White House

Is Biden Really on a Winning Streak?

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President Joe Biden reacts as he takes his seat before delivering remarks on the economy at the White House in Washington, D.C., July 28, 2022. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

You’ll probably guess before reading too much further into this newsletter that we think the answer to the question above is “Not really, no.”

But President Biden should get credit, of course, for the fact that Ayman al-Zawahiri is no longer here (courtesy of the bladed “Flying Ginsu,” it seems, he’s there, and there, and there, and, oh look, some more over there . . . ).

It was one of a few things going right for this administration — heck, the country — at a time when everything else seems to be going wrong. Jim Geraghty rounds up the Biden “W’s” here:

Joe Biden ordered the strike against Zawahiri, and the al-Qaeda leader assumed room temperature on his watch, so Biden gets to take a victory lap. Shocking as this may seem to some people, Biden really is having a good stretch, particularly compared to the rest of this year’s cavalcade of disasters.

He got a superconductor chips bill through Congress, and Joe Manchin came around on a smaller version of Build Back Better, as long as it was called the “Inflation Reduction Act.” There are some signs that the Democratic enthusiasm for the midterms is picking up a bit and that Republican Senate candidates are underperforming in some key states. And now, he’s overseen the Zawahiri strike.

So the president is having a good stretch. Add to that a pro-choice victory in Kansas this week.

But a “winning streak,” as Axios’s Mike Allen terms it, seems charitable given (a) economic conditions that are of far greater concern to voters and (b) the devilish details of the “wins” themselves.

The Inflation Reduction Act appears to be moving forward after the pivotal Senator Kyrsten Sinema signed on. But even if it passes, it’s unlikely to do much about the thing that’s in the title of the bill. Per an analysis produced by the Penn Wharton Budget Model, the impact on inflation is “statistically indistinguishable from zero.”

Not encouraging.

As NR’s editorial notes, “Voters want to see inflation actually come down, not their member of Congress vote for the words ‘inflation reduction.’” Rich Lowry calls the bill a “non sequitur,” meeting the challenge of inflation with new spending and the threat of recession with new taxes. His assessment:

The bill isn’t going to remake Biden’s foundering presidency, but it will make Democratic activists feel a little better.

To the backdrop of these developments is the heavily debated news that GDP seemingly shrank for two consecutive quarters, meeting the commonly accepted definition of a recession (though the administration and allied economists dispute it), and, more importantly, inflation, which at last read was a hair-singeing 9.1 percent. In Gallup’s measure, Biden’s approval rating just dipped below 40 percent for the first time.

Will the accomplishments above move the needle much? Skepticism is warranted. What this really is, Jim concludes, is a “false dawn”:

A week from today, the new Consumer Price Index numbers come out, updating our sense of how bad inflation is. Once again, we don’t know what the precise figure is going to be, but we know the number isn’t going to be good. One projection is 9.2 percent, and Kiplinger expects inflation to remain near 9 percent for the rest of the year. . . .

When inflation is raging at a 40-year high, and gas and food prices are skyrocketing, the incumbent party is going to get thrashed.

Jim also points out, as we approach the ignominious anniversary of the Afghanistan pullout, that the Zawahiri strike underscores that Kabul, where he was killed, was hitherto a safe place for him in the wake of the American departure and Taliban takeover.

The asterisk here is that the fate of Biden and his party could be guided in the near term more by what the Republicans do to themselves. Tuesday was not a great night for sane congressional/gubernatorial candidates. Incumbent Republican congressman Peter Meijer lost to John Gibbs in Michigan after committing the apparent sin of voting to impeach Donald Trump. Democrats crassly poured money into boosting Gibbs (more on that below) — but they didn’t force anybody to vote for him. Republican voters, exercising democratic rights and free will, chose the guy who likes to call Trump’s 2020 election loss “mathematically impossible.” Election conspiracist Kari Lake days later secured a win in the Arizona gubernatorial primary. Meanwhile, Dr. Oz is not doing great as the celebrity Republican nominee in Pennsylvania’s Senate race.

All this said — correct, the answer is “Not really, no.”

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

Pelosi’s brave trip to Taiwan should be followed up with meaningful action against the CCP: Pelosi’s Courageous Trip to Taiwan

For pro-lifers aiming to persuade the voting public in the wake of Dobbs, some specifics will be required:  The Lessons of Kansas

Bravo, Mr. President: Zawahiri Deserves to Rot

ARTICLES

Jimmy Quinn: Top Chinese Diplomat Vows ‘Reeducation’ of Taiwan after ‘Reunification’

Luther Ray Abel: The Prius Has Been Wronged

Caroline Downey: Buffalo Pregnancy Center Firebombed by Pro-Abortion Extremists Reopens after Spending $100,000 on Security

George Leef: The Absurd End to the UNC–Nikole Hannah-Jones Furor

Brittany Bernstein: Arizona AG Investigation Debunks Claim That Hundreds of Dead Voters Cast Ballots in 2020

Andrew Follett: China’s Space Ambitions Just Came Crashing Back Down to Earth

Diana Glebova: One NYC Council Member Criticized Drag Queen Story Hour. She Faced Threats So Severe She Requested Police Protection

Kevin Williamson: Signs of the Times

Andrew McCarthy: Grand Jury Subpoenas Pat Cipollone, in Signal DOJ Is Weighing Trump Indictment

Ramesh Ponnuru: The Pro-Life Defeat in Kansas

Dan McLaughlin: Vin Scully: A Personal Remembrance

Charles Hilu: Peter Meijer Lost His Race; Democrats Lost Their Moral High Ground

Philip Klein: There’s No Denying Trump’s Enduring Power within the Republican Party

Ryan Mills: Are Minneapolis Democrats Sane Enough to Dump Ilhan Omar, Elect Don Samuels?

CAPITAL MATTERS

Joel Zinberg sees health authorities drawing the wrong lessons from Covid in dealing with monkeypox: WHO Is Fighting the Last War

Steve Hanke & Matt Sekerke are out with a scorching crypto takedown. Give it a read: What’s Next for Crypto, Winter or Extinction?

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

The sustained effort to jam everything, everywhere, all at once through the prism of racism, colonialism, imperialism (let’s call it the “ism, schism game,” with apologies to Bob Marley) is getting quite tiresome. Brian Allen writes on the latest instance: In the Met’s Crosscurrents Show, Great Homers Can’t Hide Shoddy Scholarship

Armond White dissects the new Bey release: The Madonna-fying of Beyoncé

KIDS, WE’RE GOING OUT FOR EXCERPTS TONIGHT

More on the Peter Meijer loss, and Democrats’ role in the whole thing, by Charles “Mr. Michigan” Hilu:

A mere week before [Meijer’s] primary for the Republican nomination in Michigan’s third congressional district — which he lost to MAGA challenger John Gibbs on Tuesday — the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) ran a TV ad in the district, calling Gibbs “too conservative for west Michigan.” Though the ad was critical of Gibbs, the intent behind it was clear. Republican voters would likely gravitate toward the candidate whom Democrats hated the most. The DCCC knew this, and that is why it spent $435,000 to boost Gibbs in the race. . . .

There is no shortage of lamentable actions from the GOP in relation to the events of January 6: the effort to object to the 2020 election’s certification, Senator Josh Hawley’s raising his fist to the crowd of protesters that would soon become marauders, and Trump’s wishy-washy condemnation of those who illegally entered the Capitol. Additionally, Republican voters are the ones who have the final say in the election, and the moral blame of nominating Gibbs ultimately falls on them. But in terms of party leadership in the present moment, it is hard to see how Democrats are not doing markedly worse damage to democracy than Republicans. The GOP is bound by its voters. If the people want to nominate a “stop the steal” candidate, Republican leaders have no choice but to go along, lest America return to a “King Caucus” system, in which the party establishment chooses a candidate without a popular vote. Democrats, on the other hand, could have chosen not to aid an effort, which, by their own admission, is antithetical to the Constitution. Unlike Republicans who have a duty to follow their constituents’ wishes, they have no obligation to give monetary assistance to Gibbs and others. With these efforts, they have gone out of their way to prop up the people they have told voters to ostracize. . . .

The United States Constitution is durable, and it has endured more menacing threats throughout American history. But if MAGA Republicans somehow do destroy our system, Democrats will have been complicit.

Caroline Downey follows up on a pregnancy center that was firebombed, and the costs that attack imposed:

A Buffalo pro-life pregnancy center that was firebombed and vandalized by pro-abortion extremist group Jane’s Revenge in June has re-opened its doors to patients after rebuilding for 52 days and incurring over $100,000 in new security expenses.

After the arson attack against Compass Care in Buffalo, N.Y., Jane’s Revenge claimed responsibility in an online memorandum. It also threatened to unleash a rampage of violence against pro-life clinics nationwide following the leak of the Supreme Court draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade.

The day after it was firebombed, Compass Care relocated so it could continue offering its services to distressed pregnant women, CEO Jim Harden told National Review. “This is the generosity of the people of Buffalo; we were offered three different alternate locations,” he says. The one he settled on was left undisclosed for safety reasons.

While the organization’s Buffalo operation, which Harden claims doesn’t receive a “dime of state or federal money,” quickly repaired the damage and rebounded, it’s in a financially disadvantaged position now. The center had to implement all kinds of expensive security measures, including armed guards at the undisclosed location and a secured perimeter and entry points, he says.

“Security alone at all three of our sites has cost $150,000 this year. In the next budget it will probably cost us an additional $80,000 every year,” he adds. Harden even had to temporarily move his family due to doxxing from pro-abortion activists.

Meanwhile, the perpetrators of the attack have still not been caught, he says.

In the most recent issue of the magazine, Andrew Stuttaford explains the full scope, and telltale signs, of Putin’s genocide:

Putin’s tirades have been echoed by incendiary commentary in Russia, none of which, presumably, has appeared without some degree of official approval. This has included the dehumanization of Ukrainians — another characteristic of genocide — as, in a peculiarly perverse historical twist, “Nazis.” More-usual fare, such as comparisons with insects, has not been neglected but clearly was not thought to be enough. Some of this appears to have been internalized by the invading forces, with effects — such as the mass killing, torture, and rape of civilians in Bucha, not far from Kyiv — that have been as horrific as they were predictable.

Some of the ruin that the Russians have left in their wake has been of Ukraine’s cultural heritage. Perhaps the destruction of museums, such as one dedicated to a prominent pre-revolutionary painter from Mariupol and another, near Kharkiv, to an 18th-century Ukrainian philosopher, was collateral damage. Perhaps. And perhaps, in Borodyanka, the shots into a bust of Taras Shevchenko, Ukraine’s national poet, who was persecuted under the czars for favoring something dangerously close to an independent Ukraine, were merely the result of malicious high spirits of a type not infrequently displayed by occupying armies. Perhaps. But as early as April, Ukrainian officials were talking of the destruction of dozens of churches, monuments, and other sites of cultural significance in what looks disturbingly like a repeat, sometimes improvised, sometimes more carefully targeted, of the wholesale destruction of, to quote one prominent Stalinist apparatchik, “historical junk” in Kyiv after the effective abandonment of indigenization in the 1930s. Meanwhile, Russian history books, those endlessly rewritten devices for the propagation of an invented past, have been arriving in the schools of occupied Ukraine.

More sinister still, well over a million Ukrainians have been forcibly “relocated” across Russia, among them hundreds of thousands of children, including, reportedly, orphans — some young enough to forget their identity and their language and thus prime candidates for assimilation. Those who remain in Ukraine’s occupied cities are increasingly being taught in Russian, while Ukrainian is . . . discouraged.

On any commonsense understanding of the word or, for that matter, of a reading of Lemkin, there can be little doubt that what is occurring in Ukraine is genocide. Unsurprisingly, given their countries’ own decades-long sufferings, the Latvian, Lithuanian, and Estonian parliaments have declared the war in Ukraine to be genocidal, in each case unanimously. Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, has joined in arguing that it is “hard to deny” that genocide is under way. President Biden has also applied the term, explaining that he “called it genocide because it’s become clearer and clearer that Putin is just trying to wipe out the idea of even being Ukrainian.” The State Department has, however, stressed that the president’s comments should not be read as a formal declaration that that threshold had been crossed.

A famous sports broadcaster died this week, and America lost an icon. Dan McLaughlin lost a family member too. Read his moving tribute to his uncle, Vin Scully, here:

They say you shouldn’t meet your heroes. I didn’t have a choice in the matter. The larger-than-life hero in my life was Vin Scully. For millions of people, he was like a member of the family. For me, he was. He was my mom’s brother, and it was just the two of them. How could he not be my hero? He died Tuesday at 94, just shy of the 20th anniversary of my mother’s death. He lived as rich and meaningful a life as any man could hope for, yet he endured many tragedies. We shall miss him deeply, as will the whole world of baseball. . . .

As a cop’s son growing up in the New York suburbs in the 1970s, I treated a visit from Uncle Vin as something on the order of having Batman drop by the house. Any other time, we were ordinary people, but he was a Star. He got us down on the field to meet Tom Seaver and Don Sutton and the rest at my first baseball game, when I was four. We’d hang out by the front window trying to guess what color rental car he was driving. But then, we’d go to a nearby diner, because it was where my grandmother liked to go. I have a vivid memory from those years of Vin and my dad, both in shirt and tie, changing a tire in the parking lot at Hogan’s Diner.

The greatest moment, of course, was his Hall of Fame induction in 1982, when I was ten, for which we got to stay in the Otesaga Hotel with all the Hall of Famers. One morning at breakfast, the table behind us was all the oldest guys: Bill Terry, Bill Dickey, Charlie Gehringer. It was a card collection come to life. I sat with Warren Spahn on the bus ride to the induction.

It was a brutally hot day, and we all came home cursing Happy Chandler, who spoke endlessly. Hank Aaron, who went last, must have thrown out his prepared text (we could see his parents, who had been sharecroppers in Alabama, suffering in the sun) and mostly thanked people. Vin’s speech, which had the advantage of being early in the day, was a masterpiece of concision, humility, gratitude, faith, and awe.

I do not give too much away, and likely will not surprise anyone, in saying that the private Vin was exactly the same as the public Vin. He was generous and even-tempered and in every sense a gentleman. When he called the house, he broadcasted: you could hear his voice coming out of the phone halfway across the room. In later years, a voicemail from Vin was a small treasure in itself, with a beginning, an anecdote, and a conclusion.

Shout-Outs

Mariam Memarsadeghi, at Tablet: Iran Is About to Murder Another Journalist

Sarah Ellison & Jeremy Barr, at the Washington Post: The Murdochs and Trump aligned for mutual benefit. That may be changing.

Amanda Mayer, at Campus Reform: ‘Angry White Male Studies’ course comes to campus this fall

Byron York, at the Washington Examiner: The dam breaks, and key Dems run away from Biden ’24

CODA

Among his famous quartet’s many, many albums, Dave Brubeck and company released several records in the ’50s and ’60s titled as “impressions” of the various locations they’d played. Jazz Impressions of Japan is one I picked up years ago and would highly recommend. It features some memorable up-tempo impressions reflecting surely the bustle of that country, but the serene “Fujiyama,” with its airy sax serving as tour guide, stands out. Dave recalled in the liner notes, “I tried to imagine a pilgrimage up the slope of [Mount] Fuji,” in explaining the theme.

Enjoy, and thanks for reading.

Elections

The Trump Enchantment

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Former President Donald Trump delivers remarks at the America First Policy Institute America First Agenda Summit in Washington, D.C., July 26, 2022. (Sarah Silbiger/Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Donald Trump, granted, could yet win in 2024 given that Democrats have strategists who spitball terms like “ultra-MAGA” and “Trumped-up trickle down” and then think, “Yes. Perfect. That.”

Say what you will about the tenets of Trumpism, at least the man can brand.

Of course, he also can dither and scorn executive duty while a mob hunts for his vice president.

The workings of the January 6 committee — which, as Andrew McCarthy has pointed out, is essentially building the impeachment case the House should have brought from the start — have helped establish what already was clear to many: This is not a man who should ever again hold public office. Do Democrats want to use the committee drama as ammo in a recession-stained election year? Sure they do. Are Democrats proving their words hollow by boosting pro-Trump candidates as part of a crass political play? You bet. That ickiness does not alter the truth. As the New York Post’s editorial board observed of Trump, “He was the only person who could stop what was happening. He was the only one the crowd was listening to. It was incitement by silence.”

Yet cults of personality are stubborn things, and Trump enjoys sustained enthusiasm from his base and the devotion of organizational machinery. A straw poll from a Turning Point USA summit last weekend showed him crushing the hypothetical GOP competition by nearly 60 points. Trump fired up a D.C. audience on Tuesday as he teased a possible 2024 run. And the House Republican apparatus continues to defend the former president in real time against the dread — *checks notes* — Liz Cheney, former director of the House Republican apparatus.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Unlike the Democrats’ perma-gerontocracy bench (more on that from Kevin Williamson here), the GOP roster is brimming with talent. Ron DeSantis, Mike Pompeo, Tim Scott, Tom Cotton, Nikki Haley, Kristi Noem . . . the list goes on. And not one of those people treated the vice president’s pulse like a poker chip. (Mike Pence, while we’re at it, goes on that list too.)

Dan McLaughlin wrote recently for the magazine about how the 2012 election “deranged” America, the thesis being that Barack Obama discarded the conventional strategy of winning the center that year in favor of pursuing enormous base turnout. Dan recalled:

While weak in the center, Obama rolled up colossal margins at the edges: 93 to 6 among black voters (96 to 3 among black women), 76 to 22 among LGBT voters, 73 to 26 among Asians, 71 to 27 among Hispanics, 67 to 31 among unmarried women, and 63 to 31 among nonreligious whites.

Polling suggests, however, that this will be a difficult strategy for Democrats to replicate today, given that Hispanics are abandoning Biden and that other groups thought to be part of their expanding base are similarly drifting away. At the same time, Republicans should consider the opportunity these changes present and seek a nominee who won’t turn back converts. Fox News polling indicates Trump is just as unpopular as Biden among independents, and less popular than Biden among Hispanics.

Trump World, meanwhile, is serious about its return to power. Jonathan Swan at Axios has published a fascinating look at allies’ preparations for an “administration-in-waiting.” They’re not deluded in making them. As Jim Geraghty notes, the “default setting” for many Republicans right now is still Trump. If he is indeed nominated again, Jim forecasts, “the 2024 general election will be dominated by arguments about January 6, and Trump’s insistence that he was the true legitimate winner of 2020, and the cockamamie theories of Sidney Powell and Lin Wood and Venezuelan hackers and Chinese bamboo in the paper ballots of Arizona.”

It doesn’t have to be this way. Fred Bauer offers a slightly more optimistic view, noting Trump is no longer the only viable populist on the stage and suggesting he’ll face significant obstacles in a reboot. Dan specifically puts the onus on Ron DeSantis to figure out a way to disarm Donald 2024 without leaving his base dispirited. But, as Jim wrote this week in regard to another race, “Republicans have a choice.”

The Democrats’ base is shrinking, yet the party is incapable of reaching beyond it. The Republicans don’t have the first problem. Why induce the second?

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

Congress should not let this moment pass: Time to Pass Electoral Count Act Reform

Spending gobs of money will reduce inflation, right? Right? Manchin’s ‘Inflation Reduction’ Deal Won’t Save Democrats

We don’t say this often but, Go, Nancy: Pelosi Must Go to Taiwan

ARTICLES

Jim Geraghty: Who Saw This Recession Coming? Lots of People

Isaac Schorr: Now It’s a Recession, Now It’s Not: Media Parrot White House Talking Points on Economy

Ryan Mills: Guilty until Proven Innocent: Biden Title IX Changes Mean Return to ‘Dark Ages’ for Falsely Accused Students

Stanley Kurtz: How Stacey Abrams Hijacked Civics

Abigail Anthony: American Academy of Pediatrics Accused of Censoring Concerns about ‘Gender-Affirmative Care’

Abigail Anthony: The Sexual Experiment at the Ivy Leagues

Charles Hilu: The University of Michigan’s Cancel-Culture Problem: ‘It Has Real Consequences’

Jack Fowler: Republican Attorneys General March into Battle

Alexandra DeSanctis: How Every State Pro-Life Law Handles Ectopic Pregnancy and Miscarriage

Jack Wolfsohn: What Happened to the Supreme Court Leaker Investigation?

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Republicans Need to Investigate the Pandemic Response

Brittany Bernstein: Clarence Thomas Will No Longer Teach Law Seminar at George Washington University

Kevin Williamson: The White House Can’t Weasel Its Way Out of a Recession

CAPITAL MATTERS

Dominic Pino spots a potentially troubling sign for energy prices: Oil-Tanker Orders at a Record Low

Just how inflationary is Biden’s term to date? Joseph Sullivan does the historical comparison: Biden Sets a New Inflation Record

David Bahnsen has a reality check, and a podcast, on the ESG trend: The Bankruptcy of ESG Is Being Exposed

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Armond White praises a film — which is not a Frozen installment — about a lover lost in the woods: The Grace and Wisdom of My Donkey, My Lover & I

Brian Allen continues his streak of highlighting the best exhibits and museums in Washington, including this newcomer: Planet Word Wows in D.C.

FROM THE NEW, AUGUST 15, 2022, ISSUE OF NR

Kevin Williamson: The Nuclear Heresy

Andrew Stuttaford: Putin’s Genocide in Ukraine

Madeleine Kearns: Marital Clash

Jimmy Quinn: The Department of Woke

THE PLATINUM PACKAGE INCLUDES EXCERPTS. YOU’LL BE GLAD YOU WENT WITH THE PLATINUM PACKAGE

Michael Brendan Dougherty urges congressional Republicans to prioritize a pandemic-response audit:

The Covid era saw us take utterly extraordinary steps with monetary and fiscal policy. The word “lockdown” entered our normal political vocabulary — as if the measures used to quell a prison riot were just the sort of thing that governors or the federal government could impose on free citizens. An odd private–public partnership for censorship emerged in which government information became the basis for mass editing of America’s most important public forums: digital social media.

And the history is being rewritten as we speak. Dr. Anthony Fauci this week has said two astonishing things. First, to the Hill’s Batya Ungar-Sargon he said, “I didn’t recommend locking anything down.” He continued: “I have always felt — and go back and look at my statements — that we need to do everything we can to keep the schools open and safe.” In the exact same interview, he said that if he could go back, he would recommend a “much more stringent” response. . . .

Scores of millions of parents figured out that their children weren’t at serious risk and by the summer of 2020 could read credible science showing their kids at school did not pose serious risks to others. Yet they were shut down.

These millions of people have reasons privately to feel vindicated. But they deserve to have someone in public life affirm the fact that they weren’t crazy, that in fact public health did mislead them, shaded the truth, and occasionally abused the trust placed in them.

All the other issues — including inflation, the youth mental-health crisis, and the cultural battles over education in schools — flow out of our pandemic response, and the mistakes we made in it. Auditing the pandemic response should be a prerequisite for Republican governance after the 2022 election and for any Republican hoping to represent the party in 2024.

Alexandra DeSanctis comprehensively addresses the misinformation clouding the abortion debate when it comes to ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage. What follows is her introduction to a state-by-state guide to what pro-life laws say on the issue:

Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, supporters of legal abortion have leveled the false accusation that pro-life laws threaten pregnant mothers facing medical emergencies. In particular, abortion advocates claim that laws prohibiting abortion will make it more difficult or even impossible for women suffering from an ectopic pregnancy or a miscarriage to receive necessary treatment.

In an ectopic pregnancy, the fertilized egg implants somewhere outside of the uterus, most commonly in the fallopian tube. In the absence of emergency treatment, ectopic pregnancy will cause severe and life-threatening health consequences for the mother, because there isn’t room for the child to develop. Miscarriage management, meanwhile, involves caring for a pregnant mother whose unborn child has died spontaneously. The standard of care for post-miscarriage treatment differs depending on how far along the pregnancy is.

Abortion supporters have argued that state abortion limits aren’t clear about whether these types of health care are permitted — and they have argued that, as a result of this supposed lack of clarity, doctors have declined to perform necessary and potentially life-saving procedures out of fear of reprisal from officials enforcing state pro-life laws.

This is simply not the case. If doctors are doing so — and abortion supporters have offered little evidence of a systemic problem in this regard — it is the fault of the doctors themselves, not the fault of the pro-life laws, which are eminently clear. The pro-life worldview has always held that both lives matter, that of the mother and that of her unborn child. It is always permissible to act to care for a pregnant mother whose life is at risk.

Jack Fowler chronicles the progressive capture of a supposedly bipartisan organization, and the backlash to it:

“All organizations that are not actually right-wing will over time become left-wing.”

Those interested in watching O’Sullivan’s First Law play out in real time should pay attention to the ways and means of the allegedly bipartisan National Association of Attorneys General, a.k.a. “NAAG,” whose ideological-trending ways have forced a growing number of Republican members to head for the exits.

How wise this craze is for America is a matter for consideration.

NAAG’s membership — attorneys general from the 50 states, plus AGs from Guam, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands — has been depleted by five members since early 2021. All departures are by Republicans. All cited serious concerns with the institution’s ideological trajectory, its practices, and its thrall over money as their reasons for leaving.

Alabama AG Steven Marshall jump-started the walk-out in April 2021. “I can’t justify spending taxpayer dollars to fund an organization that seems to be going further and further left,” he explained. “With the money we will save, I can add a young lawyer to my consumer protection division and yield a far better return on the taxpayer’s investment.”

It took a while, but the following May, a trio of Republicans — Ken Paxton (Texas), Eric Schmitt (Missouri), and Austin Knudsen (Montana) — wrote to NAAG’s Democrat chairman, Tom Miller, Iowa’s long-serving attorney general, to announce that they were following Marshall out the door.

An excellent piece of reporting on the impact of Title IX changes, by Ryan Mills:

While the woman who’d accused him of rape appeared before a Columbia University panel in June 2017, Ben Feibleman was in another room watching it on Zoom.

Feibleman was not allowed to cross-examine his accuser during the hearing to determine if he would be expelled from the school, potentially scarring his personal and professional life permanently. He wasn’t even allowed to be in the same room with her.

During the hearing, Feibleman was also barred from discussing a medical report that found his accuser was likely not impaired or unable to consent to sexual activity the night of the alleged assault. He was barred from discussing his accuser’s behavior that he said eventually caused her friends to doubt her. If Feibleman mentioned any of it, he’d be removed from the hearing.

Feibleman’s written statement to the three-member hearing panel was heavily redacted, according to court records. The panel took no testimony. Members refused to ask questions of Feibleman or his accuser that Feibleman had repeatedly begged them to ask about evidence he’d submitted in his favor — hundreds of photos, videos, and a damning audio recording.

And then the panel found Feibleman guilty. He was expelled and denied his diploma.

“Nobody had any interest in my version of events,” Feibleman told National Review.

Feibleman’s experience with a less-than-fair quasi-judicial university hearing was not unique in the years after the Obama administration issued Title IX guidance documents directing the nation’s colleges and universities to crack down on sexual harassment and sexual violence cases on and off campus. The Obama-era guidance essentially tipped the scales in the direction of the accusers, typically women, with millions of dollars of federal funding for schools on the line. . . .

During the Trump administration, former secretary of education Betsy DeVos pushed back, issuing more-balanced regulations requiring schools to offer basic due-process rights to both the accuser and the accused in sex-assault cases. Accused students were presumed innocent until proven guilty. They had the right to a live hearing with cross-examination and the right to see the evidence. Schools could again use a stronger clear-and-convincing standard of evidence.

But in late June, President Joe Biden’s administration proposed sweeping new regulations that would roll back many of those protections, fulfilling a promise he’d made during his campaign. The right to a live hearing? Gone under the Biden proposal. The right to cross-examination? Also gone. Schools could launch sexual-assault investigations without a formal complaint. The single-investigator model would be back on the table.

Shout-Outs

Jonathan Swan, at Axios: A radical plan for Trump’s second term

Robby Soave, at Reason: Anthony Fauci Says If We Could Do It Again, COVID-19 Restrictions Would Be ‘Much, Much More Stringent’

Christian Datoc, at the Washington Examiner: Biden staffers left White House in year one at higher rate than Trump and Obama

Jessica Chasmar, at Fox News: Joe Biden met with at least 14 of Hunter’s business associates while vice president

CODA

Time for a reader rec: A couple weeks back, this newsletter put out the call for a ’90s throwback. Kevin Antonio writes in with Suzanne Vega’s bossa-nova-inspired “Caramel,” from 1996. It is impossible to remark on this song without use of the word “sultry,” so I won’t try.

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend.

Law & the Courts

A Travesty of Criminal Justice

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A video screengrab of Minneapolis mother Arabella Foss-Yarbrough confronting Black Lives Matters protesters at a rally. (FOX 9 Minneapolis-St. Paul/Screengrab via YouTube)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Sometimes you have to scream to be heard.

Arabella Foss-Yarbrough, a Minneapolis mother, proved that last weekend as she confronted Black Lives Matter activists gathered in support of the man who allegedly shot into her apartment while she and her kids were inside.  

Viral video of that encounter, if you haven’t seen it, captures better than almost any on-camera moment the primary obstacle for the progressive criminal-justice project: the visceral frustration and anger on the part of people whose real-world experience clashes daily with the abstract vision of activists and policy-makers.

In this case, the Minneapolis mother had to shout at activists milling around that “this is not a George Floyd situation,” after Tekle Sundberg — a black man who allegedly had been firing inside the building — was shot dead by police during a long standoff. Somebody can be heard telling her that “this is not the time or the place.” When an activist approaches the mother and an argument ensues, Foss-Yarbrough loses all control — understandably.

“My black kid is in the car! . . . He tried to kill me in front of my kids!” she screams as loudly as a person can scream, enunciating and slamming her chest, desperate for those words to be understood by the protesters demanding body-cam footage, since released. She screams it again, and again, hammering her own body, as the activist says whatever it is one says to explain how the account of the mother with bullet holes in her kitchen isn’t instantly dispositive.

Municipal leaders and the activists who pressure them would be wise to study this tape, as well as other signs from the universe that the constituency for inverting the treatment of victims and criminals — for treating culpability as something fluid — is diminishing.

Take Chesa Boudin, the erstwhile San Francisco district attorney who was recalled last month, rebuked by otherwise sympathetic residents fed up with social decay. As Ryan Mills reported at the time:

[Boudin] ended cash bail, stopped prosecuting drug-possession cases stemming from “pretextual” traffic stops, stopped using “enhancements” to extend prison sentences for convicted gang members, and stopped prosecuting so-called quality-of-life crimes — things such as prostitution, public camping, public defecation, and open-air drug use. Supporters of the recall say that sent a message that San Francisco was a consequence-free place to engage in low-level crimes, which simply encouraged more crime in the city generally.

Such lawlessness is affecting daily life for shop owners and residents well beyond the Bay. Isaac Schorr reported on a string of 7-Eleven robberies that prompted the company to encourage Los Angeles stores to briefly close. Starbucks, meanwhile, plans to permanently shutter 16 city locations over safety concerns, Brittany Bernstein reports, with “many” more to follow. Explaining this, CEO Howard Schultz accused government leaders of having “abdicated their responsibility in fighting crime and addressing mental health.” Few might shed a tear for the Starbucks CEO. But the experience of your average barista or store clerk resonates — which is why the warped justice on display this month in New York City struck a chord. The Manhattan DA faced an immense backlash from bodega workers after he tried to prosecute one of their own who fatally stabbed his attacker in apparent self-defense. Afflicting the afflicted, again, has a small, if cruel, constituency. On Tuesday, Alvin Bragg at last backed off the charges. (“Best news of the week,” Rich Lowry noted.)

More introspection is required in tackling crime, and the infectious culture of crime. America, it is true, has a mass-shooting problem; revisiting gun laws and mental-health policies should be part of that solution. More fatally, yet receiving less attention, America has an unrelenting violence problem, one that law enforcement is best equipped to confront. You’ll find no objection here to demanding accountability and transparency from those entrusted with extraordinary power. As seen in the case of George Floyd, or the catastrophe in Uvalde, police officers sometimes do the patently wrong thing. But not every police-involved killing is George Floyd all over again. And not every effort to ease penalties for criminal offenders — or turn them into martyrs — is a blow for justice. Ask San Franciscans. Ask Arabella Foss-Yarbrough.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

The most important aspect of the Hunter Biden probe should not be the president’s son: Hunter Biden Investigation Must Look at Joe

A brewing Obamacare deal seems to lean on the sort of budget gimmicks the chief dealmaker once decried: The Joe Manchin Obamacare Expansion

ARTICLES

Nate Hochman: Farewell, Sweet Pandemic Prince

Isaac Schorr: Pain Beyond the Pump: Democrats’ Climate Agenda Threatens to Destroy State Budgets

John Fund: Jefferson and Madison Homes Seized by ‘Woke’ Detractors of the Founding Fathers

Ryan Mills: Bureaucrats Sue Moms Fighting for Transparency in School-Reopening Fight

Charles C. W. Cooke: Why Isn’t Hunter Biden Facing a Federal Gun Investigation?

Jack Wolfsohn: Merriam-Webster Changes the Definition of ‘Female’

Brittany Bernstein: Media Promote AOC, Omar Fake Handcuff Stunt

Diana Glebova: Trump-Backed Candidate Wins Maryland Gubernatorial Primary, Besting Hogan’s Chosen Successor

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Expertise Blinds Us

Jay Nordlinger: Cannon on Reagan, and Life

Kevin Williamson: The Dog Ate Their Accountability

Andrew McCarthy: Steve Bannon Turns His Trial into a Soapbox

Luther Ray Abel: Why My Ship Was Blown Up

Caroline Downey: Poll Shows Biden at 19 Percent Approval among Hispanics

A joint report: Telling the Truth about the 2020 Election

CAPITAL MATTERS

Thomas Hogan, with a Fed playbook: What Can the Fed Do about Inflation?

And Desmond Lachman, with a Fed excoriation: The Economic Consequences of Jerome Powell

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Armond White unpacks Morrissey’s controversial new single: Morrissey’s ‘Bonfire of Teenagers’ Exposes Pop Treachery

Brian Allen on an exhibition that is pure Vermont and all things good: Lucioni Lights Up Vermont’s Shelburne Museum

In which Armond White’s assessment of the new Jordan Peele movie is the same as the movie’s title: Nope Continues the Castigation-as-Entertainment Trend

ALL LINKS AND NO EXCERPTS WOULD MAKE THIS A DULL NEWSLETTER

NR’s editorial on what the Hunter Biden investigators should be investigating:

The major question is whether Hunter is a vehicle by which his father, the now-president of the United States, indirectly cashed in on his political influence.

It’s certainly true that Hunter Biden has major tax problems. His ex-wife acknowledged in divorce proceedings that they owed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the IRS, the revenue agency slapped a $112,805.09 lien on the formerly married couple in 2019, and the District of Columbia added a $453,900 lien in July 2020. Kevin Morris, a wealthy Hollywood lawyer and Joe Biden booster, has reportedly extended a $2 million loan to Hunter, in order to pay his back taxes and other debts — obligations he can apparently not yet cover through his latest new career as an artist (or, rather, his newest shady arrangement for huge paydays with no disclosure of where the money comes from and where it goes).

The issue is much bigger than taxes, though. . . .

The [Hunter] laptop yielded information about a 2017–18 Biden family venture with a conglomerate known as CEFC, which was patently a Chinese intelligence operation. But it’s not just the laptop. After the New York Post broke the story, a witness came forward: Tony Bobulinski, an entrepreneur the Bidens and their associates recruited to build the corporate structure for a joint liquified-natural-gas venture with CEFC. Bobulinski has publicly stated that he had two face-to-face meetings with Joe Biden about the CEFC negotiations, as well as numerous meetings with Hunter and with Jim Biden, the now-president’s brother. . . .

President Biden continues to insist that he knew nothing of any of this and never discussed his son’s foreign business dealings. Even without Bobulinski’s contradictory account, that assertion was already risible given the mounting evidence that, while vice president, Biden met with some of Hunter’s associates from China, Ukraine, Mexico, and elsewhere. It is even more ridiculous now, given the recent revelation — reportedly due to the hacking of an encrypted back-up of a Hunter cellphone — that Biden left a voicemail for his son on the evening of December 18, 2018, after the New York Times published an article about the CEFC debacle. “I thought the article released online, it’s going to be published tomorrow in the Times, was good,” Biden said. “I think you’re clear.” Joe Biden knew CEFC was a big problem, and he was worried about it.

That, and not Hunter’s taxes, is why the Biden investigation matters. And there’s still more beyond CEFC. Hunter and his longtime partner Devon Archer (who was convicted in a federal fraud case in June 2018) were paid a combined $4 million to sit on the board of the shady Ukrainian energy company Burisma, beginning in 2014. The State Department raised the obvious problem with then-Vice President Biden that the arrangement was frustrating the administration’s anti-corruption message, but Biden took no action and Hunter kept getting paid.

In 2013, Hunter hitched a ride to Beijing with his father on Air Force Two to strike an investment partnership deal with another group of Chinese regime–connected financiers, including the Bank of China, an arm of the communist government whose investments are guided by its objectives. Hunter introduced the then-vice president to Jonathan Li, the point man on the China side of what would become Bohai Harvest RST. China licensed the venture days later, and suddenly Hunter had access to $3 billion in funds and investment opportunities in China unavailable to the unconnected.

This venture worked against American interests.

As more damning accounts emerged this week of former President Trump’s January 6 conduct, a collection of prominent conservatives has scrutinized the “stolen election” claims and reached a clear conclusion. From the findings:

Continuing allegations that the 2020 election was “stolen” are roiling our politics and dividing our country. Indeed, now a significant percentage of the American public doubts the legitimacy of our system.

That caused us, political conservatives who have spent most of our careers working to uphold the Constitution and the conservative principles upon which it is based, to delve deeply into those charges and gauge their accuracy. All of us have either worked in Republican Party politics at multiple levels and in various capacities or worked in the government as a result of Republican appointments. Indeed, one of us, Theodore B. Olson, successfully represented George W. Bush in a Supreme Court case that ended Al Gore’s unmerited challenge to the results of the 2000 presidential election. We have no affiliation with the Democratic Party. In our opinion, the most fundamental principle of our constitutional system is that the will of the people expressed through elections must prevail, whether “our side” wins or loses.

The source of the charges is not in dispute. Because allegations of fraudulent and rigged elections are so seriously affecting public opinion, especially among Republicans, we conducted an open-minded examination of the many claims by former president Trump and his supporters and allies who agree with him about the 2020 election and attempted to act on their beliefs. We take such claims seriously. Many of us have worked at polling places on Election Day as Republicans guarding against the kinds of fraudulent voting activity that Trump alleges occurred. Such a task is an important one in our system, yet is too often falsely derided as “voter suppression.” If, in fact, we had found evidence of the sort that has been alleged, we would be at the vanguard of those demanding corrective measures.

Therefore, we painstakingly surveyed each of the 187 counts in the 64 court cases brought on Trump’s behalf contesting the results of the 2020 election, the state recounts and contests brought in the name of the former president, and the post-election reviews undertaken in the six key battleground states (Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) to determine whether there is any fire amidst all the smoke.

Our review has led us to conclude that there is simply no evidence of fraud in the 2020 presidential election of the magnitude necessary to shift the result in any state, let alone the nation as a whole. In fact, not even a single precinct’s outcome was reversed. Our report, “Lost Not Stolen: The Conservative Case that Trump Lost and Biden Won the 2020 Presidential Election,” shows that only in one Pennsylvania case, involving far too few votes to overturn the results, could Trump and his supporters claim even a technical victory where a judge granted a demarcation of vote-counting that Trump wanted but that the state had already begun.

From Nate Hochman, a love letter to Fauci as he plans for retirement:

What is there to say about Saint Anthony that hasn’t already been said in oozing puff pieces from star-struck journalists? How are we to express our deep and abiding gratitude better than the “Thank You Doctor Fauci — We Will Wash Our Hands” yard signs, the devotional Fauci candles, and the Fauci figurines (mask included, of course) touted by, among others, elected Democratic legislators? Skeptics will argue that the man who presented himself as the flesh-and-blood embodiment of science itself, and who regularly accused his critics of attacking The Science — “they’re really criticizing science because I represent science,” he told Face the Nation last November; “I’m going to be saving lives, and they’re going to be lying” — is not well-positioned to “repair the national bonds that the pandemic shredded.” But we know better. In Fauci we trust.

Okay, so Fauci may have had a few slip-ups here and there. Yes, he initially argued that masks don’t “really do much to protect you” and then subsequently insisted that he had never denied the efficacy of masks but only advised against buying them, because of fears of a shortage among medical workers. Cut the man some slack — that was early on in the pandemic, and uncertainty abounded. Sure, he consciously lied about vaccines: “When polls said only about half of all Americans would take a vaccine, I was saying herd immunity would take 70 to 75 percent,” he told the New York Times in December 2020. “Then, when newer surveys said 60 percent or more would take it, I thought, ‘I can nudge this up a bit,’ so I went to 80, 85.” But that was out of a sense of paternalistic duty — it’s just that Americans weren’t ready to hear the truth. You can’t end a pandemic without telling a few fibs here and there.

Shout-Outs

Toby Green & Thomas Fazi, at UnHerd: The return of Covid fearmongering

The Economist: The Democrats need to wake up and stop pandering to their extremes

Alexandra Steigrad, at the New York Post: Disney fans outraged after ‘fairy godmother’ ditched for gender-neutral titles

Sean Trende, at RealClearPolitics: Republicans Are Favored to Win the Senate

CODA

I’m from Jersey — the Shore, no less — so you’ll have to allow a certain amount of ignorance on the topic of country music: My colleague Molly Powell recently informed me that Smokey from The Big Lebowski is in fact a well-known country musician, Jimmie Dale Gilmore.

How about that.

I was delighted to find out his singing voice retains the character of his speaking voice (something that’s not always the case). Here’s a lovely cover, by him, of “Ripple.” Enjoy, have a fine weekend, and thanks for reading.

Education

The Total Devastation of Covid School Closures

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An employee cleans tables in an empty classroom in a closed primary school in Nice, France, April 22, 2020. (Eric Gaillard/Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

“Children are resilient.” The line, used to excuse pandemic school closures that lasted far longer than they should have, has become something of an ironic creed memorializing the folly of lockdown extremism.

Those of us who have met children were dubious anyway of the claim. (My preschooler’s despondent reaction when I end bath time before he prefers is not what I’d call rolling with the punches.)

What children are is absorbent. They take it all in, they retain information and memories we adults discard almost immediately, they pick up new skills and lessons every day. But if a sponge sits in a tray, it doesn’t absorb much: We are only now, owing to the work of various organizations that sought to quantify the true devastation from those Covid-19 closures, beginning to see how desperately parched the minds of the world’s children became over the last two years.

With the pandemic nominally back in the news (“Hey, Remember Covid-19?” Jim Geraghty asks), it is a fitting time to revisit the policy disaster it spawned in the world of education. What follows is a mere snapshot of those organizations’ findings:

  • The current generation of students could lose $21 trillion in lifetime earnings, as a result of closures. (Joint report by the World Bank, UNESCO, UNICEF, U.K. government, USAID, and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation)
  • In low-to-middle-income countries, the percentage of ten-year-olds unable to “read and understand a simple text” has risen from 57 percent before the pandemic to about 70 percent. (Aforementioned joint report, the Economist) Put another way: Most of the kids in the countries that house most of the kids cannot read.
  • The impact is not limited to the developing world: “Even in high-income countries able to quickly organize real-time online instruction, learning losses appear substantial. . . . Data from an 8-week school shutdown in the Netherlands show a learning loss equivalent to 20 percent of a school year. . . . Evidence from across the United States mirror the situation in Europe, with significant learning losses in math and reading. In Texas, only 30 percent of third graders tested at or above grade level in math in 2021, compared to 48 percent in 2019. Similar learning losses have also been observed in California, Colorado, Tennessee, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and Maryland.” (World Bank, UNESCO, and UNICEF joint report)
  • “Immediate transitions” from high school to two-year colleges declined 16 percent, and 6 percent for four-year colleges, which “could signal a reduction in future college credentials.” (Brookings)
  • Students in more than 80 percent of countries “have fallen behind in their learning.” A total 2 trillion hours of in-person schooling were lost during closures. (UNICEF)
  • “Less than half of countries [in a recent study] are implementing learning recovery strategies at scale to help children catch up on what they’ve missed.” (UNICEF)

Global disaster” is how the Economist described the situation, citing much of this data. The report included estimates that schoolchildren globally may be “eight months behind where they would normally be.” As for the argument that remote schooling served as an adequate substitute, a recent Atlantic piece noted how closures often translated to “no school—literally none at all, for days and even weeks on end.” Many students turned truant; others simply did not participate regularly over Zoom. Poor kids suffered the most.

Ronald Reagan, on more than one occasion, said freedom is “never more than one generation away from extinction.” The same is true of knowledge. The task ahead will be to implement catch-up plans aggressively, of course resisting the urge to shutter schools again but also focusing lesson plans on the crucial, must-know material and offering additional help to those who need it. With great effort and no small amount of good fortune, our educators may yet be able to minimize the damage from what the World Bank and its partners described as “the worst shock to education and learning in a century.”

*    *    *

Before turning to the week in review, we also would like to thank all the many readers who contributed to our webathon and helped us reach, and surpass, our $100,000 goal. The donations help sustain us financially, but the accompanying comments we’ve received help sustain us in other ways. So many kind and encouraging words — they mean the world.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

Once again, we must insist. Do not pass massive spending bills that will exacerbate the biggest economic problem facing the nation: Inflation Still Rages

Sri Lanka’s collapse is a warning, and policy-makers — especially those in the developing world — should heed its lessons: Collapse of Sri Lanka Is a Failure of Leftism

ARTICLES

Rich Lowry: For the Good of the Country, Biden Shouldn’t Run Again

Kevin Williamson: Down with First Ladies

Charles C. W. Cooke: Democrats Prepare to Throw Biden Overboard

Dan McLaughlin: Joe Biden Hits a New Polling Low: 20 Below

Stanley Kurtz: PolitiFact’s Failed Attack on DeSantis, over Civics Education

Brittany Bernstein: Majority of Democrats Support Abolishing Supreme Court, New Poll Finds

Diana Glebova: Loudoun County School District Fails to Halt AG’s Probe into Bathroom Sex Assault

Jay Nordlinger: Against Numbness

Abigail Anthony: How Universities Weaponize Freshman Orientation

Abigail Anthony: Hearing Witness Claims Hawley Inciting Anti-Trans ‘Violence’ by Asking if Women Get Pregnant

Nate Hochman: What Happened to Alyssa Farah?

Michael Brendan Dougherty: We Must Go on Offense against Transanity

Isaac Schorr: 7-Eleven Encourages Los Angeles Franchises to Close amid String of Armed Robberies, Murders

Jim Geraghty: Inflation Is the Five-Alarm Fire Burning Down the American Economy

ICYMI, Jack Fowler — you know Jack Fowler, Jolter Not-Really-Emeritus, who still holds the master key to all things NR and, I am told, knows with satellite-based accuracy the locations of every last one of the bodies — has kicked off a series on post-Janus fights, so watch this space, as they say: How a Liberal State Defies the First Amendment

CAPITAL MATTERS

Brian Riedl explains what rising interest rates mean for the federal budget, and it’s not pretty: Washington Isn’t Ready for Higher Interest Rates

Jonathan Lesser on New York’s unworkable climate plan: New York’s Climate Virtue-Signaling Will Condemn Millions to Energy Poverty

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

“Enough hues to make a rainbow feel drab.” Brian Allen talks up a dazzling exhibition of pottery known as majolica: Call It Madness, Call It Mania, Call It Magic, but Majolica Comes to Baltimore

Armond White, with a rave: Marx Can Wait: A Haunting Documentary from a Truly Great Filmmaker

Kyle Smith goes deep into the Kubrick oeuvre: Stanley Kubrick’s Most Influential Movie

FROM THE NEW, AUGUST 1, 2022, ISSUE OF NR

Andrew McCarthy: Biden Is the Confounder in Chief

Dan McLaughlin: How the 2012 Election Deranged America

Mary Eberstadt: What the Nurses Knew

Ramesh Ponnuru: In Defense of Dobbs

I FEEL THE NEED, THE NEED FOR EXCERPTS

Jill Biden’s taco tribulations prompted much discussion this week in the chattersphere — this website not excluded — about cultural terminology and also breakfast food. Kevin Williamson, as he often does, took things a step further:

First Lady Jill Biden is an embarrassment, but there is a prior question: Why is there a First Lady Jill Biden at all? Why does this person exist?

Previously, Jill Biden’s great contribution to American public life had been providing regular opportunities to mock education doctorates and the habit of people who hold such degrees of affecting the title “Doctor,” as Mrs. Biden does. But now she is ready to make a real and lasting contribution to American public life by dint of her example.

We have to get rid of first ladies.

First ladies are the worst. All of them, even the ones I like.

We live in a republic, not an elected monarchy, and the fact that a woman happens to be married to the president ought properly to mean absolutely nothing for her role in American life. Of course, it is a curiosity. But that we have made it a position and a rank — first! — smacks of the kind of formal aristocracy that we fought a revolution to liberate ourselves from.

And, inevitably, the “first lady” begat the “second lady,” or, perhaps even more nauseating, the “second gentleman” in the case of Douglas Emhoff, a poor dumb bastard for whom I legitimately feel sorry. Imagine putting in all that hard work being evil at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman and ending up as an accoutrement to an accoutrement to such a nullity as Dr. Jill Biden’s husband. That is practically purgatorial.

If there is a “second lady,” then there must be a “third lady.” I know who the third lady was in the Trump administration — Melania — but who is the third lady/gentleman now? Paul Pelosi, I guess.

We don’t need a “first lady.” I don’t know if IBM CEO Arvind Krishna is married, but I guarantee you that if he is, nobody calls his wife the “first lady” of IBM. Karen S. Lynch’s husband isn’t the “first gentleman” of CVS Health. Surely the government of the United States of America can manage to be at least as republican in its manners as the Fortune 500. Patty Smyth is the woman who sang “Goodbye to You,” not some special weird minor figure ceremonial in the tennis world because of her marriage to that lunatic John McEnroe. Dr. Jill Biden is a lightly accomplished, half-educated Ed.D-holding numbskull who sees the locals in San Antonio and thinks: “Tacos. What these people remind me of is tacos.”

Nobody would care if she weren’t married to the president. Nobody should care, even though she is.

Amid rising interest rates, Brian Riedl exposes the foolishness of so many Washington policy-makers who embraced borrowing on the premise that it would cost next to nothing:

Washington, perched for now on top of a mountain of debt, can ill afford higher interest rates. For the past few years, short-sighted lawmakers, economists, and columnists have demanded that Congress take advantage of low interest rates by engaging in a massive borrowing spree. Indeed, President Biden’s enormous spending agenda was often justified by the low interest rates on government borrowing.

This case never made sense for two reasons. First, Washington was already projected to add $100 trillion in baseline deficits over the next three decades due primarily to Social Security and Medicare shortfalls. Even with low rates, interest costs were projected by the CBO to become the most expensive item in the federal budget and consume half of all tax revenues within a few decades. Additional borrowing would deepen the hole.

Second, Washington never locked in the recent low interest rates. In fact, the average maturity on the federal debt has fallen to 62 months. If interest rates rise at any point in the future, nearly the entire escalating national debt would roll over into those rates within a decade. Consequently, continued federal borrowing means gambling America’s economic future on the hope that interest rates never rise again. And there is no backup plan if rates do rise.

We are now getting a taste of the cost of higher interest rates. The latest CBO budget baseline conservatively assumes that the average interest rate on the federal debt rises to 3.1 percent over the decade, which is just 0.7 percent above what it projected last year before inflation and interest rates began growing. Even that modest forecast shows that, a decade from now, the $1.2 trillion cost of annual federal interest payments will exceed the defense budget, and represent a record 3.3 percent of the economy. And that is the rosy scenario of a strong economic recovery, low inflation, no new spending expansions, and the 2017 tax cuts expiring on schedule.

And what if interest rates surpass the CBO’s projected 3.1 percent rate a decade from now? Each additional percentage point would cost the federal government $2.6 trillion over the decade, and $400 billion annually by 2032.

College has changed. Abigail Anthony explains how:

I arrived at Princeton University in September 2019. I had looked at Princeton online and thought, “one day . . .” Suddenly, I was experiencing day one. My eager arrival on campus was emotionally amplified by bright smiles, copious pamphlets, and dormitory supervisors dancing in tiger suits. Orientation innocently began with introductions of names and hometowns — then descended into divisive lectures and panels. The intention of these programs was not to assimilate us into our new (and intimidating) surroundings, but rather to coerce students into accepting and affirming a resident orthodoxy.

We often hear about how college students are indoctrinated in the classroom. But the brainwashing begins on move-in day.

Ideally, freshman orientation should be a procedural, social assimilation to familiarize students with the resources the university offers and how to access them. However, Princeton University undertook a mission to present incoming students with sexual, moral, and political guidance, wholly omitting widely held perspectives and effectively insulating progressive views from intellectual trial. Moreover, attendance at these events was compulsory, thus constituting an ideological hazing.

The mandatory “Safer Sexpo” event series within orientation provides condoms, lube, and other sexual products; in 2020, the university provided unspecified “sex toys” to students and emphasized “solo sex.” Each year, freshmen are given a “You’re So Sexy When You Aren’t Transmitting STI’s” comic book with crude pornographic drawings, complete with a condom attached to the back; the author’s website clarifies that “the ideal target audience for this book is college campuses and sex positive organizations that are involved with young people and adults.” Students are informed where they can obtain contraception, abortifacients, and abortions, but there’s no mention of local pregnancy centers. There is a mandatory LGBTQ+ panel, which provides flyers of “The Genderbread Person” diagram. The Gender + Sexuality Resource Center Peer Ed Training Terminology handouts include a “primer on trans inclusive feminism” which explains that “trans women are women” and “there’s no ifs, ands or buts about it.” . . .

During my freshman orientation, in 2019, all the new students (totaling just over 1,300) filed into an auditorium for the “Reflections on Diversity” presentation. A moderator announced statements relating to identity, and students were prompted to stand whenever a given statement resonated with them. Pronouncements related to socioeconomic status (“I am from an owning-class family”) and sexuality (“I do not conform to a binary gender”). The presenter said “this is your community” after every identity, as if students of wealthier backgrounds inherently shared a community. As naïve freshmen, we were pressured into revealing intimate details about our lives, yet it was wholly impersonal because we were reduced to whatever categorical boxes we fill by chance. It was public atonement for supposed sins.

Continuing with some themes from last weekend, Charles C. W. Cooke writes about the next phase in Democrats’ (and the media’s) steady separation from Biden:

“President Biden,” the New York Times reports today, “is facing an alarming level of doubt from inside his own party.” And so, as night follows day, President Biden is facing an alarming level of doubt from within the national media, too.

The crucial statistic in the Times’ roundup was not that Biden’s approval rating is at just 33 percent, or that “more than two-thirds of independents also now disapprove of the president’s performance,” or that “only 13 percent of American voters said the nation was on the right track,” or even that, post-Dobbs, “abortion rated as the most important issue for 5 percent of voters.” The crucial statistic in the Times’ roundup was that “only 26 percent of Democratic voters said the party should renominate [Biden] in 2024.” Why? Because therein rests the permission that the press needed to retreat to its pre-2019 assumptions. Après cela, le déluge.

Apologists for Joe Biden — and for the media’s coverage of him — like to insist that his shortcomings have been covered amply since he first announced he was running for president. But that isn’t quite right. It is true that Biden was frequently cast in a negative light during the 2019 primaries: Back when there was a chance that someone else might be the nominee, Biden was often said to be too old, or too gaffe-prone, or too racist, or too law-and-order-ish to be the nominee. It is not true, however, that these criticisms continued in earnest once Biden had secured the Democratic nomination. Remember those SNL skits that showed Biden as a confused, mendacious, out-of-touch, geriatric has-been? Remember how they stopped once he represented the only chance to beat Donald Trump? The same thing happened in the press. In December 2019, Joe Biden was ancient and ineloquent. By the summer of 2020, he was the experienced survivor of a debilitating stutter. . . .

Yet the fact that Biden seems so old and so confused and so chronically out of touch has provided progressives with a valuable opportunity nevertheless: They can argue that the problem isn’t their policies, but the man selling them. “Oh, all that mess?” they can tell voters, if they manage to persuade Biden to make way for new blood in 2024. “Don’t worry about all that. Our new guy is young — and he’s on it.”

Shout-Outs

Megan McArdle, at the Washington Post: A Berkeley professor’s Senate testimony didn’t go how the left thinks it did

Noah Rothman, at Commentary: How to Leverage a Murder

Adam Wray, at RealClearEducation: College Enrollment is Down – But There’s a Silver Lining

Elle Reynolds, at the Federalist: Kamala Harris Quotes As Motivational Posters

CODA

This sign-off has leaned on Soul Coughing for contributions before, but upon reading Andrew Follett’s piece in the last NR issue, I found “So Far I Have Not Found the Science” to be apt. Another one from Soul Coughing, then (you can take the boy out of the ’90s, but you can’t, well . . . you know the rest).

Got a tune you want to share with this list? From the gnarly ’90s, even? Shoot it this way: jberger@nationalreview.com. Thanks for reading.

White House

As the Left Turns

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President Joe Biden departs Air Force One as he returns from NATO and G7 summits in Europe at Joint Base Andrews, Md., June 30, 2022. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Democrats haven’t abandoned someone this quickly since Donald Trump decided to run for president as a Republican.

Persistently paltry poll numbers combining with a string of defeats at the Supreme Court, economic pressures that refuse to bend to the will of tweets, and the associated gloomy prospects for Democrats in the midterms are cracking the coalition that helped get President Biden elected.

Politico warned back in November 2020 that this coalition was “broad but unstable,” comprising minorities, young people, women, independents, and some Republicans. He’s now underwater with all of them (save for minorities, who are evenly split on the job-approval question) in the latest Monmouth University poll. As progressives and others bolt the Wilmington zeppelin, the tableau conjures the spectacular evacuation scene from Spaceballs in which, as troopers scramble for safety, Mel Brooks’s President Skroob grabs his subordinate’s shirt and barks, “You gotta help me, I don’t know what to do, I can’t make decisions — I’m a president!”

Michael Brendan Dougherty sums up the mess:

The giant sucking sound you’re hearing is the panicked divestment of elected Democratic politicians, progressive activists, and the mainstream media from the Biden administration. The word is definitely out that the president’s stock is going to zero — and it’s time to get out while you still can.

Two weeks ago, in a foreboding sign for the White House, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — with a finger to the political winds blowing on Instagram — announced that she wasn’t ready to support Biden in 2024. Then came California governor Gavin Newsom, asking “Where’s my party?” as Republicans and conservatives continue to score political wins. Newsom’s question sparked 2024 speculation for him, and then he stoked the flames even higher by buying ad time in Florida, demonstrating that he could identify and take on the real Republican threat, who is sitting behind a desk in Tallahassee: DeSantis.

That Newsom ad, going after Florida’s governor on his state’s airwaves, was a particular display of chutzpah. Perhaps it’s a play to reverse the traffic pattern of California residents leaving for Florida. Or, as Jim Geraghty notes, it could be a “not-so-subtle hint to Democrats across the country that if they want to reconsider their presidential options for 2024, he’s available and interested.”

This CNN article captures the frustration on the left toward the Biden presidency in its 18th month. “Debra Messing was fed up” is the first line, and one that should be preserved in amber so that future generations might understand the American political-power dynamics of 2022. The piece describes what are really two sets of complaints. One is that Biden is not meeting the “moment” with urgency, after the Dobbs ruling and other setbacks and amid persistent inflation. The other is that Biden and his team aren’t performing the basic work of running an administration:

Multiple Democratic politicians who have reached out to work with Biden — whether it’s on specific bills, brainstorming or outreach — often don’t hear anything back at all. Potential appointees have languished for months waiting to hear if they’ll get jobs, or when they’ll be done with vetting. Invitations to events are scarce, thank you calls barely happen. Even some aides within the White House wonder why Biden didn’t fire anyone, from the West Wing or at the Food and Drug Administration, to demonstrate some accountability or at least anger over the baby formula debacle.

Jim lays some blame on the staff. It’s not just insiders harboring these doubts. A recent Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll survey found 71 percent of Americans don’t want Biden to run again, numbers that roughly align with the percentage viewing the country on the “wrong track.” This, from Brittany Bernstein’s news story, is astonishing: “Just 30 percent of Democrats said they would vote for Biden in a Democratic presidential primary.” In fairness, the survey did not present this as a binary choice and allowed respondents to name a variety of potential candidatesbut that’s a troubling number for an incumbent president who hasn’t even weathered his first formal shellacking.

So what now? Democrats have a couple not-negligible factors that could redound to their political benefit. We have yet to see how Dobbs and subsequent state-level abortion restrictions might motivate voters, and the revelations of the January committee could continue to stoke anti-Trump (and by extension, anti-Republican) sentiments. But there’s little indication that either of those issues overpowers inflation. Ditching Biden for someone with better hair — someone who “fights!” — might be a wallpaper-over-the-mold solution.

As Michael notes, this is about much more than Biden:

For now, cutting ties with Joe Biden doesn’t just mean the beginning of a desperate search for a new future leader of the Democratic Party and a potential president. At this moment, progressives are casting about for the means, the will, and the talent to effect a revolution against the features of the Constitution that allow Republicans to hold power at all.

Upending the Constitutional Order will make for one heckuva campaign platform.

*    *    *

Before I turn this newsletter over to the highlight reel, may I submit a gentle reminder that we are running a webathon in the post-Dobbs stretch, which you can donate to here. If you’re a long-time Jolter, then this won’t be the first webathon you’ve come across; what makes this one a bit different, though, is that a generous supporter is matching gifts dollar for dollar up to $100,000. So even if you give a little, it becomes a lot. These donations — along with subscription fees, digital-ad revenue, and the like — help keep this humble operation humming. If you are reading this, you are playing a part. So thank you.

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EDITORIALS

A farewell: Goodbye, Boris

Another mass shooting, another set of questions about what could have been done to stop it: When Gun Laws Don’t Prevent Gun Crime

Not exactly “pro-choice”: Elizabeth Warren’s War on Pregnancy Resource Centers

ICYMI, we published this to mark Independence Day: America the Awesome

ARTICLES

Jim Geraghty: A Pointless Horror in Japan

Isaac Schorr: What to Make of America’s Military-Recruitment Problem

Kevin Williamson: Lessons from the Left’s Implosion

Stanley Kurtz: DeSantis Blasts Fake Civics Bill

Jimmy Quinn: Huawei Launches New Surveillance ‘Corps’ in Creepy Military-Style Rally

Brittany Bernstein: Nate Silver Calls Pelosi Fundraising Email ‘Straight-up Misinformation’

Rich Lowry: Biden’s Shameful Gas-Station Attack   

Marco Rubio: Expect Biden to Beg Beijing for Gasoline

Ryan Mills: Exclusive: Jeff Sessions Calls On Prosecutors to Crack Down on Gun Crimes

Ryan Mills: Brooke Jenkins Selected to Replace Former Boss, Chesa Boudin, as San Francisco DA

Dan McLaughlin: Boris Johnson Fell Because Character Matters

John McCormack: Video: Blocking Traffic Is a Cruel and Counterproductive Form of Protest

CAPITAL MATTERS

Robert H. Bork Jr. warns of a new phase of U.S.–European regulatory collaboration: Why Are U.S. Regulators Helping the EU Hobble Top American Companies?

A new kind of West Coast/East Coast rivalry is starting. Dominic Pino explains: Avoiding California, Shippers Clog East Coast and Gulf Ports Instead

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Brian Allen writes about a reunion, and dishes on what museum elites really think about the next generation: What Williams Reunion-Goers Think of Covid Lockdowns and Museum Turmoil

Kyle Smith reviews a documentary about a famous NYC building and its eccentric residents: The Shabby Magnificence of the Chelsea Hotel

Armond White’s midyear movie roundup puts Hollywood on notice: 2022 Midyear Reckoning

MORE CONTENT, YOU SAY?

Jimmy Quinn’s reporting offers a powerful example of how China’s Huawei is not a normal company, folks:

During a bizarre, military-style ceremony that highlighted Huawei’s ties to China’s security state, the tech company launched a new internal business unit focused on developing artificial-intelligence-powered surveillance technology. The new unit will be focused on streamlining the embattled Chinese company’s efforts to become a worldwide leader in cutting-edge AI surveillance technology that can be deployed by cities around the world.

The ceremony puts the lie to Huawei’s global public-relations and lobbying campaigns that strive to dispel the well-founded notion that its ultimate loyalties are with the Chinese Communist Party. . . .

Last year, amid the international restrictions, Huawei’s revenue continued to decline, though its profitability grew as it pivoted to other sectors. Part of the effort to transform Huawei in response to Western bans is a reorganization of the company into various “corps,” each focused on a different emerging industry.

During the aforementioned ceremony on May 26, Huawei inaugurated its corps for “machine vision,” an AI-based computer analysis of images. This corps is key to the company’s efforts to enter the surveillance-technology market. What stood out from the event was the pugilistic way in which the company presented its work.

According to a Chinese security-media report, which the video-surveillance trade group IPVM shared with National Review, the ceremony featured a row of uniformed Huawei employees doing a raised-fist CCP salute onstage. Behind them was a banner that read:

“Application integration, Cloud coordination, Build a leading competitor! Deepen channel distribution to help customers succeed on the frontline. Stay focused and competitive to live and die with the Corps. Machine Vision Corps, Victory! Huawei, Victory! Victory! Victory!”

Rich Lowry explains exactly why Biden’s gas-station demands fall so flat:

For Joe Biden, the buck stops with small independent business owners trying to make ends meet.

Over the holiday weekend, the president slammed gas stations for the purported sin of not passing along declining oil prices to motorists.

Biden took to Twitter to urge “the companies running gas stations and setting prices at the pump” to heed his message: “Bring down the price you are charging at the pump to reflect the cost you’re paying for the product.”

Yes, sir, whatever you say, Mr. President!

The United States Oil and Gas Association mockingly recommended that the intern who posted the tweet should sign up for Econ 101, but it’s worse than that. Biden has hit the gas stations before on the same grounds. It’s hard to know where the economic illiteracy ends and the shameless demagoguery begins. Regardless, it’s another indication that the president’s approach to inflation is to cast about for scapegoats and villains, no matter how implausible.

So-called jawboning, or stern rhetoric directed at industries to get them to bend to the presidential will, is nothing new. The most famous example is from John F. Kennedy, who blasted U.S. Steel for raising prices in 1962. JFK’s tack was questionable, but at least he was targeting an enormously influential industry that had breached an agreement to hold the line on prices brokered by his administration.

Biden, by contrast, is going after the proverbial Liberty Gas Station and Uni-Mart down on Route 134 started by an immigrant couple hoping to send their children to college for the first time. These small-time entrepreneurs have done nothing wrong, except remain in business at a time when the president’s anti-oil-and-gas policy has backfired spectacularly.

Important news from California, courtesy of Ryan Mills:

Brooke Jenkins, a one-time San Francisco prosecutor who resigned from the district attorney’s office last year to support the recall of her former boss, Chesa Boudin, was named Boudin’s replacement on Thursday.

San Francisco mayor London Breed officially announced during a p.m. PDT press conference that she had selected Jenkins, 40, to be San Francisco’s next district attorney. Breed said she considered several candidates for the position, but that Jenkins “stood out the most.”

“She sacrificed her career to fight for the people in this city, to fight for victims who needed a voice in this city,” Breed said of Jenkins, a political novice, who became a leading voice of the Boudin recall.

Jenkins, a one-time Boudin supporter, quit her job in protest after she said Boudin pressured prosecutors in his office to give lenient plea deals and that he acted more like the public defender that he had been than a prosecutor. During an introductory speech Thursday, Jenkins said the “paramount mission of the district attorney’s office is to promote public safety.”

Jenkins vowed to “restore accountability and consequences to our criminal-justice system.” She said hate crimes will not be tolerated, and “violent and repeat offenders will no longer be allowed to victimize our city without consequences.” She said a top priority will be ending open-air drug markets in the city and enforcing drug laws, “so that we can take back our streets.”

John McCormack flags a video that everyone should watch — as an example of how certain protest tactics, no matter the cause they’re meant to advance, blatantly hurt ordinary people:

It’s worth watching the first 30 seconds of this viral video of a parolee pleading with environmentalist protesters who blocked traffic outside of Washington, D.C., on July 4.

“One lane! I’m asking one lane!” pleads the man, who says he will “go to prison” if he can’t make it to his job. The environmentalist ideologues are unmoved.

The video is enough to infuriate anyone with an ounce of sanity and an ounce of sympathy. And it should make it clear that there is never a good reason for protesters to block traffic. There will always be parolees and average people who just need to get to work to support themselves and their families. Sick people will always need to be taken to the hospital (and so will pregnant women who need to deliver their babies). That’s true even if a particular protest doesn’t yield a viral video.

So it really does not matter what the protest is targeting — climate policy, vaccine mandates, or even abortion — blocking traffic is a cruel and counterproductive policy because it hurts innocent people.

Shout-Outs

Josh Mitchell, at the Wall Street Journal: Red States Are Winning the Post-Pandemic Economy

Eric Felten, at RealClearInvestigations: Biden’s ‘Whole of Government’ Climate Spending Spree

Matthew Goodwin, at UnHerd: Boris changed the Tories forever

Snejana Farberov, at the New York Post: Chicago cops barred from chasing people on foot who run away

CODA

I initially meant to respond on the Corner to Kyle Smith’s unwarranted denunciation of OK Computer, but even that would be too dignifying. “Suicide rock,” “ear poison,” “mild projectile vomiting” . . . these were among the gratuitous terms used on his canvas of kvetch to describe an album that, honestly Kyle, only sometimes portrays all humanity as caught in the double vice grip of isolation and despair. Maybe Kyle would prefer something cheerier. That’s fine. I’ll take “Climbing Up the Walls.”

NR Webathon

America Needs an Advocate

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A person in an Uncle Sam hat watches the Macy’s Fourth of July fireworks in New York City, July 4, 2021. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Earlier this year, National Review published a statement on America’s “crisis of self-doubt.” It was signed by dozens of prominent conservatives, endorsing views — we would argue truths — that should not be controversial yet are increasingly so, in the face of a relentless smear campaign against the country’s fundamental character:

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

The statement issued a call to “revivify” these notions. It is something National Review does daily, and we hope you will consider supporting this work, this Independence Day weekend, by donating as part of our webathon. Anyone who does should know that we have a force multiplier in play: Thanks to a generous donor, any contribution made will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $100,000.

We launched this webathon at the conclusion of a momentous Supreme Court session, out of which NR’s coverage — on the Dobbs decision and much else — has been unmatched. Dan McLaughlin, Alexandra DeSanctis (read more about Xan’s work here), Kathryn Jean Lopez, Philip Klein, John McCormack, Andrew McCarthy, and many others are providing crucial context for today’s debates.

But in honor of the holiday, I’d like to broaden the scope a bit. Among the many causes NR has championed over the years, perhaps the most fundamental is that of this country. And lately, she really needs an advocate. After all, the erasure of the American story in ways big and small shows little sign of abating, most recently with Cornell’s bizarre removal of a bust of Lincoln and a plaque of the Gettysburg Address after “someone complained.”

You won’t find that kind of tosh (as my colleague Charlie Cooke might say) here.

Earlier this year, the magazine devoted an entire issue to refuting the slanders about the American Founding. We’ve published essays on the case for American optimism. Jim Geraghty just penned a characteristically informed and honest holiday-weekend ode. And even with new revelations about the shameful events of January 6, 2021 — which NR does not sugarcoat, even if this brings us some heat — we have stressed the hero’s role played by the U.S. Constitution in preventing a terrible episode from spiraling into an existential crisis. Further, we followed up that aforementioned statement with others by the signers, urging a restoration of American confidence.

To be sure, these are difficult times. They call not for denial or defeatism (even CNN has noted a “malaise” flavor lately to President Biden’s rhetoric), but what Washington described in his farewell address, in reference to his own service to country, as “upright zeal.”

We’ll be here, sporting zeal, and appreciate any support you can spare. In the meantime, peruse in patriotism the week’s highlights below.

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EDITORIALS

Taking stock of all that has happened before the Court this year: A Historically Great Term

ARTICLES

Kevin Williamson: Will Dobbs Matter in November?

Charles C. W. Cooke: Sorry, Progressives, No One Is Coming to Save You

Charles Hilu: White House’s Fourth of July Cookout Tweet Did Not Age Well

Dan McLaughlin: Supreme Court Lets High-School Football Coach Kneel in Prayer

Kathryn Jean Lopez: With the End of Roe, Let’s End the Violence

Ryan Mills: California School District Fires Superintendent for Divisive Comments about Asian Students

Andrew McCarthy: Cassidy Hutchinson’s Testimony against Trump Is Devastating

Rich Lowry: No, the Conservative Justices Didn’t Lie

Luther Ray Abel: Timeline of the Uvalde Shooting: A System Failure

Brittany Bernstein: Swing-State Voters Still More Concerned with Inflation Than Abortion Post-Roe, New Poll Finds

Isaac Schorr: Former USA Today Editor Recounts Witch Hunt Triggered by ‘Anti-Trans’ Tweet

John McCormack: Every Abortion Law in America Protects Women with Ectopic Pregnancies

Madeleine Kearns: Dave Portnoy and the ‘Bro-Choice’ Crisis

CAPITAL MATTERS

Brad Weisenstein at the Illinois Policy Institute explains an exodus: A Company That Moves the Earth Couldn’t Move Illinois

Dominic Pino reports that the striking spirit is alive and well: Unions Have No Qualms Making Supply Chains Worse

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Kyle Smith recognizes Beavis and Butt-Head as oracles of our time: To Stupidity, and Beyond

Brian Allen writes about the AAA — the other AAA, that is: the Archives of American Art — seeing as he’s been dwelling there lately for research on a biography he’s doing. It’s part of that constellation of D.C. archival treasures that many visitors, and residents, might not know existed. Read on: The Archives of American Art: The Ultimate Gold Mine in Culture Studies

Armond White cheers an action flick with depth: Ambulance Rescues Michael Bay’s America from Propaganda

THESE EXCERPTS BURN HOTTER THAN A ROMAN CANDLE

John McCormack fact-checks a misleading viral claim:

Since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision overturned Roe v. Wade, there has been a lot of viral misinformation spread on social media that women with ectopic pregnancies and other life-threatening conditions may not be able to be treated in states with laws limiting or banning abortion. . . .

In fact, no abortion law in any state in America prevents lifesaving treatment for women with ectopic pregnancies and other life-threatening conditions. That was true of abortion laws in 1972, and it’s true of abortion laws in 2022. “All states had at least a life of the mother exception before Roe v. Wade,” Clarke Forsythe, senior counsel at Americans United for Life, told me in an email. See, for example, the language in the Texas abortion statute struck down under Roe v. Wade in 1973 that said nothing in the law applies to an abortion performed “for the purpose of saving the life of the mother.” The other lie in Ali’s tweet is the idea that women undergoing abortions will be prosecuted. As Forsythe wrote in 2006, states prosecuted abortionists, not women, under pre-Roe laws. Every state abortion law triggered by the overturning of Roe includes an exception at least to save the life of the mother, but that didn’t stop Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer from falsely claiming at a May 10 press conference (emphasis added): “If the MAGA Republicans get their way, pregnant women could lose their lives because there will be no exception for the life of a mother if there’s a dangerous complication in the pregnancy.” . . .

Many state laws, including the law in Texas, explicitly exclude treatment for ectopic pregnancies from the definition of abortion. On this matter, Planned Parenthood, anti-abortion Republican doctors, and the Catholic Church agree.

Planned Parenthood’s official website states that treatment for ectopic pregnancies “isn’t the same thing as getting an abortion.”

Even with some details of Cassidy Hutchinson’s January 6 committee testimony in dispute, the account she provided is damning (see more here and here). Andrew McCarthy explains, and provides a comprehensive overview of her claims. Here’s the scene upon Trump’s return to the White House that day:

Whatever happened in the SUV, Trump returned to the West Wing incensed, especially at [Mark] Meadows, whom he blamed for preventing him from going to the Capitol. [Cassidy] Hutchinson said she did not witness whatever conversation first occurred between the president and his chief of staff. When she found Meadows in his office, though, he seemed catatonic. The television was on, the rioters were closing in on the Capitol, and Hutchinson tried to snap Meadows out of it, asking if he’d spoken with Trump. No, Meadows said, Trump wanted to be alone right now. Feeling like she was watching a slow-motion trainwreck, she pressed him, bringing up Meadows’s friend, Congressman Jim Jordan: Mark, do you know where Jim is? Rioters seemed poised to enter the Capitol. No, Meadows indicated that he hadn’t heard from Jordan, but the thought at least seemed to get his wheels spinning.

Just then, [Pat] Cipollone came racing down the hall. “Mark,” he thundered, the rioters had gotten to the Capitol. “We need to go see the president right now.” Meadows fecklessly replied that Trump was aware of what was going on but didn’t want to do anything at the moment.

Cipollone was incredulous. Things had already turned violent. “Mark, something’s got to be done right now.” If it wasn’t, “blood will be on your hands.”

That, Hutchinson recalled, happened sometime around 2:15 to 2:25. Cipollone browbeat Meadows into going to see Trump.

As Hutchinson waited behind, Jordan called, desperately seeking Meadows. Hutchinson ran with the cellphone over to the dining room off the Oval Office. The door was closed. After confirming with the valet that Meadows was inside, she stepped into the room and got Meadows’s attention. As she handed him the phone, she could hear chaotic background noise, including the now-infamous “Hang Mike Pence” chants. Hutchinson then left Meadows and Cipollone to their tense discussion with Trump.

Moments later, the dejected pair came back to Meadows’s office — Hutchinson believed they might have been accompanied by associate White House counsel Eric Herschmann. She remembered Cipollone continuing to light into Meadows: “We’ve got to do something, they’re calling for the vice president to be f***ing hung.” Referring with resignation to the conversation they’d just had with Trump, Meadows told Cipollone, “You heard him. He thinks Mike deserves it. He doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong.”

The case of David Mastio, which Jay Nordlinger also recounted here, should make your blood boil. Isaac Schorr has an interview:

When David Mastio, then the deputy editorial page editor at USA Today, tweeted that “people who are pregnant are also women” last August, it put a target on his back that would send leadership at the paper scrambling to concoct a case against him that could justify a demotion and $30,000 pay cut.

In response to the tweet, opinion editor Kristen DelGuzzi and editor-in-chief Nicole Carroll sent Mastio a memo, obtained by National Review, in which they lambasted the veteran editor and asserted that his decision to question the orthodoxy of gender ideology “calls your judgment into question.”

“There have been other times when we’ve discussed lapses in judgment,” continued DelGuzzi and Carroll. “In 2018, an op-ed from President Trump that you handled was not thoroughly vetted, resulting in deserved criticism and requiring a column from our standards editor as well as a fact check to be paired with it. In 2017, you wrote in an editorial that President Trump was ‘unfit to clean toilets,’ a comment disparaging to an entire segment of workers.”

As a result of his position, they argued, “your lapses in judgment have impact, not only on you and your career but also on your colleagues and on the reputation of USA TODAY. Each of these instances outlined resulted in negative – and avoidable – attention, all of which can call into question our integrity and trust and relationship with our readers.”

“As of Aug. 20, in your new role as opinion writer, you do not have supervisory responsibilities, nor do you have an editing role. If you bring in content, it must have an editor… This is a written warning that any further instances of unacceptable conduct will lead to additional disciplinary action, up to and including immediate termination of your employment without further warning or notice to you,” concluded the memo.

In an interview with National Review, Mastio described that memo as the culmination of an effort to go “back through my career” in search of reasons to sanction him for the tweet.

“They just kind of made it up,” said Mastio.

Charles C. W. Cooke identifies a trend:

The most famous scene in Peter Weir’s hit movie, The Truman Show, depicts Truman Burbank’s wife, Meryl — who, unbeknownst to him, is an actress — growing alarmed by her husband’s behavior, breaking the fourth wall in a panic, and shouting, “Do something!” to the producers of the titular show, who are hidden off-set. Obliging her request, the producers immediately dispatch a neighbor — also an actor — to show up at Truman’s front door, deus-ex-machina–style, and defuse the situation. “Who were you talking to?” Truman asks Meryl before the neighbor arrives.

“Who,” indeed.

For more than seven decades now, America’s boundary-pushing progressives have chosen to behave like Meryl: Whenever things have gone south, they’ve cried, “Do something!” And, sure enough, the powers-that-be have usually sent someone over to fix the problem.

At long last, in 2022, this pattern may be changing. . . .

For the first time in a century, a majority on the current Supreme Court is more interested in the law than in political freelancing, and, better still, it seems to be uncowed by activist pressure. Having reached a fever pitch of wokeness during the presidency of Donald Trump, America’s corporations are now slowly learning to stand up to internal and external agitators. Exhausted by the neo-Puritans that are destroying them from within, a growing number of universities and media outlets are rediscovering their spines. Rogue prosecutors are being recalled. Referenda are being honored. Executive overreach is being reversed. At Netflix, at the University of Chicago, and even in the city of San Francisco, the progressive movement’s calls to “do something” are starting to fall on deaf — or indifferent — ears. For a while, this will yield disbelief, chatter about “illegitimacy,” and more than a few tears on the left. And then, when the realization has fully sunk in, it will prompt the sensible there to do the slow and hard work from which they have been shielded for so long.

Shout-Outs

Aaron Sibarium, at the Washington Free Beacon: Inside the Investigation of Axed Princeton Prof Joshua Katz

Melissa Klein & Larry Celona, at the New York Post: Hundreds of NYC prosecutors quitting woke bosses and onerous reforms

Paul Best, at Fox News: Uvalde mother who got out of cuffs to rescue kids from shooting is now being harassed by police, lawyer says

Jennifer Kabbany, at the College Fix: Cornell library removes Gettysburg Address, Lincoln bust

CODA

Something holiday-appropriate is in order. So, from the best Springsteen album (author runs for cover . . . ), the Jolt jukebox would spin “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy).”

There’s a timeless quality to the Jersey shore — so wild and innocent — and this song’s portrait of boardwalk adolescence endures, even if the “greasers” no longer “tramp the streets.” It conjures childhood memories, for me, of gawking at fireworks a few miles north of Asbury, sand spilling across the beach towel. Happy Fourth, and thanks for reading.

Politics & Policy

Earthquake at the Court

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

Dear Weekend Jolter,

First the tremor, then the earthquake.

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

From NR’s editorial:

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

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

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

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

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

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

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

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

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

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

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

ARTICLES

Dan McLaughlin: We Lived to See It

Alexandra DeSanctis: What Comes after Roe?

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

John Fund: Desperate Democrats Meddle in GOP Primaries

Kevin Williamson: Here Comes Fiscal Armageddon

Kevin Williamson: Joe Biden Should Take More Vacations

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

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

Nate Hochman: Against QR-Code Menus

Rachelle Peterson: Beware the Confucius Institute Rebrand

Jay Nordlinger: Before We ‘Move On’

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

Kyle Smith: Reservoir Progs

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

CAPITAL MATTERS

Kevin Hassett has a plan: How to Fix Inflation

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

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

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

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

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

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

Shawn Regan: Running Dry in the American West

Dan McLaughlin: Lessons from the January 6 Hearings

John McCormack: Scorched Earth in Arizona’s GOP Primary

Andrew Follett: Too-Political Science

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

Dan McLaughlin reflects on Roe’s demise:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shout-Outs

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

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

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

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

Honorable Mention

From our friends at NRI:

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

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

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

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

CODA

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

White House

Woe Is Biden

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

Dear Weekend Jolter,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A recent NBC News story captured this dynamic:

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

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

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

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

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

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

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

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

ARTICLES

Rich Lowry: The Kamala Harris Problem

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

Robert Stein: The 60-Plus-Seat Senate Agenda

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

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

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

Abigail Anthony: Who Are People with Uteruses?

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

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

Michael Brendan Dougherty: The Zombie War against Covid

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

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

CAPITAL MATTERS

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

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

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

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

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

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

EAT PRAY EXCERPT

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

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

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

But we haven’t gotten all the way there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shout-Outs

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

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

Austin Williams, at UnHerd: Zero Covid has radicalized Shanghai

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

CODA

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

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

Enjoy the weather, and thanks for reading.

Energy & Environment

Gas-Stove Bans Are Starting to Look Racist

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(bgton/Getty Images)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*    *    *

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

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

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

About those gas prices: Biden’s $5 Gallon

Called it: Chesa Boudin Must Go

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

ARTICLES

Rich Lowry: Biden Is an Old Man Overwhelmed by Events

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

Alexandra DeSanctis: Abortion Supporters, End the Violence

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

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

Dan McLaughlin: Ilya Shapiro Resigns from Georgetown Law School

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

Kyle Smith: Hollywood’s China Breakup Is Long Overdue

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

Jim Geraghty: Ultra-Progressive Politics Rebuked in California

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

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

Kevin Williamson: Of Course Haircuts Have Genders

CAPITAL MATTERS

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

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

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

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

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

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

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

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

Christine Rosen: Ban Kids from Social Media

Andrew McCarthy: Russiagate Misunderstood

Michael Brendan Dougherty: The Modest Burden of Life

Mario Loyola: What Is the Ukraine Endgame?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honorable Mention

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

Shout-Outs

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

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

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

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

CODA

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

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

Thanks for reading.

Politics & Policy

Setting the Record Straight

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

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Fair is foul and foul is fair, say some.

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

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

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

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

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

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

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

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

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

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

ARTICLES

Kyle Smith: Norm Macdonald Killed before He Died

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

Madeleine Kearns: A Reckoning for MeToo

Ari Schaffer: Georgia Republicans Flip the Script on Stolen Elections

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

Rich Lowry: The Blowhard-in-Chief

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

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

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

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

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

CAPITAL MATTERS

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

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

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

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

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

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

THE CHARGE: GREAT COPY, THE PLEA: GUILTY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Him?” asks John McCormack:

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

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

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

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

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

Shout-Outs

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

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

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

CODA

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

White House

The ‘Lifeline’ That Wasn’t

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

Dear Weekend Jolter,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*   *   *

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

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

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

Cue Nelson Muntz laugh: A Bad Night for Lies

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

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

ARTICLES

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

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

Ryan Mills: Record Gas Prices Crush California Small Businesses

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

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

Jim Talent: Why Ukraine Matters

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

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

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Supervillains Gather in Davos

Dan McLaughlin: 2020 Is Over

Madeleine Kearns: The Increasing Importance of Trans-Skeptical Comedy

CAPITAL MATTERS

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

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

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

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

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

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

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

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

Rachel Lu: Can We Raise Birth Rates?

Jim Geraghty: Blue-Dog Democrat, Endangered Species

John Bolton: America’s Exceptional Conservatism

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

More from NR’s editorial on Uvalde:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shout-Outs

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

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

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

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

Honorable Mention(s)

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

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

CODA

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for the lift, all.

Economy & Business

Corporate America Finds Its Spine

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

Dear Weekend Jolter,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

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

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

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

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

ARTICLES

Dan McLaughlin: How to Capitalize Politically on Mass Murder

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

Kyle Smith: Biden Calls for More Cowbell

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

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

Andrew McCarthy: Durham’s Biggest Challenge: The Jury

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

Naomi Schaefer Riley: How We Can Actually Help Native Americans

Jack Butler: UFOs Return to Congress

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

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

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

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

CAPITAL MATTERS

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

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

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

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

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

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

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

EXCERPTS: LIKE A TIME-SHARE, FOR ARTICLES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brittany Bernstein reports on how check-ups have changed:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More from the Buffalo-shooting editorial:

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

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

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

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

Shout-Outs

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

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

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

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

Honorable Mention

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

CODA  

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

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

National Review

Less Than a Gallon of Gas

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

Dear Weekend Jolter,

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

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

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

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

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

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

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

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

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

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

ARTICLES

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

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

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

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

Jay Nordlinger: Coming to Grips with Abortion

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alexandra DeSanctis: The Truth about Democratic Abortion Extremism

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

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

America’s Crisis of Self-Doubt

CAPITAL MATTERS

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

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

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

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

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

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

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

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

Alexandra DeSanctis: Pro-Life, Post-Roe

Nate Hochman: Elon Musk’s Town Square

Andrew Stuttaford: On the Baltic Frontier

Kevin Williamson: The Three Pro-Life Movements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shout-Outs

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

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

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

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

CODA

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

World

The Emperors Are Exposed

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

Dear Weekend Jolter,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

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

ARTICLES

Rich Lowry: A Shocking Assault on the Supreme Court

Kevin Williamson: How to Regulate Abortion

Alexandra DeSanctis: What Americans Really Think about Abortion

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

Dan McLaughlin: Chief Justice Roberts Must Find the Leaker

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

Marco Rubio: Defund President Biden’s Censorship Bureau

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

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

Jay Nordlinger: When Politics Invades Art

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

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Which Trumpism Won in Ohio?

John McCormack: Trump’s Decisive Ohio Senate Endorsement

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

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

CAPITAL MATTERS

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

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

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

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

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

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

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

THE TL;DR EDITION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shout-Outs

David French, at the Atlantic: What Alito Got Right

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

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

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

CODA  

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

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

U.S.

What the Mask Panic Is Really About

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

Dear Weekend Jolter,

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

“That’s up to them,” he replied.

Monster.

“It is their choice,” Jen Psaki explained.

Tyrant.

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

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

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

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

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

Cue end times.

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

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

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

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

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

Good luck, Musk: Godspeed to Elon Musk

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

ARTICLES

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

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

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

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

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

Kevin Williamson: Marjorie Taylor Greene Should Go

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

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

Kyle Smith: Less Trolling, More Governing, Please

Kyle Smith: The Democrats Have a Principal Skinner Problem

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

Dan McLaughlin: Against Common-Good Conservatism

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

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

CAPITAL MATTERS

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

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

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

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

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

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

Mike Gallagher: Woke Warriors

Rich Lowry: The New Nuclear Gap

Nat Brown: Witness at 70

Matthew Continetti: How the Right Misunderstands Its History

Carine Hajjar: Our Inhumane Southern Border

NOW THAT’S A WHOLE LOTTA EXCERPTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ryan Mills relays the remarkable story of Wahid Nawabi:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shout-Outs

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

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

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

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

CODA                                                                 

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

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

Politics & Policy

Get Ready for a Border-Crisis Summer

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

Dear Weekend Jolter,

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

Beware the border.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

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

ARTICLES

In memoriam CNN+

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

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

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Obama’s Crusade against Fake News

Neal Freeman: Divorce, Florida-Style

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

Kevin Williamson: Fairy Tales Won’t Fix the Economy

Kristina Rasmussen: Washington Is Pushing Woke Health Care

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Philip Klein: Ron DeSantis and the Fight Club Conservatives

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

Rich Lowry: Let Disney Be an Example

CAPITAL MATTERS

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

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

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

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Probability: 15–20 percent.

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

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

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

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

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

Probability: 70–80 percent.

Shout-Outs

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

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

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

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

CODA

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

Have a fine weekend, and thanks for reading.

World

Passover’s Story of Escalation Dominance

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

Dear Weekend Jolter,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

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

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

ARTICLES

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

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

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

Jim Geraghty: Barack Obama Rewrites History on Russia and Ukraine

Yuval Levin: From Trump Party to Trump Faction?

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

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

Rich Lowry: The Russian Way of Brutality

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

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

Charles C. W. Cooke: The CNN+ Catastrophe

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

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

CAPITAL MATTERS

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

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

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

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

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

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

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

Charles C. W. Cooke: The Parents’ Revolt

John McCormack: Six Congressional Races to Watch

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

Ben Sasse: Reminding the Right

OUR EXCERPTS ARE UNLEAVENED

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shout-Outs

Eric Boehm, at Reason: COVID Stimulus Checks Worsened Inflation

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

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

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

CODA

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

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

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

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

White House

The Hunter Biden Story Goes Mainstream

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

Dear Weekend Jolter,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

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

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

ARTICLES

Jay Nordlinger: Ukraine and the Meaning of This War

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

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

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

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

Alexandra DeSanctis: House Republicans Unveil Post-Roe Messaging Strategy

David Harsanyi: The Most Radical Abortion Law in the Nation

David Harsanyi: The ‘Groomer’ Accusation Is Counterproductive

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kevin Williamson: Is the Party Over?

Dan McLaughlin: The GOP Remains the Only Party for Conservatives

CAPITAL MATTERS

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

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

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

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

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

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

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

LOOK WHAT WE SMUGGLED OUT FROM BEHIND THE PAYWALL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shout-Outs

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

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

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

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

CODA

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

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

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

U.S.

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

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

Dear Weekend Jolter,

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

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

Here’s hoping.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s hoping.

*    *    *

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

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

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

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

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

ARTICLES

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

Michael Brendan Dougherty: The Empty Chair

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

Peter J. Travers: The Wild Beasts Are Real

Rich Lowry: It’s the Inflation, Stupid

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

Andrew McCarthy: The Smearing of Clarence Thomas

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

Kevin Williamson: We Have Enough Taxes

Philip Klein: Biden’s Dishonest Budget

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

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

CAPITAL MATTERS

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

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

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

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

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

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

Andrew McCarthy: Does Hunter Biden Face Indictment?

Ruy Teixeira: Eyes Wide Shut

Jay Nordlinger: Ukraine and the End of Illusions

Alexandra DeSanctis: A Bite of Italy

Jessica Hornik: Still Life

SIDE TWO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shout-Outs

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

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

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

Alex Gutentag, at Tablet: The New Authoritarians

CODA

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

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

Have a great weekend, and thanks for reading.

NR Webathon

Covering the Trans Debate Takes Grit

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

Dear Weekend Jolter,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That written, the rest of this newsletter will cost you nothing. Bon appétit.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

The KBJ hearings are over. So what should Republicans do next? No on Ketanji Brown Jackson

The NCAA rule-makers have abdicated responsibility and hurt female athletes in the process: The NCAA Swimming Championship Was a National Scandal

ARTICLES

Dan McLaughlin: Justice Scalia Won

Jim Geraghty: Why the Russian Oligarchs Won’t Defy Putin

Kristen Waggoner: Do Universities Have the Courage to Solve Their Free-Speech Problem?

Kevin Williamson: Autocracy’s Fatal Flaws

Kevin Williamson: Make Putin Pay

Caroline Downey: Babylon Bee Refuses to Back Down after Twitter Suspends Account over ‘Man of the Year’ Post

Rich Lowry: Vladimir Putin and the Fragility of Order

Nate Hochman: Most Americans Are Moving On from Covid. Progressive Elites Aren’t

Philip Klein: Government Handouts Do Not Reduce Inflation

John Fund: Veering from the Smog of War TV to Humanitarian Clarity

Brittany Bernstein: More Americans 65 and Under Died from Alcohol-Related Causes Than Covid-19 in 2020, Study Finds

Andrew McCarthy: Republicans’ Missed Opportunity in the Judge Jackson Hearings

Lewis Libby: How Russia and China May View the War in Ukraine

Ryan Mills: Parents Describe How Covid-Masking Caused ‘Heartbreaking’ Learning Loss in Speech-Delayed Children

Jenna Stocker: The Absurd Attempt to Defend Lia Thomas’s Competing as a Woman

CAPITAL MATTERS

The IRS and taxpayers alike are getting slammed by a tax code that’s becoming more complex. Daniel Pilla makes the case for simplicity: Is the IRS Collapsing?

Andrew Stuttaford will not be trading his lamb kebabs for legumes, thank you very much: Let Them Eat Lentils

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Armond White looks askance at the meme that became a show: Ava DuVernay’s One Perfect Shot at Propaganda

A documentary about King Crimson is as cerebral and challenging (in a good way) as the band itself. From Kyle Smith: Excellence, Existence, Tyranny, Death, and Rock

Brian Allen dings the Morgan Library’s exhibition on Hans Holbein the Younger, but that takes nothing away from an artist whose work, in Brian’s spot-on description, is “early HD.” Have a look: Holbein Gets the Damp-Squib Treatment at the Morgan Library

INTERMISSION

Kristen Waggoner, with Alliance Defending Freedom, recalls her experience being shouted down at Yale during a . . . wait for it . . . free-speech event:

I recently spoke at Yale Law School on the topic of remedies for First Amendment violations. The subject is not controversial; in fact, it is one on which members from both sides of the political spectrum agree. I am a conservative Christian, and I was joined on a panel by another lawyer — a progressive atheist, from the American Humanist Association. While we disagree on some very important issues, we wanted to demonstrate that we can still engage in civil discourse and find common ground when protecting civil rights. One issue we agree upon is a free-speech case I argued before the U.S. Supreme Court that united both sides of the political spectrum.

Sadly, 120 or so law students showed up to hurl insults and disrupt our discussion. Rather than listen and engage in civil dialogue, the vitriolic mob shouted down their professor who was moderating, and then me. After they were asked to leave, they chanted, pounded on classroom walls, and reportedly disrupted nearby classes, exams, and meetings. Even members of the Federalist Society, the student group that organized the event, were harassed and physically threatened by their fellow law students.

Think about that for a moment. At what is supposed to be one of the most prestigious law schools in the country, a room full of future lawyers, legislators, jurists, and corporate executives chose to bang on walls, use obscene gestures, and engage in name-calling and physical intimidation rather than act like adults.

One would think that an institution that is “committed to fostering an environment that values the free expression of ideas” would actually enforce its free-expression policy. At a minimum, it would strongly condemn these students who sought to silence ideas and people they disliked through bullying and intimidation. Unfortunately, Yale did neither.

Instead, Yale issued a weak statement that defended the student protesters and grossly downplayed their disruptive and petulant actions. Even more disturbing, Yale falsely claimed that the students did not interfere with the speakers’ ability to be heard. I, for one, was not able to speak without disruption. Have a listen to