-strung mix of shepherd, Siberian and malamute — has nipped a few people since Cuomo adopted him in 2018, the sources said, and a mansion staffer recently took the dog home for a few days but decided he was too much.
“A high-strung mix” who “has nipped a few people” and was “too much” for the staff sounds as if the dog has a lot in common with his master. Remember when Gail Collins of the New York Times wrote dozens of columns mentioning Mitt Romney’s dog Seamus? At least Romney kept the dog. Nixon didn’t abandon Checkers. Even Joe Biden only temporarily exiled Major. I guess nobody ever explained to Cuomo that you should leave no dog behind.
We have entered the era of what I call “do harm medicine,” in which the concept of what constitutes harming the patient has become entirely malleable and subjective. I even wrote a book covering that subject.
Here’s an example: When organ transplant medicine began, the “dead donor rule” was instituted to assure a wary public that people’s vital organs would only be procured after the person was dead. A corollary to that rule assures the public that people will not be killed for their body parts.
The dead-donor rule has been under attack for some time within the utilitarian bioethics movement. (I am not writing about the brain-death controversy, which is a separate discussion.) Many bioethicists are now pushing to allow doctors to kill via organ harvest, sometimes called “organ donation euthanasia” (ODE).
At first, this proposed killing license was supposed to be limited to patients on the verge of death or the permanently unconscious. Now, a prominent bioethics journal has published a piece urging that healthy people be allowed to die by removal of vital organs.
The author claims that because people can instruct life-sustaining treatment to be withdrawn (LST), and can donate their organs after death, that ODE is also OK because it will result in death, too, and result in more usable organs procured and more lives saved. From, “May I Give My Heart Away?:On the Permissibility of Living Vital Organ Donation:”
In this situation, according to proponents of ODE, the doctor should respect the decision, even when this will cause the death of the patient. It seems commonly accepted that patient autonomy allows patients to refuse any medical intervention initiated on one’s body and life, and therefore, doctors are morally obligated to withdraw LST when this is what the patient wants. If we should uphold the DDR in such situations, the doctor should wait until the patient is declared dead to procure the patient’s organs.
Proponents of ODE argue that if the patient consents, it would be permissible to procure the patient’s organs before death. This will of course mean that the patient will die from donating his or her vital organs instead of dying from having his or her treatment withdrawn. However, this seems ethically immaterial in this situation since the outcome for the patient will be the same.
But that’s not true. Not everyone dies after having life-sustaining treatment withdrawn. Indeed, under current organ-donation protocols, if the patient doesn’t die, he is taken back to the ward and usually disqualified as an organ donor thereafter.
Once death ceases to be the necessary predicate for donating vital organs — and is replaced with “consent” — there would be no natural limiting principle. And so it is here. Rather than being a form of euthanasia to end suffering, the idea is to permit someone to have themselves killed for the altruistic purpose of saving other people’s lives, called living vital organ donation (LVOD). All that matters would be consent, and moreover, such a program would allow for tailored killing by harvesting:
If the autonomous desire to sacrifice oneself to benefit others should count as a morally relevant reason, all things being equal, this desire will have a greater chance of being fulfilled when the donor is not imminently dying. In such cases, the donation can be postponed until a suitable recipient is in place. By contrast, when the primary motivation is death, as it is in ODE, it is plausible that patients would not be willing or able to wait for months, maybe years, until a receiver match appears.
But consent has the power to justify abundant “do harm” medical practices. Example, policies that allowed sex-change surgeries for the few have now expanded to validate puberty blocking for children, for which there is scant evidence of benefit and the potential for material physical harm. Look ma, no brakes!
Besides, once a fundamental moral principle is breached, it is like a dam breaking. The deluge may begin as a trickle, but soon the reservoir empties flooding the plains below. Hence:
Assisted suicide/euthanasia for the terminally ill who ask to die was legalized as a means to prevent suffering at the end of life.
That morphed in some places into allowing people with disabilities and chronic conditions who ask to die to be killed to eliminate suffering.
Which morphed into allowing the mentally ill who ask to die to be killed in some jurisdictions to eliminate suffering.
Which has now morphed into a proposal to allow healthy people to ask to be killed for altruistic reasons.
Which will one day morph into proposals to allow surrogates to authorize euthanasia via organ harvesting for the incapacitated or letting people order themselves harvested once they become incapacitated in advance medical directives.
Please understand that these proposals are not fringe ideas. Bioethics, which published this article, is a wholly mainstream publication. The idea of killing for organs is considered respectable in the field. And it gives these advocates no pause that their plans would also transform organ-transplant doctors — known for focusing exclusively on saving lives — into outright killers.
The only way I can think of to thwart this drip-drip-drip-into-deluge process is to cast a bright light on where the thought leaders in bioethics want to take health-care policy in coming years. Forewarned, I hope, is forearmed. Hopefully, the people upon whom these policies would be imposed will disagree and thwart the best-laid plans of utilitarians and bioethicists.
This morning I heard from a longtime NR reader who spent years in Afghanistan working for a defense contractor. This reader’s company worked on the construction of camps and garrisons, parts of bases at Bagram and Kandahar, as well as several government buildings for the Afghan military and police.
“We directly employed thousands of Afghans,” he told me. “Their lives are in danger of retaliation by the Taliban because they helped the American military. Recognizing this, on August 2nd the U.S. government created another classification of asylum/visa processing called ‘Priority 2’.”
The announcement of the Priority 2 program can be found here. An unidentified senior state department official stated, “Many thousands of Afghans and their immediate family members are at risk due to these U.S. affiliations and are not eligible for a Special Immigrant Visa because either they did not have qualifying employment, or they have not met the time-in-service requirement to become eligible; however, they may be eligible for a P-2 referral, and thus, to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.” Priority 2 covers Afghans who worked with U.S. government-funded programs, as well as those who were employed in Afghanistan by a U.S.-based non-governmental or media organization that does not require U.S. government funding.
My reader said, “I’ve been busy the last week submitting referrals to the State Department on behalf of Afghans and their families who worked for us and whose very lives have been threatened. The submission is through email to a dedicated inbox at State. We began receiving messages that the inbox is full and that we should try later. This has been going on for half a day now.”
He shared with me an automatic reply e-mail that declared, “The recipient’s mailbox is full and can’t accept messages now. Please try resending your message later, or contact the recipient directly.”
My reader is furious. “Lives are in danger. Evacuations are in chaos — don’t believe a damn word any American spokesman says – they’re either making it up or they are lying. And the damn system for prioritizing our Afghan workers is a cluster because the DOS can’t manage a damn email inbox! I have never been so disappointed and angry at my government than today. It is maddening.”
My reader has contacted one of his senators – a Republican – but had to leave a message on the constituent line.