There is a hilariously large gulf between what progressive TV commentators think they know about history and what they actually know. On occasion, they make the mistake of engaging publicly with somebody who knows what she’s talking about. Don Lemon of CNN offered a textbook example. He decided to ask British commentator Hilary Fordwich a mealy-mouthed question about those who see the wealth of the royal family and ask “for reparations for colonialism.” Characteristically, this was framed in terms of other, unnamed peoples’ raising “legitimate concerns.” Lemon wasn’t even willing to make the argument himself: He just assumed that one …
Video of a man wearing enormous prosthetic breasts with visible nipples under a tight top, complete with bicycle shorts, has gone viral on social media. That’s because the man in question is an Ontario high-school teacher who, at the time the images were captured, was teaching a class.
In a statement to parents, the school said: “As a school within the Halton District School Board (HDSB), Oakville Trafalgar High School recognizes the rights of students, staff, parents/guardians and community members to equitable treatment without discrimination based upon gender identity and gender expression.”
For some men who identify as transgender, the point is to “pass” as a woman. But for others, the point is to be overtly sexual, outrageous, and conspicuous. If all “gender identit[ies] and gender expression[s]” are to be treated as equally valid, it is impossible to accommodate one and not the other.
What works better is to prohibit discrimination based on sex and to apply the same standards for everyone regarding wardrobe appropriateness. For reasons that ought to be obvious, no teacher or student — regardless of their sex or “gender identity” — should be permitted to show up to school looking like a blow-up sex doll.
Members of America’s diplomatic corps will now be expected to promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility principles, the State Department recently announced.
An internal document obtained exclusively by National Review provides further detail on how State Department officials must now promote and advance DEI principles to receive tenure and promotions. While that document details uncontroversial promotion criteria, such as ensuring respectful behavior in the workplace, the specific focus on DEI echoes the language of left-leaning activists.
We know President Biden doesn’t perform well in sit-down interviews; if he was good at them, he would do them all the time. His 60 Minutes interview was his first on-camera sit-down interview in 208 days, since his interview on Jimmy Kimmel’s late-night program. That was 118 days after his sit-down with Lester Holt of NBC News.
I think it’s revealing how quickly Biden gets prickly and irritated at the slightest pushback:
SCOTT PELLEY: Mr. President, as you know, last Tuesday the annual inflation rate came in at 8.3 percent. The stock market nosedived. People are shocked by their grocery bills. What can you do better and faster?
BIDEN: Well, first of all, let’s put this in perspective. Inflation rate month to month was just — just an inch, hardly at all,
PELLEY: You’re not arguing that 8.3 percent is good news.
BIDEN: No, I’m not saying it is good news. But it was 8.2 percent or — 8.2 percent before. I mean, it’s not — you’re ac — we act — make it sound like all of a sudden, “My God, it went to 8.2 percent.” It’s been –
PELLEY: It’s the highest inflation rate, Mr. President in 40 years.
BIDEN: I got that. But guess what we are. We’re in a position where, for the last several months, it hasn’t spiked. It has just barely — it’s been basically even. And in the meantime, we created all these jobs and — and prices — have — have gone up, but they’ve come down for energy. The fact is that we’ve created 10 million new jobs.
Just about every Biden sit-down interview features something like this — “that was four or five days ago, man!” or “you’re being a wise guy!” And that’s not getting into Biden’s irritation with the press in non sit-down interviews — “what a stupid son of a bitch!” “Read the polls, Jack! You guys are all the same!”
Biden represented Delaware in the Senate from 1973 to 2009, and at the risk of offending everyone who worked in Delaware political media during those years, I don’t think Biden was subject to the toughest scrutiny or the hardest questions while he was senator. When Biden stepped into the national arena with his presidential races in 1988 and 2008, Biden fell flat on his face with some train-wreck answers and cringe-inducing exchanges with voters. Profiles of Biden in the national press, even from expectedly friendly sources like the New Republic, pointed out, “he’s also legendary for speaking impulsively and leaving others to clean up the mess.” Back in 2008, Politico wrote that during the Reagan years, Biden “started to fashion a reputation — a somewhat unfair one, the Washington consensus seems to be these days — as a clownish figure. He was sometimes dismissed as a not-so-bright windbag.”
Biden was a big fish in the small pond of Delaware. But when he was on a debate stage, standing next to the better-known and sharper knives of his party, he looked like that clownish, not-so-bright figure.
Eight years as vice president gave Biden more practice in dealing with the spotlight, and no doubt Biden emerged from the Obama years with an elder statesman status in Democratic circles. But he also got older. As John Ellis put it last summer:
Somewhere along the way of the last few years, Biden transitioned from “young old” to “old.” Veteran reporters describe the transition in code. “He’s lost a step or two.” Or: “he’s lost something off his fastball.”
Biden is used to softballs, and people not calling him out when he says something that isn’t accurate or plausible. If Democrats do decide to use Biden on the campaign trail over the next six weeks or so, he probably won’t be doing a lot of interviews.
In a surprise session, the Russian Duma is passing laws introducing mobilization and martial law into the criminal code. The upper house could vote on this tomorrow. Meanwhile, Russia claims to be organizing lightning referenda, partly by mail and partly online, in Luhansk and Donetsk and in Kherson on whether the people living there want to be incorporated into the Russian Federation. About that: Ukrainian forces still control significant portions of these areas. Huge areas have no reliable Internet service or postal service. And of course, many thousands have abandoned their homes in these regions for refuge in western Ukraine, Western Europe, or — depending on their political allegiances and family ties — in Russia. Any referendum will be not just a sham, it will be obviously and provocatively presented as a sham.
At first glance, it looks politically like the Russian government is moving on from recognizing “the independence” of Luhansk and Donetsk, to preparing itself to announce their full annexation, before mobilizing the Russian economy and society to achieve that end.
Nothing is guaranteed in war. But a mobilization of Russian society will take months to complete, suggesting that Putin is hunkering down for a longer war, with all the dangers, death, and destabilization that implies.
On July 20, a bipartisan group of 16 senators introduced a bill to clarify the Electoral Count Act, the 1887 law that governs how Congress counts the results of the Electoral College. Despite urgent pleas to pass the legislation immediately to update the law Donald Trump and his allies tried to exploit on January 6, 2021, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer has not brought the bill up for debate.
Speaking to reporters in the Capitol last week, Utah GOP senator Mitt Romney got about as exasperated as Mitt Romney can get. “Chuck Schumer is not bringing forth the Electoral Count Act. How in the world can you talk about democracy — the need to protect democracy — and not bring forth the Electoral Count Act?” Romney said. This week, Romney thinks he found an answer to that question. “I presume [Schumer] is looking for a messaging bill to show that Republicans are unwilling to protect our elections process,” Romney told National Review in the Capitol on Tuesday. “In fact, quite the opposite is true. We’re very anxious to put in place a reform of the Electoral Count Act, and [Schumer’s] delay has now led to a setting where the House is apparently proposing their own bill, which unfortunately will be a party-line vote in the House that makes it more difficult to actually do something on a bipartisan basis.”
“[The House] really should have taken our bill because it’s bipartisan. It has support from enough Republicans and Democrats to actually become law,” Romney added. “I’m afraid that our Democrat friends these days are more interested in messaging than they are in legislating.”
Former U.N. high commissioner for human rights Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein criticized the organization’s recently released report on the Chinese government’s human-rights atrocities in Xinjiang for sidestepping the possibility that Beijing is carrying out genocide against Uyghurs. He made the comments during an Atlantic Council event yesterday on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, where world leaders and U.N. officials this week are expected to largely overlook the widespread human-rights abuses.
Hussein’s successor, Michelle Bachelet, issued the long-awaited U.N. report just 13 minutes before her term closed at the end of August. The assessment detailed a series of human-rights abuses carried out by Chinese officials, such as mass arbitrary detention, torture, and rape, finding that these acts “may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity.”
While Hussein gave Bachelet “credit because [the report] wasn’t mandated by the Human Rights Council” and was, he said, put together at Bachelet’s discretion, he pointed out two “shortcomings.”
“I would have applied the genocide lens to it, using the lower threshold, where I would have said I could not exclude acts of genocide, particularly Article 2(b) of the genocide convention from having been perpetrated,” he said, specifying that that clause pertains to the perpetration of serious bodily harm with intent to destroy a group.
Crimes against humanity and genocide are generally viewed by lawyers as similarly egregious, though the label of genocide specifically describes deliberate efforts to eliminate a group in whole or in part.
Hussein said he also would have preferred that the report recommend that the U.N. Human Rights Council establish a specially designated panel to specifically investigate Beijing’s actions in Xinjiang. Similar investigative panels have unearthed grave human-rights abuses in Syria, North Korea, and elsewhere, and have given the findings the U.N.’s official imprimatur.
But Chinese diplomats had reportedly pressured Bachelet not to release the assessment at all. Although the report had reportedly been finalized in late 2021, Bachelet claimed that she needed to visit Xinjiang before making a final determination on the Chinese government’s campaign of repression. Bachelet ultimately visited Xinjiang in May but still refused to release the report, until she faced vocal public pressure from the U.S. and other governments.
As Beijing’s diplomats reviewed a draft of the report ahead of its publication, a section addressing the Chinese government’s forced sterilization “was watered down,” Politico EU reported, based on a conversation with a diplomat. Evidence that Chinese Communist Party officials have carried out a forced sterilization campaign against Uyghurs was critical to the January 2021 decision by former secretary of state Mike Pompeo to determine that the Chinese government has been carrying out genocide.
Still, Beijing was outraged by the publication of the report, and China’s top diplomat in Geneva said that his country would suspend all cooperation with the human-rights commissioner’s office over it.
A senior U.S. diplomat said during the Atlantic Council event that the U.N. report is consequential to sharing the truth about Beijing’s human-rights atrocities.
“The release of the High Commissioner’s report,” said Jeffrey Prescott, the deputy U.S. ambassador to the U.N., “reaffirms what we’ve all known to be true and what’s happening in Xinjiang: appalling crimes are being committed against Uyghurs and Turkic peoples in a brutal and systematic way. Full stop.”
Autumn is upon us, and with it comes the fall 2022 issue of National Affairs. Among the offerings this time:
- Nat Malkus on Republicans, Democrats, and the education vote
- John Yoo and Robert Delahunty on what West Virginia v. EPA portends
- James Glassman on Doug Ducey’s legacy in Arizona
- Richard Reeves on why some public programs work for women but not men
- Ivana Greco on how to help stay-at-home parents
- Naomi Schaefer Riley and James Piereson on donor-driven journalism
- Todd Washburn on the polarization of our elites
- Ronald Dworkin on the meaning of expertise
- Michael Zuckert on race and the American creed
- Jenna and Ben Storey on political speech in divided times
- Emily Pears on what makes a demagogue
- John Grove on Michael Oakeshott and post-liberalism
- Sanford Kessler on Lincoln as a civic educator
If you’re closely watching Ron DeSantis and his positioning for a widely anticipated presidential run in 2024, I highly recommend setting aside an hour to watch his full speech at NatCon, the National Conservatism Conference, which was conveniently held in Miami, Fla., in mid September. The speech strikes a lot of notes familiar to regular watchers of his stump speeches, but if you haven’t watched him at work in a long-form address, this is a good sample. He makes a vigorous case for his philosophy, his ideas, and his actions — from his highlights to more dubious ideas such as …
Well, sign me up for politicians not taking themselves too seriously. If I’ve seen one political ad with a blue-blazer-sans-necktie-wearing candidate talking to a bunch of guys on a construction site or a factory floor over patriotic music and serious-sounding-but-meaningless campaign promises, I’ve seen a thousand.
I don’t know anything about Linda Paulson — other than that she has a sense of humor and that her rap-infused ad lays out political positions that are 100 percent unobjectionable to me.
For all we know, Gramma Linda might end up being the Titan of the Utah Senate and the second coming of Margaret Thatcher. Or, yes, we may never hear from her again. But don’t forget that Paulson raps that she “tried to get another conservative to run; nobody could do it, so I’m getting it done.”
I don’t know about you, Phil, but that sounds like much-needed citizenship to me.
Like everybody else, I could hardly help seeing moments of the lying-in-state and burial of Elizabeth II. It was both grand and moving, a fitting envoi to a job well done.
And yet, I could not help thinking of the letter Gouverneur Morris, revolutionary and Constitution writer, sent to the Austrian emperor, asking that Lafayette be released from the prison in Olmutz (now Olomuc in the Czech Republic) where the Austrians were holding him: “Think, also, that forgiveness granted to others is the only unobjectionable title, of which we can avail ourselves before the King of Kings.”
Edward Ring of the California Policy Center writes about dam removal in western states:
The great cities of the American southwest would not exist if it weren’t for dams. Without the massive federal and state projects to build dams, pumping stations, and aqueducts (most of them completed 50 to 100 years ago), more than 60 million Americans would be living somewhere else. Without dams to capture and store millions of acre-feet of rainfall every year, and aqueducts to transport that water to thirsty metropolitan customers, the land these cities sit upon would be uninhabitable desert.
Such is the conundrum facing environmentalists who want to set these rivers free. Without dams, crops would wither, people would die of thirst, and devastating floods would tear through towns and cities every time there’s a big storm. Without hydroelectric power from dams, 18 percent of the in-state generated electricity Californians consume would be gone.
Read the whole thing here.
Linda Paulson, a Republican grandmother who is seeking office in Utah’s twelfth senate district, has posted this rap-style video that is a candidate for the most bizarre election ad of the 2022 cycle.
Seeing is believing:
Representative Liz Cheney, in remarks at the American Enterprise Institute, had this to say about Republican minority leader Kevin McCarthy:
There was a moment right after [January] 6 when if Kevin McCarthy had said, ‘This is completely unacceptable, this will not happen, we are going to — clearly this was an impeachable offense, and we need to look to the future. We’re going to impeach.’ He should have been convicted. If that had happened, we would be living in a very different country right now. But instead, Kevin McCarthy decided to go to Mar-a-Lago and welcome Donald Trump back into the party.
The central problem with this counterfactual is that it gets things backwards. McCarthy’s visit to Mar-a-Lago did not solidify Donald Trump’s grip on the party, but rather, Trump’s grip on the party forced McCarthy to make nice in Mar-a-Lago.
By all indications, McCarthy is a leader of House Republicans only in title. He does not have the power to stake out a position and somehow sway members of his caucus to that position. Had he taken the Liz Cheney position after January 6, he still would not have rallied enough Republican votes against Trump, and he likely would have been ousted from leadership. The party would likely be in the same place now, only McCarthy would be like Cheney, giving remarks from the outside looking in.
The core issue is that a solid contingent of Republican voters believe the election was stolen, and they still support Trump. And there is no authority who can convince them otherwise. If McCarthy or other titular “leaders” of the party did try to use their positions to convince people that President Biden was legitimately elected, they would immediately become suspect among these voters.
This is why I have come around to the view that the only way for Trump’s grip on the party to loosen is for him to run for the nomination and lose.
Every once in a while, a piece of reporting comes along that so perfectly encapsulates the excesses of progressivism that it seems to have been scripted for that purpose.
I’ve never encountered a better example of the genre than the latest edition of Bari Weiss’s Common Sense newsletter, in which Suzy Weiss recounts her experience attending the first meeting of the Park Slope Panthers, a community-watch organization founded after a stick-wielding madman attacked a woman and her dog in Prospect Park, beating the dog, Moose, to death and dumping urine on him.
As Weiss relays, only six concerned citizens showed up to the park to participate in the group, but they were soon joined by activists whose primary concern was not that a raving lunatic felt emboldened to beat a dog to death in broad daylight in their neighborhood park, but instead that the Occupy Wall Street veteran who founded the group and his five fellow Panthers might harm poor people of color in their efforts.
You should really read the whole article, but here are a few choice selections to give you an idea of the activists’ hierarchy of concern. (Hint: The woman and her deceased dog don’t rank highly.)
But what should they reasonably do about the man who had killed Moose? He’d reportedly been spotted swinging a stick on Flatbush Avenue, chasing down another woman and her dog in the park while screaming, “Let’s see some action here!” The kid with the speaker spoke up: “So, it sounds like this person has been pushed out of an unimaginable amount of systems.” He added that the assailant was probably “neurodivergent.”
“Crime is an abstract term that means nothing in a lot of ways,” said Sky. “The construct of crime has been so socially constructed to target black and poor people.”
“Right, yeah, I agree with you!” countered one of the older folks, who seemed confused.
So, first on the hierarchy comes the murderous lunatic, got it. Next, it’s people who might be offended that the Panthers are appropriating the name of the Black Panthers:
As far as the name, and the fortysomething dude’s problem with it: “There’s two statues of panthers at an entrance to the park,” Nammack pointed out, gesturing toward the two limestone pedestals designed by Stanford White. The panthers had been sculpted by Alexander Phimister Proctor, and had been there since 1898.
Didn’t matter. “Using the Panthers as your group’s name is kind of abhorrent to me,” said one of the girls. She was white, wearing cut-off jean shorts, loafers with socks, and a Baggu purse. “It feels antithetical to what the Black Panthers would stand for.” The next girl to speak said her name was Sky. She, too, was white, and had also grown up in the neighborhood: “It’s easy to be wrong about who you’re going after, particularly when those are some of the few black people still living in the neighborhood, and they’ve been pushed out on the streets by all white, ultra-wealthy people.”
“We can be the tigers!” suggested Dionne, the middle-aged woman next to me. Sweet Dionne.
For the assembled activists, not only does the neighborhood not require a community watch, it could actually get along fine without cops, provided its mentally ill, violent homeless people start to behave themselves.
[One activist] suggested we could build a community where we all took care of each other and no one ever had to call the police.
Now, why hasn’t anyone thought of that? I’m sure if the woman whose dog was killed had just explained what kind of community she wanted to live in to her attacker, this could have all been avoided.
But, after all, the guy may have been hungry. Who among us hasn’t given the neighbor’s pup a bashing after missing breakfast?
Someone else said, “I get angry and lash out at people when I’m hungry and haven’t slept well and people are being mean to me all day.” Another observed, “I’ve never killed a dog, but we’ve all hurt people.”
And, lest you think this way of seeing the world is confined to people who would spend their Saturday afternoon trying to disrupt a community-watch meeting, the article ends with this reassuring description of the priorities of our elected officials:
Nammack met with two staffers at the office of his local council person, Shahana Hanif, about the dangerous homeless man with the stick. “They said their biggest concern is that the perpetrator is not arrested and sent to Rikers because they are concerned for his wellbeing!!!” he wrote in an email to the group.
Soon after, Nammack woke up to red graffiti on the sidewalk outside his front door:
“Don’t be a cop, Kris.”
National Review is looking for a full-time writer to join its news desk. The ideal candidate would be a news junkie who keeps a constant eye on the headlines, and who is skilled at writing up rapidly evolving situations at speed. The ideal candidate would have at least one year of experience covering breaking news and would be open to working flexible hours, including weekends. The candidate will be permitted to work remotely or from the National Review office in Manhattan. Those interested should send a cover letter, a resume, and some examples of their work to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
James Waterhouse, a BBC correspondent in Ukraine, notes a “final ovation” for Oleksandr Shapoval — an ovation at the Kyiv Opera House. Shapoval was a ballet dancer. As Waterhouse says, “He’d performed for 28 seasons before volunteering to fight in the east. While Ukraine enjoys successes on the battlefield, his death is a reminder of the enduring, awful cost of this war.”
I think of a couple of things. The first is not very important. But I think of it.
In December 2019, I attended the ballet in Kyiv and wrote about it. Was Shapoval on the stage? I don’t think so. I can’t be sure.
At that time — late 2019 — about 14,000 people had been killed, in the war started by Vladimir Putin’s Russia in 2014. In a piece called “Ukraine and Us,” I wrote,
At the edge of St. Michael’s monastery — a beautiful light-blue structure, with golden domes — there is a Wall of Remembrance. It commemorates fallen soldiers. It reminds me a little of the Vietnam memorial in Washington. One difference, however, is that this wall has photos. You see the faces of the dead.
Virtually all of these people are known only to their family and friends, of course. But one of them, Vasyl Slipak, had some fame in the broader world. He was a baritone, an opera singer, working mainly in France. He returned home to volunteer for the war and was killed in June 2016.
Anton Gerashchenko, a governmental adviser in Ukraine, says,
Oleksandr Shapoval, soloist of National Opera ballet, Honored Artist of Ukraine, died in combat near Mayorsk, Donetsk region. He went to the frontlines as a volunteer and served as a grenade launcher. RIP, Hero.
• From Erika Solomon of the New York Times, a piece headed “5 Russian Bullets Dashed an Opera Singer’s Dreams. Then He Reclaimed His Voice.” We learn that Sergiy Ivanchuk “spent months in the hospital after he was shot trying to save civilians fleeing Kharkiv.”
Ivanchuk, age 29, thought he would die. He did not die. Moreover, he can sing again.
His dream — like that of all opera singers — is to perform at the Metropolitan Opera in New York or the Teatro alla Scala in Milan. Ms. Solomon’s article quotes him as saying, “I think in five years I could make it onto one of those stages. As long as no one else shoots me.”
• Something to know about:
Investigators searching through a mass burial site in Ukraine have found evidence that some of the dead were tortured, including bodies with broken limbs and ropes around their necks, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Friday.
The site near the northeastern city of Izium, recently recaptured from Russian forces, appears to be one of the largest discovered in Ukraine.
I have quoted from an Associated Press report, here.
• Something else to know about:
A volunteer Ukrainian medic detained in Ukraine’s besieged port city of Mariupol told U.S. lawmakers Thursday of comforting fellow detainees as many died during her three months of captivity, cradling and consoling them as best she could, as male, female and child prisoners succumbed to Russian torture and untreated wounds.
That is another Associated Press report, found here.
For a report from RFE/RL — Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty — on the same subject, go here. That report begins,
Ukrainian medic Yulia Payevska described to U.S. lawmakers on September 15 “prisoners in cells screaming for weeks, and then dying from the torture without any medical help.”
Putin has many, many fans and apologists here in the United States. Some of them dot the media. And, of course, you will find them crowding the comments sections. What can the rest of us do?
I think of the advice that Elie Kedourie gave to David Pryce-Jones many years ago: “Keep your eye on the corpses.”
• Here is another report from RFE/RL: “A Ukrainian priest told @radiosvoboda that he was abducted and tortured by Russian forces after he traveled to Snake Island to collect the bodies of Ukrainian soldiers thought to have been killed.”
• Myroslava Petsa, another BBC journalist, writes,
Izyum, Bucha, Borodyanka, Mariupol embody just what could have happened to all of Ukraine if Ukrainian troops hadn’t stopped the Russian invasion. The now impossible ‘peace’ deal granting Russia a chunk of Ukraine would mean sacrificing people who inhabit those territories.
This is something that too few people in the West understand. They say, some of them, that the Ukrainians are fighting for “territory” — mere territory. Ukrainian territory that has been seized and occupied by Russians. More than that, the Ukrainians are fighting for the people in those territories. They are doing all they can to spare their countrymen murder, rape, and subjugation.
In an article, Nataliya Melnyk, the director of a free-market think tank in Ukraine, spells this out. “Ukrainians Won’t Live Under Russian Fascism After Escaping Soviet Communism: They are fighting so hard because they know what’s in store if Putin wins.”
Yes. Of course. Given this, shouldn’t Ukrainians have the support of all people of good will?
• Oleksandra Matviichuk, a human-rights activist in Ukraine, has circulated a photo of a girl weeping at her father’s flag-draped coffin:
The price of liberation. 8-year-old Maria says her last goodbye to her father Artem Synelnikov, who served in the National Guard and died in the Kharkiv counteroffensive.
“The price of liberation” — yes.
• Years ago, Charles Krauthammer told me that the survival of Israel depended on two things: the determination of the Israelis to live and the support of the United States. I believe the same can be said of Ukraine: The survival of Ukraine depends on the determination of the Ukrainians to live and the support of the United States.
That the Ukrainians are determined to live — to keep their country and their independence; to resist invasion, occupation, and subjugation — is obvious. And so far, the support of the United States has held.
Of interest is a report in the New York Times: “The Critical Moment Behind Ukraine’s Rapid Advance.”
• As David French says, “America is still the arsenal of democracy.” This does not sit well with many; others of us think it is vital, and feel a certain pride in it. The split on the American right, in particular, is severe.
• There could well be new majorities in both houses of Congress next January. The Republican classes are likelier to be Trumpier, Fox Newsier, more Orbánite, more nat-pop — more than the current Republican classes, I mean. Will Congress continue to aid and arm Ukraine?
• From Quillette, an editorial headed “Horseshoe Theory Comes to Ukraine.” I will quote a paragraph:
One might think that Ukraine’s ability to defend itself so ably, and even to give the invaders a bloody nose in the process, would be met with cheers from across the political spectrum in Western nations. Yet Putin has his stubborn apologists in the free world — including some who’d seem to prefer that the Russian flag were still flying over Izyum, Kupiansk, and all over eastern Ukraine besides.
• Francis Scarr — another BBC-er — monitors Russian state TV. He writes,
. . . Vladimir Solovyov says his country should form an international coalition for its war in Ukraine including Venezuela, Iran, North Korea, Cuba and Nicaragua.
The gang’s all there. Les beaux esprits se rencontrent.
• A final report, for now — not as horrible as reports of torture, rape, and murder, but horrible in its own way, and quite revealing. “Locals Jailed, Fined For Ukrainian Song At Crimea Wedding Party.” That is a report from RFE/RL, here.
Jailed and fined for singing a song. A classic, and damnable, dictatorial touch — to be resisted.
During an interview on CBS’s 60 Minutes, Biden said that the U.S. would send American service members to defend Taiwan “if in fact there was an unprecedented attack” by China.
White House officials told the television program, however, that the president’s comments did not represent a change in U.S. policy, and that there is no official commitment to mount a defense of Taiwan. White House Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell then denied that this contradicts what the president said during the interview last night.
This is the fourth time that Biden has, since the beginning of his presidency, vowed to defend Taiwan from a Chinese invasion, only for White House officials to subsequently walk back his comments.
Campbell, speaking to a conference in Washington today, said that the administration’s comments were not, in fact, a walk-back: “I do not believe that it is appropriate to call the remarks that came from the White House today as walking back the president’s remarks,” he said, according to Reuters. “The president’s remarks speak for themselves. I do think our policy has been consistent and is unchanged and will continue.”
Decades of research have shown that sex is far more complex than we may think. And though sex differences in sports show advantages for men, researchers today still don’t know how much of this to attribute to biological difference versus the lack of support provided to women athletes to reach their highest potential.
Yes, yes, yes, the author has ensured that the piece is full of vague language, fluffy anecdotes, and puffy appeals to “experts say.” And, yes, if someone really wants to pretend that it isn’t totally bonkers, they can squint a bit, insist that all it’s really arguing is that we need more nuance in the way we separate men and women on the field, and then switch to calling its critics sexist. But that’s all guff, isn’t it? The Atlantic‘s piece rests upon a clear and discernible claim — that “separating sports by sex doesn’t make sense” — and it advances this clear and discernible claim by proposing that “researchers” do not “know how much of” the difference between men and women “to attribute to biological difference versus the lack of support provided to women athletes to reach their highest potential.”
Which is tosh. There is nothing in . . . well, literally all of recorded human history that suggests that sex differences in sports (and other physical settings) are the products of a “lack of support provided to women athletes to reach their highest potential.” The idea is risible — akin in nature to my insisting that, while I cannot currently fly through the air like a bird, experts remain divided on whether that’s the product of biological or sociological causes. Some things are, indeed, sociological. And some — e.g.: whether, with enough encouragement, it would be possible to assemble a team of women that could compete against the Pittsburgh Steelers, or find a woman who is good enough at tennis to beat a relatively average man, or construct a prestigious female soccer outfit that could beat a bunch of 14-year-old boys — are not. I know it. You know it. We all know it.
So I’ll ask again: Does anyone really believe this? And if they don’t, why on earth was it published?
I’ve had disagreements with the libertarians at Reason magazine in the past, and doubtless I will again, not being a libertarian myself. But in two recent pieces for the publication, senior editor Stephanie Slade has provided much fodder for thought about our present political discontents.
Start with “The Authoritarian Convergence,” which is the cover of Reason‘s October issue. In it, Slade argues that, while political polarization is a real problem in the modern U.S., there is a sense in which both sides of the aisle are agreeing more: on the need for radical action against the other.
The future of the parties is now a matter of live debate. But in both cases, the elements that seem to have the most energy behind them have something important in common: a desire to move their side, and the country as a whole, in an illiberal direction.
On the left, a new crop of socialists hope to overthrow the liberal economic order, while the rise of intersectional identity politics has supplanted longstanding commitments to civil liberties. On the right, support for free markets and free trade are more and more often derided as relics of a bygone century, while quasi-theocratic ideas are gathering support.
What has not changed—what may even be getting worse—is the problem of affective polarization. Various studies have found that Americans today have significantly more negative feelings toward members of the other party than they did in decades past.
But partisan animosity suits the authoritarian elements on the left and right just fine. Their goal is power, and they have little patience for procedural niceties that interfere with its exercise. As history teaches, a base whipped up into fear and fury is ready to accept almost anything to ensure its own survival. Perhaps even the destruction of the institutions and ideals that make America distinctively itself.
Slade identifies this as a bipartisan problem, and it is indeed worth recalling the Left’s myriad assaults on our political and cultural order, and fighting against them. But at last week’s National Conservatism Conference in Miami (which I also attended), Slade detected among the NatCons evidence of the right-wing part of the convergence she identifies:
This burgeoning political faction has at its heart a fundamentally favorable orientation toward federal power and not a mere revivification of national pride. It also makes it clear that the natcons’ purpose in acquiring government power is not merely to prevent its misuse by opposing ideologues; it’s to use it affirmatively to destroy opposing ideologues.
As I am not a libertarian, neither am I “liberal.” Even so, Slade’s shade thrown at illiberals is difficult to discount.
Colorado GOP Senate candidate Joe O’Dea is unusual for a Republican: He supports a right to abortion, but, unlike the two sitting GOP senators who take that stance, O’Dea supports restrictions on abortion after 20 weeks (that’s five months) of pregnancy with limited exceptions.
During an interview with Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd on Sunday, O’Dea reiterated his support for a five-month legal limit on abortion, and Todd replied: “The only time you really see [late-term abortion] is when it’s a medical emergency.” But that’s not true. The authors of a 2013 study on late abortions reported that “data suggest that most” abortions performed between weeks 20 and 28 of pregnancy are not performed for “reasons of fetal anomaly or life endangerment.” (“Little is known about the relatively few abortions occurring in the third trimester,” the same authors reported.)
As Ramesh Ponnuru noted, that 2013 study “cited another paper, based on 2008 data, that found that fetal abnormality was present in 0.6 percent of abortions in its sample after the 20th week (although it speculates there could be an undercount). And a 2022 study went into some of the reasons unrelated to health that late-term abortions were sought (e.g., because the mother did not know she was pregnant or lacked the money for an abortion until the third trimester).”
Greg was jovial, snarky, sharp-eyed with details, a voracious news-watcher with a seemingly endless appetite and good nose for sniffing out BS spin. When some official explanation didn’t add up, he was often DM-ing me, pointing out the inconsistencies. Every now and then, he could let slip that sense of being the last sane man in an insane world. Back in 2012, he messaged me, “I’ve got total burnout. I was reprimanded yesterday when my son asked me, while doing his homework, who makes the laws again in DC, and I blurted out, ‘a******s.’”
When he left National Review, we only stayed in touch through Facebook. Earlier this year, Greg was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and for most of this year, his Facebook feed offered regular updates of exceptional good spirits. He posted on his indoor walks and mocked the infomercials on hospital television, shared pictures of his hospital food and cracked jokes about the menu, and shared the news that in a matter of days he had broken a TV remote, part of his oxygen system, and a noisy clock. Throughout the year he endured eight rounds of chemo. From Greg’s attitude and spirit, you would have thought he could have beaten anything, laughing all the way.
And then, a few days ago, the unthinkable update: “Unfortunately, it is bad news. All of the cancer treatments are ineffective and I decided to move to hospice. Thank you for your continued love, prayers and support.”
Greg was not the kind of person who can be easily replaced, in any form, or by any measure. Rest in peace, my friend, you will be missed.
60 Minutes reporter Lesley Stahl recently traveled to Tehran to interview Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi, only to confirm all of the assumptions about the man and the government he leads.
During the interview, Raisi rejected Israel’s right to exist, engaged in Holocaust denialism, and all but admitted to the attempted assassination of former national-security adviser John Bolton and former secretary of state Mike Pompeo. Raisi also stated that mass execution is a “proportionate” punishment for political prisoners.
Was anyone expecting something different? Raisi didn’t emerge out of oblivion. He’s earned his chops in this odious regime by being one of the most Robespierrean participants of the Iranian Revolution, and is now considered one of the potential successors to the ailing Supreme Leader. Raisi has been known as a hardliner since he served as a member of the “death committee,” responsible for executing thousands of political prisoners in Iran in the 1980s. For this and other depraved activities, he has been accused of numerous crimes against humanity by the U.N. and various NGOs.
The foreign-policy establishment’s incredulity about Iran’s nefarious ambitions is staggering. If State Department officials simply took Raisi and Ayatollah Khamenei at their word, they’d be more clear-eyed about the prospects of a potential rapprochement with the Islamic Republic.
Raisi is a genocidal authoritarian who would like nothing more than to see another Holocaust occur in the 21st century. The Biden administration ought to be careful not to give him the means to carry out his wishes.
Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen delivered a videotaped address to an audience at the Concordia Summit, an unofficial conference that is taking place in New York on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly’s high-level meeting this week. Her remarks were also in defiance of the Chinese Communist Party’s campaign to isolate Taiwan on the global stage. Extinguishing Taiwan’s democracy is not Beijing’s only goal, she warned, citing China’s broader military intimidation efforts and its international political-interference work.
“Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and the daily threats that Taiwan faces are all evidence that shows authoritarian regimes will do whatever it takes to achieve expansionism,” Tsai said.
While President Biden said during a 60 Minutes interview that aired last night that the U.S. would send troops to defend Taiwan against an “unprecedented” Chinese attack, Tsai’s speech, which was recorded ahead of time, did not address those comments.
China in recent years has intensified its diplomatic-isolation campaign, leading Taiwanese officials to worry that Beijing is laying the diplomatic groundwork for an eventual invasion to be met with apathy from the U.N., as Taiwanese ambassador James Lee recently told NR.
Tsai’s speech is the first time that a Taiwanese leader has addressed even an unofficial gathering adjacent to the U.N. General Assembly’s annual meeting since China’s Communist government succeeded in securing Taiwan’s ejection from the U.N. in 1971. Taiwanese passport holders are not even allowed to set foot on U.N. property.
Addressing Taiwan’s U.N. isolation in her remarks, Tsai spoke about Taiwan’s efforts to donate medical equipment to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. “Even though Taiwan is not a member of the United Nations, we have been consistently helping the world on resolving many crises,” Tsai said.
She also expressed support for Ukraine’s efforts to fight off the Russian invasion, saying that Taiwan is proud to play a role in providing Kyiv with assistance.
When it comes to Chinese aggression, she said, the stakes are greater than her own country’s future.
“We have to educate ourselves on the authoritarian playbook and understand that Taiwan’s democracy will not be the only thing that the PRC seeks to extinguish. Securing Taiwan’s democracy is imperative in securing freedom and human rights for our collective future” she said.
Tsai, unlike other world leaders, will not attend or address the official U.N. gathering, as the organization’s leaders continue to bow to Chinese pressure and ignore Taipei’s requests to participate, even informally, at U.N. bodies.
After House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August, the People’s Liberation Army drastically increased its military activities in the region, including by sending jets across the Taiwan Strait median line. Earlier today, the Taiwanese ministry of defense reported that it had detected nine Chinese military aircraft and five naval vessels in the general area near Taiwan.
I think Kevin Williamson is one of the reasons I work at NR today. After he wrote a cover piece with the opening sentence, “Michael Brendan Dougherty is bitter,” it suddenly became irresistible to the perverse mind of Charles Cooke to bring me into the fold. The fights about nationalism and populism on the right weren’t going away, and we might as well have them inside the tent. One or two lunches later, and we pulled off the idea. To be honest, I liked the idea of coming in after that cover story, too. Maybe trying to disprove the accusation.
Kevin has made some unforgettable contributions to National Review — including his reporting from Appalachia, the porn Oscars in Vegas, and his ahead-of-its-time essay “Laverne Cox Is Not a Woman.” I suppose, in providence, Kevin has put down so many torches, it takes a staff of us to pick them all up and keep running.
The trial of Chinese cardinal Joseph Zen and five other defendants begins today in Hong Kong. They were arrested under the new national-security law which bans sedition, secession, foreign interference, and the like. Cardinal Zen and his compatriots are charged with a technical crime — for not registering their organization, the 612 Humanitarian Fund — under new laws instigated by the Chinese Communist Party. The Fund was used to defend democracy activists in Hong Kong.
According to a helpful report by Elise Ann Allen at Crux, the defense is going to say that it had the right to form its civil organization under Hong Kong’s Basic Law, the original 1997 agreement between the United Kingdom and China.
Zen is 90 years old. He was made a cardinal by Pope Benedict in 2006, and he retired as bishop of Hong Kong in 2009. In 2011, Zen received $20 million from Hong Kong tycoon Jimmy Lai (also arrested by the Communists), which he distributed to the underground church and the poor in mainland China.
I have a question: Will the Vatican continue to remain silent?
From Showtime, in partnership with small-dollar donations from so many gullible MSNBC-watching suburban moms, comes the five-part docuseries that you didn’t know you needed:
— SHOWTIME (@Showtime) September 12, 2022
You don’t actually need it. In fact, your life would probably be much better without it. But it’s here: an in-depth look at one of the most brazen grifts to emerge from the Trump era, which — if the advert is any indication — will look more like an adulatory promo flick than an actual exposé on the Lincoln Project’s myriad sins. 2020 was just the beginning. One shudders at the thought.
When Vice President Kamala Harris said, “we have a secure border in that that is a priority for any nation, including ours and our administration,” maybe what she meant was that the Biden administration was quietly taking steps that the previous administration had wholeheartedly embraced, like filling in gaps in border fencing:
U.S. Customs and Border Protection confirmed that work on the border wall that began under Trump is revving back up under Biden. In an online presentation Wednesday, CBP — the largest division of the Department of Homeland Security and home to the Border Patrol — detailed plans to address environmental damage brought on by the former president’s signature campaign promise and confirmed that the wall will remain a permanent fixture of the Southwest for generations to come.
The resumed operations will range from repairing gates and roads to filling gaps in the wall that were left following the pause on construction that Biden initiated in January 2021. The wall’s environmental harms have been particularly acute in southern Arizona, where CBP used explosives to blast through large swaths of protected land — including sacred Native American burial grounds and one-of-a-kind wildlife habitats — in service of Trump’s most expansive border wall extensions.
Starting next month, contractors will return to the Sonoran Desert in Arizona to resume work on the wall, senior CBP officials said in a public webinar. In the months since Biden’s pause began, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas approved several so-called remediation projects related to the border wall. The first plan that CBP presented for public comment was in the Tucson sector, the Border Patrol’s largest area of operations and site of Trump’s most dramatic and controversial border wall construction.
It is fair to question whether the actions by DHS and CBP really count as “the Biden administration rev[ving] up work on completing Donald Trump’s signature project,” as the Intercept characterizes it. Filling in gaps does not quite align with Trump’s “big, beautiful wall” rhetoric from the campaign trail of 2016, or Trump’s 2020 contention that the wall was “almost finished.” A lot of the work during the Trump years was replacing old fencing that had holes or was falling down; as of January 2021, “only 80 miles of new barriers have been built where there were none before – that includes 47 miles of primary wall, and 33 miles of secondary wall built to reinforce the initial barrier.”
But the DHS decision also represents Biden backtracking again from his January 20, 2021, proclamation that “building a massive wall that spans the entire southern border is not a serious policy solution. It is a waste of money that diverts attention from genuine threats to our homeland security . . . It shall be the policy of my Administration that no more American taxpayer dollars be diverted to construct a border wall.”
Maybe it’s not such a waste of money after all, huh, Mr. President?
Rich already posted on the incredible season Aaron Judge is having, but there’s one way in which his season is actually being underestimated by modern statistical methods.
In recent decades, there’s been a shift away from many standard statistics for measuring a baseball player’s value, to a number of new formulations — one of the most prominent being WAR (Wins Above Replacement), which in theory is supposed to measure how many more wins a team gets by having a given player at a position relative to just slotting in a typical player.
During an interview on 60 Minutes last night, Joe Biden made a little declaration: “The pandemic is over,” he said. “We still have a problem with COVID. We’re still doing a lot of work on it. But the pandemic is over. If you notice, no one’s wearing masks. Everybody seems to be in pretty good shape, and so I think it’s changing, and I think [the Detroit auto show resuming after three years] is a perfect example of it.”
Oh? Okay. Yeah. I hope this is forwarded to the people I still see wearing masks as they drive solo, with the windows up, in their Kia Sorentos.
Will the remaining mandates cease? Will health-care facilities stop requiring masks?
Will government directives given via emergency powers end now? Don’t forget that the student-loan-forgiveness scam was based, flimsily, on the idea that there is an ongoing pandemic.
And, rather importantly, will Title 42 cease?
For those following from home, don’t forget the pandemic order from the CDC that allowed Border Patrol to turn away illegal migrants on the basis of health risks. It’s a policy that the Biden administration has partly relied on to prevent a total border meltdown, because, well, it is more comfortable turning people away for health-policy reasons than it is acknowledging that the United States is a nation with borders that need enforcement.
Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi defended his involvement in the mass execution of political prisoners, calling it a “proportionate” punishment, during an interview that aired just ahead of his arrival in New York to attend the U.N. General Assembly.
Raisi was one of four members of a panel in Tehran that carried out a fatwa issued by then-supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini, approving the executions of political prisoners in 1988. The precise number of prisoners executed as a result of that process is disputed, though some estimates say that the Iranian authorities killed a few thousand people.
In 2019, the Treasury Department imposed sanctions …
Last week, markets collapsed, and the media seemed dumbstruck when inflation “surprised” on the upside. There should have been no reason for surprise, however. We are in a straightforward stagflationary spiral. Everything that is happening makes sense and is following a predictable historical pattern. But for those who have doubts, let’s dig deeper into the simple economics of the world we are living in.
But there is good news on fiscal policy. A wildfire of state income-tax cuts is sweeping the nation. Republicans are leading the reforms, but even Democratic states are offering some taxpayer relief.
The dollar value of recent state tax cuts is the largest in at least four decades, made possible by overflowing coffers in most states. Even with the cuts, state tax revenues rose 10 percent in 2021 and will likely rise another 10 percent in 2022.
The states could have spent all the extra money, but Republicans have pressed for pro-growth tax cuts in state after state. More than 20 states have cut individual or corporate income tax rates, with some of the reforms being phased in over time.
Speaking of baseball, Aaron Judge is one away from Ruth’s home-run record (two homers yesterday, plus a laser double that looked like it had a chance to be the third), and two away from Maris’s. It’s been a stupendous season from a player who is all class and is on the cusp of history without cheating or histrionics.
Here is 59:
#59!!! Aaron Judge's second home run of the game and he's TWO away from Maris! pic.twitter.com/PzU2brxSum
— Talkin' Yanks (@TalkinYanks) September 18, 2022
Here is the kind of month he’s had:
Aaron Judge entered September the favorite for the American League MVP award, and all he's done is bat .491, get on base nearly 59% of the time and slug 1.018 with a big league-best eight home runs. His 1.604 OPS is nearly 250 points clear of the next-best hitter this month.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) September 18, 2022
And here is his season so far:
.315 batting average, 59 home runs:
1. Babe Ruth (1921, 1927)
2. Sammy Sosa (2001)
3. Barry Bonds (2001)
4. Aaron Judge (2022)*
*BA to date
— Yankees Slut (@YankeesSlut) September 18, 2022
In response to MLB Just Doesn’t Get It
I’ve been meaning to respond to Dominic’s post objecting to the coming rules changes in the MLB. Unsurprisingly, as a longstanding pitch-clock and baseball-reform fanatic, I find his objections unpersuasive.
First, just because a game is getting artificially stretched out by mindless and unnecessary fiddling and delays doesn’t mean you are getting “more baseball.” You are getting exactly the same amount of baseball padded out to take more time.
If the commissioner of any sport sees his game actually producing less action but taking more time to play, he should be freaked out.
It’s not hard to find examples illustrating the point. A friend sent me a link to an old Yankees game in 1990. The inaptly named Bombers that year somehow won a game against the Orioles 15-3. It took two and a half hours for both teams to score 18 runs. The other night, the Yankees lost to the Brewers 7-6, and it took more than four hours (!) for both teams to score 13 runs.
Now, Dominic is right that there’s more than the time between pitches that adds to the time it takes to play a game (strike-outs, pitching changes, etc.), but it certainly contributes. I didn’t watch much of the Yankees’ game against the Brewers, but early in the game, the Yankees’ radio announcers were begging for mercy because it was taking so long for anyone to throw a pitch.
There is an easy solution to this: the pitch clock that has been successfully tested at the minor-league level. Believe me: If you go to see a minor-league game, you will not miss all the stepping off the rubber, batter time outs, etc. Since that’s all extraneous nonsense that no one thought necessary in the first 120 years of the game, after about an inning you, forget you ever had to watch a baseball game while being subjected to it.
Dominic says one of the glories of baseball is chatting with friends at a game. True. But chatting for two and a half hours should be plenty. If you want to routinely chat for longer, you can show up for batting practice, or go to a neighboring watering hole before or afterwards.
As for the shift, I’m old enough to have seen a hitter pull a ground ball for a single through the infield. It wasn’t my favorite play, but it was pretty cool to see every now and then. I know the answer to the shift is supposed to be everyone hitting to all fields. I love that kind of hitters, but it’s not going to happen.
And I also find stolen bases enjoyable — they add an element of interest and excitement.
So what we are looking at is that baseball games next year will have a little more action (I wouldn’t want to exaggerate it) packed into faster-paced games. In the other words, more baseball, less dilatory tactics that would have struck players, fans, and everyone else as bizarre and wrong through much of the history of the game and within very recent memory.
Now, bring on the laser strike zone.
We’re talking about college and university “Bias Response Systems.” They’re an outgrowth of leftist militancy on our campuses, created to enable ideological zealots to complain about and trigger action against anyone who says things they dislike.
In today’s Martin Center article, Jenna Robinson and Ashlynn Warta look into a new study by Speech First on this phenomenon. They write, “Speech First’s report pulls no punches, calling Bias Response Systems ‘elaborate schemes . . . designed to silence dissenters, stifle open dialogue, and encourage students to report speech they deem unacceptable.’ Like most such initiatives on campus, their efforts tend to run in a single ideological direction.”
Speech First’s survey found that Bias Response Systems (BRSs) have been increasing around the country. That comes as no surprise, since the mania for “Diversity, Equity, Inclusion” has been spreading like wildfire and one element of that is to combat what the administrators regard as “hurtful speech.”
Most of the major public and private schools in North Carolina have an anti-bias system of some kind. They encourage students to anonymously complain about speech that bothers them. Robinson and Warta write, “One of the most concerning aspects of these BRSs is that almost all the forms allow submissions to be made anonymously. Identifying information is not required when one submits a bias incident. This option of anonymity removes any checks and balances from the process; not only are students and faculty able to tattle on each other, but there is no way of investigating whether a complaint is true rather than a hoax.”
What to do? The right thing is to disband these systems. American higher education got along fine without them until they began to appear in the early years of this century. Let’s return to the good old days of free speech.
I don’t know whether I should be used to saying “farewell” to Kevin by now, but I’m definitely not. He is leaving us again. If I could do what Kevin does, I’d write a rollicking, elegant, vulgar, sad, and funny 800-word single-sentence goodbye post. Since I can’t, I’ll just say that Kevin is supremely talented, has done tremendous work for us over the years, and will be sorely missed. We wish him all the best.
The economy that exists in Joe Biden’s head is significantly better than the economy in the real world. That’s the major takeaway from the president’s comments to CBS’s Scott Pelley on 60 Minutes tonight.
Pelley asked Biden about the August inflation report, which put year-over-year inflation at 8.3 percent and month-over-month inflation at 0.1 percent.
BIDEN: Well, first of all, let’s put this in perspective. Inflation rate month-to-month was just up, up just an inch, hardly at all.
PELLEY: You’re not arguing that 8.3 is good news.
BIDEN: No, I’m not saying it is good news. But it was 8.2 or 8.2 before, I mean it’s not, you’re acting to make it sound like all of a sudden, “My God, it went to 8.2 percent.” It’s been –
PELLEY: It’s the highest inflation rate, Mr. President, in 40 years.
BIDEN: I got that. But guess what we are. We’re in a position where for the last several months it hasn’t spiked. It has just barely, it’s been basically even, and in the meantime, we’ve created all these jobs, and prices have gone up, but they’ve been down for energy. The fact is that we’ve created 10 million new jobs, we’re in, since we came to office, we’re in a situation where we, the unemployment rate is up at 3.7 percent, one of the lowest in history, we’re in a situation where manufacturing is coming back to the United States in a big way, and look down the road, we have massive investments being made in computer chips and employment, so I, look, this is a process, this is a process.
Inflation is the top political concern for voters right now, and according to a recent poll, 59 percent of voters who name inflation as their top concern plan to vote Republican in November. “This is a process” is not likely to persuade them out of that choice.
The process of reducing inflation was made more difficult by Biden’s signature on the American Rescue Plan Act in March of last year, which even left-leaning economists warned would contribute to inflation. Not only that, but it didn’t create a single job in all of 2021.
The president is right that inflation hasn’t spiked in the past few months, but not spiking is not the same as declining. Biden said inflation is “basically even,” as though that were a good thing. Holding steady at a 40-year high is not good news, and Pelley was right to push back on Biden’s characterization of the inflation report.
Biden’s curious comments on inflation continued:
PELLEY: And you would tell the American people that inflation is going to continue to decline?
BIDEN: No, I’m telling the American people that we’re going to get control of inflation, and their prescription drug prices are going to be a helluva lot lower, their healthcare costs are going to be a lot lower, their basic costs for everybody, their energy prices are going to be lower, they’re going to be in a situation where they’re beginning to gain control again. I’m more optimistic than I’ve been in a long time.
PELLEY: Sir, with the Federal Reserve rapidly raising interest rates, what can you do to prevent a recession?
BIDEN: Continue to grow the economy. And we’re growing the economy. It’s growing in a way that it hasn’t in years and years.
PELLEY: How so?
BIDEN: We’re growing entire new industries. We’re, 695, I think it is, or 85 thousand new manufacturing jobs, just since I become president of the United States. Continue to grow the economy and continue to give hard-working people a break, in terms of, we pay the highest drug prices in the world, of any industrialized nation, making sure that Medicare can negotiate down those prices. By the way, we’ve also reduced the debt. We reduced the deficit by 350 billion dollars my first year. This year it’s going to be over a trillion, 500 billion dollars reduced the debt, so to continue to put people in a position to be able to make a decent living and grow, and grow, and increase their capacity to grow.
The entire premise here doesn’t make sense. Inflation cannot continue to decline when, by the president’s own characterization, it is “basically even.” And the economy cannot continue to grow when it has, in fact, been shrinking for two consecutive quarters. Whether that counts as a recession is debatable, but whether negative numbers count as growth is not.
Pelley should have called out Biden for his comments on the deficit. The American Rescue Plan was the most expensive spending bill of the past 50 years, adding $1.9 trillion to the debt. The savings from the so-called Inflation Reduction Act (which Pelley referenced in his introduction as “the largest investment ever on climate change,” never mentioning inflation reduction) are largely based on gimmicks. And even if they weren’t, they are more than completely wiped out by the estimated cost of Biden’s illegal student-loan “forgiveness.” The continued torrent of government spending certainly isn’t helping to lower inflation.
On top of that, the real reason the markets were so spooked by the August inflation report was the steady increase in core inflation, which came in at 0.6 percent month-over-month and 6.3 percent year-over-year. The month’s decline in gasoline prices covered for persistent price increases in just about everything else.
The president doesn’t control the price of gasoline, something that Democrats were quick to say when prices were going up. But now that prices are going down, Biden is trying to claim credit:
PELLEY: Mr. President, the price of gasoline is down about 26 percent from the five-dollar high. What can you do to keep that price down while Vladimir Putin is throttling energy supply?
BIDEN: Well, there’s a, there’s a couple things we’ve done. For example, remember where I got some criticism for releasing a million barrels of oil a day from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve? And then along came the industry saying they’d produce another million barrels a day by the spring, so I think we’re in relatively good shape.
Biden thinks we’re in “relatively good shape” with gasoline prices up by $1.27 per gallon since the week he took office. He apparently thinks an extra million barrels per day are going to show up in the spring. (From where? And how?) And his abuse of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve — which is supposed to be for acute emergencies, not months-long periods when oil prices are high — has likely had little effect on energy prices, which are set on global markets.
Biden is living in an alternate universe where the economy is thriving. If only we all could live there.
President Biden promised a “consequential” response to any Russian use of nuclear or chemical weapons in its invasion of Ukraine. This comment came during a 60 Minutes episode that ran this evening. During the interview with host Scott Pelley, Biden delivered his most extensive remarks on the war in Ukraine since Kyiv recently reclaimed swaths of territory as part of a counteroffensive in the country’s East.
“Don’t, don’t, don’t,” said Biden, when asked for his message to Putin on the use of such weapons. Biden said that deciding to use them would “change the face of war — unlike since World War II.”
Biden told Pelley that he would not specify what a U.S. response to a future use of unconventional weapons would entail, but he stated that it would be significant.
“You think I would tell you if I knew exactly what it would be? Of course, I’m not going to tell you. It’ll be consequential. They’ll become more of a pariah in the world than they ever have been. And depending on the extent of what they do, [it] will determine what response would occur.”
Throughout the surprise counteroffensive, which began in early September, Ukrainian forces have seized more than 3,000 square miles of land that had previously been occupied by Russian troops since the start of the invasion in February.
The Ukrainian counteroffensive has unearthed previously unknown possible war crimes that occurred under Russian occupation. This week, the Ukrainian authorities found more than 400 unmarked graves in Izium, some with bodies that showed signs of torture.
“Winning the war in Ukraine is to get Russia out of Ukraine completely and to recognize their sovereignty,” Biden said. “Russia’s turning out to not be as competent and capable as many people thought they were going to be.”
Biden added that the U.S. would support Ukraine for “as long as it takes.” Since the start of the Russian invasion, the Biden administration has shipped various weapons to Ukraine, including missiles and artillery systems that have played a pivotal role in propping up the Ukrainian military’s war effort.
Congress is currently considering a bill that would provide the Ukrainian government with $13.6 billion in supplemental emergency funding. Earlier this year, it passed a $40 billion package to authorize funds to provide Ukraine with military equipment and other forms of financial assistance.
On 60 Minutes this evening, President admitted aloud that his decision to transfer up to a trillion dollars in student-loan debt to taxpayers without congressional approval is flatly unconstitutional:
“The pandemic is over. We still have a problem with COVID. We’re still doing a lot of work on it. But the pandemic is over,” President Biden tells 60 Minutes in an interview in Detroit. https://t.co/7SixTE3OMT pic.twitter.com/s5fyjRpYuX
— 60 Minutes (@60Minutes) September 19, 2022
Why does Biden’s statement matter so much? I’ll tell you: It matters because the memo that the Biden administration released to justify his order rested entirely upon there being an ongoing emergency, and because, as Biden has just confirmed, there is no ongoing emergency.
Back in August, Biden’s lawyers argued with half-straight faces that the 2003 HEROES Act — which, as Bloomberg Law has noted, was passed not as a generalized enabling act but “to help borrowers serving in the military in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks” — could be twisted to apply to any national emergency, including pandemics such as Covid-19. This, of course, was nonsense. Among the specific problems with Biden’s argument was that the 2003 HEROES Act does not cover debt cancelation (i.e., transference to taxpayers); that its “direct economic hardship” language does not allow for mass relief; that the application of its “or national emergency” language clearly violates the major questions doctrine; and that the administration’s insistence that the act was designed to allow the executive branch “to act quickly should a situation arise that has not been considered” was flatly contradicted by the fact that the president waited until two-and-a-half years into the pandemic before acting, and then gave relief to the most privileged people in America. But, even if one were to ignore all that, one could still not get past the fact that the powers to which Biden laid claim can be applied only when there is an active emergency, and that the active emergency Biden is citing has now passed.
In May, the Biden administration (correctly) reported that it was obliged to end the use of Title 42 of the 1944 Public Health Services Act at the border because the Covid-19 emergency had passed. In a memo, the Department of Justice explained that, in 2020, “the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) invoked its authority under Title 42 due to the unprecedented public-health dangers caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” but that, two years later, “the CDC has now determined, in its expert opinion, that continued reliance on this authority is no longer warranted in light of the current public-health circumstances. That decision was a lawful exercise of CDC’s authority.”
Or, to put it more simply: Three months before Biden’s move on student loans, the CDC concluded that the pandemic was no longer enough of an emergency to justify extraordinary measures at the border.
That, a quarter of a year later, the same administration asked us all to believe that the same pandemic was bad enough to justify giving hundreds of billions of dollars to college students was always utterly preposterous. Tonight, on 60 Minutes, President Biden confirmed as much in public. The courts — and the voters — must take note.
President Biden said that the U.S. would send American troops to defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese military assault, reaffirming a series of similar statements that he has made throughout his presidency. The White House quickly walked back the comment.
During an episode of CBS’s 60 Minutes that aired this evening, host Scott Pelley asked if U.S. forces would defend Taiwan. Biden answered, “Yes, if in fact there was an unprecedented attack.” He also said, “We are not encouraging their being independent” and that “that’s their decision.”
Asked to clarify whether a potential invasion response would, unlike the U.S. response …