Politics & Policy

Earthquake at the Court

Loading...
People protest in response to the Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., June 24, 2022. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

First the tremor, then the earthquake.

At last, the seismic shock to America’s political system hit Friday, nearly two months after the draft decision in Dobbs leaked (read the final decision here). Abortion policy-making will be returned to the legislatures, where the battle shifts next.

From NR’s editorial:

Decades of work, the efforts of tens of millions of Americans, and persistence through many disappointments were necessary to bring us to this day of correction. Overturning Roe does not guarantee justice for the unborn: Pro-lifers know the work must continue. What the Court has done is give pro-lifers the chance to make their case and prevail in democratic fora. Our fundamental law will no longer effectively treat unborn children as categorically excluded from the most basic protection that law can provide. It is a mighty step forward for the rule of law, self-government, and justice.

While the decision is momentous, its audacity is being overstated by some. Zachary Evans rounds up here the more over-the-top reactions, including from Congresswoman Maxine Waters: “The hell with the Supreme Court—we will defy them.”

Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s concurrence offers perspective for the Twitter class suggesting this was a coup requiring institutional purging:

The issue before this Court, however, is not the policy or morality of abortion. The issue before this Court is what the Constitution says about abortion. The Constitution does not take sides on the issue of abortion. The text of the Constitution does not refer to or encompass abortion. . . . The Constitution is neutral and leaves the issue for the people and their elected representatives to resolve through the democratic process in the States or Congress—like the numerous other difficult questions of American social and economic policy that the Constitution does not address.

Vote, persuade, advance your agenda. That’s how policy is made. As Kyle Smith suggests, the Court should not be viewed as a dependable backstop absent those steps.

The democratic process will continue, and President Biden, to his credit, called for the inevitable protests accompanying it to remain peaceful in the days and weeks ahead. Let’s hope those words are heeded.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

Once more, NR’s editorial on the Dobbs ruling: A Stain Erased

The January 6 hearings are making it only more evident that Donald Trump was not and is not fit for office: The January 6 Show

More evidence that the president is out of ideas: Biden’s Gimmicky Gas-Tax Holiday

On the Court win for religious education: The Fall of the Wall around Religious Education

ARTICLES

Dan McLaughlin: We Lived to See It

Alexandra DeSanctis: What Comes after Roe?

Caroline Downey: Washington Women’s Prison Sponsors Violent Male Inmate’s Gender-Transition Surgery

John Fund: Desperate Democrats Meddle in GOP Primaries

Kevin Williamson: Here Comes Fiscal Armageddon

Kevin Williamson: Joe Biden Should Take More Vacations

Charles C. W. Cooke: Progressives’ Grunts Are Growing Desperate

Charles C. W. Cooke: The Supreme Court Strikes a Historic Blow for Second Amendment Rights

Nate Hochman: Against QR-Code Menus

Rachelle Peterson: Beware the Confucius Institute Rebrand

Jay Nordlinger: Before We ‘Move On’

Kyle Smith: The CDC Just Pushed Fake News on Covid Child Mortality

Kyle Smith: Reservoir Progs

Brittany Bernstein: San Francisco School Board Votes to Return Elite High School to Merit-Based Admissions

CAPITAL MATTERS

Kevin Hassett has a plan: How to Fix Inflation

Andrew Stuttaford highlights a challenge for the European Central Bank: Jitters in the Euro Zone

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Kyle Smith explains the appeal of, and the remarkable box-office response to, the new Top Gun: America Is Craving a Reset

Armond White praises a movie-star documentary that serves to correct a myth: Monty Clift and the Art of Distraction

Brian Allen takes us on a tour of the best of the big art show in Venice. There will be tapestries: Forget What the Chatterers Say. These Are among the Best Pavilions at the Biennale

FROM THE NEW, JULY 11, 2022, ISSUE OF NR

Shawn Regan: Running Dry in the American West

Dan McLaughlin: Lessons from the January 6 Hearings

John McCormack: Scorched Earth in Arizona’s GOP Primary

Andrew Follett: Too-Political Science

WE’RE TOLD WE’VE GOT TIME FOR A FEW MORE

Dan McLaughlin reflects on Roe’s demise:

We lived to see it. Many of us never thought we would. This day should be celebrated for generations to come.

The overturning of Roe v. Wade is a momentous milestone in American history. It is the largest single step forward for human rights in America in well over half a century. It is the largest stroke against the arbitrary taking of human life in America since the abolition of slavery in 1865.

True, by overruling Roe, the Supreme Court did not ban abortion; it only restored power to the elected governments to do so. State governments will have to take the next step. So will the federal government, to the extent permitted within its enumerated powers. But they have been denied that power for 49 years.

This morning’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization swept away those restrictions just as abruptly as Roe erected them. But whereas the seven men behind Roe assaulted our system of democracy and the rule of law, wiping out long-standing laws in nearly every state without a shred of legitimate basis in the written Constitution ratified by We the People, Dobbs restores the supremacy of the democratic Constitution and the sovereignty of the American people.

Shawn Regan’s cover story in the latest issue of NR grapples with the on-the-ground reality behind the stunning images you might have noticed in recent months of a parched American West, and examines how the region can adapt:

The western United States is in the grip of a deep and prolonged drought, causing unprecedented water shortages. The Southwest has just experienced its driest two decades in 1,200 years, according to one recent study. This year is more of the same, if not worse. California just had its driest first five months on record. Ninety percent of New Mexico is in extreme or exceptional drought — the two worst categories on the U.S. Drought Monitor. As of press time, the city of Albuquerque had gone 75 days without measurable rainfall.

The drought is especially pronounced in the Colorado River Basin, which supplies water to 40 million people across nine states and irrigates 4 million acres of farmland. Water levels in Lake Mead and Lake Powell, the basin’s two largest reservoirs, have dropped to their lowest levels since they were filled in the early to mid 20th century. In response, the federal government recently issued its first formal “shortage” declaration for the river, triggering mandatory water-delivery reductions to Arizona and Nevada. Additional cutbacks are likely coming soon.

The region’s water supply has plummeted to levels unanticipated even just a few years ago. At the start of the 21st century, Lakes Mead and Powell were nearly full. Now both are below 30 percent capacity. If water levels drop much farther, officials warn, the dams’ turbines will no longer be able to generate electricity, creating additional power-supply challenges for a region already at elevated risk of rolling blackouts this summer because of extreme heat and increased reliance on intermittent wind and solar energy. And if they decline farther still, the reservoirs could reach “dead pool” conditions, in which water is unable to flow downstream from the dams.

The consequences of the drought are being felt throughout the West. In Utah, the Great Salt Lake dipped to a historic low last year, exposing the lakebed to windstorms that pick up dust containing arsenic and other toxic elements and blow it to nearby cities on the Wasatch Front. New Mexico’s parched landscape is fueling the largest wildfire ever recorded in state history. And in California, a lack of surface water is accelerating groundwater pumping that is depleting aquifers and causing the land itself to sink in some areas. . . .

There are more water rights on paper than there is actual water to go around, and everyone is lawyered up with arguments for why cuts should fall on others instead of themselves. But if the arid West is to adapt to its even drier future, it’s going to have to find ways to use its limited water resources more effectively through cooperation instead of litigation, and nearly everyone is going to have to do with less.

Charles C. W. Cooke observes how remarkably unadaptable the progressive narrative is in the face of a changing electoral reality:

Confused, alarmed, and unbalanced by the changing world around them, America’s erstwhile progressive class has been eventually reduced to the grunt. The proximate stimulus doesn’t matter a great deal, for, whatever the question, the answer is always the same: “Racism! Sexism! LGBT!” . . .

In May of this year, Ron DeSantis’s reelection campaign spent $5 million on Spanish-language commercials in Florida, the purpose of which was to capitalize on the ongoing shift of Hispanic Floridians toward the Republican Party. In 2020, Donald Trump won a majority of Florida’s 1.5 million Cuban Americans, a majority of Florida’s one million Colombian Americans, and a majority of Florida’s 100,000 Venezuelan Americans. Trump improved on his performance in Miami-Dade County, losing it by seven points in 2020 compared with 29 points in 2016, and he won two-thirds of the vote in Hialeah, the most Hispanic city in the United States. The last time Florida had a midterm election, in 2018, the Washington Post predicted that the election would be a battle between “older white voters” and “the state’s rapidly diversifying youth.” Instead, DeSantis gained 44 percent of the Hispanic vote in the governor’s race, and Rick Scott won 45 percent in his Senate race — a touch shy of the 48 percent that Marco Rubio won in 2016. This time around, DeSantis aims to win Hispanic voters outright.

But what use are all these facts when there is tribal wittering to be indulged? We are dealing here with a habit so impervious to reality that it is able to transmute the news that an immigrant from South Africa has voted for a Mexican-born woman to represent an 84 percent Hispanic district into a story about “white supremacy and authoritarianism.” “When the facts change, I change my mind,” John Maynard Keynes once said. Increasingly, progressives try to change the facts. After Trump outperformed expectations with Hispanic voters in 2020, they simply recast Hispanic voters’ role. “These days,” the Washington Post’s Eugene Scott submitted a few days after the election, “you do not have to be white to support white supremacy.” “Latino,” wrote the New York Times’ Nikole Hannah-Jones, “is a contrived ethnic category.” “Cubans,” offered up activist Andrea L. Pino-Silva, “have been sold a narrative that they have a guaranteed path to whiteness, and many will sell out every other minority to get it.” To avoid introspection, anything goes.

More from NR’s editorial on the January 6 committee:

For all the problems in its design and operation, the committee has done important work. The January 6 Capitol riot and the associated “stop the steal” effort to prevent Joe Biden’s election from being certified is an important moment in our history, and there remains value in documenting it for posterity with evidence and testimony under oath. The subject of what the president did after the riot started, and why the Capitol was not secured more swiftly and decisively, was under-explored in the second impeachment, and has produced some revealing testimony.

The public record of Trump’s conduct has been damning, and his inability even to this day to let go of his false claims about the 2020 election claims by the official constitutionally sworn to uphold the laws, claims that deluded and enraged his supporters, inspiring the more unhinged among them to storm the Capitol are further evidence that he shouldn’t hold any public office again. Trump was warned in no uncertain terms by people who had long been loyal to him that, in seeking to overturn Biden’s electors, he was pursuing an unlawful strategy based on lies. Too deeply invested in his own delusions, he ignored them all. . . .

Amidst all of this, however, there have also been heroes. Mike Pence stands out for his principled refusal to cooperate in Trump’s scheme to object to Biden’s electors, a stance that was painful for Pence to take and put him in the crosshairs of an angry, threatening mob that came within 40 feet of coming upon him. Pence admirably stood his ground, refusing to leave the Capitol so long as the electoral-vote count remained unfinished. . . .

Moreover, say what you will of Liz Cheney’s political judgments; she has shown great courage in taking on this role at great cost, ending her tenure in House Republican leadership and quite possibly resulting in the loss of her seat.

Shout-Outs

Christine Rosen, at Commentary: The Mainstream Media Damaged Our Children

Michael Hartney & Renu Mukherjee, at City Journal: The Asian Recall

Tom Rogan, at the Washington Examiner: Did Russian hackers blow up a Texas LNG pipeline on June 8?

Andrew Solender, at Axios: Oz drops Trump branding in general election shift

Honorable Mention

From our friends at NRI:

Calling all mid-career professionals! National Review Institute’s fall 2022 regional fellowship program is headed to Chicago and Dallas.

The Burke to Buckley Program is an eight-week, graduate-level series designed for mid-career professionals to gain a deeper understanding of conservative thought and to build a network of talented, like-minded individuals who can assist one another professionally and personally for years to come. Each class will be composed of 20–25 participants who represent a wide variety of professions and industries. Candidates should have between ten and 25 years of professional work experience and ideally be between 35 and 55 years old. This program is not intended for recent graduates or people working in the fields of public policy or politics.

The fall programs generally run from mid-September to mid-November of each year. Accepted participants will gather over dinner to discuss foundational conservative texts. Each week, an expert (often an NR writer or fellow) will guide the discussion, providing a unique opportunity for participants to engage with, and to learn from, one another.

Does this sound like something that might interest you or someone you know? Check out the Burke to Buckley webpage for more information and applications. Apply by July 15.

CODA

For jazz people: Did you ever wonder what it would sound like if a few of the guys (well, one of them anyway) from the Bitches Brew sessions snuck into a small studio in the back and kept playing? That’s the sense I get listening to the title track on guitarist John McLaughlin’s debut album, “Extrapolation,” an old copy of which I recently found at a Philly record shop. The reality, it turns out, is the inverse of that timeline — McLaughlin and a few other musicians recorded it in early 1969, months before he participated in that historic album with jazz giants. This debut contains the seeds of what was to follow. Neat.

White House

Woe Is Biden

Loading...
President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the monthly U.S. jobs report in Rehoboth Beach, Del., June 3, 2022. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Who could have predicted the job of U.S. president would involve compounding challenges arising simultaneously on a global scale?

Not Biden, it seems, despite his prior eight years of intimate familiarity with the position. Based on press accounts and the president’s own public laments, he is dismayed at the following: bad hands he’s been dealt by the universe, the sheer number of problems he’s called upon to do something about, inadequate messaging from staff, aides who correct his gaffes, insufficiently positive media coverage, insufficiently supportive Democrats, those damn Republicans, and on it goes.

As is typical with those occupying high public office, nowhere on that list is evidence of self-reflection beyond the idea that he should have communicated better how incredible he is.

It is true, as pieces on this website have pointed out on occasion, that challenges ranging from the supply-chain mess to inflation are not primarily of the president’s making and involve forces outside his control (the Fed plays a bigger role in the latter and belatedly is trying to correct course). But it is not true that the buck stops everywhere but there.

Isaac Schorr, who moonlights as a Jolt writer, riffs on this theme here, and Kyle Smith provides a reality check:

Unpopular presidents tend to complain that they were dealt a bad hand, and then grouse that the media are making things look worse than they are. But Biden was dealt an excellent hand; he has no excuses for the mess he’s in. . . .

By the time Biden took office, the economy had rebounded energetically, growing 33.4 percent and 4.1 percent, respectively, in the last two quarters of 2020, and it was already roaring along at a 6.4 percent growth clip for the first quarter of 2021. Yet Biden pushed for more stimulus and got it, pouring $1.9 trillion worth of kerosene on the fire. And then he pushed for even more of the same, spending the rest of the year advocating trillions in infrastructure spending (which he got) and trillions more in spending on the so-called Build Back Better agenda (which he didn’t). Gasoline prices are not as directly linked to Biden’s actions as inflation, but he can hardly blame exogenous forces for the spike in the cost of fossil fuel when disrupting its supply has been a nakedly stated objective of the bureaucracy he put in place. . . .

Biden is the primary author of the humiliating retreat from Afghanistan that first caused his approval ratings to sag. His softness on illegal immigration is the obvious cause of the ongoing border crisis. And his inability to get through even a heavily stage-managed appearance without looking as clueless as Grandpa Simpson is the reason Americans doubt his fitness to lead.

On inflation, the Biden administration’s responses have been a tapestry of denial and misdirection and projection. The president often blames Vladimir Putin, despite the fact that prices were rising for months before the invasion of Ukraine. This week, Biden also blamed Republicans for — try and follow this — stopping him from tackling inflation by pumping more money into an overheated economy.

To that point, nowhere do we see an acknowledgment that big-spending policies at least could have played a role or that it might be wise to reconsider those policies in light of events. As Charles C. W. Cooke has noted, the modern Democratic agenda amounts to an “inflation machine,” including the goal to “increase the discretionary income of middle- and upper-middle-class Americans by writing at least $10,000 off the student-loan debt they owe taxpayers.”

Yet, what we hear is the world’s smallest violin playing “Wail for the Chief.”

A recent NBC News story captured this dynamic:

“I’ve heard him say recently that he used to say about President Obama’s tenure that everything landed on his desk but locusts, and now he understands how that feels,” a White House official said.

Amid a rolling series of calamities, Biden’s feeling lately is that he just can’t catch a break.

From the New York Times comes the news that some Democratic insiders are starting to wonder whether they’d be better off cutting Biden loose in 2024. The piece, however, honors the conceit that a big part of the problem is his inability to pass “big-ticket legislation” and the “refusal” by congressional Democrats to “muscle through the president’s Build Back Better agenda or an expansion of voting rights.”

A recent ABC News/Ipsos poll showed inflation, the economy, gun violence, and abortion to be top issues for Americans, and Biden’s approval rating on the first was 28 percent.  Perhaps the president’s problem is not his inability to pass his panacean agenda but the growing realization that he doesn’t have one.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

For Democrats, a warning from the Rio Grande Valley: An Earthquake in South Texas

Don’t worry, Biden is sending sternly worded letters about gas prices: Biden’s Oil Tantrum

Enough with the “Putin’s price hike” — there’s much more to this crisis: Inflation Is Here to Stay

ARTICLES

Rich Lowry: The Kamala Harris Problem

Kevin Williamson: The January 6 Hearings Are a Story without a Hero

Robert Stein: The 60-Plus-Seat Senate Agenda

Zachary Evans: Eastman Admitted Bid to Reject Electors Would Lose 9–0 in Supreme Court, Pence Counsel Testifies

Caroline Downey: Mexican-Born Texas Republican Flips House Seat in Special Election

Caroline Downey: ‘Open Season’: Pro-Abortion Terrorist Group Vows to Ramp Up Violence against Pro-Life Pregnancy Centers

Abigail Anthony: Who Are People with Uteruses?

Ryan Mills: Experts Sound Alarm on Heightened Threat to Judges after Foiled Kavanaugh Assassination

Ryan T. Anderson: In the Transgender Debate, It’s Language vs. Reality

Michael Brendan Dougherty: The Zombie War against Covid

Isaac Schorr: College Republican Chapters War with National Org as Allegations of Incompetence, Corruption Fly

Jimmy Quinn: Senior Ukrainian Officials Think Biden Has Begun ‘Process to Lay Blame’ on Them

CAPITAL MATTERS

Dominic Pino explains why the Ocean Shipping Reform Act is not the cure-all the president suggests it is: Biden Misses the Boat on Shipping

Wayne Crews & Ryan Young have a novel idea for responding to — rather, preparing for — the next crisis: The Case for Letting Crises Go to Waste

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

By the time this newsletter goes out, Paul McCartney will have turned 80. Kyle Smith honors the artist and all his achievements: McCartney at 80

To borrow the language of Jeopardy!, Brian Allen has a potpourri column this week. His highlights include an exhibition of haunting Nordic art: Centaurs and Reindeer Transfix at the Venice Biennale

Armond White does not buy into the buzz on Lightyear: Lightyear Is Consumerism for Kids

EAT PRAY EXCERPT

MBD lets it rip upon the occasion of New York’s mask-optional decision for little kids. Preach:

Not a single elected official in New York City or Los Angeles has ever even attempted to demonstrate with data that the policy of masking two-year-olds was achieving a public-health goal for the city that other people in their states, or in Europe, were foolishly forgoing. They don’t have to do this, because when you are trusting the science!, you don’t have to think or reflect on what you’re telling others to do.

Covid is now becoming something like red meat. It is a thing public-health officials wish they could eliminate entirely, but in the absence of this power, they just make absurd recommendations about it that nobody follows. You might say that this is “traditional public health” — the enterprise where progressive MDs vainly try to normalize wickedly unhealthy things, like puberty-blocking drugs and refined carbohydrates, while at the same time casting as evil normal, healthy things, like dried sausage or childhood innocence about sexuality. The CDC says never to eat medium-rare or rare steak. Nobody frets about this. Similarly, New York City’s public-health office recommends that every single person in New York City remain masked indoors. Nobody pretends to follow it.

But we haven’t gotten all the way there.

There are still places in America where Covid remains a source of restriction, shame, coercion, and collecting a full-time check for doing a crappy job. Places like the Newark School District. Or certain prisons and jails that have banned all inmate visitations since the beginning of the pandemic. Or maybe your school still has ridiculous, parent-morale-destroying rules about exposure. A local science-truster tests their second-grader every twelve hours and reports a positive test, and now your child has to stay home for five days, or ten days, or two weeks leading up to graduation, even though nobody has so much as coughed or popped a fever.

The pandemic was a legitimate public-health crisis, at one point. But along the way, as more people became vaccinated, and more people became infected with less-severe strains, it stopped being a public-health crisis and instead became a crisis for public health itself.  We road-tested universal house arrest and the mass use of “emergency use” drugs, and began talking about entire countries as if they were wings of a universal human prison, entering and exiting out of “lockdowns.”

The last remaining restrictions on normal life are a national embarrassment. We should be ashamed that any American children are being told to wear their cloth masks for their moving-up ceremonies. Lunatic people were often more right than the experts. And I’m ashamed I didn’t join the lunatics earlier. I’ll never forget it.

Setting aside concerns about the structure of the January 6 committee, its public proceedings have served to expose just how cockamamie the schemes of Donald Trump’s inner circle were, by their own admission. From Zachary Evans at the news desk:

One day before the January 6 riot, lawyer John Eastman privately admitted that his proposal for then-vice president Mike Pence to reject electoral votes that were unfavorable to President Trump would not have survived a challenge in the Supreme Court, former Pence counsel Greg Jacob testified on Thursday.

Jacob revealed the admission during testimony to the House Committee on the January 6 Capitol riot on Thursday.

Jacob said that in a meeting with Trump and Pence on January 4, Eastman said that Pence could either reject the Electoral College results outright, or that he could suspend the certification of results and demand that certain states reexamine their election results on the grounds that they were tainted by fraud. During a subsequent meeting on January 5, Eastman requested that Pence reject the Electoral College results, according to Jacob.

However, Jacob said Eastman also admitted on January 5 that his proposals to nullify the results would be rejected by the Supreme Court, although Eastman also contended that courts would not hear the issue in the first place.

“When I pressed him on the point, I said, ‘John, if the vice president did what you are asking him to do, we would lose 9-to-nothing in the Supreme Court, wouldn’t we?’” Jacob testified.

“And he initially started it, ‘Well, I think maybe you would lose only 7-2,’” Jacob said, “and after some further discussion acknowledged, ‘Well, yeah, you’re right, we would lose 9-nothing.’”

Abigail Anthony examines the assault on a once-popular word:

The Daily Wire produced a documentary that features conservative commentator Matt Walsh traveling worldwide to ask a simple question: “What is a woman?” The responses are both shocking and unintelligible. The diverse interviewees include professors, female athletes, African villagers, and random pedestrians. The movie’s initial comical tone grows sinister, as eminent doctors offer absurd explanations of gender as a social construct isolable from biological sex, then proceed to justify genital mutilation, castration, and sterilization for minors. Scholars in the movie condemn the pathologizing of gender dysphoria but praise its medical treatment. Those arguing that gender is independent of sex simultaneously encourage surgeries so that embodiment and gender identity correspond.

Walsh refrains from debating and does not attempt to change his interlocutors’ minds. Instead, he asks direct questions, and in response, progressives disgrace themselves repeatedly by failing to defend their own ideology with substantive arguments. The irony is profound: The people who earn degrees in women’s studies apparently do not know what they are studying. It is troubling when the “experts” in the film provide definitions for “woman” that are wrong, but it is astounding when they cannot provide any definition and resort to the circular explanation that a woman is a person who identifies as a woman.

I applaud the documentary as another valiant achievement in the effort to combat gender ideology, a ridiculous — and dangerous — thought experiment pervading virtually every aspect of American culture. Yet it neglects an important linguistic, sociopolitical phenomenon that deserves attention. The film operates on the premise that proponents of gender theory employ the word “woman.” Increasingly, they don’t. Progressives are crippled by a commitment to inclusivity, which demands abandoning the term “woman” in favor of gender-neutral language or phrasal substitutes such as “people with uteruses.” . . .

Examples are endless. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) has used the phrase “menstruating persons.” The menstrual-product company Callaly argues that “not everyone who menstruates is a woman (periods can be experienced by trans men, and intersex and non binary people too) just as not all women menstruate (for a range of reasons including contraception, menopause, health conditions and trans gender)”so “‘women’ is therefore not the most accurate word to use when we’re talking about the people who use our products.” Tampax tweeted: “Fact: Not all women have periods. Also a fact: Not all people with periods are women. Let’s celebrate the diversity of all people who bleed!” NPR tweeted that “people who menstruate are saying it’s hard to find tampons on store shelves across the U.S. right now, as supply chain upsets reach the feminine care aisle.” Evidently, “feminine care” is not experienced by females but rather by “people who menstruate.”

An overview on inflation, what’s causing it, and how long it might be with us, from NR’s editorial:

As an expression of optimism about the current economy, “peak inflation” has had a far shorter shelf life than “transitory.” May’s headline inflation number of 8.6 percent put an end to hopes that surging prices had peaked with March’s 8.5 percent (in April, the year-on-year increase had declined to 8.3 percent). There is little in the immediate future to suggest that things will cool down any time soon.

There is more to this than Putin’s price hike™.  The price of oil and of various foodstuffs, such as wheat, was increasing long before the war was on the horizon. To be sure, even these increases had only a limited connection to U.S. policy (thus unfavorable weather conditions made a significant contribution to the run-up in the wheat price). While those price increases are problems in their own right, they are still only relative prices and do not on their own represent a general increase in the price level. Much of our current inflation is homemade — by the Fed and, to a lesser extent, by reckless fiscal policy — and is now showing worrying signs of becoming entrenched. . . .

The administration should demonstrate that it is determined to set this country back on the course of living within its means and that its intent is that this should be achieved by discipline on the spending side rather than higher taxation. This is a course correction that will take time, even in the unlikely event that the Democrats wish to make it. However, in the spirit of not making things even worse than they already are, plans to revive Build Back Better or, for that matter, to embark on an expanded student-loan-forgiveness program should be scrapped. Pressing forward with either will only reinforce Americans’ perception that Washington is not serious about inflation, further increasing the risk that this bout of inflation will feed upon itself.

Shout-Outs

Andrew Kerr & Jerry Dunleavy, at the Washington Examiner: LISTEN: The moment Hunter Biden says his father will do anything he tells him to

Eric Boehm, at Reason: Why Biden’s Claim of Cutting the Deficit Is False, in a Single Chart

Austin Williams, at UnHerd: Zero Covid has radicalized Shanghai

Reid J. Epstein & Jennifer Medina, at the New York Times: Should Biden Run in 2024? Democratic Whispers of ‘No’ Start to Rise.”

CODA

A number of you responded to last week’s solicitation for some lively (almost) summer live acts, with anecdotes and recs. With absolutely no ado . . .

Here’s the Mavericks doing “All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down,” courtesy of John Shelton Reed. Here’s Rare Earth doing “I Just Want to Celebrate” back in 1974 (there’s a story there), courtesy of Kevin in St. Petersburg, Fla. Kevin Antonio sends along Nick Lowe & Los Straitjackets, and John Wilsford gives appreciation for the cross-generational appeal of Brazilian superstar Roberto Carlos, live.

Enjoy the weather, and thanks for reading.

Energy & Environment

Gas-Stove Bans Are Starting to Look Racist

Loading...
(bgton/Getty Images)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

The headline above might be harsh. (I pulled punches when I last posted about the burning topic of natural-gas bans.)

But if we adopt the view that disparate impact demonstrates the inherent bias of the policies that lead to it, then the ever-multiplying city-level restrictions on gas stoves are at least discriminatory. A move by Los Angeles to zero out gas lines in new buildings is bringing these concerns to the fore.

Now, the outrage factor here probably simmers at around medium-low, compared with that over inflation, Supreme Court drama, the border, Ukraine . . . which is proper. Still, it represents yet more municipal misjudgment that tends to backfire with voters (see Boudin, Chesa). Why does Los Angeles matter? While dozens of U.S. cities have gone in this direction, the presence of so many Asian restaurants in the sprawling coastal metropolis (which includes America’s largest Koreatown) highlights how these policies harm, even inadvertently, certain cooking cultures that depend on live fire.

The Los Angeles Times, with Korean BBQ on the brain, recently published candid quotes from Asian restaurateurs concerned that any switch to electric would compromise their cuisine. To some, electrification is assimilation:

Leo and Lydia Lee, owners of RiceBox, a Cantonese BBQ restaurant in downtown Los Angeles, use gas to cook the entirety of their menu, with the exception of rice. Gas powers the stoves used to cook dishes in a wok and the custom barbecue oven used to prepare the restaurant’s signature char siu Duroc pork, roasted low and slow with a sweet honey glaze.

“The wok itself is really essential to Asian cuisine,” Leo said. “By taking gas away, you’re telling us we cannot use woks anymore, essentially taking away our identity and heritage. It forces us to adapt to American culture.”

This is Los Angeles, and some chefs are conflicted, torn between wanting to combat climate change and stay true to their culture.

One such individual, Bryant Ng, emphasized the importance of using natural flame when cooking with a wok, telling the L.A. Times, “You can’t really replicate that with something electric without an actual flame.” He described the switch to electric or induction as hard but possible — yet also costly.

“It may be prohibitive for many restaurants,” Ng wrote. “And would discriminate against restaurants owned by POC.”

Hope is not lost for these restaurants, as the rules would apply to new construction, not existing establishments, and some are pushing for restaurant exemptions. But those home cooks and professional chefs who do occupy no-gas buildings would feel something amiss without the flame, as Phil Klein noted, and it’s hard to get past the reality that Asian and Latin American cultures are uniquely impacted by these rules.

Every policy involves trade-offs, of course. I happen to believe climate change is a problem worth addressing. But the trade-offs should involve clear benefits, and it’s not evident these bans produce them. Moving new buildings to all-electric will require more electricity generation, only a fraction of which is powered by renewables today. In fact, natural gas remains the biggest source of electricity generation in the U.S., followed by coal. Los Angeles endeavors to clean up its electric grid over the next decade (watch out for an “overstretched grid,” Andrew Stuttaford warns). But until that mix changes, electrification may be more health than climate policy, cutting down on indoor fumes without slashing emissions generally. Where stoves are concerned, that seems to be a trade-off that chefs, not governments, should weigh.

The California Restaurant Association, which is fighting a similar Berkeley measure in court, is beginning to amplify the point that minorities are disproportionately affected. In circulating that same L.A. Times article, the group tweeted this quote from its president: “With the sheer number of restaurants in L.A., this will have a massive impact on the future of the restaurant industry and how many diverse cuisines are offered.”

Translation: Absent needed exemptions, these bans threaten to turn the country’s rich culinary melting pot into one big bowl of Progresso.

*    *    *

But enough about soup. A new issue of NR is out, and you can find its digital likeness here. There is also much to say about the alarming threat on Justice Kavanaugh’s life this past week, and about the role political rhetoric plays in creating this environment. You can read more on that here, and below.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

It’s time to start taking security for Supreme Court justices seriously: The Frightening Threat to Brett Kavanaugh

About those gas prices: Biden’s $5 Gallon

Called it: Chesa Boudin Must Go

The double standard of justice is getting old: The Biden Justice Department’s Shameful Pandering to Bomb-Throwing Rioters

ARTICLES

Rich Lowry: Biden Is an Old Man Overwhelmed by Events

Rich Lowry: The United States Has an Epidemic of Gang Shootings

Alexandra DeSanctis: Abortion Supporters, End the Violence

Andrew McCarthy: The Threat on Kavanaugh’s Life Didn’t Happen in a Vacuum

Dan McLaughlin: Democrats Need to Call Off Targeting Supreme Court Justices after Armed Assassin Arrested at Kavanaugh’s House

Dan McLaughlin: Ilya Shapiro Resigns from Georgetown Law School

Caroline Downey: Schools Reopened after Covid — But the Kids Never Returned

Kyle Smith: Hollywood’s China Breakup Is Long Overdue

Ryan Mills: Recall Organizers Say Incompetence, Not Politics, Drove Boudin Ouster

Jim Geraghty: Ultra-Progressive Politics Rebuked in California

Charles C. W. Cooke: Progressives Have a Twitter Problem

Brittany Bernstein: January 6 Committee Shows Previously Unseen Footage of Capitol Riot

Kevin Williamson: Of Course Haircuts Have Genders

CAPITAL MATTERS

Joseph Sullivan reads the digital tea leaves on inflation: Has Inflation Peaked? Google Trends Data Say No

Dan McLaughlin explains why Democrats can’t fix it: Why Democrats Can’t Handle Inflation

Dominic Pino calls foul on Biden’s latest use of the Defense Production Act: Biden’s Flagrant Abuse of Emergency Powers Must Be Stopped

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Jack Wolfsohn talks to Matt Walsh about his new documentary: Matt Walsh Stumps the Left with One Simple Question . . . And Madeleine Kearns tackles that doc here: Is the Truth Transphobic?

Top Gun: Maverick has Armond White pondering another classic: Tom Cruise’s Hit Revives Sternberg’s Last American Film

Brian Allen heads to the home and studio of the Lincoln Memorial sculptor for some monumental history: Exploring Chesterwood, Home of Lincoln Memorial Sculptor Daniel Chester French

FROM THE NEW, JUNE 27, 2022, ISSUE OF NR

Christine Rosen: Ban Kids from Social Media

Andrew McCarthy: Russiagate Misunderstood

Michael Brendan Dougherty: The Modest Burden of Life

Mario Loyola: What Is the Ukraine Endgame?

AT RISK OF PROVIDING TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING . . .

NR’s cover story by Christine Rosen poses a very fair question:

Why don’t we have a legally enforceable age requirement for the use of social media? As a society, we long ago agreed upon age-restriction laws governing a range of behaviors (driving, voting, enlisting in the military, smoking, drinking alcohol, getting a tattoo). Why do we treat social-media use differently?

A recent survey by Common Sense Media of social-media use found a significant increase in the number of children ages eight to twelve (so-called tweens) using social-media platforms such as Snapchat, TikTok, and Instagram. “The huge number of kids using social when they’re so young — it makes me want to cry,” Diana Graber of Cyberwise told the New York Times. “These social-media apps are not designed for children.”

And yet for far too long we’ve effectively acted as if they were, because we’ve done little to prevent children from having access to them. The age limit of 13 that currently governs social-media platforms was arbitrarily chosen as part of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which came into effect in 2000 (four years before Facebook was created). It was meant to restrict how companies could use children’s data as well as requiring “verifiable parental consent” for those younger than age 13.

As anyone who has ever stumbled across an eleven-year-old’s Instagram account will tell you, however, the system never worked. The request to verify one’s age is merely a suggestion, with no real effort at verification. There are no financial or legal repercussions for the companies that fail to confirm the ages of their users and every incentive financially for them to look the other way as underage kids create accounts. You could call it an honor system, but there is little that is honorable about the goals these social-media companies have set for drawing ever-younger users to their platforms.

America is in trouble on inflation, and Dan McLaughlin succinctly explains why:

There are only two fixes for inflation: reduce the supply of money, or increase the supply of goods and services. How do you reduce the supply of money? There are four ways to do this:

  1. Slash public spending, so the government is injecting less money into the economy.
  2. Raise interest rates, which puts recessionary pressure on the economy.
  3. Raise taxes without raising spending, so the government is extracting more money from the economy.
  4. Incentivize a shift from spending to savings, which reduces the amount of money chasing goods and services.

Increasing the supply of goods and services can really only be done by government by lowering the cost of supply — either by reducing regulatory burdens, eliminating environmental roadblocks to drilling and other development, cutting business taxes, reducing trade barriers, or pursuing other efforts to get government out of the hair of business.

Nowhere on this list is anything Democrats prefer to do, with the arguable exception of tax hikes — and when Democrats promote tax hikes, they almost always do it in conjunction with even larger increases in spending. They can’t make it easier for business to drill for oil or build stuff. They can’t cut spending. They can’t rework the tax burden for more consumption taxes and fewer taxes on investing (to incentivize more savings and investment and less spending). . . .

Inflation might get marginally better on its own as global supply chains continue to recover, but so long as Democrats and progressives are in charge, no solutions will be on the menu.

From the editorial on the alleged assassination attempt on Justice Kavanaugh:

As disturbing as this news is, we cannot say it is surprising. In the weeks following the leaked Justice Samuel Alito opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, pro-abortion protesters have vandalized and firebombed pro-life organizations, harassed churchgoers, and shown up at justices’ homes. Leading up to the incident at Kavanaugh’s house, justices received a flood of death threats. Even after news broke of the foiled assassination attempt, protesters gathered Wednesday evening to picket outside his home.

Biden has tried to thread the needle by not opposing protests at justices’ homes as long as they were peaceful. When former White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked last month about activists posting a map of justices’ homes, her response was, “I think the president’s view is that there’s a lot of passion, a lot of fear, a lot of sadness from many, many people across this country about what they saw in that leaked document.” While saying that Biden wanted the protests to be peaceful, she added, “I don’t have an official U.S. government position on where people protest.”

The Left mostly shrugged at this problem. Georgetown Law professor Josh Chafetz argued that protesting in front of justices’ homes was justified because fencing had been erected in front of the Supreme Court building. One opinion piece from NBC’s Noah Berlatsky, which aged particularly poorly, was headlined, “Brett Kavanaugh is not in danger — unlike the abortion precedent he’s ready to overturn.” . . .

The time for playing games is over. The prospect of the assassination of a Supreme Court justice linked to the outcome of a pending case poses such a significant threat to our republic that it should send chills down the spine of every American. The House should pass the Supreme Court security bill immediately, Biden should stop equivocating about intimidation efforts by his own side, federal laws against protesting at judges’ homes should be enforced, justices should receive all the protection they need, and we should all pray for their safety.

Kyle Smith asks Hollywood, somewhat rhetorically, whether all the pandering to China is worth it:

Hollywood is coming to the sad realization that pursuing Chinese money is not worth the creative and moral cost. Disney effusively thanked several different arms of the Chinese police state in Xinjiang Province — gracias, Gestapo! — in the credits of 2020’s Mulan, a movie built to appeal to China, and the Communist Party banned it anyway. China demanded that Sony censor Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood for its unflattering portrayal of Bruce Lee — and Lee was not even a Chinese national. (He was born in San Francisco and raised in British Hong Kong.) Tarantino refused, and Sony properly told China to stuff it. The same movie could easily have been banned for a different nonsensical reason: It starred Brad Pitt, whose movies were banned from China for years because he had starred in Seven Years in Tibet.

China banned The Dark Knight (the problem was a scene with a Hong Kong money launderer), Ghostbusters (no ghosts allowed), Deadpool (too violent), Noah (Christian prophecy is a no-no), and Joker (too dark? Who knows? R-rated movies generally don’t get released in China unless they are cleaned up).

Meanwhile, American consumers are beginning to be disgusted by Hollywood’s partnership with an evil empire and to notice the double standard. Appeasing China will cost Hollywood some brand value. This spring, as Disney was making a fuss about a Florida law that bars teachers from bringing up sexuality among little kids, Warner Bros. was mollifying China by removing gay references from Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore — whose title character is gay, at least in the original version. The Warner statement was classic corporate doublespeak: “We’re committed to safeguarding the integrity of every film we release, and that extends to circumstances that necessitate making nuanced cuts in order to respond sensitively to a variety of in-market factors.”

The Chinese Communist Party’s censors are now the “integrity safeguarding” lads. The movie went on to gross $28 million in China, only $7 million of which goes back to WB. Was it worth it? China has made itself a cultural pariah, and Hollywood doesn’t need to continue grinding its principles to dust to be its partner.

Honorable Mention

Consider this your weekly reminder that National Review cruises are back. You can find details on how to join National Review Institute on the next one here: http://nricruise.com/

Shout-Outs

Nate Hochman, at the New York Times: What Comes After the Religious Right?

Ilya Shapiro, at the Wall Street Journal: Why I Quit Georgetown

Josh Barro: Are There Any Adults at the Washington Post?

Sean Trende, at RealClearPolitics: The Senate Seats Most Likely to Flip in 2022

CODA

I recently returned from a too-brief visit with family to New Orleans where I got to swing by a couple of the great clubs on Frenchmen Street, which is always a treat. We caught Dominick Grillo & the Frenchmen Street All-Stars, aptly named, at the Spotted Cat. I will share the only video I can find on their YouTube page, but it gives you a taste of the swing they bring. I overheard the bartender on a Sunday night talk up their drummer as the best in the city. A little bit of salesmanship? Sure. But not necessarily hyperbole.

Seen any lively live acts lately? It is the start of the summer concert season, after all. Share with this list, send me a song: jberger@nationalreview.com.

Thanks for reading.

Politics & Policy

Setting the Record Straight

Loading...
Attorney Michael Sussmann (at left) departs the U.S. Federal Courthouse after opening arguments in his trial in Washington, D.C., May 17, 2022. (Julia Nikhinson/Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Fair is foul and foul is fair, say some.

“Michael Sussmann is innocent!” Except that he’s not. “The Second Amendment guarantees no individual right!” Except that it does. Race-blind is racist. Spending is not inflationary, and on and on and on it goes.

We’re here to set the record straight, not that you Dear Jolter, are likely to be in need of any such straightening. Nevertheless, it’s nice to be reminded you’re not alone in the land of the sane, right?

Yes, Joe Biden is far too old to be president. No, critical theory is not a substitute for phonics. Yes, Ilya Shapiro’s being reinstated at Georgetown Law was a victory. No, we should not feel much better about the state of our culture so long as mousy men like Georgetown Law dean Bill Treanor remain in positions of power.

Much of this would be a bore to go over, were it not for the talent of our stable of writers for finding unique angles to decry and fisk and explain and even comfort, when necessary. I’ll keep this short and allow you ample time to learn, eye-roll, and fist-pump from, at, and to the goodies below. Enjoy!

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

Corporations are people, my friend: The Supreme Court Should Protect Social-Media Free Speech

Red Flag laws have merit, but only on the state level: Say No to a National ‘Red Flag’ Law

On inflation, President Biden has tried nothing and is all out of ideas: Joe Biden’s Out of Ideas about Inflation

John Durham has demonstrated the worth of his work, even in failure: Durham’s Work Must Go On, despite Sussmann Acquittal

The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun and the willingness to act: The Uvalde Outrage

ARTICLES

Kyle Smith: Norm Macdonald Killed before He Died

Charles C. W. Cooke: Stop Lying about the Historical Understanding of Gun Rights

Madeleine Kearns: A Reckoning for MeToo

Ari Schaffer: Georgia Republicans Flip the Script on Stolen Elections

Jack Crowe: UPenn Med School Leaders Turn on Former Dean over ‘Racist’ Affirmative-Action Criticism

Rich Lowry: The Blowhard-in-Chief

Jim Geraghty: Could Los Angeles Elect a (Relatively) Conservative Mayor?

Jeff Eager: Does the GOP Actually Have a Shot in Oregon This Year?

Dan McLaughlin: We Don’t Have to ‘Do Nothing’ on School Shootings

Alexandra DeSanctis: Understanding the Human Cry behind the Pro-Abortion Cause

John McCormack: Do Americans Really Want an Octogenarian in the Oval Office?

CAPITAL MATTERS

Ben Sperry gives yet another example of what’s wrong with the everything-is-everything mindset: Broadband Internet Isn’t a Social-Justice Issue

Do you have too much money in your pocket? Is that the problem? Ryan Ellis thinks not: The Left Is Wrong: We’re Overspending, Not Undertaxing

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Only Armond White could cause you to want to drop everything and run to the theaters for a poet’s biopic: Terence Davies’s Magnificent Benediction

Kyle Smith is grateful for an indefatigable Maverick: Thanks, Tom Cruise

Brian T. Allen writes in praise of Donatello, and a new exhibition in Florence: Donatello, the Renaissance Genius on Whose Shoulders Other Geniuses Stand

THE CHARGE: GREAT COPY, THE PLEA: GUILTY

A jury may have found Michael Sussmann innocent, but the Editors remain sure of Special Counsel John Durham’s purpose:

The usual suspects are taking the acquittal of Democratic lawyer Michael Sussmann as proof that Special Counsel John Durham never had a real case to investigate. Instead, it should put a spotlight on what really needs investigating: the FBI’s role in the Trump–Russia “collusion” farce.

In the case that Durham unwisely brought, the FBI played the part of the victim. And there is no serious question that Sussmann lied to it. He conveyed an allegation that Donald Trump, at the time the Republican presidential candidate, had established a communications back channel with the Kremlin through servers at Russia’s Alfa Bank. While the allegation was based on misleadingly mined Internet data, the lie at issue in the trial was Sussmann’s claim not to be representing a client. At the time, he was in fact representing both the campaign of Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, and the tech executive who had compiled the data, Clinton partisan Rodney Joffe.

We have smoking-gun proof that Sussmann lied: a text message he sent the night before his September 19, 2016, meeting with the FBI. Sussmann — a former Justice Department cybersecurity lawyer — assured his old friend James Baker, then the FBI’s general counsel, that he wanted to bring the “sensitive” information only to “help the Bureau,” and not on behalf of any client.

At the time of the indictment, though, Durham did not have the text. Inexplicably, he did not obtain it until a few weeks before the trial, which was after the five-year statute of limitations had elapsed. The jury was thus told it could not find a false statement based on the text standing alone. Given that the one-on-one meeting between Sussmann and Baker was not recorded, and that Baker has given conflicting accounts of what was said when questioned about it over the years, Durham had a weak case.

Still, the principal impediment to conviction was the FBI itself.

Baker’s claim to have accepted Sussmann’s cover story rang hollow. The FBI knew exactly who Sussmann was. He was well known for representing top Democrats along with his then–law partner, Marc Elias (the main lawyer for the Clinton campaign). Moreover, the DNC had retained Sussmann earlier in 2016 to deal with the FBI in connection with its allegation that Russia had hacked its servers. Under Sussmann’s guidance, the DNC had resisted surrendering its servers to the FBI for forensic examination — instead hiring a private contractor, Crowdstrike. The notion that, just six weeks before Election Day, a top Democratic lawyer had no partisan motivation in bringing the FBI derogatory information about Trump, and that information just happened to support the Democratic smear of Trump as a Putin puppet, was laughable.

And sure enough, in the Sussmann trial’s most notable testimony, Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook admitted that Hillary Clinton had personally approved leaking the Trump–Putin back-channel tale, which the campaign knew to be dubious, to the media. Once the media began running with the Alfa Bank story, just days before the election, Hillary Clinton herself (along with her aide Jake Sullivan, now Biden’s national-security adviser) amplified the news in tweets that anticipated an imminent FBI investigation.

Charlie Cooke has had it up to here with those who would have you believe the Second Amendment guarantees the only constitutional right not extended to individuals:

If it will please the court, I will happily fall onto both my knees, throw my arms up into the air, shake my head plaintively, and plead with America’s journalists, in the name of all that is good and right, to stop doing this:

The interpretation that the Second Amendment extends to individuals’ rights to own guns only became mainstream in 2008, when the Supreme Court ruled in a landmark gun case, District of Columbia vs. Heller, that Americans have a constitutional right to own guns in their homes, knocking down the District’s handgun ban.

This claim was made yesterday in the Washington Post, by a staff writer named Amber Phillips, under the tag “Analysis.” It is, of course, a ridiculous, contemptuous, malicious lie, a myth, or, if you prefer to use a phrase that has become popular of late, disinformation. It has never — at any point in the history of the United States — been “mainstream” to interpret the Second Amendment as anything other than a protection of “individuals’ rights to own guns.” The decision in Heller was, indeed, “landmark.” But it was so only because it represented the first time that the Supreme Court had been asked a direct question about the meaning of the amendment that, for more than two centuries up to then, had not needed to be asked.

Three months before Heller was decided, 73 percent of Americans believed that “the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the rights of Americans to own guns,” with just 20 percent contending that it “only guarantees members of state militias such as National Guard units the right to own guns.” That 73 percent supermajority (we might call it the “mainstream”) included a majority of non-gun-owners — which, well, of course it did, given that the alternative interpretation represents a preposterous conspiracy theory. To be within that 20 percent minority, one must ignore all of the history before the Second Amendment’s passage; all of the contemporary commentary as to its meaning; James Madison’s intention to insert it into the Constitution next to the other individual rights in Article I, Section 9, rather than next to the militia clause in Article I, Section 8, clause 16; the 45 state-level rights to keep and bear arms, many of which predated the Second Amendment; the meaning of “the people” everywhere else in the Bill of Rights; the fact that it would make no sense at all to give an individual a “right” to join a state-run institution from which the federal government could bar him; and all evidence of what the United States was actually like prior to 2008.

Writing in 1989, the progressive law professor Sanford Levinson explained in the Yale Law Journal that the theory that Amber Phillips is now laundering “is derived from a mixture of sheer opposition to the idea of private ownership of guns and the perhaps subconscious fear that altogether plausible, perhaps even ‘winning,’ interpretations of the Second Amendment would present real hurdles to those of us supporting prohibitory regulation.” Or, as Adam Liptak put it in the New York Times in 2007, the theory that Phillips has shared is based on “received wisdom and political preferences rather than a serious consideration of the amendment’s text, history and place in the structure of the Constitution.” Once one undertakes that “serious consideration,” one recognizes immediately that the “collective right” claim is, and always has been, a cynical, dishonest, outcome-driven farce. There is a good reason why even Barack Obama responded to the Heller decision by confirming that he had “always believed that the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to bear arms”: The alternative is a joke.

Ari Schaffer, formerly of Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger’s office, takes a well-deserved victory lap over conspiracy theorists of all stripes:

While much of the coverage of the victories by Kemp, Raffensperger, and Attorney General Chris Carr has focused on what they mean for the Republican Party, what they mean for the general election deserves more attention: Georgia’s Democrats will finally have to answer for their own stolen-election claims.

Kemp, Raffensperger, and Carr all stood up to the baseless stolen-election claims pushed by Trump and his supporters. Raffensperger took the brunt of the heat and refused to back down, touring the state and appearing on even the most Trump-friendly media outlets time and time again to answer questions. He launched around 250 investigations related to the 2020 elections, around 130 of which dealt with the November general election specifically, but never found enough evidence to put in doubt the results of the presidential race. In a now-famous phone call, Raffensperger stood up to Trump himself in defense of Georgia’s elections.

Kemp has likewise repeatedly pushed back against allegations that the November 2020 election was stolen, and Carr fought for the integrity of the vote in the courts, working to beat back the false claims of Sidney Powell, Lin Wood, and other Trump-affiliated figures.

Indeed, instead of bowing to pressure and leaning into Trump’s stolen-election claims, or even letting them fester unrefuted, Raffensperger, Kemp, and Carr stood up for Georgia’s elections.

On the other side of the aisle, Georgia’s Democratic ticket will be led in November 2022 by Stacey Abrams, who has become a national name by making stolen-election claims of her own.

In November 2018, Abrams refused to concede to Kemp after he defeated her in the state’s gubernatorial election, though her margin of defeat would end up being four times as large as Trump’s was in 2020. She claimed thousands of votes were suppressed and immediately filed a since-rejected lawsuit against Georgia’s election system. She later launched Fair Fight Action, which raised more than $66 million in the 2019–2020 election cycle in part through repeating her stolen-election claims. In the years since her defeat, she has used some of the very same language to cast doubt on the results of her 2018 gubernatorial bid that Trump used to question the results of his 2020 presidential bid.

The 2020 election and its aftermath notwithstanding, Abrams has still refused to concede that she lost in 2018, parroting the stolen-election claims she and Trump have made for years.

The top vote-getter in the Democratic primary for Georgia secretary of state, Bee Nguyen, recently received Abrams’s endorsement in the runoff. In December 2018, Nguyen shared on Twitter an article that claimed that because of “Georgia’s outdated, hackable voting machines,” and “merciless purging and blocking of minority voters . . . Georgia voters will never know who veritably won the [2018] gubernatorial and seventh congressional district races.”

Him?” asks John McCormack:

If Biden, at the age of 79, is registering poll numbers like that in 2022, how much more will the issue of his age weigh on the minds of voters should he seek another term in 2024?

Americans will not merely have to be comfortable with the fitness of the man they vote for in 2024 — they will have to confident that he’ll remain fit to serve as president through January 20, 2029, when Biden would be 86 years old. Attacks on Ronald Reagan’s age obviously didn’t hurt him in 1984, but at the end of a second term Biden would be nearly a decade older than Reagan was when he left office at the age of 77.

Voters do not need to play the role of armchair psychiatrist to see that Biden has lost a step. Despite all the attempts in the mainstream media to recast Biden’s troubles speaking as a lifelong battle with a stutter, it is plain to anyone with eyes and ears that the president who now struggles to make it through a speech is not nearly as sharp as the vice president who debated Paul Ryan in 2012.

It’s far from clear that the issue of age will sink Biden if he runs again in 2024, but it is clear that Republican primary voters could do a lot to help protect Biden from age-related attacks if they nominated Donald Trump for a third time. Trump’s worst mental deficiencies are his erratic personality and his conspiratorial mindset, but he’s also very old: If he ran and won in 2024, he’d be 82 by the time his term ended in January 2029.

Both Biden and Trump are giving every public indication that they will indeed run in 2024, and there’s no sign that they are saying something different behind the scenes. As New York magazine’s Gabriel Debenedetti reported last week, Biden “has said in private that he sees himself as the only thing standing between the country and the Trumpian abyss and has instructed his aides to redouble their planning for a rematch.”

Shout-Outs

Noah Rothman, at Commentary: Biden’s Anti-Saudi Campaign Made Little Sense and Cost You Dearly

Erika Bachiochi with Ezra Klein, on a podcast at the New York Times: Sex, Abortion, and Feminism, as Seen From the Right

The Editorial Board, at the Wall Street Journal: The Supreme Court’s Mail-Ballot Mulligan in Pennsylvania

CODA

I know we’re supposed to be angry at Disney — and I am — but if you’re boycotting, I highly recommend breaking your fast for the new Obi-Wan Kenobi series, which has proven me oh-so-very right and Jack Butler oh-so-very wrong. Same as it ever was.

White House

The ‘Lifeline’ That Wasn’t

Loading...
President Biden signs the American Rescue Plan in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, D.C., March 11, 2021. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

The case for the American Rescue Plan Act was dubious from the start. Why, when the economy was coming back to life, vaccinations were being distributed, and Covid cases were declining, was a nearly $2 trillion “relief” package necessary?

Early-stage government spending on this crisis was doubtless vital, given the obligation to tackle the pandemic and cover the lost income of workers forced to stay home. Rich Lowry warned at the time, however, that the March 2021 package was poorly (and politically) targeted:

Take public education, where Democratic-allied teacher unions dominate. It’s not clear why any additional spending is necessary, given that tens of billions of education funding from prior COVID-relief bills still is unspent, even as many districts have already begun to reopen for in-person instruction.

Nonetheless, the bill spends roughly another $130 billion on K–12 education, which will be spread out over years.

Meanwhile, $350 billion in aid went to states and localities despite questionable need.

Fast-forward a year, and, sure enough, those districts have more than they required on any emergency basis, so the money either is going unspent or being directed to other purposes. Kyle Smith highlights the, um, creativity of Providence, R.I.:

The city of Providence, R.I., has hit on a seemingly new reason for spending the money: reparations for black and indigenous people. . . . Providence is spending a $124 million federal grant on housing, infrastructure, and other things that have nothing to do with the pandemic, plus $10 million on reparations, via a yet-to-be-determined method.

Providence is not the only city finding other uses for pandemic-relief cash. Meanwhile, those school districts that received funds are still “struggling” . . . wait for it . . . to spend the money they received. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that they have yet to spend 93 percent of it. They face a September 2024 deadline to use it or lose it. (Charles C. W. Cooke has an idea for what to do with the money.)

Looking at another tranche, the Washington Post examined an estimated $163 billion in improper unemployment-related payments from prior pandemic aid, finding most of it has not been recovered. “In many cases, the criminals stole the unemployment funds using real Americans’ personal information,” the paper reported.

Fraud and mistakes that add up to large sums are unavoidable when administering programs of this size, though $163 billion is hardly a rounding error. As Dan McLaughlin laments, “If you just start shoveling big gobs of money out the door in a hurry, a lot of it will go to people who are gaming the system or outright robbing it.” Let’s assume the need to pump aid into the economy outweighed the risk posed by predatory fraudsters early on. But when, a year later, the clear downsides of another surge overwhelmed the attenuating benefits, Democrats prioritized The Win. Any justification served. Upon Senate passage of the American Rescue Plan Act in March 2021, American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten pretended metaphors don’t exist and called it “quite literally a lifeline for an economy that desperately needs one,” citing the need to make schools safe for in-person instruction. Well, schools are open, and most of that money wasn’t spent during the crisis.

Plenty of ARP money, of course, did stream into the economy. Rather than a lifeline, it became an accelerant for inflation; even Vox acknowledges the connection. It compounded the debt crisis, also. These are among the reasons the Manhattan Institute’s Brian Riedl, months ago, called the program a “textbook case” of economic malpractice. We’re only beginning to find out how deep the dereliction went.

*   *   *

The Texas school shooting this week is a tragedy beyond words. The pain of the parents is unimaginable. We try not to imagine it, but every few years, an exhibition of evil raises the fear. This is an American problem, and one we should work to solve. The political debate to follow is a familiar one, but we should set one goal — policies that can reduce murders, and especially of children, as if it needs to be said. I don’t have the answers but would recommend a couple of thoughtful pieces, linked at the bottom of this newsletter, by NR alumni Robert VerBruggen and David French. Some of their ideas involve gun laws, though not all; RVB mentions raising the purchase age for some long guns, as does NR’s editorial. We should explore these ideas, and beware magic fixes. But the solution, as Dan McLaughlin suggests, also involves something more fundamental, difficult, and sustained, which is to fix ourselves. A culture within which turning a weapon on a classroom is on the menu of options for the alienated is a culture that needs curing.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

A closer look at what could make a difference in preventing school shootings, and what probably would not: There Is No Magic Fix for School Shootings

Cue Nelson Muntz laugh: A Bad Night for Lies

The shocking SBC report should not just sit on a shelf: Southern Baptist Report on Sexual Abuse Demands Action

The crackdown on a now-fired Princeton prof doesn’t smell right: Academic Freedom under Threat at Princeton

ARTICLES

Rich Lowry: The Big Lie about Georgia Voting Has Been Shredded

Kevin Williamson: It’s Time to Boot Turkey from NATO

Ryan Mills: Record Gas Prices Crush California Small Businesses

Caroline Downey: State Farm Abandons LGBTQ Children’s-Book Program after Whistleblower Email Leak

Nate Hochman: Princeton Rejected Professor Joshua Katz’s Offer to Resign, Lawyer Confirms

Jim Talent: Why Ukraine Matters

Isaac Schorr: Top FBI Officials Hid Sussmann’s Identity from Agents Working Trump-Russia Case, Agent Testifies

Isaac Schorr: FBI Leadership Was ‘Fired Up’ over Trump-Russia Evidence, Demanded Investigation Despite Rank-and-File Agents’ Doubts

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Supervillains Gather in Davos

Dan McLaughlin: 2020 Is Over

Madeleine Kearns: The Increasing Importance of Trans-Skeptical Comedy

CAPITAL MATTERS

Kevin Hassett addresses an increasingly common question: Is the Housing Bubble About to Burst?

David L. Bahnsen finds a common thread — reflecting an important lesson for the business world — in three streaming series: The Well-Deserved Death of ‘Stakeholder Capitalism’

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

A pop genius proves once more his intellectual and artistic independence. From Armond White: Van Morrison’s Songs of the Free

Is Gervais losing his edge? Kyle Smith investigates: Ricky Gervais vs. the Trans Mob

ICYMI last weekend, Brian Allen’s latest from Italy: An Unorthodox Take on the Venice Biennale’s Milk of Dreams Show

FROM THE NEW, JUNE 13, 2022, ISSUE OF NR

Ramesh Ponnuru: The Fed’s Half-Hearted War on Inflation

Rachel Lu: Can We Raise Birth Rates?

Jim Geraghty: Blue-Dog Democrat, Endangered Species

John Bolton: America’s Exceptional Conservatism

THIS FLOOD OF FREE COPY INTO THE ECONOMY CAN’T BE HELPING THE INFLATION SITUATION, EITHER

More from NR’s editorial on Uvalde:

Certainly, it is more complicated than pointing to a particular sort of gun and shouting “ban!” As has now become customary in such attacks, the shooter in Uvalde used an AR-15, which he bought legally on his 18th birthday. It is true that, over the last decade, this particular model of rifle has become the weapon of choice for many deranged mass shooters, even as it has remained statistically insignificant within the broader landscape of crime. (Each year, more Americans are killed by hands and feet than by all rifles put together.) It is not true, by contrast, that to remove it from the shelves of America’s gun stores would do anything useful at all. The worst mass shooting on a college campus in all of U.S. history — the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech — was carried out with a couple of handguns. The attack at Columbine High School in 1999 occurred while the Biden-written “assault weapons ban” was in place. Even today, handguns are more commonly used in massacres than are rifles. . . .

But there are a few avenues that seem promising as first steps toward addressing the mess.

We would encourage the careful consideration of “red flag” laws by states (but not at the federal level). Conversations held after mass shootings typically tend to focus on background checks, but, given that mass shooters almost always pass those checks, this represents a chronic misallocation of effort. Far too often, mass murderers convey obvious warning signs to those around them, even though they have neither the established criminal records nor diagnosed mental-health problems that would show up when trying to buy a gun from a stranger. We are sympathetic to fears that “red flag” provisions could be abused, but we would note that states such as Florida have shown that it is possible to balance effective interventions with the rigorous due-process protections to which all Americans are entitled.

Second, we would recommend that states bring their age-of-majority rules into harmony. There is no obvious reason why non-enlisted Americans should be able to buy a handgun at age 21 but to buy long guns at age 18, and if there is solid evidence that raising the age of the latter will help prevent mass murders, states should seriously consider doing so (as Florida did in 2018), or at least imposing more requirements — such as waiting periods and affirmative parental consent — in order for those under age 21 to purchase and carry firearms. Several perpetrators of recent massacres were 18-year-old males who purchased rifles at a store. Conservatives correctly complain that none of the proposals that gun-control activists tend to offer seem tailored to the problem they are hoping to address. This one would be, and it would pass constitutional muster.

Finally, we ought to make it tougher for madmen to gain access to our schools.

Dan McLaughlin looks for lessons in the primary elections of recent weeks:

For media obsessives, the big questions in the 2022 Republican primaries are all about Donald Trump, his claims that the 2020 election was stolen, and the January 6 riot. If you look at the results, however, it turns out that Republican voters have a lot else on their minds, and aren’t particularly stuck in 2020.

At first glance, it would seem difficult to tease out a trend. If you want to make the case that this is still Donald Trump’s party, marching to the beat of Trump’s endorsements, and full of Stop the Steal obsessives and a menagerie of rough-edged candidates, you’ll have plenty of evidence to point to. In Ohio, Trump-backed J. D. Vance won a five-way race for the party’s Senate nomination over four other candidates, three of whom had vied for the MAGA label. In North Carolina, Trump-backed Ted Budd beat former governor Pat McCrory. In Georgia, Trump-backed Herschel Walker stampeded his primary opponents like they were so many broken tackles. Dr. Oz is still clinging to a tenuous lead in Pennsylvania in a race where an even-more-MAGA (but not Trump-endorsed) candidate finished third. Formerly Trump-endorsed Mo Brooks made the runoff in Alabama. In Arkansas, John Boozman, with Trump’s backing, fended off a primary challenge from the right. . . .

If you want to make the case that Trump fever is broken, there is also plenty to work with. In Georgia, Trump invested heavily in defeating Governor Brian Kemp, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, Attorney General Chris Carr, and Insurance Commissioner John King. Yet despite recruiting heavyweight challengers to Kemp (former senator David Perdue) and Raffensperger (Representative Jody Hice), Trump failed to unseat any of the four incumbents, who all trounced the field en route to victory. In North Carolina, Madison Cawthorn was defeated. In Pennsylvania, Oz may yet lose. In Alabama, incumbent governor Kay Ivey beat back primary challenges encouraged by Trump, although he did not formally endorse a candidate, and Brooks was left for dead until Trump publicly un-endorsed him, after which he surged again in the polls to ultimately finish in second, 15 points behind Katie Britt, whom he’ll face in a runoff. A Trump-backed primary challenge to Idaho governor Brad Little failed, as did Trump’s candidate (Charles Herbster) in the open race for Nebraska governor. Trump stayed out of Dan Crenshaw’s House primary in Texas, which Crenshaw won easily.

What does it all mean? The most obvious conclusion to draw is that Republican primary voters are no longer so caught up in the Trump Show that other factors don’t matter in competitive races.

On a related note, Rich Lowry has penned the definitive fact check on all those claims that Georgia’s voting rules amounted to voter suppression:

The surge in the early vote in Georgia shows that all the smears about the state’s new voting law, repeated by everyone from the president of the United States on down, were complete nonsense — a fevered fantasy that the credulous and fanatical believed because they didn’t know better, and the cynical and opportunistic believed because it served their purposes.

On the Republican side, according to the secretary of state’s office, there were 453,929 early votes and 29,220 absentee votes so far this primary season (the absentee votes will keep coming in through Election Day on Tuesday). This is compared with just 153,264 early votes and 14,795 absentee voters during the last, pre-pandemic midterm, in 2018.

The Democrats have seen a similar surge. In 2022, there were 337,245 early votes and 31,704 absentee votes so far, compared with only 134,542 early votes and 13,051 absentee votes in 2018.

As Jim Geraghty has pointed out, the early vote among minorities in particular is up markedly.

It never made sense that the Georgia law was going to stop anyone from voting. The provisions that the Left complained about were clearly innocuous.

The rule against third parties providing food and drink to voters standing in lines at the polls was merely meant to stop electioneering at polling places (and the law attempts to address long lines, typically a problem of large, Democratic-run jurisdictions). The law limited drop boxes, but they hadn’t existed prior to 2020. It moved from signature match on mail-in ballots to the more reliable driver’s license or state-ID number — not a sea change. And it expanded hours available for early voting.

Now that a tsunami of early voting has shown that, indeed, there’s no voter suppression in Georgia, the disinformation scolds are nowhere to be seen; the fact-checkers aren’t swinging into action; the major newspapers aren’t preparing tick-tocks on how the president was led down the path of promoting misinformation about the legitimacy of our electoral system; the Sunday shows didn’t do long segments devoted to the theme of how democracy in Georgia, once claimed to be hanging by a thread, has remarkably revived — praise God, and hallelujah.

Michael Brendan Dougherty’s piece on Davos this week is peak MBD:

The World Economic Forum is a perennial subject for conspiracy theorists and QAnon people, having long since eclipsed the Trilateral Commission, the Bildeberg Group, and Bohemian Grove. The 2020 confab at Davos was billed as “The Great Reset” and promoted the ideas of German industrialist Klaus Schwab for rebuilding society and the economy after the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s from the creepy WEF promotional videos making “8 Predictions For the World in 2030” that the menacing phrase, You’ll own nothing. And you’ll be happy, emerged.

The other predictions were that there would be new climate taxes, and you will get 3D printed organs rather than organ donations, migrants will be welcomed, and you probably won’t be eating much meat. The word “reset” started making its way into speeches by Joe Biden, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, and New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern. You’ve seen resistance to the way of life depicted by the Great Reset whenever some young conservative says, “I will not live in a pod. I will not eat the bugs.”

Davos is an invaluable networking opportunity for its participants. It allows CEOs a nice chance to lobby the U.S. government for help and warn the Irish prime minister about raising taxes all over the same lunch. But Schwab’s obsessions with global political cooperation, environmentalism, and “the fourth industrial revolution” — his idea that the next great leap in capitalist productivity will come from integrating technology with the human person itself — guarantees that the presentations will be a mix of utopian globalism that somehow combine visions of global austerity (to reduce carbon) with nightmares about a handful of corporate and political leaders having direct access to your amygdala. . . .

One would think that a technology-powered future with 3D printing would finally increase the productivity of great artisans and craftsmen, which has remained stagnant for centuries and become so prohibitive that these arts and trades are being lost to the prefab altogether. Such a breakthrough would allow the physical environment to be rebuilt in the most glorious Georgian, Tudor, or Spanish Colonial styles, but available to the masses. Farms and pastures could practically run themselves, making food better, making it cheaply, and delivering it fresh. The greatest educators would run classes for all those who wanted to take them. And new technological breakthroughs would clean up the atmosphere.

But that’s not what they imagine at all. For the Davoisie, the future is your guts wirelessly reporting you truant and then a text message buzzing on every device in the house, warning your pets to exit the room while it is flooded with gas to sedate you into compliance with Pfizer. Afterwards a Chinese multinational informs you that the gas-flooding and Pfizer SWAT-team incident have brought about serious penalties to your carbon score, thereby deferring your long-awaited meat ration by several more years. As a help in the future, Microsoft’s cognitive copilot will be taking over even more duties and tasks previously assigned to you.

Shout-Outs

David French, at the Dispatch: Pass and Enforce Red Flag Laws. Now.

Robert VerBruggen, at City Journal: How to Respond to Uvalde?

Joshua Katz, at the Wall Street Journal: Princeton Fed Me to the Cancel Culture Mob

John Sudworth, at the BBC: The faces from China’s Uyghur detention camps

Honorable Mention(s)

Isaac Schorr, a.k.a. NR’s official Michael Sussmann trial correspondent, will be handling Joltian duties next weekend in my absence. How does he do it? Nobody is quite sure.

And another thing: a reminder on something oh-so-casually mentioned in last weekend’s note, that National Review cruises are back. You can find details on how to join National Review Institute on the next one here: http://nricruise.com/

CODA

I put out the call last weekend for some uplifting — even jubilant — music and received a flood of responses.

Brooks Eason (who is an author) writes in with “12th of June” by Lyle Lovett, the title track off his new album. I will quote from his note, which elegantly sets the scene:

Lyle Lovett, a kind gentleman and wonderful singer/songwriter, had an experience five summers ago that is unusual for a man approaching his twilight years. At the age of 59, for the first time, he became a father. His wife April gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl, on June 12, 2017. Lyle’s song, 12th of June, is the title track of his new album. Watch and listen to the video and be lifted up.

But wait, there’s more: David Edwards sends in some Clash. Kevin Antonio, some Sinatra. Dave Morefield, some Wynton Marsalis. And Cathearine Jenkins-Hall, some Schubert, specifically his “Trout” Quintet.

Oh, and this from Alex Hollis in Carlisle, Pa., of a thousand musicians playing “Learn to Fly” to entice the Foo Fighters to visit their town in Italy, is remarkable.

Thanks for the lift, all.

Economy & Business

Corporate America Finds Its Spine

Loading...
Left: Pro-abortion demonstrators march to Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s home in Alexandria, Va., May 9, 2022. Right: President Joe Biden delivers remarks on Russia’s attack on Ukraine in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., February 24, 2022. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters, Martin Barraud/Getty Images, Leah Millis/Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

There’s something amusing about watching cowed corporations finally summon the nerve to swim against ideological tides that never should have overpowered them. Like the bully standing up to his tormentor, the spelling-bee champion.

Charles C. W. Cooke weighed in recently on Netflix’s having discovered “the magical healing power of ‘No,’” with updated guidelines telling staff, “If you’d find it hard to support our content breadth, Netflix may not be the best place for you.”

Which is . . . a completely normal piece of advice for a person working at a company. In this climate, however, articulating it takes a certain degree of mettle. Netflix, it appears, is not the only corporate voice rediscovering this quality, and in arenas beyond the culture wars. The Biden administration’s inflation gaslighting, too, is eliciting boardroom rebukes. 

Jeff Bezos, granted, is a difficult man to root for, what with his army of robot dogs — but in calling out President Biden’s nonsensical claim that corporate taxes are the way out of inflation, he is taking a necessary swipe at the “greedflation” theorists distorting this policy debate. Hooray for Bezos? Feels kinda dirty, but — yeah.

His Twitter reply to the president reads: “The newly created Disinformation Board should review this tweet, or maybe they need to form a new Non Sequitur Board instead. Raising corp taxes is fine to discuss. Taming inflation is critical to discuss. Mushing them together is just misdirection.”

Woof. For Bezos, this level of sass was downright Muskian. As the White House hit back, he reminded his 4 million-plus followers that the administration had attempted to spend another $3.5 trillion which would have further exacerbated inflation.

NR’s editorial elaborates on what is agitating Bezos types so much:

As Bezos was quick to acknowledge, there is a case to be made for raising corporate taxes (we are not persuaded by that case, but there is a good-faith argument there), and certainly there is a crying need for an anti-inflation policy — but to pretend that these are the same thing is economic illiteracy. . . .

The administration’s suggestion that Bezos’s criticism is only a cover for his disinclination to pay taxes is cheap demagoguery and deserves to be regarded with contempt. It is only the latest in a long line of contemptible inflation dodges: First it was “transitory,” until it wasn’t, and then it was the “Putin price hike,” even though the inflation started long before the war in Ukraine, and now it is Republicans or Jeff Bezos or — give it a couple of days — systemic racism. Anything other than the obvious: flooding the economy with money during a worldwide supply-chain disruption and keeping Covid-era emergency economic policies in place long after the economic emergency has passed.

The related effort by congressional Democrats to point the finger at “price gouging” ignores that the purported gougers also are hurt by inflation, as the editorial notes. Andrew Stuttaford flags that Walmart just missed its quarterly earnings expectations, bigly, followed by Target. Veronique de Rugy highlights here the growing bipartisan dissent to this faulty narrative, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO recently pushed back at Senator Elizabeth Warren & Co.’s corporation-blaming by telling CNN, “They’re just plain wrong.” Meanwhile, a Morgan Stanley analysis bluntly blames “excessive” government stimulus for the inflation surge, echoing Bezos’s concerns.

Speaking of Muskian — the other billionaire brazenly amassing a robot-dog mercenary force (pray that PAW Patrol is only dystopian fiction, folks) has sided with Bezos on inflation, too, while assailing the mentality of endless spending and speaking quite freely about his views toward the Biden administration. “The real president is whoever controls the teleprompter,” he quipped on a podcast interview Monday. (He also says he plans to vote Republican.)

None of this is to herald the demise of “woke capitalism” or the rekindling of the GOP–Big Business relationship. As Michael Watson writes, it’s been difficult to follow the allegiances of American business in recent years. Those shifts were not arbitrary, however: Dan McLaughlin offers a sensible theory here on the strategy that has enabled progressivism to prosper in influential institutions.

Which brings us back to Netflix, and the significance of that company’s message to staff. Play us out, Charles:

Small though it may be, Netflix’s move portends a broader shift in corporate America and beyond — a shift that, once completed, is likely to alter our politics for the better. For nearly a decade now, American progressivism has been engaged in an all-hands-on-deck attempt to brute-force its way to the political change that its most vocal adherents desire. . . . Given the right levers of power, progressives can force Americans to do all sorts of things. Netflix cannot — which means that if Dave Chappelle is popular and Meghan Markle is not, and if shareholders start sending warning signals about the company’s creative direction, the company must adapt. Eventually, even America’s stubborn progressives will be forced to adapt, too.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

NR published a number of posts this week explaining how the Buffalo shooting doesn’t fit into neat political narratives. That aside, a consistent condemnation of violence would be preferred to the current practice of highlighting only those acts that superficially implicate one’s ideological opponents: The Buffalo Massacre

Congress made the right move on Ukraine: Senate Was Right to Pass Ukraine-Aid Bill

Choose wisely, Georgia voters: Yes on Kemp, No on Greene

More on the Bezos–Biden tiff: Jeff Bezos Is Right about Joe Biden and Inflation

ARTICLES

Dan McLaughlin: How to Capitalize Politically on Mass Murder

Charles C. W. Cooke: Democrats Can’t Fix What’s Wrong with Joe Biden

Kyle Smith: Biden Calls for More Cowbell

Isaac Schorr: Durham Team Accuses Sussmann of Lying to FBI as Part of ‘October Surprise’ Plot to Bring Down Trump

Isaac Schorr: Hillary Clinton ‘Agreed’ to Leak Trump-Alfa Bank Allegation to Media, Ex-Campaign Manager Testifies

Andrew McCarthy: Durham’s Biggest Challenge: The Jury

Jim Geraghty: The Georgia Law Biden Compared to Jim Crow Leads to Record Early Voter Turnout

Naomi Schaefer Riley: How We Can Actually Help Native Americans

Jack Butler: UFOs Return to Congress

Jimmy Quinn: Federal Retirement Fund Poised to Allow Investment in Xinjiang Genocide-Linked Firms, Lawmakers Warn

Brittany Bernstein: Parent Says Walter Reed Pediatrician Questioned Teen about Gender Identity, Sexual Orientation

Sean Nelson: A Christian Stoned to Death for ‘Blasphemy’ in Nigeria — When Will It End?

Nate Hochman: R.I.P., Disinformation Governance Board, 2022–2022

CAPITAL MATTERS

Benjamin Zycher looks at what the Biden Interior Department’s lease cancellations are really about: Canceling Federal Oil and Gas Leases Isn’t about Climate Change

As a long-suffering Metro rider, I found this from Dominic Pino to be cathartic: Why More Americans Don’t Ride Public Transit

Marc Joffe poses a hopeful question: Have We Reached Peak China?

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Kyle Smith has some helpful, additional advice for Netflix: The Other Netflix Problem

Armond White praises a gospel doc: How They Got Over — A Miraculous Documentary

Brian Allen pops by an exhibition of ceramicist Simone Leigh’s work in Venice, but some semblance of coherence is lacking: The Dud American Pavilion at the Venice Biennale

EXCERPTS: LIKE A TIME-SHARE, FOR ARTICLES

ICYMI, Isaac Schorr and Andrew McCarthy have tag-teamed for some top-notch trial coverage in John Durham’s case against Michael Sussmann. Isaac is on the scene, and Andy’s providing the legal analysis. From Isaac’s opener:

Deborah Shaw, a prosecutor working on Special Counsel John Durham’s team, began her opening statement in the trial of Michael Sussmann by accusing the attorney of lying to the FBI as part of a plot to plant an “October surprise” that would derail the Trump campaign just weeks ahead of the 2016 election.

Addressing the assembled jurors, who were selected Monday, Shaw accused Sussmann of leveraging his “privilege” as a former FBI employee and an attorney at the high-powered Perkins Coie law firm to use the bureau as a “political tool” in service of his then-client, the Hillary Clinton campaign.

“The evidence will show that this is a case about privilege  . . . the privilege of a lawyer who thought he could lie to the FBI without consequences,” Shaw said.

Team Biden is misreading the president’s problems, and therefore what to do about them, as reflected in a recent Politico piece. From Charles C. W. Cooke:

Over at Politico, Jonathan Lemire offers his readers a hallucinatory missive, ordered direct from an alternate universe. It’s a good example of the sort of reported essay that begins to crop up ineluctably whenever it dawns upon the D.C. press corps that its personal hopes for the incumbent Democratic president are likely to be dashed. The problem with this president, Lemire suggests throughout, is not that he has attempted to govern in a manner unwarranted by his support in Congress and his popularity in the country at large, but that the “bygone era of D.C. may, indeed, be gone,” and that the White House is only just starting to recognize it. The solution? Going forward, Biden must be “less scripted and more on the offensive.” Out in the distance, one can hear Republican ad-makers popping the champagne. . . .

Throughout Lemire’s piece there is a pervasive implication that bipartisanship is a good in and of itself, and that Republicans are abjuring it once again out of obstinacy, extremism, and spite. To bolster this insinuation, Lemire quotes Biden’s 2020 prediction that “the thing that will fundamentally change things is with Donald Trump out of the White House . . . you will see an epiphany occur among many of my Republican friends,” and compares it to Barack Obama’s equally fantastical 2012 prediction that “the GOP’s ‘fever’ of opposition would ‘break’ after his 2012 reelection.” “Both men,” Lemire concludes with a sigh, “were wrong.”

Of course they were “wrong.” Their underlying hypothesis was nonsense. Time and time again, the Democratic Party has promised aloud that, in a few years’ time, the Republican Party will either cease to exist completely or will become an anodyne rubber-stamp. And time and time again, the press has repeated this as if it were serious analysis. There was never a good reason to believe that the election of 2012 — or the election of 2020, or the election of any year — would sweep away the Democratic Party’s institutional opponents. There was never a good reason to believe that the Republican Party’s longstanding political objectives would evaporate when Trump lost his reelection bid. There was never a good reason to believe that Republicans in Congress would simply give up their power once Barack Obama had won reelection. That Biden and Obama seem to have believed otherwise says less about the nature of the Republican Party than it does about the Democrats’ remarkable capacity for totalitarian self-delusion. . . .

It may suit the Democratic Party to pretend that Biden came into office as an elbow-less Santa Claus who couldn’t wait for poker night with John Cornyn, but no respectable journalist should be playing along. Before he was even sworn in, Biden backed the abolition of the filibuster that he’d spent 50 years defending, hinted that he’d be open to destroying the Supreme Court, and began muttering wildly about using the Senate’s reconciliation rules to pass an unsolicited spending package that would have made the tab for World War II look like dinner at Denny’s. Simply put, Lemire has missed the story — which is not about bygone eras or Republican intransigence or a dearth or surfeit of elbows, but about Biden himself, who, no matter his means, chooses the wrong ends as a matter of unlovely routine.

Brittany Bernstein reports on how check-ups have changed:

When Suri Kinzbrunner took her 14-year-old son for a check-up at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center’s pediatric clinic recently, she expected to be asked to step out of the room for a portion of the visit so her son could discuss private things with the doctor, like whether he feels safe at home.

What she did not expect, however, was for her young homeschooled son to be asked questions about sexual orientation and gender identity which she said left him feeling confused and uncomfortable.

Kinzbrunner, whose husband is active-duty Navy and is stationed in Virginia, says she has long taken her children to Walter Reed for appointments, but missed a few during the pandemic. Although she has eight children, she had never before had these types of questions asked at an appointment.

The appointment began like any other: The doctor asked about the teen’s diet, physical activity, and what his favorite subject is. Then, the doctor asked Kinzbrunner to step out, saying it was standard procedure to ask children over the age of eleven a list of questions in private.

“It wasn’t presented as an option,” she said, adding that she didn’t mind stepping out because she assumed the doctor would ask the types of questions that had been asked in the past.

The teen was confused when the doctor asked whether he identifies as a “he,” “she,” or “they.”

“She just examined my genitals. Why would she ask me that?” Kinzbrunner’s son asked his mom.

More from the Buffalo-shooting editorial:

The Biden administration has been rightly quick to condemn the racial hatred that appears to have fueled the carnage in Buffalo. But it was tongue-tied a month ago when racial hatred appeared to fuel a black man’s shooting spree at a Brooklyn subway station, omitting abundant evidence of that shooter’s racist rants from the complaint it filed in district court. The Capitol rioters are portrayed as white-supremacist domestic-terrorist insurrectionists, while Black Lives Matter anti-police demonstrations are presented as “mostly peaceful protests” no matter how violent they get.

The occasional rioters who do something heinous enough to get charged — such as the left-wing radical lawyers who firebombed a police squad car in New York — are regarded as overzealous activists who merit our sympathy rather than throw-the-book-at-’em condemnation. In a routine that would be comical but for the egregious circumstances, jihadist aggression is met with bemusement over whether we’ll ever know the motive, and progressive admonitions that “violent extremism” is the preferred label since “terrorism” is so “Islamophobic.”

How much easier and healthier it would be to condemn all such violence, whatever the rantings of the perpetrators — to convey a single message, applicable in every such case, that the use of force is the redline in our democracy, warranting universal vilification and vigorous prosecution.

The atrocity in Buffalo raises serious issues: how fringe ideologies interact with mental illness to cause violence; whether our law-enforcement agencies are taking enough action on warning signs; whether they are hamstrung by law and mores that need to be rethought. We would be in a better position to answer these fraught questions if we avoided the farce of politicizing an event when we have barely begun to understand it.

Shout-Outs

Aaron Morrison, at the Associated Press: Black Lives Matter has $42 million in assets

Greg Ip, at the Wall Street Journal: Crypto Meltdown Exposes Hollowness of Its Libertarian Promise

A. B. Stoddard, at RealClearPolitics: Trump — Maker of Clusters, Not Kings

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, at UnHerd: The desperation of Biden’s Disinformation Board

Honorable Mention

This just in: National Review cruises are back! National Review Institute is continuing NR’s 20-year tradition. The November 2022 Eastern Caribbean cruise will be similar to past NR cruises but will include new programming, such as breakout sessions, book clubs, and exclusive events for NRI’s 1955 Society. Cruisers are invited to join NRI for a special reception in Fort Lauderdale the evening of November 11. A seven-day journey on the Sky Princess begins at the port of Fort Lauderdale on November 12 and will include stops in the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Turks & Caicos, before returning on November 19. Visit nricruise.com for more information and to register.

CODA  

Apropos of nothing: To me, this is just one of the most plaintive, arresting songs ever performed acoustically. Alice in Chains’ “Nutshell” was a popular one in the dorm rooms of South Jersey when I was dwelling there. It’s also a remarkably depressing song, and its lyrics by Layne Staley do contextualize his overdose death years later.

Wasn’t intending to end this on a downer, really. Got something more uplifting? Shoot a song — something jubilant — this way, for sharing with fellow Joltarians: jberger@nationalreview.com. Thanks for reading.

National Review

Less Than a Gallon of Gas

Loading...
Gasoline prices at a station in Washington,D.C., March 13, 2022. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

You might have noticed we’re doing something a bit different this week — an all-hands effort to persuade more of our regular readers to take the plunge and subscribe to NRPlus. (To those who have and are reading this anyway, thank you.)

There’s just cause for this, which I’ll get to momentarily.

But first, I want to briefly emphasize how much of a deal is on offer right now. Somebody should stop this steal: By clicking this link, you’ll be taken to our 60 percent off page. Math is hard, which is why we went into the communication arts. But the numbers guys tell me that discount means you can subscribe to NRPlus for 40 bucks, or just about $3 per month. To put that in perspective, well, it’s less than the cost of a gallon of gas these days, sad to say. And you’ll go farther with a subscription.

So, what do you get in return? Rich Lowry succinctly summarizes the very many benefits of membership, but, in short, you get access to all the paywalled stuff, commenting privileges for articles and blog posts, invites to members-only conference calls with writers and editors, and — this one’s important — something on the order of 90 percent fewer ads. Overall, life is much more pleasant as a member. Plus, no paywall means you can read the magazine online and Kevin Williamson’s weekly newsletter, which is for subscribers only as of this past Tuesday. Kevin explains here the thinking behind our inexorable march toward a subscriber-based model, as opposed to a strictly traffic-based one, which can warp editorial decision-making. It really boils down to two things: the desire to be independent and the desire to exist. Both are important, we think.

Plus, you’ll get insight into trends that, let’s face it, many other publications are missing, as Jim Geraghty explains.  

That discount-subscription link, one more time, is here, where you can also check out the deal for a print-digital bundle. All this said, enjoy the week’s highlights below, (mostly) gratis.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

There’s a difference between protesting outside the Supreme Court and protesting outsides justices’ homes, and the president should recognize that: Biden Must Reject the Left’s Intimidation Game

Democrats want to avoid discussion of what their Women’s Health Protection Act does for a reason: Barbarism in the Senate

NR pays tribute to a legend, and a force: Midge Decter, R.I.P.

ARTICLES

Charles C. W. Cooke: Chuck Schumer Keeps Leading Senate Democrats to the Slaughter

Rich Lowry: The Shameful Pro-Abortion Protests Threaten the American Order

Rich Lowry: We Need to Take the Fentanyl Crisis More Seriously

Nina Shea: Cardinal Zen’s Arrest Is an Inflection Point

Jay Nordlinger: Coming to Grips with Abortion

John Fund: Chicago’s Decline Accelerates as Boeing Abandons It

Mario Loyola: When ‘Inclusivity’ Is Code for ‘Intolerance’

Madeleine Kearns: Britain Should Move On from ‘Partygate’ and ‘Beergate’

Kenin M. Spivak: Biden’s Racial Preferences Gone Wild

Julaine Appling: Leftist Attacks Won’t Intimidate the Pro-Life Movement

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Conservatives Don’t Oppose Biden’s Ukraine Policy; They Want More of It

Alexandra DeSanctis: The Truth about Democratic Abortion Extremism

Kyle Smith: Has Johnny Depp Changed the #MeToo Game?

Jim Geraghty: The Worst Possible Timing for an Infrastructure-Spending Spree

America’s Crisis of Self-Doubt

CAPITAL MATTERS

The metaphor in this headline makes sense once you read Joel Thayer’s piece about the Biden administration’s 5G problems: Biden’s 5G Camel

Dominic Pino breaks down the formula fiasco: How Government Made the Baby-Formula Shortage Worse

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Of the latest morphing music video, Armond White rules that Michael did it better: Kendrick Lamar’s Deepfake

You’ll get no surprises in the new Top Gun, and that’s fine in Kyle Smith’s estimation: Mach-10 Nostalgia

Brian Allen is in Italy, soaking it all up and serving ocular delights for those of us stateside. He begins in Rome: A Meaty, Tasty Look at Baroque Genoa at Rome’s Scuderie del Quirinale

FROM THE NEW, MAY 30, 2022, ISSUE OF NR

Dan McLaughlin: In Dobbs, the Supreme Court Must Not Be Intimidated

Alexandra DeSanctis: Pro-Life, Post-Roe

Nate Hochman: Elon Musk’s Town Square

Andrew Stuttaford: On the Baltic Frontier

Kevin Williamson: The Three Pro-Life Movements

IF YOU SUBSCRIBE TO NRPLUS, YOU’LL GET MUCH MORE THAN THESE EXCERPTS

Andrew Stuttaford is back from the Baltics. He writes about the region’s Putin management in the latest issue of NR:

If Putin prevails in Ukraine, an emboldened Kremlin will be looking in the direction of the Baltic, nominally to help those supposedly oppressed “compatriots” living there, but with a broader objective in mind. If Moscow can somehow get away with subjugating Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, it will have demonstrated that, in their case, NATO’s much-vaunted collective defense cannot be relied upon — and if that’s true for them, who might be next? It would be a demonstration that could tear the alliance apart.

The Baltic leaderships know what might, one day, be at stake. For their size, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia have sent Ukraine a remarkable amount of matériel for reasons both moral and — as a method of forward defense — practical. Meanwhile, recruitment has surged for the Kaitseliit, the Estonian Defense League, a force roughly analogous to the U.S. National Guard and maintained in a high level of readiness. Latvia is mulling a form of conscription (the other two Baltic states already have mandatory military service — in Lithuania’s case reintroduced after the annexation of the Crimea — and the reserve capabilities that come with it). All three countries have surpassed the NATO defense-spending target of 2 percent of GDP, and all three now are aiming at approximately 2.5 percent.

Another change that has followed the invasion has been strong Baltic pressure (much of it from Estonia’s impressive prime minister, Kaja Kallas, who has found her voice in this crisis) to supplement the three countries’ NATO tripwire, which currently consists of multinational battle groups in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, totaling some 4,000 troops in all, and was set up after the earlier Russian aggression in Ukraine.

But if the Russians risked tearing through that tripwire, despite what would undoubtedly be a fierce defense, the Baltic states (with their combined population of only around 6 million) would swiftly be overrun, leaving them with little alternative, regardless of any insurgency (something not unknown in these parts) other than to await rescue. After the massacres in Bucha and other parts of Ukraine, there are no illusions about what even a brief Russian occupation would mean. Thus the suggestion made to me, echoing that made by the three Baltic premiers last month, that as much as a division of NATO forces (as well as added equipment) should be placed in each Baltic country. This, for both military and political reasons, would bolster NATO’s deterrence as well as underline the key message that the alliance has no second-tier members: Its governing principle continues to be all for one and one for all.

Earlier this week, NR published a statement of some significance on the “crisis of self-doubt” gripping the nation. Many prominent conservatives, representing different points on the political spectrum, signed it. It begins:

We live in an age of increasing national self-doubt.

The American project, as such, is under assault. Our history is the subject of a revisionist critique that is all-encompassing, unsparing, and very often flatly inaccurate. Our traditional heroes are under threat of being run out of the national pantheon. Our institutions, from elections to the job market to law enforcement, stand accused of perpetuating a systemic racism that is impossible to eradicate. Our educational system, from kindergarten through graduate school, is increasingly a forum for crude propagandizing. Our system of government is attacked as archaic, unfair, and racially biased. Our traditional values of fair play, free speech, and religious liberty are trampled by inflamed ideologues determined to impose their will by force and fear.

The national mood resembles those of the 1930s and 1970s, when radical critiques of America got considerable traction and our national self-confidence often seemed to hang by a thread.

It is in this context that we reclaim what once was a consensus view of America that has now become bitterly contested.

No matter the fashion of the moment, we believe that America is a fundamentally fair society with bountiful opportunity; that its Founding was a world-historical event of the utmost importance and established governing institutions of enduring value; that its original sins have been honorably, if belatedly, repudiated; that it came to be wealthy and powerful primarily through its own internal strengths, not via expropriation and conquest; that its model of ordered liberty is a boon to human flourishing; that its people are a marvel and its greatest resource; that its best days needn’t be behind it, and that it remains a beacon to mankind.

To the extent that these notions are falling out of favor, it is the responsibility of those who love America to revivify them.

From NR’s editorial on the escalating protests surrounding the Supreme Court and its members:

There are questions of law here, but also questions of democratic norms that are, in the long run, more important.

Some of the legal questions are obvious enough: Firebombing the offices of Wisconsin Family Action is against the law. So is vandalizing and desecrating churches. It is also against the law to attempt to bully the Supreme Court and its justices, to act “with the intent of interfering with, obstructing, or impeding the administration of justice, or with the intent of influencing any judge, juror, witness, or court officer, in the discharge of his duty.” The First Amendment protects political speech, but it does not protect speech that is part of an effort to commit a crime — and threatening a judge with violence in an attempt to force him to change his opinion is that. . . .

The personalization of politics — and of political protest — in our time is a lamentable development, whether it is bullying Supreme Court justices at their homes or terrorizing Tucker Carlson’s family at his. A society in which there is no private life, no separation between the public and private spheres, is a totalitarian society — and it is a society in which civic peace is ultimately impossible. Screaming in front of the Supreme Court building is rambunctious democracy, but screaming at a Supreme Court justice from the sidewalk in front of her house is unhinged fanaticism.

It escapes no one’s notice that the anti-abortion movement is not without a history of violence at its fringes. That violence has always been roundly and unequivocally denounced, from the halls of government to the pages of this magazine, and, especially, by pro-life organizations and committed pro-life activists.

The mob at Justice Alito’s house is there for one purpose — to try to intimidate the Supreme Court. Let us be honest about this and, if the president can be bothered, behave accordingly.

On a related note, Julaine Appling, president of Wisconsin Family Action, gives her account of the attack on that group’s Madison office:

Early Sunday morning on Mother’s Day, a leftist anarchist group attacked our office in Madison, Wis. They broke windows and threw two Molotov cocktails into the office, lighting a fire. Making their views abundantly clear, the arsonists graffitied the outside of the building with the message, “If abortions aren’t safe, then you aren’t either.”

God was watching over us that morning, because thankfully, no one was in the office at the time. But imagine if anyone had been. They would have been seriously injured. Additionally, one of the Molotov cocktails did not ignite — an error on the attacker’s part that saved our building. Otherwise, it likely would have burned to the ground.

This act of violence was intended to terrify us into silence, to make us afraid to go to work, to go home, to convene in public with like-minded family, friends, and colleagues. Even worse, to terrify us (all of us who share these opinions) enough to alter our core beliefs and values. Threats like this, right here at home in America. Because I have a different opinion from abortion activists and the violent Left. Because I proudly lead Wisconsin Family Action, an organization dedicated to promoting and protecting the values of marriage, family, life, and religious liberty. . . .

This is what happens when leadership is missing or when leadership implies that violence is an acceptable tactic to employ. In 2020, Wisconsin governor Tony Evers basically looked the other way when violence erupted in Kenosha and Madison. That kind of nonresponse fosters attacks like the one against Wisconsin Family Action, leaving Wisconsin citizens who disagree with his policies extremely vulnerable to similar violence.

In fact, Governor Evers’s initial response to the attack on Wisconsin Family Action said nothing about demanding a full investigation and criminal prosecution. Though he mentioned us, he condemned “violence and hatred in all its forms,” then told his supporters he’d keep supporting abortion.

But let me be clear: The violence needs to stop, and it needs to stop now.

What’s behind the baby-formula shortage? Dominic Pino finds a familiar, if not the obvious, culprit:

About 40 percent of major brands were sold out at the end of April, which is nearly four times the rate in November. Walmart, Target, Kroger, CVS, and Walgreens are all limiting formula purchases at their stores in an effort to discourage people from hoarding. At Amazon, many popular varieties are unavailable. . . .

The seemingly obvious culprits for the shortage are what everyone has blamed for everything over the past year: supply chains and labor shortages. But that can’t be the answer here. It is true that baby-formula manufacturers face the same shipping problems and hiring challenges that most other industries are dealing with — yet most other industries don’t have 40 percent of their products sold out nationwide. Something else must be at play.

The proximate cause of this shortage is a recall of baby formula made by Abbott Labs. . . . But one brand recalling some of its product lines should not cause shortages across the country. It’s not as though Abbott is the only major formula producer: Nestle and Reckitt Benckiser make multiple types of formula each.

In a free market, widespread shortages shouldn’t occur. The price should rise as supply gets low, which encourages more production. The increased production should prevent a prolonged shortage before it has a chance to get started, then bring the price back down as well.

The overarching problem is that price signals in the baby-formula market don’t work well to begin with. A 2010 study from the USDA’s Economic Research Service estimated that 57 to 68 percent of all baby formula sold in the U.S. was purchased through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

That means over half of the baby formula that’s consumed in the U.S. isn’t really bought and sold on a free market at all. . . .

With WIC expanded to cover the majority of baby-formula consumption, manufacturers have less incentive to meet demand. When a negative supply shock, such as the Abbott recall, happens, the normal market mechanisms that would thrust other manufacturers into overdrive fail to function as they should. Increased government involvement in the baby-formula market, while coming from the best of intentions, sets it up for shortages like the one families are currently experiencing.

Shout-Outs

Salena Zito, at the Washington Examiner: Who is Kathy Barnette?

John Murawski, at RealClearInvestigations: Taxpayers Funding 90+ ‘Equity’ Programs across Federal Government

Steven Malanga, at City Journal: A Summer of Blackouts?

Andrew Fink, at the Dispatch: The Legacy of Soviet Anti-Jewish Propaganda Rears Its Ugly Head

CODA

One of the cool things about this humble newsletter gig is that I get to discover new music I never would have stumbled across, thanks to the suggestions you, the readers, send in from time to time. William Johnson just came through with another, a band named Scythian, which is local to me. These guys have been around, carving out a groove in the Celtic/folk genre as well as launching Virginia’s Appaloosa Music Festival out near Front Royal. A smattering of their uplifting music can be found here, here, and here. Hope you like.

World

The Emperors Are Exposed

Loading...
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin attend a welcome ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, in 2018. (Jason Lee/Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

In China, “Xi Jinping thought” is being infused into school curriculums, so determined is the general secretary/chairman/president to be a metonym for the country itself. In Russia, Vladimir Putin, you may recall, was “reelected” with nearly 77 percent of the vote in 2018 (after now-imprisoned Alexei Navalny was barred from the ballot). But popular support for these two autocrats might not be as monolithic as it appears.

While their stifling of dissent clouds any picture the rest of the world might get about the true level of internal opposition, the regimes’ respective bungling of Covid-19 and the Ukraine invasion has emboldened, even slightly, those voices.

In China, tolerance for the CCP’s brutal, counterproductive, illogical lockdowns in Shanghai and beyond is wearing thin. Lianchao Han and Jianli Yang, from the pro-democracy Citizen Power Initiatives for China, write for NR that flickers of civil disobedience can be seen among the city’s angry residents:

Some dismantle barbed-wire fences, others bang their cooking pots on the balconies. In the video Voice of April, Shanghainese residents depict the endless suffering of people under the zero-Covid policy. The video went viral despite the CCP’s watertight censorship. Shanghai-based rapper Astro released a song, “New Slave,” to criticize the government’s abuse of power and its neglect of human life. More and more people have come out to sing the national anthem — in particular the line “Arise! Ye who refuse to be bond slaves!” Ironically, this has led Chinese authorities to censor its own national anthem. Some local party chiefs resigned, and neighborhood committee members abandoned their posts. Shanghai residents have formed a self-assistance and self-governance commission, unequivocally demanding democracy and freedom, and urging mass civil disobedience until Beijing ends its inhumane zero-Covid policy. On the night of April 24, people in many districts of Shanghai took to the streets to protest.

The Economist recently documented how Chinese citizens are increasingly challenging the Party line in response to the crippling lockdown policies and false assurances, even if they must do so anonymously. “We don’t trust these policies any more,” one Shanghai resident said.

Not only is there concern that government policies are killing more people than they’re saving, but more evidence is emerging that governments including China’s have covered up previous deaths. Jim Geraghty draws attention to some additional Economist reporting estimating that the number of excess deaths there (above what would normally be expected pre-pandemic) is between 550,000 and 2 million, in contrast with the government’s Covid-19-death estimate of 5,000.

Whether those figures point to unreported coronavirus deaths, deaths from other causes that rose because of lockdowns and medical-access issues, or some combination of those and other factors, we’ll likely never know. But the myth of the CCP, all-powerful tamers of the pandemic, should be well on its way to shattered.

As for Russia, Kevin Williamson writes that Putin’s Ukraine disaster has revealed his military to be a paper tiger:

Every army worries about bullets and missiles, but the Russians have been undone by much less lethal challenges — rain, among others. Russian armored vehicles have fallen to Ukrainian agricultural implements because of cheap and defective Chinese tires. Teen-aged conscripts rounded up from the schoolyards of Vladivostok have been shipped off to war, ill-informed and ill-prepared, and told they are hunting Nazis, which surely is understood to be a tall tale even in the hinterlands. . . . A British estimate has the number of Russian dead in Ukraine already at 15,000 — more than were lost in the Russians’ decade-long war in Afghanistan.

That doesn’t make his misadventure any less devastating for the residents of Bucha, Mariupol, and every other place ravaged by Russia’s ill-prepared forces. Kevin notes how, in echoes of the Holodomor, one Russian region is moving to “expropriate” grain from parts of occupied Ukraine.

But Putin’s fearsome and competent image surely is dented not only from the perspective of the West but of the Russian people. Thousands have left Russia in the wake of the invasion, as the government cracks down on anti-war protests. This alone reflects how the chances of any viable opposition movement gaining traction in Russia remain slim, but it also speaks to Putin’s eroding support. If nothing else, Sergey Lavrov’s outrageous and ahistorical Hitler claim a week ago shows a regime reduced to routine violations of Godwin’s law.

The emperors still have their clothes — but the people can begin to see parts exposed.

In other news, well, there’s lots of it. Without further ado . . .

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

The bombshell leak out of the Supreme Court should not go unpunished: An Egregious Leak

ARTICLES

Rich Lowry: A Shocking Assault on the Supreme Court

Kevin Williamson: How to Regulate Abortion

Alexandra DeSanctis: What Americans Really Think about Abortion

Charles C. W. Cooke: Bret Stephens’s Fatally Flawed Case for Saving Roe

Dan McLaughlin: Chief Justice Roberts Must Find the Leaker

Andriy Yermak: Why the U.S. Has a Stake in Ukraine’s Victory

Marco Rubio: Defund President Biden’s Censorship Bureau

Ryan Mills: Unseen American Volunteers Work around the Clock to Rescue Ukrainian Civilians

Ryan Mills: American Citizens Finally Return Home from Afghanistan after Months in Prison-Like Refugee Camp

Jay Nordlinger: When Politics Invades Art

Madeleine Kearns: Rachel Levine’s Spectacular Mendacity (or Ignorance)

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Which Trumpism Won in Ohio?

John McCormack: Trump’s Decisive Ohio Senate Endorsement

Tom Cotton: Republicans Must Stop Biden’s Student-Debt Transfer

Frederick Hess & Hayley Sanon: On College Admissions, It’s the Woke Fringe vs. Everyone Else

CAPITAL MATTERS

The Fed made a big move this week — but it won’t be big enough, says William Luther: Fed Tightening Is Too Little, Too Late

There’s a risk in wildly pointing fingers on inflation, Russ Latino writes: Scapegoating Prevents a Return to Fiscal Sanity

Casey Mulligan calculates Hawaii’s Covid tradeoffs: Did Hawaii Beat the Virus?

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Kyle Smith eye-rolls at the eye candy in Marvel’s latest, but finds a deeper significance in its madness: Doctor Strange Taps Into America’s Disturbing Fantasy Life

Armond White (who also offers his take on the Doctor Strange brew) notices a version of The Player playing out in last weekend’s D.C. media/celeb gathering: The White House Correspondents’ Dinner: Where’s Altman When We Need Him?

Brace yourself for an unequivocal rave from Brian Allen (and catch his follow-up this weekend): A Profile of Dartmouth’s Nearly Perfect Hood Museum

THE TL;DR EDITION

About that leak . . . Rich Lowry has some thoughts:

The leaker, whether a justice, a clerk, or a staffer, clearly intended to engender a huge reaction to try to intimidate a member of the majority into changing his or her mind.

This is how hardball politics works in Congress or in the executive branch, where strategic leaks are the norm and very often no one trusts anybody. It’s completely inimical to the spirit of the Supreme Court, which is supposed to decide its cases as a strict matter of law free of political influence.

Tellingly, almost no one on the left criticized the leak — instead, many praised it as an act of brave defiance that reflects the gravity of the moment.

This is yet another sign of the hypocrisy of all the Trump-era lectures from progressives about the importance of norms and neutrally applied rules. As soon as a Supreme Court decision might go against them, they abandon all pretense of believing any of that and attempt to bludgeon the Court into submission.

The leak, in its own way, brings home how one of the key assumptions in the Court’s abortion jurisprudence has been wrong all along. It imagined itself settling once and for all a highly contested social issue. In reality, by attempting to take the issue out of politics, it made the fight over abortion even more divisive, while making itself a political football. Now, the issue that it sought to settle has blown back on the Court, perhaps changing how it operates forever.

If, as the Alito draft previews, Roe is about to fall, Kevin Williamson examines what an assertive but humane effort to regulate abortion might look like:

Even though abortion has the elements of the most serious class of homicides (premeditation, etc.), we are not obligated to treat it that way. Even in this very serious matter, we should seek the least invasive means of achieving the outcome we desire.

If additional measures seem called for after some period of study and consideration, then these can be undertaken, gradually and carefully, as needed. There is no benefit — practical or political — in living down to the Left’s caricature of the pro-life position.

Contrary to what one hears from the familiar ghastly Malthusians among us, repealing Roe and imposing abortion restrictions won’t require us to build an archipelago of new orphanages, nor will it likely have much effect on publicly subsidized health-care costs. The number of U.S. families who wish to adopt a child exceeds by many multiples the number of children who are available for adoption (which is why so many Americans wishing to adopt go to the far corners of the world), and even if we assume that every single one of the abortions that happen in the United States in a typical year (estimates vary, but probably around 850,000) would otherwise result in a pregnancy subsidized by Medicaid or another government program, this would not add up to a great deal of money — probably less than half a day’s worth of Social Security spending. If additional support for vulnerable mothers is required, then that is a bearable cost. As with practically every other welfare initiative, our problem there is going to be program design and administration, not resources.

So, there will be no Handmaid’s Tale, no cinematic dystopia. The hysterics among us should be reminded that while the Mississippi law at issue in Dobbs prohibits abortion after 15 weeks, in France, the law prohibits it after 14 weeks. If your idea of a right-wing Christo-fascist hellhole is Paris, then you need a psychiatrist, not an abortionist.

We can be assertive and humane at the same time, provided that we keep our attention on the interests of the vulnerable parties involved in this issue rather than abandon ourselves to the tedious theater of pharisaical self-righteousness.

In a special guest essay from the head of the Presidential Office of Ukraine, Andriy Yermak explains why victory there is pivotal to the West and the cause of democracy:

Ukraine is grateful for all who have recognized the importance of this battle and who have outfitted Ukraine’s soldiers with the military-technical assistance that is allowing them to resist the Russian occupation forces.

But they cannot hold out without additional heavy weaponry. The defenders of freedom in Mariupol are paying with blood. Ukraine and its allies can still save those of them who remain alive by acting together through more unified diplomacy, strengthening Ukraine’s defense capabilities, and ratcheting up the sanctions regime against Russia.

Just like the Alamo became its epoch’s rally cry for freedom, this epoch needs the heroes of Mariupol to survive and prevail — for history to remember their sacrifices and as a clear lesson to future aggressors.

We thought the 20th century had delivered tyranny to the dustbin of history. But with the battle of Mariupol, the history of the Alamo and similar battles before it has returned. Ukrainians know that Mariupol must mark a turning point in this history.

That’s why Ukraine fights. Ukraine must stand. Mariupol must stand. It is here that the future of the world is being decided.

We cannot allow the sacrifice of Mariupol to be in vain. If Mariupol falls, if Ukraine loses, it will not only be a loss for Ukrainians. All the world’s democracies will lose. Despotism will triumph. And its triumph will not be confined to the countries of the former Soviet Union or Eastern Europe. Tyranny doesn’t have boundaries. This is why Ukraine’s victory in its fight for liberty will be the victory of democracies around the world.

And now, a word from Senator Marco Rubio on Biden’s “censorship bureau”:

Administration officials say their disinformation board is necessary to protect American democracy. However, federal censorship is no guarantee against real disinformation.

Washington bureaucrats’ track record at discerning fact from fiction is dismal, and Biden’s new censorship czar, Nina Jankowicz, is no exception. In 2020, she dismissed the Hunter Biden laptop story as a “Trump campaign product.” Now, President Biden’s son is under official investigation — even the New York Times acknowledges the story was true. Doesn’t this make Jankowicz guilty of spreading disinformation herself? She has yet to issue a full retraction of her claim, however, raising concerns that she is even more partisan than the legacy media.

Similarly, in the early days of the pandemic, liberals railed against those who suggested that Covid may have originated in a Wuhan laboratory. Social-media censors, left-wing reporters, and the government itself — in the person of Dr. Anthony Fauci — called the lab-leak hypothesis a racist conspiracy theory and banned the topic from public discussion. Today, our intelligence community considers it to be as likely as not that the lab-leak hypothesis is correct. . . .

A government disinformation board led by a person who “shudder[s]” at the thought of “free speech . . . absolutists” is a step toward tyranny. It must be stopped. It has to be defunded.

Shout-Outs

David French, at the Atlantic: What Alito Got Right

Lahav Harkov, at the Jerusalem Post: Bennett to Lavrov: Stop using Holocaust as political battering ram

Philip Wegmann, at RealClearPolitics: ‘Make Them Famous’: Virginia AG Tells GOP to Focus on Progressive Prosecutors

Aaron Sibarium, at the Washington Free Beacon: De Blasio’s Gas Stove Ban Was Intended to Help the Environment. Experts Say It’ll Backfire.

CODA  

Shifting gears from a coupla Codas that featured unreasonably long songs, here is a short one. “New Country,” by violin virtuoso for hire Jean-Luc Ponty, popped into my head this week for no apparent reason. It took a minute to place it, but only a minute. The theme, while a tad hokey, is unmistakable. Hope you enjoy.

As this newsletter often mentions, consider contributing to this here Weekend Jolt Playlist by shooting a song my way, for sharing: jberger@nationalreview.com. Thanks for reading.

U.S.

What the Mask Panic Is Really About

Loading...
Travelers wearing masks arrive at Logan International Airport after a federal judge in Florida struck down the CDC’s public transportation masking order, in Boston, Mass., April 19, 2022. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

A reporter asked President Biden last week, on the heels of the court-ordered rollback for public transit, if people should continue to wear masks absent a mandate.

“That’s up to them,” he replied.

Monster.

“It is their choice,” Jen Psaki explained.

Tyrant.

Anyway, such anodyne statements reflect the policy reality for now. Yet this policy either isn’t computing for some folks or really is viewed as malicious. Or, and stop me if this is a stretch, those in high dudgeon over the judge’s ruling understand that mask-optional transit was the logical — the inevitable — next phase in the long-delayed return to normalcy but pretend otherwise lest they forfeit an identity now fused to the championship of pandemic strictures.

The cultural symbolism of penetrable face armor was expounded by Kevin Williamson in these digital pages a year ago. He writes prettier than I do, so best to deploy the block quote:

In our current plague years, we have rediscovered the religious veil in the COVID-19 mask.

The people who say “listen to science” already are finding reasons not to. It isn’t a genuinely scientific question now — this sort of thing almost never is. The reason for the kashrut prohibition on eating pork wasn’t, as is sometimes suggested, trichinosis, which wasn’t even discovered until the 19th century — a more likely explanation (though by no means an absolutely certain one) is that Jews weren’t supposed to eat pork because Egyptian Osiris-worshippers did so at religious festivals, as reported by Herodotus. Pork-eating wasn’t a medical matter — it was a matter of cultural allegiance, of us and them.

The mask happens to be considerably cheaper than a Prius, so one can understand its appeal in this context. Last week’s ruling was as if a Trump judge had recalled all the Priuses in all the world, citing the Administrative Procedure Act.

Cue end times.

Nate Hochman has dutifully gathered the social-media meltdowns in one place. There’s too much to unpack here, but the best might be Valerie Jarrett throwing up a masked selfie with the caption: “Wearing my mask no matter what non-scientists tell me I can do.”

Uh-huh. As Lewis Black once remarked of why adults shouldn’t bother to dress up on Halloween, “You are an adult, and you can dress up whenever you want to.” Wear one, don’t wear one; there’s nobody to defy here. Nothing is wrong with wanting to don an extra layer of protection. But the science remains so unsettled that the argument that the maskless window-seat passenger is endangering all aboard is hard to take. On a flight this week, coincidentally to the city where Judge Mizelle issued her ruling, an American Airlines crew patiently asked that we “be respectful to each passenger’s decision” on whether to wear one. There were no incidents, perhaps a glimmer of the sober view prevailing. The post above links to this chart at City Journal showing how the trajectory of case numbers in states with mask mandates and without was virtually identical throughout the pandemic.

As for the transportation mask mandate’s future, the widespread expectation is that it’s gone for now. The Biden administration is appealing the decision as a “matter of principle” but is not seeking a stay, which is revealing. This, as Anthony Fauci laments that a court was able to overrule a “public-health judgment” at all (which Kevin reasonably takes to mean he wants no legal constraints on the CDC). Returning post-ruling to the issue of the mask’s cultural significance, Kevin writes that a certain cohort still views any restriction rollback as an “unearned victory for their cultural and political enemies rather than a salubrious sign of progress in the fight against the virus.” Which is a shame.

My personal expectation is that scattered mask-wearing, at least on a seasonal basis, will be commonplace in parts of America for years to come, borrowing a norm from some Asian societies. Again, no judgment here (I still wear one sometimes, though often for reasons unrelated to health). But if the righteous-scold mentality toward the unmasked should also persist, we can adapt Barack Obama’s most famous diagnosis for the reason: that bitterness at changing times has left those individuals clinging to face coverings or anti-normalcy sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

Good luck, Musk: Godspeed to Elon Musk

There are better, more democratic ways to remove MTG from office than the challenge that’s come before a Georgia judge: Don’t Kick Marjorie Taylor Greene Off the Ballot

ARTICLES

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Student-Debt Amnesty Is a Grotesque Gift to the Rich

Madeleine Kearns: Florida Is Following Europe’s Lead on Gender-Dysphoria Guidelines

Charles C. W. Cooke: How Elon Musk Can Improve Twitter

Nate Hochman: Georgetown Law Scheduled to Host Anti-Semite Who Claims Israelis ‘Harvest Organs of the Martyred’

Jimmy Quinn: Ukraine Using U.N. to Lay Groundwork for ‘De-Putinization’

Kevin Williamson: Marjorie Taylor Greene Should Go

Caroline Downey: Feminist Philosopher Disinvited from Speaking at Harvard over Trans Views

Isaac Schorr: White House Restricted Access to Covid-Spending Binder That Psaki Used as Briefing Prop

Kyle Smith: Less Trolling, More Governing, Please

Kyle Smith: The Democrats Have a Principal Skinner Problem

Brittany Bernstein: Garland Says ‘There Will Not Be Interference’ in DOJ’s Hunter Biden Investigation

Dan McLaughlin: Against Common-Good Conservatism

Ryan Mills: Wahid Nawabi Fled the Soviets as a Boy. Now He’s Sending Drones to Ukraine to Beat Back the Russian Invasion

Deroy Murdock: Orrin G. Hatch, R.I.P.

CAPITAL MATTERS

Joseph Sullivan sees the energy market splitting in the aftermath of Russia’s Ukraine invasion: The Global Oil Market Is Over

Dominic Pino says China’s people will pay the most for their government’s wretched lockdowns: China Will Bear the Burden of Its Brutal Covid Lockdowns

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Armond White examines an overlooked film by a master director: Liberation of L.B. Jones — An Evolutionary Lesson Returns

ICYMI, Brian Allen follows up with another fine review of a fine D.C. museum: The National Portrait Gallery: Ways to Make a Good Museum Better

FROM THE NEW, MAY 16, 2022, ISSUE OF NR

Mike Gallagher: Woke Warriors

Rich Lowry: The New Nuclear Gap

Nat Brown: Witness at 70

Matthew Continetti: How the Right Misunderstands Its History

Carine Hajjar: Our Inhumane Southern Border

NOW THAT’S A WHOLE LOTTA EXCERPTS

Michael Brendan Dougherty takes a flamethrower to the entire system of college financing, as Washington considers a mass debt wipeout:

The plan being mulled by the Biden administration to cancel and forgive up to $1.6 trillion of federal student-loan debt is a brazen act of class warfare by the affluent against everyone else. It is a politically, and cosmically, unjustifiable robbery that offers yet more rope for the decadent and totally indefensible American college system to become even more decadent and indefensible.

The overwhelming majority of student debt is held by the affluent; less than 10 percent of it is held by the bottom third of earners. Nearly 40 percent of it is held by students who earned advanced degrees — many of them now doctors and lawyers. Unemployment for the college-educated is less than 2 percent.

At every level, the American college system is deranged by the government guarantees and preferment extended to student debt. At the lowest end, schools take advantage of government-guaranteed student loans to prey on service-sector workers. They market a college education as a path of upward mobility, while knowing that most of their students never graduate, or simply return to the service industry after graduation. All that these colleges do is load five-figure-earning students with debt, which is transformed into six-figure salaries for third-rate professors and administrators.

In the great middle tier, the oceans of student debt have inspired colleges to become luxury resorts for the youth. They build endless recreational and athletic facilities, they install baroque food courts in an appalling race to offer something first-rate. These schools are increasingly trying to insert themselves as gatekeepers into fields such as turf management and catering, which never required college education before.

If you view the top-tier colleges from their balance sheets alone, they look like enormous tax-advantaged hedge funds with minuscule vestigial educational institutions named Yale or Harvard attached to them. The student-loan fix has allowed them to raise tuition above $50,000 a year annually. These exorbitant prices, driven by the ocean of loan money guaranteed by the government, help fund the expansion of the administrator class. There are more social managers and commissars than professors at many schools now.

Forgiving student loan debt would be an act of absolution pronounced over this corruption of higher education. Paired with no reform, it does nothing to reduce the profligacy, cost, and predatory nature of these institutions. It only encourages it, and implicitly promises amnesties in the future.

Ryan Mills relays the remarkable story of Wahid Nawabi:

When he was a young teenager, Wahid Nawabi would go to the roof of his family’s home in Kabul and watch the Soviet helicopters flying in the distance.

For most of his childhood, Afghanistan had been peaceful and increasingly prosperous. But that all changed after the nation’s democratic government was overthrown by Marxist military officers in 1978 in the Saur Revolution. In December 1979, the Soviet troops invaded, plunging the country into what has become 40 years of war, violence, and instability.

In 1982, Nawabi and his family fled. Nawabi, then only 14, led his three younger sisters on a harrowing 48-day journey to escape the war-torn country to reunite with their parents in India.

Because of that experience, Nawabi said he feels a personal connection with the more than 5 million refugees who have fled Ukraine in the wake of this latest Russian invasion. Now as an American and as the chief executive of AeroVironment, a leading provider of military-grade fighter drones, Nawabi said he has a moral obligation to aid the Ukrainian defense effort.

“We need to help the Ukrainians get their freedom back,” Nawabi told National Review. “I’ve gone through that experience. It’s heart-wrenching for me.”

Last month, the U.S. government sent 100 of AeroVironment’s Switchblade drones to the Ukrainians, part of a massive weapons package.

Madeleine Kearns finds the latest example of how conservative positions being lambasted by the Left in America (see: voter ID) are mainstream in Europe:

Last week, Florida’s surgeon general released a memo on the “treatment of gender dysphoria for children and adolescents.” The document seeks to “clarify” assertions made in a Department of Health and Human Services “fact-sheet” about trans-identifying youth. Whereas the HHS document claimed that “early affirming care is crucial to overall health and well-being,” Florida’s one-page summary warns of “low-quality evidence, small sample sizes, and medium to high risk of bias.”

Insofar as the guidelines caution against gender-transitioning drugs and surgeries for minors, Florida is following Europe’s lead. The Florida memo does go further in its explicit caution against social transitions, however.

In 2021, gender-dysphoria experts in the Netherlands — where youth gender transitions were first pioneered — said that “more research is really necessary, and very much needed.” Thomas Steensma of the Center of Expertise on Gender Dysphoria at Amsterdam UMC admitted that “little research has been done so far on treatment with puberty blockers and hormones in young people. That is why it is also seen as experimental.”

In February, Sweden’s National Board of Health and Welfare (NBHW) issued an update on its service guidelines for children and youth with gender dysphoria, citing “uncertain science” and “no definite conclusions about the effect and safety of the treatments” as reasons to conclude that “the risks outweigh the benefits at present.” The Florida memo is accurate, then, in aligning itself with Europe’s increasingly cautious approach: “These guidelines are also in line with the guidance, reviews and recommendations from Sweden, Finland, the United Kingdom, and France.”

Of course, this is not the impression you would get from progressive culture warriors.

Kyle Smith identifies the Simpsons quote that explains everything about Democrats’ policy choices lately:

It’s pretty obvious what President Biden could do to boost his approval ratings and improve his party’s rapidly dissolving prospects in the midterms. He could reverse course on some, or many, or all of the bad policy choices that people hate. He could, for instance, go down to the border and outline a harsh new set of policies for cracking down on illegal immigration. He could give a speech blasting away at woke DAs such as Chesa Boudin (San Francisco), George Gascón (Los Angeles), Alvin Bragg (Manhattan), and Larry Krasner (Philadelphia) for being soft on crime and making minority communities much less safe. He could go up to Montana to say he’s restarting the Keystone Pipeline and announce that he’s opening the spigot on American oil and gas development. He could waive the Jones Act to goose the supply chain. To relieve inflationary pressures, he could tell people who have student debt, “The party’s over, pal. Pay up.” He could talk up an austerity budget and/or try to jawbone the Fed into sharply raising interest rates. If he switched sides on even one issue in the culture war, even by giving a speech, it would impress moderates. How about going to Virginia to back parental rights in education and lambast teachers who foist woke sexual politics on third-graders? . . .

Instead of slapping down the woketivist far Left, Joe Biden is channeling Principal Skinner and asking himself: “Am I so out of touch? No, it’s the children who are wrong.” To Democrats, voters are children: The wayward ones need to be taught and corrected instead of heeded.

Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, Barack Obama, and the Democratic Party’s media arm (colloquially known as “the media”) are all ignoring the Democratic Party’s policy problem and whining that something called “disinformation” is making their wise policies unpopular. The voters are preparing to punish Democrats because they have supposedly taken to believing stuff that isn’t actually true, so the Democrats feel they must lash out at the unfairness of the information ecosystem rather than looking in the mirror.

Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover should lead to a greater commitment to free and open speech on the platform. Charles C. W. Cooke offers some ideas for how to ensure this outcome:

First, he should replace Twitter’s vague guidelines with a long list of more specific rules. I know, I know — that sounds paradoxical. Usually, I am of the view that the fewer the rules, the better the outcome for liberty. But, in this case, I suspect that the opposite is true. “Don’t Be Evil” might be a good policy for a society that agrees upon the nature of “evil,” but, in one that does not, it is next to useless. As a result, Musk ought to insist on a larger set of narrower limits — “You may not threaten to kill another user” — and to assiduously avoid any of the broader concepts that have been captured and corrupted by the DEI-types that are ruining the American workplace. . . .

Having set these narrow and concrete rules, Musk’s second step ought to be to fire pretty much everyone who has ever been involved in Twitter’s content moderation. Over the past few years, Twitter has provided Americans with a perfect example of the old adage that “personnel is policy,” and, clearly, Twitter’s existing personnel cannot be trusted. One could put together the greatest guidelines that have ever existed on the Internet, but if the people who are charged with interpreting and executing them are biased lunatics, they’ll make no difference whatsoever. Going forward, every employee at Twitter must be asked, bluntly, “Are you in favor of free speech, even when you hate that speech?” If the answer is “No,” they should be asked to leave. There is no reason whatsoever for a “platform for free speech around the globe” to employ people who oppose free speech around the globe.

Finally, Musk ought to dramatically increase transparency. At present, Twitter is an infuriating black hole for everyone except the famous and well-connected.

Shout-Outs

Brad Polumbo, at the Washington Examiner: A free-market oasis in the desert

David Auerbach, at UnHerd: How the elites lost the Twitter war

Devin Gordon, at the Atlantic: What Happened to Jon Stewart?

Philip Wegmann, at RealClearPolitics: Showdown Looms Over Vacated Mask Mandate

CODA                                                                 

Last weekend, I boasted about having found the “longest song,” but I should know better. There’s always a longer song. Sure enough, Kevin Antonio writes in with “The Devil Glitch,” by Chris Butler, which at 69 minutes once held the record for longest pop song.

Meanwhile, in belated honor of the mask-mandate reversal: “Breathe (In the Air).”

Politics & Policy

Get Ready for a Border-Crisis Summer

Loading...
Migrants run northbound through the Las Palomas Wildlife Management Area after crossing the Rio Grande river into the United States from Mexico in La Joya, Texas, February 22, 2022. All eight men were detained by border patrol agents and taken into custody. Picture taken with a drone. (Adrees Latif/Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Democrats already are watching with dread the polling that shows voters in a state of high anxiety over inflation and economic concerns generally. But another issue that for now ranks rather low on the priorities list threatens to explode just in time for midterm sweeps.

Beware the border.

With the Biden administration set to lift the Trump-era measure known as Title 42 one month from now, officers on the front lines and bipartisan lawmakers alike are expecting a surge of historic proportions. That policy, ostensibly implemented to combat Covid-19, allowed the government to turn back many asylum-seekers, and even that has had limited impact on the flow of migration. We just learned Customs and Border Protection recorded over 221,000 migrant encounters along the U.S.–Mexico border in March, the highest total since President Biden took office. You can see the trend lines here, and it’s an alarming picture. The administration is averaging about 7,100 daily encounters and, according to one report, is bracing for up to 18,000 after May 23. While officials apparently are planning for this, Axios reports that Biden aides are now discussing a possible delay on the repeal to buy time.

NR’s Carine Hajjar just returned from a reporting trip to the border, and it was eye-opening.

“This is the worst I’ve ever seen it . . . this administration doesn’t care,” one 25-year Border Patrol agent told her.

Local ranchers in Texas described a daily battle to keep up with damage from migrant traffic, saying it’s much worse than in the past. One ranch owner said he’s seen “more property damage than if I were to add 30 years together.” In a reminder that lax border security invites tragic consequences, he’s also finding the bodies of migrants regularly, more last year “than I’ve ever had.”

As for what happens after May 23, Carine relays the following:

Already, due to Biden’s open-door messaging, the border is encountering record numbers of asylum-seekers, overwhelming and derailing Border Patrol operations. . . .

When Title 42 is lifted, opening the door for even more asylum claims, the crisis will only get worse.

Indeed, everyone I spoke to at the border — from law-enforcement officers, to landowners, to private citizens — had one word to describe a post–Title 42 border: disaster.

One Border Patrol agent, who was loading up a group of asylum-seekers to be processed, laughed when I asked if the Biden administration had a plan to deal with the impending crisis: “Not that they’ve told us,” he said.

As Charles C. W. Cooke has noted, the sustained use of Title 42 on public-health grounds was tenuous given that the underlying pandemic emergency has become less of one. The administration used it as a crutch but without it has few options that won’t enrage the base.

Heading into a midterm-election cycle that already is bad for the incumbent party, DHS could be looking at a surge that eclipses prior border-related political catastrophes: the unaccompanied children under Obama, the family separations under Trump, the Haitian migrants under Biden just last year . . .

Legal justification aside, moderate Democrats can smell the crisis coming this summer and are calling on the administration to keep Title 42 in place until an adequate plan is developed to deal with the influx sure to follow. Mark Krikorian assumes the administration will indeed kick the can on Title 42 but wants to see a reckoning on immigration policy.

As Phil Klein notes, you know things are bad when a Democratic senator from New Hampshire feels compelled to shoot a video at the border.

In other news — prepare to encounter raunchy, uncensored face nudity on your next flight. Catch up on the rest of the week, right here.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

One of the last barriers to normalcy is toppled, for now: The Friendly Skies Return

ARTICLES

In memoriam CNN+

Jimmy Quinn: Over 500,000 Ukrainians Deported to Russian ‘Filtration Camps,’ Zelensky Says

Brittany Bernstein: Betty Ford Foundation Breaks 73-Year Admission Record Because of Pandemic Alcoholism Surge

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Obama’s Crusade against Fake News

Neal Freeman: Divorce, Florida-Style

Ryan Mills: Former Administrator Sues School Board, Claims Colleagues Harassed Her after She Spoke Out against CRT

Kevin Williamson: Fairy Tales Won’t Fix the Economy

Kristina Rasmussen: Washington Is Pushing Woke Health Care

Jack Butler: It’s the Grassroots vs. the Establishment in Ohio’s Pro-Life Movement

Isaac Schorr: Meet Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, the Judge Who Overturned the Transportation Mask Mandate

Andrew McCarthy: What’s Wrong and What’s Right about Judge Mizelle’s Mask-Mandate Decision

Charles C. W. Cooke: Joe Biden Blew It on Masks

And for some point/counterpoint on Florida’s Disney brawl . . .

Charles C. W. Cooke: Ron DeSantis’s Misguided Attack on Disney’s Legal Status

Ryan Ellis: Florida Republicans Are Right to Push Back against Disney

Philip Klein: Ron DeSantis and the Fight Club Conservatives

Jason Lee Steorts: Farewell to Free Speech, Say Florida Republicans

Rich Lowry: Let Disney Be an Example

CAPITAL MATTERS

Daniel Pilla examines a wealth tax by another name: Biden Proposes a New Wealth Tax

Samuel Gregg warns about the tough but necessary slog ahead to tame inflation: Fighting Inflation Is Hard, Messy, and There Will Be Casualties

Kevin Hassett believes much more than Elon Musk’s clout is at stake in his Twitter takeover bid: Musk Can Stop the Drift to Socialism

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Armond White follows up on last week’s praise for Father Stu: Is Father Stu a ‘Religious Film’ or an ‘American Film’?

Brian Allen spotlights a couple of the lesser-known D.C. museums, starting with its American art collection. Factoids abound, including one I somehow didn’t know — that the National Gallery is not actually part of the Smithsonian; this is: The Smithsonian’s Splendid American Art Museum, with a Few Quibbles

ICYMI, this one by Kyle Smith went kinda viral last weekend: The World’s Biggest Rock Band Is a Christian Rock Band

THESE EXCERPTS ARE BROUGHT TO YOU BY DARK MONEY (DON’T TELL ANYONE)

Joe Biden played his hand on the transportation mask mandate about as shrewdly as the Earl of Grantham played his family fortune. Charles C. W. Cooke recalls the political errors that preceded this week’s court ruling:

The policy was remarkably stupid, and that President Biden decided to renew it not once, but twice, after it had clearly run its course, was a testament to his near total lack of political guile. Back in November, I asked, “If, tomorrow, you told a plane full of Americans that they no longer needed to wear their masks, how many do you think would still have them on by the time you’d hung the intercom back on its hook? Twenty? Ten? Three?” Last night, we got an answer to this question. So thrilled by the judge’s decision were America’s beleaguered airlines that most of them chose to broadcast the news mid-flight, where it was met by a supermajority of passengers with the sort of glee that has usually been reserved for the end of a war. Had he been smart, Joe Biden could have owned that glee. Instead, it came in spite of him, courtesy of a Republican-appointed judge, from — of all places — Florida.

Why? What did Biden get for his recalcitrance? An extra two or three weeks of a policy that everyone has known for a while was absurd? For months, it has been obvious that there is a big gap between what people are willing to tell pollsters about their attitude toward Covid and what people will actually do when given a free choice. Normal people have been able to sense this. Joe Biden has not — even as his approval ratings have dropped inexorably into the mire. He didn’t notice it when the Senate voted 57 to 40 to end the transit mandate. He didn’t notice it when vulnerable Democrats in the House began to tell journalists that they were in favor of “whatever gets rid of mask mandates as quickly as possible.” He didn’t notice it when SNL — yes, even SNL — started making fun of progressive hysteria over masks. Now, it is too late.

The headwinds against this administration are real. Indeed, they have now grown so strong that the Democrats will probably end up regretting that they won the last presidential election. And yet, irrespective of the challenges that were thrown before him, one simply cannot imagine, say, Bill Clinton making Joe Biden’s mistakes.

Kristina Rasmussen flags an alarming development in the field of health care:

There’s a new front in the woke campaign to control our national institutions: health care. . . .

Every American needs to know what Washington is doing. It’s using taxpayer money and unaccountable regulation to embed “critical race theory” and “anti-racism” into every level of health care. The secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, recently made this clear when he declared that “health equity pervades everything” his department does. In making this declaration, he was following the lead of the president he serves. It sounds nice. But ensuring health equity requires taking a divisive and discriminatory approach to treating patients and providing care.

Which is exactly what’s happening. Since the start of this year, Washington has effectively bribed physicians to embrace discrimination on a day-to-day basis by offering higher Medicare-reimbursement rates to physicians who “create and implement an anti-racism plan.” That’s code for recasting everything that happens at the doctor’s office in light of race, including patients’ access to care and specific treatments. Ninety-three percent of primary-care physicians accept Medicare.

And with many medical providers still dealing with Covid-induced financial struggles, they’ll probably find it hard to turn down the extra money.

Russia is sending Ukrainians to camps, deporting them from their own country. Jimmy Quinn reports on Zelensky’s description of those conditions:

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said that Russian troops have deported at least 500,000 Ukrainian citizens from Russian-occupied territory in Ukraine to Russia.

“This is deportation. This is what the worst totalitarian regimes of the past did,” he said, in an address to Portugal’s parliament today. He told the Portuguese lawmakers to consider that the half-million figure is twice the population of Porto.

Zelensky claimed that deported Ukrainians are “deprived of means of communication” and that the Russian authorities seized their identification documents.

“They are distributed to the remote regions of Russia. The occupiers set up special filtration camps to distribute people. Some of those who get there are simply killed. Girls are raped,” he added.

Who can resist political tea leaves? Not me. And Neal Freeman reads them like a tarot-card dealer in the Vieux Carré backstreets as he envisions various scenarios that might play out to determine the future of the Trump-DeSantis relationship, or lack thereof:

Can this marriage be saved? The consensus seems to be: no, and it is more likely to end with a bang than a whimper.

I count four scenarios advanced with more or less conviction by the obsessed.

1. Health Troubles. Trump is 75. He is under constant stress, much of it self-generated. He has been categorized by an attending physician as “obese.” He routinely orders fries with the cheeseburger. And he takes regular exercise by driving around his course in an electric golf cart. In a recent Washington Post interview, Trump himself admitted that his health could be a factor in keeping from running. “You look like you’re in good health, but tomorrow, you get a letter from a doctor saying come see me again. That’s not good when they use the word again,” Trump said.

Probability: 15–20 percent.

2. Trump graciously steps aside. With DeSantis surging toward reelection in November, and his own crowds thinning, Trump makes the decent and apposite gesture and withdraws in favor of his promising young protégé.

Probability: 1–5 percent. Trump rarely does gracious.

3. DeSantis defers gratefully to his mentor. Acknowledging his enormous debt to the older man, DeSantis announces that, should Trump run himself, DeSantis will not run and, further, pledges that his formidable organization will deliver Florida for Trump in 2024.

Probability: 1–5 percent. DeSantis rarely does grateful.

4. Trump and DeSantis are involved in a high-speed collision on I-95. Failing to reach amicable settlement, Trump and DeSantis resolve their issues James Dean–style, with a game of highway chicken.

Probability: 70–80 percent.

Shout-Outs

Gordon Chang, at the Hill: In Shanghai, COVID-19 has become China’s political disease

Kevin Daley, at the Washington Free Beacon: Why Is the Supreme Court Still Closed to the Public?

Susan Crabtree, at RealClearPolitics: White House Mum on Details of Garcetti ‘Vetting’

Khaled Abu Toameh, at the Jerusalem Post: The new defenders of al-Aqsa

CODA

I’ve done it, I’ve found the longest song — by prog rocker turned born-again Christian rocker Neal Morse. Check out “World Without End,” at a cool 33 minutes and change. This marks two Codas this month to feature the work of drummer Mike Portnoy. If you like, you can pull this postscript back to less proggy territory by sending your song recommendations to jberger@nationalreview.com, for sharing with this list.

Have a fine weekend, and thanks for reading.

World

Passover’s Story of Escalation Dominance

Loading...
Seventh Plague of Egypt, 1823, by John Martin. (Public Domain/Wikimedia)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Moses was 80 years old when he and his brother Aaron, a few years older still, sought an audience with Pharaoh so they could perform God’s work and free the Israelites from bondage. Never assume you’ve already peaked.

What followed was the first known maximum-pressure sanctions campaign in the Middle East.

The effort started small, with Aaron’s serpent-rod eating the Egyptians’ serpent-rods, but it quickly escalated. Blood in the Nile, frogs on the land, lice, locusts, darkness, hail, and all that. Pharaoh was given off-ramps but had a tendency to double back once he was on them; plus the Israelites’ demand for total victory (they wanted to bring their livestock and their kids with them) proved a hindrance to compromise. Eventually, Team Moses took the notion of collective punishment to extremes, and prevailed.

One could be forgiven for doubting that the West’s isolation campaign against Russia will be quite as effective toward the goal of saving the Ukrainians. Jim Geraghty notes how Russia is poised to make even more money than last year on energy exports, despite sanctions. If ever there were a need for righteous judgment from the heavens, this would be it.

In considering the West’s options, concerns about the danger from escalation certainly are warranted, as the death toll from a nuclear-tipped World War III would be unfathomable. But let’s still remember who, exactly, is doing the escalating in Ukraine — it’s not Warsaw, and it’s not Washington.

In the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, the mass graves and torture-scarred corpses Russian forces left behind are being well documented. NR’s editorial on the horror includes this description from a witness who spoke with the Times of London: “They had been torturing people. Some of them had their ears cut off. Others had teeth pulled out. There were kids like 14, 16 years old, some adults.”

A week ago, a Russian missile strike killed at least 50 civilians, some of them kids, at a train station packed with people trying to escape eastern Ukraine.

In Mariupol, the besieged city’s mayor recently told the AP that more than 10,000 civilians have died so far, and that Russia’s forces brought in “mobile crematoriums” to manage the corpses.

Even as Russia pulls back from Kyiv, Putin’s army is preparing a new offensive in Ukraine’s East (which includes Mariupol), led by a general notorious for directing his country’s bloody campaign in Syria. Jay Nordlinger applies the phrase “face the slaughter” to the stories emerging from the war zone; he collects an array of evidence here making the reality clear, so we can.

Unlike the ancient Israelites, the Ukrainians would rather not leave. They’re also better fighters. Can there be a Passover lesson here? One might be that, to face down an autocrat, it helps to have an indomitable force in your corner. Another, that escalation can be catastrophic, even if it achieves desired ends. Another still — that the one turning the screws is the one who can dictate that severity.

For now, that person, unfortunately, continues to be Vladimir Putin.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

Nobody is fooled by “Putin’s Price Hike,” right? Biden’s Inflation Problem Is Deeper Than Putin

China’s latest disastrous attempt to control Covid-19 makes the definitive case against lockdowns: The Shanghai Lockdown

ARTICLES

Jimmy Quinn: Christian Detainee Who Escaped Xinjiang Camp Recalls Mysterious Injections: ‘Everything Was Painful’

Ryan Mills: U.S. Embassy Staff Destroyed Passports as Taliban Took Over, Trapping American Allies in Afghanistan

Jay Nordlinger: Reality in Ukraine: Staring It in the Face

Jim Geraghty: Barack Obama Rewrites History on Russia and Ukraine

Yuval Levin: From Trump Party to Trump Faction?

John Fund: Lockdown States Pursued a Failed Policy, Study Finds

Michael Van Beek: What Not to Do in the Next Pandemic

Rich Lowry: The Russian Way of Brutality

Dan McLaughlin: A Serious Look at Justice Thomas’s Unserious Critics on Recusals

Kevin Williamson: Biden Goes to War with . . . Charlie?

Charles C. W. Cooke: The CNN+ Catastrophe

Carine Hajjar: What Asylum-Seeking Migrants Say about Their Trek North

Caroline Downey: Ted Cruz Defends State Bans on Teaching CRT, Gender Ideology: ‘Curriculum Is Not Censorship’

CAPITAL MATTERS

Grover Norquist pops into Cap Matters with an endorsement of Republicans’ answer to the union-boosting PRO Act: The Employee Rights Act Puts American Workers, Not Union Bosses, in the Driver’s Seat

And here’s Dom Pino, with a ruh-roh: Wait, a Freight Recession?

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Kyle Smith reviews — quite favorably — a film on faith and one man’s conversion, in time for Easter weekend: A Stunning Cinematic Tribute to Catholic Faith

A new show about education-system decay takes a cynical and disappointing tone. From Armond White: Abbott Elementary’s Crisis Comedy

Brian Allen has high hopes — and some words of advice regarding priorities — for the newly named president at the Getty: The Getty Trust, the World’s Richest Arts Organization, Gets a New Leader 

FROM THE NEW, MAY 2, 2022, ISSUE OF NR

Charles C. W. Cooke: The Parents’ Revolt

John McCormack: Six Congressional Races to Watch

Allen C. Guelzo: Ulysses S. Grant, Forgotten Republican

Ben Sasse: Reminding the Right

OUR EXCERPTS ARE UNLEAVENED

China’s Xinjiang prison-camp system is sick, twisted, grotesque . . . and it’s going to take the testimony and evidence of those who endured it for the world to wake up to this evil. Jimmy Quinn has interviewed one such family, who arrived in the U.S. prepared to speak out just last week:

A former Xinjiang prison-camp detainee who escaped to America just days ago described his harrowing imprisonment in an extensive interview with National Review, including details of forced injections that he and others were given of an unknown substance that caused painful and debilitating reactions — as well as obedience.

The survivor, Ovalbek Turdakun, spoke with NR through a translator during a sit-down at a Washington hotel late Tuesday evening, following a busy day in the nation’s capital. These are among the most extended comments he’s made on the ten months he spent in the Xinjiang prison camp in 2018, since he arrived in Washington on Friday with his wife and their eleven-year-old son. Their escape followed a years-long ordeal that took them from Xinjiang, China, to Kyrgyzstan, and at last to the United States.

Turdakun is understood to be the first Christian detainee of the Xinjiang camp system to reach the U.S. and to speak publicly about the experience. He is expected to testify before Congress about his time in the prison, and his recounting of Chinese officials’ continued harassment after his family’s escape to Kyrgyzstan will likely bolster an ongoing effort to bring Beijing’s atrocities in Xinjiang to the International Criminal Court. The family’s arrival is also noteworthy because it may be the first time that an entire family was able to leave Xinjiang for the U.S. together, Ethan Gutmann, a scholar who researches China’s atrocities in the region, told NR.

Specifically, Turdakun’s testimony is expected to reveal new aspects of China’s mass atrocities against ethnic minorities in Xinjiang. Turdukan said he and other detainees had been beaten with batons and tortured in what’s called a “tiger chair” — and shocked with an electric wand for falling asleep during that torture — on multiple occasions. He also detailed, at length, the practice of injecting prisoners with an unknown substance which, in his case, rendered him unable to walk for a period of time. . . .

The camp was located in Turdakun’s home prefecture of Kizilsu, which borders Kyrgyzstan. He said the Chinese authorities took him there after a monthlong period during which they either knocked on their door or called their home every evening because his wife, Zhyldyz, is a Kyrgyz citizen, and their family regularly made trips to Kyrgyzstan.

Turdakun and his son hold Chinese passports, but they are all ethnically Kyrgyz Christians. While most international attention has focused on the plight of Xinjiang’s ethnic Uyghurs, many of whom are Muslims, a number of other minority groups, including Kyrgyz, Kazakhs, and others, have been targeted by the Chinese government’s campaign, suspected to be clearing the region for ethnic Han Chinese settlers.

In case there was any doubt left about the cruelty and counterproductivity of lockdowns, witness Shanghai. From NR’s editorial:

What we are witnessing in Shanghai is the final, total failure of lockdowns as a pandemic-control measure. The daytime images of Shanghai streets, emptied of all human life, are a vision of life on earth after a civilization-destroying cataclysm. The nighttime videos, featuring thousands or tens of thousands of people bellowing out from their apartment windows and balconies, crying in desperation for human contact, announcing their fear of running out of food, or simply crying in futile desperation at their inability to attend to their dependent relatives, constitute a horror movie. In some videos, state-controlled drones admonish the people not to sing, or let a cry for freedom dwell in their hearts. . . .

China failed to sufficiently vaccinate even its elderly population ahead of the Omicron spread. And so it has resorted again to a medieval approach to disease management, but backed by an omnipresent security apparatus that functions like the Eye of Sauron.

Let this travesty be the final blow to China’s reputation of having an effective governmental response to Covid. China prevaricated with international health organizations to save its reputation early on, downplaying the severity and nature of the disease, arresting the reporters revealing it to the world, and slowing the global response to it. China has lied ever since about the death toll of the disease, falsely bolstering the reputation of Covid-Zero. China failed to provide basic cooperation with global authorities to a degree that even the World Health Organization’s leader, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, refused to rule out the Wuhan lab as the source of the pandemic. And China’s lies have now led to the prolonged house arrest of millions in its territory.

If there were any doubt, this latest episode should send an unmistakable message: The Chinese model is a failure.

On a related note, over at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Michael Van Beek recalls just how insane Michigan’s lockdown policies were, in offering up some advice for how to respond more sensibly to the next public-health crisis:

No governor better illustrates this crazy period than Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer. Even after she’d closed a larger portion of businesses than any other governor, Whitmer kept the executive orders coming. At times, she was averaging a new edict every day, issuing so many confusing, complex rules that her administration had to create an online FAQ page in an attempt to answer more than 1,000 different questions.

On April 9, 2020, when Whitmer extended her stay-at-home order, she attempted to close certain sections of big-box stores such as Meijer, Kroger, and Walmart, prohibiting them from advertising or selling flooring materials, furniture, paint, and plants before she’d even required masks to be worn within their walls. She also, for some reason, outlawed motorized boating while allowing the non-motorized variety to continue.

Whitmer’s most perplexing policies, though, related to golf. At the time of her initial lockdown order, the aforementioned FAQ page said golfing was illegal. Her attorney general subsequently clarified that it was nevertheless still legal to go for a walk on a golf course. A couple of weeks later, the Michigan Golf Association sent the governor’s office a letter pointing out that most states still allowed golfing, and she reversed course to permit it again — but not with golf carts. It took another letter from golfing interests pointing out how important carts are to golfers for that ban to be reversed.

We would do well to heed the lessons of the slapdash, authoritarian approach Whitmer and other governors took to managing Covid-19. They ignored the existing plans experts created for responding to pandemics and relied on their emergency powers to issue unilateral decrees. Although they talked a lot about “following the science,” they were essentially flying by the seats of their pants. Little deliberation took place; at best, a small group of state officials tried to regulate the behavior of millions of people. And those millions of people suffered as a result.

Ryan Mills provides more infuriating details about the consequences of America’s botched Afghanistan withdrawal:

For months, Rabah has been in hiding, moving from place to place in Afghanistan, trying to stay one step ahead of the Taliban warriors he believes are out to kill him.

The 30-year-old former interpreter for U.S. special forces hasn’t seen his wife and four kids in weeks. He has little food. He has repeatedly tried to escape to Pakistan and Iran, to no avail.

The problem, according to Rabah, is his lack of a passport, which was destroyed by U.S. Embassy staff as they evacuated Kabul last summer.

“There is no option for me,” said Rabah, who spoke to National Review on the condition that his real name not be published. “They destroyed my passport means they destroyed my whole life. If I had a passport, everything was possible. Without a passport . . . I can do nothing.”

Last summer, as the Taliban was overtaking Kabul, U.S. Embassy staffers destroyed the Afghan passports and sensitive documents in their possession to help protect the identities of American allies who remained in the country. Eight months later, it’s not clear exactly how many passports were destroyed. In an email to National Review, the U.S. Department of State declined to provide a number. Shawn Van Diver, founder of the #AfghanEvac coalition, said fewer than 200 people filled out a form on his organization’s website to report that their passports were destroyed. But several other leaders of civilian rescue organizations said the number of people whose documents were destroyed is surely more than that.

“There are absolutely thousands. There’s no doubt about that,” said Ben Owen, chief executive of Flanders Fields, a civilian group that has been part of the rescue efforts in Afghanistan.

Owen cited correspondence among various rescue organizations, as well as conversations with people who he said were on the ground at the time of the embassy evacuation for his estimate. And if the embassy really had only a few hundred passports, staffers could have easily boxed them up and flown out with them, rather than destroy them, he said, “so clearly it was a huge volume of documents they had to dispose of very quickly.”

People like Rabah, who were at the last step of getting the go-ahead to come to the U.S., now are among the likely tens of thousands of American allies and their family members who remain trapped in Afghanistan after the Biden administration’s bungled withdrawal.

Shout-Outs

Eric Boehm, at Reason: COVID Stimulus Checks Worsened Inflation

Bill McMorris, at RealClearInvestigations: Teachers’ Unions Other Foes: Liberal Parents

Lee Smith, at Tablet: Was the Infiltration of the Secret Service Part of an Iranian Plot to Kill John Bolton?

Sarah Westwood, at the Washington Examiner: Stubborn Seattle shows what can happen when leaders defund the police

CODA

Last week, this note put out the call for unexpected covers. Readers responded with rare gems.

Kevin in St. Petersburg, Fla., sends in selections from a band, Steve ’n’ Seagulls, whose bio reads like it was developed in a lab to appeal to me: a bluegrass group from Finland that does covers of metal and hard-rock songs. It pays to be cautious — was I being catfished? But no, their version of “Thunderstruck” has 140 million views on YouTube, so color me late to the party. The video deserves its virality. The Gulls’ repertoire is impressive, their covers . . . unexpected, to say the least. Many are reinventions. Here’s their take on Iron Maiden.

One more: Steve Shannon shoots over a commonly covered Gershwin song I had forgotten about when marveling at another in last week’s note: “Summertime.” This version by The Zombies is one I hadn’t before heard. Gorgeous, in a word.

Have a restful weekend, whether you’re observing a resurrection, an exodus, or just Cecil B. DeMille’s masterpiece in full technicolor.

White House

The Hunter Biden Story Goes Mainstream

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

Dear Weekend Jolter,

By now, it is abundantly clear that American news outlets — and the social-media giants that determine their reach — not only missed but actively suppressed one of the biggest stories of the 2020 election.

Recall, for a moment, how the New York Post was treated after breaking the news on the trove of data recovered from a laptop left with a Delaware repair shop, showing details of Hunter Biden’s financial dealings in Ukraine and with Chinese energy company CEFC. Andrew McCarthy, in NR’s latest issue, gives the recap of that episode:

Twitter locked the account of the Post — the nation’s oldest con­tinuously published newspaper and its fourth largest by circulation — as well as accounts of Trump advocates who attempted to circulate reports on Hunter’s laptop. Other social-media platforms followed suit. Journalists speculatively questioned the provenance of the laptop data . . .

Former intel officials simultaneously pushed the claim that this might all be the work of Russian disinformation artists. That was enough to kill it. End of story.

Until now. The New York Times has authenticated key files from Hunter Biden’s abandoned laptop. So has the Washington Post, while noting that this level of confidence extends to thousands of emails but not other chunks of data in its possession purportedly from Hunter’s laptop. (The Washington Post’s verification efforts in 2020 apparently were stymied in part by Trump allies’ refusal to cooperate.) The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, says a federal tax probe into Hunter is “gaining momentum,” and prosecutors are looking at his sources of foreign income. The Times says the tax inquiry has widened to include possible violations of “foreign lobbying and money laundering rules.”

So the story was a story after all. We’re getting lab-leak déjà vu over here. Andy says the president’s son is likely looking at indictment, one way or another, even if his back taxes are paid up now.

The latest reports are careful to note that evidence does not at this stage demonstrate wrongdoing or knowledge by the president concerning various transactions by his son. White House chief of staff Ron Klain has defended Hunter while also stressing that his dealings “don’t involve the president.”

But the focus is turning to President Biden, and it’s not hard to understand why.

This week, we learned that a grand-jury witness reportedly has been asked to ID the individual referred to as the “big guy” in an infamous email discussing equity distributions for those involved in a deal with CEFC China Energy Co. The email seemingly discussed the possibility of a 10 percent cut for said “big guy,” and one former partner has alleged that this referred to Joe Biden. Andy flags another emerging detail here, concerning a college recommendation letter, that raises suspicion about the elder Biden’s level of awareness of his son’s business pursuits.

As for what made this case newsworthy in the first place, the Washington Post’s multi-article treatment of Hunter’s name-trading reprises the cringey details: Nearly $5 million paid by the “Chinese energy conglomerate and its executives” to “entities controlled by” Hunter and his uncle. An agreement to represent a CEFC official later convicted in the U.S. in a bribery scheme. A getting-to-know-you diamond gift. Rich Lowry calls the particulars “jaw dropping”:

The company sought to extend Chinese influence as part of Beijing’s “Belt and Road” initiative. The founder of CEFC, Ye Jianming, roped in Hunter Biden, infamously giving him a 2.8-carat diamond after their first meeting. Everyone knew the score.

Everyone — except Joe Biden? Rich says Republicans should make this a focus of investigation if they take the House in the midterms. So challenged, the Biden White House is sure to keep calling this a private matter. By now, however, there should be no argument that this is a legitimate story, worthy of investigation and media attention, and always was.

Some holdouts remain. The Atlantic’s Anne Applebaum asserted this week that the laptop reporting was “irrelevant” from the start. (So “why was it censored?” David Harsanyi counters.) Elsewhere in the media, however, there appears to be some tacit recognition that, in language familiar to husbands who’ve ever forgotten to secure the lid on the blender, mistakes were made. One WaPo editorial explaining the paper’s handling of the story acknowledges that a lesson from 2020 may be that, just as the need to treat salacious campaign-season allegations with caution was underscored in 2016, “there’s also a danger of suppressing accurate and relevant stories.”

Talk about timing: Elon Musk might soon be able to help Twitter, for one, see the light on that count.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

Russia’s atrocities in Bucha only underscore the need to step up assistance, quickly, to Ukraine: The Horror of Bucha

Elon Musk has put his money where his tweets are on free speech: Musk’s Move on Twitter

ARTICLES

Jay Nordlinger: Ukraine and the Meaning of This War

Steven Camarota: The Illegal-Immigrant Population Increased Dramatically in Biden’s First Year

Aron Ravin: The Short-Sighted, Ignoble Lie of DEI

Caroline Downey: Schools Push Radical Ideology under Guise of ‘Social-Emotional Learning,’ Parents Warn

Isaac Schorr: Republicans Threaten to Let Disney’s Mickey Mouse Copyright Lapse over ‘Radical Political Activism’

Alexandra DeSanctis: House Republicans Unveil Post-Roe Messaging Strategy

David Harsanyi: The Most Radical Abortion Law in the Nation

David Harsanyi: The ‘Groomer’ Accusation Is Counterproductive

Nate Hochman: A Conservative Radio Station Bows to the Left-Wing Mob

Ryan Mills: A Mom’s Fight to Save Her Daughter from Trans Orthodoxy at School

John Fund: Let’s Learn from Orbán’s Landslide Instead of Denouncing It

Brittany Bernstein: Chicago Church ‘Fasting from Whiteness’ for Lent

Ben Domenech: Only Well-Armed Ukrainian Resistance against Russia Will Achieve Peace in Ukraine

Zachary Evans: ‘Control Your Soul’s Desire for Freedom’: Shocking Videos Emerge as Brutal Shanghai Covid Lockdown Drags On

Kevin Williamson: Is the Party Over?

Dan McLaughlin: The GOP Remains the Only Party for Conservatives

CAPITAL MATTERS

Paul Gessing has a timely question in this period of oil-and-gas uncertainty: Where’s Deb Haaland?

Andrew Stuttaford examines the case of a potential shareholder for free speech: Elon Musk’s Twitzkrieg?

Got questions on inflation? David L. Bahnsen’s got answers: A Comprehensive Primer on the Fed and Inflation

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Kyle Smith has a two-parter on European deficiencies, using our own David Harsanyi’s latest book as a jumping-off point: Let’s Measure Western Europe against the U.S. & The Toxic Aspects of European Culture

Brian Allen serves up seconds on the Winter Show in New York, and it’s not too late to swing by if you’re in the neighborhood and looking to pick up a piece for the mantel. Brian even provides price tags: A Second Look Rewards, at the Winter Show

A film about a mass shooting in Australia pierces through the usual crime-story conventions. From Armond White: Nitram Is a Mass-Empathy Masterpiece

LOOK WHAT WE SMUGGLED OUT FROM BEHIND THE PAYWALL

David Bahnsen has a deep dive on inflation, its causes, and its cures. He concludes:

The challenges we face in our economy are made worse by current inflation. We are hearing pleas for the Fed to do something and for the government to do something. We would do well to remember that the same calls will come when a recession surfaces (which it inevitably will). Once we accept that monetary and fiscal policy caused this inflation, it will not be a big stretch to argue that monetary and fiscal policies ought to be the cure for contractionary times as well. We have been in this negative feedback loop for decades, and the result has been a continual boom–bust cycle that is the envy of no one. The Fed’s role as smoother of the business cycle is doing more harm than good. The Keynesian notion that excessive government spending can cure our cyclical problems has run its course. We have an economy in need of a detox.

I see two major economic agendas in front of conservatives: (1) ridding ourselves of the excessive fiscal and monetary interventions that have done so much harm to the economy, and (2) solving for the stagnant economic growth that is exacerbating social divides in our country and suppressing opportunities for today’s middle class, not to mention the generation ahead.

Inflation has been an undesirable and unwelcome entry to this conversation over the last year. Its damage is disproportionately felt by lower-income Americans. It punishes savers. It erodes purchasing power whether it happens quickly or slowly, over time.

Let us not allow the present inflation discussion to blind us to the two agenda items above. What we say now will be used against the cause of real reform in a different economic context. We have structural challenges that must be addressed. I fear too many on the right are so focused on finding the 1970s in present conditions that they may miss out on the chance to really move the needle on the 2020s. If the first couple of years of this decade are any indication, our ideas are going to be needed.

Caroline Downey reports on misplaced priorities in the American education system:

During the pandemic, Tracie Spiegel’s son and most of his Howard County, Md., classmates received virtually no mathematics instruction for five months.

What little ineffective virtual instruction he did receive didn’t prevent his grade from plummeting from an A to a C. So when he returned to the classroom as a high-school freshman, he became incredibly frustrated that he and his peers were asked to spend 40 minutes every Monday on so-called social-emotional learning (SEL).

Instead of spending as much time as possible making up the ground they had lost in math and other subjects, they were taught how to avoid committing microaggressions, how to use pronouns, and how to avoid offending gay people, according to Spiegel’s son.

Since conservatives at all levels of government embraced the fight against critical race theory, dissenting parents nationwide know how to recognize and counter racially divisive curricula. But a broader suite of radical ideas, couched in therapeutic language, is quietly being advanced under the banner of SEL, parents whose children have been exposed to such programming told National Review.

In a recent Washington Post article, SEL advocates argued that the conservative outcry is an unwarranted attack on crucial mental-health programming for kids.

A review of SEL materials obtained by the nonprofit Parents Defending Education (PDE) confirms parents’ concerns that mental-health language is being co-opted to advance radical ideas about race, gender, and sexuality. But even if some of the SEL material is innocuous, parents told NR they’d still be concerned because time spent on SEL is time not spent helping kids recover from the learning loss they suffered during two years of school closures.

As Spiegel put it: “Where is the algebra? Where is the biology? Where is the English?” . . . “My daughter’s asking me if she’s a racist and my son’s confused about why he has to take these,” Spiegel said.

The reports out of Bucha reflect nothing less than acts of human depravity, on a vast scale. From the editorial:

The Russian retreat from the Kyiv suburbs left behind mass graves and corpses strewn everywhere for the world to see. The most horrific of these scenes was discovered in the Kyiv oblast suburb of Bucha last week after Ukrainian troops reclaimed the city.

Early reports piece together a sickening mosaic of gratuitous violence inflicted on the city’s residents for weeks.

The Times of London, in a report with the headline “Bodies of mutilated children among horrors the Russians left behind,” interviewed a Ukrainian self-defense-force member who found 18 corpses in the basement of a dacha: “They had been torturing people. Some of them had their ears cut off. Others had teeth pulled out. There were kids like 14, 16 years old, some adults.”

A local coroner, the New York Times reported, had to get a backhoe operator to dig a mass grave in the backyard of a church to accommodate the bodies sent his way.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has said that over 300 people had been tortured and killed in Bucha. (Russian mouthpieces claim the bodies seen on the street were planted there for propaganda purposes, but satellite imagery obtained by the New York Times showed the corpses were there during the Russian occupation.) That town has garnered international media attention, but it’s only one city that Russian forces controlled in the area until the recent pullback. Ukraine’s prosecutor general said the atrocities in another Kyiv-region town, Borodyanka, are even worse. That’s to say nothing of territory still under Russian control in other parts of the country — in Mariupol, Russian troops are reported to have brought in portable crematoria to cover their tracks.

We should want more solid confirmation of all this, given the fog of war and the incentive Ukrainians naturally feel to generate as much international outrage in their behalf as possible. But even if only a fraction of it is true, it’d be horrifying enough, and certainly none of it is out of character for Putin’s Russia. 

Make of this what you will, but Brittany Bernstein relays the story of a church finding a peculiar way to observe Lent:

A church in the suburbs of Chicago says it is “fasting from whiteness” during Lent, the 40-day period leading up to Easter.

“For Lent this year, First United is doing a mix of ‘giving something up’ and ‘taking something on,’” the First United Church of Oak Park wrote on its website. “In our worship services throughout Lent, we will not be using any music or liturgy written or composed by white people. Our music will be drawn from the African American spirituals tradition, from South African freedom songs, from Native American traditions, and many, many more.”

Shout-Outs

Brooke Singman & Peter Hasson, at Fox News: Biden wrote college recommendation letter for son of Hunter’s Chinese business partner, emails reveal

Chuck Ross, at the Washington Free Beacon: Dems Tap Hunter Biden Laptop Conspiracy Theorist To Serve on Afghanistan War Commission

Suzy Weiss, at Common Sense: The Teen Girls Aren’t Going to Forget

Jessica Contrera, at the Washington Post: The remarkable brain of a carpet cleaner who speaks 24 languages

CODA

Some of the best covers are those tackled by musicians operating in the wilds of entirely different genres. The tributes that make you say, “Wait a minute, who’s doing that song?” That was the reaction I had the first time I heard Johnny Cash’s “Hurt,” before being floored by it.

I stumbled across one of this type recently, and, while it doesn’t possess that level of emotional resonance, it certainly made me say, “Wait a minute, who?” It’s not every day you hear a Gershwin “cover” outside of the orchestra hall, besides. Prog supergroup Liquid Tension Experiment has the requisite chutzpah to try it; their version of “Rhapsody in Blue” achieves lift-off around the 9:30 mark, if you can wait. Great fun.

Run into any unexpected covers lately? Shoot over a song link for sharing with this list to jberger@nationalreview.com. Thanks for reading, listening, or doing whatever it is you’ve been doing while this email was open.

U.S.

Armed Police Escorts and Gut Punches Are, in Fact, Signs of a Free-Speech Problem

Loading...
A protester is arrested by Alameda County sheriff during a demonstration at U.C. Berkeley during a speaking appearance from Ben Shapiro in Berkeley, Calif., September 14, 2017. (Justin Sullivan/Getty)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Jay Nordlinger has aptly noted with regard to media-consumption habits, “We live on different planets.” Sad, and true. So for any kind of consensus to build, a cause requires a presence in the publications and feeds of Planet Blue, Planet Red, and their various subdivisions.

It’s no coincidence that Democrat-led states began rolling back mask mandates once allied outlets and pundits (even SNL) questioned their efficacy. Candace Owens could, if she wanted, reverse vaccine hesitancy with a tweet. The Hunter Biden laptop story might get a second life now that the Washington Post and the New York Times have acknowledged its legitimacy. And a carefully worded entrance by the latter into the free-speech fight is significant for these reasons: Despite the Twitter meltdown over the recent Times editorial declaring, “America Has a Free Speech Problem,” it could open up a broader and dare we say more constructive debate on cancel culture and the suppression of speech on (and off) campus.

Here’s hoping.

As it happens, National Review has been reporting on this issue for years, and especially so lately, inviting those with first-hand experience to weigh in. Indeed, the free-speech problem is real.

Writing this week for NR on a pattern of illiberalism at the University of Virginia, student Ian Schwartz discussed how the campus newspaper is fighting a planned — and supposedly “dangerous” and life-threatening — appearance by Mike Pence.

Kristen Waggoner, with Alliance Defending Freedom, recalled her experience being shouted down at Yale Law School during a — checks notes — free-speech event. In her words:

Rather than listen and engage in civil dialogue, the vitriolic mob shouted down their professor who was moderating, and then me. After they were asked to leave, they chanted, pounded on classroom walls, and reportedly disrupted nearby classes, exams, and meetings. Even members of the Federalist Society, the student group that organized the event, were harassed and physically threatened by their fellow law students. . . .

The situation was so volatile that we required an armed police escort to leave campus in a patrol car.

The point in bringing attention to such incidents is not to demand that protesters hush. But physical intimidation goes beyond legitimate protest and is hardly conducive to genuine debate on campuses designed for such things. Speech is not violence. Silence is not violence. Violence is violence. Ask Chris Rock.

Alexandra DeSanctis offers some thoughts here on the importance of open debate, especially on campus. Jay applies the term “fear society” to current conditions. And Dan McLaughlin writes about the specific challenge for the legal profession, given how often these incidents happen at law schools:

Systems of law are designed to resolve disputes by speech and evidence precisely so that disputes will not instead be resolved by resort to violence. Mobs are the antithesis of that: They bring the force of the crowd to bear to drown out reason. Left to run wild, they will destroy not just speech but law itself.

Nate Hochman has reported on how constitutional law scholar Ilya Shapiro continues to be hounded over a poorly worded tweet for which he has apologized. At the University of California, Hastings College of Law, he endured 45 minutes of screaming, pounding, and profanity-hurling by students who tried to block him from the lectern. Caroline Downey reported on an even more chaotic scene at the University of North Texas (UNT), where Jeffrey Younger, a Texas House candidate who lost a child-custody battle after contesting his young son’s transgender diagnosis, saw his lecture hijacked by activists:

As the situation at UNT deteriorated, police evacuated Younger, as well as the student event organizer Kelly Neidert, from the building. They exited outside to confront a swarm of about 500 black-clad activists screeching expletives like “F*** you, Kelly!” One individual punched Younger in the gut, he said and Neidert confirmed. When police escorted Younger to a car and drove him away, the activists chased the car down the street, trying to open the door and “pull me out of the car,” he said. . . .

Police officers hurried Neidert to a nearby building, where they hid in a locked janitor’s closet as protesters ran through the hallways, “shrieking like animals,” she noted.

Think that’s an overstatement? Watch the video. (The picture you see above, by the way, is from a 2017 Ben Shapiro appearance at Berkeley, where protests were largely peaceful — thanks to a $600,000 security effort, undertaken to avert the violence that plagued prior events.)

In this debate, the disconnect between word and deed is substantial. Waggoner noted that most universities voice support for free speech, without putting “support into practice.” Which brings us back to that Times editorial, and a line that contains a great deal of truth: “You can’t consider yourself a supporter of free speech and be policing and punishing speech more than protecting it.”

What to do? Stanley Kurtz argues that the Yale shout-down provides an opening to set an example. The Law School’s own rules allow any student or faculty member to file a complaint and trigger an investigation. “A few courageous Yale Law students now have an opportunity to change the national conversation on free speech,” he writes.

Here’s hoping.

*    *    *

One last thing (there’s always one last thing). We’re about to close out our latest webathon, focused on supporting the great work of NR’s Maddy Kearns on the transgender debate. You heard about it from me earlier, but here’s that donation link one last time, in case you’re feeling philanthropic this weekend. Choice picks from the week’s coverage follow presently.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

Unpacking the problems with the “billionaire” tax: Biden’s Latest Tax Folly

The new defense budget is neither serious nor responsible: Biden’s Weak Defense Budget

“Gaffe” does not quite capture what happened last weekend in Warsaw: Biden’s ‘Regime Change’ Blunder

ARTICLES

Mike Pence: A Freedom Agenda Is the Conservative Path to Victory

Michael Brendan Dougherty: The Empty Chair

Isaac Schorr: Disney Was Silent on Parental-Rights Bill until Public Pressure Campaign Began, Florida House Speaker Says

Peter J. Travers: The Wild Beasts Are Real

Rich Lowry: It’s the Inflation, Stupid

Brittany Bernstein: MIT Admissions Reinstates Testing Requirement to Increase Low-Income Enrollment

Andrew McCarthy: The Smearing of Clarence Thomas

Dan McLaughlin: The Candidates Who Can’t Afford to Lose in 2022

Kevin Williamson: We Have Enough Taxes

Philip Klein: Biden’s Dishonest Budget

John McCormack: The Abortion Vote That Could Haunt Democrats in November

Charles C. W. Cooke: The Scottish Government Just Prosecuted a Man for Sending a Rude Tweet

CAPITAL MATTERS

Joel Kotkin warns about the “coming revenge of the disappointed”: The Most Dangerous Class

Shanghai is locking down for Covid. The city also is home to a major ocean port and a major airport for cargo planes. Dominic Pino dutifully discusses what it means for supply chains: What Shanghai Lockdowns Could Mean for Supply Chains

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

It fell to Armond White and Kyle Smith to make sense of this crazy, mixed-up world after Sunday’s Oscars.

Brian Allen stands athwart the Oscars insanity and turns to New York’s Whitney Museum, kicking off a series on its Covid-delayed Biennial: A First Look at the Whitney Biennial

FROM THE NEW, APRIL 18, 2022, ISSUE OF NR

Andrew McCarthy: Does Hunter Biden Face Indictment?

Ruy Teixeira: Eyes Wide Shut

Jay Nordlinger: Ukraine and the End of Illusions

Alexandra DeSanctis: A Bite of Italy

Jessica Hornik: Still Life

SIDE TWO

Ruy Teixeira’s cover story in the latest issue is a flashing red warning sign to Democrats, from one:

As a lifelong man of the Left who very much wants the Democratic Party to succeed, I regret to report this: The Democrats and the Democratic brand are in deep trouble. That should have been obvious when Democrats underperformed in the 2020 election, turning what they and most observers expected to be a blue wave into more of a ripple. They lost House seats and performed poorly in state legislative elections. And their support among non-white voters, especially Hispanics, declined substan­tially.

Still, they did win the presidency, which led many to miss the clear market signals this underperformance was sending. That tendency was strengthened by the Democrats’ improbable victories in the two Senate runoffs in Georgia, which gave them full control of the federal government, albeit by the very narrowest of margins.

At the same time, Trump’s refusal to concede the election — his bizarre behavior in that regard probably contributed to the GOP defeats in the Georgia runoffs — and his encouragement of rioters who stormed the Capitol on January 6 led many Democrats to assume that the Republican brand would be so damaged by association that the Democratic brand would shine by comparison. And yet, two years later, the Democrats are in brutal shape.

Biden’s approval rating is in the low 40s, only a little above where Trump’s was at the same point in his presidential term, which of course was the precursor to the GOP’s drubbing in the 2018 election. Biden has been doing especially poorly among working-class and Hispanic voters. His approval ratings on specific issues tend to be lower, in the high 30s on the economy and in the low 30s on hot-button issues such as immigration and crime. Off-year and special elections since 2020 have indicated a strongly pro-Republican electoral environment, and Democrats currently trail Republicans in the generic congressional ballot for 2022. It now seems likely that Democrats will, at minimum, lose control of the House this November and quite possibly suffer a wave election up and down the ballot.

Most Democrats would prefer to believe that the current dismal situation merely reflects some bad luck. The Delta and Omicron variants of the coronavirus did undercut Biden’s plans for returning the country to normal, interacting with supply-chain difficulties to produce an inflation spike that angered consumers, but that is not the whole picture. Democrats have failed to develop a party brand capable of unifying a dominant majority of Americans behind their political project. Indeed, the current Democratic brand suffers from several deficiencies that make it somewhere between uncompelling and toxic to many American voters who might otherwise be the party’s allies.

For another flashing red warning sign, see Joel Kotkin’s analysis for NR’s Capital Matters on the glut of grads with no place to go:

Twenty-first-century America may be dominated by oligarchic elites, but arguably the biggest threat to our economic and political system might be located further down the food chain. This most dangerous class comes from the growing number of underemployed, overeducated people. They’re what has been described in Britain as the lumpenintelligentsia: alienated, angry, and potentially agents of our social and political deconstruction.

This is far more than an angry mob shouting in keystrokes, but the proto-proletariat of a feudalizing post-industrial society. Overall, notes one recent study, over the past 20 years we have created twice as many bachelor’s degrees as jobs to employ them. Instead of finding riches in the “new economy,” many end up in lower-paying, noncredentialed jobs. They then compete with working-class kids, often products of similarly dysfunctional high schools; an estimated one-third of American working-age males are now outside the labor force, suffering high rates of incarceration, as well as drug, alcohol, and other health issues.

Although they are not subject to the same pressures of the working class, the fate of those attending college and even graduating is far from bright. This is the most-anxious generation in recent history, and for good reason. Today more than 40 percent are working in jobs that don’t require their degree, according to a recent report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Another study notes that most may never ascend to the kinds of jobs that graduates have historically enjoyed. . . .

This is a generation in which entrance to the middle class is increasingly blocked. Over 90 percent of people born in the 1940s and 80 percent in the 1950s did overwhelmingly better than their parents. Among those born in the 1980s, almost half do worse. The decline, note Richard Reeves and Katherine Guyot in a study for the Brookings Institution, is most evident among the upper-middle class, the very group that has long prioritized education.

NR’s editorial shoots down Biden’s latest tax proposal — and specifically the irrational plan to tax unrealized gains:

Biden has had some very, very stupid ideas in his 50 years in public life. We won’t say that his latest “billionaire” tax proposal is the dumbest of them, but it’s on the top-ten list.

Biden’s proposed “Billionaire Minimum Income Tax” — which, of course, is not actually limited to billionaires — is an economically illiterate and very likely unconstitutional proposal that purports to make the very wealthy pay their “fair share,” in the conventional language of Democratic demagoguery. It would do so in part by taxing some high-income people on money they haven’t made yet, combining the worst features of the IRS with the worst features of Minority Report. . . .

You may have heard the rumor that sometimes stock prices go down as well as up. If you buy a share at $1 and it goes up to $2, then you’ve made $1 — if you sell the share and collect the gain. But that $1 share bought on Monday that goes to $2 on Tuesday may very well be $1.40 on Wednesday and $0.65 on Friday. The Biden proposal would tax “unrealized gains” assessed at an arbitrary point — irrespective of whether the investment actually makes that much money, or any money at all, or loses money. So-called mark-to-market rules are a useful tool in some contexts, such as assessing the financial health of a bank for deposit-insurance purposes, but mark-to-market is a capricious and destructive way to calculate an individual’s income tax. It is capricious and destructive when it is the county tax-assessor giving your house a notional market value for tax purposes — imagine the federal government trying to do that for something as fluid and complex as whatever it is that Andreessen Horowitz is up to this week.

The proposal is economically absurd, and probably illegal. The 16th Amendment empowers Congress to “lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived,” but unrealized investment gains are not income — they are, at best, potential income. Investments are also potential losses. That’s how investment works.

Brittany Bernstein flags a significant development in the standardized-testing debate, over at MIT:

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology will reinstate its standardized testing requirement for admission after finding that not having access to SAT or ACT scores “tends to raise socioeconomic barriers to demonstrating readiness for our education,” the university announced Monday.

“After careful consideration, we have decided to reinstate our SAT/ACT requirement for future admissions cycles,” dean of admissions and student financial services Stu Schmill said in a statement. “Our research shows standardized tests help us better assess the academic preparedness of all applicants, and also help us identify socioeconomically disadvantaged students who lack access to advanced coursework or other enrichment opportunities that would otherwise demonstrate their readiness for MIT.”

Schmill said the school believes a testing requirement is “more equitable and transparent than a test-optional policy,” breaking with many other elite universities who have dropped testing requirements amid criticism that wealthier students who can afford expensive preparation classes have an advantage in standardized testing. 

In a hurricane of hot takes, Armond White’s exposition on the Smith–Rock Oscars fracas is a must-read:

No one should feel superior to what has been called Smith’s “lack of self-control” when he walked on stage and slapped comic Chris Rock, or to Smith’s teary-eyed conflation of shame and ego when he later accepted an Oscar as Best Actor. Both moments ripped the lid off the Oscar charade in which mainstream media pretend to uphold values they have abandoned long ago.

Smith’s outbursts also revealed the unhealthy standards that have overtaken our culture, confounding ideas about race, gender, and art. . . .

Former Oscar host Chris Rock appeared secure in his status as Hollywood jester, but his attempt at celeb bonhomie hit the roadblock of unpredictable hip-hop egotism. And so the personal drive and private motivation behind the world’s favorite swaggering verbal invention — knowable only through aggressive performance and creativity — resulted in what’s commonly known as a “bitch-slap.”

It happened on stage, but it resembled a behind-the-scenes, at-the-club rap battle. If America failed to heed Eminem’s 8 Mile and Joseph Kahn’s remarkable Bodied, about hip-hop ethos, all America knows that ethos now. Smith showed his superiority to Eminem after the slap, when he returned to his seat and shouted twice to Rock the lesson that the slap was intended to teach: “Keep my wife’s name out your f***ing mouth!” This was hip-hop — with a “Yes!” linking the two declarations. Smith, glib talent and untrained street actor, has never been more convincing than when announcing the shocking terms of the arrival of New Black Hollywood. Throughout Hollywood’s fabled lore (such as the infamous Jennings Lang–Walter Wanger castration dispute), only studio bosses talked like that. Rappers call such language “boss.” The drag world calls it “realness.” We are hypocrites to pretend otherwise. . . .

Ambivalence is the best way to feel about this. Instead of the Academy’s punishing Will Smith (who simply wasn’t mature enough to just walk out on the circus as Eddie Murphy did in 2007), some screenwriter should be inspired to help him in his search for art and for moral equilibrium. Will Smith has embarrassingly exposed himself. But he exposes the Oscars’ race-baiting hypocrisy, too.

Speaking of free speech, remember that it is a quite literally foreign concept in many parts of the world. Charles C. W. Cooke highlights this astonishing case from Scotland. It’s easier to just read the whole thing, so this one is link only, folks.

Shout-Outs

Joel Kotkin, at UnHerd: The exodus continues from America’s biggest cities

Salena Zito, at the Washington Examiner: Don’t underestimate John Fetterman

Bradford Betz, at Fox Business: Chris Rock comedy tour ticket prices spike after Will Smith Oscar slap

Alex Gutentag, at Tablet: The New Authoritarians

CODA

Did you hear this newsletter postscript won an Oscar? What a country. In the spirit of that particularly pugilistic presentation of prizes, a Pat Benatar ending is difficult to sidestep.

Yet that is a shade too predictable. “The Boxer,” then? Still . . . not quite on the nose, or the cheek. Ah, A Fistful of Dollars (theme). Yes, that’ll do quite nicely.

Have a great weekend, and thanks for reading.

NR Webathon

Covering the Trans Debate Takes Grit

Loading...
Swimmer Lia Thomas holds a trophy after finishing fifth in the 200 free at the NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships as Kentucky Wildcats swimmer Riley Gaines looks on at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Ga., March 18, 2022. (Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Writing about the transgender-athlete debate is not a validating experience. Those who dare speak the reality that allowing biological males to compete against females is unfair risk being labeled bigots and worse.

Most of us wouldn’t have the mettle to cover the trans issue every week. Heck, I wrote a single post remarking on transgender swimmer Lia Thomas’s recent victories and, in scanning my Twitter mentions, found myself wondering if witness protection might be nice.

But let me tell you who doesn’t give a flying flip about that kind of heat.

NR’s Maddy Kearns has been unflinchingly focused on the trans debate, and in fact has been at the vanguard of coverage — whether it be about the implications for free speech, for children, for the medical field, or for college sports. Her on-site reporting on the NCAA swimming championships, which captured the true contention on the ground over Lia Thomas’s admission, was invaluable in demonstrating that, no, this is not a settled issue.

So we’re running a flash webathon at NR to help replenish the coffers (that Maddy is known to run up Hunter Thompson–level hotel bills, you see — kidding!) and ensure we can provide more of this kind of coverage. On-location reporting costs the green stuff, and we suspect this is a debate that will play out in many locations. If you can, please consider pitching in; we’ve seen donations of all sizes, and no amount is too small (or too much . . . ).

As Rich Lowry says, “There’s only one Maddy Kearns.”

Maddy also wrote about her experience at the NCAA championships, and about the kind of reasoning she’s up against:

At the NCAA swim championships in Atlanta last week, I got into an argument with a woman about biological sex. “I’m a physician,” she said. “And I can tell you this is very subtle. You might be a man. How do you know you’re not if you’ve never been tested?”

Fortunately, I do not rely on this woman, or anyone else, to “affirm” what sex I am. Unlike Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson, I don’t need a “biologist” to tell me what a woman is. Sex is not “subtle.” It is obvious, objective, and binary.

While she was in Atlanta, aside from gathering the perspective of fellow swimmers and their parents, Maddy shot footage showcasing these debates that has since racked up millions of views.

If that sounds like a strong return on investment, well, here’s that donation link again.

That written, the rest of this newsletter will cost you nothing. Bon appétit.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

The KBJ hearings are over. So what should Republicans do next? No on Ketanji Brown Jackson

The NCAA rule-makers have abdicated responsibility and hurt female athletes in the process: The NCAA Swimming Championship Was a National Scandal

ARTICLES

Dan McLaughlin: Justice Scalia Won

Jim Geraghty: Why the Russian Oligarchs Won’t Defy Putin

Kristen Waggoner: Do Universities Have the Courage to Solve Their Free-Speech Problem?

Kevin Williamson: Autocracy’s Fatal Flaws

Kevin Williamson: Make Putin Pay

Caroline Downey: Babylon Bee Refuses to Back Down after Twitter Suspends Account over ‘Man of the Year’ Post

Rich Lowry: Vladimir Putin and the Fragility of Order

Nate Hochman: Most Americans Are Moving On from Covid. Progressive Elites Aren’t

Philip Klein: Government Handouts Do Not Reduce Inflation

John Fund: Veering from the Smog of War TV to Humanitarian Clarity

Brittany Bernstein: More Americans 65 and Under Died from Alcohol-Related Causes Than Covid-19 in 2020, Study Finds

Andrew McCarthy: Republicans’ Missed Opportunity in the Judge Jackson Hearings

Lewis Libby: How Russia and China May View the War in Ukraine

Ryan Mills: Parents Describe How Covid-Masking Caused ‘Heartbreaking’ Learning Loss in Speech-Delayed Children

Jenna Stocker: The Absurd Attempt to Defend Lia Thomas’s Competing as a Woman

CAPITAL MATTERS

The IRS and taxpayers alike are getting slammed by a tax code that’s becoming more complex. Daniel Pilla makes the case for simplicity: Is the IRS Collapsing?

Andrew Stuttaford will not be trading his lamb kebabs for legumes, thank you very much: Let Them Eat Lentils

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Armond White looks askance at the meme that became a show: Ava DuVernay’s One Perfect Shot at Propaganda

A documentary about King Crimson is as cerebral and challenging (in a good way) as the band itself. From Kyle Smith: Excellence, Existence, Tyranny, Death, and Rock

Brian Allen dings the Morgan Library’s exhibition on Hans Holbein the Younger, but that takes nothing away from an artist whose work, in Brian’s spot-on description, is “early HD.” Have a look: Holbein Gets the Damp-Squib Treatment at the Morgan Library

INTERMISSION

Kristen Waggoner, with Alliance Defending Freedom, recalls her experience being shouted down at Yale during a . . . wait for it . . . free-speech event:

I recently spoke at Yale Law School on the topic of remedies for First Amendment violations. The subject is not controversial; in fact, it is one on which members from both sides of the political spectrum agree. I am a conservative Christian, and I was joined on a panel by another lawyer — a progressive atheist, from the American Humanist Association. While we disagree on some very important issues, we wanted to demonstrate that we can still engage in civil discourse and find common ground when protecting civil rights. One issue we agree upon is a free-speech case I argued before the U.S. Supreme Court that united both sides of the political spectrum.

Sadly, 120 or so law students showed up to hurl insults and disrupt our discussion. Rather than listen and engage in civil dialogue, the vitriolic mob shouted down their professor who was moderating, and then me. After they were asked to leave, they chanted, pounded on classroom walls, and reportedly disrupted nearby classes, exams, and meetings. Even members of the Federalist Society, the student group that organized the event, were harassed and physically threatened by their fellow law students.

Think about that for a moment. At what is supposed to be one of the most prestigious law schools in the country, a room full of future lawyers, legislators, jurists, and corporate executives chose to bang on walls, use obscene gestures, and engage in name-calling and physical intimidation rather than act like adults.

One would think that an institution that is “committed to fostering an environment that values the free expression of ideas” would actually enforce its free-expression policy. At a minimum, it would strongly condemn these students who sought to silence ideas and people they disliked through bullying and intimidation. Unfortunately, Yale did neither.

Instead, Yale issued a weak statement that defended the student protesters and grossly downplayed their disruptive and petulant actions. Even more disturbing, Yale falsely claimed that the students did not interfere with the speakers’ ability to be heard. I, for one, was not able to speak without disruption. Have a listen to multiple audio clips of the event, and judge for yourself. Finally, the university said that a police presence was not needed. Again, that’s not true. The situation was so volatile that we required an armed police escort to leave campus in a patrol car.

Madeleine Kearns’s on-location coverage of the NCAA swim championships is essential reading, as noted. Now that it’s over, NR’s editorial recaps and appeals to common sense in the transgender-athlete debate:

At this year’s NCAA swimming championships, organizers allowed a biological male, Lia Thomas, to compete against female athletes on the basis of transgender status. And so, what should have been a moment of sporting pride — a celebration of some of the best female swimmers in the country — became a scandal.

Thomas, a fifth-year senior at the University of Pennsylvania, went by his given name of Will and swam for the men’s team until 2019 without issue. When competing against men, Thomas was a top-tier swimmer, though far from a national champion. But since Thomas underwent hormone-replacement therapy during the pandemic and was allowed to join the women’s team in the 2021–2022 season, the swimmer has dominated the female competition. At the NCAA swim championships last week, Thomas reached the podium in every event the swimmer competed in, an honor bestowed on the top eight finishers in the nation. Thomas finished first in the 500-yard freestyle (beating two Olympic medalists), fifth in the 200-yard freestyle, and eighth in the 100-yard freestyle.

The NCAA’s reasoning is that Thomas, having taken testosterone suppressants, is now biologically equivalent to the championship’s female athletes. It requires nothing short of magical thinking to come to such a conclusion. Menopausal women do not cease to be women after their estrogen levels drop. And neither do biological men cease to be biological men after their testosterone levels have been chemically manipulated. The sex-based advantages conferred on Thomas during puberty are as irreversible as they are obvious. It is literally impossible to change sex.

Thomas’s defenders emphasize that no rules have been broken. But the rule-makers have abdicated responsibility. . . .

Parents report that their daughters have been instructed by their coaches to smile, stay silent, and step aside. So much for Title IX, which was supposed to protect women from this kind of discrimination.

Instead of allowing, indeed actively encouraging, this fiasco, adults should have taken a hand from the beginning and politely but firmly said “no” to a biological male competing in a women’s sport.

Ryan Mills reports on the real-world impact of school masking policies on children’s speech development:

Parents of children with documented speech-development issues told National Review that pandemic-related restrictions — masks, virtual school, teletherapy — along with less access to speech-language services generally, have clearly set their kids back.

Many professional speech pathologists worry there could be lasting ramifications for kids who have fallen behind and never catch up academically or socially.

“I have some major concerns about the long-term impact of all of this, most definitely. Especially with the babies, early intervention is so important,” said Jaclyn Theeck, a speech pathologist and owner of the Speech and Learning Institute in Palm Beach, Fla. “Children have not received the therapy they’ve needed, because they’ve been afraid of the pandemic. ‘Let’s just wait.’ Well, they’ve lost valuable time when the brain is developing the most.” . . .

Theeck . . . said that since the beginning of the pandemic she’s seen a “very significant” increase in the number of parents with referrals from their pediatricians bringing in young children with speech and language delays.

She said the surge in demand has made getting services at her clinic more difficult. Theeck told a local TV station last year that the percentage of her clients who are babies and toddlers increased from about 5 percent pre-pandemic to about 20 percent. She told National Review that has only increased over the last half year.

John Fund provides a dispatch from a refugee center on the Hungary–Ukraine border, while detailing the staggering depravity of Russian propaganda:

Last Sunday, I felt as if I were being bounced from one reality to the next on my trip to the Ukrainian border.

I began my day in Budapest, Hungary, slack-jawed as I watched Rossiya 24, the Kremlin-owned news channel that provides Russians with Vladimir Putin’s worldview.

With the help of a Russian-speaking friend, I learned things that I just couldn’t find on other channels. Reports that Russian forces were taking heavy losses were false, designed to “mislead inexperienced viewers.” The threat to civilians in Ukraine comes not from Russian forces, but from “Ukrainian nationalists” and their accompanying “wolf commandos,” who are American mercenaries fighting for the Kyiv regime.

All the presenters make constant reference to the “historical parallels” between Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine and the Soviet Union’s struggle against Nazi Germany. A surreal documentary highlights the long-standing “fraternal” ties between Ukraine and Russia. Archive footage of tractors harvesting Ukrainian wheat are shown without any sense of the bitter irony — it was Joseph Stalin’s forced famine that led to the deaths of some 4 million Ukrainians in 1932 and 1933.

Then I sit bolt upright as the documentary depicts the liberation of Mariupol, a Ukrainian port city, from the Nazis in September 1943. German signs are smashed in the footage as happy civilians then dance with grinning Soviet soldiers. But no footage is shown of Mariupol today.

The reason is that conditions there are akin to a medieval siege.

Shout-Outs

William Deresiewicz, at UnHerd: American education’s new dark age

Joseph Simonson and Matthew Foldi, at the Washington Free Beacon: Dem Offices on Cap Hill Remain Closed After Biden’s Call for Return to Normalcy

Elle Reynolds, at the Federalist: 7 Times The Babylon Bee Reported History Before It Happened

Secunder Kermani, at the BBC: Afghanistan girls’ tears over chaotic Taliban schools U-turn

CODA

I’m old enough to no longer quite know what’s mainstream and what’s not anymore. My assumption was that the Scottish instrumental-rock band Mogwai was decidedly not . . . until the bandmates showed up as part of the promotional campaign for a new, ultra-aged Macallan whiskey (don’t even bother looking up how much it costs, trust me).

Anyway, it was a reminder of how much the band’s song “Glasgow Mega-Snake” annihilates everything in its path. Seek shelter if you click.

Sling a song my way at jberger@nationalreview.com, if you’d like to share one with this list. It can even have lyrics.

World

Sergey Lavrov’s Lies

Loading...
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a news conference in Moscow, Russia, February 18, 2022. (Maxim Shemetov/Pool via Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

For the better part of two decades, Russia’s top diplomat has done whatever the opposite of ingratiating is to seat himself at the most exclusive tables of global affairs. Sergey Lavrov, by dint of sickle-sharp messaging, forged a reputation as a rival worthy of grudging respect. Here he is with Rice, with Clinton, with Kerry, with Pompeo, with Blinken . . . the constant counterpart across four U.S. administrations.

Profiles of the formidable diplomatic figure painted a complex portrait, discussing his fondness for poetry, his proficiency in multiple languages, and the intellectual heft he brought to bear as foreign minister.

The Washington Post wrote in 2014:

Personally, his dominating physical appearance — he’s known for his height and his athletic ability — is tempered by reports of his softer side that focuses on his apparent love of writing poetry (though he has also been reported to be a big fan of more macho pursuits such as buying Italian suits, Scotch whisky and smoking).

People respect him, even if they don’t like him.

Today, Sergey Lavrov draws inspiration not from Jonathan Goldsmith but some combination of the RMVP, Ri Chun-hee, and Baghdad Bob. His stature as a respected adversary is or should be, in all the aftermath of the February 24 invasion of Ukraine, irrevocably shattered.

You may have seen this quote from Mr. Lavrov: “We are not planning to attack other countries. We didn’t attack Ukraine in the first place.”

Okay. Then there was his response to the maternity-hospital bombing in Mariupol that produced a horrible image of a bleeding pregnant woman on a stretcher (her baby died, the mother is reported to have told the medics to “kill me now,” and then she died). Lavrov’s line was that Ukrainian radicals were using the hospital as a base and that patients had been moved out of the building before the strike, while a Russian embassy asserted the images were simply faked and echoed Lavrov’s claims. The foreign minister also has referred to components of the Ukrainian army as “Nazi battalions” and said the country’s Jewish president is being manipulated by “neo-Nazis.”

Lavrov is not merely bending the truth in his defense of Russia’s actions in Ukraine. He has no relation to it. The two have never met. His performance should ensure he never again wins an audience with an American official.

This amoral poetic polyglot is only the most prolific liar in the Kremlin’s operation. But the West must not forget the inhumanity of his falsehoods. The mendacity matters more immediately as U.S. policy-makers worry whether their own actions could be used by Vladimir Putin as justification to escalate. As Jim Geraghty writes, Putin does not need justification. He can create his own and often does:

Putin contends that Ukraine is not a real country, that it is run by drug-addicted neo-Nazis, that he’s liberating the Ukrainians by indiscriminately bombing their cities, that the Ukrainians are committing “genocide,” and that the West “forced” him to invade in what is not a “war,” but a “special military action.” . . . Putin doesn’t really need a good reason to take any particular action; if he doesn’t have one, he will just make one up.

As fighting drags on, Western journalists now count among the casualties of war. Fox News cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski was killed, and reporter Benjamin Hall was injured, in an attack on Monday; Oleksandra “Sasha” Kuvshynova, working with Fox as a consultant on the ground, was also killed.

Jay Nordlinger relays the following:

War — mass murder — is not an abstraction. Elie Kedourie, the great Baghdad-born historian, had some words of advice for the young David Pryce-Jones. P-J passed them down to me, and I will never forget them: “Keep your eye on the corpses.”

They are piling up, as Kevin Williamson documents here, even if Russia’s long-standing foreign minister should claim otherwise. Exasperation toward him has turned to outrage; the U.S. personally sanctioned Lavrov, along with Putin, after Russia’s invasion.

Early this week, U.N. secretary-general António Guterres warned that the prospect of nuclear conflict is “back within the realm of possibility.” Lavrov confidently dismissed that concern a few days prior. If we weren’t before, should we be worried now?

NAME. RANK. LINK.

ARTICLES

Rich Lowry: Ron DeSantis and the New Republican Party

Bing West: Ukraine’s Tragedy Should Refocus the U.S. Marine Corps

Kevin Williamson: A Problem Like Putin

John McCormack: After Zelensky’s Speech, No Surge in Support for U.S.-Enforced ‘No-Fly Zone’ Over Ukraine

Ryan Mills: Wisconsin Teachers Instructed to Hide Students’ Gender Identities from Parents

Matthew Mashburn: January 6 Committee’s Latest Court Filing Should Scare Stacey Abrams

Lahav Harkov: The False Narrative of Israeli Neutrality in Russia’s Ukraine Invasion

Philip Klein: The Benefits of Donald Trump Running Again

Charles C. W. Cooke: No to Trump in 2024

Charles C. W. Cooke: The Extraordinary Vapidity of Kamala Harris

Madeleine Kearns: Transgender and Women’s-Rights Activists Clash as Lia Thomas Dominates Opening of NCAA Championships

Caroline Downey: Biden Administration Handicapped Domestic Energy Production on First Day in Office, Memos Reveal

Dan McLaughlin: The Hater’s Guide to Woodrow Wilson

Jim Geraghty: A Hard Look at the Risk of a Putin-Ordered Tactical Nuke

Inez Stepman: Virginia School Covered Up Sexual Assault That Left Victim Hospitalized

Andrew McCarthy: Biden Considers Dropping Death Penalty to Entice Guilty Pleas from 9/11 Plotters

CAPITAL MATTERS

Jack Salmon charts a Federal Reserve failure: The Fed Has Failed in Its Inflation Mandate

Jonathan Lesser rides in with a reality check: Wind and Solar Proponents’ Arithmetic Problem

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Kyle Smith plays to the crickets when he asks: Who’s Stoked for CNN+?

Brian Allen sounds off on museum mask mandates, and then pans across the pond to a controversy involving the depiction of slaves in a mural at the Tate’s restaurant: The Great Unmasking — of Patrons and Fake Altruists Alike

Armond White assesses the legacy and the significance of an American classic: The Godfather at 50

FROM THE NEW, APRIL 4, 2022, ISSUE OF NR

Kevin Williamson: Population Bomb Scare

Dominic Pino: Biden’s Low-Energy Policy

Jerry Hendrix: The Defense Budget We Need

Daniel Foster: Standing Our Ground

THE PRICE OF BEEF IS GOING UP, BUT THESE EXCERPTS ARE INFLATION-PROOF

In the latest issue of NR, Dominic Pino looks down the road at what Biden’s energy policies would mean for the country:

The problem with Joe Biden’s energy policy is not that it caused the high gas prices we currently see. The problem with Joe Biden’s energy policy is that, if it were adopted, the present situation would be liable to happen again down the road — and the wound would be self-inflicted.

The Germans are experts in self-inflicted energy wounds. They made themselves dependent on Russian oil and natural gas as a result of a years-long campaign against nuclear energy in favor of renewables that don’t work well enough to power a large country yet. But the solution to Germany’s problems now is to make better decisions ten to 20 years ago. Nixing the Nord Stream 2 pipeline helps to prevent further energy dependence, but it doesn’t undo over a decade of bad energy policy. Chancellor Olaf Scholz doesn’t have a time machine. His predecessor Angela Merkel made his bed, and he has to lie in it.

Biden’s energy policy, if implemented in full, would leave an American president one to two decades hence in a situation similar to the one Scholz finds himself in today. Anyone who thinks John Kerry’s views of energy are worth promoting should not be trusted to run a gas station, let alone make energy policy for the world’s most powerful country. Biden’s energy policy prioritizes the tran­sition away from fossil fuels, whether through billions in subsidies for renewable energy or appointing Federal Reserve officials who want to use financial regulation to punish oil companies. The radical progressive environmental movement that’s part of Biden’s coalition uses environmental laws to drown energy expansion in a sea of litigation.

Since it’s much easier to shut things down than to invent new technology, foreign fossil-fuel production would have to make up for the lost American production. Biden’s energy policy en­courages that in two ways. First, by going abroad and simply begging other countries, such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and even Venezuela and Iran, to produce more oil. And second, more crucially, by making it difficult to transport oil by opposing pipeline construction.

It’s not just Keystone XL that pro­gressives oppose; they want to make it harder to build pipelines within Amer­ica as well (and they’ve successfully stonewalled multiple projects in New York). If oil can’t move through pipe­lines from where it’s produced to where it’s refined — and from where it’s refined to where it’s consumed — foreign al­ternatives become more attractive. American West Coast refineries are built for light, sweet crude, but lacking pipe­line capacity to get it from Texas, they import it from elsewhere. New England lacks sufficient pipeline capacity to get refined products such as heating oil, so those states often import them too.

Not everyone here agrees, but Philip Klein makes the case for another Trump presidential run, with a pretty big caveat:

It’s worth considering some of the benefits of his running — and losing the primary. . . .

Suddenly, somebody else will have shown that it’s possible for a Republican to go up against Trump, and not only survive, but win. Or, to put it in the immortal words of pro wrestler Ric Flair, “To be the man, you gotta beat the man.”

A primary would also provide a built-in opportunity for the eventual nominee to create some distance from Trump in the general election. Any attempts to link the nominee to Trump will fail, because the nominee will have just come off a bitter primary against Trump. When asked to respond to anything Trump says or does, the candidate could simply wave away the question by pointing out that differences with Trump were spelled out during the primary and emphasize that it’s now time to focus on his or her own vision for leading the country. . . .

Also, despite the likelihood that Trump would claim any election he loses was rigged, it will be much harder to pull off in a primary. It’s much easier to convince Republican voters that there were shenanigans going on in Milwaukee, Philadelphia, or Atlanta than it would be to argue that Republican-controlled primaries in states such as Iowa and South Carolina were somehow fixed to steal the election from him. Having chosen another candidate, the base would likely have much less patience for attempts by Trump to sabotage the nominee and help the Democrats keep the White House.

But there is a more fundamental reason that it would be good for Trump to lose a primary. If the rise of Trump has taught us anything, it’s that the direction of the GOP will not be driven by party bosses, prominent media figures, or any other elites. It will be ultimately determined by the people. Until Trump is defeated among a Republican electorate, he will still command an enormous amount of influence within the party. Trump’s losing to another Republican at the ballot box is the only way for Republicans to truly move on.

Dan McLaughlin reminds America that there are so many reasons to hate Woodrow Wilson beyond daylight saving time. Do take the time to read his definitive takedown, which begins like so:

If you were dragging getting out of bed to start this week, thank Woodrow Wilson. Daylight saving time is just one of a battery of ways that Wilson and his presidency changed America, most of them for the worse.

I come now not to explain Wilson, but to hate him. A national consensus on hating Wilson is long overdue. It is the patriotic duty of every decent American. While conservatives have particular reasons to detest Wilson, and all his works, and all his empty promises, there is more than enough in his record for moderates, liberals, progressives, libertarians, and socialists to join us in this great and unifying cause. . . .

He was lionized by liberals and progressives in academia and the media for most of the century after he left office in 1921. In my youth, and perhaps yours, Wilson was presented in history books as a tragic hero whom the unthinking American people didn’t deserve. He was often placed highly on academics’ rankings of the presidents. Princeton University named its school of international relations for him. Even in rescinding that honor in June 2020, the university’s press release declared: “Though scholars disagree about how to assess Wilson’s tenure as president of the United States, many rank him among the nation’s greatest leaders and credit him with visionary ideas that shaped the world for the better.”

Nah. Wilson was a human pile of flaming trash. He was a bad man who made the country and the world worse. His name should be an obscenity, his image an effigy. Hating him is a wholesome obligation of citizenship. . . .

Probably the broadest ground for modern agreement on the awfulness of Wilson is in his disgracefully racist treatment of African Americans. The only president to grow up in the Confederacy, the Virginian Wilson ordered the resegregation of the entire federal government. He required photographs on job applications to screen out black people. The Army under Wilson was so segregated that some black units fought under French command in the largest battle of the First World War. (Naturally, black men who were banned from being hired for peacetime federal jobs were still subjected to the draft.) When you read about Harry Truman’s courageous desegregation of the Army, remember whose work he was undoing. Wilson screened the pro–Ku Klux Klan film Birth of a Nation at the White House; the film quoted pro-Klan passages from one of Wilson’s books. He backed legislation making interracial marriage a felony in the District of Columbia.

ICYMI, Kevin Williamson examined the question a lot of us have in making sense of Russia’s Ukraine invasion: How is it that one man is able — is allowed — to cause such destruction on such a vast scale?

The danger . . . is not men such as Vladimir Putin. The danger is totalitarian states per se. Every society has men such as Putin, and healthy liberal societies often find useful work for them to do. In totalitarian societies, such men end up commanding armies — and, in Putin’s case, a vast nuclear arsenal.

It is not as though these tendencies do not exist in liberal societies. American politics often attracts the worst sort of men and women our country can cough up, and they achieve power through the same dynamic [F. A.] Hayek described in the totalitarian states, welding together effective factions of the low-minded but like-minded. We have the testimony of no less a totalitarian than Adolf Hitler that the greatest strength of the totalitarian states is that they force those who fear them to imitate them, a principle that can be seen at work in the distinctly autocratic and centralizing tendency of the Franklin Roosevelt administration or in the desire of the Trump administration to become Beijing’s mirror image. What liberal societies have is not better men — it is independent courts, a free press, the rule of law, checks and balances, democratic accountability, competitive elections, powerful private institutions, and vibrant civic life. There have been some men of remarkably low character elected to the American presidency, but the American system has limited the damage they could do.

The Russian system does not limit the damage a man such as Putin can do. It amplifies the evil he can do.

Shout-Outs

Christine Rosen, at Commentary: The Privilege of Being Judgmental

Steve Miller, at RealClearInvestigations: How Schools’ Covid-Aid Joy Ride Could Send New Hires Off a Fiscal Cliff — Again

Tyler O’Neil, at Fox News: Ukraine war upended China’s plan to invade Taiwan, alleged FSB whistleblower says

Adam Kredo, at the Washington Free Beacon: New Iran Agreement Would Let Russia Cash In on $10B Contract to Build Nuclear Sites

CODA

Last weekend, this newsletter put out the (last) call for a tune about tipple. Kevin Antonio answered, writing in with an old-timey, fun, spoofy number by Spike Jones and His City Slickers, “Clink! Clink! Another Drink.”

It could be argued that the bandleader, active in the ’40s and ’50s, carved out a predecessor genre to what would eventually be called comedy rock. His heyday was before my time, so Kevin’s recommendation compelled me to do a bit of research. That research led to an Internet rabbit hole, which led to Spike Jones’s comic renditions of classical music, such as “The Blue Danube” and “Dance of the Hours,” which probably would have been a hoot to see live.

Meantime, send your song recs in a Jolt-ward direction — perhaps more in the comedy-rock genre, if something comes to mind. Serious times require a sense of humor, as the Ukrainians have shown. Email me here: jberger@nationalreview.com. Thanks for reading.

Energy & Environment

Oil from a Democracy Is Better Than Oil from a Dictatorship

Loading...
Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro speaks during a ceremony in Caracas, January 22, 2021. (Manaure Quintero/Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

So who’s going to tell the Biden administration that oil extracted from Venezuela is just as bad for the environment as oil extracted from Texas?

This week’s scramble to convince mustachioed socialists and dismemberment-prone princes to boost petroleum production certainly served to expose the folly of our energy approach. That is, limits on U.S. oil and gas production (and their transportation) don’t achieve much in the name of climate if we need to ratchet up output elsewhere to keep prices stable. And they lead to clear geopolitical downsides when the “elsewhere” is places such as Caracas.

Kevin Williamson discusses what some foresight could have yielded, had we favored “democratic energy” over that produced under the auspices of maniacs:

The basic geopolitical question is: Should the United States throw a lifeline to the worst tyrant in the Western hemisphere in order to undermine an even worse tyrant in Europe? . . .

Right about now, President Biden must be wishing he had an extra pipeline to Canada. The thought has occurred to Alberta premier Jason Kenney, who observes about Keystone XL: “If President Biden had not vetoed that project, it would be done later this year — 840,000 barrels of democratic energy that could have displaced the 600,000 plus barrels of Russian conflict oil that’s filled with the blood of Ukrainians.”

Oops.

The Biden administration took a bold step this week in shutting down Russian energy imports over Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, and it should be commended for this — even if it happened under duress. But the U.S. could have been better positioned for soaring energy prices resulting from global conflict and other factors, reducing the need to solicit the Maduro regime, MBS, and possibly the mullahs for help. While a renewed all-of-the-above energy strategy is not going to solve the immediate crisis, Kevin speculates that, given domestic political pressures, the administration prefers turning to Venezuela rather than pursuing such a strategy even in the long-term.

Charles C. W. Cooke posits the following:

It is true that refusing to purchase Russian oil is the right short-term policy. It is also true that a better long-term policy would have lessened the upward pressure on domestic prices that short-term events such as the war in Ukraine can exert. For a neat illustration of how these two ideas can intersect, one need only to look at Germany.

The U.S. remains the world’s leading oil producer, a fact that gives the White House space to push back on criticism of its “drill, maybe, drill” mantra, but Nate Hochman details here how the administration is still hindering production. This Drew Holden thread has more. The fallout from Russia’s invasion, expectedly, has generated a groundswell of calls, from Joe Manchin, from Republicans, even from Elon Musk, to boost the U.S. energy sector going forward.

American energy security very much includes the continuing pursuit of renewables, which, as the name implies, will vastly expand the power supply once fully developed. But we are not at the point where those renewables (which account for just 20 percent of current electricity generation in the U.S.) can sustain us. Jim Geraghty writes that production of oil and gas — and food, for that matter — is going to need to increase, “unless we want to see what kind of chaos gets unleashed in a world where energy and food prices are skyrocketing all around the globe.”

For the latest inflation figures, see here.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

A no-fly zone over Ukraine would be “limited” in name only: Say No to a No-Fly Zone

Empowering parents should be the aim of lawmakers wading into the transgender debate: Florida and Texas Are Right to Fight Back in the Transgender Debate

The Senate should have returned to sender: The Postal Service Reform Act Is a Bad Deal

ARTICLES

Rich Lowry: What Putin Knew

Will Swaim: A Very California Coup

John Fund: Stalin’s ‘Winter War’ of 1939–40 Offers Hope to Ukrainians

Ryan Mills: Ukrainian Single Mother Recounts Terrifying Escape from Kyiv

Dominic Pino: How Amtrak Expansion Threatens Supply Chains

Kevin Williamson: The Cable-News Bubble

Charles C. W. Cooke: Yes, If America Is Ever Invaded, You Must Take Up Arms and Fight

David Harsanyi: Find Someone Who Looks at You Like Rob Malley Looks at Iran

Asra Q. Nomani: An Anti-Woke Education Activist Goes to Washington

Jim Geraghty: Questioning Vladimir Putin’s Health and Past Unexplained Disappearances

Alexandra DeSanctis: Exclusive: GOP Senator Introduces Bill Requiring Pre-Abortion Ultrasound

Bing West: The Botched Handling of Poland’s MiG-29s

Dan McLaughlin: Is Mike Pence Preparing a Kamikaze Campaign?

Zachary Evans: Young Children Suffer Steep Drop in Literacy following Pandemic Closures

Nate Hochman: Biden HHS Instructing Employees to Watch Their Pronouns, Leaked Documents Show

Philip Klein: The Trans Movement Is Failing Where the Gay-Rights Movement Succeeded

Jay Nordlinger: One Afghan’s Life

CAPITAL MATTERS

Edwin Burton suggests we identify the inflation culprit in order to identify the solution: Inflation: You Can’t Fix It If You Don’t Know Why It Broke

Daniel Pilla delivers a much-deserved fact check on Biden’s tax-rate claims: Fact-Checking the President’s Remarks on Tax Policy

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

With Turning Red, it is clear that Pixar is on a roll, especially compared with its big brother at Disney. From Kyle Smith: A Big, Hairy Pixar Delight

Armond White sticks his neck out for Sam Elliott over his criticism of The Power of the Dog. Get this man a sarsaparilla: Sam Elliott Abides

Brian Allen gives a tour through the Gustave Moreau Museum and Nissim de Camondo Museum in Paris. If nothing else, you must feast your eyes on this staircase: A Tale of Two House Museums in Paris

CHOOSE YOUR OWN EXCERPTS (UP TO 40 POSSIBLE ENDINGS)

Calls for a “limited” no-fly zone over Ukraine intensified this past week. NR’s editorial, while strongly advising against one, examines what this undertaking actually would entail:

It is hard to imagine that a “U.S.-NATO enforced” no-fly zone could avoid direct confrontation with Russian forces. Allied warplanes would, by necessity, be forced to intercept and engage Russian aircraft. And, in a contested battlespace, American pilots would likely be shot at by anti-air batteries on the ground. Unless the Russians unilaterally surrendered — which, again, is highly improbable — we would need to conduct a coordinated, high-intensity Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses campaign to protect our pilots. We would be bombing, shooting at, and launching cruise missiles at Russian radar operators, gun crews, and missile batteries on the ground. Russians would die. Americans would die.

Make no mistake, the imposition of a no-fly zone over Ukraine could well result in the most intense combat to control the skies since the Korean War.

Regardless, the Russians are not winning this war due to air power, and we shouldn’t assume that a no-fly zone would meaningfully change the operational situation. Indeed, with the Ukrainian air force still fighting, the Russians have not even established total air superiority after two weeks of combat.

Moreover, once a nation declares a no-fly zone in a conflict, it owns the war. Assuming we succeeded in establishing a no-fly zone, the Russians would turn to their vast superiority in ground-based artillery and rockets to continue their devastating attacks on Ukrainian civilians. The calls to widen our intervention would begin immediately, and the pressure to act would be intense.

Dan McLaughlin has a 2024 theory, and it’s worth considering:

Republicans in 2024 are likely to once again face a Donald Trump problem — and Mike Pence just might be the solution. . . .

While many Republicans seem to be eying a 2024 bid, thus far, the dynamic seems fairly straightforward: If Trump doesn’t run, Ron DeSantis looks like the heavy favorite; if Trump runs and DeSantis doesn’t, it will be extremely hard to take him down, because there won’t be anyone else in the field with the stature and the goodwill among his voters to supplant him.

So, one challenge will be getting DeSantis to risk the open confrontation with Trump that running against him would involve. And even if DeSantis does get in the race, there will still be the collective-action problem we saw in 2016: DeSantis’s need to inherit Trump’s voters should he win the nomination will tempt him to try Ted Cruz’s 2016 strategy of embracing Trump for as long as possible in the hopes that someone or something else takes the former president down.

Meanwhile, the rest of the field will consist of people who are either too afraid to take on Trump or not influential enough with Republican voters to make their attacks on Trump stick. Chris Christie, who declined to attack Trump in 2016, has given indications that he may run an anti-Trump campaign in 2024; Christie has the personality for it and can point to the years in which he stuck loyally by Trump, but he’s also not a particularly well-respected figure among rank-and-file conservative voters these days. Somebody such as Larry Hogan or Liz Cheney might enter the race and face the same problem. Even former Trump officials such as Mike Pompeo and Nikki Haley seem to have little stomach for waging open war on their old boss.

But there is still one man who might not be so reticent: Mike Pence.

Of all the disgruntled senior members of the Trump administration who have fallen out with Trump — which is nearly the lot of them at this point — Pence is the most senior and the most credible. . . .

If Pence runs, his main role will likely be that of a spoiler. A Pence campaign that shies away from confrontation with Trump would be pointless and mostly hopeless. But Pence is the one potential candidate who could mount a successful kamikaze attack on Trump in the Republican primaries, a campaign that denies both men the nomination.

Asra Nomani gives a detailed account of her recent experience testifying before Congress about critical race theory–infused materials in the schools:

Towards the end of the hearing, Representative Jackson Lee took over as chair. She then got her five minutes. To my shock, she began with a dig at Devon [Westhill] and me. She then went on to try to school us about issues of racial discrimination against blacks in America, as if somehow I, as a brown immigrant from India, didn’t care about or were woefully ignorant of this. In fact, two of my political heroes are the Reverend Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. And it was my ancestors who took the example of the colonials in the U.S. to rid my ancestral land of white supremacy and British rule. It was my father who climbed a banyan tree as a boy to support Mahatma Gandhi in his march of nonviolence — a concept that Dr. King embraced to bring civil rights to America. My grandfather was a defense attorney for the Indian citizens who dared to challenge the British, most often losing before British judges, as young men were sentenced to their deaths.

So, I know about historical, systemic racism. I know discrimination. And I know the violence that can happen not only to the body but the soul when discrimination and racism get free rein. I also know what this looks like today. I have witnessed the effect of these prejudices on the many young children, left confused, dismissed, and caricatured by woke teachers, administrators, and school boards. They are told that, because of their skin color, they are inherently evil; that, because of their skin color, they are inherently privileged and must atone for that “sin.” Worse, the same people who peddle these woke lies also tell black children that, rather than having a seat at the American table, they are eternally oppressed — victims purely at the whim of their white oppressors.

Jackson Lee then began a tiresome, ignorant, ill-informed, out-of-touch, and theoretical lecture about critical race theory. It proved that she lives in a bubble. . . .

I knew that I wouldn’t get any more time to speak. So, I stood up a book called Not My Idea, with the pages facing her that showed one of the most ridiculous and cruel ideas of critical race theory: “Whiteness is a bad deal,” with a picture of a contract and the image of the devil beside it. This book is being taught as young as kindergarten in dozens of U.S. public schools.

I filmed the pages as Jackson Lee insisted that critical race theory is harmless. I filmed a copy of the “Oppression Matrix,” an educational reference tool that divides people into “oppressed” and “oppressors” and is used in schools across the country. I filmed a copy of the “Privilege Bingo” card given to children in Fairfax County, Va., schools. In that lesson, all white kids — and even the “Military Kid” — are “privileged” and can only assuage that privilege by obeisance to woke-racist dogma.

One promising takeaway from this past week is that most people are not political weirdos. Axios reports that 75 percent “never tweet.” How about that. Kevin Williamson notes how partisan prime-time cable shows also reach a relatively small audience and considers what to make of that:

I can’t help thinking that there is a lost political opportunity in all of this. I recently had a conversation with an elected official who is a frequent target of cable-news and talk-radio ire, and that media attention was pretty low on his list of things to worry about — he rarely if ever hears anything about that kind of stuff from any of the people who elect him. . . .

In the most recent Gallup poll of issues that Americans care most about, only 1 percent said taxes were their top concern, 1 percent said wages, 1 percent said foreign policy, 1 percent said education. If we set aside the vague (“the government”) and the unusual (Covid), the leading issue, far and away, was inflation — and that concern led the list for only 8 percent of those polled. Joe Biden was elected president by only 24.6 percent of all Americans, and he won the Democratic nomination on an even smaller number of votes — 19 million, or about 5.8 percent of all Americans.

Small, highly motivated groups of people can wield tremendous power at certain democratic bottlenecks, such as primary elections, and broadcast activism of the cable-news and talk-radio variety may have an outsized influence for that reason. But that influence should not be exaggerated: Even the most energetic partisan media is not reliably all that good at selling crazy, even in Texas — ask Don Huffines, the talk-radio hero who got massacred in the Texas GOP gubernatorial primary, or Representative Louie Gohmert, a gadfly on the nut circuit who finished fourth in the AG primary with only 17 percent of the vote.

I don’t know anybody who does a good Greg Abbott impersonation, on Saturday Night Live or anywhere else. But he sure gets a lot of votes.

As a practical matter, what Tucker Carlson thinks about U.S.–Russia relations and the situation in Ukraine has not mattered very much, except maybe to Jon Stewart and SNL and other media figures and media obsessives. And maybe it should matter even less.

Shout-Outs

Andrew Fink, at the Dispatch: Is Belarus Blinking?

Oliver Wiseman, at City Journal: “The Least Woke City in America”

Kate Walters, at KUOW: Kids to continue masking in Seattle Public Schools — possibly for two more months

Margaret Peppiatt, at the College Fix: Obama Homeland chief, accused of ‘violence on marginalized peoples,’ withdraws as grad speaker

CODA

Songs about whiskey tend to be uniquely inspired. The reason is no mystery. “Old Number 7,” by The Devil Makes Three, stands out as something special even among the greats. It goes down easy, unlike the subject of this tribute.

Care to share a song, libationary or otherwise, with this list? Shoot it over my way: jberger@nationalreview.com. Thanks for reading.

World

What Putin’s Future Holds

Loading...
Russian President Vladimir Putin visits the construction site of the National Space Agency at the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Centre in Moscow, Russia, February 27, 2022. (Sputnik/Sergey Guneev/Kremlin via Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

The irony of Vladimir Putin’s invasion is that his bid for immortality has potentially shortened his lifespan in power.

“Potentially” is doing a lot of work in that sentence. With that caveat, and setting aside speculation over the Russian leader’s health and mental state — an issue that I touched on last weekend and that Senator Marco Rubio repeatedly has hinted is a factor — it is difficult to see how a Russia with Putin on top can ever resume something like normal relations with the world around it.

Allies in Central Europe have turned on Moscow. As Michael Brendan Dougherty notes with astonishment, and some concern, historically neutral nations such as Switzerland are off the fence. Germany is strengthening its defenses, at last. The U.N. General Assembly condemned the invasion, and its Human Rights Council — notoriously tolerant of abuses by any and all nations that don’t close stores on Friday evenings — saw a mass walkout during the contemptible Sergei Lavrov’s remarks. The International Criminal Court is launching a war-crimes investigation. This, on top of sanctions that are crippling the Russian economy.

Russia’s president might not care. Also unclear is what version of the truth is being piped to his desk by way of sycophantic advisers. But the state of play does raise the question of how long Russia’s elites can abide a man whose kleptocracy no longer pays. “So far, Russia’s elite have never had to choose between the life they wanted and Putin,” a piece in Foreign Affairs points out.

NR’s editorial attempts the long view:

At least so far, the reaction to Putin’s invasion has been one that has unified a free West against a brutal authoritarian regime. . . .

But the ultimate solution to our Vladimir Putin problem is a Russian one.

There are early and tentative signs that Putin’s aggression could be the spark that destabilizes his hold on power.

Charles C. W. Cooke provides an important note of caution here, especially as the realities of this war get filtered through the social-media prism. If Putin is endangered, it only makes him more dangerous — and as much as we want to see this all end in decisive humiliation for Vladimir, the immediate future, barring a sudden Russian reversal, is likely to pile horror upon horror for the Ukrainian people :

There will be fighting in and around major population centers. Volunteers will be wiped out. Children will be maimed. War crimes will be committed. The result of this — even if the ploy ultimately fails — will probably not be the good guys rushing in to save the day, but thousands upon thousands of painful deaths. And then what?

A skillfully executed anti-Putin putsch to end the war is likely the stuff of fantasy right now. As Jim Geraghty notes, his advisers “can barely get close enough to throw something at him, much less assassinate him.” Further, whenever he does exit, there is little guarantee his successor will be a kinder, gentler soul. But hairline cracks in the oligarchy are beginning to appear. One former State Department official told the Washington Post that these statements amount to the most significant voicing of dissent by the nation’s elites “since the Soviet period.” Beyond the elites, the Russian people are protesting — or attempting to protest — in cities across the country. Michael McFaul, the Obama administration’s ambassador to Russia, has advanced the idea that mass demonstrations can play a role here. Anecdotally, there is discontent and disgust in the rank-and-file of the Russian military.

Jim observes that Putin’s goal of controlling Ukraine is ultimately unsustainable, given the unified resistance there to Moscow rule — meaning the long-term path to end this war runs through, or over, the head of the Russian Federation.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

This is not going as planned for Vladimir: Putin Gets More Than He Bargained For

The U.S. is on the cusp of striking an even weaker nuclear deal with Tehran: Biden’s Dangerous Iran Deal

The State of the Union contained no course correction from a presidency in need of one: Biden Fails to Reboot His Presidency

ARTICLES

Rich Lowry: Nationalism’s Finest Hour

Tim Kelleher: The Scandalous Silence of Moscow’s Patriarch

Hollie McKay: Ukrainian Church Leaders Join Fight against Putin’s Invasion: ‘He Is the Antichrist’

Dan McLaughlin: Ukraine’s Historic Propaganda War

Andrew McCarthy: Missing the Point on SWIFT Sanctions

John McCormack: Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Justification for Appearing at a White-Nationalist Conference Is Preposterous

Daniel R. DePetris: A No-Fly Zone over Ukraine Is a Bad Idea

Jimmy Quinn: Sasse Warns ‘Overly Lawyered Process’ Preventing Ukrainians from Obtaining Real-Time Intel

Charles C. W. Cooke: All the President’s Incoherence

Ryan Mills: Afghan CIA Interpreter, Anti-Drug Leader Pleads with U.S. to Save Family from Taliban: ‘So Helpless’

Daniel Buck: Why We Must Teach Our Students to Believe in America

Jay Nordlinger: Wrestling with Hell

Nate Hochman: Full Video Shows Law Students Heckling, Shouting Down Ilya Shapiro for 45 Minutes

Caroline Downey: Activists Riot during Campus Speech, Assault Father Who Was Denied Custody of Son after Contesting Transgender Diagnosis

Erica Smith Ewing & Daryl James: Zoning Police Target the Babysitter Next Door

CAPITAL MATTERS

Kevin Hassett advises we open the Trump playbook for Iran in developing a tougher approach to Russia: How to Bring Russia (and Belarus) to Its Knees with Sanctions

Joel Zinberg looks back at the Covid-testing debacle: Testing Our Patience

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

The latest Batman movie is more horror-thriller than action-adventure. From Kyle Smith: The Darkest Knight Yet

Armond White lauds Ruth Negga’s performance in Passing, if not the movie itself: Ruth Negga Redeems Black History Month

Brian Allen delivers the third installment on the Morozov Collection exhibition in Paris: Plumbing Van Gogh’s Prison Courtyard

FROM THE NEW, MARCH 21, 2022, ISSUE OF NR

Elliott Abrams: The New Cold War

Dan McLaughlin: Judging Judge Jackson

Richard Brookhiser: The Masks Come Off

Fred O’Brien: Catching the Windbag

SOMEBODY LEFT THE BARN DOOR OPEN, AND LOOK WHAT GOT OUT

A new, very Russia-focused issue of National Review is out. In it, Elliott Abrams puts this confrontation in historical context and shows what is at stake:

We are not ready — militarily, politically, or psychologically — for the prolonged crisis ahead of us. Vast American productivity, wealth, and power overwhelmed Germany in both the First and the Second World War, and Japan in the latter. We were certain of victory, and our allies knew that once we entered the war, the outcome was not in doubt.

In the Cold War, Russia rivaled us in military power but — though many analysts vastly overstated the size of the Soviet economy — its communist system meant that it could never keep up. The gap in wealth and technological pro­gress grew by the decade. Still, Russia and Soviet communism posed a great challenge, and the “Cold” War saw tens of thousands of American deaths in Korea and Vietnam. Russia seemed to be steadily gaining ground geopolitically by the end of the 1970s, but Ronald Reagan led a resurgence of American military and economic power and determination, and a decade later the Soviet Union fell. For 30 years now, Americans have been able to fight the dangerous but not existential threat from terrorism without much worry about the shape of the world our children will live in.

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is not an attack on the United States, and in that sense is perhaps more like the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915 than like Pearl Harbor: a sharp announcement that all bets are off. Like 9/11, it tells us that the world is far more dangerous than we have wanted to believe. Even many Americans who saw China as the great challenge of the 21st century often thought we could simply draw back from Europe and the Middle East and turn to the Pacific again. A look at U.S. defense spending confirms our relaxed view of the threats we faced: Spending was 9 per­cent of GDP in 1960 and then fell to under 5 percent in the late 1970s. The Reagan buildup raised it to 6.6 percent by 1986, but then it fell again: under 6 percent, then under 5, then down to 4, then under 4 percent from 2014 to 2020.

Today we face challenges to U.S. interests that are growing each year and may actually be greater than those of the 20th century. Neither Germany nor Japan nor the combination of the two constituted a peer rival to the United States. But what if Nazi Germany and Japan had maintained an alliance with the USSR? That is the risk presented when a fully rearmed, aggressive Russia and a rich, aggressive, and technologically advanced China tell us that the inter­national order that has lasted since 1945 must end, and American predominance with it. . . .

In fact, the invasion of Ukraine is step four for Putin, after Georgia, Crimea, and Donbas, invasions done under U.S. administrations of both parties over a decade and a half. Had we reacted more strongly in those cases, had we imposed severe costs, the Ukraine invasion would likely not have occurred. Putin learned a lesson; so should we.

Daniel Buck provides some perspective, amid the Ukraine crisis, on why it’s important to offer students a vision of America worth defending:

This conflict may not lead to our military involvement, but it reminds us that the international order is fragile. We might become entangled in a war again and currently do face countless non-military challenges; do we trust our public schools to produce citizens who are ready for that?

Our populace must have something worth defending if it is to defend itself. It is in our institutions of public education that our nation learns of its history and civics. It is here that our students will or will not develop the necessary national resolve. What story will we teach our children about ourselves? . . .

Again, this mythos-building doesn’t necessitate that we lie to our students. We can teach our students of America’s many failings while showcasing that our reformation has come about because of, not in spite of, our founding vision — that, for example, Confederate leaders rebuffed our founding documents while Frederick Douglass embraced them.

While the current crisis is unlikely to escalate into war involving our forces, at some point, America will again face a threat to its existence. Will we meet the challenge? I worry we won’t. No one will storm a beach to defend whatever our DEI consultants think America is.

After the SOTU, Charles C. W. Cooke examines Biden’s rhetorical methods, and finds none:

The singer David Bowie liked to write lyrics by cutting scribbled notes into pieces, throwing them wildly up into the air, and then reassembling them at random. Joe Biden’s speech last night had the same tone. Indeed, with the exception of his nod to Ukraine, Biden’s address wasn’t an address, so much as it was a series of “and one more thing . . .” exclamations of the sort one might suffer through from a lazy drunk at a bar. Biden empathized mawkishly with the victims of inflation, but then lauded the binge that helped it spiral. He used “Built in America” as a slogan, but then outlined an agenda that would ensure it never happens. He lied about the things he always lies about — the protections that are supposedly enjoyed by firearms companies, the distribution of the 2017 tax cuts, that as president he has “created” millions of jobs; he shouted about the things that excite him; and he ignored the things that do not. The Afghanistan withdrawal, which he still maintains was an “extraordinary success,” was not mentioned at all.

And then there was his delivery. As a rule, I am a dove when it comes to politicians’ rhetorical mistakes. Presidents are busy and tired and constantly in motion, and from time to time they are bound to forget which city they are in or to mispronounce a foreign word. But with Biden, it is relentless. Because they must, the president’s apologists like pretend that his shortcomings are the product of a persistent childhood “stutter.” But this, of course, is nonsense, as anyone who remembers him ten years ago can attest. Simply put, Joe Biden can no longer speak properly. He slurs and mangles his words; he struggles mightily to distinguish between concepts — and contexts; his memory cannot keep up with his folksy off-script digressions, which now end with a trail-off or a pivot or an involuntary Kerouacian riff. Unable to read or process the contents of the Teleprompter, Biden talked last night about “a pound of Ukrainian people,” confused “Ukrainian” with “Iranian” (provoking a mouthed correction from Kamala Harris), referenced “other freedee loving nations,” and praised the Ukrainian “mall of strength.” And those were just the highlights.

From the Institute for Justice, Erica Smith Ewing and Daryl James relay yet another story of how needless government meddling has worsened Covid-related hardships:

Single mother Bianca King rebounded quickly when she lost her job as a program manager in the aerospace industry as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Turning the situation into an opportunity, she opened a state-approved babysitting service at her home near Austin, Texas.

Enterprising individuals — especially women — have operated similar businesses for centuries; home-based child care is an ordinary activity that fills an important societal need. Unfortunately, not everyone celebrated King’s new venture. Her home in Lakeway, Texas, is adjacent to the eighth hole of the Live Oak Golf Course, and three golfers complained to the city about the hardship of teeing off within earshot of children.

One of the golfers, a former Lakeway mayor, described seeing playthings behind a fence in King’s enclosed backyard. “There were huge blowup toys and things that were outside in the backyard that were fully visible to the golf course,” he told the city’s Zoning and Planning Commission during a public hearing. The only inflatable toy that King owns is a five-foot-tall rainbow sprinkler — nothing out of the ordinary in a family-friendly community.

The golfers’ only other complaint was about parents’ picking up and dropping off their kids. But again, the outrage was exaggerated. King watches only two to four children at a time — in addition to her own son and daughter — and all of her clients live nearby. They drive in their own neighborhood during daylight hours, and some of them walk with strollers. The business generates no outside traffic.

Despite the lack of any legitimate gripe, Lakeway sided with the golfers. Relying on onerous zoning rules that make home-based businesses nearly impossible to start, local officials rejected King’s application for a city permit in November and denied her appeal in February. The one-two punch has put King’s sole source of income in jeopardy, while creating uncertainty for her clients.

Shout-Outs

Mary Anastasia O’Grady, at the Wall Street Journal: Putin’s Victims in Guatemala

Andrew Michta, at City Journal: Europe’s Wakeup Call

Samuel Bendett, at Defense One: Where Are Russia’s Drones?

Vladislav Davidzon, at UnHerd: A Putin puppet government will fail

CODA

Jay Nordlinger highlighted this piece last weekend, but it deserves an encore. “The Great Gate of Kiev” (or Kyiv, as Jay allows) is the final triumphant installment of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, and timely.

Have time for one more? On the lighter side, even? Wonderful.

Given the Canada-focused news cycle that churned right up until Putin opted for war, a Rush song is also — heck, always — apt. Any excuse, really, for Rush. So, from the titans of Toronto, here is a particularly vivacious live version, recorded in 1997 at a Chicago-area show and featured on Different Stages, of “Closer to the Heart.” Listen for Geddy at the midpoint.

World

The 1980s Are Calling to Say We Might Need Their Foreign Policy

Loading...
Servicemen ride on an armored vehicle with the letter ‘Z’ on it in Armyansk, Crimea, after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized a military operation in eastern Ukraine, February 24, 2022. (Stringer/Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Twosday’s gone, and so is the post–Cold War order.

Perhaps that assumption will prove premature, but the horrifying conflagration across Ukraine combined with other autocratic advances gives the unmistakable impression that we are living through a transition of lasting consequence — how lasting is likely to be determined at a later date by the way China reads the situation. “The Cold War’s been over for 20 years,” Barack Obama famously reminded Mitt Romney in 2012 in response to his Russia concerns, snarking that “the 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back.” That was half true. For America, the war was over. Not, evidently, for Vladimir Putin.

His unhinged pre-invasion speech was a grievance-airing like few others. Before releasing Part Two, coinciding with a nationwide military assault, Putin lamented the “disintegration of our united country” and the “injustices, lies, and outright pillage” he claims Russia has endured. Kyiv now hangs in the balance, along with Ukraine’s democratically elected government, as Russia attempts to drive into the capital — all because of the grandiose paranoia and territorial rapacity of one man.

It appears we could use some of that 1980s foreign policy about now (hold the support for blood-stained actors in Latin America, please) — in the sense of replacing for good the Russian “reset” with hard-nosed realism and a posture that reflects it. Romney could not resist noting that “the ‘80s called’ and we didn’t answer.” America’s options now are limited, but available.

Mark Wright offers nine steps to counter Russia’s aggression, not the least of which is to sideline the nation from the international organizations it has helped turn farcical. NR’s editorials propose the following:

The White House should implement all of the measures it has prepared in recent months right now. It needs to make public all the lists of Putin-aligned oligarchs it has and take measures to cripple Russia’s military-industrial base through sanctions on high-tech imports. And it needs to accelerate the effort to arm the Ukrainians to the teeth, increasing the military price that Russia will pay for its invasion.

More broadly, it should ask Congress for massive increases in defense spending, continue to shore up frontline NATO members, and unleash the American oil and gas industry so we aren’t in the position of begging OPEC+, including Russia, to increase production.

Biden on Thursday announced a new round of sanctions, stopping short of cutting off Russia from the SWIFT global financial system. America and Western allies must go further; in the near term, hope rests on Ukrainians’ ability and will to fight back, which they are doing, and the strategy of making this evil war too costly for the despot who chose it.

The Hudson Institute’s Arthur Herman writes also of a missed opportunity in Munich, where he says the program should have involved a recommitment to NATO nations’ defense-budget targets, plans for NATO expansion, plans for pursuing the missile-defense system in Eastern Europe that Obama scrapped, a strategy for reversing Europe’s reliance on Russian energy, and more. On NATO, Michael Brendan Dougherty counters that the West is now reaping the consequences of past expansion, leaving a “Russian foreign policy moving in a direction decidedly not to our liking.” Whether “more NATO” is the answer is a debate that will divide the West in the years to come.

Either way, what Western civilization has little use for is the kind of meme ops that the State Department seems to regard, without much reason, as tactically devastating. As Robert Zubrin notes, the spin war and the real war are very different things. Or, as Mark Wright says more bluntly, “sh** posting memes while Russian tanks are massing for a major invasion of a European country and while Russian troops are currently engaged in a deadly serious occupation of several parts of eastern Ukraine is, frankly, embarrassing.”

What the moment calls for is seriousness, and recognition that even as the U.S. has no plans for direct military intervention, the physical distance between unrest abroad and America, as the past 20 years have demonstrated, can be illusory. Jerry Hendrix argues that the post–USSR hopes for “Perpetual Peace” have passed and observes that Putin is on a path to permanent pariah-ship. Whether this leads him toward even more reckless behavior will be clear soon enough.

We should heed the words of those who know this regime. In his book Red Notice, investor-turned-activist Bill Browder recalled the counsel that Ukrainian-born tax lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who exposed sprawling corruption and died in prison for it, gave as their saga started: “Russian stories never have happy endings.”  

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

Putin may well win this battle, but that does not mean the war won’t ruin him: Vladimir Putin’s Gamble

The West, meanwhile, should make his military pursuits as painful as possible: The Ukraine Catastrophe

ARTICLES

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Vlad’s War of Choice

Kevin Williamson: How the Imperial Presidency Hurts American Foreign Policy

Mark Antonio Wright: What to Expect Next in Ukraine

Ryan Mills: Civilian Effort to Rescue Americans from Ukraine Underway

Charles C. W. Cooke: Foreign-Policy Dissent Is Not Treason

Charles C. W. Cooke: Biden’s Dismal State of the Union

Nate Hochman: Trudeau Government Moves to Make Expanded Surveillance Powers over Financial Transactions ‘Permanent’

Sally Pipes: Stalled in D.C., the Single-Payer Fantasy Makes Its Way to Blue States

Madeleine Kearns: Lia Thomas Is No Jackie Robinson

Rich Lowry: BLM is a Moral, Political, and Policy Disaster

Kyle Smith: Trump’s Ukrainian Outrage

Isaac Schorr: Senate Democrats Rail against Corporate Influence While Accepting Piles of Tainted Cash

Dan McLaughlin: How Republicans Should Respond to Ketanji Brown Jackson

Caroline Downey: Teachers’ Union Heavyweight Mocks Parental Calls for Transparency, Demands Report on What Kids Learn at Home

Ryan Ellis: The ‘Skin in the Game’ Fallacy

Andrew McCarthy: Manhattan DA’s Trump Investigation Appears to Have Cratered

CAPITAL MATTERS

Tom Hebert notices a lesson for antitrust warriors in the Meta stock turbulence: Stock Plunge Shows the Folly of Legislating By Market Cap

Stephen Moore follows up on this topic: Antitrust Legislation Would Hurt the U.S. and Aid China

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Armond White flags the “first amazing movie of 2022”: Jeunet’s Amazing, Insightful Big Bug

In a peculiar bit of timing, a spectacular Russian collection of art is on display in Paris, with a nod from Putin. Brian Allen explains: Cézannes, Van Goghs, Gauguins Galore, from Russia to Paris

A joint memoir from the Howard brothers (Ron and Clint, that is) is full of touching anecdotes and insights. From Kyle Smith: Hollywood’s Most Fortunate Sons

SAMIZDAT, CONT’D

What happens now? Nobody can know for sure, but Mark Wright is providing valuable military analysis — and argues that hope is not lost for the Ukrainians:

The Russians have, so far, acted in a somewhat restrained manner. They have, compared to the Russian army’s operations in Syria, for example, appeared to be trying to avoid civilian casualties. To that end, they have avoided a direct assault on Kharkiv, a city of more than a million people that lies close to the Russian border. And they largely bypassed the southern town of Kherson in an effort to leapfrog forward towards the city of Mykolaiv. If they want to try to end the war quickly, however, Russian troops will have to storm a city center — likely Kyiv, a city of more than 3 million souls. How will the ground troops handle this? There are already rumors of low morale in the Russian ranks. Indeed, there are reports that Russian POWs have told their Ukrainian captors that they didn’t even know they would be sent into combat to kill Ukrainians!

As armies throughout the bloody 20th century discovered, urban combat is hell. If faced with an opponent willing to dig in and fight it out, mechanized units and infantry can get chewed up, and fast. Faced with high casualties, would Russian troops be willing to turn to sheer fire power to blast their Ukrainian cousins out of the rubble like they did the Chechen rebels in Grozny? Would they be willing to fight block by bloody block? Would they be willing to turn rocket artillery barrages and white-phosphorus shells on a people that Putin calls essentially Russian?

War is not a game of Risk. This isn’t chess. A Ukrainian “victory” in the streets of Kyiv would be a horror and a bloodbath. But victory — defined as forcing the Russian army to call it quits, perhaps aided by a growing anti-war protest movement in Russia — is not utterly impossible if the Ukrainians are willing to pay its terrible price.

Michael Brendan Dougherty sets aside the questions over whether the West could have quelled Putin’s rage and examines the implications of one inarguable fact:

A thousand flimsy orthodoxies and assertions die after the action begins. But we have so far one certainty: Russia’s attack on Ukraine is an aggressive war of choice.

In fact, Russian president Vladimir Putin did not even attempt to disguise that he was engaged in a war of choice. Despite months of U.S. intelligence reports warning that Russia would use false-flag attacks — faked outrages in Ukraine’s contested territories, meant to gin up Russian support for an invasion — nothing of the sort happened.

On Monday, Putin gave an address that made it sound like his military buildup and the forthcoming war were meant as a way of teaching Ukrainians and the rest of the world that Ukrainian identity and its national tradition are faked — the product of the policy of a handful of people who “distort the mentality and historical memory” of entire generations. It was followed by outlandish accusations of various plots for Ukraine to attack Moscow. . . .

For all these reasons, this appears to be Putin’s war and Putin’s choice. It comes after Putin’s failures to get Ukraine to implement the Minsk agreements, and his failure to deter Ukraine from collaborating more with NATO members such as the United Kingdom and Turkey. Which means Putin’s entire legacy and prestige is wrapped up in this campaign. That certainly makes him dangerous. But if it goes poorly, or if the costs for Russians are too high, Putin himself will be a juicy scapegoat for the regime and the society that has lived under and endured his leadership. The exact same brotherly ties between Ukraine and Russia that Putin wrote about in an essay on their historical unity may cause a significant number of Russians to recoil if the war becomes long, or particularly bloody.

Wars of choice are risky things — even for dictators.

In “other news,” Biden announced his Supreme Court pick. Dan McLaughlin provides a roadmap for Republicans:

Here are three ways Senate Republicans should approach the nomination.

First, be realistic. Democrats have 50 votes, and they have Kamala Harris to break a tie. That means that Republicans cannot stop Jackson’s confirmation unless they can peel off at least one Democrat who voted to put her on the D.C. Circuit. Even Democratic mavericks such as Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have been reliable votes for progressive judges. . . .

Being realistic means three things. It means that Republicans should aim to use the nomination to impose political costs on Biden and on senators voting for Jackson. It means that Republicans don’t need to try desperate stunts to win. And it means that their audience, if there is a chance of sinking Jackson, is Democratic senators, and their argument in that regard must be specific to Jackson rather than generally about constitutional philosophy. By contrast, the more remote the odds of stopping her, the more Republicans should talk to the voters about that philosophy in order to highlight the stakes in Senate races. . . .

Second, don’t play for revenge. It may feel good, emotionally, to play the “you made these rules” game and try for scorched-earth personal destruction of the type deployed against Kavanaugh. But that backfired on Democrats. In a Democratic wave year, multiple Senate races swung toward Republicans down the stretch. A lot of people were horrified by the Democrats’ antics. It is highly likely that some far-right figure will try to gin up a fake sexual-misconduct charge against Jackson, just for the revenge factor. For reasons of both politics and principle, we should urge the Senate to evaluate any personal charges of scandal of any kind against Jackson by the same standards of fairness and rigor we urged for Kavanaugh and for Joe Biden.

Third, don’t obsess over race and gender. Voters who know that Biden excluded everyone but black women from his search already disapprove of that. Of course, some voters are just tuning in now, so Republicans may remind them. But beyond that, voters do not need more convincing, and harping on the “affirmative-action pick” language is more likely to make people sympathize with Jackson. Focus instead on her deficiencies as a judge, her judicial philosophy and worldview, or her service on the board of a racially discriminatory college. Democrats want the conversation to be about “conservatives disrespecting a black woman,” not about Jackson in particular as a jurist. Don’t give them that.

ICYMI, this update from Nate Hochman on Canada’s financial-surveillance measures tore through the Internet earlier this week:

As all eyes were trained on the aggressive police sweep of the Ottawa trucker convoy this week, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau’s administration was quietly moving to implement a sweeping expansion of surveillance power at the federal level.

The Trudeau government’s financial war against the truckers has been covered at length. But one underreported aspect of this broader assault on Canadian civil liberties is the effort to bring crowdfunding and payment service providers — two of the most prominent routes for financial transactions on the Internet — under the permanent control of a centralized government authority.

In a February 14 news conference, Canadian finance minister Chrystia Freeland said that the government was using the Emergencies Act to broaden “the scope of Canada’s anti-money-laundering and terrorist financing rules so that they cover crowdfunding platforms and the payment service providers they use.” That broadened power requires all forms of digital transactions, including cryptocurrencies, to be reported to the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Center of Canada. (I.e., “Fintrac”). “As of today, all crowdfunding platforms and the payment service providers they use must register with Fintrac, and they must report large and suspicious transactions to Fintrac,” Freeland said. . . .

Freeland said the trucker convoy, which had assembled to protest coronavirus restrictions, had “highlighted the fact” that digital assets and funding mechanisms “weren’t captured” by the Canadian government’s pre-existing surveillance powers. As a result, she said, “the government will also bring forward legislation to provide these authorities to FinTrac on a permanent basis.” . . .

All this, of course, flies in the face of Trudeau’s promise that the Emergencies Act powers would be temporary. When he announced his invocation of the order, he promised the Canadian people that his expanded authorities would “be time-limited, geographically targeted, as well as reasonable and proportionate to the threats they are meant to address.” Not a single part of that sentence has proved to be true.

Shout-Outs

Liana Fix and Michael Kimmage, at Foreign Affairs: What if Russia Wins?

Alex Janin, at the Wall Street Journal: Many in Gen Z May Never Work in an Office

Philip Wegmann, at RealClearPolitics: For Decades Biden Promised He Could Handle Putin

Joseph Ruttle, at the Vancouver Sun: B.C. MP alleges single mom had account frozen over truck convoy donation

CODA 

It was always burning.

Elections

The Left’s Culture-War Mission Creep

Loading...
Stephen Lewis and other protestors hold signs in support of the San Francisco School Board recall along 19th Avenue in the Sunset District of San Francisco, Calif., Feb. 12, 2022. (Stephen Lam/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Somewhere in the jungles of San Francisco or Montgomery County, Md., or . . . pick any place in Virginia, a platoon of progressive culture warriors must be hacking through the bush wondering how their objectives changed so drastically over the years.

They enlisted to fight for gay marriage, abortion rights, and the strict separation of church and state. So what’s this business about racist math, wrong pronouns, mismatched swim meets, and the erasure of George Washington’s name from buildings?

This drift — that is, the swinging shift in priorities that has placed the progressive Left so out of step with the non-politically-obsessed American middle — helps explain the popular rebukes we’re seeing in polls and polling places. San Francisco provided a potent example this week as overwhelming majorities in a not-very-Republican city voted to recall three progressive school-board members, a campaign initiated amid complaints the board was pursuing divisive social-justice fights instead of working to reopen schools and deal with pressing financial problems.

Ryan Mills gives the backstory here:

Instead of focusing its efforts on developing a reopening plan, the board has been preoccupied with woke culture war issues, expending energy on changing the admissions process at the highly-selective Lowell High School to boost the number of black and Hispanic students and reduce the number of white and Asian students; rechristening 44 schools named after prominent Americans, including presidents Abraham Lincoln and George Washington; and a proposal to spend close to $1 million to paint over a historic, 80-year-old mural at a local school that depicts the life of Washington, but also includes outdated stereotypes.

The board became the focus of national ridicule last February after a two-hour debate over whether a gay white dad was diverse enough to join an all-female volunteer parent committee. All the while, the district’s budget deficit ballooned to about $125 million last year, leading California education officials to threaten a state takeover.

Of course, some local leaders aren’t learning any lessons, blaming a cabal of “closet Republicans” (who knew there were so many in San Francisco?) for the defeats. But as NR’s editorial states, the verdict from voters is clear that “far-left progressivism has not worked and is not working.”

For her part, Democratic mayor London Breed cheered the result and called it “a clear message that the school board must focus on the essentials of delivering a well-run school system above all else.” Breed seems to recognize the danger of pursuits that please only zealots. She has previously warned about what the collapse in law enforcement is doing to her city; this week, Seattle’s mayor had a similar awakening.

Other elected Dems are starting to notice that the opinions of overactive blue-checks do not reflect the opinions of a majority, as seen in the wave of decisions to lift mask mandates and other coronavirus restrictions. Perhaps quietly, they are coming to realize that Glenn Youngkin’s victory in Virginia was not driven by Charlottesville tiki-torchers, but by the normal people whose bemusement at the causes of the Left is turning to annoyance and ultimately sound rejection. Add in the inflation that the Biden administration insists is unrelated to the nation’s historic levels of spending, and the polls start to make sense.

And boy, oh boy, those polls. Charles C. W. Cooke flags one outfit, whose surveys tend to favor Democrats, showing President Biden short of 50 percent approval in every state, and underwater in all but four. A separate Morning Consult/Politico poll should be sending Ron Klain in search of scuba gear. Rich Lowry highlights this report from Politico:

Democrats’ own research shows that some battleground voters think the party is “preachy,” “judgmental” and “focused on culture wars,” according to documents obtained by POLITICO.

Unclear is whether the response will be to change course — or to simply accuse Republicans of something worse, like pouncing. But the culture-war mission creep is undeniable, as is the insurgency rising up against it.

Peggy Noonan recently had some characteristically sage advice, noting that in this time of excess on the left, it is the job of the Republican Party “to be sane,” to be “the party of the big center, to stand for normal, regular people in all their human variety — all races, ethnicities, faiths — against the forces of ideology currently assailing them.”

If you’ve had a chance to catch a showing lately of the Republican Party, you know this will be harder than it sounds. But the opportunity is there, bigly.

In a semi-related bit of news, the cancel-culture wars are no less heated these days. The voices calling for a more thoughtful approach, though, do appear to be getting louder. Nate Hochman reported exclusively on a federal judge who surprised a Georgetown Law audience with a speech defending Ilya Shapiro, the legal scholar who was sidelined from the school’s Center for the Constitution over, in essence, a bad tweet. Judge James Ho’s remarks are filled with wisdom and common sense, so consider yourself warned.

Last, check out Nate’s coverage this past week from Ottawa, which we are reliably informed is very, very cold. (Nate, with his itinerant reporting schedule, is truly the Roy Kent of this operation.)

Onward . . .

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

Another election, another resounding message from voters that radicalism is not working: The Trouncing of the San Francisco School Board

Even if they’re getting the “conspiracy theory” treatment, the allegations in John Durham’s latest court filing are serious: Durham’s Jaw-Dropping Revelation

ARTICLES

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Maskless Super Bowl Marks Our Return to Normalcy

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Against Meta

Charles C. W. Cooke: What in the Hell Is Kamala Harris Doing?

Charles C. W. Cooke: Justin Trudeau Has Disgraced His Office

Kevin Williamson: Trudeau Follows the Money

Kevin Williamson: Why Progressives Can’t Quit Their Masks

Stefani E. Buhajla: The Human Costs of Covid-Related Medicaid Expansion

Alexandra DeSanctis: The Real Science of Fetal Heartbeats

Jimmy Quinn: McKinsey Website Contradicts Denials of Chinese-Government Work; Rubio Claims ‘Cover-Up’

David Harsanyi: Kamala, Blink Twice If You’ve Been Kidnapped by the Ayatollahs

John Fund: Thirty House Democrats Now Retiring — the GOP Needs Only Five Seats for Majority

Don’t miss Andrew McCarthy’s three-part series on the January 6 Committee: Mitch McConnell’s Good Start; The Irony of the January 6 Committee; Fix the January 6 Committee

. . . or the first two installments of Dan McLaughlin’s series on gerrymandering: The Selective Gerrymandering Panic; Why Democrats’ Gerrymandering ‘Fix’ Would Fail

. . . or the many tributes to P. J. O’Rourke

CAPITAL MATTERS

Daniel J. Pilla doesn’t buy the IRS’s claim that they’ll really “transition away” from a plan for facial-recognition technology: The IRS Wants Your Picture

Andy Puzder explains why supply-chain and demand issues aren’t the only things driving inflation — and why inflation in the U.S. is so much higher than elsewhere: Building Back Stagflation

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

A video-game-based movie ends up being an inane hodgepodge of disconnected action sequences? Weird. From Kyle Smith: Tom Holland vs. Tom Cruise

Armond White finds the movie for our time, way back in 1978: Peckinpah’s Convoy Honors the Lost Art of Dissent

Brian Allen writes about the triumphant return of a cherished painting to the U.K.: Gainsborough’s Blue Boy, Back in London

FROM THE NEW, MARCH 7, 2022, ISSUE OF NR

John Miller: The New Politics of School Choice

Madeleine Kearns: Reefer Madness

John McCormack: What Reforming the Electoral Count Act Can Do

Jay Nordlinger: Daughter of Ukraine

FREE SAMPLES, FOLKS — EXCERPTS ARE ON US

Faced with an increasingly disruptive trucker-convoy protest, Canada has opted for an illiberal and heavy-handed intervention that we can’t help but notice was not employed in 2020. Kevin Williamson explains:

In this so-called emergency, Trudeau is not sending in the troops. He is cutting off the money.

Trudeau, sounding a little like the old southern segregationists who complained about “outside agitators,” insists that the protests have been driven by “social media and illicit funding” rather than by genuine disapproval of his government’s policies. And so he is using the Emergency Measures Act to invest himself with the unilateral power to freeze bank accounts and cancel insurance policies, without so much as a court order and with essentially no recourse for those he targets. Canadian banks and financial-services companies will be ordered to disable clients suspected of being involved in the protests.

Trudeau says the protests are illegal. That is not quite right. The protests are not illegal per se, though some of the protesters certainly are breaking the law, for instance by blocking public roads and the like. The obvious parallel is the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests in Canada, which also included some law-breaking. Trudeau did not invoke Emergency Measures Act powers to suppress those protests, even though they brought together large crowds during a particularly dangerous phase of the Covid-19 epidemic contrary to the advice of Trudeau’s government — and the advice out of his own mouth, for that matter. Far from shutting down those protests, Trudeau actually participated in them, making a pious spectacle out of himself. . . .

I myself do not particularly sympathize with the aims or the tactics of the protesters in Canada. I don’t care much for unruly mobs of any persuasion. But even so, it is impossible not to see the plain fact that these protesters are being targeted not for their practical effect or their tactics but for their beliefs and for the sort of people they are, that an obvious double standard is at play, and that this is deeply illiberal.

Not to be an alarmist, but . . . can pot make you crazy? Madeleine Kearns, for the latest issue of NR, interviews husband-and-wife psychiatrists looking into the link:

In 2004, [Dr. Robin MacGregor Murray and Dr. Marta Di Forti] launched the Genetics and Psychotic Disorder study, examining the genetic and environmental causes of psychosis. Since 2019, Di Forti has been running the National Health Service’s first clinic for cannabis-induced psychosis. The initial pilot scheme had 20 patients. Demand for the service is only growing, with 30 or more patients participating by Zoom each week. . . .

Throughout the ’70s and ’80s, the idea that cannabis might be contributing to mental-health problems never occurred to Murray and his colleagues. In 1996 the Lancet — Britain’s top medical journal — editorialized that cannabis was a safe drug. When psychotic patients’ families would ask whether there was any link, since their loved one “smoked marijuana morning, noon, and night,” Murray would answer no.

By the 1990s, however, the question had been raised so many times that he began to wonder. First, Murray and his researchers found that people who kept smoking cannabis after developing psychosis did much worse than people who stopped. “After establishing that it was bad for you once you were psychotic, then we began looking at whether it actually provoked the psychosis in the first place,” Murray says. By 2003, they were convinced that cannabis was a “component cause” of psychosis. In other words, while a person may already have a genetic vulnerability, or other risk factors, heavy cannabis use can also trigger and exacerbate psychosis in those without an obvious predisposition. . . .

Most of the patients at the clinic smoke every day and have done so for several years. Yet their psychosis can come on quite suddenly: “Just like cigarettes and lung cancer. You could be smoking for 20 years before you get lung cancer,” Murray says. Likewise, you could be smoking cannabis for five or even ten years before you go psychotic.

Catch up on the latest revelations from John Durham’s investigation, from NR’s editorial:

In a court submission last week, Durham alleged that a tech executive, who was supposed to be helping the government combat cyber threats, used his privileged access to Internet data — specifically, domain name system (DNS) traffic between servers — to mine contacts between Russia and facilities connected to Donald Trump. The information, Durham says, was taken out of context and distorted to suggest that Trump might be a clandestine agent of Vladimir Putin’s regime. . . .

Joffe was a Clinton supporter who was hoping to land a big national-security post if Hillary Clinton were elected president in 2016. Joffe and the Clinton campaign got their lawyer, Michael Sussmann, to communicate this “intelligence” about a corrupt Trump–Russia relationship to government intelligence agencies in the hopes that they would take action against Trump. Sussmann, a former Justice Department cyber-security prosecutor, was then a partner at Perkins Coie, the politically connected law firm that represented the Democratic Party and the Clinton campaign. . . .

All indications are that Durham’s final report will be damning — and, if the pattern holds, ignored by all the same people in the media who promoted Russiagate for years. Even if few people ever face legal jeopardy for this, there ought to be political repercussions as well as serious thought given to preventing similar abuses in the future.

Michael Brendan Dougherty identifies a cultural turning point in the pandemic endgame:

The Super Bowl was our unofficial return to normality for the United States. A relatively normal game, with a halftime show geared toward people in their 40s. But the “normal” part was the crowd. It was the general atmosphere. The Chinese Olympics that nobody is watching feature athletes getting served by people in hazmat suits. Meanwhile, SoFi stadium gathered over 70,000 fans for the big game, and the cameras panning the vast crowd showed the spectators to be almost entirely maskless.

This was the end of the pandemic in the United States — or at least the primary signal that, as a culture, we are ready for the end. . . .

That a football game could “end” a pandemic may seem absurd — what does it have to do with the spread, with the facts of the disease and the latest variants, or with the rate of vaccine uptake? But cultures never make sense as pure calculations about inputs and outputs. Ultimately, we make a collective cultural decision about whether we are in a state of emergency or not. A big, raucous crowd of unmasked fans at a football game in America is normal. Broadcasting that game — and studiously refusing to reference or mention the pandemic — is a giant flashing sign. You probably have moved on or are about to move on. We’re moving on, too.

Shout-Outs

Soledad Ursúa, at City Journal: San Francisco’s Heart of Darkness

Tony Badran, at Tablet: Biden Pays Army Salaries to Iranian Ally

Hannah Sparks, at the New York Post: Priest who botched thousands of baptisms steps down after 25 years

Christian Schneider, at the College Fix: U. Michigan on track to hire 20 new ‘anti-racism’ faculty (Recall this story from NR earlier this month.)

CODA

This is the song that would have made last weekend’s back-to-the-Nineties halftime show whole.

U.S.

Covid Politics Are Awful

Loading...
Scenes from Covid-19-related protests, alongside a mask-mandate sign at the Phoenix airport. (Getty/Reuters — National Review Illustration by Cristi Name)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

One of the most shocking scenes in the Netflix drama The Crown depicts the real-life Aberfan disaster of 1966, in which a mass of coal waste slid down a mountain and smothered 144 people, most of them children. 

In the aftermath, the series shows Prime Minister Harold Wilson remarking on how delicate the situation would become. An aide scoffs at the notion that the tragic accident would turn political. (It would.)

“Everything is political,” the PM replies.

So it was true then, so it remains true now with the coronavirus disaster of 2020 onward. But the politics of the pandemic have become as virulent as Covid-19 itself, to a degree that might even have startled Wilson’s dramatized character.

The suddenly shifting debate over masking in schools is one illustration. As Jim Geraghty observes, the chair of the Virginia Democratic Party, among others, blasted Governor Glenn Youngkin just a few weeks ago for his mask-optional order — calling the face-coverings “essential” for student safety and accusing the Republican of catering to the “far-right fringes.” This week, Democratic governors moved to roll back school mask requirements all over the map. Even Democrats in Virginia are now having a change of heart. Are they all “far right”? Even considering falling cases, did circumstances so radically change between the time of Youngkin’s order and today to justify the loosening now, but not previously?

Of course not. Everything is political, and the politics of Covid-19 are awful.

Kyle Smith explains here why the argument that the science has changed, or that cases have fallen to an acceptable level (that is, still above what they were a couple months ago when masks were still insisted on), is flimsy. The pivot is now being justified by some as a Solomonic compromise between extremes — the problem with this, as Charles C. W. Cooke says, is that this third way, which acknowledges that restrictions were once necessary but now can go, is not a sudden consensus but has been the position of a huge number of Americans for a long time. It is a position that was relentlessly vilified as anti-science until this week.

Everything is political.

This toxicity has consequences. Caroline Downey reports here on how the masking debate has affected Connecticut students all along, as described by an elementary-school teacher who had to remain anonymous in order to speak freely:

“Kids are being taught to call out their peers. I constantly see kids bullying their classmates, yelling things like ‘Johnny, put your mask above your nose!’,” she said.

While the teacher encourages her children to take “mask breaks” outside to get some air, she says she’s noticed that some are afraid to ask for one because they’re worried that they’ll be ridiculed. . . .

“I had a kid throw up in my room. The mask was covered in vomit, and then the student felt like they had to cover their mouth with their hands.”

None of this is to say the masks can’t offer any protection, or that parents must shun them. But the effort to put that decision in the hands of families, as with so much else during this pandemic, never should have become so politicized. The official guidance has changed often enough, and varies enough from country to country, to justify reasoned debate on the departure from it. Instead, we saw hysterical accusations of running a death cult for kids, of promoting the virus for a “warped idea of personal liberty,” and of being “anti public health.”

Lockdowns were the subject of a similar partisan battle royal — a new study has now emerged saying that they “had little or no effect on COVID-19 mortality” and concluding that “lockdowns should be rejected out of hand as a pandemic policy instrument.” Mario Loyola writes:

One of the study’s more depressing findings is that lockdowns appear to have been heavily driven by intergovernmental peer pressure. “In short,” the authors note, “it is not the severity of the pandemic that drives the adoption of lockdowns, but rather the propensity to copy policies initiated by neighboring countries.”

Lockdowns were contagious; in some cases, they weren’t adopted out of necessity but conformity. Yet at the time, skeptics were lambasted as the “Fox News-Nazi-Confederate death-cult rump of the Republican Party.”

The hyperbolic, attention-grabbing accusations run in the other direction, too, as Michael Brendan Dougherty documented in his memorable account of a recent school-board meeting, where officials were castigated as criminals, with “plentiful references to Nazi Germany.”

If ever there were a cause to make apolitical — a time to detach ourselves from tribe for the common good — the task of extracting the nation from this crippling pandemic in a way that balances public health with everything else is it. As NR’s editorial points out, America has a lot to be proud of, having played a pivotal role in creating effective vaccines, and should take the “W.”

In other news, the Olympic Games in Beijing are shaping up to be a total flop. Good.

In other, other news, bravo, Mitch.

In other, other, other news, our webathon remains up and running on the home page. If you haven’t already, please consider tossing some coins in the column dispenser. Our gratitude is yours, as always.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

On your mark, get set . . . Pivot! The De-Masking of America

Spotify missed the chance to say “No” this past week: Spotify’s Craven Response to Joe Rogan

ARTICLES

Kyle Smith: Stacey Abrams’s Epic Face (Mask) Plant

Dan McLaughlin: Nikole Hannah-Jones Responds to Our 1619 and Slavery Issue

Kathryn Jean Lopez: Know the Name of Jimmy Lai

John Fund: Who Gets to Join the Black Caucus in Virginia?

Ryan Mills & Isaac Schorr: How Michigan’s Ballooning DEI Bureaucracy Stifled Speech and Divided the Campus

Ryan Mills: ‘Ridiculous’ Masking Rules for Student Athletes Must End, Coaches and Parents Say

Charles C. W. Cooke: Trevor Noah Is a Moral Disgrace

Brittany Bernstein: Chinese Artist Calls GWU President ‘So Ignorant’ for Censoring Anti-CCP Art: ‘Huge Scandal and a Shame’

Caroline Downey: Connecticut Moms Use Social Media to Ignite Nationwide Opposition to School Mask Mandates

David Harsanyi: The Afghanistan Debacle Looks Worse and Worse

Jim Talent: China’s Uyghur Persecution Is All Part of Its Grand Economic Scheme

Kevin Williamson: Uncle Sam Is a Predatory Lender

Nate Hochman: Elise Stefanik Drops Support for Fairness for All Act

Madeleine Kearns: Yellow Emojis Deny White Privilege, Apparently

Michael Brendan Dougherty: The Workers’ Revolution Is Here, and the Left Hates It

CAPITAL MATTERS

Edwin Burton sees economic clouds gathering: The Perfect Storm Is Coming

David L. Bahnsen warns of another looming disaster, concerning a little-noticed proposed SEC rule change: ‘Nothing Systemic Here’

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Armond White bemoans the Millennial archetype: The Worst Person in the World — The Worst Role Model in the Movies

Brian Allen spotlights an old medium treated with precision, creativity, and flair, reviewing a show of marvelous woodcuts on display in London: Helen Frankenthaler Captivates at the Dulwich Picture Gallery

Today in compartmentalizing . . . Kyle Smith examines a new musical’s treatment of Michael Jackson: The Whitewashing of Michael Jackson’s Sins

WE REALLY SHOULD PUT A TRIGGER WARNING ON THESE EXCERPTS — OH, WELL

Kneejerk censorship in response to flagrantly false accusations of racism is always the wrong move. George Washington University seems to have realized this after removing posters calling out CCP human-rights abuses. Brittany Bernstein interviewed the artist behind them:

Chinese political cartoonist and activist Badiucao called it a “huge scandal and a shame” that George Washington University’s president is “so ignorant” that he could be “personally offended” by the artist’s cartoons portraying Chinese Communist Party atrocities.

Badiucao’s comments came in an interview with National Review on Monday after GWU president Mark S. Wrighton vowed to remove posters of Badiucao’s cartoons that called out China’s human-rights abuses, including the Uyghur genocide and oppression in Tibet and Hong Kong. Before backtracking on Monday, Wrighton said he was “personally offended” by the posters and would work to determine who was responsible for hanging them.

“I think it’s a huge scandal and shame that a president of well-known University is so ignorant and not informed to understanding my art,” he said. “We’re not talking about someone who is not aware of the international situation or the human rights issues around the Olympic Games. This is really just public common sense.”

Staying on this topic, former senator Jim Talent explains the economic motivations behind China’s repression of the Uyghurs:

No one knows for sure, but it’s likely that 1 million to 1.5 million people have been interned in approximately 180 camps in Xinjiang. . . .

Do not think that this repression is simply an expression of savagery. Plenty of savage things happen in Xinjiang, but as far as the CCP is concerned, the repression there is a practical response to a practical problem.

In 2016, the CCP’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was beginning to gain steam. BRI is a program of Chinese investment in infrastructure projects in countries around the world. The investments are typically in the form of loans for projects the local government desperately wants but cannot afford. The terms of the loans are usually favorable to China, and the projects themselves are typically performed by Chinese companies with Chinese employees.

BRI is of immense importance to the CCP. It’s Xi Jinping’s flagship project for capturing foreign markets, extracting the resources and co-opting the elites of other countries, controlling key foreign ports and foreign technological infrastructure, and exerting economic leverage on the countries to whom China has extended credit.

One important objective of the BRI is to solidify China’s economic and political links to Central Asia, and through Central Asia, to Europe. And to get to Central Asia from Eastern China, the BRI must go through China’s westernmost territory, which, unfortunately for the Uyghurs, is Xinjiang Province.

Beijing was not going to take any risks with the infrastructure it was building through Xinjiang. The CCP has always mistrusted the loyalty of the Uyghurs because (a) they are not ethnic Chinese, (b) they are Muslim, and therefore (c) they have cultural and religious traditions not dictated or controlled by Beijing.

In short, the Uyghurs were in the way. And since they were of little value to the Chinese state to begin with, they are now being gotten out of the way, using the methods deemed most efficient by a regime that has contempt for human dignity and possesses an apparatus of high-tech oppression that empowers its agents, almost literally, to spy on and suppress everyone at once.

Nate Hochman delivers some serious scoopage on the Fairness for All Act:

House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik has dropped her support for the Fairness for All Act (FFAA), National Review has learned. As the third-ranking House Republican, the New York lawmaker was likely the most prominent cosponsor for FFAA, an all-Republican bill that would write sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) into U.S. civil-r