NR Webathon

Both Sides Matter

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President Joe Biden speaks to reporters before boarding Air Force One to depart Capital Region International Airport in Lansing, Mich., October 5, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

This is J-school 101: You get the five W’s, maybe the H if you’re feeling dogged; avoid libeling anyone; favor inverted-pyramid style; and present both sides.

“Did you reach out for comment?” It’s a question this recovering newsie has been asked countless times by editors and anxious in-house lawyers. The answer damn well better be yes.

But the media’s task of covering both sides is one that’s being progressively abandoned in some influential quarters, on issues as genuinely contested as congressional spending and voting laws. Some would reduce coverage — not commentary, but coverage — of these issues to battles of right versus wrong. That’s not how this is supposed to work.

Earlier this week, NR’s Brittany Bernstein and Isaac Schorr highlighted the latest out-in-the-open push to advocate journalism elevating one side over the other. A Los Angeles Times column, cheered on in the Twittersphere, voiced concern that journalists and pundits would “focus critically on President Biden and Democrats” without highlighting “Republicans’ obstructions.” (Obstruction magically becomes less of a crisis when power changes hands.)

Jackie Calmes wrote: “Democrats can’t be expected to deal with these guys like they’re on the level. Nor should journalists cover them as if they are.”

Well, then. It was one of those quiet-part-out-loud moments. Another came when House speaker Nancy Pelosi openly scolded the media for not doing a good-enough job “selling” the reconciliation bill.

Here at National Review, we’re comfortable saying the loud part loud: We’re an ideological organization. You know that. But we don’t let it blind us as we go about our coverage or our commentary. We’ll call balls and strikes on the Republican side (see here and here), and we’ll do the same when news outlets start asserting opinion and sometimes just-plain falsities as fact, in service of one side. See here.

That watchdog component is just part of NR’s mission, and it’s one we hope you’ll consider supporting by way of our fall 2021 webathon. Hundreds of readers already have donated as part of this drive, which reached a milestone this past week thanks to you.

The one and only David Harsanyi recently chronicled NR’s work on this issue, while also noting how, funny thing, the press cranked up their criticism of moderate Democrats Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin following Pelosi’s admonishment. David’s elevator pitch:

Whether it’s ignoring the radicalism of Biden nominees such as David Chipman or Kristen Clarke or Saule Omarova, quickly moving on from the disastrous abandonment of Americans in Afghanistan, or actively participating in the scandalous cover-up of the Hunter Biden emails and the subsequent evidence that Joe Biden might have been involved, media malfeasance will be called for what it is by National Review. . . .

It’s not just our opinion writers. “Forgotten Fact Checks” is a weekly column produced by National Review’s News Desk that examines mainstream-media bias and misinformation. Recently, the news team has covered issues like the New York Times’ massive exaggeration of children hospitalized by COVID-19 and the newspaper’s false claim that New York City’s gifted classes are “racially segregated.”

Just this week, media reporter Ryan Mills picked apart a San Francisco Chronicle story that questioned Walgreens’s store closures in the face of a retail crime wave. Ryan found a glaring problem with the paper’s approach (you’ll have to click to find out what; we’re such a tease).

In short, we believe a free and vibrant press is vital to the functioning of American democracy. We endeavor to act in good faith, and we expect others to do the same. In the parlance of our times, watch this space.

As an aside, we appreciate your forbearance in reading through what is likely more than several of these fundraising appeals this month. (Michael Brendan Dougherty posted earlier this week on NR’s work in the culture sphere.) Regularly scheduled programming will resume, we promise, but it also hasn’t stopped during the webathon — which, by the way, you can participate in here.

Catch up on all of NR’s non-webathon content from this past week, immediately following this period.

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EDITORIALS

Turns out NIH had funded “gain of function” research in Wuhan on coronaviruses found in bats. Taxpayers deserve answers: The Wuhan Lab Cover-Up

The author of the Declaration of Independence was far from perfect. But the campaign to erase him, most recently in New York, is profoundly wrong: Canceling Thomas Jefferson

China has fired a series of warning shots and wake-up calls. It’s time to heed them: China’s Nuclear Challenge

Inflexible labor practices have worsened the supply-chain crisis: Unions Have Made Supply-Chain Problems Worse

Colin Powell’s life embodied service: Colin Powell, R.I.P.

ARTICLES

Dan McLaughlin: The Democrats’ Prophets of Doom

Adam J. MacLeod: Justice Thomas at 30: Principle over Precedent

John McCormack: John Eastman Pulls Back on January 6 Memo: Not a ‘Viable Strategy’

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Is Europe Wrong? Or Are We?

Jay Nordlinger: Leopoldo and His Purpose

Rich Lowry: Superman Jettisons the American Way

Philip Klein: What If Colin Powell Ran for President in 1996?

Philip Klein: Liberals’ Defense-Spending Misdirection

Dominic Pino: Everything Wrong with American Infrastructure in One Tunnel

Charles C. W. Cooke: Biden in Wonderland

Kevin D. Williamson: The Rich Kids of Instagram of Politics

Bing West: A General Who Failed in War Assesses Risk

Kyle Smith: Why Netflix’s Apology Is a Bad Idea

Isaac Schorr: How Glenn Youngkin Won — and Terry McAuliffe Lost — This Grassroots Black Group’s Endorsement

Caroline Downey: Parents Sue AG Garland for Violating Free Speech Rights with FBI School-Board Memo

Caroline Downey: NIH Admits to Funding Gain-of-Function Research in Wuhan, Says EcoHealth Violated Reporting Requirements

Jack Crowe: What Else Is EcoHealth Alliance Hiding?

CAPITAL MATTERS

Chicago’s getting billions in federal aid but still isn’t solving its looming and long-term fiscal problems. Adam Schuster has the story: Federal Bailouts Won’t Save Lightfoot’s Sinking Chicago

Ben Murrey charts a course for Colorado to zap its income tax, eventually: Colorado the Next Zero-Income Tax State?

Casey Mulligan calls out the disincentives for work and marriage in the Build Back Better bill: Hefty Hidden Subsidies for Idleness and Desertion

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Armond White writes in defense of the 1965 Othello: Laurence Olivier’s Othello and the 1619 Hoax

Kyle Smith pays tribute to Thomas Sowell, the subject of a recent biography (and look out for more on Sowell this weekend on NRO): Thomas Sowell vs. Critical Race Theory

And ICYMI, Brian Allen’s got a bone to pick with museum rules & regs: The Mindless Theater of Museum Mandates 

WE HAVE TO READ THE EXCERPTS TO FIND OUT WHAT’S IN THEM

Charlie Cooke endeavors to provide a guide of sorts to the unique world the Biden administration has created and now inhabits, while the rest of us live in this one:

“If I had a world of my own,” said Alice, “everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrariwise, what it is, it wouldn’t be, and what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?”

Rumor has it that Alice is preparing to apply for a job in the White House press office.

And not a moment too soon, either, for, having offered himself up as the savior of the American way, President Biden now finds himself in something of a pickle. The jobs reports are lackluster. The border is a mess. Gas prices are sky-high. Our supply chains are broken. Inflation, which was supposed to be “transitory,” looks more persistent by the day. Americans remain stranded in Afghanistan. China’s testing space-nukes. COVID is not only still with us; it’s making its way into the Good States. And, despite its having been given a jolly, catchy name — the “Build Back Better agenda” — all the public seems to know about the president’s gargantuan spending plan is that it will cost trillions upon trillions of dollars.

Down the rabbit hole, though, everything is still peachy. Indeed, insofar as America has any problems to speak of, they’re held to be either non-existent, inconsequential, or somehow your fault. You may think you watched in horror a few months ago as a generational debacle unfolded in Kabul, but what you actually saw was “the largest U.S. airlift in history.” Hurrah! You may believe that the southern border has been in a perpetual state of crisis from the moment President Biden took office, but this is merely the sort of quotidian “circumstance” that could have happened under any president and is only happening now due to the inexplicable vagaries of climate change. How unfair! On first glance, you might think it more than a little startling that the Chinese Communist Party has managed to contrive a cache of hypersonic nuclear weapons that, if deployed correctly, would zip right past our defenses, but what you’re for some reason missing is that when it comes to the prospect of a nuclear apocalypse, “stiff competition” between nations is “welcome.” Natch.

China’s hypersonic-missile test should rouse America to enhance its own defenses. From the editorial:

The Financial Times broke the story last weekend, citing five officials who revealed that Beijing’s August test of the new weapon system surprised U.S. intelligence. The concern is that by combining two technologies — a missile that briefly orbits the earth with a glide vehicle that extends its range — this weapon, unlike intercontinental ballistic missiles, can change its trajectory to avoid U.S. missile-defense systems.

In short, China has just tested a space missile that can potentially hit any target on earth.

Some arms-control experts have argued that this isn’t a significant development, since Chinese ICBMs can already hit the continental United States. But an ICBM can potentially be defeated by our defenses, whereas we don’t currently have the means to shoot down a hypersonic missile, which will require, at the very least, better sensors and perhaps the advent of a laser defense. . . .

There’s no denying the gathering danger and the fact that Washington is currently ill-equipped to meet the Chinese nuclear challenge. At the moment, though, we don’t have the national resolve to match the talk of a “Sputnik moment” that the Chinese test has occasioned.

John McCormack has a must-read on his interviews with Trump legal adviser John Eastman, who now says the fiercely disputed memo arguing that Pence could reject Biden electors doesn’t reflect his views:

Eastman says he disagrees with some major points in the two-page memo. That version says that Trump would be reelected if Pence invalidated enough electoral votes to send the election to the House of Representatives: “Republicans currently control 26 of the state delegations, the bare majority needed to win that vote. President Trump is reelected there as well.”

Eastman’s final six-page memo says Trump would be reelected by the House “IF the Republicans in the State Delegations stand firm.” But Eastman says he told Trump at the January 4 meeting in the White House: “Look, I don’t think they would hold firm on this.” (There were actually 27 delegations under GOP control, but Liz Cheney is the sole representative for Wyoming, Wisconsin’s decisive vote would have been Mike Gallagher, and both Cheney and Gallagher strongly opposed overturning the results of the election.)

“So anybody who thinks that that’s a viable strategy is crazy,” Eastman tells National Review.

When it comes to the legal argument that the vice president is the only person with authority to count the electoral votes, Eastman says: “This is where I disagree. I don’t think that’s true.”

Lastly, check out Dan McLaughlin’s extensive piece flagging internal Democratic warnings that the party is in danger of turning off voters:

A rising chorus of voices within the Democratic Party is beginning to warn in earnest that Democrats face a real risk of losing ground with crucial voters over the next several years. This goes beyond the usual concern of a presidential party about impending midterms or worries about the dysfunction of the Biden administration and the Democratic caucus. Nor is it just left-leaning commentators’ customary paranoia (real or feigned) about Republicans’ finding illegitimate ways to subvert the will of the supposed permanent Democratic majority.

The doomsayers are, instead, warning that Democrats are in the process of losing voters that they cannot afford to lose, and that the people running the party are too out of touch with those voters to even see what the problem is. Two of the leading voices ringing alarm bells from within the commentariat are Ruy Teixeira and David Shor. They are not longtime contrarians; quite the opposite.

Honorable Mention

A word from our friends at National Review Institute, on the next round of Burke to Buckley Programs:

NRI is seeking applicants for the Burke to Buckley Programs in Miami (NEW in ’22!), New York, and Philadelphia.

The primary goal of the Burke to Buckley Program is to prepare Fellows to better communicate first principles and other foundational ideas in their workplace, community, and family. Over eight dinner sessions that are led by notable conservative thinkers and National Review writers, each class of 20 to 25 Fellows gathers to learn and engage in spirited and respectful debate.

The ideal candidate will be a mid-career professional with at least ten years of professional experience in medicine, finance, the military, arts, education, law enforcement, or the law, among other fields. He/she will have an interest in exploring key texts in the canon of conservative thought and American ideals. This program is not for recent graduates or people working in the fields of public policy or politics.

Post-program, Fellows stay engaged with NRI and each other by attending alumni events, forming reading clubs, or, in one case, starting a think tank!

Are you qualified or do you know someone else who is? Applications are open now through November 15 and can be accessed on NRI’s website here. Please note that there is a $500 fee for accepted fellows, which partially offsets the cost of the eight dinners and the program. Please contact program manager Lynn Gibson at lynn@nrinstitute.org if you have questions or would like additional information. Thank you for your interest and support.

And speaking of our friends at NRI, check out these photos from their event in Dallas: William F. Buckley Prize Dinner

Shout-Outs

Saeed Shah, at the Wall Street Journal: As Afghanistan Sinks Into Destitution, Some Sell Children to Survive

Ophelie Jacobson, at Campus Reform: WATCH – Students support diversity quotas … until it comes to football

Quin Hillyer, at the Washington Examiner: ‘Untethered’ judge causes pain for pharmacies

Peter H. Schuck, at Quillette: Cancel Culture Has a Lot to Answer For

CODA

This inbox clutterer lately has been digging The Bad Plus, primarily a result of having discovered some digital tracks collecting dust in his Amazon Music account. The jazz trio/quartet (the lineup has changed over time) is known for its relentlessly dissonant music, some of it original compositions and some of it covers. The band’s first major-label album contained a reimagining of Nirvana’s biggest anthem. But Googling about led to another discovery: their take on Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. Classical music’s Russian rebel as performed by the masters of jazz chaos? Somehow, it works, kind of like Ellington’s “Nutcracker Suite,” though it doesn’t overshadow the original and nobody is trying to make Stravinsky swing. Nobody could.

The Bad Plus version of Igor’s iconic introduction is here, and the rest builds on it, to provide a taste. There’s more out there, on the interwebs, if interested.

Got a tune? Want to share? Send a link to jberger@nationalreview.com. Thanks for reading.

NR Webathon

The Government Should Do Its Job, and Only Its Job

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U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland attends a news conference at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., June 25, 2021. (Ken Cedeno/Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Our colleague Charles C. W. Cooke has a running gripe about the federal government that happens to be spot-on: It keeps involving itself in areas well outside its remit while failing to fulfill its core duties. This disconnect gets more pronounced all the time.

The latest exhibit was Attorney General Merrick Garland’s memo warning protesting parents that he could bring the weight of the FBI down on them, citing a “disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence” against teachers and school officials.

As it turns out, most of the documented incidents originally flagged to the DOJ did not involve threats of physical violence, as this report from NR’s Caroline Downey explains. Most were tense verbal exchanges. A few cases did involve more serious threats; however, as Caroline notes, “While the behavior in those few cases was criminal, it falls under the jurisdiction of state and local authorities, not the federal government.”

Meanwhile, as our own Jim Geraghty writes, the Biden administration still has not extracted all the American citizens and green-card holders, as well as Afghan allies who qualified for Special Immigrant Visas, from Afghanistan.

National Review is paying close attention here. We won’t move on from those crucial jobs that remain unfulfilled, and we won’t abide the incursions into areas where Washington does not belong. But the highest-quality opinion journalism from the best writers in the business takes a budget, which is why we humbly ask you to consider donating to our fall 2021 webathon.

There’s a real return on investment here. Rich Lowry explained earlier this week what kind of coverage this operation can and does produce on a regular basis, using the Garland memo as an example:

As soon as the Garland memo was issued, Andy McCarthy, who has easily been the most comprehensively spot-on legal writer in the country over the past several years, published a scathing, thorough, and airtight takedown, “The Biden Justice Department’s Lawless Threat against American Parents.”

We followed up with an editorial slamming the memo.

We just ran a report highlighting how the vast majority of claims of alleged intimidation in the underlying National School Boards Association letter are nonsense.

To boot, Caroline followed up the aforementioned article with this report detailing how a number of school-board associations were not consulted by their national HQ before the request for federal intervention.

Charles, meanwhile, published a rundown here on the other areas where the Biden administration has overreached, from the eviction moratorium to the vaccine mandate, and stressed the importance of NR’s role in standing up for the separation of powers and for federalism.

James Madison argued, more than a few years ago, that the powers delegated to the federal government would be “few and defined,” largely concerning matters such as “war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce.” Would he recognize its executive branch today? Our job is to see to it that the government rediscovers those duties, and tends to them.

If you would like to support that particular mission, please consider a donation.

Either way, do read on, and do check out the new issue of NR, which has something for everyone and especially for people who hate squirrels.

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EDITORIALS

About that outrageous provision requiring banks to report cash flows for accounts over $600: The IRS Doesnt Need More Power

It’s wrong to cynically question the results of legitimate elections, no matter which party you’re in: Terry McAuliffe’s Election Trutherism Shouldn’t Be Excused

ARTICLES

Michael Brendan Dougherty: January 6 Was No Hoax

Noah Benjamin-Pollak and Joshua Coval: It’s Time to Face the Facts on School Closings

Rich Lowry: The War on Gifted-and-Talented Programs

Kathryn Jean Lopez: Parenting Is the Most Important Work There Is

Ryan Mills: Does Masking Students Make a Difference?

Tom Cotton: Secretary of the China Lobby

Jay Nordlinger: An American general, &c.

Philip Klein: CBO Blows Up Democrats’ Spin on Taxes

Brittany Bernstein: Leftist Education Company Quietly Spread to Thousands of Schools before Parents Caught Wind

Kevin Williamson: What If There Is No Meritocracy?

Isaac Schorr: Virginia Democrats Voted to Allow Schools to Refrain from Reporting Sexual Battery in 2020

Mario Loyola: Rise of the Woke Taliban

A. J. Caschetta: Fareed Zakaria’s Bad Middle East Advice, 20 Years Later

NR’s writers have had a spirited debate as well this week over Jonah Goldberg’s proposal for a third party to tame Trumpism: Here, here, here, and here.

And ICYMI, new English translations of Solzhenitsyn popped up on NR this past week: Here, here, and here.

CAPITAL MATTERS

Douglas Carr reminds us that the housing-price climb cannot go on forever: How Will the Housing Bubble Burst?

Steve H. Hanke and Matt Sekerke provide a reality check on cryptocurrency and a tidy explanation of how our modern banking system works: How Innovative Is Crypto?

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Kyle Smith sticks his neck out for Chappelle: Dave Chappelle Is Not a Transphobe

Bergman Island is, in Armond White’s view, “a movie that had no good reason to be made.” Yikes: Bergman Island — Escapism for Yuppies

Brian Allen walks us through the cryptic art of a Soviet defector, and more: Alexander Kaletski, Soviet Movie Star Turned Artist, Leads the Way in Great Gallery Shows

FROM THE NEW NOVEMBER 1, 2021, ISSUE OF NR

Jimmy Quinn: The Anti-Anti-China Left

George Gilder: Life after Capitalism

John Fund: Kyrsten Sinema Is Arizona’s New Maverick

Alexandra DeSanctis: Home Invasion

HUNGRY FOR MORE CONTENT? OUR CONTENT CONTAINERS RUNNETH OVER

Philip Klein, wielding new CBO figures, efficiently dismantles the claim that tax cuts are the main cause of our fiscal woes. And he brings the charts to prove it:

At the heart of the liberal disregard for fiscal restraint is the idea that because Republicans passed the Trump tax cuts in 2017, passing a raft of new social-welfare programs now is perfectly responsible. While it is undeniable that Trump-era Republicans were profligate, it’s worth noting that at the time of passage, the CBO estimated that the Trump tax cuts would increase deficits by $1.5 trillion over a decade. In March, Democrats passed a $1.9 trillion package billed as “COVID relief” and didn’t bother finding a way to pay for it. So even before setting out on their current spending push, Democrats already passed legislation that exceeded the Trump tax cuts.

This week, CBO further undermined the attempt by Democrats to blame tax cuts for our fiscal woes by revealing that in the 2021 fiscal year that just ended in September, federal tax collections soared. Specifically, this past year, the government collected $4.047 trillion in tax revenue, with corporate tax collections jumping 75 percent as the economy reopened. What’s amazing about that number is that in June 2017, the CBO projected that the government would collect $4.011 trillion in revenue in 2021. In other words, in the most recent fiscal year, the government raised $36 billion more than was expected before the Trump tax cuts were passed.

The Manhattan Institute’s Brian Riedl, taking into account CBO’s most recent economic projections, calculates that in 2021, revenue rose to 18.1 percent of GDP. That is the highest level since 2001 and well above the post–World War II average of 17.2 percent. In other words, we are experiencing high deficits right now not because taxes came up short, but because the government spent a lot more than anticipated.

Brittany Bernstein takes a closer look at that education company tied to AG Garland’s family, and how it has quietly spread to thousands of schools:

Despite the massive influence of Panorama Education, a Boston-based education technology company that collects data on “social-emotional learning” from 13 million students in 23,000 schools nationwide, parents were largely unaware of the company until very recently.

That was before Parents Defending Education, a nonprofit that fights indoctrination in U.S. schools, revealed last week that Attorney General Merrick Garland’s son-in-law, Alexander “Xan” Tanner, co-founded the company, which collects millions in taxpayer dollars to inculcate critical race theory into K–12 curricula. The revelation raised questions about whether Garland had a potential conflict of interest, days after the attorney general opened an investigation into purported threats and acts of violence against school boards across the U.S. . . .

Now, a new spotlight is being placed on Panorama, which serves more than 50 of the 100 largest school districts and state agencies in the country, according to TechCrunch. More than 1,500 school districts have worked with Panorama, meaning that 25 percent of American students are enrolled in a district served by the consultancy. The New York City Department of Education, Clark County School District in Nevada, Dallas ISD in Texas, and the Hawaii Department of Education are all clients of Panorama’s.

According to the nonprofit OpenTheBooks, there have been at least $27 million in payments to Panorama from states, school districts, and local boards of education across 21 states from 2017 to 2020.

Bill de Blasio’s war on gifted-and-talented programs is part of a disturbing national trend. Rich Lowry lets those driving this agenda have it:

If there were any doubt that “equity” is now the most destructive concept in American life, the war on gifted-and-talented programs all around the country — from California (on the verge of eliminating tracking in math through the tenth grade), to Seattle (which eliminated its honors program for middle-school students), to suburban Philadelphia (where a district is curtailing tracking for middle-school and high-school students) — removes all doubt.

New York City has been a major battleground for the anti-gifted agenda that runs under the banner of desegregation, as if the offense of the George Wallaces of the world is no longer blocking the schoolhouse door but teaching exceptionally talented students at an accelerated pace.

Mayor Bill de Blasio just moved to significantly crimp the city’s gifted programs, disproportionately utilized by white and Asian-American kids, in a sop to racialist bean-counters. As the New York Times notes, the mayor has been “criticized for not taking forceful action to fulfill his promise of tackling inequality in public schools.”

Not that he hasn’t tried. Earlier in his administration, he appointed a panel that recommended eliminating almost all the city’s selective programs, alleging that they are “proxies for separating students who can and should have opportunities to learn together.” . . .

That some kids are going to learn faster than others isn’t a scandal, it’s a function of a phenomenon that progressives are supposed to value — diversity.

Harvard’s Noah Benjamin-Pollak and Joshua Coval have crunched the data, and they report back with some curious findings indeed about school closings during the pandemic:

If you were a school superintendent considering whether to keep your district open in-person or move to online, how would you decide? Most people would suggest you look at COVID-19 case numbers in your community. Perhaps you would consider the vaccination rate, and if you had students with auto-immune disorders or other risk factors, maybe you would consider that. Most Americans would find these sorts of considerations reasonable.

As it turned out, this was far from what happened in American schools last year. An analysis of school-closing data on the nation’s 150 largest school districts reveals something entirely different. Rather than the progress of the disease in a local community, the most important predictor of remote schooling was a school district’s historical propensity to prioritize the interests of its teachers over the competing interests of its students.

We looked at specific ways districts favor teachers over students, such as prioritizing teacher seniority over new teachers and teacher performance, granting teachers more days off, and limiting the number of hours students spend in school each day. Districts that had historically scored high on these metrics were significantly more likely to opt for the remote-learning format last year. In aggregate, these measures of district-level teacher favoritism do far more to explain remote vs. in-person school decisions than every other variable we tested, including the COVID-19 infection rates in the community. When investigating the demographic features of school districts, we found that student-favoring districts were significantly different from teacher-favoring districts. Student-favoring districts were wealthier, whiter, and less urban and had a higher percentage of families who spoke English at home. However, even controlling for these demographic variables, teacher-favoring districts were far more likely to opt for remote learning.

Shout-Outs

Scott Shackford, at Reason: Federal Court Upholds California’s Oppressive Restrictions on Freelance Writers

The Washington Post: China’s COVID stonewalling is unacceptable

Aaron Sibarium, at the Washington Free Beacon: A Yale Law Student Sent a Lighthearted Email Inviting Classmates to His ‘Trap House.’ The School Is Now Calling Him to Account.

Wilfred M. McClay, at Law & Liberty: Has America Lost Its Story?

CODA

Part of being a father is savoring the inherent carte blanche to be lame and corny. This dad-writer isn’t asserting that’s the only reason for becoming one, but the universe of conduct that moves abruptly from broadly shunned to generally acceptable upon one’s entry into this class is vast.

And so, it is not out of character to close this newsletter with some music that fits the theme of NR’s ongoing webathon — even if it is a little corny. Esteemed submissions editor Jack Butler, channeling Yuval Levin, reminded us last week that “conservatism is gratitude.” For those supporting us through donations, or through subscriptions, or through your general interest and readership and engagement, we thank you. But it sounds better when Led Zeppelin sings it. Or coming from Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats. (Just ignore the romantic undertones.)

Got a tune? Want to share? Send a link to jberger@nationalreview.com. Thanks for reading.

NR Webathon

Stop the Madness

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks to the news media during a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., September 30, 2021. REUTERS/ (Leah Millis/Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

If you ever get to wondering why a conservative voice like National Review matters, take a look at Capitol Hill right now. The Overton window has — for the moment — shifted so far that the latest “moderate” spending proposal being floated comes in at a cool $2 trillion. Compared with the original $3.5 trillion, sure, this might seem like a (relative) bargain.

Except it’s not. Not in any world occupied by prudent and responsible holders of elective office. At a time when it seems those in our political firmament have lost their senses, NR is fighting with every breath to restore fiscal sanity, among other things.

With that in mind, we do hope you’ll consider donating to our October webathon.

As we type, Congress is moving closer to locking in a new suite of government benefits that will add to the already crushing weight on the federal books. This is not a one-off, and it will only compound our long-term fiscal misery. Phil Klein noted earlier this week that progressives, should they notch this win, “will have passed $6 trillion worth of spending since the start of the year, which follows trillions spent last year in response to the pandemic and lockdowns.”

He continues:

As the Left tries to assert that debt doesn’t matter, many of our friends on the right have determined that the spending issue is no longer one worth fighting. Here at National Review, we disagree. Spending trillions we don’t have to create new programs when we cannot even finance existing ones is insanity, and we have not been afraid to say so, repeatedly.

That’s the pitch. If you share our concerns, please consider tossing something in the NR penny jar. It’s better than waiting for Secretary Yellen to drop off a newly minted trillion-dollar coin in the Fed’s jar.

Need more reasons?

Rich Lowry kicked off this month’s webathon with a thorough retrospective of NR’s work over the years on immigration. In it, he notes that while the GOP is in a different place today on the issue, “the same bad ideas are more ascendant in the Democratic Party than ever before.”

He adds, most humbly, “I submit to you that other journalistic organizations may do better clickbait than us on this issue, but no one is more substantive and credible.”

And here’s David Harsanyi on NR’s smudgeless record defending the Second Amendment.

We recognize that this probably is not the first webathon you’ve seen from us (spoiler: it won’t be the last). We also recognize that many of you, our loyal readers, have contributed in the past — some of you have contributed already this week, offering financial help and words of encouragement. We thank you.

Know that we will not back down. Your support ensures it.

That donation link, again, is here.

For the week’s highlights in coverage and commentary . . . just keep on scrollin’.

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EDITORIALS

Taiwan needs American support and resolve right now, as China menaces the island: We Must Support Taiwan

The administration is pressing forward with the rollback of Trump’s Title X policy: Biden’s Assault on Life

AG Garland’s latest memo amounts to an intimidation tactic: DOJs Appalling Crackdown on Parents

The Democrats have options on the debt limit. They should choose one: Democrats Are Playing Political Games with the Debt Limit

ARTICLES

Caroline Downey: Vast Majority of Incidents Cited by School-Board Group to Justify Federal Intervention Didn’t Involve Threats

John Fund: When Will Someone Hold Human-Rights Hearings on Australia?

Jay Nordlinger: George F. Will, Ever and Always

Kevin D. Williamson: A Small Blow to the Defamation Peddlers

Kathryn Jean Lopez: A Pandemic Priest from New Orleans Wants to Encourage You

Charles C. W. Cooke: Chasing Kyrsten Sinema into a Bathroom Is Not Normal

Charles C. W. Cooke: Americans Really Dont Like This President

Alexandra DeSanctis: McAuliffe Position on Parental Rights Contradicts Virginia State Code

Rich Lowry: We Should Arm Taiwan to the Teeth

Ilan Berman: Why an Israeli Military Option against Iran Is Back on the Table

Jon Gabriel: To Understand Sinema, You Need to Understand Arizona

Andrew McCarthy: The Biden Justice Department’s Lawless Threat against American Parents

Isaac Schorr: McAuliffe Sent Kids to Private School with 17 Separate PTA Committees

Dan McLaughlin: Point and Laugh: Bill de Blasio May Run for Governor

Dominic Pino: The Virginia Tech Super-Spreader That Wasn’t

Ryan Mills: Border Patrol Morale Plummets as Migrants Surge and Democrats Demonize

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Wokeness Is Weakening Dave Chappelle

CAPITAL MATTERS

Sally Pipes cautions that Senator Sanders is getting ever closer to his ultimate goal by way of the reconciliation package: Bernie’s Not-So-Subtle Single-Payer Plot

Christopher M. Russo imagines a macabre scene outside the Fed, and let’s hope it’s only fantasy: The Thing That Should Not Be

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Wes Anderson walks a fine line in his films, but The French Dispatch is on the wrong side of it. By Kyle Smith: Wes Anderson’s Strange Movie-Magazine

And this just in, also from Kyle: Sand in the Gears: A Gorgeous but Slow Trip to Dune

Tell us what you really think, Armond: The Many Saints of Newark Is Trash

Brian Allen laments what our presidential libraries have become (that is, when they’re open at all): Shuttered Presidential Libraries and Blinkered Museum Trustees

THE PARTY DOESN’T HAVE TO END HERE. THE EXCERPTS WILL BE HOSTING VIPS TILL DAWN

With some brutal polling numbers out this week concerning President Biden’s job performance, Charles C. W. Cooke makes a fundamental observation:

One wonders if Joe Biden has noticed yet that Americans just don’t seem to like him very much?

Yes, yes, yes, they liked him enough to elect him over Donald Trump. But they did so narrowly, and without delivering the sizable majorities he clearly believes he deserved. And, now that he’s president, they seem deeply, deeply unimpressed.

Per a Quinnipiac poll released today, Biden’s national approval rating is 38 percent. Among independents, it’s 32 percent, with 60 percent disapproving of the job he’s doing. Biden is nine points underwater among Hispanics, he’s six points underwater among women, and he’s polling at only 66 percent among African Americans. . . .

And no, it’s not “just one poll.” In the RealClearPolitics average, Biden is at 44.6 percent approval — the lowest of his presidency thus far. Since the debacle in Afghanistan, Americans have been gradually losing faith in the president in every way that it is possible to lose faith in the president. As Biden gears up to pivot to his absurd, destructive, and thoroughly uncalled-for spending bill, he might do well to stop for a moment and realize that it’s not “them,” after all.

It’s him.

China’s incursions into Taiwan can’t be ignored. From the editorial:

Taken together, all of this indicates that the heightened threat is the new normal and that Beijing will only be placated by total accommodation of its designs on Taiwan.

For its part, the Biden administration has sounded the appropriate notes. . . .

However, unless the status quo changes, including an urgent effort to arm the Taiwanese with missiles, mines, and unmanned vehicles to make a cross-strait invasion riskier, the People’s Liberation Army stands a disturbingly high chance at succeeding at swallowing Taiwan.

Ultimately, the latest intimidation efforts fit with the party’s broader effort to isolate Taiwan by picking off its few diplomatic allies, blocking it from all participation at the U.N., launching an economic bullying campaign, and flooding the island with disinformation. This stepped-up military harassment puts the prospect of Taiwan’s engulfment by the Chinese party-state front and center. Beijing couldn’t be clearer about its intentions, and we need to respond accordingly.

Ryan Mills talks to current and former border agents about morale in their agency, and it’s fairly grim these days:

The Border Patrol, part of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, has had longstanding struggles with morale. But morale among the patrol’s roughly 20,000 agents has taken an even bigger hit than usual this year due to the combination of pressures, capped off with the threat that agents who choose not to be vaccinated against the coronavirus will be fired in November, said Gil Maza, a 25-year veteran of the agency who retired in March.

Maza maintains a Facebook group for current and former agents where he posts Border Patrol news, line-of-duty deaths, and history pieces. He said that over the last several months he’s received a flood of messages from active agents documenting their concerns.

“The agents feel completely abandoned by this administration,” Maza said, adding that they also feel let down by management. “They feel like there is nobody out there for them.”

Maza said the Border Patrol has always been a political football, and, during his 25-year career, the agency has often gone through cycles of “hero to zero and back again.”

“This is completely different,” he said. “It’s almost like the perfect storm right now.”

In a guest column, Jon Gabriel explains for all us outsiders what drives Kyrsten Sinema:

The Beltway’s frustration is hugely entertaining for Arizonan conservatives and many of my Democratic neighbors. She isn’t an enigma to us locals. But to understand Kyrsten Sinema, you must first understand Arizona.

For years, outsiders considered Arizona to be the reddest of red states. That changed with Sinema’s 2018 Senate victory followed by President Biden and Senator Mark Kelly’s (D., Ariz.) 2020 wins. Was Arizona turning blue? Not so much.

The state has swung right to left and back again. In the past 45 years, Democrats have held the governorship as often as the Republicans have. That’s because Arizona is neither conservative nor progressive. It’s contrarian.

My late father, who raised me as a good Arizona boy, provides a textbook example.

His politics were somewhere between Archie Bunker and Ron Swanson, but he would often vote to reelect Democratic governors. His reason? “I never hear about them in the news, which means they aren’t bothering me or screwing anything up.”

And this is a must-read, from Caroline Downey:

In a memorandum issued this week, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland directed the FBI to collaborate with state U.S. attorneys and federal, state, and local law-enforcement agencies to probe and potentially prosecute violent threats against teachers and administrators in school districts nationwide.

The notice comes after the National School Board Association (NSBA) sent a letter to the Biden administration, asking it to investigate and determine whether the increasing number of confrontations between angry parents and school boards qualify as domestic terrorism under the Patriot Act.

“Threats and acts of violence have become more prevalent — during public school board meetings, via documented threats transmitted through the U.S. Postal Service, through social media and other online platforms, and around personal properties,” the organization claims, citing what it considers egregious episodes in 23 school districts over the last several months.

However, the vast majority of incidents referenced by the NSBA don’t qualify as threats of physical violence, according to local news reports cited in the group’s letter — nor is it obvious what the federal government’s role would be in responding to them.

Out of 24 incidents cited by the NSBA, 16 consisted of tense verbal exchanges between parents and school-board members that did not escalate to threats of physical violence. In many of these cases, the aggravated parents disrupted school-board meetings by angrily objecting to their districts’ mandatory masking policies and/or embrace of critical-race-theory curricula.

Shout-Outs

Steven Malanga, at City Journal: The New Secession Movement

Giles Fraser, at UnHerd: How Labour became the nasty party

Ashley Carnahan, at the College Fix: Wisconsin professor with autism placed on leave for refusing to teach with a face mask

Jeff Sessions, at the New York Post: Blame woke pols for the nation’s needless spike in murders

CODA

Béla Fleck . . . the guy was destined to be a world-class musician, having been named after three different European composers (his full name is Béla Anton Leoš Fleck). He was not born into the bluegrass world but essentially became the world’s most famous living banjo player, blending that and other styles. His body of work is incomprehensibly vast, but one of the many great things about it is the collaborations with other world-class musicians.

Here’s one example: Music for Two, a chunky album of duets with bassist Edgar Meyer. Among them, “Palmyra” captures many moods, beginning with a brooding and spare motif played on piano and banjo, and accelerating into something more joyous after Meyer picks up the bass, with bow, about two and a half minutes into it. Listen for him to swipe the melody from his partner, before gently passing it back, as they wind things down.

Got a tune? Want to share? Send a link to jberger@nationalreview.com. Thanks for reading.

White House

Financial Literacy Dies in Darkness

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White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., September 9, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

What a time to be alive. Private companies are sending ordinary folks into space. Most of us carry in our pockets a single device that does the job of 50. Any meal can be purchased, any movie accessed, with a few keystrokes. And in the year 2021, we as a society have arrived at a remarkable discovery — the cost of our government’s doing business is, actually, nothing.

Here’s Jen Psaki with the good news:

There is agreement that we need to address the climate crisis; that we need to cut costs for childcare, for college; that we need to make it easier for women to rejoin the workforce; we need to rebuild and modernize our infrastructure. . . . But I will also note — and we’ve done this a little bit over the past couple days — but that this package, the reconciliation package, would cost zero dollars.

We here at NR are very much chuffed that zero-cost government spending has obviated the need to collect federal income tax.

Ah, but reality intrudes. Of course, Psaki’s claim about Congress’s $3.5 trillion “reconciliation” package — and identical claims being made by the many Democrats who definitely got the memo — is weapons-grade malarkey, as NR’s editorial notes.

Now, with Congress having averted a shutdown but the majority party still locked in a bitter internal battle over whether we should spend the equivalent of Mexico’s GDP or of Germany’s GDP first — or whether we might have to settle for spending the equivalent of Russia’s instead of Germany’s — expect the fantastical rhetoric to branch out into new and exciting spaces in the coming weeks. As Philip Klein explains, this ain’t over.

But let’s pause, shall we, to appreciate how off-the-level this zero-cost talking point is. As the editorial plainly states, “The cost of a $3.5 trillion outlay is $3.5 trillion, ‘paid for’ or not.” Put another way, by Rich Lowry, if this were a new car, “that it was paid for doesn’t make it less costly.” Put another way, the statement is bunkum.

Whilst recalling all the other falsehoods that brought us to this juncture, Charles C. W. Cooke writes:

A spending bill that costs $3.5 trillion costs $3.5 trillion irrespective of how you pay for it. . . .

If, as seems to be the case, the Democrats do not want to be seen spending $3.5 trillion, then they have just one option: to decline to spend $3.5 trillion. They cannot get around this with word games.

But boy are they going to try.

Yet some in the media were happy to go along with the idea that this costs “nothing.” And when Joe Manchin publicly pushed back on the cost of that reconciliation bill, MSNBC’s Chris Hayes simply denied the existence of a debt problem (in the course of mixing it up with Phil).

Set aside for a moment that whether Democrats have found the money to pay for their spending spree is far from clear. Even if we accept the White House talking point at face value, it’s not convincing. Sure, maybe that big purchase is “zero dollars” if, as Dan McLaughlin notes, you’ve already cut spending elsewhere. Maybe, not really. Or what if you already had the money saved up? That is, you went to the dealership, cash in hand, to buy the Jetta with no financing. That, too, would be a stretch, but at least you weren’t spending your next paycheck on it.

That’s not this. We don’t have the money saved up, and we haven’t made offsetting cuts. The administration and Congress are relying on a collage of kickback payments years into the future and, if that doesn’t cover it, intend to keep borrowing as needed. “Zero dollars.” The pitch reminds this writer of a truly formative experience of having been suckered into a room at an Appalachian resort where Virginia’s most hardened sales associates rattled off numbers to rubes to convince them that, really, buying a time-share here would be a self-evident savings. “Gee, really? Where can I sign?

May we present to you the time-share salesmen now in control of two branches of government.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

As discussed, the administration’s talking point on the reconciliation bill is balderdash: Malarkey, in Trillions

The stakes in the Virginia gubernatorial race just got higher: Terry McAuliffe’s War on Parents

Just a reminder, helped along by the Maricopa County audit, that the 2020 election is over. It is time to move forward: Another Defeat for Election Truthers

ARTICLES

Charles C. W. Cooke: Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema Are a Feature, Not a Bug

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Governor Kathy Hochul Is One Weird Duck

Ryan Mills: Minneapolis to Vote on Defunding the Police as Crime Soars

Caroline Downey: Murders Soared 30 Percent in 2020 in Largest Annual Increase on Record

Rich Lowry: The Age of Progressive Misinformation

David Harsanyi: The Left’s Absurd Insistence That America Is Dirt-Poor

Tom Cotton: The COVID-Clemency Disaster

Joel Kotkin: Joe Biden, Nowhere Man

Dan McLaughlin: If You Care about Democracy, You Should Want Glenn Youngkin to Win

Jack Butler: Saving Democracy Doesn’t Mean Doing Everything Democrats Want

Dominic Pino: The Eviction Moratorium Has Been Over for a Month — with No Eviction Wave

Kevin D. Williamson: How Government Is Supposed to Work

CAPITAL MATTERS

Daniel J. Pilla sounds the alarm on a sweeping and intrusive Treasury Department proposal: Biden’s Tax Plan Calls for Indiscriminate Spying

Joseph Sullivan charts the dramatic rise in Americans’ reliance on government aid: The Rising Tide of Government-Transfer Payments

Kevin Hassett has an idea for how to achieve a quasi-balanced-budget amendment. Hear him out: The Debt Limit Can Save Us

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Brian Allen makes a timely appeal to Charm City’s art custodians: The Baltimore Museum of Art Aims a Wrecking Ball — at Itself

Armond White pauses to praise Francis Coppola’s debut film, newly restored: Francis Coppola’s American Nightmare Returns

Kyle Smith reviews the new Bond film — which is long, dark, and a bit too real: No Time to Die: James Bond vs. the Pandemic

Kyle’s not too thrilled over the Sopranos prequel either: The Sopranos Fizzles on the Big Screen

FROM THE NEW OCTOBER 18, 2021, ISSUE OF NR

Kevin D. Williamson: What Is Texas?

David Harsanyi: How Jen Psaki Plays the Press

Caroline Downey: The Guilford Five

James Copland: How to Rein in Critical Race Theory

Jack Fowler: God and Student at Thomas Aquinas

YOU’VE GOTTEN THIS FAR DOWN THE NEWSLETTER. MIGHT AS WELL STICK IT OUT, EH?

Senator Tom Cotton, who has penned several pieces on crime in these digital pages, exposes some tragic examples of COVID clemency gone too far:

At the outset of the pandemic, many Americans justifiably worried about the safety of our nation’s prison population. State and federal governments are responsible for the health and safety of inmates, and precautions were essential. Almost everyone agreed that accommodations should be made for non-violent offenders with severe preexisting conditions or major comorbidities. Emergency actions, including short-term house arrest for low-risk offenders, were necessary. But state and federal officials went far beyond these necessities and unleashed a flood of crime into our streets. . . .

The heartbreaking consequences of the coronavirus clemency aren’t isolated to big cities. In my home state of Arkansas, authorities released a young but experienced criminal named Shawna Cash as a result of coronavirus concerns. Not long after her release, Ms. Cash ran over a police officer with her truck and dragged him 149 feet to his death. Officer Kevin Apple, a 23-year veteran of the Pea Ridge Police Department, would be alive today if authorities weren’t so preoccupied with ensuring that a 22-year-old criminal was only exposed to COVID on the outside of a jail cell.

In Alexandria, Va., authorities released a 33-year-old accused rapist, burglar, and abductor named Ibrahim E. Bouaichi after his defense attorney raised concerns about the spread of coronavirus. A few months later, Bouaichi repeatedly shot his accuser outside of her home. He then fled from police and took his own life.

In Hillsborough County, Fla., officials released 164 inmates including a 26-year-old felon named Joseph Edward Williams, who had a criminal history that included drug use, burglary, and illegal possession of a firearm. Once released, an overjoyed Williams reportedly celebrated and said that “it’s a blessing that I’m getting released.” The next day, Williams unleashed a hail of gunfire in a residential neighborhood and murdered a 28-year-old named Christopher Striker. Williams was on the run for several weeks until he was finally arrested and returned to prison — where he should have been all along.

Ryan Mills, following up, gives a troubling portrait of Minneapolis at a time when a defund-police amendment is being put to voters:

Every night, Don Samuels hears gunshots from his North Minneapolis home. And not just a single shot here and there like he and his wife used to hear in years past.

“You hear repeat fire — pop, pop, pop, pop, pop — sequential shots,” Samuels said.

A neighbor across the street recently had her car shot up while a baby was in the back seat, Samuels said. She moved away. Bullets pierced the home of another neighbor. She moved after her child had a mental-health breakdown. One neighbor installed a bulletproof headboard on her bed to protect herself from bullets flying in the night, Samuels said. Earlier this year, a nine-year-old girl was shot and killed near Samuels’s home. . . .

To Samuels, a former city councilman and one-time candidate for mayor, Minneapolis needs better cops, and more fair and just cops. What it certainly does not need, in his estimation, is fewer cops.

But fewer cops is what Minneapolis may have if voters approve a charter amendment in November to get rid of the city’s police department and replace it with a vaguely defined public-safety department, the latest play by many of the same people behind last summer’s “defund the police” movement.

Kevin Williamson has a radical idea, namely a boring, predictable, regular-order appropriations process. It might solve some problems:

Good government is boring government. Disorder, drama, and cathartic confrontation in the national assembly are the enemies of peace, prosperity, and prudence. While the import and impact of government shutdowns are always oversold and overdramatized, we should try to avoid them all the same — and the prospect of a partial default on federal debt, while also exaggerated, should be something close to unthinkable — because we need order in the state. Predictability is precious. . . .

The alternative is to have another one of these emotionally rousing, economically destructive, politically disfiguring pageants of sanctimony and asininity every couple of years. That’s an option — and it will remain an option until we drive ourselves into a national crisis that forces us to make hard choices at precisely the moment when we are least able to bring great resources and long-term thinking to bear on our problems.

This should be the Republicans’ new Contract with America: “We’ll give you a federal government so unbelievably boring that you’ll rarely ever have to think about it. There won’t be very many surprises. With any luck, you’ll forget our names. Here’s how.”

It’s easy to miss far-reaching proposals tucked into federal budget documents. Good thing Daniel Pilla is here to explain why you should pay attention to one from the Treasury Department:

The Treasury Department recently released its “General Explanations of the Administration’s FY 2022 Revenue Proposals.” This is the so-called Treasury “Green Book.” Dated May 2021, the Green Book explains exactly how various elements of the Biden administration’s tax plan will operate.

In addition to the tax increases that have been discussed at length, the administration would set up a comprehensive financial spying operation that would impact every American. The proposal is to establish a “comprehensive financial account information reporting regime.” The purpose is to track activities in all financial accounts and report them to the federal government. The law would require an annual report to the government showing “gross inflows and outflows with a breakdown for physical cash, transactions with a foreign account, and transfers to and from another account with the same owner.”

To say that this is a system of “comprehensive” spying is not hyperbole. . . .

What we’re talking about here is the requirement that details on every bank account in America be reported to the IRS on an annual basis. The only exceptions will be those that showed less than $600 of in-and-out transactions, or which have a total value of under $600. How many millions of bank accounts are there in the U.S.? What kind of compliance burden will this impose on America’s financial sector?

Shout-Outs

Melissa Skorka, at the Wall Street Journal: The Haqqanis Are the New Global Terror Threat

Joseph Simonson, at the Washington Free Beacon: Anti-Semitic Attacks in 2020 Outnumbered Attacks Against Muslims, Asians, Transgender People Combined

Steven Pinker, at Quillette: Be Rational

Hollie McKay, at the New York Post: Taliban have yet to give timeline on when Afghan women can return to school

CODA

A while back, this scribbler mentioned his family-frustrating habit of picking up a record of local music whenever traveling abroad. In Portugal one year, this meant looking for fado, a soulful and melancholy genre unique to that splendid Iberian nation. The search eventually led to best-selling singer Amália Rodrigues, a late legend in her country who was unknown to me.

Not being intimately familiar with the genre, there’s only so much this writer can say other than that the music is so moving it’s no wonder the style stuck around for centuries. In the bars and restaurants of Lisbon, there’s a certain touristy element attached to these performances today, but you get none of that simply listening to it. Try on “Ai Mouraria.” What a voice.

Got a tune? Want to share? Send a link to jberger@nationalreview.com. Thanks for reading.

The Biden Crises Keep Piling Up

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President Biden delivers remarks on Afghanistan at the White House in Washington, D.C., August 31, 2021. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

President Biden has a problem: ‘Border Czar’ Kamala Harris’s portfolio can’t fit much more these days. Yet the number of simultaneous crises on the administration’s plate — several of them of its own making and, as with the case of Afghanistan, now metastasizing to include their own sub-crises — is growing by the week.

No longer can the president foist the latest quagmire onto his VP’s lap and consider it dealt with.

This screen-consuming Daily Mail headline placing Biden’s problems end to end about covers it. Better yet, see Jim Geraghty’s concise listing of them.

Let’s start with the border, a “challenge” the vice president has not resolved despite its being in her supposed remit. The shocking encampment of Haitian migrants that took root along the Del Rio bridge amounts to a humanitarian emergency. The photos capture the tragedy of what’s happening there in excruciating detail. And they illustrate how well-meaning immigration policies can backfire. While the Biden administration is now moving to expel Haitian migrants, it’s facing protests from Democratic lawmakers and, as Brittany Bernstein reports, releasing thousands into the U.S. “with notices to appear at an immigration court within 60 days” anyway. As Brittany notes, “Migrants aboard one such bus rebelled and managed to escape on Tuesday but were subsequently captured.” This is getting ugly, fast.

The Biden administration has a tendency to blame external factors beyond its control for any problems at the border. But NR’s editorial explains why that’s wrong:

The incredible scenes in Del Rio, Texas, over the last week of the formation of an instant migrant encampment of 15,000 people on U.S. soil are a direct result of the Biden administration’s feckless policies at the border.

The administration and its apologists blame the spread of bad information for the decision of Haiti migrants to travel en masse to Del Rio, but it was really the spread of good information — the presumption that they could make it into the U.S. and some significant number of them would be allowed to stay.

As Rich Lowry puts it, “No, the new factor in the equation is President Joe Biden and his determination to blow up Trump’s policies that had gotten control of the border.” In a follow-up piece, Rich recalls how the Trump administration dealt with the same challenge:

One of the lessons of the border crisis of 2019 was that if people are getting through, they spread the word to other would-be migrants, and it creates an incentive for more migrants to try to come. The number of migrants successfully getting into the United States doesn’t have to be high for this dynamic to take hold.

“If they release one single Haitian,” former acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection Mark Morgan explains of Biden’s situation now, “one family, that family is calling and it’s going to continue to drive more Haitians coming.”

The Trump team focused on stopping a surge before it happened.

The Biden administration is now trying to clean up. The team was in the same woeful position after the withdrawal from Afghanistan, a chaotic situation that no doubt contributed to what the U.S. military has now acknowledged was a botched drone strike that killed an aid worker and his family, including up to seven kids. Meanwhile, the effort to extract — or at least keep safe — American citizens and green-card holders and Afghan allies who remain in the country continues, largely taken up by private organizations, as Ryan Mills reports.

While the border and Afghanistan are the most acute crises of the moment, coronavirus is the one that never left. As a political and societal problem, this is “long COVID.” Deaths, due in part to the Delta variant, are on the rise again, and the timeline and threshold and strategy for normalcy’s true return are hazy still; the administration has been conflicted on booster shots, and the public is conflicted over Biden’s legally dubious vaccine mandate (though vaccines remain the most reliable avenue out of the eternal era of double masking — a case the administration must keep making regardless).

Elsewhere, the threat of inflation looms, even if its severity is uncertain. The president’s approval ratings, nationally and in key states, are hitting new lows. Democrats’ spending bills are running into intra-party problems — an admittedly welcome snafu for those of us who childishly worry that unthinkable levels of spending might have consequences, someday. A China-rattling deal with Australia that otherwise represented a smart foreign-policy move resulted in a brief diplomatic meltdown with France which could have been avoided with some finesse. Oh, and that unnerving energy-ray-sonic-pulse-voodoo-curse-future-weapon that some rival nation or entity might be using on Americans at home and abroad? It’s still being deployed, it seems, most recently in India.

Still, it could be worse. ICYMI, Sodom might have been destroyed by a meteor. To Biden’s credit, his term has been impressively meteor-free. That’s a boast Joko Widodo can’t make.

Read on, readers.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

The administration can’t — or shouldn’t — deny its role in the latest border crisis: Biden’s Failure at Del Rio

Party divisions have Democrats in a tight spot over their outrageous spending plans. Republicans don’t need to offer their assistance: House Republicans Shouldn’t Rescue Biden’s Presidency

There’s more to dislike about the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion bill than just its spending (though the Senate parliamentarian has since intervened on this issue): The Immigration Radicalism of the Democratic Reconciliation Bill

ARTICLES

Kevin Williamson: The Question Biden Needs to Answer

Philip Klein: Democrats Can’t Hide Their Israel Problem

Tom Cotton: No More Jailbreaks

Michael Brendan Dougherty: We Will Regret Masking Kids

Stanley Kurtz: Noem Must Fix South Dakota Standards Fiasco

Charles C. W. Cooke: Rule-Breaking Elites Let the Mask Slip on COVID Protocols

Charles C. W. Cooke: The ACLU’s RBG Tweet Shows Once Again That It Has Abandoned Free Speech

Ryan Mills: Outraged by Horror at Kabul Airport, Civilian Rescue Groups Offer Lifeline to Those Left in Afghanistan

Dan McLaughlin: The Eastman Memo Is a Tragedy of Errors

Caroline Downey: After Altercation at Restaurant, Black Lives Matter Claims NYC Vaccine Mandate Is Being Weaponized

David Harsanyi: The Hunter Biden Email Cover-Up Is a Scandal

Brittany Bernstein: Biden’s Approval Rating among Black Voters Falls after Private-Sector Vaccine Mandate

CAPITAL MATTERS

Casey Mulligan runs the numbers and finds that the typical risk to a teacher of running a classroom in-person is comparable to that of driving 18 miles in a car: Did Closing Schools Enhance Health?

No, the job of the Fed is not to address climate change and racial inequality. Here’s Tom Spencer with this important reminder: Biden Must Ignore AOC and Reappoint Chairman Powell

Paul Gessing argues that Biden is making Carter look good: Joe Biden Is Worse Than Jimmy Carter

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Armond White praises Canadian satirist Bruce LaBruce’s swipe at gender politics: Saint-Narcisse Satirizes Political Narcissism and Perversity

Kyle Smith did not fall in love with Dear Evan Hansen: Annoying Teens Who Keep Bursting into Song

Brian Allen sounds the alarm about the Met’s move to sell its own art for cash: Shame on the Met’s Trustees

TOO BUSY TO READ THE FULL ARTICLE, BUT NOT TOO BUSY TO GET THE GIST? YOU’LL LOVE EXCERPTS

Democrats’ move to strip Iron Dome funding from a spending bill this week is no small development. Philip Klein takes note:

For the past decade or so, top Democrats have been desperately trying to downplay the increasing size and influence of the anti-Israel wing of the party. But it keeps getting harder to hide what’s happening. This week provided yet another stark reminder when a group of progressives banded together to force House speaker Nancy Pelosi to rip $1 billion for Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system out of a spending bill meant to avert a government shutdown. It’s hard to overstate what a radical turn this is for the party. . . .

There is of course a principled stand one could take against foreign aid in general, or against sending more money overseas at a time when the U.S. is facing historic debt. But progressives are not making any sort of consistent argument against foreign aid and have zero concern for the national debt. If current plans being pushed by progressives pass, then Democrats will have authorized $6 trillion in new spending within the first year of Joe Biden’s presidency. That’s 6,000 times $1 billion.

Nor can the position be justified as an effort to “end the occupation,” as this was not about depriving Israel of funding for offensive weapons. Stripping funding for Iron Dome only makes sense if the goal is to help Hamas become more efficient at killing civilians. And progressives were so adamant about depriving Israel of this funding to protect its population that they were willing to shut down the government if the provision was not removed.

NR’s editorial urges Republicans not to throw Democrats a lifeline in their intra-party struggle over spending bills:

More moderate Democrats are becoming increasingly alarmed at the price tag of the massive social-welfare bill, while progressives have been insistent that they would not support the smaller infrastructure bill if the larger one doesn’t also pass. This conflict, which has been building for months, is about to reach an inflection point. . . .

The back and forth between progressives and moderate Democrats over the past few weeks has underscored the fact that the two bills are inextricably linked. Any Republican who votes for the smaller infrastructure bill is making the passage of the larger reconciliation bill more likely.

In the reconciliation bill, Democrats want the government to pay for child care, universal pre-K, and community college. At a time when the current system is going broke, they want to add dental and vision coverage to Medicare. And they want to use it as a vehicle to advance their destructive Green New Deal environmental policies. They have proposed more than $2 trillion in taxes, but even that won’t cover all their spending, likely meaning more debt.

With Biden’s approval ratings tumbling and the nation reeling from his botched handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal, the border crisis, and the vaccine-booster rollout, on top of his daily miscues, it is understandable why he is desperate for a win. But there is no reason for House Republicans to help him get it.

Charles C. W. Cooke highlights the absurdity of the distinct sets of COVID rules for thee and me:

Up until this point in the pandemic, the worst examples of elite rule-breaking have been discrete. Gavin Newsom hit up the French Laundry. Gretchen Whitmer popped down to Florida. Chris Cuomo said that he was hiding in his basement, when, in reality, he was out and about in the Hamptons. Now, the habit is being ruthlessly collectivized. If, like me, you tuned in by accident to last night’s Emmys and saw a vast crowd of unmasked celebrities embracing one another, you will understand what’s changed. No longer are we talking about a hypocrite here and a hypocrite there, but about an entire cast of tartuffes. Falsity, it seems, is a highly contagious disease, and there is safety to be found in numbers.

Remember all those saccharine paeans to the common good? Those Pecksniffian appeals to do the “right thing”? Those badgering reminders that “we’re in this together”? Yeah, those couldn’t outlast a single letterpressed invitation to the Met. In one hand, our elite class had its longstanding message that masking is crucially important; in the other, it had the chance to go to a really lush party. And the party won in a landslide.

Not for everyone, of course. That would have been gauche. No, the party won for the sort of people who were invited to the party. The staff? They were masked up to the eyeballs, because these days you just can’t be too careful around people carrying trays.

In San Francisco over the weekend, Mayor London Breed explained that the video of her enjoying herself maskless at a jazz club doesn’t count when you really think about it, because, unlike you, she is really into music. “My drink was sitting at the table,” Breed said when pushed on the matter, and “I got up and started dancing because I was feeling the spirit and I wasn’t thinking about a mask.” Which is an absolutely spiffing excuse if one assumes that the mayor of San Francisco is alone among her fellow citizens in desiring to spend her evenings without a large piece of cloth strapped across her face. Exonerating herself further, Mayor Breed suggested that “we don’t need the fun police to come in and micromanage and tell us what we should or shouldn’t be doing.” Which, again, is a ripping justification if we assume that everyone else in San Francisco is just dying for close supervision.

Ryan Mills details the extent of the operations still being run by U.S. veterans and others to extract people from Afghanistan:

[Bryan] Stern, 41, who served tours in both Afghanistan and Iraq, now works as an international security consultant. He said he’s made a career out of not being a spectator. He didn’t want to be a spectator now. He called up a few friends with similar mindsets. He wanted to make a play, head to the Middle East to help. It might not work, he said, but he wanted to try.

“Just like at Ground Zero, we dug in the rubble looking for survivors,” Stern said. “I didn’t find any. But we still dug. It was still worth trying.”

Within days Project Dynamo was born, christened after Operation Dynamo, the codename for the British evacuation of Dunkirk during World War II.

Project Dynamo is one of likely dozens of civilian groups that emerged during the U.S. evacuation of Afghanistan with the goal of helping to rescue American citizens and allies from the chaos and from a new reign of Taliban barbarism. Groups with names such as Team AmericaPineapple Express, and Commercial Task Force organized to help get people out, according to news reports. Some sent in commandos and military veterans, while some worked statewide. Mercury One, radio host Glenn Beck’s charity, organized a mission to rescue Christians, but the Taliban grounded six of their planes in northern Afghanistan earlier this month. Other groups that lack quirky monikers also have been operating quietly, typically out of sight of the public. New groups pop up daily.

It’s not just Americans. Civilians from Australia, Great Britain, and Canada have joined the effort. It’s been described as a “digital Dunkirk,” because for the most part it involves coordinating the movement of people around Afghanistan using chat rooms, social media, and publicly available encrypted messaging services. It’s ad hoc and decentralized, though many of the groups work together when they can. They’ve become a key lifeline for tens of thousands of people still hoping to escape the country.

Lastly, Dan McLaughlin and Ramesh Ponnuru have explained the many holes in Trump legal adviser John Eastman’s memo making the case for rejecting Biden electors. From Dan:

Not all of these arguments are unserious, but all of them are wrong, several in multiple ways. The most glaring is the first point.

First, Eastman started off with the premise that “7 states have transmitted dual slates of electors to the President of the Senate,” creating a dispute over which slates to credit.

As I detailed at the time, however, there were no alternative slates of electors appointed by any state. A “state” is not just a geographic expression on the map; I could not walk into National Review’s offices in Manhattan, round up some people, and declare that “New York has named a slate of electors.” A state, in American law, means the government of the state. No state legislature, no state governor, and no arm or subdivision of any state ever purported to appoint any Trump slate of electors in any of the seven states at issue. The entirety of Eastman’s legal analysis was, therefore, based on a fantasy.

Shout-Outs

Anna Giaritelli, at the Washington Examiner: Townsfolk dismayed at the dusty war zone Del Rio has become

Jenna Weissman Joselit, at Tablet: The Fall and Rise of the American Sukkah

Helen Dale, at Law & Liberty: America’s Dysfunctional Discourse on Race

Emily Crane, at the New York Post: Wuhan scientists wanted to release coronaviruses into bats

Honorable Mention

Did you catch the winning essay from the first William F. Buckley Jr. essay contest? If not, fear not. Michael Samaritano’s piece, once more, is here: Conservatives, Don’t Give Up on Yale

CODA

After a protracted experience at the pediatrician’s office this week that involved a nonstop procession of parents, including yours truly, who were compelled to pay a visit just to adhere to COVID protocols after noticing mild symptoms, this song comes to mind: “Waiting Room

This, of course, is not the scene or the meaning Fugazi envisioned when that song was recorded in 1988, but COVID-protocol purgatory sure feels like the pediatrician’s lobby writ large. Staring at the wall, waiting for something to change . . . Plus the song features one of the all-time great intros and one of the most memorable dramatic pauses since John Cage’s “4’33”.”

Got a tune? Want to share? Send a link to jberger@nationalreview.com. Thanks for reading.

Politics & Policy

The Magic Slogan That Justifies Everything

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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) participates in a climate-change demonstration outside the White House, June 28, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

We should probably talk some more about the dress.

You know the one, of Chick-fil-A color scheme and in-your-face situational unawareness. This newsletter is referring, of course, to AOC’s outfit. (Apologies if you’re all dressed-out by now.)

To walk things back a skosh, AOC likely knows full well what she’s doing and is situationally quite aware. She must get the hypocrisy of flaunting the words “Tax the Rich” on her dress at this week’s $35,000-per-head Met Gala. It’s a troll. She went all in, for the sake of the message.

But that message does help crystallize the thinking behind the ungodly sums in Democrats’ spending bills, which is why we should talk about it.

“Tax the Rich” is hardly a new idea. Before 1981, it was the policy of the U.S. government. The thinking goes that if only we can do that again, at that level or higher, any amount of spending can be covered. So let it rip.

If the investments Washington contemplates were on the level of, say, a small war, perhaps that would be true. But they are decidedly not. The Tax Foundation, a couple years ago, looked at one AOC proposal to tax incomes over $10 million at 70 percent. Over ten years, this wouldn’t close a single year’s deficit — even at pre-pandemic levels — and probably wouldn’t cover a single year’s interest payment on the debt, let alone a $3.5 trillion budget bill. Nevertheless, this past week, House Democrats released an extensive tax plan that generally adheres to that same slogan — complete with higher individual, capital-gains, and corporate tax rates. It’s estimated to raise over $2 trillion. It’s still not enough.

NR’s editorial succinctly addresses this shortfall:

House Democrats have put forward a worst-of-both-worlds tax proposal: punishing enough to do real damage to the U.S. economy and individual households, but not nearly enough to pay for the trillions upon trillions of dollars of new spending Joe Biden and his congressional allies have put into play.

What we’ve got here is a failure to elucidate. Politicians have convinced themselves, or maybe just their base (Kevin Williamson, for one, sees little evidence of sincerity here), that taxing the rich, while taking pains to spare the middle class, will pay for their promises. But it would in fact take middle-class tax hikes — fairly large ones — to pay for their agenda. They would need to go full Europe, as Rich Lowry explains:

This is where the Democrats are willing to talk the talk about a cradle-to-grave welfare state, but not walk the walk. There can be no European-style welfare state, at least not sustainably so, without European-style taxes.

The dirty secret about the Scandinavian countries that the Left constantly holds up as a model is that they aren’t afraid to tax the middle class. These alleged models of social justice tax more than we do and tax much more broadly, realizing that taxing the rich and corporations isn’t enough to fund extensive and generous social programs.

Jay Nordlinger puts it thusly: “If you want more revenue for the government — and we can debate that — you’re going to have to look to the multitudes: to the Great Middle. But no one wants to say that.” Brian Riedl does some math and comes to an alarming conclusion: “Using up all the ‘tax the rich’ options for the president’s new proposals would leave the wealthy unable to close the underlying — and unsustainable — $112 trillion in baseline deficits over the next 30 years, or finance progressive fantasies such as Medicare for All and the Green New Deal.”

NR’s editorial also notes that the proposal’s tax hikes on businesses would be felt by employees and customers alike, many of whom reside in that hallowed middle class.

Could the rich pay more? Sure, they could, and this writer would wholeheartedly support this as part of a comprehensive plan to balance the budget. [pauses to laugh hysterically, then regain composure] Anyway, David Harsanyi helps illuminate why this tactic yields diminishing returns, owing to the fact that the wealthy are covering a good deal of federal outlays already. And David gets at the nut of the problem, which incidentally is the premise of this newsletter:

The reality is that no politician is going to advocate raising middle-class income taxes, despite the ever-increasing cost of government. There is only the rich to tax. Consequently, it’s become easier to pass massive expansions of the state. Everyone expects someone else to foot the bill — either future generations or their wealthier neighbors.

Tax the Working Man doesn’t have the same visceral appeal. But Tax the Rich? That’s a slogan that keeps hope alive, and the money flowing. It suggests there’s a dollar match for every dollar of need out there. And conveniently for the sloganeers, the subtext once that imperative accompanies a massive spending proposal is that any opposition reflects a craven and mulish refusal to hit the plutocrats in their George Costanza wallets. So say it loud.

Green New Deal? Tax the Rich. Medicare for All? Tax the Rich. Canada’s got problems? You’d better believe, Tax the Rich.

It’s the slogan that justifies anything and everything. It is, without question, way better than Drill, Baby, Drill. No wonder AOC donned it. She’ll probably be invited back.

In other news . . . do be sure to check out the jam-packed new issue of National Review, devoted to examining America’s crime crisis. More on that below, but you can start with Rich’s intro.

Lastly, R.I.P. to an icon of my adolescence and of many others’, Norm Macdonald. If you haven’t seen it yet, his moth joke is perfection. Watch it here.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

Democrats want to soak the rich, but the rich aren’t the only ones who will be soaked: Revenue and Revenge

The allegations that Joint Chiefs chairman Milley went behind Trump’s back to the Chinese merits a formal inquiry, quickly: Investigate General Milley Now

ARTICLES

David L. Bahnsen: The California Recall’s Lesson for Republicans

Michael Brendan Dougherty: No Trust, No Exit

Jack Butler: The Myth of the Red Pill

Kevin Williamson: The Billionaires’ Party

Charles C. W. Cooke: Biden Is Hurting the Vaccine Case

Charles C. W. Cooke: Why Did the Staff at the Met Wear Masks, While the Celebrities Went Without?

Andrew McCarthy: Blinken’s Idiocy on the Taliban and Women

Yuval Levin: The Future of Conservative Constitutionalism

Jeb Bush: The Dumbing Down of Expectations

Caroline Downey: Planned Parenthood Doxxes Texas Pro-Life Group Leader

Jim Geraghty: The Taliban ‘Cut Off the Heads of Two Boys Who Were Nine and Ten’

Dan McLaughlin: Are Mobs Still Bad When Their Target Is Brett Kavanaugh?

Nate Hochman: Who Is Kristi Noem, Really?

Jimmy Quinn: Taiwan Sees Opening amid Chinese Bullying: ‘There’s an Awakening’

Ryan Mills: San Francisco School-Board Recall Gains Steam as Organizers Surpass Signature Threshold

CAPITAL MATTERS

Kevin Hassett looks at how Biden’s vaccine rules could slow the economic recovery: Vaccine Mandates and the Labor Market

America has a spending problem. Eric Blankenstein calls it by its name: A Trillion Here, and a Trillion There . . .

Joseph Sullivan offers another, disturbing way to look at the Afghanistan withdrawal: The Taliban Just Received the Largest International Weapons Transfer in 50 Years

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Another remake, another failure. Armond White charts the decline: Amazon’s Cinderella Is Extra Bad

Brian Allen attends an in-person (!!) art fair and breathes in the sweet air of normalcy: A Fine Armory Show Signals a Return to Normal Life

Someone had to say it, might as well be Kyle Smith. Clint Eastwood probably shouldn’t cast himself in starring tough-guy roles at this stage: Clint Eastwood’s Macho Mistake (Armond dissents)

FROM THE NEW OCTOBER 4, 2021, ISSUE OF NR

William J. Bratton and Rafael A. Mangual: Forgotten Lessons of the War on Crime

Ryan Mills: Where Have All the Officers Gone?

Hannah E. Meyers: The ‘Systemic Racism’ Stereotype

Andrew C. McCarthy: Fictions of the ‘Carceral State’

IF YOU DON’T CLICK YOUR LINKS, YOU CAN’T HAVE ANY EXCERPTS. HOW CAN YOU HAVE ANY EXCERPTS IF YOU DON’T CLICK YOUR LINKS?

Here’s David Bahnsen with some lessons for conservatives from the California recall:

For the many millions who did not vote for Trump but were sympathetic to the recall, there could not have been a message less effective for earning and retaining their vote than the “stop the steal” story.

This is going to stay around Republicans’ necks as long as they let it. Not just in an “against all odds” case such as recalling a Democrat governor in a deep-blue state, but anywhere independents and moderates are needed to win an election — the backward-looking focus on the unprovable claims of a 2020 stolen election are toxic, self-defeating, and counter-productive. It is a fatal focus. A forward-looking focus on defeating cancel culture, pandemic irrationality and tyranny, and woke corporatism is the winning formula for the party and the cause.

Those who care about the latter will reject the former. Or they will continue to lose.

A new book claims General Milley had back-channel talks with China in the latter days of Trump’s presidency. From the editorial:

We had occasion, during the Trump years, to warn not only about steps that Trump took to undermine the American system of government, but also about threats to that system created by the actions of others in response to him. Any consistent defender of constitutional government should be alarmed by both. Extralegal and anti-democratic steps justified as responses to a crisis have a way of becoming habits.

Woodward and Costa report that General Milley had grave concerns about Trump’s mental stability in the run-up to the 2020 election and through the aftermath of the January 2021 Capitol riot. He was also concerned that the Chinese military would overreact to saber-rattling by Trump, possibly creating an unnecessary military conflict. There are proper ways to air such concerns, such as insisting that presidential directives comply with the law and are properly handled through the chain of command, or marshaling support among the president’s senior advisers to counsel him against rash actions. There are many known occasions of the latter approach working with Trump, who never did order new acts of military force in his last months in office. There are even proper civilian procedures, much discussed and repeatedly attempted during the Trump era, to remove a commander-in-chief.

What is never proper is for an American military officer to go to hostile foreign governments to tell them things at odds with the message the president decides to communicate. . . .

If this account holds up, anyone who believes in democratic self-government, civilian control of the military, and the rule of law should join in calling for General Milley’s removal.

(As Dan McLaughlin notes, however, there could be more to this story, so stay tuned.)

The accounts on the ground in Afghanistan continue to be harrowing. Jim Geraghty reports on a veteran trying desperately to get Afghan allies and Americans out of the country, and on what her organization has encountered:

[Jean Marie] Thrower reports that her organization has “people who are going missing and getting killed every day.” Her group hears accounts from Afghans who made it out, as well as the horrifying accounts they’re told by those who were left behind.

She describes the case of an American child whose Afghan uncle was recently killed by the Taliban. “We have had people shot, beheaded. They’re taking the kids. If you’re on the run, and they find your family, they’ll hurt your family and put the word out in the neighborhood that ‘we’ve got your brother or son or daughter.’ They cut off the heads of two boys that were nine and ten.”

While the description of beheaded children could not be independently verified, other reports of beheadings unfortunately have been. A recently unearthed video showed six Taliban men beheading an Afghan soldier. Christians in Afghanistan report receiving phone calls from the Taliban, pledging to behead them. A British member of Parliament said that Afghan refugees had told him of the Taliban forcing family members to watch the beheadings of their relatives. A human-rights activist in Kabul who was beaten and hospitalized said he was told by his Taliban captors, “You are acting against Islam so we are allowed to kill kafirs like you,” and two journalists said they were threatened with beheading after being beaten for covering a women’s protest.

Thrower laments that the Taliban is finding and executing Christians in Afghanistan with stunning speed. “We started out with 300 three weeks ago, and we’re down to 55. They’ve been killed. . . . We had two young girls that were with this Christian family, the Christians had found them after their parents had been killed. They were hiding together, and then went to the market to try to get some food. The Taliban found them, raped them, and beat them. We did manage to get them to a hospital.”

(Jim reports on more infuriating details about our State Department’s handling of the situation here.)

Is the world waking up to China’s deception? Jimmy Quinn conducted a revealing interview with a top Taiwanese diplomat, who sees cause for hope:

While it’s unclear whether China’s grip on the U.N. can be loosened, Taiwan’s latest push takes place in an international environment that is increasingly receptive to warnings about Chinese misconduct. I specifically asked [James] Lee about Europe, because the European Parliament recently advanced a measure urging closer EU–Taiwan ties. “Taiwan and Europe, although thousands of miles apart, we do share common values and principles, such as human rights, democracy, freedom, peace, rule of law,” he said.

“I think there’s an awakening in Europe. A lot of countries, one by one, say, yes China has become more repressive at home and aggressive abroad,” Lee said. “And more and more countries, not just in our region, but beyond, have more concerns, and are worrying how the West, led by the United States, is going to respond to China’s challenge.”

That’s important in its own right, but it has broader implications for how international blocs approach the China question — and therefore, how Taiwan is discussed at the U.N. The Chinese aggression that Lee cites has dovetailed with Beijing’s adversarial pandemic-era politics to midwife significant policy shifts among Western democracies. Lee sees a new opening for Taiwan.

In case you missed it last weekend, Kevin Williamson examined the political proclivities of America’s billionaires. Perhaps you won’t be surprised that the GOP is no longer their exclusive home:

Jeff Bezos: The wealthiest American is a mixed bag in terms of his political donations. In terms of his public statements, he is scrupulously nonpartisan, though he has been generally supportive of Joe Biden, including of Biden’s infrastructure proposals and his plan to raise corporate taxes. People who know Bezos describe him as a Reason-style libertarian — a free-market capitalist with socially progressive tendencies.

He is not a Donald Trump fan, and not exactly the poster boy for the Republican Party in 2021.

Elon Musk: The eccentric Tesla founder has approximately the politics of a 1990s college sophomore, calling himself “socially liberal and fiscally conservative” and “half Democrat and half Republican.” The experience of dividing his time between California and Texas seems to be radicalizing him in Texas’s direction. But, for now, he donates to both parties and commits himself to neither.

Bill Gates: The Microsoft founder has financially supported a lot of Democrats and a few Republicans. He is personally tight with the Obamas, but he also likes charter schools. Philosophically, he is best described as a technocratic progressive. His criticism of Trump’s coronavirus response made him a right-wing-hate totem. Policy-wise, he is generally closer to Democrats than to Republicans. Culturally, he is about as far away from the 2021 Republican Party as an American can be.

Mark Zuckerberg: He has spread political money around pretty promiscuously, tipping everybody from Chuck Schumer to Marco Rubio. He publicly claims neither party. His wife supports Democrats almost exclusively, with the exception of Chris Christie. He is not the Republican billionaire you are looking for.

Shout-Outs

The College Fix: Syracuse U. professor says 9/11 was an ‘attack on the heteropatriarchal capitalistic systems’

Charlotte Lawson, at The Dispatch: The Afghans We Left Behind

Hollie McKay, at the New York Post: Taliban bring back ‘virtue’ ministry, stoning and amputations for ‘major sins’

Bill Melugin and Adam Shaw, at Fox News: Drone footage shows thousands of migrants under bridge in Del Rio, Texas, as local facilities overwhelmed

CODA

Here’s a song “two ways,” as a fine-dining menu might read. “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat,” first composed and recorded by Charles Mingus, was written as a tribute to the late saxophonist Lester Young. It’s so soulful and ubiquitous as a jazz standard, it almost invites listeners to shape their own meaning out of it. Maybe it’s a lament for a loved one, maybe it’s something more uplifting. A musician friend of mine used to call it “car-crash music,” a comment on how the song’s peaceful vibe would juxtapose, in slow motion, against something not so peaceful. That’s dark. We Jersey kids were dark. Anyway, “two ways,” right? So here’s the second way: Guitarist John McLaughlin recorded his own acoustic version on his solo album, My Goal’s Beyond. Have a listen.

Got a tune? Want to share? Send a link to jberger@nationalreview.com. Thanks for reading.

U.S.

Our Post-9/11 Bond

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A man walks through the 9/11 Empty Sky memorial at sunrise across from New York’s Lower Manhattan and One World Trade Center in Jersey City, New Jersey, (Gary Hershorn/Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Moments of national unity are as fleeting as they are rare. September 12, 2001, was one of them.

It’s become something of a political cliché to call for a return to that post-9/11 mindset. How much it has eroded, from then to now, illustrates why we hear this. Pew dug up an interesting figure — after the launch of airstrikes in Afghanistan, 79 percent of adults “said they had displayed an American flag.” Briefly, at a level that was unprecedented and never again matched in the modern age, a broad majority expressed trust in government.

With each successive administration, we’ve become more distant from that sense of shared grief and shared resolve 20 years ago. We frayed first over the Iraq War, a coming-apart that accelerated through the Obama administration and hit full tilt during Trump’s. It continues today. By 2016, Gallup found that a record 77 percent of Americans viewed the nation as divided (the only time in the last few decades the U.S.A. was not dreadfully underwater on that question was after 9/11). In April of this year, an NBC poll found that 82 percent viewed the country as divided. Yet the need to unite clocked in at No. 2 among most-important issues, right after tackling COVID-19.

It’s unclear whether that latter data point is cause for hope or deeper concern. It indicates a yearning to recover a common national spirit, yet together with the top-line number reflects an inability to achieve this goal. The results of our fracturing are clear. Only in this environment could a pandemic’s every detail be forged into a political wedge. J. D. Flynn discussed these societal symptoms in a guest column last weekend. Michael Brendan Dougherty, marking 20 years and assessing our condition, sees little cause for hope:

After 9/11, we thought we would come together, that this challenge would bring us to a new shared common understanding of our civilizational inheritance and appreciation of each other despite our differences. But today, we know better. We hate each other, and so we doubt that our living together in this way is good anymore. In 20 years, the American people have welcomed the Taliban back into power, armed al-Qaeda in several countries, debased our institutions, and turned on each other as the real enemies, the true Taliban.

These toxic divisions are affecting other aspects of the culture. A more polarized press, for instance, is now more likely to overlook the sins of perceived allies and amplify those of perceived enemies, often in hasty fashion. Kevin Williamson examined the implications of this in the wake of Rolling Stone’s correction to a botched story about an ivermectin-overdose epidemic that didn’t happen. It speaks to something deeper, and troubling:

We have closed ranks, socially, in recent years, for a variety of reasons, many of them just blisteringly stupid. . . . It is not that we do not know how to get it right, or even that we do not have the resources to get it right — it is that our petty hatreds and cultural tribalism have led us to believe that it does not matter if we get it right, that lies and misrepresentations about cultural enemies are virtuous in that they serve a “greater truth.” And this is not an exclusively left-wing phenomenon: Donald Trump’s lies, and the distortions and misrepresentations of right-wing talk radio and cable news, are excused and even celebrated on the same grounds.

The test of a political claim in our time is not whether it is true or false but whether it raises or lowers the status of our enemies.

Kyle Smith addresses the same issue here. Douglas Murray does so here.

But hey, you might say, isn’t this lament more than a little rich coming from an editor at a partisan media outlet? To quote Ted Lasso, whose broad appeal might be one of our few remaining zones of agreement, “It’s a good point — consider me dunked on.”

In seriousness, debate and disagreement do keep democracy humming. What’s unhealthy is when the driving force behind our debates is not the desire to improve but the tribal impulse to do what Ted confessed was done to him. This instinct infects the national bloodstream; if 9/11 happened today, would we see anything approaching the unity of 2001, or would we see Twitter warfare break out within seconds over military policy, Islamophobia, and the TSA?

Maybe our disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan is connected, somehow, to a lost common agenda — shared experience and shared resolve. We should try to recover it.

But enough from me. Here are some thoughts from members of the NR family far more qualified to write on this solemn anniversary. Andrew McCarthy writes about the improvements, and subsequent backsliding, in counterterrorism since. Richard Brookhiser looks back, and ahead. John Hillen offers strategic perspective on what’s likely to be a very long war. Charles C. W. Cooke recalls what it was like watching the horror unfold from abroad in 2001. Kyle finds a wry silver lining.

Look for more on the home page this weekend. For updates on vaccine mandates and other news of the week, scroll.

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EDITORIALS

It’s safe to say that getting more people vaccinated would be a good thing. But Biden’s COVID-vaccination mandate on private companies sure smells like an overreach — especially considering his past opposition: Biden’s Desperate COVID Overreach

ARTICLES

Rich Lowry: How Texas Pro-Lifers Ground Abortion to a Halt in the Lone Star State

Rich Lowry: When a Western Society Goes Insane

Kyle Smith: Trump’s Legacy Comes into Focus

Kyle Smith: Why Isn’t the Attack on Larry Elder the Biggest Story in America?

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Whatever Happened to ‘Follow the Science’?

Gideon Rozner: Australia’s Insane COVID Crackdown Should Frighten Us All

Sarah Schutte & Co.: A Better High-School Reading List

Jay Nordlinger: Refugees and America

Kevin Williamson: Warby Parkers Shortsighted Sop to the Progressive Mob

John McCormack: Terry McAuliffe Won’t Say if He’d Veto Radical Abortion Bills

David Harsanyi: You Should Definitely Get a Job

Dan McLaughlin: Abraham Lincoln on Why You Should Get a Job

Charles C. W. Cooke: Mr. President, Tear Down This Travel Ban

Charles C. W. Cooke: Biden Is Stuck in a Bind of His Own Making

Alexandra DeSanctis: The ‘Women’s Rights’ Movement Goes Woke

Philip Klein: If COVID Is Forever, Is This What You Want the Rest of Your Life to Look Like?

Isaac Schorr: Virginia Dems Run from Defund the Police Records ahead of Election

CAPITAL MATTERS

Sean Higgins marks Labor Day by exploring what could be an existential problem for America’s unions: Unions Look to Congress for Survival. They Should Try Listening to Workers Instead

Who doesn’t love a listicle? Chris Edwards has compiled one on why you — yes, you — should oppose more federal spending: Ten Reasons to Oppose More Spending

Boris Ryvkin explains how the American government’s terrible treatment of U.S. expats could get even worse:  A New, Two-Pronged Attack on U.S. Expats?

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Armond White is not so charmed by Marvel’s latest addition as was Kyle. The words “sly, globalist trash” were used. Come for the headline, stay for the takedown: Marvel’s Shang-Chi — Crouching Cinema, Hidden Agenda

Brian Allen spotlights the Getty’s extensive contributions to culture and community in Southern California: The Getty Museum’s Good Citizenship and Groundbreaking L.A. Art

EXCERPTS ARE LIKE TWEETS, BUT WITH MORE CHARACTER

John Hillen marks this anniversary by looking ahead, and noting that the dynamics that led to the 9/11 attacks persist:

Twenty years after 9/11, our president and other leaders should be reminding Americans of the profound good that has been accomplished over the past two decades in keeping the country safe and helping many others abroad. But the president should also be steeling his countrymen for a prolonged encounter with, and battle against, militant Islamic groups who aim, as in bin Laden’s 1998 fatwa, to kill Americans. The battle itself is being waged on our behalf by a very small and professional all-volunteer force who exercise their craft and their profession on foreign soil. They prefer to play “away” games. The ones at the tip of the spear, as John Paul Jones famously directed, “intend to go in harm’s way.” Their lives and efforts are not to be wasted, but neither is our military to be pitied or sheltered — as the president implied in his speech of August 31. These military professionals are not seeking to end these deployments if the national-security interest calls for keeping some pattern of them going. We must drop the greatest-generation sentiment of “bring the troops home” while at the same time ensuring that their employment overseas is done with great prudence and discrimination.

Our leaders have done a poor job of preparing the American public to understand the phenomenon of a continued global threat to U.S. national security that is best deterred with a robust, forward presence. Our political leaders must articulate, as some members of Congress have, the relatively low cost of having a high-impact/low-footprint set of deployments around the world (including in Afghanistan) to guard against terrorism and protect American interests. And the public needs to be given the rationale for periodic high-impact/high-footprint deployments in advance of their happening.

Churchill famously told his countrymen in wartime, “I have never promised anything but blood, tears, toil, and sweat.” Our leaders don’t need to ask anything approaching that sacrifice of the American public. But a concerted campaign to explain and support the need for and benefits of a robust and forward-deployed strategy to counter Islamic terrorism for the foreseeable future would be a very fitting observance of the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

Rich Lowry talks to those on the ground and details how the Texas abortion law has, to the surprise of even its supporters, effectively served to halt most abortions in the state:

The animating idea was to keep the law out of the courts entirely by forbidding state officials to enforce it, thereby denying the federal judiciary the ability to “enjoin” the enforcement of the law, while simultaneously making the civil-liability sanctions for violating the law so severe that abortion providers would comply, obviating the need for anyone to sue them in state court and keeping the state judiciary from weighing in on the statute’s constitutionality.

Both of those mechanisms have worked brilliantly so far.

The Supreme Court didn’t grant the abortion providers their request for emergency relief because there was no one to enjoin, in a stark illustration of Jonathan Mitchell’s point about how judicial review works. There were eight defendants, including a state judge, a court clerk, various state officials, and Mark Lee Dickson.

The defendants who were state officials have nothing to do with the enforcement of the law, so they cannot be sued in federal court. . . .

Meanwhile, there is a huge sword hanging over the heads of Texas abortion providers that compels them to comply rather than risk the prospect of endless private-enforcement lawsuits.

Any abortion provider who violates Senate Bill 8 can be sued by anyone (other than a state-government official or employee) and required to pay at least $10,000 for each illegal abortion performed, plus court costs and attorneys’ fees. Since anyone who aids or abets the abortion is equally liable, the administrative assistant can be sued, the landlord who rents the property can be sued, any vendor providing material support can be sued.

Australia’s COVID-lockdown craze is a warning to the Western world. Here’s Gideon Rozner with a detailed account from Melbourne about how bad it’s gotten:

Whatever happened back in March 2020, it has set off some kind of bureaucratic chain reaction — one that has overwhelmed our checks and balances, upended almost every norm of liberal democratic governance, and radically altered the relationship between state and citizen, perhaps for decades.

Almost 18 months after the coronavirus hit our shores, Victoria and New South Wales — our two largest states, making up almost 60 percent of Australia’s population — are under lockdown. Melbourne, Australia’s second-biggest city, is at the time of this writing about to surpass London’s record as the most locked-down city in the world, clocking up a combined 207 days and counting.

Our lockdowns are also among the world’s harshest. Here in Melbourne, you’re permitted to leave your home for no longer than two hours a day for exercise and once more to go to the shops. A curfew is in place between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. Travel farther than three miles from your home is prohibited. Fines for breaching these and sundry subsidiary restrictions range from $1,300 to $15,000 (U.S. dollars).

The rest of the country is technically “open,” but many places are subject to various restrictions, including mask mandates — even outdoors — and occupancy limits so stringent that they render many businesses unprofitable. And lockdowns are never far away anyway, as state leaders tend to trigger stay-at-home orders after absurdly low case numbers. Sydney’s lockdown was declared in June when the state had just 82 active cases. Melbourne’s lockdown needed only six.

We ran a few items this week on the importance of, well, getting a dang job if a dang job is available (and many are). But Dan McLaughlin, NR’s resident history buff, brings home the point wielding the contents of Abe Lincoln’s brutally honest letters to his mooching stepbrother. Here’s a snippet; read the post for the rest:

Your request for eighty dollars, I do not think it best, to comply with now. At the various times when I have helped you a little, you have said to me “We can get along very well now” but in a very short time I find you in the same difficulty again. Now this can only happen by some defect in your conduct. What that defect is I think I know. You are not lazy, and still you are an idler. I doubt whether since I saw you, you have done a good whole day’s work in any one day. You do not very much dislike to work; and still you do not work much, merely because it does not seem to you that you could get much for it. This habit of uselessly wasting time, is the whole difficulty; and it is vastly important to you, and still more so to your children that you should break this habit. It is more important to them, because they have longer to live, and can keep out of an idle habit before they are in it; easier than they can get out after they are in.

Shout-Outs

Steven Malanga, at City Journal: When Flags Waved

Peter Hasson and Houston Keene, at Fox News: State Dept trying to steal credit for rescue of 4 Americans from Afghanistan, organizer says

Patrick Hauf, at the Washington Free Beacon: Labor Board Rebukes Union for Threatening Worker

Eric Boehm, at Reason: North Carolina Banned This Beer Because Bureaucrats Dislike the Label

CODA

Speaking of national unity, we did experience one more moment of it on a Sunday night in May ten years ago. Many of us in the news business were called to work, having picked up rumors about a big announcement from the White House — maybe the big announcement. It sure was. “Justice has been done,” Obama reported at last. Osama bin Laden was dead, killed by U.S. forces in Pakistan. For a beat, all the vitriol of the Bush and the Obama administrations — of the War on Terror and the Great Recession and Obamacare — evaporated. Crowds emptied into the streets in Manhattan, outside the White House, likely in cul-de-sacs across America. The great national wound had been avenged, and this is part of what drove us into the streets. This writer will submit as well that we were a country in desperate need of something to agree on; only the morally unmoored could mourn the death of a man so vile. So we celebrated.

What does this have to do with a song? It’s a memory is all, and part of that memory is listening that week to the radio, which marked the occasion by playing “Don’t Tread on Me,” of all things. The Metallica song never exactly achieved anthem status, but it felt right in the moment. It apparently caused a stir when it was released, too. This Rolling Stone interview from 1991 with James Hetfield is fantastic. He speaks, in the way only the profanity-weaving front man of Metallica can, about the negative reaction the band faced for writing something so pro-America on the heels of an album renowned for its anti-war themes:

He contends that “Don’t Tread on Me” is really a reaction to what he now feels was the overzealous anti-American tone of Justice.

“Like, ‘Oh, what a bunch of complainers,’ ” Hetfield says. “This is the other side of that. America is a f***ing good place. I definitely think that. And that feeling came about from touring a lot. You find out what you like about certain places and you find out why you live in America, even with all the bad f***ed-up sh**. It’s still the most happening place to hang out.”

“People have hated us for worse things,” Hetfield adds with a bored shrug. “If they don’t like Metallica because of one thing I said in one song, then they’re really f***ed.”

Amen, Het.

Here’s John Miller with a shout-out to this same song back in 2006.

Got a tune? Want to share? Send a link to jberger@nationalreview.com. Thanks for reading.

World

News Alert — the Taliban Have Not Changed

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Taliban forces patrol near the entrance gate of Hamid Karzai International Airport, a day after U.S troops withdrawal, in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 31, 2021. (Stringer/Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

The Taliban plan to crack down once again on the playing of music in Afghanistan — “but we’re hoping that we can persuade people not to do such things, instead of pressuring them,” spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told the Times.

How kind. One slaughtered folk singer evidently did not have the chance to be persuaded first.

The same spokesman dismissed concerns that women would be forced to travel with a male guardian and stressed that this requirement applies only to journeys of three days or more.

Pardon our confusion.

The group says women will be able to work. Why were women told to stay home then? Mujahid explained that some Talibanistas simply hadn’t yet been trained on how to not hurt them.

Thoughtful.

Oh, and the same group that has been our purported partner in withdrawal, per NR’s Jim Geraghty and the account of a plugged-in reader, has been “taking people’s phones and searching through them for English language messages.”

Point is, no matter the spin from Taliban spokesmen (and spokeswomen, once that gender-equity program kicks in), hopeful media reports, and wishcasting administration figures, the Taliban are still the Taliban, the same group that once converted Kabul’s soccer stadium into a coliseum for stonings and amputations. No, they haven’t changed, not in any fundamental way beyond their becoming a bit more PR-savvy.

Isaac Schorr with the news team hit this point earlier in the week, noting how the Biden administration and others were touting Taliban promises to let foreign nationals and Afghan citizens leave after the now-passed August 31 U.S. withdrawal deadline:

Zalmay Khalilzad, the chief U.S. envoy to the Taliban under both the Trump and Biden administrations, called the Taliban’s promises “positive.” On ABC News’ This Week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken explained to Martha Raddatz that “a very senior Taliban leader spoke on television and on the radio throughout Afghanistan and repeatedly assured the Afghan people that they would be free to travel after August 31st.” . . .

Reports from lawmakers, journalists, and activists appear to vindicate the skeptics and suggest the Biden administration may be exaggerating the prospects of Taliban cooperation with a longer-term evacuation effort.

For instance, Senator Marco Rubio’s office said they and others received reports of women, including U.S. citizens, “being prevented from passing through Taliban checkpoints without a male guardian.”

Those guards must still need the HR training.

NR’s editorial notes:

It is bizarre that weeks into this crisis, no U.S. official has spoken harshly of the Taliban. Instead, it’s all hopefulness about the group turning over a new leaf. Blinken noted the Taliban’s commitment to prevent terrorist groups from using Afghanistan as a base, even though the Taliban have been in violation of their commitment to separate from al-Qaeda since the time they made it.

To give an idea of how seriously they take that aforementioned promise, here’s that same spokesman, Zabihullah, claiming there was “no proof” that Osama bin Laden was involved in the 9/11 attacks.

It’s a helluva thing to say to an American news outlet, as 9/11 turns 20.

As if it needs stating, there’s little reason to think the Taliban will honor their commitments as they consolidate control. Just remember, for every slick media interview the Taliban give, there’s the body of a man with his arm muscles sliced off. The now-complete American withdrawal, coupled with the confiscation of billions of dollars’ worth of American military equipment, are likely to make the Taliban feel empowered to commit and enable more atrocities, not banish al-Qaeda and reconcile with old foes. Indeed, Jimmy Quinn flags evidence that reprisal killings already are accelerating.

No wonder so many were desperate to escape. Now, an unclear number of American citizens, green-card holders, and Afghan allies remain behind, and any efforts to extract them (which Biden suggested could be pursued) likely will hinge on Taliban cooperation. Rich Lowry, writing upon the conclusion of the U.S. military withdrawal, notes how the Taliban’s conduct does not inspire feelings of hope:

We still don’t know how many U.S. green-card holders, to whom we should also feel an obligation, have been left behind. And there have been reports that the Taliban were blocking our most deserving Afghan allies from getting to the airport, meaning the Afghans we got out weren’t necessarily the most endangered.

Even if the evacuation had been flawless and complete, the underlying situation speaks of an abysmal failure. After 20 years, we lost a war to a Taliban that now control more territory than they did on September 11, 2001. The Taliban haven’t renounced al-Qaeda; indeed, the Haqqani network, a key element of the Taliban that has been responsible for security in Kabul, is closely allied with the terror group.

Will the Taliban leave the international community pleasantly surprised by their commitment to good global citizenship, their elevation of women’s rights inside Afghanistan’s borders, and their cooperation on letting pass those who wish to escape?

NR’s editorial frames consideration of this question simply:

The administration says that it will continue to work to get Americans, legal permanent residents, and our Afghan allies out. Perhaps the Taliban will abide by their promises to allow free passage of those wanting to leave, but this isn’t a gamble we should be taking, and presumably no officials in the administration would want to take it with their own lives or those of their families.

You can read more on this and other momentous events from the past week — by scrolling down just a few more pixels.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

The deadline for the Afghanistan withdrawal has passed, but the national stain from Biden’s execution of it remains: Biden’s Disgrace 

The plot thickens on the road to the Court’s possible reconsideration of Roe: Supreme Court Gets It Right on Texas Abortion Law

ARTICLES

Rich Lowry: When National Honor Meant Something

Charles C. W. Cooke: The Bitter Truth: There’s Still No Rhyme or Reason to COVID-19

Charles C. W. Cooke: Joe Biden Needs to Stop Talking about Beau

Jay Nordlinger: The Afghan Disaster

David Harsanyi: Biden’s Afghanistan Speech Was a Dishonest, Incoherent, Contradictory Mess

Victoria Coates: After Afghanistan

Jack Fowler: The Supreme Court Has a Chance to Blunt the Union Scheme to Defy It

Jim Geraghty: U.S. State Department to Green-Card Holders Still in Afghanistan: ‘Keep a Low Profile’

Ryan Mills: Indiana School District Segregates Teachers into Race, Gender ‘Affinity Groups’

Ryan Mills: Landlords Crushed by Eviction Bans Rush to Sell Properties, Stifling Rental Market

Michael Brendan Dougherty: The Crumbling Justification for Vaccine Passports

John Yoo and Robert J. Delahunty: Why We Failed in Afghanistan

Alexandra DeSanctis: The Texas Heartbeat Bill Is a Preview of a Post-Roe World

Andrew McCarthy: Biden’s Phone Call with Afghanistan’s President Was Not Impeachable

John McCormack: Biden’s Shameful Betrayal of America’s Closest Allies in Afghanistan

Philip Klein: Another Looming Disaster

CAPITAL MATTERS

Peter Jacobsen and Brad Polumbo see copious support today for the old adage of how nothing’s so permanent as a temporary government program: The Pandemic’s Web of ‘Temporary’ Government Programs

Jordan McGillis sees through the charade of China’s climate commitments: Climate Policy with Chinese Characteristics

Steve Hanke breaks down how U.S. aid fueled corruption in Afghanistan: A Poster Child for Foreign-Aid Failure

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Armond White notices a familiar modern script underneath a horror-classic remake: Candyman Continues a Blood-Money Franchise

Despite the cheesy backstory, Marvel’s latest is a joy, says Kyle Smith: Marvel Keeps Going Strong with Shang-Chi

It might get overshadowed by the National Gallery, but Washington’s Phillips Collection is well worth the visit. Brian Allen marks its 100th birthday: The Phillips Collection at 100: Heralding the New, Treasuring the Old

AND HERE THEY ARE, EXCERPTS FOR THE WEEKEND JOLTER SOUL

From the closing passages of NR’s editorial on the Afghanistan withdrawal:

It didn’t have to be this way. Biden could have maintained a U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan that kept the Taliban from taking over the country (they hadn’t even captured Kandahar as of about three weeks ago), or, failing that, he could have fashioned a minimally competent withdrawal that didn’t put us at the mercy of the Taliban. He did neither. He took an unsatisfactory stalemate and made it a complete rout. He botched our exit, materially harmed our national security, precipitated a humanitarian catastrophe, and betrayed our countrymen and allies.

He has not only made us less safe, he has dishonored us, and that can never be forgotten or forgiven.

John McCormack shines a light on the vow to Afghan allies that was broken by the U.S.:

President Biden withdrew all U.S. forces from Afghanistan on August 30 despite the fact that at least 100 to 200 U.S. citizens remained stuck in the Taliban-controlled territory.

Thousands more legal permanent U.S. residents were left behind.

As for the Afghans who were America’s closest allies in the war — and thus face the greatest risk of being slaughtered by the Taliban? It’s hard to pin down an exact figure, but the New York Times estimates that the United States left behind “at least 100,000 Afghans eligible for resettlement in the United States for their work with the Americans.” . . .

It’s hard to overstate the depth of this betrayal.

When the U.S. military recruited Afghans to assist U.S. forces, “part of that pitch when asking Afghans to trust us and put their lives on the line for us was that if this day ever came, we would do right by them and bring them out,” Congressman Peter Meijer of Michigan, a veteran of the Iraq War, told National Review in a recent interview. “That was part of that promise — that we will not leave you behind. That was implicit in the legislation [establishing Special Immigrant Visas for Afghan allies], and that was conveyed by [U.S. military] folks on the ground to those who chose to work with us.”

Rich Lowry makes important points here about national honor, and uses the example of the Teddy Roosevelt–era Perdicaris Affair to draw a contrast with how President Biden is operating today:

Honor has always had an enormous influence on human affairs and the conduct of governments — until, evidently, the advent of President Joe Biden in the year 2021.

There’s no perspective from which his exit from Afghanistan looks good. But abstracting it from any considerations of honor at least takes some of the sting out of a deeply humiliating episode that would have been considered intolerable throughout most of our nation’s history. . . .

A counterexample that reflects a more traditional American approach is President Teddy Roosevelt’s famous handling of the Perdicaris Affair in 1904, which involved the massive deployment of naval firepower over the kidnapping of one American in a faraway land of which we knew nothing.

Roosevelt’s reflexive bellicosity can seem atavistic at a time when national honor has lost a lot of its purchase.

Charles C. W. Cooke offers up a bitter pill — the hard data showing how state-by-state COVID death rates often have little relationship to which party is in power or to how intense the lockdowns and mask mandates are:

Confusing, isn’t it? Try as you might, you will not find a plausible way of blaming this on that party or region or policy that you hate. . . .

ABC News reported that there is bad news coming out of Oregon — yes, the same Oregon that’s home to Governor Kate Brown, she of the innovative outdoor mask mandate for the vaccinated. “The death toll from COVID-19,” the outfit noted, “is climbing so rapidly in Oregon in some counties that the state has organized delivery of one refrigerated truck to hold the bodies and is sending a second one.” What, within our Good/Bad dichotomy, can have caused this, one must wonder? Has Governor Brown not frowned enough? Have Oregonians failed to burn a sufficient number of dead radio hosts in effigy? Does the state’s health director sport a bad haircut? Or could it be, perhaps, that this is a terrible virus, that it prompts unpredictable results, and that our present political hysteria is as poor a frame for understanding what is happening in New Jersey and Oregon as it is for understanding what is happening in Texas and Alaska?

Israel, which has done everything that the loudest critics on the Left wanted America to do, is nevertheless stuck in the throes of a devastating surge. Israel has instituted repeated and draconian lockdowns (enforced by drone, no less); it has used nationwide mask mandates; it has vaccinated everyone early — and even added booster shots into the mix; and it has even instituted a system of vaccine passports. And, right now? Well, it’s getting crushed. Per NPR, despite becoming “the first country on Earth to fully vaccinate a majority of its citizens against COVID-19,” it now “has one of the world’s highest daily infection rates. . . . Nearly one in every 150 people in Israel today has the virus.” I wonder: Is Israel a Red State or a Blue State? . . .

The uncomfortable truth is that, beyond developing, encouraging, and providing inoculation, there’s not much that any government can do to guarantee success — and, even when it does what it can, a lot of people are going to resist for reasons bad and good.

A government program that had the opposite of its intended effect? Shocked as we might be, Ryan Mills reports on how the country’s eviction bans have prompted owners to sell, in turn hurting would-be renters:

Even though the Supreme Court ended the federal eviction moratorium in late August, rental owners in several blue states still are struggling under a bevy of state moratoria (which often have more teeth), and new tenant-friendly laws and regulations. Local landlords increasingly are cashing in while the housing market is hot.

The United States already has a severe rental housing shortage. In fact, not a single state in the country has an adequate supply of affordable rentals for low-income renters, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Industry leaders worry that a massive sell-off of single-family rental homes driven by record high prices and increasingly burdensome government regulations will make any already dire rental-housing situation substantially worse.

Single-family rentals are “the nation’s naturally occurring affordable housing,” Bob Pinnegar, president and CEO of the National Apartment Association, told National Review. “If we lose those units and people sell, we’re never going to be able to replace that housing stock.”

Shout-Outs

Dion Nissenbaum, at the Wall Street Journal: Afghan Interpreter Who Helped Rescue Biden in 2008 Left Behind After U.S. Exit

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, at UnHerd: The media enabled Afghanistan’s collapse

Geoff Parkes, at Quillette: As Australia’s Politicians Enforce Yet Another Lockdown, Small Businesses Keep Suffering

David French, at The Dispatch: It’s Time to Stop Rationalizing and Enabling Evangelical Vaccine Rejection

CODA

Turns out there’s a (King) Crimson tide out there. After this newsletter hawker cautiously included a Frippian number in last week’s note, reader Meg Phillips approvingly shared a like-minded band that was news to me: Nektar.

So, this scribbler is only five decades behind the curve. A cursory search shows that the English progressive rock group formed in the late ’60s in then–West Germany. Must have missed it. Meg helped fill in the blanks — and offered up “A Tab in the Ocean,” the song and the album of the same name. It’s peak prog, redolent of early Genesis with echoes of “Echoes,” and delightful. The title track clocks in at over 16 minutes, so grind some beans, brew a pot, have a leisurely cup, and you’ll still have time to do the crossword before Act V.

Got a tune? Want to share? Send a link to jberger@nationalreview.com. Thanks for reading. (And thank you, Meg.)

Programming Note: The Morning Jolt will return on Tuesday, after the holiday.  

Politics & Policy

The Democratic Party’s Icons Crack and Crumble

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(Getty)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

The Taliban takeover in Afghanistan was thought to be the worst-case scenario. As it turns out, the worst had yet to happen.

Horrific attacks on Thursday outside the crowded Kabul airport — already a chaotic scene amid the evacuation mission and, as such, a prime target for terrorists — killed at least 13 U.S. service members and dozens more Afghans. Countless decisions, from Trump’s Taliban deal (and a related prisoner release) to Biden’s Bagram bug-out and botched handling of the withdrawal itself, led to this moment of vulnerability. As NR’s editorial details, this entire bloody episode marks a devastating setback not just for Afghanistan but for America’s national security long-term. Yet underneath the chaos of the past several weeks, and concomitant with it, is another shift of considerable consequence — the realization that political figures long regarded as institutions, at least outwardly, have lost their grip.

At the top, there is President Joe Biden, and any deputies associated with the withdrawal who might have thought these posts were a springboard to higher office. When the BBC is skeptically fact-checking a Democratic president, when CNN is lamenting his “defensiveness, imprecision and apparent changes of position,” when the New York Times is reporting on the party rift over Biden’s leadership, when Politico exposes the unfathomable detail that the administration shared names of Afghan allies with the Taliban . . . Wilmington, we have a problem.

Rich Lowry writes:

The Afghanistan fiasco has created that most disorienting and discomfiting experience for a progressive administration — a serious bout of critical media coverage immune to White House spin and determined to tell the unvarnished story of an ongoing debacle.

Of course, it is not just normally friendly media outlets that have turned.

Leon Panetta, Obama’s defense secretary, is dismayed. New Hampshire’s Democratic senators are pressing Biden to ignore the withdrawal deadline. Senator Bob Menendez called the Afghanistan collapse “astounding,” pinned blame on “flawed negotiations” under Trump and “flawed execution” under Biden, and vowed to seek a “full accounting.” Democratic congressman Jim Langevin called this a “catastrophe.” The president’s approval rating has slipped below 50 percent by some readings, even spending time underwater for the first time in his presidency.

To use the in-vogue term of economists, this could be transitory, though the rising casualty count challenges any such expectations. John Fund makes a fundamental observation — that what we’re seeing now is pent-up frustration from the Beltway establishment, loosed by the vivid affirmation of long-held doubts about Biden’s ability:

Make no mistake, there is a genuine collapse of confidence in Biden. They may kiss and make up because Democratic control of Congress is at stake in 2022, but the wounds felt by the establishment from Biden’s incompetence will remain. . . .

The question that Biden’s media allies and the Washington establishment are now privately wondering: Is the Afghan disaster an aberration, or will the calculated risk they took in helping Biden into the White House prove to be an unending series of headaches and embarrassments?

Biden’s not the only institution whose image is crumbling.

For entirely separate reasons, Andrew Cuomo has gone from political deity to political refuse. The former New York governor, still defiant, delivered a bitter farewell address earlier this week accusing the government of undermining the justice system with its handling of the sexual-misconduct allegations that felled him. Any path to public rehabilitation is murky. His successor already is cleaning up, and exposing, his shoddy record-keeping on COVID deaths. He’s the roast, no longer the toast, of late-night. One need only look back at the flood of statements from fellow Democrats precipitating his resignation to appreciate how the gloss on the once-lionized gov is gone. They even took away his Emmy.

Lastly, there’s Barack Obama. He is not suffering anywhere near the credibility collapse of the other two but nevertheless engineered his own Gavin-Newsom-in-Napa moment by throwing his 60th birthday party, albeit a scaled-back one, on Martha’s Vineyard, the stuff of Mark Leibovich book chapters. “Behold Barack Antoinette,” declared the scathing Maureen Dowd column devoted to it. Jim Geraghty noted earlier this month how, in the inverse of how the party treats out-of-office Republicans, Democrats tend to criticize out-of-office Democrats more as time passes, and “now this appears to be the moment when Democrats feel comfortable publicly ripping into Barack Obama.”

So . . . what does it all amount to? It is at least noteworthy that, in a seniority-prizing party whose leaders are more likely to have their driver’s licenses taken away than their gavels, Democratic institutions are fading. What do the names Biden, Cuomo, Obama . . . heck, Clinton, Kennedy, Madigan . . . mean? Not nearly what they used to, as kingmakers or candidates.   

Ultimately, the development that matters most concerns the sitting president. While progressives always had an uneasy relationship with Biden, an uncontestable foreign-policy disaster has forced the establishment to see him with fresh eyes. This will color the calculations over whom to close ranks behind in the future, and, for now, it presents nothing less than a crisis of trust for the country and Biden’s party. (You can read more about implications in the newest issue of NR.)

Charles C. W. Cooke gets the last word(s):

As a direct result of his decisions about Afghanistan, Americans are stranded, our allies are outraged, our reputation is diminished, and the Afghan people have been left once again at the mercy of a cabal of cut-throat tyrants. In response, Biden has insisted that all of this was inevitable, despite his having promised precisely the opposite beforehand. . . .

Knowing what they now know, do the many swing-district Democrats who eked out victories in 2020 really want to throw in their lot with this guy?

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

It’s time to rethink our reliance on, and deference to, the Taliban: Afghanistan Nightmare Gets Worse

Right now, this is the most important task in Afghanistan: Leave No American Behind

The Kabul airport attack is a glimpse at the security costs from America’s pullout decision: The Cost to Our Security

In news from the culture-wars front, the ABA’s latest recommendation is great for Robin DiAngelo and Ibram X. Kendi. Not so much for academic freedom: The American Bar Association Attacks Academic Freedom

ARTICLES

Michael Brendan Dougherty: The Lies Are Exposed in Kabul

Rich Lowry: Joe Biden Has So Neutered Himself That He Can’t Even Criticize the Taliban

Isaac Schorr: School Board Rebels against Virginia’s Transgender Guidelines, Setting Stage for Heated Legal Battle

Mark Antonio Wright: Why Exactly Did We Abandon Bagram Air Base?

Dan McLaughlin: Red Warning Lights Flashing for Democrats

Luther Ray Abel: Veterans Furious Their Afghan Allies Might Be Left Behind

Andrew McCarthy: Biden’s Appalling Trust in the Taliban

Ryan Mills: Medical Experts, Parents Deeply Divided over Masking in Schools as Delta Surges

Jack Crowe: Pompeo Responds to Claim That Taliban Agreement to Blame for Afghanistan Collapse: ‘Nonsense’

Caroline Downey: U.S. Veterans Escort Hundreds of Afghan Allies to Airport for Evacuation in Daring Operation

Alexandra DeSanctis: Planned Parenthood Jumps into the Hormone-Therapy Game

Charles C. W. Cooke: It’s Dawning on the Democrats: Biden-Harris Will Drag Them Down

Charles C. W. Cooke: Justice Breyer’s Eviction-Moratorium Dissent Would Turn the President into a Dictator

Brad Taylor: The Day Afghanistan Died

Matt Weidinger: Democrats Stay Silent as Unprecedented ‘Benefits Cliff’ Approaches

David Harsanyi: Larry Elder Is Not on the ‘Far Right’

Philip Klein: Biden’s Spending Plans Are Now Too Big to Fail

Kevin Williamson: The Long, Quiet Death of American Foreign Policy

CAPITAL MATTERS

Kevin Hassett worries that market turbulence could be over the horizon with the fall of Afghanistan: Afghanistan Is a Much Bigger Economic Disruption Than Markets Think

Andrew Stuttaford follows up with more on the Afghan economy: Afghanistan’s Coming Economic Collapse — and What It Could Mean

Joseph Sullivan says it’s time to buckle up for an inflation ride: 1977 vs. 1981: The Ghosts of Inflation Past

Douglas Carr sees more political than economic upside in the Senate infrastructure bill: Not Your Father’s Infrastructure

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Armond White follows up Kyle’s review with his own take on the documentary Searching for Mr. Rugoff: Film Culture Searches for a Leader

Brian Allen rolls the dice and checks out whether the iconic Gamble House in Pasadena is what it used to be. Seems so, as the quintessence of the home as art: A Visit to the Gamble House, an Arts & Crafts Gem in Pasadena

Kyle Smith reviews the secret sequel disguised as a remake: New Candyman: Chicago Racism Is the Boogeyman

FROM THE NEW SEPTEMBER 13, 2021, ISSUE OF NR

Bing West: Who Will Trust Us after Afghanistan?

Charles C. W. Cooke: Our Upside-Down System

Noah Rothman: The ‘Forever War’ Fallacy

Andrew McCarthy: Counter-terrorism since 9/11

Mario Loyola: What Truths Do We Still Hold to Be Self-Evident?

THE LINKS MAKE YOU THINK, BUT THE EXCERPTS . . . DON’T RHYME WITH A THING

The intelligence community’s task of preventing another 9/11 is going to be much more difficult after the Afghanistan pullout. NR’s editorial looks at the security costs:

[T]he harrowing events of the last two weeks, with more sure to come, shouldn’t obscure the long-term blow to American national security. The Biden pullout, eschewing even a limited U.S. footprint and carried out in a manner that will dissuade valuable informants from cooperating with American agencies, is a devastating blow to the counter-terrorism strategy that, for 20 years, has prevented a reprise of the 9/11 attacks. . . .

President Biden is deluding himself (again) if he believes we can execute the still-vital counter-terrorism mission with no in-country intelligence capacity and “over the horizon” air power that is over a thousand miles away. His claim that this will suffice in Afghanistan because we do not have a U.S. military presence in other dangerous countries is fatuous. In point of fact, we do keep a modest presence in many such countries — with the grateful military cooperation of governments that oppose jihadists. But in Afghanistan, the challenge is not merely jihadist cells; it is that highly capable, incorrigibly anti-American jihadist organizations will once again have a military alliance with the Taliban, an incorrigibly anti-American Islamist regime.

That was the situation that obtained in Afghanistan from 1996 through 9/11. It was a national-security catastrophe for the United States. Congress needs to reacquaint itself with that history, examine the ramifications of the Taliban’s ascendancy for our counter-terrorism needs, and ask the administration the hard questions that President Biden is avoiding.

In an interview with news editor Jack Crowe, Mike Pompeo rejected criticism* of the Trump–Taliban agreement and argued that the Afghanistan withdrawal would not have been such a debacle — and might not have been total, either — on that administration’s watch:

[Pompeo] stressed that the May withdrawal deadline was “conditions-based,” and implied that a second-term Trump administration would have maintained a small military footprint on the ground past the May deadline, once it became clear the Taliban weren’t holding up their end of the bargain.

“I never believed a thing they said,” Pompeo said of the Taliban’s vow to sever ties with al-Qaeda. “It was a condition.” . . .

The degree to which the Taliban violated their commitment to break with Islamic extremists has become clearer in recent days. The al-Qaeda-affiliated Haqqani network is reportedly running security inside Kabul, and American officials fear that a resurgent Islamic State will begin to attack the airport to escalate the conflict. Without a significant U.S. troop presence, some argue that Afghanistan is destined to become the new headquarters for global jihad.

Could this outcome really have been prevented without sending thousands more American troops into Afghanistan in defiance of Trump’s campaign promises?

Pompeo says unequivocally “yes.”

*Andrew McCarthy is not entirely convinced by Pompeo’s argument and explains why here.

Novelist and veteran Brad Taylor pinpoints a single day — and a single shameful tragedy — that marked the loss of Afghanistan. It came when the U.S. and Afghan army abandoned the Afghanistan Commandos:

If you’ve read the plethora of post-mortem reports on Afghanistan, there are plenty of enemies to go around, from corruption, to incompetent leadership, to 20 years of rosy assessments from our own defense establishment. For me, there is a single day that Afghanistan died, and it was June 16, 2021. . . .

There was a nationwide plan for Commando use, which, put simply, was that they would insert and clear out Taliban influence, and then would be replaced with regular ANA components to keep the area secure and out of Taliban control. To this, they had been very successful. On that fateful day in June, everything changed.

The Commandos assaulted a village called Dawlat Abad and routed the Taliban. They called in the ANA to take over, and the ANA refused to enter, afraid of the Taliban. The Taliban regrouped and surrounded the village, pounding it with mortar fire and conducting a siege, until the small contingent of Commandos had no recourse but to surrender. Calls for air support went unheeded, because America had pulled the maintenance capability of the very aircraft that would have responded. There was no help coming.

Twenty-two Commandos surrendered to the Taliban. All 22 were summarily executed — on video. One of the men killed was a soldier named Sohrab Azimi. He was the son of an ANA general, trained in the United States, and engaged to be married to a United States citizen. He could have done anything with his life, but he chose to lead the Commandos. He was the best and brightest of Afghanistan, and he was killed on the street with a bullet to the back of his head because his pleas for air support went unheeded.

Unrelated to Afghanistan . . . Isaac Schorr with the news team zooms in on a developing battle in Virginia, where local school boards are bucking state transgender policy:

Indeed, while many county school boards have or are poised to implement policies consistent with the new guidelines, as is required by state law, others are resisting. The boards of education in Augusta, Bedford, Carroll, Pittsylvania, Russell, and Warren counties have all decided not to change their policies.

Late last month, Augusta County’s board unanimously voted down new policies that would have aligned with the guidance despite warnings from counsel that such a decision could result in legal action against them. They did so at a meeting that garnered significant community attention; close to 500 people crowded in to see where the board would come down.

“I do not think that any child in Augusta County Public Schools should ever be bullied, harassed, or in any way made to feel uncomfortable in their respective schools,” declared board member Dr. John Ocheltree, recasting the issue as one in which all students’ dignity and comfort should be preserved.

These boards could be held responsible not just for violating state law, but also federal civil rights law and the Constitution. Case law established last year by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals set controlling precedent in Virginia: Schools must allow transgender students to use facilities that correspond with their gender identity, holding that even providing separate, private facilities constituted unlawful, unconstitutional discrimination.

Shout-Outs

Barnini Chakraborty, at the Washington Examiner: Founder of all-girls school in Afghanistan escapes with students and burns records

Edward Kosner, at Commentary: New York City’s Kristallnacht

Noah Williams, at City Journal: The Results of the Labor-Market Experiment Are In

Robby Soave, at Reason: Cancel Culture Is Ruining Jeopardy!

CODA

In keeping with the theme of the headline, we’ll close with “Fallen Angel,” from King Crimson’s Red, a little something for your audio-cassette player. Heavy and foreboding, this is mood music.

Given the polarizing effect that particular band has on folks, the postscript here should read either “you’re welcome” or “sorry.” Pick whichever suits.

Got a tune? Want to share? Send a link to jberger@nationalreview.com. It’s the easiest way to purge King Crimson from this e-missive (or add more of it). And as always, thanks for reading. Let’s hope for better news next week.

National Security & Defense

Afghanistan’s Thin Blue Line Dissolves

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Women with their children try to get inside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 16, 2021. (Stringer/Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

This has been a week of searing images. The lone U.S. transport helicopter flying over Kabul during a chaotic evacuation. Desperate Afghans clinging to the side of a U.S. military jet as it takes off, several of them dying trying. This picture of a smiling little girl whose spirit in a single frame defies circumstance (posted by my former colleague Hollie McKay and photog Jacob Simkin). Crowds passing babies overhead, toward soldiers clustered at the airport walls.

When words can’t capture the ignominy of this moment, the pictures can.

One can’t help but wonder what ordinary Afghans think upon seeing the swarm on the Kabul airport tarmac, a scene that will long outlast the tortured explanations from the Biden administration in the world’s collective memory. One can’t help but wonder if America has just lost a generation of would-be supporters — their hearts and their minds.

This writer has never been an advocate of “endless wars” and opposed that in Iraq, but rarely do we realize so clearly, and immediately, the consequences of keeping no footprint at all. In a characteristically incisive appraisal, Senator Ben Sasse explained on these digital pages the false choice that was presented to the public in this regard:

The politicians and pundits who make excuses for this shameful retreat will dishonestly claim that it was this or fighting so-called “forever wars.” They pretend that our only choices were a massive occupation or an immediate withdrawal. . . .

Politicians don’t tell this truth: America didn’t have a nation-building occupation force in Afghanistan. The last time we had 100,000 troops in the country was a decade ago. We’re not waging “endless wars” in Afghanistan any more than we’re waging endless wars in South Korea, Germany, or Japan — or Kosovo, or Honduras, or any number of other nations where we have forward-deployed forces. A relatively small number of troops has successfully supported our Afghan allies by providing the backbone for intelligence and special-operations missions. Americans weren’t building empires or fighting unwinnable battles. We were defending airfields and decapitating terror organizations while keeping a light footprint.

Biden is not the only author of the Afghanistan catastrophe. As Andrew McCarthy recalls, Donald Trump’s Taliban agreement, forged by negotiations that sidelined the U.S.-backed government in Kabul, laid the groundwork. But the pullout was executed on Biden’s watch, and it’s hard to imagine it having gone worse. The president’s interview in which he chided George Stephanopoulos for bringing up the airport images because that was “five days ago” was the photo negative of presidential, and unsettling. His jaw-dropping address — in which he painted the bedlam as vindication, and articulated a four-word subtext: You’re On Your Own — is a speech that will live in American infamy.

As John McCormack and NR’s editorial note, Biden glossed over the immense impact the withdrawal of U.S. air support had on the Afghan military’s ability to function. The editors write:

Biden emphasized how much assistance we’ve given the Afghan army, including crucial air and logistical support. Once we pulled those away with no viable substitutes, though, it was going to be difficult for the Afghan army to continue to operate in the best of circumstances, let alone in the face of a sweeping Taliban offensive with the U.S. washing its hands of the conflict.

Biden, of course, never acknowledged that we had denied these things to the Afghan army and the role that played in its calamitous defeat.

If anything, this debacle has shown what a relatively small U.S. presence can accomplish. Much as rising violent crime in American cities has demonstrated why “defund the coppers” is a poor strategy for public safety, the tableau on the tarmac makes plain the perils of total withdrawal after such a deep military commitment.

My colleague Brian Allen (NR’s art critic, and a worldly follower of world affairs) dug up and shared this 2007 op-ed by Rory Stewart which contains some applicable passages. In it, the former U.K. MP and member of Theresa May’s administration, and author of a beautiful book about his own hike across Afghanistan nearly 20 years ago, argued that, at the time, surging troops into Afghanistan would repeat the mistakes of Iraq. He advocated a middle way.

Stewart wrote, “The intervention in Afghanistan has gone far better than that in Iraq largely because the American-led coalition has limited its ambitions and kept a light footprint, leaving the Afghans to run their own affairs,” and concluded that the “best hope” in that part of the world is to “continue to manage the country through a light civil and military presence.”

Could the U.S. have continued to maintain a light presence, indefinitely? This would have required unraveling Trump’s agreement. The political feasibility is questionable given rising isolationist tendencies on the left and right, largely a product of the aughts’ neocon free-for-all. And it’s possible more troops would be required anyway.

But here we have reductio ad absurdum in action. Not doing so has resulted in the betrayal of our allies, a likely humanitarian disaster, a logistical nightmare on the ground that has left many Americans stranded for now, the certain revival of a theocratic and extremist government with no qualms about harboring terror cells with international reach, and unspeakable damage to our nation’s image that will hurt intelligence-gathering and embolden the likes of Xi Jinping at a time when his international credibility is otherwise on the ebb.

Afghanistan is lost. The Taliban reign. Our foreign policy now is to keep our fingers crossed.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

The tragic, demoralizing, chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan did not have to be this way: Joe Biden’s Afghanistan Debacle

And the president’s address on this disaster did not help matters: Biden’s Shameful Afghanistan Speech

Accountability can, and should, start here: Milley and Austin Should Resign

In the meantime, it is imperative that we not only evacuate Americans but help those Afghans who risked their lives to help us: Yes, Bring the Afghans Who Helped Us

ARTICLES

Ben Sasse: Worse Than Saigon

Dan McLaughlin: No American Military Leader Should Ever Say What Lloyd Austin Said

Jim Geraghty: Democrats Finally Get Comfortable Saying Obama Is a Jerk

Jim Geraghty: Something Is Wrong with the President

Kathryn Jean Lopez: The Fall of Andrew Cuomo Is Not the End of the Problem

Charles C. W. Cooke: The Democratic Party Can’t Have It Both Ways on Afghanistan

Charles C. W. Cooke: Biden Took Ownership of the Disastrous Afghanistan Withdrawal Months Ago

Andrew Stuttaford: The Damage Won’t Be Contained to Afghanistan

Ken Buck: Reckless Spending Is Washington’s Bipartisan Sport

Rich Lowry: President Biden’s Man-Made Disasters

Andrew McCarthy: Remembering the Shameful Trump-Taliban ‘Peace’ Agreement

Don Bentley: Afghanistan — Was It Worth It? A Veteran’s Perspective

Alexandra DeSanctis: Loudoun County School Board Enacts Wide-Ranging ‘Gender Identity’ Policy

Caroline Downey: Socialist Editor Crushes Labor Organizing Effort at Leftist Magazine

John McCormack: Why Did the United States Abandon Bagram Airfield?

Brittany Bernstein: One of the First Troops to Enter Afghanistan after 9/11 Reflects on an ‘American Disaster’

Mario Loyola: Back to Square One in the War on Terror

CAPITAL MATTERS

Casey Mulligan argues that inflation largely is not Biden’s fault, even if his policies will impose harms elsewhere: Inflation Is Not Biden’s Fault

On that point, Eric Grover sees many factors including deficit spending at work — and he’s worried this is not a hiccup: Is Inflation Really Transitory?

With the status of the pandemic impossible to classify — over? almost over? coming back? over for some and not for others, indefinitely? — good luck guessing where the market’s going. From Sami J. Karam: The Market in Purgatory

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Finn from the still-going Star Wars franchise has transitioned into social-justice movies, and Armond White is not amused: John Boyega’s Fallen Star

Kyle Smith takes us through the twists, turns, and apocryphal brushstrokes surrounding a painting that sold to Saudi’s MBS for $450 million: Hype, Fraud, and Leonardo da Vinci

Brian Allen starts at the beginning — the very beginning — with his review of a Mesopotamia show, for which the Getty collaborated with the Louvre. Have a look: Mesopotamia Show at the Getty Teaches History, with Style

AND NOW, YOUR ENTRÉE, THE EXCERPTS

Without further introduction, considering this newsletter has been mostly devoted to the issue anyway, here’s more from NR’s editorial on Afghanistan:

The Biden administration prides itself on its alleged professionalism, especially in contrast to its predecessor, but this was rank ineptitude that made the situation much worse for no reason.

Does the stunning rapidity of the collapse of the Afghan government and security forces mean, as some on the anti-interventionist right have argued, that this entire 20-year-long chapter was misbegotten? There’s no doubt that we were often ignorant and naïve about Afghanistan, and the tribal, balkanized nature of the country was a formidable obstacle to the development of coherent, self-sustaining national institutions. Still, with the U.S. in a support role, Afghan government forces were able to fight and hold off the Taliban for years.

The problem was that the Afghan army was built on a foundation of U.S. air support and maintenance, and when those were removed, its forces instantly became less capable. On top of this, the signal sent by Biden’s headlong retreat had a devastating effect on Afghan morale from the top on down. Factor in a politically maladroit Afghan government and endemic corruption, and once the Taliban began to roll up government surrenders in the provinces, their offensive took on a life of its own.

We went to Afghanistan in the first place only because the September 11 attacks emanated from there. Two decades later, the Taliban still have a relationship with al-Qaeda, and the country will certainly once again become a base for terrorist plotting against the U.S. and its interests. In 2001, the Taliban didn’t control the north of the country, but this time they have taken it all, with U.S. intelligence and our ability to undertake counterterrorism strikes both significantly degraded.

This is a debacle and, more than most acts of the U.S. government, it is the responsibility of one man — Joseph Robinette Biden.

Biden contends that chaos was unavoidable. But John McCormack asks whether at least some of this could have been mitigated by keeping control of Bagram:

“If you want to conduct an evacuation, you don’t do it from an airport that’s literally almost in the heart of the city,” Bill Roggio, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, tells National Review. “A military planner would know that as soon as things started going south in Kabul, and the Taliban was on the march, that that airport [Karzai International] would be flooded.”

“You can’t secure that airport properly,” he says.

That fact was made all too apparent to people around the world on Monday morning when they woke up to horrifying videos of Afghan civilians clinging to a departing U.S. military aircraft — and then falling several hundred feet from the aircraft to their deaths.

Going back to the spring, following Biden’s withdrawal announcement, Roggio says he’s made the case for holding and evacuating from Bagram in conversations with U.S. “military and intelligence officials whose voices should have been heard by upper-echelons of leadership.”

Biden owns the mess in Afghanistan, but Andy McCarthy explains how his predecessor is an accomplice:

The Trump–Taliban agreement is disgraceful.

To begin with, the Trump administration negotiated directly with the Taliban. The U.S.-backed Afghan regime may have been formally, physically ousted from power on Biden’s watch Sunday, but it was effectively nullified when the Trump administration, in the former president’s haste to pull out regardless of the security costs, cut the regime out of his negotiations with the Taliban. That is why the Trump administration had to squeeze the (now-departed) government in Kabul to release the 5,000 prisoners: The regime was not part of the agreement and was fighting for its survival against the Taliban that would be fortified by the jailbreak.

Sixteen times the February 29, 2020, agreement refers to the Taliban by the name they used to brand themselves as the country’s legitimate government: “the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.” Clownishly, with each utterance of that phrase, the Trump State Department added a qualification, so it reads: “the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban.” That includes the pact’s laughable title “Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan between the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban and the United States of America.”

Can you imagine taking pains 16 times in a three-and-a-half-page document to indulge by its preferred name a terrorist negotiating partner that you claim not to recognize — while excluding the actual government you’re purporting to back? It is fraudulence raised to self-parody. And, indeed, the agreement is fraud through and through.

Dan McLaughlin gets right to the heart of why Defense Secretary Austin’s response to a question about rescuing Americans was so disheartening:

Worst of all, at a Pentagon briefing Wednesday, when Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was asked about the U.S. military’s capability to get its citizens out of Afghanistan, his answer was jaw-dropping: “We don’t have the capability to go out and collect large numbers of people.” You have to watch Austin deliver this line to grasp its full air of defeatism about a place where our military has moved about with some impunity for two decades, while General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a fellow Army lifer, stood by looking as if someone had just shot his dog.

The best Austin could offer was a promise to try, at least for a while: “We’re gonna get everyone that we can possibly evacuate evacuated, and I’ll do that as long as we possibly can, until the clock runs out, or we run out of capability. . . . I don’t have the capability to go out and extend operations currently into Kabul.”

This is unacceptable. This is un-American. This is not what our Army is about. Can you imagine, say, Norman Schwarzkopf — to say nothing of Dwight Eisenhower or Douglas MacArthur — giving that answer? What is wrong with these men? What have they been doing with the $700 billion we spend on national defense? What do they think that money is for, if not to protect Americans in danger, be they at home or abroad, civilians or military?

And most importantly, here’s a veteran’s perspective, from Don Bentley:

Was it worth it?

I don’t know anymore. I want to believe that our initial foray into Afghanistan was just. That destroying al-Qaeda and giving the Afghan people the chance to live free was noble and worthy of our highest ideals. But the shadow of the years that followed is impossible to ignore. Years of squandered blood and treasure. Those years drive doubt into the hearts of men.

Which brings us back to the fall of Kabul. While I don’t know if the two decades in Afghanistan were worth the terrible price, I do know this — those of us who answered our nation’s call deserved a better ending. We deserved a resolution without mass executions and bodies falling from planes to the backdrop of a beautiful blue sky. To my fellow veterans, to the quarter of a percent who willingly bore this crushing weight without fanfare or complaint, you are the very best of us. Your sacrifice will not be forgotten.

And another, from Brittany Bernstein’s interview with retired U.S. Army Brigadier General Don Bolduc:

“This is an American disaster,” Bolduc said in an interview with National Review. “But this was a decision by President Biden and he’s the one that’s going to have to assume responsibility for it.” . . .

While the retired general said he was an advocate of shifting the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan and acknowledged that it was “inevitable” for the U.S. to create a plan to transition security and governance responsibilities to the Afghans, the way Biden handled the withdrawal was “absolutely irresponsible” and “should not have been done this way.”

Shout-Outs

Hollie McKay, at The World of War, Crimes + Crises: Dispatches from Afghanistan: The future of women in a fallen nation

Josh Rogin, at the Washington Post: Biden must rescue thousands of U.S. citizens trapped in Afghanistan

Jonah Goldberg, at The Dispatch: How the U.S. Made the Afghan Collapse Inevitable

Adam Kredo, at the Washington Free Beacon: Biden State Dept Moved to Abolish Crisis Response Bureau Months Before Taliban Takeover of Afghanistan

CODA

This doesn’t seem like a fitting week for a song, but the inertia of routine demands it, and one can’t quarrel with that. So the song should fit the mood, at the very least. And the mood is dour.

Speaking of Radiohead . . .

The other day, a Slack conversation with Mr. Cooke about the band rekindled my appreciation for OK Computer, by any measure an enormously influential and remarkable album. And “Exit Music (for a Film)” is not only one of the most gripping pieces of music ever written, the title is somewhat apt for this occasion.

Okay, okay (computer), the song was actually written about Romeo and Juliet, for the 1996 film, not about a military withdrawal.

But listen:

Today, we escape, we escape.

Pack and get dressed,
Before your father hears us,

Before all hell breaks loose.

Health Care

The Typical COVID Death Rate for the Fully Vaccinated? ‘Effectively Zero’

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A commuter receives a COVID-19 vaccination at Grand Central Station Terminal train station in New York City, May 12, 2021. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Back in the spring, we here at NRO ran a piece by Andrew Michta titled, “The Zero-Risk Western Society.” We could re-run this piece every week — in fact, maybe we should; note to self — and it would still be pertinent. Taking the broad view of our COVID-19 response, Andrew noted “we seem to have become a people no longer capable of accepting any level of risk, while we demand an absolute certainty that those we elect to office provide safety, even at great cost.”

Risk is at the heart of everything that’s been wrong with our pandemic response to date — managing it, calculating it, communicating it.

Today, policy-makers have to reckon with those tradeoffs once more as the Delta variant contributes to a surge in infections, and the media’s corona-coverage amplifies incidents of “breakthrough” cases. The trends are alarming and frustrating. But so would be a heavy-handed government revival of lockdowns (the Biden administration has vowed not to take this step, while leaving wiggle room), travel restrictions (Chicago is flirting with them), and other measures thought to be behind us. Thankfully, data from the Kaiser Family Foundation help put this renewed COVID-19 panic in perspective.

A few takeaways: Among those states reporting data on “breakthrough” cases for the fully vaccinated, the case rate is well below 1 percent. The hospitalization rate ranges from “effectively zero” to .06 percent. And there’s this: “The rates of death among fully vaccinated people with COVID-19 were even lower, effectively zero (0.00%) in all but two reporting states, Arkansas and Michigan[,] where they were 0.01%.”

That number again, “Effectively zero.”

Are there caveats? Sure, there are caveats. The information is incomplete and a few weeks old, and some asymptomatic cases and individuals who did not get tested are surely missing. The study also notes that these hospitalizations and deaths “may or may not have been due to COVID-19.” As Caroline Downey from the news team reports, the CDC (with similar caveats) likewise says that as of early August, the agency had received reports of roughly 7,500 vaccinated patients with severe and/or fatal breakthrough infections, or less than .01 percent.

Fiddle with the numbers even a lot, and the reality is the same: The vast majority of cases are those who are not fully vaccinated. Those who are face a vanishingly small risk of deadly infection.

That’s not to suggest we let our guard down. Jim Geraghty, your indefatigable weekday host, notes that the daily number of new infections is surging, as are hospitalizations. It could get worse, as the weather turns and we spend more time inside. But even rising risk should not turn back the clock on the progress we’ve made. Today, unlike during the surge last winter, we have an effective vaccine that is widely available.

Phil Klein hits this point in his column about the rage industry that feeds off Ron DeSantis’s approach to the risk picture:  

DeSantis recognizes that the whole point of having a freely available vaccine is to reduce the likelihood of death or severe disease to a low enough level so that everybody can get on with their lives — not to chase after COVID Zero.

For the vaccinated, we appear to have reached this level. The understandable concerns about breakthrough infections should not divorce people from this reality, even if it’s sometimes lost in the headlines. In fact, Jim points out how Lollapalooza defied the headlines that predicted a super-spreader event from a mostly vaccinated crowd.

As a vaxxed Kyle Smith puts it:

I am well-protected. I didn’t say I’m bulletproof. I could still die of the virus, just as I could die in a car accident, or be murdered, or drop dead of a heart attack. The virus is now just one of many background risks I face each day. It wouldn’t register in my mind at all if it weren’t for all of the hysteria around me.

Even the White House, as Rich Lowry recently noted, has been aggravated by the alarmist tone of coverage, though the CDC bears its share of responsibility for the confusion.

As for the unvaccinated, the focus should be on protecting kids — who face a low risk, but also do not have the option to get the shot for now — without stunting their education any further. For the adults, who largely do have that option, vaccine-outreach campaigns of course should continue. But some holdouts will never be swayed, no matter the messaging. And there are limits to what the rest of the population should be asked to do on their behalf, as Ramesh Ponnuru writes. Here’s Kyle with a second dose of common sense:

The pandemic doesn’t end until we have herd immunity — until nearly everyone has antibodies, either from infection or the vaccine. People who reject the latter are leaving themselves open to the former, but if that’s their choice, my reaction is not a howl of anguish. It’s a shrug of indifference. I invite progressives to consider the matter rationally, shed their anger, and return to living life to the fullest.

The notion of “COVID Zero” is indeed unrealistic. But for the vaccinated, the COVID future can be “effectively zero.” That’s a risk we should all be willing to accept.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

Cuomo’s overdue departure — complete with denial and chutzpah — was in keeping with how he ran the place: Andrew Cuomo Leaves as He Governed

The Taliban is making rapid, but predictable, gains in advance of the full U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan: Biden’s Afghanistan Blunder

Democrats’ massive spending plan takes a big step toward the European social-welfare model — without a realistic mechanism to pay for it: Democrats’ Radical $3.5 Trillion Agenda

ARTICLES

Charles C. W. Cooke: Joe Biden Is Talking Like a King

Andrew McCarthy: Democrats’ Evolving View on Impeaching an Executive Who Has Left Office

Charles C. W. Cooke: Andrew Cuomo Was ‘Institutionalized’ Sexism

Alexandra DeSanctis: Cuomo’s Halfhearted Farewell Apology

John Fund: How Do Democrats Handle a Problem Like Gavin Newsom?

David Harsanyi: The Insufferable Hypocrisy of John Kerry

Helen Joyce: Trans Activism’s Long March through Our Institutions

Kevin Williamson: The ATF Doesn’t Need an Activist Director

Frederick Hess: Say No to ‘Anti-Racist’ Racial Segregation in Schools

Kathryn Jean Lopez: In the U.K., Doctors and Judges Trample on a Family’s Religious Liberty

Will Swaim: The Coming California Bacon Apocalypse

Philip Klein: After Infrastructure Surrender, Republicans Deserve to Lose

Caroline Downey: American Booksellers Association Apologizes for Accidentally Promoting Candace Owens Book

Rich Lowry: The Biden Blowout Is Just Beginning

Ed Bachrach and Austin Berg: Why Chicago Can’t Get a Grip on Its Murder Crisis

Ryan Mills: Conservative Groundswell Shakes Up South Dakota School Board

Mark Morgan: Biden’s Nonsensical Border COVID Policy Costs Lives

Jay Nordlinger: ‘Hello to Music’

CAPITAL MATTERS

Kevin Hassett sees a modest net positive for the economy in the infrastructure bill, despite its flaws:  The Infrastructure Bill Is Politically Complicated, but It Passes the Economic Test

Iain Murray imagines what a Tea Party II might look like, piggybacking on Phil Klein’s column from last week: Economic Tea Party, R.I.P.

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Armond White laments the missed opportunity in the biopic of an R&B legend: Respect Disrespects Aretha Franklin’s Legacy

Kyle Smith isn’t quite sold on the swine-and-dine drama that’s delighting other critics: Don’t Mess with Nicolas Cage’s Pig

And ICYMI, Brian Allen’s latest sketch from California is here: Made in LA Biennial Spotlights Art Stars

FROM THE NEW SEPTEMBER 1, 2021, ISSUE OF NR

Ramesh Ponnuru: Fighting for Life

John McCormack: Can Glenn Youngkin Escape Trump’s Shadow?

Daniel Tenreiro: Universities Are Complicit in Ballooning Student Debt

Matthew Brazil: How China and Russia Spy on Us

NEVER MIND THE BOLLOCKS, HERE’S THE EXCERPTS

Student-loan forgiveness is all the rage, but the lawmakers pushing it neglect to mention the culprits. Daniel Tenreiro explains why, in the new issue of NR:

That’s because the villains of this story — on one side, university administrators; on the other, well-intentioned lawmakers — do not fit into the Left’s moral schematic. But a failure to lay blame leads to misguided policy and continued wrongdoing. Conservatives should learn from the Left’s post-2008 politics: Line up the culprits and make them answer for their misdeeds.

Lawmakers can start by pointing out that tuition is not set from on high: Colleges set prices every year, and every year opt to increase fees. Just as mortgage underwriters and Wall Street traders availed themselves of federal-credit subsidies to pad their pockets in the lead-up to 2008, university administrations of all stripes — private, public, for-profit — feed on debt-financed tuition hikes. They use these dollars to pay themselves and their colleagues, to build glossy new facilities or to fund diversity initiatives, but hardly ever to improve the education they are ostensibly providing. . . .

Taken together, each venial sin — the needless administrative hire, the umpteenth “student life” program — is part of a distributed conspiracy against students and taxpayers. A great many American universities now serve a mob-like function, offering students protection from the vicissitudes of low-skilled labor in return for extortionate tuition fees.

Democrats want to replicate the European system, without forcing most of their voters to stomach European taxes. How’s that going to work exactly? NR’s editorial explains the disconnect inherent in their $3.5 trillion plan:

If Democrats get their wishes and pass the entire bill, more children would end up in child care subsidized by the federal government and progress into federally funded universal pre-K. The bill then makes available tuition-free community college, and increased assistance toward four-year college programs. And it also adds, further along life’s spectrum, federally paid family and medical leave as well as more federally financed public housing. . . .

The bill, it should be noted, would come on top of the $6 trillion that was spent in response to COVID-19 and in addition to the half trillion dollars in new spending Democrats just advanced with Republican assistance. Were the full agenda to get through, it would mean that Washington would have enacted $10 trillion in new spending since the start of the pandemic less than 18 months ago. This at a time when President Biden’s own budget is projecting that debt as a share of the economy will surpass World War II levels to reach the highest point in American history.

This brings us to one area of the European system that Democrats are not so eager to highlight. And that reality is that European countries that have vast welfare states impose much higher taxes on middle-class workers, including in the form of regressive VAT taxes. Democrats know that, were they to actually pay for their vision, it would hit suburbanites who are now a core part of their coalition. So they are claiming that they’ll be able to achieve their agenda just by asking the super wealthy to pay a tad more. Though the proposal is vague on details, it promises to hike taxes on corporations and “high-income individuals” (a cutoff that Biden has previously defined as $400,000, while offering conflicting signals as to whether that threshold refers to individuals or households). In order to give themselves wiggle room, the reconciliation instructions allow for $1.75 trillion, or half of the new spending, to be financed through additional debt. Given that Republicans just voted for a $550 billion bill that will be nearly halfway deficit-financed, it’s hard to be surprised.

Cuomo has resigned, but don’t think for a second he’s actually taking responsibility for his actions, warns Alexandra DeSanctis:

To this day, Cuomo has refused to offer a meaningful apology for or even admit to any real wrongdoing. Though he has uttered the immortal phrase “full responsibility,” he maintains that he “never crossed the line with anyone.”

He went on to say that he “didn’t realize the extent to which the line has been redrawn,” as if there were ever a time at which some of the things he allegedly did and said to women had been acceptable. Perhaps there was a time when it was easier for powerful men to get away with doing and saying such things, but that’s really no defense, especially considering Cuomo’s long-time public insistence on a “zero tolerance policy” for sexual harassment.

His initial apology of sorts, offered back in March, wasn’t an admission of guilt, either. “I never knew at the time I was making anyone feel uncomfortable,” he offered meekly. Responding to press questions, he added, “I do not believe that I have ever done anything in my public career that I am ashamed of. I didn’t know that I was making her uncomfortable at the time. I feel badly that I did. I understand that sensitivities have changed and behavior has changed.”

And even now, on his way out the door, Cuomo would like to pass himself off as something of a selfless hero, saying that he’s leaving to avoid a political fight — the implication being: a fight he could easily win — and stepping down so he can “let government get back to being government.” I’m no optimist about the future of New York politics, but it’ll be a better government without him around.

Take the time, should you have it — and if you’ve read this far down into our fair newsletter, we’ll assume you do — to read Frederick Hess’s critical examination of “racial affinity spaces.” And before you ask, here’s the definition:

Just what are “racial affinity spaces”? Well, while President Biden likes to denounce various Republican policies as the “new Jim Crow,” affinity spaces are the old Jim Crow. Affinity spaces involve schools encouraging students or staff to separate into segregated, race-based groups. The practice usually entails one group for black participants, a second for “non-black people of color,” and a third for white participants, typically in order to discuss issues of race, “equity,” policing, and such. In all this, the “anti-racists” seem comfortable resurrecting practices clearly at odds with the 1964 Civil Rights Act — practices that would’ve been warmly cheered by segregationists of the American South or the architects of South African apartheid.

Remarkably, the CRT lobby has gotten away with asserting that there’s some science or evidence to justify all this, despite a startling lack of research or data (more on that in a moment). Madison West High School, in Madison, Wis., has hosted discussions in which students and parents were segregated into groups based on their race. This spring, after one such exercise, the local NBC outlet published “Experts explain effects of affinity groups,” an article that quoted as “experts” a district spokesperson, the high-school principal, and a University of Wisconsin sociology professor — all of whom endorsed affinity groups, but not one of whom offered a single data point to support the district’s contention that this is “a well-established method.”

In Massachusetts this spring, the Wellesley Public Schools hosted a “Healing Space for Asian and Asian American students and others in the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) community.” The district’s email explained, “*Note: This is a safe space for our Asian/Asian-American and Students of Color, *not* for students who identify only as White.” In response to parental concerns, administrators acknowledged “the discomfort that some members of our community have shared when learning of a practice that they perceive to be discriminatory,” but they explained that “it’s important to note that affinity spaces are not discriminatory.” Oh.

Let Newsom be Newsom? It seems that’s not a strategy that’s going to work for California’s recall-confronting governor. John Fund explains how a potentially tight race has some wild scenarios being contemplated:

But Newsom’s dead weight may still be dragging down the anti-recall effort in early September. Especially if wildfires, drought, electricity brownouts, and COVID restrictions create a vicious cycle of bad political news. That’s why some Democrats are already talking about the possible need for Hail Mary passes to keep the nation’s most important governorship.

new SurveyUSA poll taken for KABC-TV and the San Diego Union-Tribune was the first survey to find pro-recall forces in the lead. But the real head scratcher in the results came when respondents were asked whom they would vote for in the election to replace Newsom should he lose the recall. The poll selected one Democrat and six Republicans out of the 46 names on the ballot and asked voters whom they wanted. The first name listed was Kevin Paffrath (D), a 29-year-old YouTube personal-finance guru and the only one of nine Democrats running with a plausible political résumé. . . .

What to make of the fact that a complete unknown like Paffrath scored so well? Many observers see it as a sign that lots of recall opponents will vote for any Democrat offered them rather than turn the governor’s office over to a conservative. But if Newsom continues to appear vulnerable, some Democrats could openly call for abandoning him and trying to consolidate the state’s Democrats around Paffrath. . . .

As with every political story, there is feverish speculation about even wilder scenarios. One suggests that if the recall seems inevitable, Democrats could pressure Newsom to suddenly resign, thus canceling the recall election and installing Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis, a Democrat, in the top job.

But that scenario isn’t plausible. Newsom is a proud man and not one to run away from a fight. In 2003, Democratic governor Gray Davis was in worse political shape than Newsom is now, but Davis fought the recall attempt against him to the bitter end.

Shout-Outs

Kat Rosenfield, at UnHerd: How cancel culture hurts the Left

Patrick Hauf, at the Washington Free BeaconThe Last Blue Dogs: Local Democrats Call on Party to Save Hyde

John Steele Gordon, at City Journal: Party of the Century

Frederick Hess, at the Dispatch: Oregon Democrats Resurrect the ‘Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations’

CODA

Sometimes, production ruins everything. Especially when a band’s demo-tape quality is what made them great. So it was with Cake. Before their slick alt-rock became soundtrack fodder, they released an album — their debut — called Motorcade of Generosity.

Consider this an endorsement of that entire 1994 project. It’s easy-listening, funky, weird music of that particular time in America. Every track is raw, no-gloss, basement-show material — performances you can imagine being recorded while the guitar player is avoiding tipped-over Coronas and the singer is flirting with a friend’s might-be cousin in between verses.

A little bit country, a little bit coffeehouse, it’s the sound of a band writing songs, not singles. To pick just one, well, it would have to be “Jolene.” Do enjoy.

Got a tune? Want to share? Send a link to jberger@nationalreview.com. Thanks for reading.

We’re Back to Picking Winners and Losers

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Rep. Cori Bush (D., Mo.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) embrace after Warren arrived to support Bush who spent the night on the steps of the U.S. Capitol to highlight the upcoming expiration of the pandemic-related federal moratorium on residential evictions, in Washington, D.C., July 31, 2021. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Is it starting to feel like 2009 again?

Bailouts and stimulus and government overreach . . . the only thing missing is the Tea Party.

In fact, Phil argues a cup of Darjeeling could do some good right now:

The Tea Party was far from perfect, and its poor strategic decisions (such as the ill-fated effort to defund Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment while controlling just one chamber of Congress) have been well documented. That said, the Tea Party served one important purpose.

Historically, the path of least resistance was always for Republicans to come to Washington and rubber stamp more spending. At the height of the Tea Party’s power, there was a period during which Republicans were more afraid of voting to increase spending than they were of voting to cut spending. That was an important development that effectively put the brakes on Obama’s legislative agenda after 2010.

The Tea Party indeed suffered from strategic errors, grifters in their midst, and attachment to a party with an impressive record of caring about fiscal issues until they’re in power. But we could sure use somebody in the halls of power yelling “STOP.”

Setting aside the massive spending projects under debate, this week’s revival of the eviction moratorium exemplifies the kind of overreaching government that historically engenders such a reaction. Charlie quickly noted — in a post that was widely read — the remarkable detail that Biden and his team had already admitted they don’t have the legal authority to do this in light of a Supreme Court decision, not even on a slightly more targeted basis.

Why let that stop you, right?

Andy explains here why exactly the move was unconstitutional, and you can read more on this down below. But groundswells and grassroots don’t get provoked by legal arguments alone — it’s injustice, and a sense thereof, that moves people. See: Floyd, George. So here we have the federal government very explicitly picking winners and losers, twisting their authority to give one category of people a pass on dubious grounds while punishing another — landlords — for how they make a living.

And not all of them are sipping Calvados on the verandas of their Hamptons estates. By one estimate, there are roughly 10 million “individual investor landlords” in the U.S., many operating just one or two units. “About half of all housing providers are mom-and-pop operators, and without rental income, they cannot pay their own bills or maintain their properties,” National Association of Realtors President Charlie Oppler said in a statement, alongside a new legal challenge.

This story by Ryan Mills captures the injustice:

One of Raj Sookram’s tenants stopped paying rent in December. Another man hasn’t paid him a cent in 20 months. He now owes Sookram over $20,000.

One woman stopped paying this spring, Sookram said, then demanded that he fix her hot water heater when it blew. That ended with city officials threatening Sookram with daily fines.

In all, Sookram said, about half of the tenants living in his 13 Rochester, N.Y., rental properties are behind on rent. Sookram said he’s struggling to pay his bills and taxes. He’s had to take out loans and work side handyman gigs to provide for his wife and three kids.

As the coronavirus pandemic drags on – and as the federal government continues to extend its legally dubious eviction moratorium – more and more people are “jumping on the bandwagon, like, ‘Oh, I don’t have to pay you,’” Sookram said.

Rental assistance is out there, but the program is slow to pay out. The CDC order, meanwhile, threatens a year in jail and fines of up to $250,000 for individuals who don’t comply.

No wonder Charlie is starting his own #Resist campaign:

The appropriate response to publicly confessed lawlessness is calm refusal. As soon as possible, state governors, legislatures, and courts should make it clear that they intend to follow the law as set by the Supreme Court, rather than the “law” as set by the arrogations of the director of the CDC. To a man, landlords should follow suit, as should every public and private institution connected to the management of private rentals.

But back to the issue of injustice. Landlords, who last time we checked are ordinary taxpaying people, have been told for months on end that they cannot use the leverage they normally have to seek payment for services rendered or otherwise ensure that their units generate income. They, too, have bills to pay but face the threat of fines that would bankrupt them if they move to recover the income with which to pay those bills.

So when one property manager tells Ryan, “At this point they’re just abusing us,” it’s hard not to empathize, and to wonder when the backlash is going to hit.

In other news . . .

Well, there’s plenty of other news. It was a banner week for defiance, whether on the part of Biden and his eviction decision or of Governor Cuomo. More on that sordid affair below, but first, an update on a V.I.P.

And the “P,” dear readers, stands for “Program.”

<mic drop>

Burke to Buckley Program Deadline Extension, Chicago Edition

The eviction moratorium’s not the only thing being extended. The deadline is being extended for applications for the fall session in Chicago of National Review Institute’s Burke to Buckley Program. The new deadline is Sunday, August 8, at midnight (that’s tomorrow if you’re getting this in your inbox at the usual time). To apply, click here. Again, this is for Chicago’s session.

Classes are designed for mid-career professionals, from a variety of vocations outside public policy. This program is a deep dive into the foundations of conservative thought — and, as a perk, participants also receive invitations to exclusive networking happy hours and other events when they occur. For more information, visit this site.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

If Cuomo won’t step down on his own now that his sexual-harassment history is clear, he should get some assistance: Make Cuomo Go

President Biden knows the eviction moratorium is built on flimsy foundations, yet he issued a new one anyway: Biden’s Eviction Overreach

ARTICLES

Philip Klein: Republicans Should Shut Down the Senate over Biden’s Illegal Evictions Moratorium

Kevin Williamson: Emergencies Need an Expiration Date

Rand Paul: Americans Deserve the Truth about Gain-of-Function Research and the Wuhan Lab

Jimmy Quinn: House Report Names ‘Public Face’ of China’s ‘Disinformation Campaign’ on COVID Origin

Ryan Mills: Inside the Conservative Campaign to Take Back School Boards from Classroom Closers, CRT Activists

Ellen Carmichael: Huey Long Was Wrong

Andrew McCarthy: New York AG’s Report on Cuomo’s ‘Pattern’ of Sexual Harassment Is Devastating

Caroline Downey: Cori Bush Defends Use of Private Security While Calling to Defund the Police: ‘Suck It Up’

Dan McLaughlin: Joe Biden Is Daring Brett Kavanaugh to Do His Job

Dan McLaughlin: The New York Times Admits that the Unvaccinated Are Not All Trump Supporters

Rich Lowry: Democrats Applaud Biden’s Unconstitutional Act

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Ignoring Them Is the Only Way Out

Richard Goldberg: It’s Time for Biden to Leave a Bad Deal in the Past

Ginny Gentles: The Troubled Girls the Transgender Movement Ignores

Isaac Schorr: Georgia Republican Insiders Bearish on Herschel Walker Senate Run

Charles C. W. Cooke: CNN Makes Itself Complicit in Joe Biden’s Flagrant Lawbreaking

CAPITAL MATTERS

Home chefs everywhere, be warned. A movement is afoot to phase out natural-gas stoves and furnaces. Paul Gessing brings the heat: The Climate Warriors Are Coming for Your Gas Heater and Stove

Jon Hartley tells us to look to housing for signs of whether the inflation surge is truly “transitory”: The Next Inflation Wild Card for the Fed

Daniel Pilla unearths a new way the Biden team plans to go after wealth: Biden Gets More Aggressive with the Confiscation of Capital

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Life moves pretty fast. So don’t miss things like the 35th-anniversary release of an American classic, says Armond White: Ferris Bueller Returns, Bringing American Truth

Hey, look, a non-sequel sequel that’s better than the original. Kyle Smith explains: Lock and Load for The Suicide Squad

Brian Allen follows up on California’s Huntington museum, this week diving into its alluring American art collection: Henry Huntington and California Dreamin’

WE ARE FITTER, HAPPIER, MORE PRODUCTIVE — WHEN WE HAVE EXCERPTS

How, exactly, was Biden’s new eviction moratorium lawless? Andy explains it all:

After a number of federal courts ruled against the Biden administration’s interpretation of statutory and regulatory provisions, the administration continued to press its case in the Supreme Court. There, four justices were ready to invalidate the moratorium outright; a fifth, Justice Kavanaugh, acknowledged the basic correctness of those justices’ position but decided that immediate invalidation would be overkill given that the moratorium was due to lapse in five weeks. Kavanaugh was clear, though: (a) if the moratorium were not on the cusp of expiring, he would have invalidated it, and (b) “clear and specific congressional authorization (via new legislation) would be necessary” if the moratorium were to be extended.

Consequently, by unilaterally decreeing a moratorium extension in the teeth of that ruling, President Biden is acting in bad faith. It is now a constitutional offense. Specifically, and in blatant violation of his solemn duty to execute the laws faithfully, Biden has usurped Congress’s legislative authority and declared the power to legislate. He is running roughshod over the separation of powers, which is the foundation of our constitutional framework, limiting power and preserving liberty.

That is why this is a constitutional violation, one even more profound than a theorized violation stemming from the Commerce Clause — since Biden has been admonished by the Supreme Court that what he is now doing would be wrong.

And Kevin zooms in on a related problem — our never-ending official “emergencies” — and offers a solution:

But the eviction moratorium is a prime example of a much larger problem with presidential emergency powers.

Since federal emergency-powers law took its modern form during the presidency of Gerald Ford, there have been 71 national emergencies declared — an average of 1.6 every year. Incredibly, 37 of those national emergencies — more than half — are still in effect. Those dozens of semi-permanent emergencies include the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, six crises declared by Bill Clinton touching everything from the business dealings of Colombian narco-traffickers to the development of weapons of mass destruction by the no-longer-extant government of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, eleven emergencies declared by George W. Bush, ten declared by Barack Obama, and three declared by Donald Trump, including the famous “National Emergency With Respect to Imposing Certain Sanctions in the Event of Foreign Interference in a United States Election.”

Ronald Reagan observed that nothing in this life gets as close to immortality as a federal program, and that is doubly true for a federal emergency.

There is one relatively small procedural tweak we could make that would improve this situation greatly: forcing Congress to vote to maintain states of emergency.

CRT is animating conservatives to run in school-board races across the country. Rich wrote about this a couple months back, and Ryan Mills follows up on the trend here, noting how COVID has played a role:

[Jess] Bradbury’s eight-year-old daughter is preparing to start third grade, and things in the district have changed. She said the school board is pushing political activism over core academics, hurting its rankings. Textbooks have become political footballs. The district hired a consultant to identify diversity and equity problems to solve. At one point middle schoolers were surveyed about their gender identities, Bradbury said.

Bradbury, a technology professional who’d never even attended a school-board meeting before the pandemic, decided in January that she needed to do something. She now is part of a wave of conservatives across the country — moms, dads, grandparents, teachers — who’ve been energized over the last year by national school debates to run for seats on their school board, hoping to change the direction of local institutions typically dominated by the Left.

Many of the new conservative candidates, including Bradbury, initially were troubled by their school district’s reluctance to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic. But once they were engaged on that issue, their concerns blossomed. In the wake of racial justice protests that erupted after George Floyd’s death last year, they say they’ve found schools in the thrall of left-wing social-justice activists pushing divisive “anti-racist” dogma and controversial gender views.

“I guess the silver lining with COVID is that it has awakened a lot of us to what’s been happening in the districts that we wouldn’t have otherwise paid attention to until it was too late,” Bradbury said in an interview with National Review.

This week’s damning New York AG report on Governor Cuomo puts the onus on state officials to act. From the editorial:

What next? All too many misbehaving politicians have learned the playbook for riding out storms until public attention moves on, or rallying their own tribes to take the focus off themselves. If there is hope for toppling Cuomo, it begins with the deep and bitter divisions between the state’s establishment Democrats and the progressives who loathe Cuomo. . . .

It would behoove the two wings of the party to move together against Cuomo. A sounder approach, and one that does not require awaiting the 2022 election, would be to proceed more swiftly to impeachment and removal of the governor, perhaps even bringing charges solely on sexual harassment. New York City’s Democratic mayoral candidate, Eric Adams, has called for impeachment to go forward.

Republicans in the legislature would like to drag out the investigation to cover broader-ranging topics of corruption and malfeasance, but they would doubtless ultimately support Cuomo’s removal from office regardless of which of the several available grounds are chosen. While Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul is no prize, neither is she part of the far-left wing of the state party represented by James, Bill de Blasio, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Shout-Outs

Ed West, at UnHerd: America has become its own worst enemy

Dave Huber, at the College Fix: Harvard diversity guru rips colleague for claiming sex differences are a real thing

Jessica Pigeau, at Quillette: Life as a Stand-Up Comic Can Be Brutal. ‘Safe Space’ Call-out Culture Is Making It Unbearable

James Hankins, at First Things: Ten Things I Learned from the Pandemic

CODA

We published a piece last weekend on Huey Long. This conjured memories of the fabulous O Brother, Where Art Thou? (it features a populist governor in the South) and its equally fabulous soundtrack, which was, impressively, curated before the filming.

The musical glue of the movie is “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow,” integral to a plot steeped in literary, cinematic, and historical references. That song tends to overshadow the quieter “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues,” the next stop on the track list. It shouldn’t. The Skip James number, as performed by Chris Thomas King, who also appears in the film to play it, is a humble work of effortless man-and-his-guitar fingerpicking. The stuff of campfires and starry skies, of wistful thoughts and memories.

As a bonus, here’s a video of Skip James, introduced in German, performing the song in Cologne in 1967.

Got a tune? Want to share? Send a link to jberger@nationalreview.com. Thanks for reading.

Politics & Policy

Our Decadent, Reckless Government

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President Joe Biden walks with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer at the U.S. Capitol, where Biden attended a lunch with the Senate Democratic Caucus in Washington, D.C., July 14, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

We’ve grown accustomed to these words, inured to the sense of alarm they’re supposed to convey: words like “unsustainable” and, paired, “fiscal crisis.” So when they were mentioned throughout a government report in March about the urgent need to get our fiscal house in order as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic is handled, it was treated as just another D.C. document, delivered, posted, and archived online.

We should recall just a few of the Government Accountability Office’s warnings at this juncture, however:

  • Under our projections, the debt will reach its highest point in history [as a percentage of GDP] in 2028 and continue to grow faster than gross domestic product. . . .
  • Key trust funds are projected to be depleted within 15 years or less. . . .
  • According to CBO, high and rising federal debt increases the likelihood of a fiscal crisis and could lead to a large drop in the value of the dollar . . .

The report urged Congress and the administration to “quickly pivot” to fix this, once the pandemic recedes and the economy recovers. Well, we have a vaccine, and the economy is running hot, in part from the $6 trillion in COVID relief approved already. So what does D.C. do?

Takes a flamethrower to the preachers of parsimony and continues pumping America full of cash-money endorphins, that’s what. This is “modern-monetary” Washington, after all, where, as Drew Carey might explain, “everything’s made up and the outlays don’t matter.”

The never-ending crisis mentality is breeding a never-ending crisis-spending binge. This is how we get to Congress’s advancing, on a broad bipartisan basis, a $1 trillion infrastructure bill this past week (with $550 billion in new spending) — an Obama-stimulus-sized enterprise, which is a pittance compared with the $3.5 trillion partisan package Democrats insist should accompany it. The first part might be “paid for,” at least on paper. But it’s more of a down payment toward the larger bill that the majority party wants. We should not presume they’ll be satisfied with one-eighth a loaf. AOC already is playing the race card against Senator Kyrsten Sinema for daring to challenge the full price tag. It’s increasingly evident that Republicans are being played, and little consolation that they might know it too.

From the editorial:

The decision of Republicans to collaborate with Democrats is both bad policy and makes little sense politically. As we have been saying for months, despite what the media (and evidently, some Republicans) will tell you, America’s infrastructure is not crumbling and is not deeply in need of repair. There is not an economic justification to spend money to stimulate an economy that will recover on its own as the nation emerges from the pandemic (growth accelerated at an annual rate of 6.5 percent in the second quarter, the Bureau of Economic Analysis announced on Thursday). Also, it is not as if the government is in the black. The Biden administration’s own estimates foresee debt as a share of the economy surpassing the World War II record this year. And Fed chairman Jerome Powell, who had been insisting that inflation is going to be transitory, has conceded that it will take longer to abate than he previously expected.

The myth that the group of Republican negotiators has been helping to perpetuate is that there are two completely separate pieces of legislation under consideration: One, a $550 billion bipartisan plan that focuses on traditional infrastructure; and two, a $3.5 trillion social-welfare bill that includes a host of liberal priorities — subsidized college and child care, expansion of Medicare and Medicaid, elements of the Green New Deal, and perhaps even immigration amnesty.

In reality, the two bills are clearly linked.

All the imperatives are pointing in the other direction right now — flashing bright red the need to mend our ways before printing-press spending habits cripple the country long-term and worsen inflation short-term.

Will the binge ever end? Can we be saved? Can we . . . save? Charlie doesn’t think so:

One might have expected that, assessing the scene in January of 2021, the Democratic Party would have said, “Well, I guess all the money is gone.” But it didn’t.

And why would it, given that we are now so far down the hole that the public has come to see astronomical numbers as mere abstractions? Even ten years ago, a trillion dollars was regarded as an enormous amount of money — enough, perhaps, to disqualify any spending proposal at the first hurdle. Now? Nobody seems to care. $2 trillion? $4 trillion? $10 trillion? None of it is deemed real anyway, so what does it matter?

It might not even be just $4 trillion that we’re talking about here. According to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (those fiscal prudes), Congress is playing games and poised to set early expiration dates for some policies. Translation: The true cost over a decade, should those policies be extended years from now, could rise above $5 trillion, and up to $6 trillion including infrastructure. Phil explains.

Granted, the Delta variant is scrambling any effort to plan past the pandemic, whether to head off a fiscal crisis or to give consistent mask guidance. But as Jim notes here, the goalposts have moved considerably:

Very quickly and subtly, the goal of our COVID-19 response has shifted from preventing hospitalizations and deaths to preventing infections — even though COVID-19 infections are likely to continue for many years, even if vaccinations grow more and more widespread.

COVID-19 is here to stay. At some point, we’re going to have to declare the “emergency” phase over and take up watchdogs like the GAO and CRFB on their advice. Already, inflation is taking a bite out of wages. What’s to come? You’d think after the year and a half we just had, warnings of a once-unthinkable crisis might merit a closer look.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

The full editorial on the infrastructure bill, again, is here: The Pathetic Republican Surrender

Downplaying the benefits of getting vaccinated is not the message the CDC should be sending right now: CDC’s Mask Guidance Will Backfire

The Senate is moving closer to requiring women to register for the draft, an imprudent move that should be blocked: Drafting Women Is Reckless

ARTICLES

Andrew McCarthy: COVID-19 Exposes a Crisis of Representative Government

David Harsanyi: Fact-Checkers Rewrite the History of Democrats’ Vaccine Skepticism

Rich Lowry: The Incredible Lightness of Ibram X. Kendi’s ‘Anti-Racism’

Michael Brendan Dougherty: The Expanding Frontier of Tyranny

Alexandra DeSanctis: It Isn’t Just Conservative Parents Opposing Critical Race Theory in Schools

Alexandra DeSanctis: In Defense of Simone Biles

Jimmy Quinn: The Faces of Corporate America’s Capitulation to China

Charles C. W. Cooke: America’s Irrational Ban on British Visitors

Dan McLaughlin: The Perils of Preaching Despair

Dan McLaughlin: The ‘Keep Nine’ Amendment Can Save the Supreme Court

Sean-Michael Pigeon: Homeschooling Can’t Be for Everyone

Jack Crowe: Pompeo Urges Military Leaders to Stay Out’ of Political Fights, Put Mission above Social Justice

Kevin Williamson: Whatever Happened to Cows?

John McCormack: House Democrats Vote for Unlimited Taxpayer Funding of Abortion for Medicaid Recipients

Ryan Mills: Two Moms Fought against Left-Wing Indoctrination. Their Kids Paid the Price

Tom Cotton: The BLM Effect

Wesley J. Smith: It’s Not Just COVID: China’s Dubious Scientific Ethics

CAPITAL MATTERS

Joel Zinberg highlights a recent court ruling against the FDA: A Defeat for Dr. Leviathan

Paul Jossey warns that the so-called ESG movement is coming for cryptocurrencies: Bitcoin Gets ESG’d

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Kyle Smith is stunned that The Rock was even put in this situation: Dwayne Johnson Unwisely Attempts to Act

With more dispatches from California, Brian Allen has the scoop on the new Los Angeles County Museum of Art building: The New LACMA: Learn to Love It Because It’s Happening

Armond White bemoans all the American self-loathing in the Tom McCarthy/Matt Damon film Stillwater: Hollywood Takes Another Apology Tour in Europe

FROM THE NEW AUGUST 16, 2021, ISSUE OF NR

John Podhoretz: Bill de Blasio and the Decline of New York City

Kyle Smith: Undoing the Enlightenment

Madeleine Kearns: Feminism’s Misremembered Mother

John Bolton: Defense Threats in Cyberspace

WE ALWAYS SERVE OUR EXCERPTS STIRRED, NEVER SHAKEN

Jack Crowe snagged some interview time with Mike Pompeo this past week in California. Here’s the former secretary of state on the trend of military leaders’ entering political fights, particularly in the social-justice space:

Speaking with National Review after his Monday night speech at the Reagan Library, the former secretary of state and Army cavalry officer urged the Pentagon’s top brass to restore the American military’s apolitical tradition.

“Our military leaders have to stay out of these political fights,” he said. “It’s possible to do. You can be both a really great general and not opine on the political turmoil of the day. This is the mistake that I see too many senior military leaders make: They feel compelled to respond to the political noise.” . . .

The West Point graduate said he has no problem with military officers and enlisted men being widely read on the subject of race, and sympathized with the plight of officers confronted by a generation of enlisted men steeped in racial essentialism. But, he argued, when immutable characteristics are given outsized priority in determining who is promoted, and considerable time and resources are spent adjudicating sociopolitical issues, readiness will inevitably suffer.

“Our military was designed to do two things: break stuff and kill people, and be ready to do so when peace can’t be achieved,” he said. “When they start engaging in these conversations about diversity and BLM, no, your job is to find the best tank platoon leader you can find, the best long-range sniper you can.”

Wesley Smith’s history of China’s alarming scientific practices is well worth reading in full; what follows is a particularly disturbing passage on animal experimentation:

Two Shanghai-based researchers recently announced proudly in a pre-peer reviewed published paper, “For the first time, a mammalian animal model of male pregnancy was constructed by us.”

This macabre experiment involved rats. The males were castrated, and uteruses were transplanted into their bodies. Surgery then symbiotically attached the rodents to female rats to ensure that the females’ blood nurtured the organs now in the male bodies. After that, rat embryos made via IVF were implanted into the uteruses now in the males’ bodies. The pups were gestated in the transplanted uteruses, then delivered via Caesarian section. Several of them reportedly survived.

Was the need to determine whether a male mammal could be manipulated so that he gave birth of such scientific importance to justify experimenting on the animals in this way? China is obsessed with learning about developmental biology. But does potentially gaining such knowledge justify what was done? No! The research, funded by National Natural Science Foundation of China, was unvarnished animal abuse. As such, it should be decried by all people who understand the human obligation to treat animals in our care humanely.

Moreover, and relevant to the animal-abuse issue, what great human need was furthered by the experiment? None that I can perceive.

Is PolitiFact covering for President Biden’s and VP Harris’s own vaccine skepticism? David thinks so, after the outfit rated as “false” the claim that they distrusted COVID-19 vaccines:

PolitiFact contends that such accusations are completely false, as Biden and Harris were merely “raising concerns about the rollout by then-president Donald Trump, not the vaccines themselves.” This is an absurd distinction, tantamount to arguing that Donald Trump is “only raising concerns about those who conducted the 2020 election, not the election itself.”

Of course, if the former president released a statement promising never to take any vaccine that was produced during the Biden presidency, it would rightly be seen as perpetuating skepticism. Conspiracy theories about vaccines revolve around the producers and disseminators of the medicine. Vaccines do not organically appear from the ether. They are made. And both Biden and Harris worked to discredit those charged with creating them.

Harris claimed, for example, that even public-health experts who vouched for the vaccine shouldn’t be believed, because they “will be muzzled, they will be suppressed, they will be sidelined, because he’s looking at an election coming up in less than 60 days, and he’s grasping for whatever he can get to pretend that he has been a leader on this issue, when he has not.” Or, in other words, any vaccine produced during the Trump presidency should be seen as unreliable.

Michael calls out Eastman Kodak for a truly grotesque display of servility toward China:

Recently, Kodak’s Instagram account featured work from a forthcoming collection, Dust, by Patrick Wack, a Parisian photographer who has been working in western China and now resides in Berlin. Wack has been photographing the changing life of western China for the better half of a decade. . . .

The artist himself is admirably frank that he had documented Xinjiang’s “abrupt descent into an Orwellian dystopia.”

After deleting Wack’s photographs from their account, Kodak was frank as well, but not admirable. Kodak blamed “management loopholes.” . . .

We have to be clear-eyed about how communist parties can forge political and moral corruption out of the profit motive. American companies such as the Marriott hotels are the kind of lickspittles for power who fire their employees to appease China’s absurd rage over a liked tweet.

Kodak can argue to itself that it’s not really bending the knee for the Chinese Communist Party, it’s just protecting shareholders. But what we actually see in its groveling are the frontiers of Chinese political power, extended into America through not only the commercial vehicles of Chinese state-owned enterprises such as Huawei but also our own storied American companies.

*For more on this subject, see Jimmy Quinn’s highlights from a hearing that put names and faces to the corporate courtship of the CCP.

And Xan offers up a defense of Simone Biles, whose withdrawal from key Olympics events this past week shocked the world:

By standing aside, Biles chose not to risk her team’s performance just so she could save face and avoid personal embarrassment or to avoid the hate and blame she must’ve known were coming. It was a courageous and humble thing to do, as much as we might wish she could’ve performed at her usual 100 percent, wowed the world, and brought home another gold. The fact that she admitted her weakness was deeply humanizing, a powerful reminder that even the most glorious athletes aren’t invincible.

Shout-Outs

Tevi Troy, at the Washington Examiner: Reagan’s lesson for Biden

George Packer, at The Atlantic: How America Fractured into Four Parts

Kery Murakami, at the Washington TimesDems crusade to rename places, mountains, rivers

Ben Zeisloft, at Campus Reform: ASU welcomes new prof who focuses on applying ‘critical race theory’ to music

CODA

A former colleague is responsible for introducing this writer to Johnny Cash’s haunting cover of “The Mercy Seat.” (Thanks, Greg.) From the frantic lyrics to the religious allusions to the piano that sounds like it’s shouting the convict’s case from a high register, the story about a prisoner on his way to the electric chair stops you dead.

It’s Johnny’s rendition of a song by Nick Cave, who considered its inclusion on the album, American III: Solitary Man, an honor and was positively chuffed when producer Rick Rubin called to notify him.

“The version is so good. He just claims that song as he does with so many,” he once said. “He can sing a line and give that line both heaven and hell.”

Amen.

Got a tune? Want to share? Send a link to jberger@nationalreview.com. Thanks for reading.

Science & Tech

Human Innovation Will Not Be Canceled

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Jeff Bezos wears goggles owned by Amelia Earhart which he carried into space at a post-launch press conference after he flew on Blue Origin’s inaugural flight to the edge of space, in Van Horn, Texas, July 20, 2021. (Joe Skipper/Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

It’s a neat forensic formula, in three steps: (1) Cite social problem X. (2) Invoke bothersome activity Y. (3) Demand to know why those pursuing bothersome activity Y aren’t instead confronting social problem X.

This recipe is what cooks up passages like this one from MSNBC, regarding the Blue Origin space launch:

Doctor bills and rent remain unalleviated, and the racial disparities . . .  seem ever starker, enshrined in new voter-suppression legislation around the country and in the disproportionate death toll of the pandemic on communities of color. But a new “flying circus” has arisen nonetheless — another race to space, even more ludicrous than before, with a rarefied circle of lily-white billionaires serving as well-heeled ringmasters.

The same basic construction works around the house: i.e., How can you think about poker night at Sean’s house when there’s a food desert in Akron and tax software isn’t universally free?

Anyway, Dan McLaughlin chops down the rickety stilts of this argument here. The point is that the private-sector space jaunt this week by Jeff Bezos, and before him (by a few days) Richard Branson, should be something to cheer. Not only is spaceflight unassailably awesome, these trips are a step toward future collaborations with NASA, the expansion of satellite Internet (a race that involves several companies), and, yes, a space-tourism sector that might or might not be thriving decades from now.

Yet this promise ran repeatedly into the notion that somehow the absence of these flights would resolve world hunger. Mostly, this juxtaposition was a jumping-off point to complain about Bezos’s tax payments or Amazon’s treatment of workers, which are fair-enough targets — but the fantasies about all the goodies that could otherwise be bought with Bezos’s fortune come at a time when deficit spending is so astronomical as to render tax revenue irrelevant to those decisions. COVID relief alone has totaled $6 trillion. Democrats are discussing another spending package totaling $4 trillion. Think Congress is holding out for an extra $6 billion in wealth taxes from Bezos? Thanks, Jeff, that can cover a week of interest payments.

America’s problem is not a drought of spending; quite the opposite, as Phil explains here. So if Jeff Bezos wants to drive a minivan to Mars, it is a pursuit with little bearing on our troubles on this planet.   

Let’s celebrate human innovation again. From NR’s editorial:

Critics of the two men have tended to suggest that there is something “selfish” about their endeavors. The opposite is true. Unlike with state-backed initiatives, the risks that were accrued here were almost entirely private. Both Virgin Galactic (Richard Branson’s outfit) and Blue Origin (Jeff Bezos’s company) have developed their technology at their own cost and under their own steam, and, in the process, they have revolutionized the space industry in ways of which America’s federal government could only have dreamed. Going forward, Branson and Bezos both plan to open up their products to paying customers. Virgin Galactic will begin accepting space tourists this year. In addition to its own passenger service, Blue Origin is already working on a number of projects with NASA, as well as with private organizations that are in need of its “road to space.” They will be joined in the arena by a host of other businesses — among them Boeing, SpaceX, and the Sierra Nevada Corporation — all competing with them for customers.

As an exercise, Rich wonders how today’s space cynics might have viewed past pioneers:

Couldn’t Samuel Morse have been less of a showboat about it when he sent his famous message on the new telegraph line between Washington and Baltimore, “What hath God wrought?”

Wasn’t it incredibly selfish of Henry Ford to build racing cars early in his career, when winning automobile races does nothing to improve the human condition?

Why did the Wright brothers waste their time flying a plane at Kitty Hawk, when they could have focused on the abuses in the meatpacking industry instead?

But there were upsides for the public to their innovations, and there are upsides now, including the development of cheaper rockets and cheaper satellites, in turn fueling more innovation. “Consider just one dimension,” Rich observes. “In any major conflict that involves rival militaries targeting each other’s satellites, the power that has the ability to launch new satellites quickly and easily will have an edge.”

Charlie shows no charity toward the haters:

“Why don’t they fix the problems on earth?”

Sure, they could do that, if they want to. But if they don’t? That’s fine, too. The thing is — and this seems to be the part that far too many people seem to struggle with — it’s their money. It’s not your money; it’s theirs. And you don’t get a say in how they spend it.

If Branson and Bezos want to build personal rockets that take them up to the edge of space, they can. If they want to lie in a golden bath and drink champagne all day, they can.

And even though Jim Geraghty was taking a break this week, your eagle-eyed weekday host was still thread-spotting — and flags this one that explains the benefits, in the form of jobs and reusable-rocket technology and more, of these ostensibly ostentatious displays.

Haters gonna hate, as Kevin says.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

The Mississippi AG’s Supreme Court brief on abortion is a big one: Mississippi’s Case against Roe

Tariffs are back, this time in the name of fighting climate change. They’re still a bad idea: The Foolishness of Climate Tariffs

Biden’s ATF nominee comes from the ranks of anti-gun activism, and seems to exhibit a hostility to gun owners. Even Susan Collins is worried about this pick: David Chipman Is Unfit to Lead the ATF

Now that we mention it, Biden’s Education Department nominee has some baggage too: Biden’s Troubling Department of Education Nominee

ARTICLES

Charles C. W. Cooke: Against Jen Psaki’s National Social-Credit Scheme

Rich Lowry: The Assault on America’s National Identity

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Pope Francis Takes Aim at the Latin Mass — and His Own Faithful

Michael Brendan Dougherty: How to Reach the Vaccine Skeptics: A Booster Shot of Ideas

Kevin Williamson: Welcome Back, Carter

Tom Cotton: The Only Good Soros Prosecutor Is a Defeated Soros Prosecutor

Kathryn Jean Lopez: Did We Really Mean Never Again? The World Doesn’t Look Like We Did

Andrew McCarthy: Pelosi’s Capitol-Riot-Probe Power Play Saves Republicans from Themselves

Kyle Smith: The Olympics Are Stupid

Kyle Smith: The Un-canceled

Caroline Downey: Charlie Kirk’s Extreme Vaccine Death Extrapolations Don’t Hold Water, Experts Say

Marco Rubio: Biden’s Radical Budget

Frederick Hess and Tracey Schirra: The Bizarre Martyrdom of Nikole Hannah-Jones

David Harsanyi: Do You Really Want the IRS Preparing Your Taxes?

Jack Butler: Is Peter Thiel for Real?

Alexandra DeSanctis: Republicans Aim to Block Funding for Schools That Provide Abortion Pills

Luther Ray Abel: The Navy’s Debauchery Problem

Dominic Pino: 99.2 Percent of Biden’s Infrastructure Proposals Isn’t about Bridges

Ryan Mills: Missouri Teachers, CRT Advocate Plotted to Hide Social Justice Curriculum from ‘Trump Country’ Parents

Robert L. Woodson Sr.: A Better Way to Fight Critical Race Theory

CAPITAL MATTERS

Kevin Hassett is worried that we’re witnessing the “de-evolution” of economic thinking on the left: The Rise of De-Economics

And in a similar vein, Douglas Carr says enough with the quantitative easing: U.S. Economy to Fed: ‘No Mas’ QE

Here’s Jon Miltimore with a reminder that the embargo is not what’s crippling Cuba: The U.S. Is Not Responsible for Cuba’s Poverty — Communism Is

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

The documentary on Anthony Bourdain is a nice tribute but still doesn’t answer the central question surrounding his death. From Kyle Smith: The Anthony Bourdain Mystery

Kyle also marks 25 years since Danny Boyle’s tumble through addiction in Edinburgh: Trainspotting’s Lust for Life

Armond White helps explain who Olivia Rodrigo is: Sour Prom — Olivia Rodrigo’s Rapid-Onset Petulance

An acclaimed photographer gets a nice show at the Whitney, though the catalogue is a disappointment. From Brian Allen: Dawoud Bey at the Whitney: Great Art, Nice Show, Book’s the Dregs

And Charlie looks at the nostalgia factor in John Mayer’s latest album: John Mayer Moves Forward by Going Back

HOW DO YA LIKE THEM EXCERPTS?

Rich notices a disturbing trend emerging of an America dividing itself — a battle between national identities — the most recent evidence of which is the NFL’s decision to play the “black national anthem” before games:

This new American identity is, of course, getting pushed by every lever of elite culture. It is defined by “anti-racism” instead of the American creed, Black Lives Matter instead of, say, the American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars, and new rituals, holidays, and heroes instead of ones that have been long established and, to this point, uncontroversial.

The national anthem? It will now compete with the black national anthem and, by implication, risks becoming the “white” national anthem.

Juneteenth is worthy of commemoration but is being set up as a competitor holiday to July 4.

1776, that most iconic year, is under pressure from 1619. . . .

Why does it matter? A nation is to a large extent defined by its symbols and associations, the holidays, rituals, heroes, and history — the mystic chords of memory — that constitute its collective self-understanding. This is how a nation tells itself what it is and what its priorities should be.

Down is up. Left is right. Fire is water, K-pop is alt-country, and time runs backward on Tuesdays. You need to enter this kind of topsy-turvy mindset to appreciate what Kevin Hassett diagnoses as de-economic thinking:

One might even say that a significant fraction of the Democratic Party no longer practices economics when formulating policy, but instead commits itself to de-economics. Frankly, it’s the only explanation for the ridiculous arguments that abound today.

Economics is, after all, founded on the principle that models of firms and workers can be very useful for understanding how the world works. These models begin with the idea that resources are constrained and incentives matter. . . .

Against this backdrop has emerged an enormously destructive de-economic view that incentives do not matter. Under this theory, one can lift the unemployment-insurance benefit to the heavens, and people will still go to work just as they did when the benefit was low. The individual income tax can be lifted, and people won’t respond by working less. The capital-gains tax can be lifted, but people will not invest less and the economy can still grow. The corporate tax in the U.S. can be, as President Biden proposes, lifted above the effective rate that President Trump inherited, and yet the economy will still grow. The minimum wage can increase, and nobody will lose their job. The Keynesian multiplier is two, so government spending can make society richer, but when government spending collapses by 10 percent relative to GDP — as it is currently scheduled to do — GDP will not suffer.

This of course makes little sense at all.

If you’re looking to understand the hubbub over Pope Francis’s recent restrictions on the Latin Mass, MBD breaks it down in plain English:

Last week, Pope Francis completely reversed the policy of his living predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, when it comes to the traditional Latin Mass. And he did it without warning his bishops, and while showily exhibiting his personal animosities and neuroses. . . .

Here’s the background. In 2007, Benedict declared that the liturgy as it had existed before the Second Vatican Council was sacred and good for Catholics today. He affirmed that it had never been forbidden, implying strongly that it never could justly be forbidden. He instructed bishops to make generous use of it, and to allow any of their priests to say it if they were serving a stable group of faithful who requested it. Numerically, this tiny movement grew a great deal, but it also remains small. Perhaps 4 percent of Catholic parishes in the United States have a regular traditional Latin Mass.

In 2021, Pope Francis now revokes all this permission, because he says that the traditional Latin Mass threatens the unity of the Church and is being used to weaken adherence to the Second Vatican Council. (What this adherence consists of is maddeningly unclear, and always has been.) In the recent apostolic letter Traditionis Custodes, he takes the extraordinary step of requiring every diocesan priest to essentially “reapply for permission” to his bishop. He obliges the bishops to be suspicious of Catholic laymen and priests who like the traditional Latin Mass. He demands that bishops who want to expand its use to another parish in their diocese first get permission from Rome. It’s almost impossible to overstate how audacious and invasive this regime of micromanagement and heresy-hunting is. It’s clerical McCarthyism. And his vision is to see the celebration of the old Mass eventually abolished.

Stunning, sad, weird, baffling, vengeful, and crazy barely begin to describe this situation.

And Kathryn brings us alarming and important stories from the International Religious Freedom Summit:

Mariam Ibraheem is a Christian from Sudan who has lived to tell the story of her death sentence. When she married a Christian man, she was informed she had broken apostasy law. She was raised by her Christian mother after her Muslim father abandoned her, so Sudanese authorities say she’s a Muslim apostate. For refusing to recant her faith, she was imprisoned with her nine-month-old son on Christmas Eve. While in prison, she unexpectedly learned she was pregnant; she was forced to give birth in shackles. She and her children were granted asylum by Italy in 2014, and they have since moved to the U.S. From the stage at the International Religious Freedom Summit, she declared, “My freedom is in Christ.” . . .

Before I even entered the conference hotel on the closing day, I met Father Joseph Fidelis Bature, a Nigerian priest who, with the help of Aid for the Church in Need, ministers to women who have been tortured by Boko Haram. When he and his bishop became aware of the horrific torture these women have undergone, he went to Italy for psychological training. He works with a team of counselors who occupy the women; most of Boko Haram’s victims are Christian, but some are Muslim women who wind up in the care of the Catholic church. Without going into details, he tells me that is it not unusual for these women to be raped in the most brutal ways — often involving a gun. He talks to me about his own faith and how God has been with him as he has faced the heart of evil and its ravages.

Shout-Outs

John Stossel, at Reason: Speech Is Not Violence

Andrew Stiles, at the Washington Free Beacon: The Grift That Keeps on Grifting

Daniel Johnson, at Law & Liberty: Whither the European Project?

Ian Birrell, at UnHerd: Did scientists stifle the lab-leak theory?

CODA

Let’s dip into some prog this weekend, outside the King Crimson/Yes/Rush holy trinity — for a band called Porcupine Tree. You may or may not have heard of them, but they were producing albums for 20 years. Their founder, Steven Wilson, had an auteur’s control over the direction of the band, later going on to forge a solo career . . . and along the way playing in a slew of other groups, remixing classic albums (including Yes albums), and helping produce one of the finest prog-metal albums ever made, Opeth’s Blackwater Park.

So he’s got credentials, okay?

Off their final studio album, The Incident, “Time Flies” is a song that proves its title. Easy-listening and immersive, it clocks in at over eleven minutes, and it doesn’t feel like it. Really. The lyrics, dealing with themes self-evident from the name, are eminently relatable for those of us who have made it past 35. And the solo is evidence that Wilson can make his guitar . . . do things . . . much in the way that David Gilmour can (rounding out the comparison, “Time Flies” sounds like an alternate take from Animals in spots). If impatience is your virtue, skip to the guitar stuff just past the six-minute mark. And the weird psychedelia of the video is the price of admission, sorry.

Got a tune? Want to share? Send a link to jberger@nationalreview.com. Thanks for reading.

Will We ‘Bear Witness’ to Cuba’s Cries — or Do Something More?

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People shout slogans against the government during protests against and in support of the government in Havana, Cuba, July 11, 2021. (Alexandre Meneghin/Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Joe Biden dealt his best bud Barack Obama many moments where the latter must have privately muttered Arrested Development’s best recurring line — “I’ve made a huge mistake.” One of them came early in their bro-ship, during that heady 2008 campaign season, when then–veep nominee Biden predicted Obama would be tested within six months of taking office.

And so it was presaged, and so it came to pass. Among other world events, massive crowds of Iranian protesters took to the streets as part of the Green Movement to challenge what they saw as a crooked election in mid-2009. Famously, President Obama, while calling on Iran’s government to stop using violence against its people, summed up the U.S. posture toward this upheaval as one of “bearing witness.”

Which is something you need when you’re getting a document notarized, not challenging a tyrannical regime.

Tehran responded by killing, jailing, and torturing those who dared defy the government, and eventually putting candidates Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi under house arrest. A decade later . . . they are still under house arrest.

It’s a cautionary tale, as we once again “bear witness,” to the inspiring protests in Cuba against that tyrannical regime. In response, the communist government is detaining dissidents and shutting off communications. A country with an estimated 130 or so political prisoners won’t hesitate to lock up a few more.

From NR’s editorial:

The latest dictator, who took over from Fidel’s brother Raúl, President Miguel Díaz-Canel, has encouraged his supporters to confront the protesters in the streets and promised that he is “willing to resort to anything” to keep the “revolution” in power.

It’s not idle talk. He has unleashed the so-called Black Berets of the interior ministry to beat people up and issued dog-whistle calls for security forces to take off their uniforms and pose as counter-protesters taking the fight to the anti-government demonstrators. The regime has an awful lot of informers and policemen, and no one should take its oppressive capacity lightly — suppressing dissent is its core competency.

What can we do? First, speak the truth.

To his credit, President Biden issued a statement on Monday hailing the “clarion call for freedom” by the protesters and calling on “the Cuban regime to hear their people and serve their needs at this vital moment.” That’s a fine sentiment, although it’d be even better if Biden acknowledged the simple truth that this communist government — like any of its kind — can never represent or provide for its people.

Across the water, Cuban Americans are rallying. Ryan Mills visited a rain-drenched demonstration in Little Havana, where relatives showed their support and spoke plainly about what, collectively, they’re up against:

“I want to see my country free,” said Ariel Ramon, 50, who attended the demonstration near FIU with his wife and son. Ramon came to the U.S. 22 years ago. He wishes he was there now, but because he can’t be, “I need to be here,” he said, referring to the demonstration.

The protesters in Cuba are fighting for freedom, he said. “Not communism, not socialism. They want to be free, and now.”

So can we do more than “bear witness” here? If so, what?

Some in the Miami crowd this week spoke of intervention, either humanitarian or military, sensing an opportunity with Fidel gone. “There’s no fear anymore,” Nury Gomez, who attended the rally on Tuesday, told NR.

Of course, interventions in Libya and Syria during the Arab Spring serve a cautionary tale of another sort, though the risk of more muscular meddling in the Caribbean is certainly tempered by the absence of bloodthirsty jihadists. NR’s editorial offers nonmilitary policy ideas — excerpted in more detail below — including helping Cubans bust through Internet shutdowns. Florida’s Ron DeSantis is among those discussing this, and Biden said Thursday the U.S. is considering the possibility. Marco Rubio spoke on the Senate floor this week about the urgent need for the U.S. to lift the cover other nations provide the regime. Writing from Spain, Itxu Díaz laments this collaboration and underscores the importance of an unequivocal U.S. and EU position. Néstor Carbonell, here, calls for establishing contact with reformists inside the government in support of a democratic transition and being prepared to counter any attempt by Russia/China to intervene. And Senator Ted Cruz writes about the need to project strength to the regime, and solidarity with the people.

It is perhaps ironic that Biden’s prediction for Obama’s early presidency included a comparison to JFK’s early foreign-policy crises. On Biden’s watch, as with JFK’s, we’re back to Cuba. Will it end any differently this time?

Special Issue Alert

National Review is out with a new, very special issue that’s all about the China threat. Its repression of ethnic minorities, its vision for a new world order, its temptation to take Taiwan . . . all (and much more) are covered in our digital and analog pages. The table of contents is here.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

The president’s voting-rights speech this past week was an exercise in alarmism: Joe Biden Talks Down Democracy

Democrats might as well torch the rulebook if this is OK’d under reconciliation: Democrats’ New Amnesty Gambit

The United States and all who support freedom can do more than just cheer on the unprecedented protests in Cuba: How the U.S. Can Help Cuba Protesters

ARTICLES

Rich Lowry: The Point of the Anti-CRT Fight Should Be to Take Over the Schools

Cameron Hilditch: How Critical Race Theory Gets into Classrooms

Andy McCarthy: Kevin McCarthy Must Stop Stalling on the January 6 Committee

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Twenty Years in Afghanistan Is Enough

Dan McLaughlin: Dear Reporters: The Capitol Riot Was Not 9/11

Aron Ravin: Cuba Is Crying Out. Will We Listen?

Ryan Ellis: More Money to the IRS for Predatory Audits? Hell, No

Dan McLaughlin: Why Aren’t Democrats Angrier at Kamala Harris and Xavier Becerra?

Kyle Smith: Biden’s Blatherplate Executive Order and the Media’s Rapture

Caroline Downey: How Critical Race Theory Is Remaking a Connecticut School District

David Harsanyi: Joe Biden’s Shameful Voting-Rights Speech

Ryan Mills: One Year after Riots, Twin Cities Marked by Lawlessness, Racial Division

Christiana Holcomb: The Real Story of Males in Women’s Sports

Jerry Hendrix: On the Eve of Destruction

Jim Geraghty: Hey, Maybe the Walls Aren’t Closing In on Donald Trump After All

John McCormack: Senate Dems on Fleeing Texas Lawmakers: Actually, Obstruction Is Good

Ellen Carmichael: The Inhumanity of Joe Biden’s Travel Ban

Dominic Pino: How Congress Used a Fake Emergency to Create Web Welfare

Kevin Williamson: It’s Not ‘Just Property’ That’s Lost When Mobs Riot and Loot

Isaac Schorr: Chaos at the College Republican National Committee

CAPITAL MATTERS

In a special guest column, Scott Turner breaks down how lower taxes and lower regulation under the Trump administration benefited black Americans: African Americans and the Economy under Trump

Benjamin Zycher argues that ordinary people will end up the big losers in the fossil-fuel litigation game: Litigation against Fossil Producers Is Litigation against Energy Consumers and Voters

Robert H. Bork Jr. convincingly defends his father’s views on antitrust, and issues a warning to conservatives flirting with a hyper-intrusive approach: Conservatives Step into the Left’s Antitrust Trap

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Armond White sniffs out a cinematic gem, a story about a hermit/restaurant supplier and his pig/truffle finder and a haute & haughty hipster hell: Pig — Nicolas Cage’s Poetic Tale about Moral Fungus

Kyle Smith recommends a full-of-grit documentary about the New York City bars that were shut down by COVID: How Publicans Survived the Pandemic

And Brian Allen gives us all access to a one-stop-only showing of Albert Pinkham Ryder’s work: A Riveting Ryder Show at the New Bedford Whaling Museum

FROM THE NEW AUGUST 2, 2021, ISSUE OF NR

Mike Pompeo: Our Broken Engagement with China

Dan Blumenthal: Beijing’s Grand Strategy

Seth Cropsey: Why We Might Lose a War with China

Martha Bayles: The CCP Goes to Hollywood

James Holmes: Sun Tzu and Us

EXCERPTS ARE INFRASTRUCTURE

Is Cuba’s communist regime actually in danger? We can only hope. From the editorial, here are a few ways the U.S. can support those protesting:

The protests spread so quickly because word about them got around instantly on the Internet. Predictably the government has shut down Internet access. Willing companies operating in Cuba should be, if at all possible, enlisted to work toward circumventing this shutdown, and the U.S. should boost the broadcast power of Radio Marti.

We should keep up the diplomatic pressure. The administration should instruct its representatives at the United Nations to make raising the regime’s human-rights violations a priority there. It should make clear that Cuba will remain a State Department–designated state sponsor of terrorism for as long as the Communist Party remains in power, and that even further lifting of sanctions — an Obama-era initiative that only served the interests of the regime — is completely off the table.

In response to the coming crackdown, we should reduce both U.S. and Cuban Embassies to the chargé d’affaires level, and reduce the range of activities of Cuban diplomats in Washington and New York to 25 miles (the U.N. Embassy is a nest of spies, and there’s no reason to allow Cuban diplomats to travel the country giving anti-U.S. speeches at universities).

The protests are the first significant sign that the 60-year pall of fear in Cuba is beginning to lift. Now, it is the mafia in charge of the country that has to be afraid. They will surely do their worst to re-establish control. Let them know the world is watching and we know — and will do everything reasonable in our power to support — the rightful rulers of Cuba, its people. Cuba libre.

From the new issue, Seth Cropsey imagines what a military confrontation with China over Taiwan might look like, and it’s not pretty:

China’s immediate objective need not be conquering Taiwan and eliminating all resistance there. Rather, it need only neutralize all forces on Taiwan that can attack PLA ships and aircraft and thereby disrupt PLA operations in the western Pacific. Thus, truly disrupting Chinese plans would require preventing PLA sea and air control of Taiwan and preserving enough offensive capability on Taiwan to strike back, either against a PLA naval force or against bases on the mainland. This would require forward-deploying forces to Taiwan or having naval assets near enough to the First Island Chain to support Taiwan during China’s opening bombardment and naval envelopment.

However, current American force structure is not designed for this sort of engagement. The U.S. Navy’s combat power stems from its aircraft-carrier strike groups and submarine forces. Its “Expeditionary Strike Groups,” glorified amphibious-assault units, would be less relevant in a high-end naval conflict. Big-deck amphibs may field F-35B planes, but the lack of their own intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and targeting assets and the limited range of “vertical take-off and landing” (VTOL) fighters and “short take-off and vertical landing” (STOVL) fighters would hamper their effectiveness. American carrier strike groups are more effective: A two-carrier strike group with two full air wings would field 80 to 100 fighter aircraft. . . .

The United States is in a strategic bind. American naval forces are not optimized to fight within range of the enemy’s most lethal capabilities. But the most effective American strategy demands aggressive operations that would place American forces close to China’s coastline.

Rich Lowry surveys the landscape of anti-CRT laws and urges conservatives to keep pressing forward, as part of the “most potent grassroots movement since the Tea Party”:

The danger in the current fight over CRT isn’t that the right overreaches, but that it settles for too little. . . .

It is a common conservative lament that almost all the institutions in American life are arrayed against us, and so it is. In this context, taking control of the K-12 schools in a swath of America would be a very big deal, involving the partial recovery of an enormously influential institution.

We obviously aren’t taking back the universities, the philanthropies, the media, and all the rest.

The schools, it turns out, are much more achievable. All it requires to make enormous progress is winning school-board seats in low-budget, low turnout (at least for now) elections in communities around the country.

Because education is still largely a local affair, much of the fight for schools can be carried out on markedly more favorable terrain than is found at the federal level. There are red areas in every state in the union, and the hyper-localism of school-board races gives angry parents a lot of sway.

The beauty of this moment, of course, is that there are many such angry parents.

Dominic Pino delivers the origin story of an entitlement, with a thorough history of how Congress birthed a broadband benefit under cover of pandemic:

The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBBP) was established on the 2,422nd page of the 5,593-page Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 — or the fourth section of the ninth title of Division N, “Additional Coronavirus Response and Relief.” . . .

The EBBP provides up to $50 per month to qualifying households for broadband service (up to $75 per month if the household is on tribal land). It also provides a one-time discount of up to $100 on a new computer purchase. . . .

“Emergency” is being used as a magic word to expand government, not a term to describe reality. The FCC bent over backwards to make exceptions and issue guidance in consultation with Internet-service providers at the start of the pandemic to make sure people’s Internet access wasn’t cut off. All things considered, it was quite successful in doing so. There may have been issues along the way, but the emergency was averted.

Nevertheless, Congress created the EBBP. It’s a temporary program, but will it remain one? Once millions of Americans are accustomed to receiving $50 per month for their Internet bills for possibly a year or more, will Congress have the will to take it away from them?

Ellen Carmichael makes a convincing case for reconsidering the COVID travel ban on Europeans:

In recent days, daily COVID-related deaths in America have plummeted to just double-digits, the lowest since mid-March 2020. Despite worries about coronavirus variants, it turns out the vaccines are extremely well-suited to combat them, leaving very few vaccinated people hospitalized and even fewer dead. Cases are down, too, with new coronavirus diagnoses around 3 percent of what they were at the pandemic’s peak.

While there are still sadly a small number of holdouts, America’s overall vaccine response has yielded tremendous benefits to us at home and abroad. We’re doing more and masking less here in the U.S., and we’re able to travel more freely across the globe, too. In the spring, EU member states signaled they’d ease travel restrictions on Americans, ultimately lifting all bans on travelers from the U.S. last month. President Biden did not reciprocate. . . .

On the campaign trail, Biden told voters that he’d bring about a return to normal relations with Europe and an end to “erratic policies” from the White House. He has failed on both accounts. For an administration who promised us policies grounded in science and compassion, they deliver neither, and real people are hurting because of it.

Kyle’s savage dismantling of the media’s Biden E.O. coverage is gold from start to finish:

The basic structure of the document is as follows: In each section, hundreds of words of uncontroversial but superfluous space-filling (“Robust competition is critical to preserving America’s role as the world’s leading economy”) lead to campaign-speech-style affinity signaling, otherwise known as applause lines. Except they’re not applause lines if they’re in a document no one is going to read, much less read aloud to a delirious audience. . . .

Now for the meat. (Phil Collins drum break in the middle of “In the Air Tonight,” please.)

The big payoffs — the wowsers, the money shots, the Captain-America-picks-up-Thor’s-hammer crowd pleasers, the passages that made all of those headline writers punch out their dreamy “Biden smites the Monopoly Man as the little guy regains hope” headlines — are the passages where Biden tells agency heads he appointed, and who work for him, that they have X amount of time to publish a proposed minor rule change so that the process of actually changing a minor rule can begin and the rule might actually conceivably get changed around the time the Washington football team wins its next Super Bowl.

The big consumer-protection detail relating to phones, for instance, is this: The head of the FCC is told to “consider . . . prohibiting unjust or unreasonable early termination fees for end-user communications contracts, enabling consumers to more easily switch providers.” Consider. NPR reported this as a move to “ban steep early termination bills.” I can consider buying a zeppelin, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.

Shout-Outs

David French, at The Dispatch: Lost Friendships Break Hearts and Nations

Thomas Hogan, at City Journal: The Prosecutor Exodus

Bill McGurn, at the Wall Street Journal: A PTA Purge of Asians

Michael Barone, at the Washington Examiner: Joe Biden’s big lie

CODA

Chick Corea died this past February. It would be risible to attempt summarizing the virtuosic jazz pianist’s career and contributions in this compact space; the man seems to have logged more minutes recorded than minutes on this earth, a Shakespeare-level output of artistic work. So here’s just one splash of creativity by which to remember him: “The Hilltop.”

From My Spanish Heart, the duet with Stanley Clarke on bass is a cheerful romp with a satisfyingly thumping motif. As it progresses, the song forces the listener to distinguish between the two types of strings, a muted piano imitating bass and natural harmonics imitating piano, until it all merges in a burst of musical color that would suit the Fantasia treatment. The notes fall back into place. The motif returns. Chick’s keystrokes whisper goodbye.

Got a tune? Want to share? Send a link to jberger@nationalreview.com. Thanks for reading.

Media

China’s Disgusting Propaganda Campaign

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A screen shows Chinese President Xi Jinping during a show commemorating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China at the National Stadium in Beijing, China, June 28, 2021. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Reports have popped up sporadically over the past year that China is upping its online disinformation/propaganda game to give Russia a run for its money. Those in the American media who might elevate this pernicious garbage should take note.

Exhibit A is MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, who shared a state-sponsored cartoon mocking America over shooting deaths. It depicted a couple of neatly dressed chaps sharing a toast while a yokel brandishing firearms dances near a fresh grave (representing the victims) against a blood-spattered background. The caption: “How a gun-happy nation spends its #FourthofJuly weekend.”

With thumb and forefinger contemplatively stroking chin, Hayes tweeted, “Continue to be grimly fascinated by how much America’s truly exceptional levels of gun violence figure in the perception of the country around the world.”

As David Harsanyi writes,

First of all, this ChiCom propaganda — written in English — isn’t directed at the Chinese people who are banned from Twitter. It’s directed at folks like MSNBC’s Chris Hayes . . .

And he fell for it. Isaac Schorr also picks up on this:

The problem for Hayes is that the outlet is not a reflection of public opinion in China, much less around the world. It’s operated by the Chinese government itself which — as the United States’ chief geopolitical rival — has an interest in distracting from the genocide it is committing against its Uyghur Muslim minority, among other grievous human rights abuses.

It’s disturbing that Hayes would amplify and affirm such a stereotype propagated by the CCP, but it’s also worth simply noting the category error he’s made, having mistaken the motivated and shoddy sophistry of a genocidal regime for the perception of the United States “around the world.”

This is but a snapshot in Twitter time, but it speaks to a broader strategy of China’s shifting its online propaganda from nation-aggrandizing info ops to more Russian-ized digital campaigns with a malicious bent (including the spreading of disinformation about COVID-19), as detailed last fall by NBC.

What makes the above cartoon effective is that, as David notes, the inherent anti-gun message of it resonates with a certain segment of this country. Yet, once in a while, these operators set aside their M.O. of simply inflaming existing divisions and tell you what’s really on their minds. Jimmy Quinn finds such a message from Li Yang, China’s consul general in Rio de Janeiro, mocking — almost delighting in — the Surfside tragedy.

This is tantamount to a U.S. diplomat trolling Iran over earthquakes. It’s about as gross and bereft of class as one can imagine. And it’s worth remembering any time we see state-run outlets attempting social commentary on America.

Okay, let’s take a break here . . . and move to some in-house business of a much more positive persuasion.

Burke to Buckley Program Deadline Is Almost Here

Before commencing with the linking, let it be stated that applications are due July 15 (that’s just around the corner, folks) for the fall session of National Review Institute’s Burke to Buckley Program. Applicants have two options for in-person programs: Chicago, click here; or Dallas, click here.

These classes generally are designed for mid-career professionals, from a variety of vocations outside public policy. This program is a deep dive into the foundations of conservative thought — and, as a pleasant perk, participants also receive invitations to exclusive networking happy hours and other events when they occur.

For more information, visit the site and see NRI’s crisp description here:

The Program follows a syllabus, designed by NRI trustee and celebrated academic Daniel J. Mahoney, that fosters a rigorous examination of conservative principles and how they apply to the issues of the day. Incorporating readings from Burke to Buckley, the syllabus focuses on the foundations of conservative thought. For each session of the eight seminars, participants are expected to complete a reading assignment which typically takes between one and two hours to complete. During each meeting, participants will discuss the readings with a leading conservative thinker. Past discussion leaders have included luminaries such as Lee Edwards, Kathryn Jean Lopez, Bobbi Herzberg, John Hillen, Yuval Levin, Christopher Wolfe, and John Yoo.

Speaking of luminaries . . .

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

In case you missed it last weekend, here’s why the Founders deserve those fireworks: A Day to Celebrate the American Promise

ARTICLES

Ryan Mills: Welcome to George Floyd Square, a Sacred Space Marked by Murder and Mayhem

Brittany Bernstein: ‘Nearly Impossible’ for Seniors to Find Home Health Aides, amid Enhanced Unemployment Pay

Philip Klein: Republicans’ Narrow Health-Care Window

Isaac Schorr: An Olympic Weightlifter Speaks Out on the Participation of Transgender Athletes in Women’s Sports

David Harsanyi: Was Tucker Carlson Spied On?

David Harsanyi: Andrew Cuomo’s Gun Gambit

Kyle Smith: Good News, Criminals, Manhattan’s Next D.A. Has Your Back

Cameron Hilditch: Ban Critical Race Theory from K-12 Classrooms: A Response to the New York Times

Jack Crowe: No, Evidence of the Lab Leak Is Not a ‘Mirage’

Dan McLaughlin: Joe Biden’s Baseball Tall Tale

John Yoo: How Lawsuits against the Trump Organization Have Weakened the Presidency

Kevin Williamson: Socialism in Action

Victoria Coates: The Life and Times of Donald Henry Rumsfeld

CAPITAL MATTERS

Sally Pipes looks back at the CDC’s record during this pandemic and sees something far short of a success story: America’s Centers for Disease Confusion

Andreas Hellmann calls the latest G-7-backed proposal a “global cartel” for taxation: Biden’s Global Minimum Tax: A Cartel to Raise Taxes and End Competition

Daniel Pilla looks into IRS mission creep: The New Child Tax Credit: Welfare Administered by the IRS

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

In all the senseless bang-bang and boom-boom of the latest Marvel movie, Kyle Smith sees a contender for the worst movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Bland Widow

Armond White looks back at the release of Baby Boy 20 years ago and its lessons that still hold today: Baby Boy, a Timeless Warning

Brian Allen has discovered an exhibition whose target demo is clearly me — a collection of photographs showing state capitols across the country. Aren’t these buildings magnificent? He provides a peek inside here: A Pictorial Tour of America’s State Capitols

And it’s time for the movie industry’s “midyear reckoning.” Armond breaks down his top picks of 2021 to date: Best Films of 2021 So Far

IN THE WORDS OF IAN MALCOLM, THE EXCERPTS . . . FIND A WAY

You may have noticed the Gulf of Mexico was on fire last weekend, thanks to an underwater pipeline leak. The first takeaway here is that the water was doing a bad job at being water. But other elemental forces were at work. Kevin explains how the fire, courtesy of Mexican state-owned oil company Pemex, is “socialism in action”:

When our progressive friends talk about “socialism,” they inevitably point to some rich capitalist European country with a larger welfare state and higher taxes than ours, but actual socialism — central planning, government control of the commanding heights of the economy, state-run enterprises — looks a lot more like Pemex.

National oil companies are the living dinosaurs of socialism. Even as the purportedly socialist Nordic countries spent decades privatizing everything from state-owned banks in Norway to the postal service in Sweden, state-owned oil companies still soldiered on. In many cases (as in Norway’s Equinor, formerly Statoil) even those have been partially privatized and are operated as shareholder-owned firms in which there are private investors in addition to the state. As a rule of thumb, the more completely an oil company is controlled by the state — the more socialistic it is — the less responsibly it behaves on every criterion from the treatment of workers to corruption to environmental impact.

Pemex offers us its most sober assurance that there was no environmental damage associated with the fire that had the Gulf of Mexico doing its best impersonation of the Cuyahoga River in 1969. But only a fool takes such an organization at its word.

Pemex is a state-run enterprise that was created the way socialists prefer: by nationalizing the assets of privately owned oil companies in Mexico and reorganizing that expropriated wealth as a state-owned monopoly. It has one of the worst environmental records of any company in the world, and its executives consistently lie about, minimize, and cover up its misdeeds.

Remember how the CDC (and FDA) paused the J&J vaccine over a one-in-a-million risk? Sally Pipes tracks how that ridiculous decision likely is linked to plummeting vaccination rates since:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) deserve much of the blame for plummeting vaccination rates. Public-health officials have botched their pandemic response and messaging nearly every step of the way — inadvertently stoking skepticism of the vaccines.

Take the CDC’s worst mistake: its decision, in partnership with the Food and Drug Administration, to pause the use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine for ten days because of a risk of blood clots. The risk ended up being less than one in a million.

That overreaction triggered an immediate drop in public trust in the vaccine. Immediately after the CDC advised halting the J&J shot, the number of daily first doses of all vaccines administered plummeted by some 40 percent compared with weeks earlier.

Recent data have confirmed just how damaging that choice was. According to recent polling, more than 40 percent of unvaccinated Americans say that their biggest concern is that the J&J shot causes blood clots. More than one-quarter believe that every vaccine causes blood clots.

Ryan Mills travels to Minneapolis and reports on how the tragedy of George Floyd has been compounded by the tragedy of the city square bearing his name:

For most of the last year, activists have closed this South Minneapolis intersection to traffic, blocking the roads with concrete barriers and junk, and declaring it an autonomous zone, “The Free State of George Floyd.” In the wake of Floyd’s death last year under police officer Derek Chauvin’s knee, activists have been holding this neighborhood hostage, declaring they won’t return the streets until state and city leaders meet their 24 wide-ranging demands.

The streets are partially open to traffic now. The city cleared the barriers in early June. But activists have re-erected some of them, and their demands are still painted on the road.

. . .  And in a city where crime is on the rise generally, violence has been particularly pronounced in and around the “sacred” square. Over the last year, at least two people have been murdered within one block of 38th and Chicago, and dozens more have been raped, robbed, or assaulted.

Neighbors and business owners who spoke to National Review said that living and working in the area over the past 13 months has been “frustrating” and “mentally draining.” Some older residents said they fear for their lives and the lives of their family members.

Victoria Coates gives a different perspective on Don Rumsfeld’s life, in a piece examining its intersection with six historical episodes — drawing from her work as his archivist and research director for his memoir. Here’s an account of how he learned of Nixon’s resignation:

In early August 1974, the Rumsfelds were taking a much-needed vacation in Greece and the south of France. In the days before cell phones, this meant effective isolation from both Brussels and Washington. Rumsfeld had spent the early summer managing the most recent crisis between Greece and Turkey, ostensibly both NATO allies, more or less single-handedly as the administration increasingly turned inward to protect the embattled president. He needed a break. He knew events back home were serious, but it had not occurred to him that Nixon might resign. The end therefore came as a surprise to him. On a drive through Saint-Tropez, Joyce gently insisted he pull over and look at the newspaper she had been reading. The news was sensational. She didn’t want to upset the children in the back seat, as they knew the president. According to the reports, Nixon was close to becoming the first American president to resign, which would make Rumsfeld’s old friend from Congress, Gerald Ford, president of the United States. When they arrived at their destination, there was a telephone message that the vice president’s office wanted Rumsfeld to fly home immediately. He was actually in the air when Nixon dramatically departed by helicopter from the White House on August 9, 1974. Rumsfeld was picked up at the airport by his former congressional aide Dick Cheney in an ancient VW bug. They went straight to the White House to begin the transition to the Ford administration, in which they would both serve at the highest levels.

Shout-Outs

Kat Rosenfield, at Common Sense with Bari Weiss: April Powers Condemned Jew-Hate. Then She Lost Her Job.

Michael Robillard, at Quillette: On the Dangers of Big COVID

Amanda Mayer, at Campus Reform: Bard College course: ‘Abolishing Prisons and the Police’

Aaron Sibarium, at the Washington Free Beacon: 3 Scientists Drop Names From Lancet Statement on COVID Origins

CODA

Looking for a song for your summer? Something that captures the roll-the-top-down, hit-the-road impulse that, if airline and hotel prices are any gauge, we’re all feeling nowadays? Rebirth Brass Band and, specifically, “What Goes Around Comes Around,” should fit the bill and then some.

It’s the rare immediately catchy song that doesn’t get any less infectious on repeated listens. Just try not to swerve whilst driving.

And, for a bonus track, James writes in with a “change of pace” for this section, offering Khatia Buniatishvili’s rendition of Schubert’s Impromptu No. 3 in G-flat Major. The masterful performance can be heard here. Enjoy.

Got a tune? Want to share? Send a link to jberger@nationalreview.com. Thanks for reading.

Words to Remember from the American Revolution

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Detail of Washington inspecting the captured colors after the battle of Trenton by Percy Moran, c. 1914. (Library of Congress)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

The American Revolution was a squalid, miserable affair for the winning side. While the British were able to, for a time, have their pick of house and harvest in New York City, the Patriots often didn’t have so much as shoes.

Existence was even more wretched for those taken captive. This account, recalled in the rather obscure History of Long Island (1839), comes from one Alexander Coffin, held aboard the notorious Jersey (the British prison ship, not the state):

I soon found that every spark of humanity had fled the breasts of the British officers who had charge of that floating receptacle of human misery. . . . Many of the prisoners, during the severity of winter, had scarcely clothes sufficient to cover their nakedness . . . we were fed (if fed it might be called) with provisions not fit for any human being to make use of; putrid beef and pork, and worm-eaten bread. . .

Another account survives from Captain Jabez Fitch, who was taken prisoner in 1776 and did 18 months on the ships. In this passage — transcribed, to the best of this writer’s ability, from Fitch’s manuscript — he recalls a fellow captive who,  

after he was taken and stripped . . . [was positioned] as a mark for them to shoot at for diversion or practice, by which he [suffered] two severe wounds, one in the neck and the other in the arm.

He lived, briefly, but his captors went on to “destroy him” and hundreds of others by means of starvation.

Fitch’s account was logged from a time when victory was far from certain. Yorktown was five years away. What on earth could have motivated these colonist-soldiers, and all who would join, to keep going?

Thomas Paine’s immortal words, from The American Crisis pamphlets beginning that same momentous year, help explain the case (in part, one of sheer survival) as it was made at the time:

America will never be happy till she gets clear of foreign dominion . . .

There are cases which cannot be overdone by language, and this is one. There are persons, too, who see not the full extent of the evil which threatens them; they solace themselves with hopes that the enemy, if he succeed, will be merciful. It is the madness of folly, to expect mercy from those who have refused to do justice . . .

Howe is mercifully inviting you to barbarous destruction, and men must be either rogues or fools that will not see it. I dwell not upon the vapors of imagination; I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as A, B, C, hold up truth to your eyes.

“I dwell not upon the vapors.” . . . Indeed, pity the sap who might enter any rhetorical ring with Thomas Paine. More to the point, these writings serve us a powerful reminder: American independence — with it, the country we have today — was never a sure thing. It took the collective will, wisdom, wit, and warfare of thousands to accomplish. It took the cooperation and faith of generations to uphold. This weekend, as we celebrate this occasion, we should contemplate not only this historic mobilization of national spirit, but all that has gone right since — even with our current angst over the uglier parts of the American story and the attendant legacy of racism.

As our own Rich Lowry points out:

The Revolution didn’t devour its own. Its leaders died in their beds. At the end of long lives, sworn political enemies John Adams and Thomas Jefferson struck up a respectful correspondence, and both died on July 4, 1826, still honored 50 years after the Revolution.

When the country’s politics factionalized after the war, no one was guillotined or exiled for his beliefs. Instead, the profound disagreements between the two sides played out in battles in the newspapers and at the ballot box.

And, ICYMI, Mr. Cooke reflected recently on his decade in America, seeing a story that is still an overwhelmingly positive one:

There is nothing at all wrong with our bitching and moaning all day about the government or the culture or this or that; indeed, as citizens, that is our right and our responsibility. But it is a great sin to do so absent context, and the reality is that Americans who are alive in 2021 have won the grand prize in the cosmic lottery.

And it all started with what Paine, years after publication of his above call to arms, happily declared “the greatest and completest revolution the world ever knew.” In that closing message, he spoke to the opportunity ahead:

To see it in our power to make a world happy — to teach mankind the art of being so — to exhibit, on the theatre of the universe a character hitherto unknown — and to have, as it were, a new creation intrusted to our hands, are honors that command reflection, and can neither be too highly estimated, nor too gratefully received.

Food for thought, along with the following links, while we consume grilled food for digestion this wonderful weekend.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

The Supreme Court just concluded its term on a high note: A Good Day for Free Speech and Free Elections

Maybe the highly complex ranked-choice voting system isn’t a great idea when all voters want is elections with clear results. Witness the New York debacle: New York City’s Bonkers Mayoral Vote Count

Rumsfeld’s legacy is a complicated one. His life and career are no less remarkable. Start here: Donald Rumsfeld, R.I.P.

ARTICLES

Dan McLaughlin: Arizona Voting Laws Win as the Supreme Court Clarifies the Voting Rights Act

Rich Lowry: Where’s the Equity for Black Murder Victims?

Rich Lowry: The Absurdly Misleading Attacks on Anti-CRT Rules

John McCormack: Paul Gosar Showed His True Colors Months Ago

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Our Cruel COVID Class System

Jim Geraghty: Just What Is Kamala Harris’s Role in the Biden White House?

David Harsanyi: There Is No Conservative Case for Blowing Up the Filibuster

Kevin Williamson: The Magic President

Howard Husock: The Curious Case of the Wilmington Acela

Alexandra DeSanctis: Garry Wills Is Wrong about the Bishops and Abortion

Andrew McCarthy: The Trump Organization Is Manhattan DA Cy Vance’s White Whale

Andrew McCarthy: Kavanaugh’s Craven Nod to the Lawless Eviction Moratorium

William Cinfini: A 2020 Election Audit Is a Bad Idea for Pennsylvania Republicans

Jay Nordlinger: A blood-soaked party, &c.

Tom Cotton & Ken Buck: When New York Times Fake News Replaces American History

Charles C. W. Cooke: Thank the Lord for Air-Conditioning

Kathryn Jean Lopez: Pride Is a Deadly Sin — and Other Declarations of Independence

Jack Butler: The World Trump Created

Nicola Williams: Women’s Sports Are under Attack

Lastly, here are a couple different views, from Jim and David, on Tucker’s NSA claims.

CAPITAL MATTERS

Joshua Rauh & Aharon Friedman find the U.S.-driven push for a global minimum corporate tax just a wee bit overbearing: The Biden Administration’s Global Tax Imperialism

Space is full of garbage. Alexander William Salter discusses the astronomical task of cleaning it up: Outer Space Is Becoming the Final Junkyard

Iain Murray picks apart Washington’s latest misleading acronym: INVEST in America Act Is a Bad Investment

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

It’s been a week for film anniversaries. Armond White marks 20 years since the release of the Spielberg-Kubrick creation he dubs the century’s finest: A.I. Is the Best Film of the 21st Century

. . . And Kyle Smith marks 50 years since the release of Carnal Knowledge: The Bad-Sex Blockbuster

Art takes skill. Skill takes dedication. And the Florence Academy of Art is one of the few places in the world so rigorously teaching the basics, to the dedicated. Brian Allen visits, and reports back: Artists Master the Basics at the Florence Academy of Art

THIS IS THE DAWNING OF THE AGE OF THE EXCERPTS

New York City’s complete botching of vote tallies in the mayoral primary this week neither inspires confidence nor reflects competence. And it raises some serious questions about ranked-choice voting. From the editorial:

Residents of the world’s greatest city deserve better than this craziness, which may not be sorted out until mid July. Elections should be well-regulated, transparent, decisive, and as speedy as possible. Gothamites are instead dealing with an opaque, confusing, slow-moving monstrosity understood by almost nobody.

Other cities, and Maine, have implemented a similar system. Let them take note: RCV is proving to be a debacle for New York City. Some would argue that the New York City Board of Elections was never a synonym for competence in the first place. And that point is well taken. But the complexity of tabulating votes in this system clearly played a role in this bungle. Elections not only don’t need to be complicated, they shouldn’t be.

Andy takes aim at Justice Kavanaugh’s cop-out this week on the eviction moratorium:

Yeah, the government illegally took their property, but it’s just for another four weeks.

That is the only way to read Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s maddening, though mercifully brief, opinion late yesterday, in which he joined the Supreme Court’s three reliable lefties (Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan) and Chief Justice Machiavelli (a.k.a Roberts) in upholding the eviction moratorium. In our editorial last week, National Review called for the moratorium to be ended — which is what four conservative justices (Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, and Barrett) believe should be done.

Kavanaugh concedes that District Judge Dabney Friedrich was correct in ruling that the CDC lacked legal authority to seize from property owners their right to evict tenants who stopped paying their rent. Yet, he declined to disturb this lawless bullying because it is scheduled to lapse on July 31. . . .

The CDC has gone too far, so why should the Supreme Court abide such lawlessness for one more moment?

Rich questions why the disproportionate number of black homicide victims has not galvanized a movement by now:

The basic picture is that blacks are about 13 percent of the population and half of all homicide victims.

The most reliable figures come from before the current surge in murders. A report from a couple of gun-control groups broke down numbers from the Centers for Disease Control.

In 2019, black males accounted for half of the gun homicides in the United States, or 7,590 of the 14,414 total, with black females accounting for almost another 1,000.

Compared with the 7,590 black males killed in 2019, 2,261 of the murder victims were white males, and 1,955 were Hispanic males. In short, blacks were 63 percent of male gun-murder victims.

The number, as you might expect, is even starker for young black males, ages 15 to 34. They were 37 percent of gun-murder victims even though they are only 2 percent of the population; the rate at which they are shot and killed is 20 times higher than for white males of the same age.

And it bears repeating that Paul Gosar’s association with Nicholas Fuentes is not okay, not in the slightest. From John McCormack, on why:

Late Monday night, a flyer began circulating on Twitter that advertised an upcoming fundraiser hosted by Nicholas Fuentes, a vile racist and anti-Semite, for Republican congressman Paul Gosar of Arizona. “He is really, honestly, hands down the best congressman in America,” Fuentes said of Gosar in a livestream that same night.

A few hours after the flyer for the fundraiser — which Fuentes has reportedly confirmed he is hosting — began to circulate, Gosar responded on Twitter. “Not sure why anyone is freaking out,” he wrote. “I’ll say this: there are millions of Gen Z, Y and X conservatives. They believe in America First. They will not agree 100% on every issue. No group does. We will not let the left dictate our strategy, alliances and efforts. Ignore the left.” . . .

The media and the Left frequently cry wolf about bigotry, but there should be no doubt about Fuentes. He once called a writer a “race traitor” because he “work[s] for Jews.” He opposes interracial marriage and has praised segregation.

“Enough with the Jim Crow stuff. Who cares? Oh, they had to drink out of a different water fountain, big f***ing deal. Oh no, they had to go to a different school,” Fuentes said in one video. “It’s better for them, it’s better for us.”

“I’m getting really sick of world Jewry — that’s what it is! what it is! — running the show, and we can’t talk about it,” he said in another video.

Nope.

Shout-Outs

Julie Burchill, at UnHerd: Mental health is a lucrative business

Matthew Continetti, at Commentary: Manchin Goes Rogue

Holman W. Jenkins Jr., at the Wall Street Journal: A New Chance at 2016 Mysteries

Christopher Sanfilippo, at RealClearScience: Is Harvard Sacrificing Science for Wokeness?

Tevi Troy, at City Journal: Donald Rumsfeld, Infighting Champ

CODA

Perhaps no genre triggers revulsion like “jazz fusion.” But once you work through these psychosomatic complications, the Mahavishnu Orchestra catalogue has a lot to love. The always-changing ensemble scorches on songs like “Birds of Fire,” but here’s a wonderful deep track included on The Lost Trident Sessions called “I Wonder.” Carried along by a single, briefly pizzicato progression set to an odd time signature, the piece builds into a synth frenzy. And unlike much in the jazz-fusion genre, this has the added benefit of being short. For a slight variation — one with a bit more edge to it — members Jerry Goodman and Jan Hammer performed the same song on their album, Like Children.

Got a tune? Want to share? Send a link to jberger@nationalreview.com. Thanks for reading.

*Morning Jolt will be taking the day off on Monday, in honor of the Fourth (on the Fifth).

Education

Resetting the Honesty Meter in the Critical Race Theory Debate

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Parents and community members attend a Loudoun County School Board meeting which included a discussion about Critical Race Theory, in Ashburn, Va., June 22, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Trying to keep up with every half-baked, hyperbolic piece of trollery on social media is a futile charge, but these strands do matter when they start to interlock to form a narrative.

Here’s one narrative taking shape: Those who don’t want critical race theory (CRT) taught in the schools would prefer that lesson plans default to a supposed status quo of covering up the national stain of slavery and the raw struggles of the Civil Rights Movement.

As Joy Reid recently put it: “What do you WANT taught about U.S. slavery and racism? Nothing? Or what?” This accompanying tweet also made the rounds: “Currently, most k-12 students already learn a kind of Confederate Race Theory, whereby the Daughters of the Confederacy long ago imposed a version of history wherein slavery was not so bad and had nothing to do with the civil war, and lynchings and violence never happened.”

Not sure what schools she attended. Dan McLaughlin correctly labeled this “nonsense.”

But it’s nonsense that has legs, and that will continue to coarsen an already-vitriolic debate until some measure of honesty is restored. The notion that America’s public schools simply don’t teach about these momentous eras in American history keeps popping up, implying GOP-led state efforts to curtail CRT or related instruction are conspiring to keep it that way. Here’s one meme that riffs on this idea. And here’s The Daily Show quipping that those states have made it illegal to teach about Juneteenth. It’s just a meme. Yes. It’s just a joke. Yes. But this coincides with an increasingly regnant narrative that CRT critics want to suppress basic history — here’s an example of this seeping into news coverage — and that it’s secretly funded, non-organic astroturf anyway.

Charlie Cooke explains why that’s simply not the case:

[T]he New Yorker’s Jane Mayer suggested last week that the escalating pushback against critical race theory “has all the red flags of an dark money astroturf campaign.” We are stuck, it seems, in Stage One of the Kübler-Ross Scale of Progressive Political Grief.

If they wish to, figures such as Mayer can spend the next few years insisting that the resistance to critical race theory that we are seeing from parents across the country is little more than a mirage. . . . Sneering, scoffing, and laughing off the revolt, they can submit in anger that those complaining about the development are suffering from “white fragility” or are engaged in a “moral panic” or are just trying desperately to prevent their kids from learning about slavery and civil rights.

What they can’t do, however, is make any of that true.

Our editorial elaborates:

The merest glimpse at public meetings on the topic, and the raw emotions of concerned parents, should disabuse anyone of the progressive notion that this is a concocted “Astroturf” movement put up by shadowy right-wing billionaires. It turns out that ordinary Americans and first-generation immigrants want their children to learn American ideals instead of Ivy League faculty-lounge jargon.

As for the argument that lawmakers and parents are confusing CRT for run-of-the-mill equity instruction, Charles counters:

America’s insurgent parents are worried about the pedagogical consequences of critical race theory, rather than about the existence or minutiae of critical race theory itself. . . . As Columbia’s John McWhorter has observed, there is nothing at all wrong with alarmed parents describing as “critical race theory” the key premises to which they object, given that those presumptions are “descended from” the “teachings” of critical race theory, and that “their architects openly bill themselves as following the tenets of CRT.”

Public-education curricula are not perfect. In some cases, they’re not even adequate, and that is surely the case for certain districts’ teaching of civil rights and civil war in America. But improving them starts from the baseline of not misrepresenting the current state of instruction, or this debate. Students are taught about slavery, about its role in causing the Civil War*, and about the Civil Rights Movement.

CBS last year published the findings of an investigation into how black history is taught, reporting: “While most state standards do directly mention the teaching of two defining moments in American history, slavery and the civil rights movement, what states expect their students to learn about these topics can vary drastically.”

In 2017, National Council for the Social Studies published an essay noting that “the legitimacy of K-12 Black history as an academic subject for schoolchildren is largely unquestioned,” that one survey found civil-rights topics are among the most popular, and that several states have passed black-history-education mandates. The same essay lamented how instruction nevertheless can be superficial or spotty and offered a number of suggestions (for instance, “enslavement should not be the first contact school children have with Black history”).

Both reports, and others, show clear room for improvement — including by ensuring students learn the fundamental detail that slavery was the primary cause of the Civil War (*districts are not necessarily as consistent on this as they should be) — but also make clear these subjects are, of course, being taught in the schools now. To suggest otherwise is just plain nonsense.

Accuracy about this, and about what’s being proposed, would help. Intentional or not, this Post report correctly describing Florida’s efforts was a step in the right direction.

Meanwhile, NR has endeavored to cover this issue thoroughly. Cameron Hilditch has a helpful “reader” on the matter — with highlights from this publication and others, from all sides. And in case you missed them, Ryan Mills and Rich Lowry both published detailed accounts earlier this month of curriculum fights at the local level. Ryan posted a fresh account of Loudoun County’s this week. Which brings us to the newest issue of NR — and the cover story on CRT, by Michael Brendan Dougherty. You can read it here.

Here’s more, on subjects CRT and otherwise, from the week.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

The newly announced infrastructure “compromise” is taking the GOP for a ride: Republicans Shouldn’t Fall for Biden’s Infrastructure Charade

Biden’s crime-fighting plan is really a gun-regulation plan: Biden’s Unserious Crime Proposal

The moratorium on evictions is no longer justified on public-health or economic grounds: End the Moratorium on Evictions

New York City’s future, after a stretch of Democratic leadership, is uncertain, and it remains to be seen whether the next mayor can correct course: What Next for NYC?

ARTICLES

Phil Klein: U.S. Public Schools Lost 1.3 Million Students During COVID-19 Pandemic

John McCormack: Senate Democrats’ Filibuster Hypocrisy

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Will Trump 2024 Really Happen?

Nicola Williams: The Problems with Laurel Hubbard’s Qualifying for the Olympics as a Woman

Dominic Pino: The Tax Milton Friedman Supported and Bernie Sanders Won’t Raise

Alexandra DeSanctis: The ‘Right to Choose’ What, Jen Psaki?

Rich Lowry: How to Decimate Police Forces in Two Easy Steps

Zach Evans: School Board Meeting Cut Short, Parent Arrested after Fiery Speech on CRT, Transgender Policy

Andrew Follett: Biden’s Final Frontier for NASA Is Identity Politics

Charles C. W. Cooke: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Lesson in Invisibilization, Unlocking Doors with Keys, and Other Cardinal Sins

Caroline Downey: Seattle LGBT Group Speaks Out against Pride Event Charging White Attendees ‘Reparations’

Bradley J. Birzer: J. R. R. Tolkien’s Work Transcends ‘Wokeness’

Jimmy Quinn: China Silences Hong Kong’s Biggest Pro-Democracy Newspaper  

Jim Geraghty: Head of U.S. Intelligence: We May Never Know COVID-19’s Origin

Kyle Smith: Eric Adams (Probably) Defeats Socialism in New York City

Kevin Williamson: The Heights of Stupidity

Mario Loyola: Missouri Defies the Feds on Gun Control

Jack Butler: Mumford & Sons Banjo Player Forced Out over Andy Ngo Support

Andrew McCarthy is running a five-part series on leak investigations. Parts 1–3 are here and here and here. Be sure to look for the concluding articles this weekend.

CAPITAL MATTERS

Jessica Melugin argues that the new FTC chairwoman has trust issues: When Antitrust Is Anti-Consumer

Jacob Huebert sees some twisted incentives in the stimulus package: Should All States Tax and Spend like California? President Biden’s Stimulus Plan Could Make It So 

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

After the establishment of a federal holiday for Juneteenth, Armond White recalls Ralph Ellison’s overlooked masterpiece: The Juneteenth Everyone Forgot

Brian Allen checks out the Clark Art Institute’s new exhibition, Nikolai Astrup: Visions of Norway. He’s impressed, and the spectacularly vivid images curated here show why: Norwegian Magic and Memories, at the Clark Art Institute

FROM THE NEW JULY 12, 2021 ISSUE OF NR

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Why the Fight over Critical Race Theory Matters

Jay Nordlinger: Witness from Syria

Ramesh Ponnuru: Threat Inflation

David Mamet: The Tug of Peace

Sarah Schutte: The Beauty of Bird-Watching

COME FOR THE DAD JOKES, STAY FOR THE PIERCING ANALYSIS

Here is the opening of the aforementioned MBD story on CRT and the backlash we’re seeing in the schools:

Moms are rising up in counterrevolutionary revolt. I’ll say it again, moms are rising up in counterrevolutionary revolt against critical race theory, “anti-racism,” the introduction of the 1619 Project into high-school curricula, and the suddenly invasive demands of diversity, equity, and inclusion consultants who are being hired by their school districts. Although progressives wish, in vain, that this movement were an Astroturf operation run by shadowy right-wing donor networks, it has been springing up in school districts in reaction to initiatives led by administrators themselves.

Tatiana Ibrahim stood up in front of the Carmel school board in Putnam County, N.Y, and denounced what she termed the “communist values” that teachers and administrators in the district are promoting. “Stop indoctrinating our children. Stop teaching our children to hate the police. Stop teaching our children that if they don’t agree with the LGBT community, they’re homophobic,” Ibrahim demanded. “You have no idea of each child’s life,” she said, before announcing, in an only-in-America moment, that she is a Christian and her daughter is a Muslim.

She’s far from alone.

Kyle Smith breaks down why Eric Adams’s performance in the NYC mayoral race is a warning to the socialists:

The never-ending quest to find some actual workers who support the socialist agenda crashed into the following number [Tuesday] night in New York City: 46–17. Those two figures are from the Bronx, the poorest, least white, least-educated, and hence most proletarian borough of New York City. Ex-cop Eric Adams, preaching the gospel of law and order, won 46 percent of the first batch of votes tallied in the Bronx. Lawyer Maya Wiley, an MSNBC socialist campaigning on defunding the police, got 17 percent. Adams also trounced Wiley in Staten Island, the borough that for decades has been New York City’s redoubt for the white middle class and working class. In Staten Island, Adams beat Wiley by a score of 31–13 in early tallies.

Socialist heads are spinning, but New York City advances a trend seen elsewhere in the country, in which some of the least-affluent minorities are moving right even as affluent whites are moving left. Just as South Florida Latinos don’t want to hear about socialism, neither do Bronxites. (The Bronx is the only majority-Hispanic borough of the five that constitute New York City; a 2013 survey estimated the non-Hispanic white population to be 10 percent.)

The socialists just can’t seem to process enough white people through Oberlin to get themselves to a majority, even in their intellectual capital, New York City.

There have been some salient examples lately of the Left devouring its own (like this) with unrelenting enforcement of ever-changing standards of conduct . . . but this takes the cake in the intramural culture wars. Caroline spotlights a Seattle LGBT event charging “reparations” to white attendees:

In the city of Seattle, an organization called Capitol Hill Pride hosts an annual festival to celebrate the LGBTQ community.

Capitol Hill Pride’s leaders say their goal is to create a welcoming environment for people from all walks of life in Seattle, so when they learned that an LGBT event — set to take place in the city’s Jimi Hendrix Park on Saturday — will bar white people unless they pay “reparations,” they sent a letter to the Seattle Human Rights Commission demanding an ethics investigation into what it said constituted “reverse discrimination.”

Organizers of the black-exclusive event, coined “Take B(l)ack Pride,” advertised that “white allies and accomplices are welcome to attend, but will be charged a $10 to $50 reparations fee (and given a wrist band as proof of payment.” The ad suggested that the funds raised will go towards subsidizing black and brown trans and queer members as well as performers at the parade.

In an interview with National Review, Capitol Hill Pride Director Charlette LeFevre confirmed her group’s rejection of the initiative and clarified their own mission: “We’re all inclusive, not exclusive.”

Meanwhile, not even Middle-earth is safe from the mind-bruising vocabulary of the woke. Bradley J. Birzer lets the discussion titles for the Tolkien Society’s upcoming annual conference speak for themselves (while speculating that an upcoming Amazon series is the reason for this bizarre exercise):

Discussions, as listed at the website, include: “Gondor in Transition: A Brief Introduction to Transgender Realities in The Lord of the Rings”Pardoning Saruman?: The Queer in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings”; “The Lossoth: Indigeneity, Identity, and Antiracism”; “The Invisible Other: Tolkien’s Dwarf-Women and the ‘Feminine Lack’”; “Queer Atheists, Agnostics, and Animists, Oh, My!”; and, most enigmatic, “‘Something Mighty Queer’: Destabilizing Cishetero Amatonormativity in the Works of Tolkien.”

While I have yet to read the papers and know only the titles for reference — some of which are so obscure and obtuse that I remain in a state of some confusion — let’s, for a moment, consider “Pardoning Saruman? The Queer in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.” In what way is Saruman, an incarnate Maia angel, sent by the Valar to do good in Middle-earth (Saruman really fails at this), queer? Is he in love with himself? True, with his immense ego, he might very well have been. Is he in love with Orthanc? Perhaps, but there is nothing in the text to support this. Is he in love with Radagast the Brown? No, he considers him a fool. Is he in love with Gandalf the Grey? No, he’s jealous of Gandalf and had been from their first arrival in Middle-earth. Is he in love with his bred Orcs? Wow, this would be twisted. Is he in love with Wormtongue? If so, nothing will come of it, for the lecherous Wormtongue has a leering and creepy gaze only for Eowyn. And, so, I remain baffled by all of this. Nothing about a queer Saruman seems to make sense. . . .

Still, aside from simply being woke and employing outrageous jargon, the Tolkien Society is anticipating a successful Amazon.com series. It’s trying to get in front of the series and influence it.

To end with some economics, here’s an important explanation of how “relief” measures really work, from the editorial on the eviction moratorium:

It is not much justified as an economic measure — and never really was. Our left-wing friends talk about landlords as though they were all twirling their mustaches like Snidely Whiplash when not rolling in piles of gold ducats like Scrooge McDuck. In reality, many landlords are small businesses or individuals, some of whom have low incomes. Low-income landlords tend to derive a greater share of their household incomes from rent than do higher-income landlords, meaning that eviction moratoria do not prevent economic hardship but merely transfer it from one party to another.

Shout-Outs

Chris Stirewalt, at the Dispatch: Mountaineers Are Always Free: Celebrating the creation of West Virginia

Theodore Dalrymple, at City Journal: The Degeneration of Public Administration

Hugo Gurdon, at the Washington Examiner: Woke militants blunder into a parental buzz saw

Teresa R. Manning, at Law & Liberty: Make University Administrators Pay and Watch Things Change

Honorable Mention

Check out our own Daniel Tenreiro on the Capital Record podcast, talking media bias, Big Tech, and more with David L. Bahnsen.

CODA

Time to get a little bit weird. This sign-off segment has focused in recent weeks on jazz and folk, but the penman behind the WJ has proclivities for much more insufferable genres (heard of math metal?). And one of the more insufferable things this writer does in furtherance of his insufferable interests is to make a point of visiting a local record store whenever setting foot in a foreign country, and picking up something representative. So one long weekend in Reykjavík, this habit led to the discovery of an Icelandic band called Sólstafir. Atmospheric, haunting, bracing, yet desolate . . . these are all adjectives conjured by this cover art, for an album that contains this title track, “Ótta,” to which all those same adjectives apply. As might one of those waves on the cover (and by the way, waves in Iceland are serious business, responsible for tourist deaths much like bison attacks in Yellowstone), the song takes you away. . . .

Got a tune? Want to share? Send a link to jberger@nationalreview.com. Thanks for reading.

Media

Why Jon Stewart’s Lab-Leak Moment Matters

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Jon Stewart discusses COVID origins on Stephen Colbert’s show on June 14. (The Late Show with Stephen Colbert/Screengrab via YouTube)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Perhaps this author is looking back fondly through hilarity-colored glasses, but there once was a time when comedians could ding the leading Democrats of the day — even the Big Dog himself — without fear of an audience or, worse, an online reprisal. Jon Stewart came along and brought comedy deeper into the political space, essentially merging the two, and did so from a liberal perspective during the height of the Bush-whacking years. Yet he was, and remains, a free thinker — an undeniably adroit one — who could agitate his own side, and both sides, when he deemed fit.

He was, in a sense, a transitional figure, bridging an era of political humor that used the former in service of the latter, and a modern era that flips the formula — so that the jokes, often stale and predictable, serve the cause.

So when mentor Jon Stewart joined protégé Stephen Colbert earlier this week and took it upon himself to savage the Chinese government and attempt to convert anyone still denying the plausibility of the COVID lab-leak theory, whether out of stubborn loyalty to one side’s narrative or for some other reason, it was a bellow from that era not quite bygone. It was an effective one. His Sauron’s eye for absurdity locked on its target and stated what is so painfully obvious to anyone willing to think outside partisan team-playing:

The disease is the same name as the lab. That’s just a little too weird, don’t you think? . . . What about this . . . there’s been an outbreak of chocolaty goodness near Hershey, Pennsylvania. What do you think happened? “Oh, I don’t know, maybe a steam shovel mated with a cocoa bean.” Or it’s the f***ing chocolate factory!

He’s since endured arrows, of course, from the press, which burst forth with copious advisories that comedians should not be treated as experts, mind you. But the message made it through to those Americans whose jobs don’t involve a content-management system (and to paraphrase Sideshow Bob, yes, this author recognizes the irony of using a CMS in order to decry it). The audience applauded, recall, when Jon Stewart pivoted to his lab-leak argument, and then continued to hoot and cheer as he steamrolled his sparring partner.

Kyle Smith lights a cigarette and savors the excellence of this moment, and the sweet, sweet knowledge that Stewart’s is a voice that can’t be ignored:

Huzzah, hallelujah, and hot damn, that was good television. For nearly a year and a half, we’ve been told that an extremely far-fetched theory about the origins of the coronavirus was the only acceptable story, and that an extremely plausible explanation about the origins of the coronavirus was “debunked,” “disproven,” “nutty,” a “conspiracy theory,” and just plain unsayable.

Conservatives can deal out unpleasant truths all we want, but the culture at large has so marginalized us that nothing we say really breaks through, and both the legacy media and Silicon Valley tech firms are increasingly brazen about simply denying conservatives access to the microphone. Stewart is different. He is worshipped by the left-of-center media. At his peak, he seemed to enjoy as many adoring profiles as he had actual viewers. When he speaks, lefties listen.

As for Colbert, the study in contrasts didn’t go so well. Peter Spiliakos puts it succinctly here: “Colbert is terrified of his Very Online fanbase. . . . It is ironic because, 15 years ago, Colbert was a more original comic than Stewart, but the demands of nightly doses of craven partisanship for year upon year have ruined him.”

For the Very Online, don’t expect Jon Stewart’s time back in the late-night spotlight to sway minds. But for everyone else, his stating-the-obvious routine resonates. Public pressure will keep growing on the Biden administration, the WHO, and the scientific community as a whole to renew the COVID-origins investigation with vigor.

The message: Ya’ know, that Jon Stewart’s got a point.

More broadly, the Daily Show ex-host’s bit — flecked with his trademark flourishes of darting around the set, speaking directly to the camera, grimacing, going nasally, cracking up at his counterpart’s occasional riposte to restore levity — is a reminder that it’s okay, once in a while, to perceive that one’s political others are not all cretinous mouth-breathers; to weigh competing ideas before assuming the right one; and to say, “Wait a minute, the other side’s got a point.”

Enough with the yappin’. Let’s get with the linkin’.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

Biden’s summit with Putin had a few bright spots, but also gave Vlad the prestige he craves: Biden’s Unnecessary Putin Summit

Tough words on China out of this week’s summits — but take a closer look, to see the imprint of wobbly European governments: A Hesitant, Half-Hearted Stand against China

The Biden Ed Department’s faulty Title IX guidance has troubling implications: Young Women Lose under Biden’s Title IX Edict

It’s time for a bad Trump policy that became a bad Biden policy to go: Repeal This Tax on Factory Jobs

ARTICLES

Dan McLaughlin: Justice Amy Coney Barrett Proves Democrats’ Obamacare Doomsaying Wrong

Kathryn Jean Lopez: The Supreme Court’s Unanimous Fulton Ruling Is a Victory for Children

Charles C. W. Cooke: Have Journalists Ever Met the People They Write About?

Michael Brendan Dougherty: The Revolt against Left-Wing Schooling

Kevin Williamson: A Crime Scene in Hong Kong

Naomi Schaefer Riley and James Piereson: Wokeness Comes to Philanthropy

Dan McLaughlin: Revisiting Uncle Tom’s Cabin

David Harsanyi: Benjamin Netanyahu Was No Autocrat

Charles C. W. Cooke: This Is Your Brain on Critical Race Theory

Jack Crowe: A Grad Student Tried to Correct a Misleading COVID Narrative. Rebekah Jones Tried to Ruin His Career for It

Caroline Downey: Biden COVID Adviser: Americans Should Have ‘Sacrificed a Little Bit’ More during Pandemic

Rich Lowry: Biden’s Priorities: Trillions for Domestic Spending, Not a Cent More for Defense

Ryan Mills: Teachers See Progress, Conservative Parents See Racism. The Battle for Public Education Arrives in Red America

Victoria Coates: Netanyahu Is Down, but Is He Out for Good?

Sean-Michael Pigeon: San Francisco Chaos Proves Law and Order Is a Public Good

Cameron Hilditch: A Critical Race Theory Reader

John McCormack: Chip Roy Charts His Own Course in the House

CAPITAL MATTERS

Steve Hanke is here for some rial talk on Iran’s currency and economy: Iran’s Misery and the Miserable State of the Iranian Rial

Jordan McGillis argues the U.S. should boost LNG exports to Taiwan, for a win on two fronts: How the U.S. and Taiwan Can Unite on Energy and Foreign Policy

Jessica Melugin has qualms about one state’s crackdown on Google: Why Ohio’s Attempt to Regulate Google as a ‘Common Carrier’ Is a Terrible Idea

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Armond White wonders whether a new documentary about life and survival in China is information or indoctrination: China’s Art-Film Army of the Brainwashed

Brian Allen writes here about an emerging trend among frustrated museum staffers (and be sure to find his follow-up piece this weekend): The Union Movement Hits Museums Nationwide

Kyle Smith pounds out a three-part series on Hunter Biden’s memoir, a story of Wolf-of-Wall-Street-level intensity (or more fittingly, the Black Sheep of Logan Circle): Hunter Biden’s Crack-Fueled Misadventures, Crack and Corruption: How Hunter Biden Spent the 2010s, and Hunter Biden’s Sordid Lies.

OUR EXCERPTS ARE FREE-RANGE AND GRASS-FED, AND YOU CAN TASTE THE DIFFERENCE

Biden’s highly anticipated, highly hyped summit with Putin ended with agreements of dubious worth — and a typically fact-free Putin press conference afterward. More from the editorial:

If the Russian president has any intention of changing direction, he didn’t indicate it during his solo falsehood-filled press conference that followed the three-hour meeting with Biden and his aides. Putin appeared to relish his role at the podium, hitting softball questions from Russian state media and parrying U.S. reporters’ queries with what Biden later termed “ridiculous” whataboutist answers. He denied that Russia perpetrates cyberattacks, instead claiming that the U.S. leads the world in the field. Asked repeatedly about his penchant for jailing, shooting, and poisoning Russian journalists and opposition figures, Putin invoked Guantanamo Bay and the U.S. war in Afghanistan, said he doesn’t want a Russian equivalent of Black Lives Matter and the Capitol riots, and defended his brutal squelching of dissent by citing the arrests of the January 6 rioters. . . .

The two sides agreed to a strategic dialogue that seeks to “lay the groundwork for future arms control and risk reduction measures” and to each return its respective ambassador to the other’s capital following a recent dispute in which Russia recalled its Washington envoy after Biden called Putin a “killer.” But potential bilateral arms-control agreements with Russia carry the risk of unacceptably constraining us in the Indo-Pacific unless they include China, too, and getting Russia’s ambassador back to Washington isn’t exactly an urgent priority, especially given Putin’s aggression in recent months.

K-Lo cheers this week’s unanimous Supreme Court ruling against the city of Philadelphia in a major foster-care case:

I keep thinking of Cecilia Paul. She was one of the foster mothers who poured her heart out to vulnerable children in Philadelphia. She died over the course of the court case that was decided today by the Supreme Court, in a unanimous ruling against the City of Philadelphia. Philadelphia severed its contract with Catholic Social Services because of Catholic Church teaching on marriage – a position that most Democrats had relatively a half second ago. . . .

This is not a case about gay rights, as much commentary going into Pride month has put it. This is a case about children and foster families. Philadelphia’s move was an attack on religious liberty and pluralism. It was a move that did not have the best interest of children and families in mind. And I’m convinced Cecilia Paul died of a broken heart because she could not love as she was accustomed to, knowing the need.

Adults have some fundamental differences these days. We’re not going to come to agreements anytime soon. But can we agree that children should not suffer more than they already are? Let Catholic Social Services serve according to conscience and let there be other choices. We need to learn to live together again, and with the best interest of suffering children as a priority.

Kyle Smith kicks off his series on Hunter Biden’s memoir of drug-addled days by drawing the comparison to the other famous, yet much more capable, drug-addled Hunter:

From what Biden tells us, in the three years before his father announced his presidential candidacy, he spent night after night crawling into the worst neighborhoods in America hundreds of times, probably thousands of times, dealing with the worst characters, flush with money and willing to do almost anything for the next hit. Advantage was taken by certain fellows whose specialty it is to separate crack fiends from their money. . . .

Watching Biden’s insane drug odyssey crash across the country against a backdrop of big-time politics recalls the adventures of a previous Hunter, one who was actually sharp and talented. There are even several mentions of ibogaine, the drug Hunter S. Thompson made famous when he fancifully accused a straitlaced presidential candidate, Ed Muskie, of being in its grip in 1972. As for Hunter S. Biden, well, imagine Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas as rewritten by a dullard lawyer with a vestigial sense of privileged pompositude and a lot of hurt feelings about his mistreatment by Fox News Channel. Why, how dare they accuse this upstanding citizen of being some sort of icon of corruption? All he did was accept a million bucks a year from a Ukrainian energy firm in exchange for attending two annual meetings, then set out to blow it all on crack and strippers.

MBD examines what has led teachers and parents alike to speak out against a politicized and racialized education movement, and finds at the root a truce torn:

Fundamentally, the conflict is about whether students should be educated to have an allegiance to the historic American nation and its institutions, or whether they should be educated to have an allegiance to a notion of “justice” and to an egalitarian ethic that fundamentally seeks to critique those institutions, radically reform them, or replace them altogether.

This conflict is the result of a broken truce. The uneasy but mostly accepted way of teaching American history at the secondary level was to reconcile the above impulses by teaching an allegiance to the historic American nation and its institutions, precisely because that nation and its institutions embodied or enabled the pursuit of a more perfect and just union and the spread of democratic values. In effect, American high-school education took from Martin Luther King Jr. the notion of our Founding and its documents as promissory notes. This truce, if it was noticed at all, tended to be critiqued only by paleoconservatives.

But, in the last six or seven years, that truce has become untenable as it has come under assault from the Left. As predicted, progressives have adopted a set of ideological commitments — and experienced a series of setbacks — that impel them to reject major features of our Constitution. They are objections to its most anti-majoritarian features — the Electoral College, the Senate, and, in many cases, the Bill of Rights. The far more aggressive critique of the Founders and their work serves this larger agenda of constitutional reform and revolution. The pedagogy in colleges has finally worked its way down to the secondary level.

And on that topic, Ryan Mills zooms in on one particular battle over CRT at a Kentucky high school:

The battle lines were drawn. There were dueling petitions for and against the class. And as has happened repeatedly in schools nationwide, parents and community members quickly retreated to their respective ideological camps.

To opponents of the course, it was apparent this was an attempt to inject critical race theory into the school, even if the syllabus doesn’t specifically mention it. “Anyone who believes this particular course is not critical race theory doesn’t understand what critical race theory is,” said Maggie McCluskey, a mom who helped lead the opposition to the class.

To supporters of the course, the opponents were flaunting their white privilege and trying to whitewash American history. “Many critics want to shroud themselves in the European fairytale that downplays the role of slavery and racism in our country’s foundation,” wrote Bonnie Jean Feldkamp, a newspaper columnist and Fort Thomas native who in May attended a packed community meeting about the proposed course.

The Kentucky case is emblematic of the cultural battles raging across the country in American schools, both public and private. While much of the attention has focused on schools on the liberal coasts or in big progressive cities, groups such as Parents Defending Education have noted that in many cases, like in Fort Thomas, the battles are raging in conservative communities in red states, including Utah, OklahomaTexas, and Florida.

Shout-Outs

Paul Siewers, at First Things: Academic ‘Settler Culture’

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, at UnHerd: Is the EU about to crumble?

Matt Lamb, at the College Fix: University art department wants to hire an ‘Anti-Racism by Design’ tenured professor

Tevi Troy, at the Wall Street Journal: White House Calls Off the Dogs in the Great Hunt for Leaks

CODA

Mel, from . . . well, he didn’t give a location, so we’ll arbitrarily assign him one . . . Mel, from Tucson (maybe?), writes in with a suggested tune, having noticed with some delight our mention of Don Menza’s solo from “Channel One Suite” a couple weeks back. He recommends, as strongly as one can, the sax man Pete Christlieb — specifically his work on “Limehouse Blues.”

This was a new one to me, and one gem of a discovery. You can listen to it here. Christlieb has had a rich career, playing with The Tonight Show house band for many years, acts ranging from Natalie Cole to Steely Dan (listen for him in “Deacon Blues”), and his own ensembles.

Now, the Coda has gotten a wee bit sax heavy in recent weeks, so promises, promises to veer off into other instrumental space soon — that is, unless Bleeding Gums Murphy’s estate releases a posthumous track. That’s two Simpsons references in this newsletter, for those keeping score at home.

Got a tune? Want to share? Send a link to jberger@nationalreview.com. Thanks for reading.

Politics & Policy

The Veep Went Down to . . . Not the Border

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Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during a press conference in Mexico City, June 8, 2021. (Carlos Barria / Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

This week I (Isaac Schorr) have been tasked with filling in for the irreplaceable Judson Berger, who has himself only recently taken over for the inimitable Jack Fowler.

It’s a grueling charge, but one I have nevertheless accepted — partially out of a sense of duty and partially out of youthful bravado. Fortunately for you and me, my colleagues brought their A-game during my appointed term, so with any luck I can turn in a replacement-level performance.

One figure not up-to-snuff this week was Vice President Kamala Harris, who, in trying to strike a balance between compassion and common sense on immigration issues, struck neither. In Guatemala, Harris delivered a message to migrants who might consider showing up at the U.S. border:  “If you come to our border, you will be turned back. Do not come.” It’s a good, humane message to send, but as Jim Geraghty observes, it arrives at far too late a date.

Just ask Guatemalan president Alejandro Giammattei, who has all but explicitly blamed Harris and her boss’s campaign rhetoric for the crisis on the southern border. Jim puts it well: “When Candidate Biden and Candidate Harris promised to cease all border-wall construction, immediately end family separation, suspend all deportations for 100 days, “end prolonged detention,” “end workplace raids,” and create a path to citizenship for everyone currently living in the U.S. illegally, Central American migrants and the coyotes interpreted that as ‘The border is open.’”

Dan McLaughlin also knocked Harris, not only for her misleadingly permissive campaign talk, but also her meandering, nonsensical answers to simple questions about the border now. Questions such as: Why she hasn’t visited it yet? Her explanation is “I haven’t been to Europe. And I mean, I don’t — I don’t understand the point that you’re making.” No, no she doesn’t.

But just how bad are things? Surely not that ba– . . . oh wait, there’s Jim Geraghty again to point out that over 180,000 migrants were caught trying to cross the border illegally in May. “This is the third straight month to hit a new high in the past two decades,” writes our in-house Good News Correspondent.

As the editors declared on The Editors podcast: ‘The Veep Is In Deep.’

But let’s set her troubles aside for a moment to ponder one of our own in the latest edition of National Review magazine (you may have heard of it): Woke Capitalism! What is it? How much of a problem is it, really? And how do we fight back? We’re asking the right questions and providing the correct answers. More on this later.

Now, enough yammering — on to the good stuff!

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

The U.S. Innovation and Competition Act could have been a meaningful step toward getting serious about competing with Communist China, instead it’s more like a shuffle in what can — we suppose — generously be described as the right direction: The Disappointing Senate China Bill

Texas’s new election bill isn’t the monstrosity its Democratic opponents say it is, but we explain how it could be better: How Texas Could Improve Its Election Bill

ARTICLES

Charles C. W. Cooke: The ‘Anti-Racist’ Who Wasn’t

Andrew McCarthy: The Lab-Leak Theory: Evidence Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Brace Yourselves

Charles C. W. Cooke: What Use Is Chris Cuomo to CNN?

Jimmy Quinn: The White House Leaves Ukraine in the Dark

David Harsanyi: The 1619 Project Comes for the Second Amendment

Kathryn Jean Lopez: That Viral High-School Valedictory Abortion Plea Is a Cry for Help

Kevin D. Williamson: Thinking Honestly about Health Care, Welfare, and Taxes

Kyle Smith: Matt Taibbi and the Liberal Apostates of the Left

Roger Clegg: Take the Harvard Case

Rich Lowry: On the Filibuster, Joe Manchin Holds Firm against the Left

Jay Nordlinger: Attacked by Tyrants

Alexandra DeSanctis: McAuliffe Has the Democratic Primary Locked Up in Virginia’s Gubernatorial Race

Ramesh Ponnuru: The Justices’ Blocked Path

CAPITAL MATTERS

Phil Klein sounds the alarm — inflation isn’t merely on the way, it’s arrived: Not a Drill: Inflation Is Here

Veronique de Rugby blasts the global minimum tax being pushed by the Biden administration and G-7: The G-7’s Tax Cartel Is Bad News

Alden Abbott and Andrew Mercado object to regulation of the Internet on free-speech grounds: The Internet Doesn’t Need Heavy-Handed Regulation

Sean-Michael Pigeon talks woke capitalism, and makes the case for a culturally conservative equivalent: Why Employees — Including Conservatives — Want to Work for Values-Driven Companies

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Kyle Smith calls the big-screen adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights “thoroughly enchanting” — and sold!: The Movie Musical Returns with Bouncy Delight

Armond White is unimpressed with Marvel’s Loki, deriding it as having “found ways to make the banal even more banal.”: Loki, Disney’s Latest Nihilist Hero

Brian Allen discusses how some oft-discussed concepts can be integrated smoothly (or more often clumsily) into the world of museums: Inclusion, Diversity, Equity: Museums Go All-In

FROM THE NEW JULY 1, 2021 ISSUE OF NR

Kevin Williamson: Woke Capitalism: A History

David L. Black and Kevin A. Hassett: Can a Woke Company Compete?

Vivek Ramaswamy: Which Woke Capitalism?

Jimmy Quinn: Corporate America with Chinese Characteristics

Andrew Stuttaford: Turning the Corporate Left’s Own Tools against It

JUST A TASTE OF GREATNESS

Do anti-racists fantasize about “unloading a revolver into the head” of all people with a certain skin tone. Charlie Cooke thinks not:

Today’s edition of the Washington Post comes with the comforting news that the psychiatrist who told an audience at Yale’s medical school that “she fantasized about killing White people” was, in fact, simply expressing to the world how deeply she cares. In an April 6 lecture, prosaically titled “Psychopathic Problem of the White Mind,” Aruna Khilanani explained that she dreamed of “unloading a revolver into the head of any white person that got in my way, burying their body, and wiping my bloody hands as I walked away relatively guiltless with a bounce in my step, like I did the world a fu**ing favor.” Perhaps because they lacked the tools to interrogate and educate themselves, some observers responded rather negatively to these ideas. But, as Khilanani clarifies today, they have got her completely wrong: What she said was not the product of a demented, bigoted, Charles Manson–esque mind, but of a legitimate “frustration about minority mental health,” a desire to “have more serious conversations about race,” and, ultimately, love. Khilanani does what she does, she told the Post, “because I care.”

Well, that’s a relief.

It does not take an exquisitely trained mind to understand why the oft-trailed and much-coveted “Conversation about Race in America” never actually happens in earnest — and, indeed, why it is unlikely ever to happen in earnest. Thanks to the ever-shifting pseudo-scientific nonsense that underpins almost every contemporary “academic” framework, the plain words a given person uses when discussing race do not tend to matter much these days. What matters, instead, is how our self-appointed arbiters of taste wish those words to be perceived. Thus it is that any self-evidently racist comment made by a favored player is immediately justified in terms that would typically be reserved for an especially pretentious exhibit of modern art — “the intermittently blank canvas explores the tension between sound and electricity in an era of existential dread” — while the jokes, mainstream political opinions, unfortunate coincidences, and childhood indiscretions of the disfavored become crystallized into the permanent mark of the Klan. Who, in his right mind, would consent to talk on the record under these rules?

You didn’t think we were done with the lab leak theory, did you? Andrew McCarthy — lawyerly, thorough, yet always interesting — makes the definitive case for its veracity:

I was a prosecutor for a long time, and prosecutors are in the business of proving stuff. Every good one will tell you that the best case is a strong circumstantial case. It is the most airtight and least problematic kind of proof.

Circumstantial cases are a tapestry of objectively provable facts. No one of those facts, by itself, establishes the ultimate conclusion for which all the interconnected facts collectively stand. Instead, each single fact supports a subordinate proposition that must be true in order for the ultimate conclusion to be valid. Stitch enough of those subordinate propositions together and the ultimate conclusion is inexorable.

We have a natural human reluctance to trust circumstantial evidence. In our own lives, we know what we know — or at least what we think we know — because we have lived it. We don’t need to run down a plethora of clues to grasp our own experiences. We can describe them firsthand. If we worked in a lab that came under scrutiny, we could tell everyone how an accident there happened — or assure them that it didn’t happen. Ergo, we reason, what we really need is direct evidence, someone like ourselves who can narrate the goings-on.

Only then, we tell ourselves, can we really know. Even when all the disparate circumstantial trails lead to the same answer, we instinctively ask how we can trust that answer unless and until it has been confirmed by someone who was there.

But that is not how it works in the real world. Once you get beyond the narrow limits of your own experience, everything else is about what you can trust. And you quickly realize you can trust a constellation of objective facts that fit together (i.e., circumstantial evidence) more reliably than the subjective account of a witness — “direct” evidence — whose entanglement in a controversy may erode his credibility.

The murderer is apt to tell you he didn’t do it. And even the murderer who tells you he did do it is apt to be lying about something significant. Maybe he’s currying favor with the prosecutor, who has demanded testimony against an accomplice in exchange for a reduced sentence; maybe he is settling a score with the accomplice; maybe he has mistakenly assumed that the accomplice was complicit because of what some intermediary told him.

This one’s somehow even more fun to read the second time around. Charlie wonders why CNN has not yet sent Fredo Cuomo to the lake for a quick fishing trip:

Watching Chris Cuomo work is a little like watching a man jump out of an airplane without a parachute and then become irrationally angry at those who tell him he’s going to die. In 2015, in response to a debate over the wisdom of cartoons depicting Mohammed, Cuomo submitted on Twitter that “hate speech is excluded from protection.” “Dont just say you love the constitution,” he added belligerently. “Read it.” Having been told by figures from across the political spectrum that this was nonsense from start to finish, Cuomo dug in his heels. “I will keep saying one word,” he contended: “chaplinsky.” Thus was a misdescription of American law transmuted into a misdescription of American history. Not only has the Chaplinsky ruling been effectively overturned; it did not deal with “hate speech” in the first place. Rarely have confidence and ability been so perfectly mismatched.

Despite his training as a lawyer, the nature of the First Amendment has proven utterly elusive to Cuomo. Commenting last summer on the spate of riots that swept the nation, he wondered aloud why people were objecting to the violence. “Please, show me where it says that protests are supposed to be polite and peaceful,” he asked on air. Before long, he was obliged in this request by a hilarious viral video in which an unkempt man eating noodles points nonchalantly at the part of the First Amendment’s text that reads, “the right of the people peaceably to assemble.” The message of the spot: Don’t just say you love the Constitution. Read it.

David Harsanyi rebuts an ill-conceived effort at recasting the Second Amendment as a tool of white supremacy:

It was slavery skeptic John Adams, in his 1770 defense of Captain Thomas Preston, one of the soldiers responsible for the Boston Massacre, who argued that even British soldiers had an inherent right to defend themselves from mobs. “Here every private person is authorized to arm himself, and on the strength of this authority, I do not deny the inhabitants had a right to arm themselves,” he noted. When Pennsylvania became the first colony to explicitly guarantee the right to bear arms, it was Benjamin Franklin, by then an abolitionist, who presided over the conference. It was the anti-slavery Samuel Adams who proposed that the Constitution never be used to “authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the press, or the rights of conscience; or to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms.” In the writings and speeches of nearly all American Founders, the threat of disarmament was a casus belli.

In making her case that the Second Amendment was predominantly an invention of the South, Anderson stresses that most American jurisdictions did not even have their own Second Amendment before the constitutional convention. She’s right. Many anti-Federalists believed that enshrining these rights on paper would lead to future abuses. Of course, Southerners didn’t need permission to suppress black slave revolts, anyway. They had done so on numerous occasions before the nation’s founding.

Yet, by 1791, of the four jurisdictions that had written their own Second Amendments, three of them — Vermont, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania — had already abolished slavery. When Vermont authored its first constitution in 1777, in fact, it protected the right to keep and bear arms in the same document that it banned slavery.

Rich Lowry defends Senator Joe Manchin’s honor, rejecting the smears and false premises of his progressive critics:

Now that the filibuster is an obstacle to passing Joe Biden’s agenda, the long-standing Senate procedure has been deemed a threat to our system of government and to racial justice that only a naïf or cynic can support.

And that means you, Joe Manchin.

The West Virginia senator has been badgered for months by reporters eager to get him to change his mind on the filibuster, or at least show some flexibility. Now the pressure campaign from within his own party has ratcheted up to include over-the-top insults that have an air of desperation about them.

After Manchin reiterated his support for the filibuster and made clear his opposition to H.R.1, a sweeping Democratic voting bill, in an op-ed over the weekend, progressive House Democratic member Mondaire Jones from New York unloaded on Twitter. Per Jones, the headline of Manchin’s piece might as well have been “Why I’ll Vote to Preserve Jim Crow.”

This is a preposterous smear and a transparent attempt to bludgeon Manchin into submission by defining his sincere attachment to Senate tradition and belief in bipartisanship as tantamount to racism.

It’s not a new point, but it is an important one: Tyranny is to be opposed, and those who do the opposing are to be celebrated. Jay Nordlinger does it better than anyone:

Last night, after I had written my column, I got two pieces of news, which I would like to discuss here in the Corner. In Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, the longtime dictator, has been sweeping up political rivals. Four of them have been arrested, as you can read in this report. One of them is Felix Maradiaga, who is being represented by Jared Genser, the international human-rights lawyer. According to Jared, Felix has been severely beaten and “disappeared.”

Two years ago, I podcasted with Felix, here. I then wrote a piece: “Nicaragua in Hell: Ortega’s crackdown and people who resist it.” Here is a brief excerpt:

Felix Maradiaga borrows an old line: “Nicaragua produces more history than we can consume.” He is a Nicaraguan political scientist, entrepreneur, and human-rights activist who has been forced into exile. The regime made him a bogeyman. Then a gang of the regime’s supporters beat him to a pulp, knocking his teeth out in the process.

Felix was safe in exile, when I spoke with him. But he returned to Nicaragua, to try to help those struggling for democracy there. He is incredibly brave — and warm and bright and altogether winning. I hope he will get through his present, latest ordeal.

The other piece of news: Orhan Inandi is apparently being held captive in the Turkish embassy in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. Inandi is a Turkish exile. There is a large Turkish exile community in Kyrgyzstan. They are opponents of the Erdogan regime back home. Inandi is an educator, the president of a school system.

To read more about his case, go here.

Thanks for bearing with me, folks. Judson will be back next week, so kindly direct any critiques of this week’s iteration of the Jolt to his inbox, please.