Dear Weekend Jolter,
Is it a torch, or a baton? Whatever it is, this missive passes next week to the care of the exceptional Judd Berger, NRO’s managing editor. He will give it the dignity, savoir faire, and keen insight it deserves, but, sadly, never got with your Regularly Scheduled Carnival Barker.
Why this change? It is precipitated by Your Humble Correspondent’s retirement from NR, that place founded 65 years ago by William F. Buckley Jr. It would be a staggering understatement to describe working for him as a mere “honor.” Or for Rich Lowry.
Having been employed here for over three decades, in lieu of a customary gold watch, the only thing desired was the chance to say good-bye to the readers and supporters, many of whom — courtesy of previous duties as Publisher and Cruise Director — have become fond friends and welcome acquaintances. That wish was kindly granted: NR has published an au revoir, and if you care to read it, you will find it here.
Should you choose not to read it . . . heading for the exits (the final day is Friday, April 30 — if you are reading this on May 1 the exits have been gone through), advantage will be taken of the current location of your eyeballs for a direct purpose: If you love NR half as much as This Poor Schlub has over these three decades past, and if you agree that it would be a good thing for NR to still be standing athwart three decades hence, please make a contribution, here.
From Heaven’s heights, my buddy Bill would look kindly on your doing this.
To those who have shown selfless camaraderie, who have sent succor to NR, no matter if it compared to the Widow’s Mite or the Billionaire’s Pocket Money, Your Departing Blatherer says thank you. For that and so much more. The appreciation is very real. It will last until the last day.
The keyboard is getting soggy, so let us get on with the Jolt by considering the top piece on NRO this Friday morning, Charlie Cooke’s Biden’s Con against America. The entire thing is worth your read (we note with happiness that CCWC is once again full-time writing), but since the article is behind a paywall (wouldja get NRPLUS already?), here’s a healthy snippet:
Talk like a moderate; act like a radical. Talk about normality; act like a revolutionary. And, at all stages, aggressively hide the ball. Progressive pundits have taken to saying that Biden poses a problem for conservatives because he is so “boring.” That’s one way of looking at it, certainly. Another is that he is a fraud. The man who ran on a return to normalcy — and whose party avoided unified Republican government by only 90,000 votes — now says he wants to be FDR. Heaven help us all.
If anyone truly thinks that Biden is “boring,” it is because, having been intoxicated by the Trump Show, they are looking only at this president’s style. One-hundred days into Biden’s presidency, and there is scarcely a single part of American life that the man isn’t trying to change. At the latest count, he wants to spend six-trillion new dollars; to raise taxes to their highest level in three decades; to raise the minimum wage to $15 nationally; to turn the Senate into the House and turn the Supreme Court into the Senate; to oversee a federal takeover of elections and the police; to force as many workers as possible into unions, while banning right-to-work; to prohibit the most commonly owned rifle in the United States; and much more besides. Some of this, Biden is now open about. Much of it, however, he is still not. That $2 trillion “COVID relief” bill you’ve heard about? It wasn’t really about COVID relief. The “Infrastructure” bill? It’s not really about infrastructure. The “Families” bill? You get the picture. Nor are the contents described accurately. Two-hundred-billion dollars in new spending on Obamacare. That’s a “tax cut,” apparently. “No increase” in the estate tax? Well, unless you count the step-up basis, which is really the whole game. It’s as if, having finally been elected president after 50 years in politics, Joe Biden has decided to push every priority his party ever failed to get through.
To those who find this outcome surprising (and not in a Gomer Pyle way), and to those who were all too invested in letting their political illiteracy get the better of them in the 2020 presidential campaign, well, you were warned (it was obvious to even This Charmless Pontificator) about the horror show awaiting America, and the mendacious Delawarean who would front for the nasty things which Mr. Cooke catalogues.
Come May, 2021, it’s a little late for Katy bar the door talk.
Now let us away to this week’s bounty.
NAME. RANK. LINK.
It will come back to bite-cha: Biden Capital-Gains Tax Hike Is Vindictive Policy
You want snake oil? Joe’s got snake oil: Biden’s Address Was a Dishonest Sales Pitch for a Radical Agenda
Federalizing law enforcement is criminal: Democrats Should Stop Posturing on Police Reform
Rich Lowry: Joe Biden’s Radical Gambit
Alexandra DeSanctis: Biden Spends His First 100 Days Hellbent on Expanding Abortion
Alexandra DeSanctis: Washington Post Misses the Mark on Holy Joe, Catholic Church, and Abortion
David Harsanyi: Tim Scott Speech Reaction: Ugly, Telling
Doug Brake: Biden’s Broadband Boondoggle
Michael Brendan Dougherty: Why Isn’t John Brennan in Prison?
David Harsanyi: John Kerry Is Protected by a Double Standard
David Harsanyi: Biden First 100 Days: Press Becomes State-Run Media
Michael Brendan Dougherty: Millennials Eclipse Boomers and Push New Policies
Brian Allen: Museums Fail Public in Coronavirus Lockdown Year
Kevin Hassett and John Cochrane warn about what’s cooking: Federal Reserve Dismisses Risk, Risks Repeat of 1970s Stagflation
Jonathan Williams and Dave Trabert on the locals going loco: Excessive Property Tax Bills Are Prompting Citizen Reform
Dan Kim finds Big Brother wants to disown company owners: SEC Reforms Would Overrule Shareholder-Voting Process
Brian Riedl busts out the quartet: A Conservative Infrastructure Alternative
LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.
Armond White considers the versus: Them and Hollywood’s White-Exploitation Movement
More Armond, who loves the tough love: Concrete Cowboy: Black Fathers Matter
Kyle Smith explains a horrible night: Academy Awards: Depressingly Woke and Dull
More Armond, who seconds Kyle’s motion: Oscars Show Hollywood’s Ideological Arrogance
FROM THE NEW MAY 17, 2021 ISSUE OF NR
Christopher Caldwell: The Inequality of ‘Equity’
Nicholas Eberstadt: How Biden Can Reduce the North Korean Threat
Andrew C. McCarthy: Due Process Matters
David Mamet: The Woke Teacher as Bully
OUR POTATOES HAVE NO LUMPS, BUT ARE CHOCK FULL OF DELICIOUS LINKS AND YUMMY EXCERPTS
1. The Democrats are playing games while Tim Scott is proposing sound ideas. From the editorial:
Set aside race for a moment, and we see this reasoning for the absurdity it is. By the Democrats’ lights, if more men than women are subjected to law-enforcement stops, that means “disparate impact” and thus “profiling,” because police are supposed to pretend that men do not commit vastly more crime than women. Yet, nobody would seriously dispute that the disparate rates of male arrest and incarceration are due to disparate rates of male crime — and, for that matter, young male crime. In fact, following their own logic to their own bizarre end, the bill even penalizes disparate impacts on the basis of gender. That could compel police departments to either greatly restrict stops of men, or expand stops of women for no good reason.
The same is true when applied to race. The majority of crime is reported to the police, not observed by the police. We know who is committing crimes not because of police suspicions but from victim reports, the bulk of them filed by people of the same race as the perpetrator. The remorseless fact is that young black men violate the law at rates that are themselves disparate to their share of the overall population — and perpetrate most of that crime against their own neighbors.
This is just one of countless ways “disparate impact” theory warps policy. Rather than grafting it onto our law, we should be purging it. As applied here, it would hopelessly distort honest police work and spawn endless litigation and enrichment of the trial bar. The bill is also, like most things to come from Nancy Pelosi’s Democrats, designed to funnel taxpayer money to left-wing activist groups, by appointing them to give “training” to police.
Tim Scott’s JUSTICE Act offers better policy ideas, including some sensible overlap with the Democrats’ proposals, and Democrats acted shamefully by filibustering Scott’s bill last year instead of engaging with him. As Scott observed Wednesday night, they “seemed to want the issue more than they wanted a solution.” While Scott (like the Democrats) envisions an expanded role for the Department of Justice in collecting data and criminalizing the falsification of police records, not all of his ideas need to be federalized. More states should take the lead on requiring body cameras and restricting no-knock warrants and dangerous chokeholds. Chokeholds are not the only issue with restraint techniques that can prove deadly: The Floyd case itself, like the Eric Garner case, illustrates the hazards of police restraining suspects in ways that compress their chests.
2. Joey has concocted a nasty piece of vindictive policy with his proposed capital-gains tax hike. From the editorial:
Turning to the grim details, if this proposal is approved, those earning more than $1 million a year will face a top tax rate on long-term capital gains of 43.4 percent (once the Obamacare surtax on net investment income is thrown in), compared with 23.8 percent today. That would be a top rate higher — generally much higher — than anywhere in Europe, and that’s before considering what state and local taxes can do to the math. Those living in high-tax states such as California and New York will be looking at a top rate in excess of 54 percent, and for those lucky enough to be resident in de Blasio’s New York City, over 58 percent. Those who have been making plans to leave will get moving, and others are likely to join them, something that would come as a major blow to their governments’ already-shaky finances.
Some defenders of this increase argue that it will lead to a “fairer” tax system. Leaving aside the fact that the U.S. income-tax system is already sharply progressive, as well as the unequal treatment of capital losses and gains under current rules, this also ignores the way that the tax is levied on nominal capital gains. No adjustment is made for inflation, which even at the relatively low rates of recent years can matter, particularly if the asset is held over a longer period (which is what those who rail against “speculation” claim to want). This will be of even more relevance if relief provided by the “step up” in the cost basis on death is pared back. And if inflation picks up . . .
3. That speech was textbook Biden Dishonesty. From the editorial:
President Biden’s address to Congress connected only intermittently with reality.
On his telling, every good thing that has happened in America since he took office — from vaccination to job creation — is a tribute to his wisdom, rather than a continuation of a trajectory set beforehand. All presidents say such stuff, and they all get away with it, although Senator Tim Scott made a valiant attempt to correct the record. Worse was the dishonesty of Biden’s sales pitch for his policies.
He insinuated that the ten-year ban on assault weapons had reduced the murder rate in the U.S. — something neither careful studies nor a casual look at the trends supports. He pretended that the Trump administration had ended successful efforts to control migration across our southern border, a brazen inversion of the truth. He claimed that the country supports federal legislation that would, among other things, ban states from verifying voters are who they say they are. Poll after poll says otherwise. He promised that Medicare could save hundreds of billions of dollars by cracking down on drugmakers. Not according to the Congressional Budget Office, it can’t.
Biden conjured a world in which there was no danger from unprecedented deficit spending, no possible adverse consequences from raising taxes on corporations and rich people, no spike in violent crime that needs attending, and no foreign threats that demand of us more than platitudes about leadership.
Even as he proposed one of the most radically Left policy agendas in American history, he continued to feign an eagerness to work with Republicans.
1. So much for not being a Socialist. Rich Lowry checks out Biden’s first 100 days. From the column:
The fate of Biden’s legislative agenda hangs by a thread, depending on whether Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, relatively moderate Democrats, support his proposals. If FDR had been equally dependent on a couple of ideologically unsympathetic Democrats from the outset of his administration, he wouldn’t be FDR.
If Biden feels emboldened by his first 100 days, he is defining achievement downward. FDR signed into law more than a dozen major measures addressing the Great Depression during his first 100 days, while Biden got a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill — a huge amount of spending, yes, but much of it is temporary.
Pro-Biden pundits are currently exulting that he has about a 53 percent approval rating, a respectable showing, if hardly a position of overwhelming strength from which to try to revolutionize the country. Significantly, FDR initially grew even more powerful after 1932. Republicans dropped down to only 17 senators and 89 congressmen in 1936, whereas Biden will be lucky to hold on to his slender congressional majorities next year.
With his legislative margin of error so thin, it’s unlikely that Biden will get his way on much besides spending and taxes. Almost all of his sweeping proposals, from federalizing elections to making D.C. a state, will fall by the wayside.
2. Alexandra DeSanctis watches the President move heaven and earth to spread abortion on demand. From the analysis:
Though Biden has long claimed to be “personally pro-life,” he has never shied away from supporting legal abortion, arguing that to oppose abortion as a politician would be tantamount to imposing his religion on others.
As president, Biden appears to have shed any last vestiges of pretending to believe that unborn human beings deserve even minor protections under the law or that pro-life taxpayers ought not be forced to fund elective abortions.
Early in the administration, Planned Parenthood president Alexis McGill Johnson announced that her organization was helping the Biden transition team to staff the incoming administration, and she told Newsweek that they expected Biden to follow marching orders when it came to abortion.
“The first thing we would like to see would be an executive order on day one, within the first 100 days, that demonstrates the administration’s commitment to sexual and reproductive health care,” Johnson said.
3. More Alexandra, who take on the Washington Post’s Holy Joe coverage. From the piece:
In reality, Biden’s Catholicism has very little do with whether he attends Mass or talks publicly about being Catholic, as any reporter familiar with Catholic teaching would know. What some leaders and countless Catholics take issue with is Biden’s active support for unlimited elective abortion, funded by the U.S. taxpayer — a set of policies that blatantly contradicts the Church’s unequivocal condemnation of abortion as an intentional act that takes an innocent human life.
Rather than noting the Catholic Church’s non-negotiable teaching in defense of the sanctity of every human life from the moment of conception or explaining that Biden’s position on the subject contradicts his professed faith, Boorstein instead describes his support for abortion merely as “a source of shame” for some American Catholics.
The controversy within the U.S. Catholic Church over Biden’s active pursuit of abortion policies that flout Church teaching has nothing to do with shame or with the “loud right wing of the church,” as Boorstein puts it. And it isn’t, as she suggests, a question of “abortion purity.”
4. The president of College of the Ozarks, Jerry Davis, wants Uncle Sam out of Girls’ dorms and showers. From the piece:
Just three weeks after President Biden’s Day One executive order, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development issued a rule change that forces religious schools to open their dormitories, including dorm rooms and showers, to members of the opposite sex. The directive claims that the 1974 amendments to the Fair Housing Act require these changes, but that law does no such thing.
We were thus forced to file our lawsuit, represented by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), to protect our female students and the integrated Christian education we excel at providing. The lawsuit explains that the HUD directive contradicts the historical judicial interpretation of the Fair Housing Act, under which “sex” means what everyone knew it to mean then, and what most people know it means now: biological sex. The suit also points out that the Biden administration issued this bureaucratic fiat in violation of laws requiring them to seek public input first — an opportunity we would have used to underscore the drastic effect this executive action has on the religious liberty of educational institutions.
This policy, advanced by President Biden, forces College of the Ozarks to decide between defending its religious liberty from government overreach or violating our core reason for existing. Young women should not be forced to share private spaces — including showers and dorm rooms — with men, and a religious institution should not be forced to betray its religious beliefs. The government’s threats include harmful fines that could easily amount to six figures, in addition to punitive damages and attorneys’ fees. Fair Housing Act violations can even put someone in jail.
College of the Ozarks is a Christian institution. Our vision statement is “to develop citizens of Christlike character who are well-educated, hardworking, and patriotic.” We take our faith commitment seriously and believe that President Biden’s actions instigate a fight with religious institutions by forcing them to oppose their religious beliefs, protected by the First Amendment.
Such a flagrant violation ought to be shocking. This is America — land of the free, isn’t it? Unfortunately, this doesn’t feel or look like freedom. Instead, a small, private Christian college nestled in America’s heartland is suddenly faced with something akin to George Orwell’s novel 1984. The Biden administration touts this as freedom for all; it’s quite the opposite and, sadly, will only further divide our great nation.
5. Tim Scott’s response to the Biden speech elicited ugly reactions, which David Harsanyi recounts. From the articleng
Tim Scott gave a competent Republican response to Joe Biden’s mendacious speech last night. And boy, the contrived, hyperbolic outrage and derision we saw from liberal talking heads was something to behold.
Some of it was just farcical. Take MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace’s contention that the speech, in which Scott praised the Trump administration vaccines, was “delivered from a planet where facts don’t matter.” Operation Warp Speed, she claimed, “didn’t do anything to get a needle in the arms, so a lot of disinformation.” Well, it did help boost the life-saving innovation that flows through those needles – not to mention a million needles into arms every day by the time Joe Biden got his shot.
But Scott’s most controversial statement, allegedly, was to contend that, “America is not a racist country.” All the usual suspects took to social media to mock the senator for simultaneously saying the nation wasn’t racist and pointing out that he had personally experienced bigotry. Of course America is a racist nation, they wailed, before getting “Uncle Tim” trending on Twitter to try and prove it. The Left’s demeaning of any African American who strays from leftist orthodoxy is one of the ugliest acceptable smears in our political discourse.
6. More Scott: John McCormack profiles the Left-triggering happy warrior. From the piece:
Scott was at his best when he spoke of his own family and on the issue of race in America. “I have experienced the pain of discrimination,” he said. “I know what it feels like to be pulled over for no reason. To be followed around a store while I’m shopping.”
At the same time, Scott made the case that “original sin is never the end of the story. Not in our souls, and not for our nation. The real story is always redemption.” This was, after all, the “country where my grandfather, in his 94 years, saw his family go from cotton to Congress in one lifetime.”
Scott also pointed out that he has experienced “a different kind of intolerance.”
“I get called ‘Uncle Tom’ and the N-word — by ‘progressives’! By liberals!” he said. “Just last week, a national newspaper suggested my family’s poverty was actually privilege . . . because a relative owned land generations before my time.”
Scott said all of this more in disbelief than in anger or outrage. Yet his very existence — as a happy warrior and conservative African American who acknowledges the problem of racism while arguing that “America is not a racist country” — was enough to trigger the Left. As if to prove Scott’s point, liberals on Twitter made the phrase “Uncle Tim” a trending topic.
Since 2016, many Republicans have come to believe that their path to being a successful GOP politician is to mimic Donald Trump in both substance and style. Tim Scott proved on Wednesday night that that isn’t the only way. He proved that it’s possible to effectively fight the Left, the mainstream media, and the Democratic Party by telling the truth with a smile on his face.
7. Philip Klein watched the Biden speech and – having many choices at its malarkey – focuses on its health-care deceptions. From the piece:
First, there is no basis on which to claim that Medicare could save hundreds of billions of dollars by negotiating drug prices. The Congressional Budget Office has questioned whether the leverage that the Secretary of Health and Human Services would have over drug manufactures is really greater than a private plan. For instance, could a politically appointed official really issue a credible threat to walk away from negotiations over a drug, knowing that Medicare beneficiaries — a powerful voting bloc — could get angry if a given drug is not covered? In a 2019 note recounting its work on the topic, CBO said it stood by its prior conclusion that “providing broad negotiating authority by itself would likely have a negligible effect on federal spending.”
So there isn’t much to speak of in terms of savings from negotiations. And yet, Biden claimed tonight that the supposed savings would be enough to pay for an Obamacare expansion, which would cost $200 billion, according to the White House “fact sheet” released earlier Wednesday.
Biden also claimed he wants to use the phantom savings to “expand Medicare coverage and benefits” and to do so “without costing taxpayers one additional penny.”
Biden accounting in a nutshell: manufacturing phony savings, and then using those “savings” to claim he has a magical plan to pay for hundreds of billions of dollars in liberal wish list spending.
8. Then there was Biden’s broadband boondoggle, of which Doug Brake is all over. From the article:
The administration sells its plan on the promise of future-proof networks. Who wouldn’t want a future-proof network, especially if it can be paid for by simply increasing the national debt? But what advocates really mean by future-proof networks are fiber optic-based networks. Sure, fiber is the latest and greatest broadband technology, offering tremendous speeds. But unlike existing networks (those originally built for telephones and cable television and since repurposed for pretty darn good broadband), fiber requires all new infrastructure, which is expensive to install. In many areas, only providers who don’t care about covering their costs, e.g., municipal governments, will take on that burden.
Unless the subsidy well is bottomless, requiring fiber builds means more money spent on fewer networks. This likely means leaving many places that truly need subsidies with no broadband at all. Setting unreasonably high expectations for broadband performance means about 58 percent of the country could be eligible for subsidies, rather than focusing on the approximately 6 percent that have no broadband at all.
Perhaps the most direct attack on the competitive system for broadband from the Biden proposal is the explicit call to prioritize funds for municipal and nonprofit operators. Progressive activists have long pushed for local-government-owned broadband monopolies instead of lightly regulated private competition. Biden’s plan would make areas now served by both AT&T and Comcast, for example, with pretty good broadband speeds at reasonable prices, eligible for a federal grant for the local government to build an entirely new, gold-plated broadband network. What could possibly go wrong?
9. Own it, Joe. Rich Lowry explains why the border crisis is a thing of Biden’s making. From the piece:
He said that there’s no way to solve the migrant crisis without addressing the violence, corruption, gangs, political instability, and destitution in Central America. Then, astonishingly enough, he claimed to have alleviated all these problems as vice president until Trump came along and ripped it all up.
It’s not clear what Biden is even referring to, but if what he said were remotely true, there never would have been a migrant crisis under Trump in 2019 because conditions in Central America would have been too favorable for people to leave.
As for Trump supposedly reversing all the progress in conditions on the ground, it’s not even clear what Biden’s theory is. Trump did suspend aid to Central American countries to get them to cooperate on stemming the flow of migrants, but the aid was quickly restored when the countries played ball.
It’s completely obvious that what have driven the crisis at the border are expectations that Biden would be more welcoming than Trump and the exemption that Biden created for minors in Title 42, used to turn around migrants during the pandemic.
Biden has also ended Remain in Mexico, the successful program to get migrants to wait in Mexico while their asylum claims are adjudicated in the U.S. (if they are allowed in the U.S. during this process, they will never leave, even if their claims ultimately fail).
10. Good question, Michael Brendan Dougherty: Why isn’t John Brennan in prison? From the article:
Then again, a history lesson is almost beside the point. John Brennan is giving moral lectures about what good liberals should do. This is like Jeffrey Epstein giving a lecture on the virtues of chastity and poverty. Brennan’s CIA spied on the U.S. Senate. That alone should be enough of an embarrassment to lead him out of public life forever. For years, Brennan acted as the “conscience” of Obama’s drone-warfare policy. He literally made the call, from safety, to bomb people based on their profiles: their age, sex, religion, ethnicity, and a handful of other observable activities. He also spent the past four or so years fulminating like a psychopath on cable television and social media.
11. More Harsanyi: David explains the double standard that is applied to and protecting John Kerry, Iran’s BFF. From the article:
In leaked audio obtained by the U.K.-based Iran International, Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is heard telling an ally that John Kerry informed him about “at least” 200 covert Israeli actions against Iranian interests in Syria. Zarif claimed he listened to Kerry in “astonishment.”
Barely anyone in political media even bothered covering the story. As of this writing, ABC, CBS, and NBC have not mentioned it. The Times buried a single line about the alleged Kerry–Zarif conversation deep in its piece. The Washington Post didn’t refer once to Zarif’s claim in its own article on the leaks. The paper’s first citing of the exchange came via reporter John Hudson’s uncritical regurgitation of a State Department talking point, which claims that the strikes had already been disclosed to the public by the time Kerry mentioned them.
That timeline doesn’t exactly work. We know Kerry likely met with Zarif and other Iranian officials in mid-April 2018 in an effort to undermine official U.S. policy regarding the Iran deal. It wasn’t until September 2018 — and then only because of an apparent leak — that the Israelis disclosed the 200 strikes.
12. Even More Harsanyi: The MSM are more in the Joe tank than the Barry one. From the article:
The press corps has shifted, instantaneously upon Inauguration Day, from playacting hero to assuming the duties of a state-run media. And it’s nearly impossible to keep an accurate accounting of all the fabricated, skewed, and misleading coverage it spews. Whether proactively working with Democrats to convince voters that a Georgia election-integrity bill was worse than Jim Crow or minimizing the border crisis, most of the political media function as a communications shop for one party.
It took more than 60 days for Biden to hold a press conference, the longest of any president in modern history, and yet, no one put up much of a fuss. When the press finally had the chance to question the most powerful man in the nation, they put on perhaps the most obsequious display in presidential press-conference history. PBS’s Yamiche Alcindor told Biden that it was his morality and decency that sparked the border problems. Not a single mainstream-media critic, as far as I can tell, objected to this puffery. Zeke Miller of the Associated Press wondered if Biden would support blowing up Senate norms to circumvent obstinate Republicans. CBS News reporter Nancy Cordes, too, wondered why Biden wouldn’t blow up the filibuster to stop Republicans, who were allegedly restricting voting for the “young” and “minorities.”
This matters. “The media” comprise well-funded outlets that set the agenda, narrative, tone, and focus of coverage. Most political reporters share the same objectives and set of values as Democrats, and so they constantly engage in discussions dictated and framed by one party.
13. There are more Millennials than Boomers, so Michael Brendan Dougherty considers what that will mean for politics and policy. From the piece:
It’s almost impossible to overstate how much the Baby Boomers have distorted American society and government. The story of the second half of 20th-century American government has basically been a story about the Boomers. The expansion of highways and suburbs allowed them to have a childhood unlike anyone before them. By the early 1960s, almost the whole of popular culture and the bulk of advertising dollars were dedicated exclusively to them, and this continued into their tawdry middle age (The Big Chill), and into their oncoming sexual dysfunction (Viagra and Cialis commercials). At nearly every step since their birth, government bent to subsidize their lives more. When Boomers depended on the financial markets, the response to a financial crisis was to save Wall Street long before saving the entry-level jobs that Millennials needed. Zoning and building policies inflate the value of Boomer-owned homes. Even policies that are putatively for Boomers’ children, expanded Pell grants and preferential treatment of student loans, were ways of surreptitiously lifting the financial burden on Boomers.
And so, buoyed by government and society, Boomers now control almost half of the household wealth in the nation. Millennials control roughly 3 percent. Nearly three in five childless Millennials say they don’t have kids because it is too expensive to raise them. This sudden push to use the government to smooth income for young people is a generational watershed.
The change is not just governmental. In recent years, social media and other technology companies have essentially destroyed the mass-broadcast popular culture that was the formative institution and primary identity marker for Boomers. Generation X is willing to indulge in a tiny nostalgia for Nirvana and Soundgarden, but they have none of the appetite for catechizing people into the Stones and the Eagles the way Boomers did.
14. Assessing American museums over the past year, Brian Allen finds virtue-signaling and so much more from the progressive playbook running rampant. From the piece:
The appeal came on Earth Day. “Care for community, art, and the environment is fundamental to the Yale University Art Gallery,” the appeal begins. Well, at least art’s still in the mix. If “community” is fundamental, the museum has failed. The gallery’s closed. Even Yale students are restricted in their use of the space. And it not just Yale. The last of the Lockdown Lovers are the Ivy Leagues and other highly selective schools, the federal bureaucracy, and big-city public-school teachers’ unions.
Isn’t Yale’s letter an odd, tone-deaf pitch, or is the new normal a virtual community? Is it that easy to forget the joy of seeing people enjoy great art?
During 20 years as a museum director and curator, I never considered the environment as “fundamental” to my work. I like breathing clean air and drinking clean water but occupied myself with exhibitions, fundraising, and scholarship and left the plumbing and air filtration to others.
The gallery uses “natural cleaning and maintenance materials,” the appeal reads, and has cut energy consumption by 25 percent. My cleaning lady uses those materials, too, but she’s not sending annual appeals. And about that 25 percent: That means you don’t need as much money!
The letter says the museum offers yoga in the galleries, except that the galleries are closed, so they’re offering virtual yoga. I like yoga. I’d never tout it to raise money for, in my opinion, in better days, the finest university art museum in the country. Oh, the scorn from the heavens spewed by the likes of history painter John Trumbull, who founded the gallery — volcanic and sulfuric, now that yoga beneath the Van Goghs and Manets is now its rallying cry. “Is this why we fought the American Revolution?” he bellows.
15. The star of My 600-lb Life, “Dr. Now,” is his kind of conservative hero, writes Kaj Relwof. From the reflection:
Success does not come easy, though. It is achieved through the monotone hectoring of the 77-year-old surgeon, he of hunched posture, alarming dye-job combover, and clipped English that speaks truth to power and powdered doughnuts, a strange star in a visual medium, but a star nonetheless.
In an age of required pitying and babying — when Americans fear to call the bare-faced liar a bare-faced liar, and instead sanctify contrived victimhood — the empathetic but un-connable emigre understands that he is engaged in a deadly (literally) serious business. He understands that he cannot allow the portly patient to justify his 20-pound weight gain without a direct counterattack. Minus Dr. Now’s bluntness, this patient, already on a path to an early grave, will arrive all the sooner.
This unwillingness to allow lies to go unchallenged should make conservatives smile: To shock the system, the fabulist must be told, directly, that he is lying, and that his excuse-mongering is not fooling the man who is trying to help save that life.
Does Dr. Now enjoy the position he must take? Probably not. But whether he knows it or not, he has emerged as a refreshing image of leadership, absent amid America’s cultural cave-ins. He is the sort of role model who is sorely missing among the woke-accommodating presidents of universities and corporate boards.
1. Is stagflation on the horizon? Kevin Hassett and John Cochrane smell what’s cooking on the Fed’s stove. From the analysis:
The Fed intends to deliberately let inflation run above target, in the belief that this will drive up employment, especially among disadvantaged groups. But in the 1970s we learned that there is no lasting trade-off between inflation and employment. Sustainable employment and wages result only from microeconomic efficiency, better incentives, and well-functioning markets. The record employment and fast-rising wages just before COVID-19 struck, especially among disadvantaged groups, were not the result of inflation or of monetary policy.
The Fed now believes that the “Phillips curve,” linking inflation and unemployment or output, is “flat” and “anchored,” meaning the Fed can run the economy hot for a long time with little inflation, and that a little inflation will buy a lot of employment, not the stagflation of the 1970s.
The Fed has announced that it will delay interest-rate hikes until inflation substantially and persistently exceeds its target, just as it delayed responses in the 1970s.
If they return to the beliefs of yore, central bankers are likely to react as before. Inflation will be quickly dismissed as “transitory pressures” or “supply disruptions.” The Fed will respond slowly, always concerned that really nipping inflation will cause too much economic damage. Officials will give lots of speeches, but take little action.
Unlike in the 1970s, the Fed now knows how important inflation expectations are. But the Fed seems to think expectations are an external force, unrelated to its actions. Expectations are “anchored,” Fed officials say. Anchored by what? By speeches saying expectations are anchored? The Fed has “tools” to fight inflation, it says. What tools?
There is only one tool, but will the Fed use it? Will our Fed, and the government overall, have the stomach to repeat 20 percent interest rates, 10 percent unemployment, disproportionately hitting the vulnerable, just to squelch inflation? Or will our government follow the left-wing advice of 1980, that it’s better to live with inflation than undergo the pain of eliminating it?
2. In the heartland of America, Jonathan Williams and Dave Trabert find a rebellion against property taxes. From the beginning of the piece:
Property taxes are generally the most hated of all taxes, and with good reason. As they pay their property-tax bills each year, owners are forced to cut a check and realize the cost of government. From the small-business owner who is struggling to make payroll to the millennial attempting to make his first home purchase, high property-tax burdens affect everyone. In some cases, retirees on fixed incomes can tragically be taxed out of their homes as property-tax bills steadily increase.
Addressing the issue of excessive property-tax burdens can be an extremely challenging endeavor at the state level since most real property taxes are levied at the local levels of government and are thus based on the spending levels set by those local governments. However, in our view, state lawmakers in Topeka, Kan., have just perfected the recipe for states across America to address this problem.
After passing in the Kansas House and Senate by overwhelming, bipartisan margins, Democratic governor Laura Kelly recently signed the “Truth in Taxation” property-tax reform into law. While Governor Kelly vetoed a similar bill last year during the COVID-shortened session, she likely saw the writing on the wall, with massive margins in support of the reform again this year.
3. Dan Kim watches as the Securities and Exchange Commission tries on a new mission of activism. From the beginning of the piece:
COVID-19 has resulted in a flood of new investors participating in the marketplace. For many of them, upcoming shareholder meetings may be the first time they can vote their shares. But shareholders should be worried. Biden’s new SEC chairman, Gary Gensler, will advance reforms that will overrule the shareholder-voting process and pull businesses further to the left.
Biden’s Securities and Exchange Commission is preparing to move away from its traditional role as an independent financial regulator toward becoming an activist agency that seeks to regulate disclosures of companies’ climate policies and environmental and social governance issues. Essentially, the financial regulator will determine which environmental metrics are materially important for public companies to disclose to investors. Mandated disclosure runs counter to the democratic process of shareholder voting and would invalidate the wishes of shareholders who have consistently opposed similar shareholder proposals.
Although ESG (environmental, social, and corporate governance) is still a somewhat poorly defined term, it has become a catchall for boardrooms and federal regulators who emphasize “conscious” or “stakeholder” capitalism. The “social responsibilities of business” are nothing new, but businesses are moving away from Milton Friedman’s view that management teams should put the interests of shareholders first to a model that they should run for the benefit of various “stakeholders” including communities, employees, customers, and, oh yes, shareholders.
4. Brian Riedl offers four principles that should be part of a conservative alternative to the Left’s infrastructure agenda. From the piece:
It is not hard to see why our government is so bad at infrastructure. The inflation-adjusted cost of interstate construction spending per mile quadrupled from 1960 through 1990, and it has continued to grow since then. Labor costs are higher in part because the Davis-Bacon Act raises wage costs by as much as 22 percent, and America requires many more workers to do the same building work as Europe. American subway systems are by far the most expensive to build in the world, and in New York City they cost four times the world average.
Perhaps most egregious, the Environmental Impact Statements required for large projects commonly exceed 1,000 pages and require on average seven years to complete (compared with no more than one to two years in Canada and 3.5 years in the European Union). Several recent statements took more than 17 years to complete, and in one particularly egregious example, “the Southeastern High Speed Rail Corridor was proposed in 1992,” columnist Megan McArdle notes. “You will be thrilled to learn that in September 2017, the Department of Transportation announced the completion of the project’s Tier II Draft Environmental Impact Statement.”
Environmental Impact Statements create delays in part because in America — unlike many other countries — environmental and historical reviews can be challenged in court by a wide range of stakeholders, and these challenges can take years or even decades to be decided before any ground can be broken. Other countries use faster, non-judicial options to enforce these regulations, rather than expensive and time-consuming lawsuits that essentially become a project veto.
Rather than address these escalating costs and delays, President Biden would throw $1 trillion at this broken system. In fact, he would raise costs further by tightening higher-wage rules and imposing stricter “Buy America” requirements that limit trade and lower-cost options.
Lights. Camera. Review.
1. Amazon Prime’s Them, the race-horror series, is all in with white exploitation, says Armond White. From the piece:
Whom is the Amazon Prime racial-horror series Them aimed at? Not angry, dejected blacks but guilt-ridden whites — be they woke viewers or venal Hollywood producers. Them’s ten-episode narrative about the black Emory family relocating from North Carolina to Compton, Calif., in 1953 exemplifies an as-yet-unnamed genre: white exploitation.
Early on, Them’s woke phoniness is plain to see: The Emorys are introduced amid such Jim Crow–era cultural detritus as a Doris Day song sheet. This misplaced anthropological detail is intended to indict American white supremacy, but Them’s creator, who goes by the Hollywood hip-hop name Little Marvin and boasts about his fondness for horror-film tropes, uses Day perversely. In generic terms, Marvin’s Them is a freaky Millennial reboot of the 1954 monster movie Them, about predatory giant ants (as if predicting Malcolm X’s 1963 “Chickens Came Home to Roost” snark), and Day sticks out because Marvin obviously doesn’t know or respect Day’s politics (or her famous relationship with pioneering black pop artist Sly Stone, of Sly and the Family Stone). And that’s just the start of the craven antipathy and ignorance hidden inside the phenomenon of white exploitation.
Don’t confuse Them with social-justice expression. We’re witnessing a new cultural phase in which productions such as HBO’s Watchmen, Lovecraft Country, Queen & Slim, and Antebellum shamelessly combine race embarrassment and resentment.
2. Armond is liking Concrete Cowboy and its important message. From the beginning of the piece:
A handful of young black men get unjustly killed by police, millions of young black men grow up without fathers, and it’s utterly obvious which problem does more damage overall. Yet the entire weight of the culture denies what is staring us in the face.
Concrete Cowboy, a wonderful Netflix film about a black teen named Cole who gets rescued from drug-dealing street life by his father’s tough love, is an inspiring and beautiful story. But it’s also an important one, an unanswerable argument about how young black men, like everyone else, can achieve success: hard work, discipline, focus, rejection of criminal misadventures. Paternal figures are vital to their formation, and rarely has a film made the case more stirringly than this one. It is a brisk rebuke to so much that is noxious and misleading about what media, cultural, and political figures tell us every day. The thesis, stated a couple of times, is simply this: “Hard things come before good things.” Everyone must be taught this, especially young people, and especially young males. Why are we so averse to saying it?
After Cole (convincingly played by Caleb McLaughlin from Stranger Things) gets kicked out of school for fighting, his exhausted mama kicks him out of the house: She is done playing. She sends him to his estranged dad, Harp, played with quiet masculine gravitas by the always-great Idris Elba, the London-born actor who disappears into the role of an ex-con who found a calling and meaning on horseback in North Philadelphia. Harp even keeps a horse in his row house.
3. Kyle Smith watches the Oscars and finds himself trapped in a preachy and boring affair. From the piece:
In an effort to reduce contact, the stage was a fake supper club built within Union Station in Los Angeles. (“Some local advocates criticized the city for making access to public transit more difficult for the weekend,” Variety delicately noted.) And the feel of the show was . . . strange. Most of the principals were at least in the same room, avoiding the bland Zoom-meeting feel of the Golden Globes.
But to assure maximum boredom, hosts read off biographical snippets about people the audience has, in most cases, never heard of. Reese Witherspoon: “Michael Govier’s favorite film at twelve years old was Citizen Kane.” Halle Berry: “As a young architecture student, [Best Production Design nominee] Nathan Crowley had no idea he could ever be a part of the industry.” Well, maybe he thought he’d be part of the architecture industry. Also, maybe he thought there were other industries besides showbiz.
The first Muslim Best Actor nominee (for Sound of Metal), Riz Ahmed, asked the crowd to raise their hands if they had started their career by working on a short film, and the camera angle made it impossible to tell how many answered affirmatively. Not that it mattered. Really, who cares? The show is supposed to be directed at the millions in the audience, not the dozens in the room, and it was a strange question to waste the audience’s time on. “How many here would say red is their favorite color? How many have been to Vancouver?”
4. Oscar night was a massive display of arrogance, says Armond. From the piece:
We need to recognize the partisanship inherent in the media’s unwavering attention to politicized institutions such as the Oscars. The affront goes further than the grandstanding speeches. But even those have become increasingly arrogant, such as the harangue given by the Best Live Action Short winner with the suspicious name Travon Free (a Daily Show comedy writer and co-director of Netflix’s anti-cop paranoid horror comedy Two Distant Strangers). Free announced, “Today the police will kill three people. And tomorrow the police will kill three people. And the day after that, the police will kill three people, which amounts to about a thousand people a year. And those people happen to disproportionately be black people.” Free’s rhetorical overkill matched his dyed-blond afro hairstyle, signifying the proud, irresponsible indifference to decorum (and facts) that runs through most Hollywood content, ruining it for everybody.
Even actress Marlee Matlin, grinning idiotically, joined the industry’s carelessness when her awards presentation went outside the film industry to salute “a cellphone video taken by a young woman named Darnella Frazier that became a catalyst for change.” We should realize from such instances that these filmmakers are not good Samaritans with sympathy and insight into human experience. Instead, they are the most easily swayed, politically gullible, and potentially dangerous messengers imaginable. They’ve been given the privilege of addressing the public, and it’s a privilege they abuse.
Their ideological arrogance feeds into their custom-designed vanity. They’re vapid, like teenagers eager to conform. This makes them more assertive than ever, but it doesn’t make them good filmmakers. It only guarantees that they throw dull, unpleasant parties.
The May 17, 2021 Issue of Your Favorite Magazine Commands Your Attention
The new issue of the mighty fortnightly is in the USPS’s wild and wooly system, but if you have an NRPLUS membership, you can begin reading the entire thing pronto. That marketed, what follows are four recommendations from the new issue.
1. In his cover essay, Christopher Caldwell investigates the progressive call for equity and . . . segregation. From the essay:
If you wanted to be blunt about it, you might call equity a noexcuses imperative to eliminate all collective racial inequalities. There are many such inequalities in our system, and blacks are on the unenviable side of most of them. They possess the fewest financial assets, fare the worst in school, have the hardest time finding work, live the shortest lives, commit the most violent crime, and spend the most time in jail. Equity’s proponents, most of them progressive Democrats, say their aim is to ensure that all races share equally in economic growth and get a fair shake in the justice system. Republicans say that Democrats are abandoning equality of opportunity for equality of result.
Put that way, “equity” sounds like a new name for something that Americans have been arguing about for two or three generations now. Affirmative action, after all, tips the playing field of opportunity in minorities’ favor. “Diversity” is all about managing results. Feminists’ equal-pay-forequal-work campaigns might be considered a harbinger of these equity debates.
But in two ways the equity movement is radically new.
First is in the categorical simplicity of its diagnosis. It views all inequality across groups as illegitimate on its face — as evidence of white racism, in fact.
Second is in its tools. Equity doesn’t concern itself with more-traditional understandings of inequality — differences, say, between bosses and laborers. It is about equality for blacks, as laid out in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and for the various groups, from immigrants to transgender people, that have come under the act’s protection in the decades since. The power of civil-rights law to punish employers and schools, to investigate those suspected of noncompliance, and even to silence detractors has been steadily strengthened by bureaucratic fiat and litigation. Race-conscious rather than race-blind, open to almost any kind of remedial discrimination, equity has brought us to a crossroads. Either our civil-rights laws are being overstretched to the point where they are growing intolerable to much of the country (though people remain frightened of saying so) or they are in the process of becoming the supreme law of the land, overriding even the Constitution.
2. Andrew C. McCarthy considers Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, and analyzes the application of due-process rights to beleaguered police officers. From the article:
The two decades of mayhem that began in the 1960s were aimed at extorting public funds on the pretext of reforming cities and eliminating racism. By contrast, Siegel explains, today’s riot ideology, refined by Black Lives Matter Marxism and expressed in the writings of Ta-Nehisi Coates, holds that “America is inherently racist beyond redemption and that the black inner city needs to segregate itself from the larger society (with the exception of federal welfare funds, which should continue to flow in).” The most notorious manifestation of this aggression has been “defund the police” campaigns — with the funding, of course, being redirected toward favored progressive programs and the underwriting of woke activism.
A less well-appreciated development, one whose damage will be hard to undo, is the erosion of due process.
Few even pretend that the “protests” over Wright’s killing have been “mostly peaceful,” as the media-Democratic mantra goes. The rioting, burning, looting, and destruction of local businesses started instantly, persisted for over a week, and resulted in well over a hundred arrests — after another ritual: the initial mandate of police passivity, leading inexorably to an urgent need for police intervention. In part because of police involvement in an incident that ignites violent demonstrations, and in part out of officials’ ill-conceived hope that rioting will burn itself out, cops are first encouraged to desist in enforcing the laws; this only whets the sociopathic appetite, and as more businesses are destroyed and lives shattered, there follow the inevitable demands for police intervention.
3. Nicholas Eberstadt, that rare expert on North Korea, explains ways in which the Biden Administration might better handle the Rocket Man. From the beginning of the essay:
The review of North Korea policy announced by the Biden administration shortly after the president took office is still apparently a work in progress — but Kim Jong-un wrapped up his own review of North Korea’s Biden-administration policy in March. We know this because Pyongyang launched two short-range ballistic missiles that month, violating nearly a dozen U.N. Security Council resolutions specifically prohibiting such tests and daring Team Biden to do something about it. More challenges may soon be in store, given Pyongyang’s interest in testing both the performance of its latest WMD and the mettle of the new U.S. administration.
Kim is intent on continuing the North’s nuclear march. Nuclear weaponry is the key to his state’s goal of unconditional reunification of the Korean Peninsula on its own terms. He wants to be able to fight and win a limited nuclear war on the peninsula, and also — this is a necessary corollary — to train a North Korean nuclear arsenal on the U.S. heartland to serve as a checkmate against any possible U.S. intervention in a Korean crisis. This is the ultimate purpose of the relentless quest for credible intercontinental nuclear capabilities that the Kim dynasty has been pursuing for three generations — and the regime has been drawing ever closer to its goal.
Can the Biden administration stop Kim and thwart his nuclear ambitions? The answer is yes — if it is serious about doing so. Biden has the power and the options at his disposal to progressively reduce the North Korean threat. Accomplishing this, however, will take a vision and resolve his predecessors lacked — and determination as well not to repeat their mistakes in dealing with Pyongyang
4. David Mamet thinks through the consequences of society’s bullying fixation. From the piece:
In the schoolyard the healthy child learns to differentiate between happenstance, bad manners, and outright aggression. This is a daunting task, and he might come to his parents for comfort and wisdom.
In the old days this was found on the spectrum of “Come here and get a hug” through “That was terrible of him”; but rarely did it require appeal to the school or, as we see today, to the police.
In that far-off time it was not in fact unknown for the father or uncle, just returned from thrashing the Axis, to respond, “Well, hit him back.”
The child had to learn to assess his or her own feelings, part of which was to suppress them sufficiently to allow diagnosis of the offender’s intention.
Was the aggressor: brash, unfeeling, awkward, inappropriate, or actually intent upon harm? Could we thus determine an appropriate response, that is, one that would restore to us that autonomy we had lost in automatic response to an affront?
If not, we, you and I, were consigned to a world where our equilibrium was in the control of every last person on earth — excluding ourselves. The current Statist Hysteria insists that this lack of control, rather than being an imbecile puerility, is a heroic sensitivity to Social Justice.
But passivity attracts aggression in the schoolyard, and in the culture, just as it does in geopolitics. It awakens aggression. As we will see in China’s reaction to a Biden foreign policy in distinction to that of Trump; and jihadist glee over America’s abandonment of Israel.
Elsewhere in the Conservative Solar System
1. At National Catholic Register, Michael Warsaw takes the opportunity of Biden’s 100-days hulabaloo to note 100 days of religious and cultural disappointments. From the piece:
Moving forward, it looks like Biden intends to continue with his initial “shock-and-awe” approach to national governance, rather than moderate it.
According to Axios, sources close to Biden say he is “brimming with confidence” after being able to advance so aggressively in his first three months, and therefore intends to push forward now even more aggressively on the economy, inequality and voting. Axios predicted the president will continue this push with “the unspoken Biden formula: Talk like a rosy bipartisan; act like a ruthless partisan.”
Such extreme partisanship bodes poorly for the nation’s common good. And, from a faithful Catholic perspective, there is an additional hazard associated with Joe Biden’s propensity for promoting radical agendas from behind a benign mask of genial faith. As Catholic commentator Fran Maier recently pointed out during a conference at Villanova University, “Biden’s rosary beads, his public nods to saints, and his attendance at Mass all serve to normalize his administration’s policies and actions that directly attack key Catholic beliefs on abortion, sex, family and marriage.”
In turn, this means that U.S. Catholics have a double responsibility at this political moment. We need to highlight how Biden’s policies and actions in these areas are harming all Americans. We also need to highlight how they are undermining the Church, by making it seem that it’s possible to remain authentically Catholic while dissenting so fundamentally on such key moral issues. This double challenge will not be easy, but faithfulness requires both prayer and action in defense of the truths upon which our Church and our country have been founded. Let us stay united in this effort.
2. John Hillen, once upon a time the Exec Chairman of NR, and the man whose badass tank was at the tip of the spear in the Battle of 73 Easting, knows a thing or two about leadership, and in Law & Liberty, says a thing or two about restoring it. From the piece:
The good news is that just as trust in institutions can decline, it can also be rebuilt. The high standing of the American military in the public’s mind, rebuilt since the Vietnam era, is a case in point. Institutions regain trust when they show competence, character, and act in the proper context. In other words, they deliver what they promise, they have integrity and can be trusted, and they root themselves and their role in the context of a self-governing democratic republic.
This first quality is the most obvious measure of success and engenders some trust. The other two are more subtle and have a more pernicious effect on trust.
How to judge the success of the US government? After $22 trillion and 60 years has the federal government’s war on poverty been successful? Much of the data suggests not — the poverty rate has hardly changed. 50 years and over $1 trillion later, there are calls to end the war on drugs, due to its lack of demonstrable success.
The part of government that fights actual, not metaphorical, wars — the US military — is the most highly regarded institution in America and has been for some time now. But it has had its own struggles with wars — and indeterminate results from them. Now, war is a complicated venture to say the least. It is not just military operations — as Clausewitz reminded us, war is the continuation of politics by other means, so it has been possible for the US military to demonstrate tremendous military competence even within the political setting of an uncertain outcome.
Judging success in government is difficult, as I learned when I was a senior government official in a large agency. We tended to measure inputs — our budget, the number of programs we oversaw, the number of our staff. We tended not to measure outcomes. Still, some outcomes are measurable. It has been 20 years since Congress (11% trust rating) passed a budget in what is called on The Hill “regular order.” So, sometimes political institutions are simply not doing their job and it is very plain to see.
3. At Gatestone Institute, Judith Bergman warns that Red China is hot and heavy for Antarctica. From the beginning of the piece:
Hardly a spot remains on the planet — and off — that China does not consider up for grabs, and that includes the North and South poles.
China’s ambitions in the Arctic include: In 2018, China issued its first Arctic policy paper, “China’s Arctic policy” and with a straight face declared itself, a “near-Arctic state”, wanting a “Polar Silk Road.” In fact, China is some 3,000 kilometers from the Arctic Circle. Its “Polar Silk Road” would create new shipping routes linking Asia and Europe via the Arctic, as part of the Belt and Road Initiative, a gigantic development, infrastructure and investment initiative that seeks dramatically to enhance China’s global influence by making countries worldwide increasingly dependent on China.
The Polar Silk Road also seems highly driven by China’s desire for more access to oil, gas and other natural resources in the Arctic region. Greenland, for instance, plays a key role in China’s plans for the Polar Silk Road, because the autonomous territory, a part of Denmark, is estimated to have the world’s largest undeveloped deposits of rare earth materials in addition to uranium and substantial oil and gas reserves believed to lie off its shores. Rare earth materials are necessary components in the building of such various equipment as combat aircraft, weapons systems, wind turbines and electric vehicles, among other things. They are available in different geographic locations, but are difficult to process. Last year, China produced 90% of the world’s rare earth materials.
In its new five-year plan for 2021-2025, China reaffirmed that it would continue work on its “Polar Silk Road” and “participate in pragmatic cooperation in the North Pole”. It also stated that it would “raise its ability to participate in the protection and utilization of the South Pole” (Antarctica).
4. More Law & Liberty: John McGinnis contemplates The Words That Made Us: America’s Constitutional Conversation 1760-1840, Akhil Reed Amar’s important book. From the essay:
Of the many contributions the book makes to our understanding of the early republic, the most original is to show that Washington was not only the father of the country but of the Constitution. The biggest change from the Articles — “its breathtakingly strong chief executive, by American Revolutionary standards” — was due to Washington. Washington wanted an institutional structure that could win another war and, better yet, deter potential enemies. And the Framers were only able to make this pivotal structural change because everyone was confident in the man — Washington — that they all knew would be the first and precedent-setting President. Moreover, Washington’s letter transmitting the Constitution to the Continental Congress was very influential just because his name was on it.
In contrast, James Madison, often called the Father of the Constitution, failed to get his key recommendations into the Constitution, like a congressional veto on state legislation. His now famous theoretical contribution to the ratification debate in Federalist No. 10 was completely ignored at the time. Instead, the most influential Federalist essays were those of Hamilton and Jay that stressed the need for unity and unified military command in a dangerous world — a defense of Washington’s strategic vision.
More generally, Washington comes off as indisputably deserving of the refrain, “First in War, First in Peace, First in the Hearts of His Countrymen.” Even in death, he, unlike Madison and Jefferson, not only manumitted his own slaves but paid for their upkeep. This was a substantial cost to his estate. Fittingly for a man of action, his final message to his fellow citizens was through a selfless deed on behalf of liberty. Amar’s book should remind everyone of why it is right that statutes of Washington are planted thickly through the continent. He was America’s prime mover. To cancel him is to repudiate its creation.
5. At The College Fix, Christian Schneider finds archeology nerds opposing video lectures that call for research base on . . . science. From the beginning of the article:
A group representing over 7,000 archaeologists has refused to post a video of a lecture delivered at its annual meeting earlier this month after complaints the topic was too racially charged.
The Society for American Archaeology meeting, held between April 15 and 17, featured a pre-recorded lecture by San Jose State anthropology professor Elizabeth Weiss and attorney and anthropologist James Springer that discussed the role of creationism in archaeology.
On Wednesday, the SAA released a statement apologizing to ” those who were harmed by the inclusion of the presentation.”
“After careful review of the recording, the SAA board finds the presentation does not align with SAA’s values, and so has chosen to not re-post it at this time,” it read.
In their presentation, Weiss and Springer argued that many Native American creation myths stemming from oral traditions have worked their way into scientific research and are given as much weight as scientific data such as DNA.
“By promoting objective knowledge and scientific reasoning, we would say that we are doing our best to help students, colleagues and the public understand the world around us, and negating the misinformation promoted by creationism,” Weiss told The College Fix in an email.
The lecture was accused of being racist, which Weiss refutes.
6. More TCF: Joseph Silverstein reports on a Stanford student senate member calling for the eradication of whites. Well, at least she didn’t say honkies. From the article:
Stanford University student Gabrielle Crooks, a member of its student government, expressed her hatred for white people in a series of tweets this past summer.
“Yes I think white people need to be eradicated yes I will go feral over mediocre white men we exist,” she wrote in July 2020.
Despite advocating for genocide, her student senate page biography states that she aspires to be a “human rights attorney” and “address racial violence.” She is also a Black Recruitment and Orientation Committee coordinator at Stanford.
Crooks is currently seeking re-election to the student senate, with voting to take place this week. In her candidate statement, Crooks accuses Stanford University of having “serious problems with regard to race” and “an unfortunate, but intimate, history with racism.”
In another tweet, Crooks alleged that the United States is a racist country, spelling America as “amerikkka”; “not a passionate amerikka lover in my IR [international relations] class….. I thought y’all were joking,” she tweeted in October 2020.
Crooks also tweeted she “has friends who are white but she just can’t support it.” She also tweeted “why do white people think everything is about them.”
7. At Quillette, Shane Trotter tallies the huge damage of grade inflation. From the analysis:
In a decade working in high schools, I’ve seen a consistent push to reduce writing, reading, and note-taking, expand late work windows, lighten workloads, dilute the weight of assessments, and, most fundamentally, to eliminate failures. The same can be seen at the university level. The amount of time college students have spent on academic work has gone from 40 hours per week in 1961, to 27 in 2003, to less than 12 hours in 2008. During that time, the average grade has risen in both public and private universities, while national SAT scores continue to decline. Today’s graduates are not smarter or more prepared for their future, but at least they think they are.
The roots of these trends can be found in generations of self-esteem culture and a gradual educational shift from a standards-driven approach to one of customer service. As consumerism enveloped society, our schools became more concerned with perception and appeasement than learning. School, in the eyes of parents and educators alike, became something to game — the lessons taught an arbitrary ritual that stood between students and the diploma they needed.
All the while, headlines continued to note America’s declining status in world education rankings. More money was targeted at shrinking gaps between different groups and supporting the disadvantaged, yet scores declined across nearly every demographic.
Still, schools are moving further away from standards. Walk into any high school professional development and you won’t hear discussion about what skills students will need for an uncertain future or about specific competencies that students are struggling to master. Instead, there is a parade of new strategies to make learning effortless. Schools have embraced the ideology of intrinsic motivation. If students aren’t invested in their learning, the thinking goes, it is because we haven’t made the environment fun enough, interesting enough, safe enough, or (education’s answer to everything), because we have not understood the ways that today’s digitally distracted youth learn and, consequently, have not integrated enough new technology.
8. At The New Criterion, Myron Magnet considers the roots of America’s defounding. From the essay:
But, though the traders and Tea Partiers didn’t quite understand it, the federal government long ago had turned from the shield of individual liberty into a vast engine of redistribution. That transformation could occur because the Framers’ Constitution was body-snatched by the doctrine of the “living constitution,” which — as Woodrow Wilson first formulated it — saw the Supreme Court sitting as a permanent Constitutional Convention, making up laws as it went along, heedless of the 1787 scheme’s checks. Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal used Wilson’s doctrine as a license to remake America’s economy and society. Once the Supreme Court buckled to FDR’s threat to pack it and started voting his way, the justices allowed an utterly foreign governmental structure to devour the Framers’ republic from within, until it broke out of the shell as something altogether different.
Not that FDR was entirely frank about his transformative enterprise. Where Wilson had dismissed the Framers as obsolete relics in a Darwinian age, Roosevelt claimed to extend their great work even as he undid it. In his second inaugural address of 1937, he hailed the 150th anniversary of the Constitutional Convention, which had “created a strong government with powers of united action sufficient then and now to solve problems utterly beyond individual or local solution” — a wildly false characterization. Chastened by America’s near-loss in the Revolution, the Framers sought to create a government strong enough to protect national and individual independence but not so strong that, given mankind’s inherent power-hunger, it could become what they called an “elective despotism.” So they limited that power to such clearly enumerated tasks as raising an army, a navy, and taxes; coining and borrowing money; and regulating foreign and interstate commerce. All other matters they emphatically left to “individual or local solution.”
They certainly didn’t mean to put the whole U.S. economy under federal regulation. But as FDR later admitted, when he took the oath to defend the Constitution just before delivering the 1937 address, he had wanted to shout, “Yes, but it’s the Constitution as I understand it.” The New Deal’s main thrust, after all, was precisely to take total control of the economy, under the ruse of federal power to regulate interstate commerce.
For one who projected such jaunty optimism, FDR had a surprisingly gloomy view of America’s future. The nation’s great days of discovery and invention, when government needed only to keep out of the way, were behind it, he thought. Now, Depression-stunned America had produced more than its purportedly underpaid workers could afford to consume, as FDR inaccurately saw it. America’s task now, he said, “is the soberer, less dramatic business of administering resources and plants already in hand, . . . of distributing wealth and products more equitably, of adapting existing economic organizations to the service of the people. The day of enlightened administration has come.” The bureaucrat would take over from the business titan.
9. At Commentary, John Podhoretz covers a bad day for foes of merit. From the beginning of the article:
Today, the eight selective high schools inside the New York City public system informed kids and their parents about admissions for the next academic year. The schools — among them Bronx Science, Stuyvesant, and Brooklyn Tech — are among the best-known in the country. In all, 23,000 kids applied, of whom 18.1 percent, or around 4,200, were admitted. Eliza Shapiro, who covers the public schools for the New York Times, is alarmed. “Somehow, the number of Black and Latino kids getting into NYC’s specialized high schools is DECLINING. Schools will be 9% Black/Latino this year,” she tweeted. “The numbers, year after year, tell us the same story. Nothing has worked to diversify these schools with the admissions exam in place as is.”
She makes the point that 28 percent of the kids admitted are white, while only four percent are black. A disaster for diversity.
Oh? Well, who do you think is getting in? If you add whites, blacks, and Latinos together, they will constitute around 37 percent of the kids at these eight schools. Now take a wild stab at the ethnic origins of the absolute majority of admits — a stunning 53.7 percent in all. You guessed it. Asian.
And it’s not only that. Asians made up the plurality of kids seeking admission — 35 percent of the applicants were Asian, compared to 18.5 percent white and 18.4 percent black.
In other words, Asians sought placement in these schools at an absolute rate nearly double that of whites or blacks.
This is the case even though Asians make up a little less than 12 percent of New York City’s population. Black people make up 26 percent. White people make up around 26 percent. Latinos make up around 26 percent. And Asians? Around 12 percent.
Making the diversity question entirely one about black vs. white placement is disgraceful. Asians are a smaller minority in New York City than whites or blacks, and some intra-Asian groups are among the city’s poorest.
For your listening pleasure, here’s a wonderful version of The Last Round-Up by the Sons of the Pioneers.
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Jack Fowler, who can be reached at email@example.com, and, as he must keep a promise, will end his last-ever WJ with these words: Bald Scotty.