Politics & Policy

Will Every Christmas Look Like This?

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Brielle Peare, 6, uses a microphone to talk to a man in a Santa Claus costume, who sits inside a store display window behind glass as a measure against the spread of the coronavirus at the Primark store in Boston, Mass., December 18, 2021. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Christmas is here, and here we go again. A summer slowdown gives way to a late-year surge in coronavirus cases, prompting policy-makers to claw back whatever modest liberties they had granted people when they thought they could vaguely make out the clearing at the edge of the woods.

You might have seen certain writers here making the case that the pandemic does not end until we decide to end it. That is, Covid-19 is here to stay, and we can decide to incorporate basic precautions into our everyday lives but otherwise return to normal, or we can be gripped by cyclical regulatory convulsions based on the latest case counts.

Right now, Column B is winning in a rout.

The Omicron outbreak, to be sure, is likely to get worse before it gets better. It would be wise to start focusing on the stats that matter — hospitalizations and deaths — as opposed to overall case numbers. The Biden administration reportedly is considering this, but as Jim Geraghty rightly notes,

if the Biden administration wanted the public to stop focusing so much on total case numbers, the time to start making that argument was months ago, not a few days before Christmas when the case numbers had already started rising quickly.

Let’s hope they can anyway — otherwise it’s not too alarmist to ask whether every Christmas season is going to look like this: the perpetually tentative travel plans, the angst over whether we’ll see loved ones, the tightly controlled holiday office gatherings . . . the questions, like this one, about whether next year will be any better.

Already, the answer is not shaping up to be a very promising one, even as Biden assures us we’re not going back to March 2020.

Going into last weekend, schools in Prince George’s County, Md., outside Washington, D.C., closed and went virtual for the near-term. Other schools have since followed suit. This, even as the CDC backed allowing students exposed to coronavirus to stay in school with proper testing. Maryland’s Republican governor called the Prince George’s decision a “terrible mistake,” and even CNN’s Brian Stelter appealed to school districts not to make kids suffer more by sending them back home — again.

Over in the District, Mayor Muriel Bowser, whom this newsletter singled out for praise a few weeks back, reversed course to reimpose an indoor mask mandate as part of her “Winter Surge” plan.

In New York, Governor Kathy Hochul earlier had ordered businesses to pick either a total mask mandate or total vaccination mandate. New York City is in a particularly frantic ferment, with shows being canceled, vaccine passports being rigorously checked, and long lines for testing snaking around the city. Seeing this, Kyle Smith warns about the prospect of more closings and, against his better instincts, appeals to common sense:

By now it really should be dawning on progressives and the media that what we’ve all been saying at NR for many months has been true: The virus doesn’t care where you live or how virtuous you are. . . . The virus is going to keep going until it burns out.

If you’ve been vaccinated, your chances of avoiding serious illness are excellent. If you haven’t been vaccinated, that’s your choice. But there will always be some significant number of Americans who shun the vaccines, and we’re going to have to live with that too. We can’t allow panicky leaders to treat us like prisoners of Covid as we head into Year Three of the pandemic in America. Life must go on.

Meanwhile, Anthony Fauci thinks masking on airplanes is never going away. This read almost as a rebuke to a pair of airline CEOs who days earlier testified that masks aren’t making passengers much safer. The trouble is, if Fauci thinks something, that thing has a funny way of actualizing as policy — what a rush it must be! For his part, Biden and his administration are now moving to provide 500 million at-home tests, a positive step, though Jim faults the FDA for the availability mess to date. (“Too little and too late,” adds an exasperated MBD.)

But back to Brian Stelter. He posed some questions on air, about whether it’s time to accept that everyone is going to get this virus and whether we should evaluate severity based on symptoms and not simply positivity rates. A lot of us in the conservative media-sphere consider this line of thinking to be spot-on, and hazard to guess most Americans do too. Some closing thoughts on exactly this from NR’s editorial:

Ever since the federal, state, and local governments started taking aggressive action against Covid in March 2020, Americans have been taunted by the promise that if we could just get over one hump, Covid madness would be over. In practice, once we got to the top of one hump, another one became visible in the horizon. And then another one. And another one. And another one. . . .

Whatever one’s views on the efficacy of the restrictions that were put in place back then, by Biden’s own admission, we are in a much different place now that so many have been vaccinated. So we should act like it. . . .

Some may argue that the policies being implemented now are not as draconian as before. But when we were debating lockdown measures in early 2020, the understanding was that the unprecedented intrusions of the government into our everyday lives were only being contemplated for a short period of time during a national emergency. Now, we have to operate under the assumption that any measures that have survived this long could endure forever. That’s why the only way to truly return to normal is to accept the fact that Covid isn’t going anywhere and reject the Covid-zero mentality altogether.

That’s enough from me, on this topic. Hopefully, this coming stretch is one of rest and recuperation for readers out there. For those who find themselves with downtime to think and reflect, may we recommend the year-end issue of NR, dedicated to “A Defense of the West,” as a fine fireside read. Or catch up on Hulu. It’s your choice. We’re not about mandates here at National Review.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

The full editorial on ending our Covid-crisis culture, again, is here: End the Covid-Zero Mentality

And ICYMI, the editorial marking the (maybe) death of Build Back Better is here: Good Riddance to Build Back Better

ARTICLES

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Biden Fails the Christmas Test

Philip Klein: Why Biden’s Approval Ratings Are About to Get Worse

Kathryn Jean Lopez: The United States Abandons Nigerian Christians

Therese Shaheen: Ignore Xi Jinping’s Deceptions. China Is Struggling

Rich Lowry: The High-Water Mark of Biden-Era Progressivism

Roger Wicker: How Biden Can Outfox Putin in Ukraine

David Harsanyi: AOC’s Grasp of American Governance Is a ‘Farce’

Caroline Downey: Mother of Nine-Year-Old Girl Speaks Out about Alleged Sex Abuse by Cuomo’s CNN Producer

Brittany Bernstein: San Fran Leaders Oppose Mayor’s Plan to Clean Up Drug-Plagued Tenderloin District

Brittany Bernstein: How the Conservative ‘Save America Coalition’ Helped Kill Build Back Better

Dan McLaughlin: Meet Jennifer Strahan: Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Primary Challenger

CAPITAL MATTERS

Paul Jossey appeals to Congress to keep the regulators at bay: Don’t Let Regulators Kill Crypto

Orphe Divounguy calls out Speaker Pelosi on her tax rhetoric: An Inconvenient Truth about the SALT Deduction

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Brian Allen reviews the Met’s latest spectacular exhibition, on the luscious Parisian style that helped give birth to Disney. Feast on this: The European Rococo Style That Inspired Walt Disney

Armond White breaks down and picks apart Barack’s best-of list: Obama’s 13 Commandments

EXCERPTS MAKE THE BEST STOCKING STUFFERS

If you live in America contemporaneously with the transmission of this newsletter, chances are you’ve run into trouble getting Covid-19 tests or have witnessed this problem. Michael Brendan Dougherty lets the Biden administration have it:

More than ten months in, the Biden administration has been unwilling to break the monopoly public-health officials are trying to build over the case numbers and the general course of the pandemic. What America — the Northeast in particular — needed this week was an abundance of cheap, easy-to-use at-home Covid tests. The few that were on the shelves are long gone.

Almost every testing site has all its appointments booked. Every pharmacy that lists at-home Covid tests is reporting that they’re sold out. The few pharmacies that do list them as in-stock turn out to have outdated information.

And this was all so predictable, and was predicted. In year two of Covid-19, public-health officials and the public themselves have learned about Covid’s seasonality. Because the Northeast never quite got a Delta wave, it was obvious that region was going to get a major winter wave, no matter what. The Northeast was more vaccinated than the South, but not that much more. . . .

The Biden administration had as much time in office as European governments needed to approve these tests and see their production soar. The White House had a head start, and failed miserably anyway. Now many Americans are going to cancel Christmas plans again in 2020 because they or their family members wanted or needed just this one extra layer of reassurance during the Omicron spike. Chances are they’ll remember it next November, too.

Here’s a taste of that special issue mentioned above, on the glory of Rome and Greece, by Jeremy Tate:

Whether we re­cog­nize it or not, our whole environment — social, political, religious, economic, artistic — has been shaped by the history that precedes us, by the ideas and decisions of our forebears. No aspect of the present can be understood without the context of the past; no professedly moral cause can be understood in a vacuum, because no one lives in a vacuum. (It’s too dark in there, for one thing.) So if we want to live intelligently and vir­tuously in the present, we need to understand the past. And that past cannot be dismissed as just “dead white guys,” branded “problematic” and therefore safe — or worse, obligatory — to ignore. Even if we take the most “woke” of ap­proaches to history, the very problems we identify cannot be dealt with if we do not first grasp them clearly. And for us, that has to mean grappling with the roots of the West, because that is the tradition we find ourselves in.

Those roots lie in the Mediterranean. The continuum of civilizations from Baghdad to Lisbon is thoroughly interwoven, but we can for convenience isolate the Greeks and the Romans as two of the keys to our story.

Greece has been described as the “overachieving father” of Western civilization, and there is a lot to be said for this. To begin with, nearly all European writing systems descend from one form or another of the Greek alphabet, so that it is almost literally the forerunner of all Western scholarship. In Homer’s magnificent epics, we find the beginning of all of our literature; in Aeschylus, the origin of all subsequent drama (as it was he who first put multiple actors on stage at once, going beyond a mere responsory between a solitary actor and a chorus), and thus, in a way, the great-grandfather of film. In another vein, as far back as the seventh century before Christ, we find the speculations and investigations of Thales and his successors laying the groundwork for science, philosophy, and mathematics; to this day, children in geometry classes learn the Pythagor­ean theorem. All these had their own sources, sure — Babylon, Egypt, Phoenicia. But it is through the Greeks, who learned from these civilizations and added their own genius to what they had received, that we in turn have obtained this rich heritage. . . .

If we have Greece to thank for much of our philosophy, art, and science, we have Rome to thank for the infrastructure that protected those things from decay and passed them on to the future. Roman administration, architecture, and engineering have been bettered only in the last few hundred years, and many of our advances build directly upon Roman models. Politically, too, their principles were appropriated by the Founding Fathers, who preferred the checks and balances of the Roman republic to the malleable, short-lived democracy of classical Athens. Everything from term limits to veto power to a deliberate balance between numerical and regional representation finds precedent in Roman law. Our whole political system is heavily indebted to the Roman model; to study the Constitution without the context of Roman law and history is to study a plant plucked without its roots.

From the editorial on BBB’s demise for now:

The radical legislation that sought to spend trillions of dollars to transform America at a time of historic debt was a bad idea that should never even have made it this far. . . .

[Manchin] has publicly made his position clear for months, and, as we explained last week, the bill in question violated many of the red lines he had drawn. It was more expensive, was not fully paid for, included accounting “gimmicks” he opposed, allowed for taxpayer funding of abortion, disguised the long-term cost by trillions of dollars by funding many projects for only a few years in hopes they would become permanent, created new programs when the government cannot pay for existing ones, and added to government outlays at a time when inflation is on the rise. . . .

Even if something does emerge from the ashes of Build Back Better, it is going to be much less revolutionary than Democrats had hoped. Remember, this was a bill that they initially hoped would finance subsidized child care, government preschool, paid leave, an expansion of Obamacare, a souped-up Medicare, ongoing monthly payments to families, portions of the Green New Deal, and even amnesty for illegal immigrants.

With Republicans poised to take back at least the House next year, Manchin’s statement likely forecloses the opportunity for any sort of mega-bill to pass in the rest of Biden’s presidential term. That gives conservatives something to celebrate going into the new year.

Did you know that the classic Disney aesthetic borrowed from a swing through Europe? Brian Allen gives the history behind the Met’s newest exhibition:

In 1935, Disney went to Europe for a bit of a Grand Tour. He brought back with him over 300 illustrated children’s books, the genre’s canon. He also returned immersed in Rococo style. This new visual vocabulary informed some of his biggest projects and a studio style that had one of its biggest hits in the ’90s, long after Disney died.

Animating the inanimate is at the heart of Rococo style. We can see it in a Sèvres ewer shaped and decorated to evoke splashing water or a church with turrets so attenuated it seems to reach for the heavens. The word rococo comes from the French rocaille, a style of ornamentation drawing on the shapes of rocks and shells formed by constant exposure to water. As a whimsical and witty decorative style, it starts in Paris in the 1720s in reaction to the heaviness of Baroque decoration. For French elites of all stripes, it suggested joie de vivre, a gaiety of spirit and freedom of motion. A Sèvres three-arm wall sconce from the Met collection, made in the 1760s, introduces us to the style. Pink, blue, and green, its subtly burgeoning leaves articulated with gold, it’s as luscious as it is breezy.

Snow White, which opened in 1937, and Pinocchio and Fantasia, premiering in 1940, are more informed by Rococo style than inspired or even influenced. It’s the exhibition’s biggest intellectual problem since Disney and his artists were omnivorous. Some of his artists were European, the studio had a workshop system with many steps involving different people, and the zeitgeist was “do what works” rather than “follow the playbook.” Snow White, the first feature-length animated color movie, had faces and figures that conveyed human emotion, both in expressions and in action compelled by mood. The Disney studio, the show says, struggled to achieve these goals after lots of experimentation in the ’30s, much as French porcelain makers sought the same effects in the 1720s and ’30s. The French didn’t even know how to make porcelain until 1700.

The easy interplay of art, dance, and music characterizes Rococo style. Decoration seems to sway. Disney saw this as essential in animated movies. Rococo color is riotous, and so is Technicolor. Light and airy Rococo style makes more room for children at play and young romance than any other aesthetic vocabulary.

Shout-Outs

Ronald Bailey, at Reason: NYC Declares War on Gas Stoves

Michael Lind, at Tablet: How American Progressives Became French Jacobins

Tevi Troy, at the Washington Examiner: Conservatives we lost in 2021

Kenny Xu, at RealClearPolitics: Salvation Army’s Woke Descent Hurts Those It Serves

CODA

This isn’t a Christmas song, but it mystifyingly has a Christmasy title, and that’ll do, in the interest of ending with something a little different. “Wrapping Paper,” by Cream, is one of numerous examples of just how strange that band could be, even if they’re associated more with the proto–hard rock hits. Songs like “Anyone for Tennis” or “Pressed Rat and Warthog” sound more like recordings from an underground ’60s coffee shop in the Village than preludes to Sabbath. “Wrapping Paper” is a sad little gem, with a deceptively upbeat saloon-piano backbone — so maybe imagine it’s about preparing presents for the tree, and enjoy the mood that way?

Either way, here’s wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, from all of us.

U.S.

American Carnage Goes Endemic

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Police officers document marked evidence on Main Street the morning after a man plowed through a holiday parade in Waukesha, Wis., November 22, 2021. (Cheney Orr/Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Donald Trump was right about one thing: “American carnage.”

He didn’t stop the bloodshed, as he vowed he would in his 2017 inaugural address, and neither has his successor. But the carnage is real, and it’s gotten quantifiably worse over the last two years.

We learned recently that America suffered the sharpest single-year increase in murders on record in 2020, with more than 21,000 homicides. The murder rate and tally were below those of the early ’90s, but it’s increasingly clear that 2021 is continuing this grim trend and that last year was no blip. At least a dozen big cities have seen their annual homicide records shattered (over 500 in Philadelphia), weeks before the end of this calendar year. Their daily tragedies unfold underneath the more spectacular tragedies like those recently endured in Wisconsin and Michigan. Urban anxiety is compounded by the surge of retail theft in places like the Bay Area.

Some headlines from just this week:

12 major Dem controlled cities break homicide records

Chicago Dealership Owner Calls for Crackdown after Smash-and-Grab Looters Strike in Broad Daylight

Three people killed in apparent double murder-suicide were all nurse anesthetists working at Baltimore-area hospitals

Man beaten to death while stringing Christmas lights with his young daughter

Teen shot dead outside Virginia high school after basketball game

Analysts and lawmakers point to a range of reasons for this, including the pandemic and the availability of guns, though only one of those aggravating factors is new. But the voices at the municipal level crying out for leaders to reconsider the culture of leniency and lax enforcement that has washed over cities in the wake of last year’s riots over police violence should command our attention. As Brittany Bernstein reports concerning the epidemic of smash-and-grab thefts,

Los Angeles police chief Michel Moore faulted California’s “zero bail” policy for returning 14 suspected smash-and-grab looters back to the streets.

“All the suspects taken into custody are out of custody, either as a result of one juvenile, or the others as a result of bailing out or zero-bail criteria,” Moore said of 14 suspects arrested in connection with eleven robberies late last month that cost businesses some $338,000 in stolen merchandise and more than $40,000 in property damage.

The same concerns are being aired in New York City and elsewhere. Nate Hochman reports on the distinctly tragic decline in Portland and puts a face to the consequences of lawlessness:

For seven months, Dylan Carrico Rogers slept in his bike shop with a shotgun. TriTech Bikes, located in the Montavilla neighborhood of northeast Portland, Ore., where Rogers grew up, had been battered by three break-ins, two nearby shootings, and countless instances of vandalism. Portland’s serially understaffed police force was nowhere to be found. And in the face of $25,000 of stolen bike parts, TriTech’s insurance company was ready to jump ship. “They said, ‘if you claim another one, we’re just gonna drop you,’” Rogers told National Review. “So I’m paying $1,200 every three months to be told that I have to replace [everything] on my own dime. And then at the same time, the cops don’t show up. So we’re just in a free-for-all.”

The lifelong Portland resident finally packed up and left in August.

The White House specifically faults the pandemic for the looting. This surely is a factor, yet much of the crime is organized to a degree — see this multimillion-dollar operation exposed in the Bay Area — that perforates the Covid argument. It is less difficult to imagine how declining to aggressively prosecute retail theft would encourage retail theft.

Of course, the onus to address this falls not on the president of the United States but on countless city leaders coast to coast. We’ve seen glimpses of necessary backbone, from frustrated police chiefs, yes, but also from mayors who are saying enough — or, in the words of born-again crime-fighter London Breed in San Francisco, enough “bullsh**.

Hopefully, this crime wave will crest, and soon, as more City Halls seek a refund from “Defund.” This past September, a police abolitionist argued, when asked on The Daily Show about the “transitionary period” of high crime that follows any enforcement ebb, that officials should not lose their nerve. “What we do expect people is to be committed to experimentation, to figuring out how to get there,” she said.

Who suffers during this period, exactly? It’s not the cloistered campus-dwellers. It’s not the boardroom activists or the cable-news regulars. It’s not us journos in leafy D.C. commuter towns. It’s folks like Don Samuels in North Minneapolis, who told NR that he hears gunshots every night, that his neighbor’s car was fired upon with a baby in back, that another neighbor had to install a bulletproof headboard as a make-do shield against stray rounds.

Voters there subsequently rejected a plan to disband and “replace” their police department. America’s cities are on notice. Others suffering the consequences of these “experiments” cannot be expected to tolerate their lot as test subjects much longer.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

Stay strong, Joe: Senator Manchin, Keep Holding Out on Build Back Better

Here’s more on the San Francisco mayor’s change of heart: San Fran Mayor Has Defunder’s Remorse

Lia Thomas’s record-breaking streak at UPenn should be setting off alarm bells for anybody in college sports who still values fairness: Women’s Sports Should Be Women Only

No amount of Biden team spin will change the facts on supply chains: Supply-Chain Crisis Isn’t Going Away

ARTICLES

Kevin Williamson: Spending Is Not Going to Save the Democrats

Philip Klein: The Public-Health Mafia

Michael Brendan Dougherty: A Tale of Two Democrats: Jared Polis and Kathy Hochul

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Gone Too Far

Ryan Mills: County Execs Blast Hochul’s Mask Order as a Return to Cuomo Playbook: ‘Complete Waste of Resources’

Alexandra DeSanctis: It’s Not as Simple as Overturning Roe

Jim Inhofe & Trent England: The Uniquely Dangerous Movement to End the Electoral College

Charles C. W. Cooke: There Is No Reason for Anyone Else to Pay Your Student-Loan Debt

Rich Lowry: The Failure of ‘Latinx’

Andrew McCarthy: Barrett and Kavanaugh Supply Another Majority to Deny Religious-Liberty Exemption

CAPITAL MATTERS

Pension-account holders, beware. Richard Morrison explains what a Biden administration rule repeal could mean for you: How ESG Advocates Want to Redefine Your Retirement

Congress and the Biden administration are working on another recipe for inflation, says Joseph Sullivan: Build Back Better: A Recipe for Higher Child-Care Prices

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Armond White has a beef with the Writers Guild of America’s “101 Greatest Screenplays of the 21st Century (*so far)”: When Movie Writing Goes Wrong

Brian Allen swings through Montreal (jealous?) for a banquet of penetrating portraits: In Montreal, a Primer on Yousuf Karsh, Canada’s Great Portraitist

Kyle Smith’s got no time for this web of gimmicks: Spider-Man: No Way Home Is a Fan-Service Boondoggle

FROM THE NEW DECEMBER 27, 2021, ISSUE OF NR

Joseph Loconte: A Brief History of Individual Rights

Victoria Coates: When David Met Lisa

Jay Nordlinger: Bach, Beethoven, and Other Friends of Mankind

Jeremy Tate: The Glory That Is Greece, the Grandeur That Is Rome

THE EXCERPTS, THE EXCERPTS, THE EXCERPTS ARE ON FIRE

Philip Klein discovers and describes a striking parallel when it comes to the public-health community’s conduct:

The public-health community is behaving like the Mafia. They come offering protection. They control the politicians. And they threaten businesses that don’t accede to their demands.

Led by boss Anthony Fauci, and comprising many federal, state, and local officials, they have exploited the Covid pandemic to orchestrate a campaign of fear and intimidation to consolidate their power, and they have no plans to give any of it up.

The protection racket is based on the conceit that if we simply do as they command, we will vanquish Covid. It started with the now-infamous “15 days to slow the spread” and the effort to “flatten the curve” to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed. This quickly turned into six weeks and then months of rolling lockdowns and, in some areas, more than a year of closed schools.

Vaccines, they assured us, were to be the end point of the pandemic. But a year after they became available, and eight months after they have been widely available, the medical Cosa Nostra still insist that people who are fully vaccinated — and boosted — need to wear masks in public (even though they initially convinced people that masks were ineffective).

A lot is being written out there about the January 6 riot, with the release of Mark Meadows’s text messages. But Michael Brendan Dougherty manages to find something new, and powerful, to say about what led to that ignominious point:

In the months after January 6, the politically correct move for Trump’s cable-news apologists has been to ignore the fact that the people who set about “investigating” the supposed vote fraud have turned up nothing of consequence or merit. Or, it has been to focus obsessively on the potential involvement of the FBI or other intel agencies in the riots, to speculate about who may have been planted as agent provocateurs in the crowd. This is worth inquiring about, especially after the FBI’s cack-handed work trying to instigate a kidnapping plot against Governor Whitmer went south.

But the riot at the Capitol happened because President Donald Trump simply lied, and lied, and lied. On that very day he lied about what the vice president’s powers were. “All Vice President Pence has to do is send it back to the states to recertify, and we become president, and you are the happiest people,” he told the crowd. . . .

There is a kind of partisan kick-reflex that is surely active in many people reading this. The reflex kicks: The Left is at war with the Right. It kicks again: Stop punching to your right. It kicks again: Stop trying to police the Right and stop trying to make it respectable to the Left.

But it’s not them I care about. It’s simply the truth. Treating Trump like a baby whose feelings had to be coddled at the end resulted in Ashli Babbitt’s getting shot as she tried to break into Congress against a lawful order to desist. He could no more Stop the Steal than make Mexico pay for the wall. But, pay for his actions? Some people did.

The case of UPenn swimmer Lia Thomas is an indictment of how school-sports programs are dealing with the transgender debate. From the NR editorial:

Between 2016 and 2019, Will Thomas was an average swimmer for the men’s swimming division. But after adopting a female name (Lia) and identity, Thomas has been smashing records at every turn. Now, Thomas is supposedly the No. 1 female swimmer in the nation, with the fastest 500-yard female freestyle in the country and the all-time record for the Penn women’s team. In a sport that is known for slim margins, Thomas has been crushing the competition. At the Zippy Invitational at the University of Akron, Thomas’s time in the 200-yard race was better than last year’s gold-medal time in the NCAA finals, while notching a 4:34:06 in the 500 freestyle — a margin of victory of more than 14 seconds. And in the 1650 freestyle, Thomas beat the second-place woman by more than 38 seconds.

The explanation for such staggering victories is neither talent nor superpowers — merely biology. Since Thomas is biologically male, and since Thomas underwent male puberty with all the androgenizing benefits that this conferred, he is larger, faster, and stronger than most female athletes.

Just ask Thomas’s female teammates. Despite being “strongly advised” to stay silent, two teammates have anonymously spoken out to the sports website OutKick. “Pretty much everyone individually has spoken to our coaches about not liking this. Our coach [Mike Schnur] just really likes winning. He’s like most coaches. I think secretly everyone just knows it’s the wrong thing to do,” said one. . . .

Even if Thomas is in compliance with the NCAA rules that require testosterone-suppression treatment for one year for male-to-female athletes, this is still risibly insufficient at mitigating sex-based advantages that are years in the making and do not simply disappear with chemical or surgical interventions. Such policies fail on principle, in any case. As politically incorrect as it is to point out, there is no material difference between a man and a trans woman. This is not difficult. The athletes in women’s sports should be women only.

Charles C. W. Cooke is here with a public-service announcement about student-loan forgiveness:

The core problem the loan-forgiveness advocates have is that their cause is motivated by nothing more noble than a desire to have more money. . . .

Recently, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez griped about her own loans. “I’m 32 years old now,” she said. “I have over $17,000 in student-loan debt, and I didn’t go to graduate school because I knew that getting another degree would drown me in debt that I would never be able to surpass. This is unacceptable.” Why? Which part of this, exactly, is “unacceptable”? Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has debts because Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took on debts in order to pay for the education that she received — an education that has landed her a plum job in Congress. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez doesn’t have more debt than she would have had if she’d borrowed more than she did, because, aware of the tradeoffs, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez demurred. I cannot see the problem. Are we really supposed to believe that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s having some more letters next to her name would be of such extraordinary benefit to the nation at large that the rest of us should gratefully pony up and pay for it? Give me a break.

If there is anything “unacceptable” about Ocasio-Cortez’s situation, it is that she seems genuinely to believe that she is a victim. As a member of Congress, Ocasio-Cortez makes $175,000 per year, and as has been widely reported, she is doing sufficiently well to have bought herself a Tesla. And good for her! In all sincerity, I wish her great riches and happiness. But that she would even consider asking for help in repaying the $17,000 worth of debt from which she’s already benefited considerably? That is obscene.

Just pay your bills, slackers. Everyone else has to.

Shout-Outs

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, at UnHerd: Will California ever be safe?

Mark Brnovich, at the Wall Street Journal: Smash and Grab? Don’t Come to Arizona

Jana Winter, at Yahoo News: Inside the secret CBP unit with no rules that investigates Americans

Adam Kredo, at the Washington Free Beacon: Iranian ‘Drone Armies’ Step Up Attacks on US as Nuclear Talks Languish, GOP Lawmakers Say

CODA

How about some Art Blakey to close things out today? Hearing no objections . . .

This track comes from Reflections in Blue, a relatively late-career record he did with the Jazz Messengers, the long-running ensemble of illustrious acolytes Blakey helped bring to stardom. “Mishima” features “lots of surprises,” as the liner notes tease. The song puts a particular spotlight on bassist Dennis Irwin, and the highlights come when he conspires with James Williams on piano to tilt the piece in Latin-flavored directions — pulling everyone else along.

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

White House

Critical Press Coverage Is Not the Crisis to Worry About

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White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki holds the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., August 27, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Russia is amassing troops along the border with Ukraine. The economy of Taliban-ruled Afghanistan is nearing collapse. Something . . . unusual . . . just happened at the Natanz nuclear site in Iran. China is menacing Taiwan and possibly rehearsing for the real deal. Then there’s inflation, Omicron, that dang supply chain, and other woes on the home front.

But the real crisis? It’s the tone of coverage about the Biden administration, dontcha know.

So attuned to this diplomatic quagmire is the White House that they’ve reportedly dispatched emissaries to cajole newsrooms into offering more favorable takes on the economy. As Jim Geraghty notes:

Perhaps the more significant aspect of this story is not just that the Biden administration thinks the country’s economy is in much better shape than it was last year — a pretty low bar, considering how one year ago, we were just about to get the first vaccinations — but they think that they have a perception problem, not a substance or reality problem. But the national average for a gallon of gasoline is still $3.43, inflation has skyrocketed this year, the country has 10.4 million unfilled jobs, and all kinds of small businesses have signs that say “please be patient, we’re understaffed,” and we’re enduring a supply-chain crisis. (If you’re not reading Dominic Pino’s coverage here at NR, you should be.) Americans don’t think the economy is lousy because of bad media coverage. Americans think the economy is lousy because they feel the pain in the form of higher prices and stores not having the goods on the shelves that they usually have.

Meanwhile, Biden allies from Chief of Staff Ron Klain to friendly cable outlets have been promoting a column from the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank claiming Biden’s media coverage has been as negative as — or more negative than — Donald Trump’s. Milbank leaves nothing to the imagination in assessing the damage this will cause: “My colleagues in the media are serving as accessories to the murder of democracy.”

Woof.

As Charles C. W. Cooke notes, the AI-driven analysis undergirding this claim inevitably suffers from deficiencies in its ability to truly assess negativity in press coverage. All of us who lived through both administrations know that Trump faced a more adversarial press. But even if the coverage were as critical as they (they being a computer program) say, well . . . good!

For starters, the toughest of said coverage occurred around the time of the botched Afghanistan withdrawal. Which makes sense. And broadly speaking, the media counterpoint to the press shops promoting the agendas of the officials we see on TV every day is a necessary thing. Without it, you get something like Chinese state-media mouthpieces gaslighting Twitter over ultimately accurate U.S. reports of an American diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics. Without it, you wouldn’t know that Biden’s fabulizing about acting as a liaison between Golda Meir and Cairo during the Six-Day War was just that. (Credit to CNN for calling this out. Trump earned many of his fact checks, and Biden does too.) Without it, you might not know that a DCCC chart purporting to show plummeting gas prices was outrageously misleading, though the surging cost of gas and other goods in real life would give you a strong hint. Without it, you wouldn’t know about the trouble in veep paradise, the details of which sure do bring to mind certain characteristics of the 45th president.

If you work in a Biden press shop, then yes, you live and die by the tone of these reports. For everyone else, including the president himself, much bigger crises are on the horizon, or already here. They shouldn’t be sugarcoated.

Now — who’s hungry for some links? We’ve got just the plate to satiate.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

Adoption is being unjustly maligned amid Supreme Court arguments over abortion: An Appalling Attack on Adoption

ARTICLES

David Harsanyi: Sorry, Omarova’s Soviet Birth Is Not What Sank Her Nomination

Charles C. W. Cooke: Biden Is Losing His Grip on the Democratic Party

Ryan Mills: Jussie Smollett Found Guilty of Staging Hoax Hate Crime

Robert Agostinelli: An Alumnus Story: Going Home, and Finding Woke

Ramesh Ponnuru: Phony Abortion History Returns to the Supreme Court

Kelly Rosati: Telling the Truth on Abortion and Adoption

Michael Brendan Dougherty: America Unready

Madeleine Kearns: Male Swimmer Shattering Records in Female Competition: Why Is This Allowed?

Craig Shirley: Bob Dole, the First and the Best Compassionate Conservative

Kyle Smith: Jussie Smollett: Funniest. Trial. Ever.

Dan McLaughlin: Manhood Is the Purpose of Masculinity

Nate Hochman: How a Handful of Republicans Killed the Female Draft

Jack Crowe: Prosecutors Raise Concerns about Lefty Boston DA ahead of Confirmation as U.S. Attorney

Isaac Schorr: Remembering Yamiche Alcindor’s Greatest Hits

And ICYMI, it’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas when the debate over which Christmas song is most intolerable moves into full swing.

CAPITAL MATTERS

Brian Riedl reflects on how remarkably unnecessary, wasteful, and damaging was the American Rescue Plan: The Worst Spending Bill in Decades?

Casey Mulligan & Tomas J. Philipson are dismayed over a bid by Nobel-winning economists to prop up the BBB bill: Errant Nobels Try Again

Jonathan Williams & Nick Stark are here with a reminder that tax cuts didn’t start the fire: Tax Cuts Didn’t Lay the Federal Debt Trap

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Steven Spielberg has improved upon a flawed classic. From Kyle Smith: Can West Side Story Be Saved from Itself?

Armond White highlights a shocking work of Covid honesty from a Romanian director: Bad Luck Banging Critiques the New Normal of the Covid Era

Brian Allen finds another cultural gem in Texas: Japanese Ceramics at Dallas’s Crow Museum

SAVOR THE EXCERPT EXCELLENCE

Ryan Mills has been providing stellar reporting from the Jussie Smollett trial since the start. This week’s coverage can be found here. But his story on the verdict captures the whole sordid saga:

Smollett was found guilty on five of the six counts of felony disorderly conduct, low-level charges, each tied to making a false report to police. The Empire actor showed no emotion as the verdict was read, standing motionless with an attorney’s hand on his shoulder.

A sentencing hearing is expected to be scheduled in January. Smollett will remain free on bond. He could face up to three years in prison but could also be released on probation. The severity of the sentence will in part depend on whether Judge James Linn determines that Smollett perjured himself during his testimony, as the prosecution alleged. . . .

The jury’s ruling marks the end of one of the most bizarre national criminal cases in recent years. Smollett, who is black and openly gay, claimed that two attackers — at least one of them white — jumped him out of the blue around 2 a.m. on January 29, 2019, used racist and homophobic slurs, doused him with bleach, hung a noose around his neck, and yelled “this is MAGA country,” a reference to then-president Donald Trump’s slogan. . . .

But there were red flags from the start, for anyone willing to look.

For one, why would two men be walking around downtown Chicago in subzero temperatures at two in the morning with a noose and a hot-sauce bottle filled with bleach on the off chance they would stumble upon a gay black celebrity? And why would anyone declare Chicago — where Hillary Clinton won almost 74 percent of the vote in 2016 — MAGA country?

With all the debate and angst over Build Back Better, it’s easy to forget how foolish and sloppy Biden’s first big spending package was. Brian Riedl reminds us:

ARP’s more urgent failure is its significant contribution to today’s soaring inflation. In early February, CBO estimated that the baseline economy would operate $420 billion below capacity in 2021, and a total of $857 billion (or about 1 percent) below capacity over the next four years before returning to full employment in 2025. Even for those soft Keynesians who believe that government spending has a small multiplier, a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill would vastly overshoot the output gap. And once America’s output capacity taps out, any additional stimulus will simply bring inflation. Don’t take my word for it. Top Clinton and Obama White House economist Lawrence Summers warned Democrats that ARP would accelerate inflation.

And inflation is precisely what occurred. . . .

Speaking of economic malpractice, even rising Covid vaccination rates and the prospect of a general economic reopening did not dissuade lawmakers from including a $300 weekly federal unemployment benefit bonus. This bonus combined with the typical $387 in weekly state unemployment benefits to equal $687, or the equivalent of roughly $17 per hour. That exceeded the wages that a large share of unemployed workers had been earning in their previous jobs. Accordingly, the number of unfilled job openings soared to unprecedented levels. Many employers proved unable to lure new applicants, and the labor-force-participation rate remained roughly equal to pre-stimulus levels. . . .

Perhaps the most absurd ARP provision granted state and local governments an astounding $350 billion to close budget deficits that did not even exist. Democratic economists Jason Furman and Mark Zandi warned lawmakers that $350 billion was excessive and unnecessary, especially since Washington had already provided states with more than $500 billion in emergency pandemic aid. Lawmakers did not listen, and California now projects a $76 billion budget surplus over two years — nearly half of its $165 billion general fund budget. State and local government revenues are now 16 percent above pre-pandemic projections, and many governors have little idea what to do with such a large one-time cash infusion. Congress forbade states from rebating the federal funds to taxpayers. Creating permanent new state programs would recklessly outlast this one-time cash infusion. Addressing state and local infrastructure backlogs may have made the best sense, but Congress instead went ahead and recently threw $550 billion at infrastructure as well. It makes no sense for Washington to go deeper into debt so that state and local governments can sit on bloated budget surpluses with little use.

Robert Agostinelli reports back with a tale of wokeness run amok, upon visiting his high-school alma mater:

Aquinas Institute of a half century ago taught us that America was an exceptional nation. My own success is proof of that American dream, and there has always been a sense of indebtedness to the institution — although in recent years I had learned of the school’s drift, akin to many a Catholic institution’s mission shift, genuflection before political correctness, and affinity for and accommodation of the secular.

Still, presented with the opportunity to return, and having had from the school’s administrators and development officers an open invitation to visit and to speak, those emotional bonds compelled me to . . . go home again.

What transpired proved shocking and disturbing. . . .

My wife and I had offered to share our life experiences with junior and senior classes, and this we did. It is fair to say that the talks — through which we sought to reassert our ancient truths, to inspire students to understand them, to show the implications to them personally as a matter of self-interest, and to remind them of their right to the pursuit of happiness in a time when political correctness, Black Lives Matter orthodoxy, and woke ideology are determined to indoctrinate them — enthralled the attendees.

Most, but not all. . . .

Little did we know, our talk had “triggered” a tiny number of students. What ensued unmasked a cauldron of woke political correctness within the school’s teaching ranks, the administration, and the board of trustees.

Their mistake? They had allowed us to speak truth about our times, our country, and its future, and about our disdain for those sentiments by which America is held in low esteem. This does not go over well with the professional education class, even in a Catholic institution whose classrooms were once filled with the direct words of Fulton Sheen, espousing ancient truths now rejected as fairy tales and outdated mores.

Craig Shirley’s look back at the life and the example of Bob Dole is well worth the read, if you missed it last weekend:

On April 14, 1942, Lieutenant Dole was leading a company of the 85th Infantry Regiment in a battle to take Hill 913 when they found themselves engaged by heavy machine-gun fire. In an unbelievable display of courage, Dole charged and eliminated a machine-gun nest with a well-thrown grenade. After falling back into his foxhole, he saw his radioman, Corporal Ed Simms, collapse. He braved enemy fire again to pull the young man into his foxhole. But as he rose from the foxhole again, a Nazi shell exploded near him.

He later recalled seeing his parents and his “little home” flash before his eyes. When he came to, he couldn’t move his arms or his legs. . . .

What people don’t realize is how determined he was to regain use of some of his body. He worked with weights for hours, alone. He crept along the streets of Russell, alone, hour after hour. But he also determined to train his mind in academics.

First, he had to finish his undergraduate work at Washburn University, with honors. Then he earned his law degree, again with honors at Washburn in 1952. Along the way he married his occupational therapist. The marriage revitalized him. He became a new man, despite the infirmities. In 1954, he welcomed his first and only child, Robin Dole, to the world. Though his marriage would end in 1972, he maintained a strong relationship with his daughter.

While he had many role models through his life, Bob Dole had one hero: Dwight D. Eisenhower. The fellow Kansan, former president, and supreme allied commander of Allied Forces was one of the most essential figures in holding together the fragile alliance between Allies in World War II. Dole recalled one of his most memorably excited moments was the day Eisenhower announced he was a Republican. Perhaps it was this, or simply a desire to continue serving his country, but Bob Dole decided his future was in public service.

Shout-Outs

Timothy Jacobson, at The New Criterion: A pilgrimage to Pearl Harbor

Sarah Westwood, at the Washington Examiner: Far-left House members push four-day workweek

David French, at The Dispatch: Don’t Denigrate Adoption to Defend Roe

Charles Fain Lehman, at City Journal: New York City’s Drug Experiment

CODA

Not very tanned but certainly rested, this newsletter impresario (Kevin Nealon translation: middle manager) is back in the saddle (Kevin Nealon translation: basement home office) after some time traveling out West with family (no translation needed; this actually is what I was doing). A hearty thanks to Isaac Schorr for handling Weekend Jolt duties these past two weeks.

Since the scenery and the vibe are still on my mind, to close things out, here’s Springsteen singin’ about the West, about dreams and faded glory, about cowboys on screen.

And might as well share some pictures from the trip, right? A few snapshots follow of those beautiful empty spaces found all over this country. Mostly empty, anyway.

Sedona:

Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, at the Hoover Dam:

View of the Channel Islands, from Santa Barbara:

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

Politics & Policy

The Most Important Case Since the One We Hope It Overturns

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Pro-life demonstrators gather outside the Supreme Court during oral arguments in Dobbs vs. Women’s Health. (Isaac Schorr)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Close to 50 years after the ruling in Roe v. Wade came down, the oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization on Wednesday provided hope that the ghastly legal precedent set in the former case may be — belatedly and deservedly — overturned by the latter. At last, constitutionally guaranteed abortion up to birth, a barbaric allowance made few places else on the planet, may be at an end in the United States. Here’s how Dan McLaughlin was feeling after reviewing some of the most memorable moments in oral arguments:

I am, like Ed Whelan and our editorial, now guardedly optimistic about the prospects of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito have long been certain votes to overturn Roe. As a result, all that is needed to end Roe is for the three Donald Trump appointees (Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett) to vote with Thomas and Alito, or for two of them plus Chief Justice John Roberts to do so. I have long assumed that Roberts might be a sixth vote to overturn Roe but not a fifth vote. After the argument, none of the four gave any strong indication that they are wedded to keeping Roe, and Kavanaugh in particular — who has been the subject of the most worries by pro-lifers — appears to be particularly ready to end the Court’s misbegotten five-decade involvement in abortion law.

Not bad. Ramesh Ponnuru also sounded a positive note on the Kavanaugh front, observing that Kavanaugh never promised to uphold Roe, contrary to the claims of some legal commentators:

If Kavanaugh votes to overrule Roe and Casey, presumably it will not be merely because he thinks they were wrongly decided as an original matter; he will grant that their holdings deserve more weight than they would if the Court were coming at them fresh. He will treat them as precedents of the Court to be considered. But if he concludes that there are nonetheless good reasons to overrule them, he won’t be contradicting anything that Collins has said that he said. (Whether she will agree with his decision is of course another matter.)

The Supreme Court has given pro-lifers ample reason to be suspicious of any nominee to it. But the vast majority of pro-lifers didn’t get upset about any of Kavanaugh’s statements in 2018 — because he didn’t say what a lot of pro-abortion commentators now want to pretend he did.

And to top it off, the Editors described the progressive justices’ performances like this:

Nobody seriously defended Roe as a correct reading of the Constitution. Its defenders instead circled the wagons around the institutional importance of adhering to past precedents. Justice Breyer, sounding very much like a man who expected to end up on the losing side of the case, thundered about the Court’s institutional need to avoid revisiting past decisions even if seriously erroneous. Justice Sonia Sotomayor suggested, implausibly, that a decision overturning a longstanding precedent could lead to the Court throwing out Marbury v. Madison and discarding the Second Amendment — even though she herself has already voted to overturn D.C. v. Heller. The same arguments could have been made for keeping the pro-segregation Plessy v. Ferguson decision 58 years later in Brown v. Board of Education.

If I had your curiosity before, I’d hope to have gained your attention by now: We might just win this thing. Win, lose, or draw, though, National Review left it all out on the field. Look what yours truly found outside of the Supreme Court on Wednesday morning.

What a testament to the power of this publication’s witness, and what an honor to be a part of a movement bursting forth with such love and resilience.

And by the way, we’re not just focused on the fights that matter at home. Check out our latest issue — clips will of course be included below — which asks the important question: Should America Defend Taiwan?

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

Amazon contends with the mind-meld of the Democratic Party and labor unions, the corruption that comes with it, and a never-ending election: Corrupt NLRB Puts Unions over Workers

Vladimir Putin must be deterred from going through with his planned invasion of Ukraine: Biden Must Counter Putin’s Ukraine Threat

No one can defend Roe on the merits; we can only go up from here: Justices Show Supreme Skepticism of Roe

ARTICLES

Phil Klein: Omicron Shows Why It’s Time to Move On from COVID Restrictions

John McCormack: A Pathetic Political Argument on Dobbs from Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Anthony Fauci: I Am the Science

Rich Lowry: The King of Hypocrisy

Joseph Loconte: What the Left and Right Get Wrong about Liberalism

Charles C.W. Cooke: Biden’s Bumbling COVID Policy

Alexandra DeSanctis: Refuting the ‘Forced Birth’ Smear

Kevin Williamson: It’s Okay to Wonder about Biden’s Mental State

David Harsanyi: Buttigieg’s Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

Ryan Mills: Defense Argues Jussie Smollett’s ‘Attackers’ Motivated by Homophobia in Flailing Cross-Examination

Kevin Williamson: The Left Belatedly Notices the Dangers of Ideological Conformity

Alexandra DeSanctis: Justice Barrett and the Burden of Parenthood

Charles C.W. Cooke: Reject David Frum’s False Choice on Trump

Madeleine Kearns: Saving Notre Dame Cathedral

CAPITAL MATTERS

Edwin T. Burton: The Extraordinary Hidden Costs of the Climate-Change Transition

Dominic Pino: Biden Hasn’t Fixed The Port Crisis — Ships Are Just Being Counted Differently

Douglas Carr: The Debt-Binge Bust

Steve H. Hanke: A Way for Turkey’s Erdogan to Have His Cake and Eat It Too

Andrew Stuttaford: Omicron and Inflation

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Armond White reviews an unintentional, yet worthy West Side Story remake: Asphalt Goddess Is the West Side Story Remake We Need

Kyle Smith pays tribute to a legend: Stephen Sondheim and the Conundrums of Post-war Man

Brian T. Allen talks the Big Easy, voodoo, and the most important part of any art museum: New Orleans Museum of Art: A Case Study in Building a Collection

FROM THE NEW DECEMBER 20, 2021, ISSUE OF NR

Elbridge Colby: The United States Should Defend Taiwan

Patrick Porter: The United States Should Not Defend Taiwan

Ari Schulman: Vaccine Mandates and the Body Politic

Jack Butler: Jackson’s Lord of the Rings, 20 Years On

Douglas Murray: Classical Music Without Quotas

MORE HOPE, IN BIGGER DOSES

In the new issue, Elbridge Colby submits that it’s imperative to American interests that we step in if China moves on Taiwan:

The United States should defend Taiwan if China attacks it. Not out of altruism — although it would benefit Taiwan for us to do so — but out of self-interest. Our enlightened self-interest, surely, but self-interest all the same. It is important to understand clearly why this makes sense, because if defending Taiwan is to be a reasonable course of action, we need to be much better prepared, and remedying the deficits in our defenses will require substantial and sustained political support. Building that support will not be easy, since it is far from obvious why defending a small island lying just a hundred miles off the Chinese coast against the enormous might of the People’s Republic is in Americans’ interest.

The fundamental reason is, counterintuitively, China’s awesome power, and the very real danger that this power, if allowed to expand too far, will pose to Americans’ prosperity and freedom. The United States should defend Taiwan because it is important to deny China hegemony over Asia, by far the world’s largest market area. If China could dominate Asia, as it has made increasingly clear it seeks to do, Beijing would determine the terms, tempo, and distribution of global economic power. This would have the most profound and direct implications for Americans’ economic fortunes and, because our economic security is tightly linked to our freedom, it would ultimately endanger our liberties. A China dominant over Asia would have the power and wealth to dictate to Americans, fundamntally altering — and undermining — our national life.

Also in the new issue, Ari Schulman thoughtfully considers vaccine mandates:

The simplest way of getting at what is at stake in mandates, and indeed in the entire way we approach vaccination campaigns, is with the question of participation. And participation is a matter less of consent than of legitimate belonging.

It is easy enough to see the individualism in vaccine hesitancy. But there is just as much a socializing force at work, a cry of them-vs.-us. Chris Arnade, the chronicler of “back row” America, writes in his newsletter that, outside of college-educated neighborhoods, dissent “is worn as a badge of honor, a club membership card, among people who have never trusted authority, and see being unvaccinated as a way to take a little control of the situation.”

A fiery John McCormack swats away the “institutional” arguments made by the progressive justices during Dobbs’ oral arguments:

And isn’t it obviously true that the aforementioned comments made at the Dobbs oral argument by Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan were actually meant to increase the political pressure on their fellow Supreme Court justices to uphold Roe? If the other six justices were chiefly concerned about standing up to political pressure, then they would certainly overturn Roe and Casey. Such a concern about appearances, of course, is a terrible way for the Supreme Court to make decisions about what the U.S. Constitution says. If Supreme Court justices were chiefly concerned about the Constitution and the merits of the case, as they should be, then they . . . would certainly overturn Roe and Casey.

Alexandra DeSanctis systematically takes apart a new, and particularly pernicious, pro-choice buzzphrase:

If laws against killing an unborn child amount to “forced birth,” then presumably laws against killing one’s three-year-old or 14-year-old amount to “forced parenthood.” Under this framework, laws against murder that prevent me from killing my husband mean that I’m in a “forced marriage.” There is no logical way to distinguish between these cases under the pro-abortion argument.

If a woman can choose abortion merely because she no longer wishes to be pregnant, because childbirth is painful, or because she does not want to be a parent — and can thereby describe any effort to stop her from doing so as “forcing her to give birth” or “forcing her to be a parent” — then there is no logical argument for preventing anyone from enacting violence against other human beings who cause them pain or inconvenience.

Under the “forced birth” framework, there is no logical argument against killing one’s child after birth if he or she is inconvenient or unwanted. There is no logical argument against killing one’s elderly father if he becomes burdensome. Indeed, there is no logical argument against killing one’s neighbor if he’s playing his music too loudly and refuses to turn it down.

Anthony Fauci has many critics, but few as righteously indignant as Michael Brendan Dougherty:

A few people show up in Botswana with a new variant of COVID, and Dr. Anthony Fauci was scrambled from NIAID to appear on the Sunday shows, where he had no useful information at all to share on this development of the virus. But he did manage to criticize President Trump, aggrandize himself as a martyr, say that Florida “does not want to get vaccinated” (it’s in the top 20 most vaccinated US states), and attempt to revive the wet-market theory of COVID’s origin.

And then he turned around and accused everyone else of politicizing the pandemic and public health[…]

This is a bad joke. Public health was already deeply politicized. Public-health bodies kowtowed to China early in the pandemic and dragged their feet on declaring a public-health emergency because they wished to spare from embarrassment the oversensitive Communists who run China. Public-health officials were against border controls early on, not because the science backed up their view, but because their politics required it. Fauci amplified Peter Daszak’s campaign to label the lab-leak theory a “conspiracy theory” because of politics; they thought that it would hinder funding of research they believed in.

CODA

And now the end is near. Thank you one and all for your adulation — or toleration, you need not specify which — over these last two weeks.

Next week: Berger 2: Electric Boogaloo.

Politics & Policy

Even Amid Thanksgiving Gratitude, Progressive Incoherence on Crime Is Hard to Ignore

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Boarded up buildings still dot the Lake Street corridor in Minneapolis, more than one year after riots erupted in the city after George Floyd’s killing. Rioters damaged or destroyed more than 400 businesses in Minneapolis and St. Paul during last year’s unrest, causing at least $550 million in damage. (Ryan Mills)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

First things first: Happy Thanksgiving. I speak for myself, and I’m quite sure the rest of my colleagues, in expressing this institution’s gratitude for all of you, Jolters. This year has been nothing if not tumultuous — Inflation! Afghanistan! Border Crisis(es)! Variants! — and there’s simply no way we could have coped without your camaraderie and support, so consider our thanks, given. 

Enough with the sap, on with the lumber. It may be a “long weekend” as the vice president puts it, but our masthead still managed to serve up plenty of delicious articles for readers to feast on. 

For progressives, it is a time for soul-searching on matters of criminal justice — or at least it should be. In certain circumstances, they wish to be a guillotine’s blade, arguing for conviction for narrative’s sake, or so as to ensure equity of injustice. In others, they seek to decriminalize theft. In cities across the country, Thomas Jefferson finds himself on trial in the name of social justice nearly 200 years after his demise. And in those same cities, violent criminals are being released back into the communities they’re sworn to serve and protect — also, supposedly, in the name of social justice. It’s hard to follow, yes, and harder still to justify on anything other than explicitly partisan grounds. 

Nevertheless, they persist. Incoming New York City mayor Eric Adams stands nearly alone among elected Democrats in at least feigning an understanding of the importance of equal protection under the law, and of general order. And even he supports legislation that would allow non-citizens to vote in city elections. A principled voice of reason, he is not. 

Andy McCarthy describes the problem like this:

Progressive prosecutors always have the courage of their convictions as long as they’re just gasbagging about their lofty aspirations for society . . . which is to say, right up until their abstractions about “equity,” “systemic racism,” and the need to “reform” our “broken system” crash into the reality of violent, recidivist crime that destroys the lives of flesh-and-blood Americans.

Yep. That just about sums it up. Milwaukee’s district attorney, John Chisholm, whose office released the violent criminal who crashed his car into a crowd attending at Thanksgiving parade in Waukesha, Wis., admitted to the press when he came into office that his philosophy would result in innocent blood being shed: “Is there going to be an individual I divert, or I put into treatment program, who’s going to go out and kill somebody? You bet. Guaranteed. It’s guaranteed to happen,”

But, he assured us, “it does not invalidate the overall approach.” 

As Andy puts it, “So thoughtful! So compassionate! So . . . recklessly irresponsible.” 

One approach that retains its validity: Links, lots of them. Here are this week’s!

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

American institutions should present a united front against the Chinese regime: All Major Sports Leagues Should Prepare to Pull Out of China

It’s disappointing that we even have to say it, but: Non-Citizens Who Want to Vote Should Become Citizens First

ARTICLES

Ryan Mills: Marxist Seattle Councilwoman Faces Recall after Leading Protesters to Mayor’s Home, Misusing City Funds

Dan McLaughlin: Tearing Down Thomas Jefferson Over Slavery Is Moral Idiocy

Kevin Williamson: The Fox Fix

Rich Lowry: Woke Racialism Is a Clear and Present Danger to the American System

Rich Lowry: The Shoplifting Capital of the U.S.A.

Kevin Williamson: The Separatist

Andrew C. McCarthy: Race and the Murder of Ahmaud Arbery

Brad Raffensperger: One Year Ago, Trump Called Me an ‘Enemy of the People.’ Rising Costs and Inflation Are the Real Enemy

David Harsanyi: No, the U.S. Is Not Backsliding into Authoritarianism

Charles C.W. Cooke: Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema Are Right to Resist the Democrats’ Agenda

Kevin Williamson: Knocking Down Thomas Jefferson Statues Won’t Change Jefferson’s Legacy

Dan McLaughlin: The Four Hundredth Anniversary of Thanksgiving

CAPITAL MATTERS

Andrew Stuttaford: On Keeping in with the (Chinese Communist) Party

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Free Trade Isn’t Free

Kevin Erdmann: The Best Way to Bring Down Inflation? Give Americans Something to Buy

Rachel Chiu: Big Tech’s Critics Forget Government’s Role in the Gilded Age

Dominic Pino: Biden Renominates Powell: A Win for Central-Bank Independence

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Armond White wouldn’t be caught dead in the House of Gucci: Ridley Scott’s Crime Styles of the Rich and Famous

Kyle Smith no le encanta Encanto: Disney Panders to Latinos with a Woeful Effort

Brian Allen rejoices at the appointment of a new director at his old stomping grounds, the Addison Gallery of American Art: A Fabled Museum, with a Terrific New Director, Goes Up, Not Down

MORE THAN A TASTE OF TURKEY

David Harsanyi debunks the silly “science” behind America’s so-called authoritarian slide:

Every few months, it seems, the media report on a new international “study” asserting that the United States is backsliding into authoritarianism. A quick read usually reveals that these reports are little more than compendiums of leftist grievances. It’s unsurprising, then, that Democrats, who these days often confuse their partisan hobbyhorses with “democracy,” love to promote said studies. The newest one bouncing around social media is from the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA), which contends that “the United States, the bastion of global democracy, fell victim to authoritarian tendencies itself.” It’s always interesting when we are lectured about “democracy” by a continent which features governments that throw people in jail for speech crimes and control virtually every economic interaction.

As far as I can tell, the United States’ slide in the International IDEA report hinges on three alleged “authoritarian” developments. The first contends that the United States hasn’t done enough to “tackle inequality.” We should, of course, do better in creating opportunities to lift people out of poverty. We disagree on how that can be achieved. But fact is that on a per capita and median basis, we are the wealthiest people of any major nation. We are wealthier than most Europeans who rank higher on the “democracy” list — around $10,000 wealthier on a per capita basis than the Swedes who work at the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. To put the preposterous criticism in context, understand that if the United States had compelled more redistribution and generated less wealth but more “equality,” we would likely get a better grade. The International IDEA treats dependency as a democratic value. Many Americans disagree.

San Francisco has chosen decline, Rich Lowry mourns said choice:

The shoplifting problem represents a deliberate choice rather than an unstoppable tide. Modern societies long ago figured out how to maintain civil order such that law-abiding people could buy and sell goods without being systematically preyed on by thieves. It’s just that the Bay Area has chosen to forget.

California adopted Proposition 47 in 2014 that made thefts of $950 or less a misdemeanor. Once people realized that they were unlikely to be arrested or prosecuted for stealing less than $1,000, they, of course, responded to the incentive. For their part, the stores advise employees not to interfere with shoplifters, lest they get hurt. Many crimes don’t even go reported.

And so, it is open season for people to take whatever they want.

New York City famously reestablished order in the 1990s based on “broken windows” policing, or a focus on offenses that degraded the quality of life; San Francisco and similar locales are engaged in “broken windows” neglect — the broken windows being at high-end stores struck by emboldened robbers.

This is a polity deciding that it is more important to stay its own hand from arresting and jailing criminals than to protect businesses from getting robbed, protect duly employed people from having to watch reprobates flout the law, and protect neighborhoods from losing retail outlets that they depend on.

Kevin Williamson thoughtfully considers the merits of the employment boycott:

In reality, the politics of cooties has hurt both our journalism and our politics, and hurt them in precisely the same way. Instead of initiating conversations with people who disagree with us with an eye toward persuading them, we spend most of our time talking to like-minded people. As a practical matter, politicians in our time get more juice out of rallying their partisans, inflaming their grievances and valorizing every prejudice, no matter how petty, than they do out of giving speeches to skeptical or disagreeing audiences; in precisely the same way, much of our contemporary journalism is oriented toward flattering readers and listeners rather than challenging them, reassuring them that they hate the right people for the right reasons, and that their hatred is not only justified but sanctified. And if Fox News is a gigantic corporate grievance farm, MSNBC is no less so, and neither is National Public Radio or, angels and ministers of grace defend us, Teen Vogue. There is a reason no beat reporter in this country doing real journalism earns a tenth of what a marquee cable-news mouth-hole does.

(Never mind, for now, the absolute phoniness of these champagne populists presenting themselves as the tribunes of the working classes of the “Real American” heartland against the predation of “coastal elites” or “oligarchs.” Almost every one of them lives in Manhattan, the D.C. metro, or that New York City suburb known as Palm Beach, Fla. None of them chose to make a living or a life in Oklahoma, a Spanish-speaking border enclave, or some economically dead mill town in Ohio. Rush Limbaugh could have landed his Gulfstream G550 back home in Cape Girardeau any time he liked, and Rachel Maddow spent years opining about the plight of the poor while going home to a West Village loft she bought from a rock star. The tribunes of the plebs don’t so much as get downwind from actual poor people or poor communities, unlike, say, your favorite evil elitist correspondent.)

I’ve written for the New York Times and the Washington Post, among others. I did a piece for Playboy back when that was a magazine that sometimes published interesting political writing, and I even had an article in the Atlantic once. That doesn’t mean I love everything on the Times op-ed pages or the Post’s, or everything that Playboy or the Atlantic ever did. It doesn’t even mean that I think those pages are particularly good. (The Times is a hell of a lot better at covering real news than it is at curating opinion columns.) I write for them because sometimes I have something that I want to say for a readership that isn’t National Review’s. That’s the same reason you have seen me on MSNBC or CNN or heard me on left-wing podcasts and whatnot. I don’t want to sound cynical, but journalism is a product that gets moved like any other product, and I’m interested in shelf space. I don’t shop at Walmart very often, but, if I were in the business of selling peanut butter or flipflops, I’d want to be on those shelves, irrespective of what I think about Walmart’s corporate politics, its management, or the other products for sale there. Fox News is still pretty good shelf space for people in the television business, and I don’t blame people for continuing to work there, even if it is something that I myself would not choose to be closely associated with.

Dan McLaughlin takes on the thankless task of defending TJ. Thank you, Dan:

Without rehashing here the whole debate over Confederate icons — which has been going on for years now and has been vigorously debated on this website, sometimes by me — the strongest argument for removing some or all Confederate statutes and monuments is that the Confederate cause was not just flawed in the way that many great Americans are flawed; it was actively wrong, and the people who supported it made the country worse, or at any rate tried to, and thus should never have been memorialized in the first place.

The underlying assumption of this argument is that it is possible to reasonably and rationally distinguish some historical figures from others: We can honor those who did good things as well as bad ones, while dishonoring those who are best known for bad causes. By contrast, a major argument against tearing down statues and monuments in general is that we end up not just disfiguring public places and concealing our own history but also feeding the iconoclasm of mobs who by nature do not reason, and never know when and how to stop. Few things draw people to Trumpism more than a sense that one is dealing with people who can never be reasoned with, only opposed at every turn.

For those of us who still care to reason, however, the City Council’s move is not just an anti-intellectual assault on historical memory; it is also moral idiocy. Jefferson should not be canonized, but building statues is not about sainthood. There is much to dislike in his personality and his long and eventful career, including his service in New York City as our first secretary of state. He was hypocritical, devious, and too easily enamored of radical fads. He lived his whole life off of the labor of slaves and did not take even George Washington’s belated steps to emancipate slaves in his will. For that, he must answer to his Maker. But he was also a monumental contributor to early America — and specifically to many of the things that almost anyone would see as this country’s virtues. There are good reasons why Jefferson has a memorial in the capital and his face on Mount Rushmore, the nickel, and the two-dollar bill, is the namesake of the capital of Missouri and many other American towns and streets, and was until the past few years embraced by the Democratic Party as its founding inspiration.

CODA

One Jolt down, one to go with yours truly before a talented, tan, rested, and ready Mr. Berger returns to the fight. I weep for his enemies.

U.S.

A Glimpse of COVID Common Sense

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Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser testifies at a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on the D.C. statehood bill on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., March 22, 2021. (Carlos Barria/Pool via Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Perhaps you live in a state that accepts — and has for some time — that COVID-19 is part of the fabric now, and is manageable. The mandates have ebbed, folks (hopefully) have gotten vaccinated, and they have resumed normal life and commerce, appreciating that the threshold for doing so — the development and distribution of an efficacious shot — has been met.

If you don’t, well, the culture is quite different. Your neighbors, your local businesses, government officials, and the media they all consume promote a lifestyle that incorporates COVID precautions more or less permanently. Stores and restaurants urge customers, vaxxed or not, to mask up as a matter of civic duty. It’s unclear when and if this approach ever ends.

Make no mistake, these are two worlds — post-pandemic and perma-pandemic, both existing at the same time in the same country amid similar circumstances. The key to uniting them remains elusive. But the path might have gotten a bit clearer this week, thanks to a handful of Democrats challenging the assumptions of perma-pandemic life.

Exhibit A is Washington, D.C., mayor Muriel Bowser. Earlier this week, the executive suggested that “we’re moving from a pandemic to an endemic” and sounded downright libertarian as she proposed: “Rather than the government telling you what you need to do to keep safe, you will evaluate risk and act accordingly.”

Let that quote sink in, from the very bluest place on the electoral map. The next day, Bowser moved to mostly end the District’s indoor mask mandate, which makes sense in a city where roughly 90 percent of adults have gotten at least one jab. Some mask rules will remain in effect, but as Michael Brendan Dougherty writes:

It’s a notable development because it is a Democratic mayor articulating to the public that COVID is going (has gone) endemic, and that the state of exception we’ve been living under, wherein the government takes responsibility for managing population-level risks, will end by shifting the management of ongoing COVID risk to the people.

Over in Colorado, Democratic governor Jared Polis was similarly defiant as he was pressed repeatedly by Face the Nation why he’s not implementing more restrictions: “For folks who are vaccinated, you know, this is still a higher risk than usual in the background. But this is like the endemic state of what this virus will always be. It’s no longer a pandemic for you.”

To sum up, a Democratic governor all but declared the pandemic over, for those who wish it to be. The same governor also has said he doesn’t plan to bring back a mask mandate amid a COVID surge, as such a mandate hasn’t stopped a similar surge in neighboring New Mexico. Instead, he’s pushing hard for people to get vaccinated.

This speaks to something Charles C. W. Cooke wrote about back in August — that the vaccines help a great deal, but beyond that, “there’s no rhyme or reason to this pandemic.” It can be startling to hear. High death rates afflict states with Democratic governors and Republican governors, with strict COVID rules and without them.

As might be anticipated, both Polis and Bowser are being met with the traditional expressions of angst and agony, the rending of garments, the calls to relent, from some in the media as well as inertia-prone officials with less responsibility. Federal health czars, too, would prefer to stay the course. Anthony Fauci said just this week that “a degree of normality” can be restored once cases are below 10,000, a bar not touched since March 2020. Even then, Fauci said, he could not be “definitive.” The goalposts aren’t just moving; they’re not even visible.

Challenging this attitude will take resolve. But when some Democrats show it, when figures like Mayor-elect Eric Adams in New York City, for example, talk about revisiting COVID policies, it promisingly points to a future when, accepting an imperfect reality, local pols might force the exits back into focus for the laggard states. Other considerations remain, including how to address future variants, how to deal with breakthrough cases, and what policies to keep in place for children who can’t yet get the shot or haven’t for other reasons. But this burst of COVID common sense is an encouraging step, and we’ll see how the winter months play out.

Some almost-closing thoughts from MBD:

We’re still a long way from where we should be — but the ongoing restrictions are sustained in part by the lingering belief that we can entirely eliminate COVID, or that once we can get vax-resisters to just submit in a sufficient number, we never have to think about COVID again. That’s not how it’s going to work. Instead, the most fearful and cautious will have to accept that they will have to manage their own risks again. Getting Democrats to just say that — out loud and in public — is the first step to making it happen.

Those thoughts were almost-closing, because there is one last thing. That is, the application deadline for the spring session of the Burke to Buckley Program has been extended to December 1. Interested? Here’s that pitch again from National Review Institute:

The best thing you’ll do in 2022 — if you love freedom, learning, and engaging with fellow conservatives — is to apply now for one of the spring 2022 Burke to Buckley Fellowship Programs (in either Miami, New York, or Philly)! The deadline to apply is December 1.

More details and an application can be found here.

On to the meat and the potatoes . . .

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

Saule Omarova’s nomination for comptroller of the currency should be withdrawn or, barring that, rejected: Biden’s Commissar

Troubling signs from Biden’s meeting with Xi Jinping: Biden’s Worrisome Kid-Glove Approach to Xi

The protesters in Glasgow for COP26 were right about one thing: We’ll Always Have Paris

ARTICLES

Dan McLaughlin: Since When Can’t You Say ‘Woke’?

Charles C. W. Cooke: The Collapse of Kamala Harris

Kevin Williamson: Biden’s Phony Gas-Price Investigation

Alexandra DeSanctis: Loudoun County School Board Settles after Losing First Amendment Lawsuit

Ryan Mills: St. Paul Rent-Control Initiative Backfires, Unleashes ‘Chaos’ in Housing Market

Rand Paul: Joe Biden’s Orwellian Coronavirus Regime

Rick Scott: In Biden’s Sticky Inflation Crisis, Poor Families Suffer the Most

Tom Cotton: Winning the War on Crime

Michael Brendan Dougherty: What Rittenhouse’s Crying Means to Psychos

Rich Lowry: Joe Biden’s Incredible Shrinking Presidency

Jim Geraghty: Another Reminder of China’s Corruption and Brutality: The Disappearance of Peng Shuai

Jay Nordlinger: Fight for Music

Daniel Tenreiro: Science Goes Woke

CAPITAL MATTERS

Joel Zinberg and Sally Satel point to promising signs from the courts regarding a rash of “public nuisance” cases in the opioid wars: Ending the Epidemic of Public-Nuisance Litigation

Andrew Stuttaford has some unvarnished thoughts about Prince Charles: Charles the Climate Prince

No, installing activist leaders at the Fed is not a good idea. From Joshua Klein and Christina Parajon Skinner: Hijacking the Fed

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Armond White lauds the trio of tales that compose Love Is Love Is Love: Eleanor Coppola’s Post-Feminist Convention

Did you know that Vincent van Gogh did a series of paintings dedicated to only olive trees? Me neither. But they’re in Dallas, and Brian Allen went: Van Gogh’s Olive-Grove Paintings in Dallas Are a Must-See

Kyle Smith is pleasantly surprised by the latest Ghostbusters installment: Stay Puft, Marshmallow Man

WE WERE SOMEWHERE AROUND BARSTOW ON THE EDGE OF THE DESERT WHEN THE EXCERPTS BEGAN TO TAKE HOLD . . . 

Last weekend, we published a piece on Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai’s sexual-misconduct allegations against a high-profile political figure in China. She has since disappeared, at least from the public eye, in a case that has swiftly drawn the world’s attention. Let’s hope it stays fixed there until she’s accounted for and her claims addressed (seemingly bogus email statements don’t count). Jim Geraghty provides an overview here:

On November 3, Peng Shuai accused former vice premier Zhang Gaoli of coercing her into sex, and declared they later had an on-off consensual relationship. She posted on her verified social-media account, “That afternoon I didn’t give my consent and couldn’t stop crying. . . . You brought me to your house and forced me and you to have relations.” Zhang Gaoli has been a powerful Chinese government official since the late 1980s, serving as vice premier from 2013 to 2018 and as a member of the country’s highest ruling council from 2012 to 2017. Zhang Gaoli is a longtime friend and ally of Chinese president Xi Jinping.

Shortly after posting her accusation, Peng Shuai disappeared. . . .

There is very little reason to give the Chinese government the benefit of the doubt here. The Chinese government is not the laws-based force for stability and order that its cheerleaders in the West want to believe it is. The men who run China’s government are deeply corrupt brutes who enforce their will from the barrel of a gun and who are willing to harm anyone who gets in their way — even one of the country’s most successful and famous athletes. They see other people as objects to be used and discarded as they please. They are no more ethical or legitimate rulers than the Mafia or drug cartels. They just have a worldwide propaganda effort to hide or downplay their crimes and celebrate them as poor boys who worked hard and rose to the top.

Peng Shuai made an explosive accusation against a longtime close ally of the man who runs the Chinese government, and then she disappeared. That is not likely a coincidence.

Dan McLaughlin has a characteristically smart piece on the never-ending language wars; in this case, the war over the word “woke”:

Language has power because words have meaning. The ability to communicate meaning from one person to another is the purpose of language; more than anything else, it is what separates humans from the rest of the animal kingdom. In politics, communicating meaning is essential to persuasion, to the building of coalitions, and to the defeat of error and wickedness.

One of the most effective ways to prevent criticism of an idea is to deprive people of the language in which to name it. Political propagandists understand this, which is why they are now objecting so loudly to terms such as “critical race theory,” “woke,” “identity politics,” and “cancel culture.” The point is not that these terms are imprecise in what they mean — they can be, as are many other terms in common use in American political discourse. The point is precisely that they are understood to have a distinct meaning. The propagandists of wokeness want to prevent that meaning from being communicated among ordinary citizens who have long lacked the words in which to express things they see and know to be wrong.

Example: Adam Serwer of The Atlantic argues that using the term “woke” “expresses sentiments the people using it would be uncomfortable articulating directly,” which is his code for calling people racists. . . .

Note that the critics of using the terms such as “woke” and “critical race theory” never offer a more precise terminology for the ideology these terms describe, because their goal is not clarity but camouflage. That may work in the jargon forest of academia, but it is a deeply anti-democratic way to approach popular discourse on how the governed may supervise the government.

This is an especially contemptible tactic when people engaged in a movement for social change are nonetheless doing battle against naming their own movement.

Charles C. W. Cooke surveys the landscape of takes on Kamala Harris and says, “Hold my Christmas ale”:

That America’s voters disdain Harris as much as they obviously do gives me an extraordinary amount of hope for our future. In December of 2019, I celebrated Harris’s departure from the presidential primary with a “good riddance” that turned out to be woefully premature: “May Harris’s failed attempt,” I hoped, serve to “destroy her career and sully her reputation for all time.” Alas, the first part did not happen; on the contrary, Harris was springboarded up to within a heartbeat of the most potent office in the land. But the second part? Well, I got that in abundance. We are now ten months into this baleful presidency, and already Harris is the most unpopular vice president in history. And they say Christmas doesn’t come early!

Harris’s apologists like to insist that she is as unpopular as she is because she’s a non-white woman. But this explanation gets the cause of the disapproval backwards. Kamala Harris isn’t disliked because she’s a non-white woman; Kamala Harris was chosen as vice president because she’s a non-white woman, and she’s disliked because she has nothing to recommend her beyond those facts. In the highest of high dudgeon, her defenders will propose that this is Joe Biden’s fault, for not “using” Harris correctly in her role. But this too is unjust. In truth, there is no good way to “use” Kamala Harris, because Kamala Harris is a talentless mediocrity whose only political flair is for making things worse than they were before she arrived. . . .

Can you find a single utterance of hers that has so much as approached being compelling or worthwhile? I doubt it. Harris is not interesting, she’s not substantive, she’s not provocative, or innovative, or wry. She’s not funny. She’s not amiable. She’s not accomplished or persuasive or adroit. She’s a heedless, cowardly, cackling cipher — an insipid, itinerant woolgatherer, whose first instinct in any situation is to resort to farcical platitudes or to suggest wanly that we should all have a “conversation about that.” Were she to be cast in a kids’ movie, it would not be as the hero, but as the ghastly mid-level bureaucrat who sends the hero’s dog to the pound halfway through the second act.

ICYMI, Ryan Mills reports on how a rent-control initiative in Minnesota just backfired, good intentions and all:

Democratic leaders in Minnesota’s capital city are scrambling for solutions after developers put several large projects on hold across St. Paul in the wake of last week’s election, when residents approved what may be the strictest rent-control policy in the country.

The rent-control ballot initiative in St. Paul was overshadowed nationally by an effort in neighboring Minneapolis to disband that city’s police force. But while the Minneapolis police initiative went down in flames, left-wing activists on the eastern bank of the Mississippi River succeeded in their effort to cap rent increases at 3 percent annually, including on new construction, a step most communities that have imposed rent-control policies have specifically avoided out of concern that it would discourage future investments.

The St. Paul initiative passed last week with 53 percent support.

Opponents of St. Paul’s rent-control initiative warned before the vote that developers and financial investors would pull the plug on projects if the ballot measure were to pass. And that appears to be exactly what’s transpired over the past week. Large developers who spoke to the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the St. Paul Pioneer Press told reporters that they’re pausing their projects across the city, and they are “re-evaluating what – if any – future business we’ll be doing in St. Paul.” Lenders are pulling out of new projects, they say, worried about the impact of the new policy.

Attempts by National Review to reach those developers for comment were unsuccessful.

B Kyle, president and CEO of the Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, said her organization is in the process of cataloguing all of the projects killed or put on hold because of the measure. It’s not just new development projects at risk, she said. Kyle said she’s already been told of dozens of buildings that have had 2022 rehabilitation projects stopped. She said there’s now “chaos” across St. Paul because of the rent-control measure.

Shout-Outs

James Freeman, at the Wall Street Journal: A Buffalo Saber to the Socialist Heart

J. D. Tuccille, at Reason: Your Next Car May Refuse to Start if It Thinks You’ve Had a Drink

Henry Kokkeler, at the College Fix: Stanford president defends campus free speech in face of controversies

Charles Creitz, at Fox News: Could Kamala Harris be replaced?

CODA

This purveyor of piddling paragraphs will be on vacation for the next two Weekend Jolts (a widely recognized unit of time in some cultures, mind you). My colleague Isaac Schorr will be assuming full responsibility for our Saturday missive during this stretch, so expect the quality here to briefly improve.

In the spirit of unbridled travel, of hitting the road, let’s close with the Who’s “Going Mobile” — which come to think of it could have fit well with the soundtrack for Nomadland if that movie weren’t such a drag. Anyway, catch you all in December.

Politics & Policy

How We Know Democrats’ Post-election Double-Down Is Crazy

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) delivers remarks with Rep. Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) and Rep. James Clyburn (D., S.C.) at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., November 5, 2021. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

It’s the inflation, stupid — this probably is the message that 2022 campaigns should be pinning up at HQ right about now.

Instead, we’re seeing Democrats go all in on more spending, which could make things worse. Their justification, in part, is that the party’s dismal electoral performance this month can be attributed to voter frustration over a lack of progress toward far-reaching ideological goals. That logic might hold — if the numbers showed a depressed turnout for Democrats.

Thing is, they don’t. Terry McAuliffe earned about 1.6 million votes in Virginia, which is up from 1.4 million for outgoing Democratic governor Ralph Northam in 2017.

As Dan McLaughlin wrote after the drubbing:

In Virginia, by any measure, turnout was very high. Over 600,000 more people voted in the Virginia governor’s race in 2021 than in 2017. Terry McAuliffe got 170,000 more votes in defeat than Ralph Northam got in victory four years earlier.  . . . McAuliffe did not lose this race for lack of turnout of Democratic voters.

The aforementioned explanation also doesn’t square with polling suggesting that if congressional races were held today, people “would vote for their GOP congressional candidate over the Democratic one by 46 percent to 38 percent,” as Brittany Bernstein of the news team reports. Turnout, for one, is a nonfactor here. And why, if voters are ticked off about a delay over the reconciliation bill, would they tell pollsters they prefer Republicans who oppose it?

Somebody call that Ockham guy. He’ll explain.

The anxiety, then, among swing-district Democrats is palpable as we head into 2022, with the party seemingly determined to take a “more cowbell” approach on Capitol Hill, having internalized the wrong lesson from November 2 — in a way that could cause more self-inflicted destruction.

This widely noticed quote to the New York Times from moderate Democrat Abigail Spanberger summed up the frustration in the ranks: “Nobody elected [Biden] to be F.D.R., they elected him to be normal and stop the chaos.” Yet Congress proceeded anyway with a massive infrastructure bill (which Spanberger supported) and an even bigger social-spending package. Virginia Democratic senator Mark Warner went on to aver that McAuliffe could have won if only Congress had passed the infrastructure bill sooner. And, cue the headline: “Actually, Joe Biden Was Elected to Be FDR.”

You can practically hear the hair being pulled out of the head as another moderate Democrat, Kathleen Rice, vents to the Times that she doesn’t understand how her progressive colleagues can argue that the election proves they need to “shove even more progressive stuff in.”

So here we are. Notwithstanding this past week’s decisions by top GOP prospects Kelly Ayotte and Chris Sununu not to run for a key New Hampshire Senate seat, Republicans could be in for quite a midterm cycle if Democrats keep on in this direction. Their core congressional agenda is to keep pumping money into the economy, even as alarming inflation news keeps pumping out from the telly.

As Philip Klein notes in a nutshell, “Democrats are racing to pass trillions of dollars of more spending that will only make the problem worse.” Charles C. W. Cooke reckons the party “will pay a keen and colossal price,” citing in particular Biden’s inflation prescription of two New Deals’ worth of additional spending.

In short, Democrats are proving adept at denying reality — the political reality of what drove this month’s voter backlash, and the economic reality that might give cause for pause on their agenda.

Here’s some brake-pumping advice from NR’s editorial:

Now is not the time to take inflationary risks. Now is not the time to experiment with green-energy policies, which will drive up prices. Now is not the time to do a federal takeover of childcare, which will drive up prices. . . .

If prices keep rising and Democrats keep whiffing, the governor’s race in Virginia might look like a mild reproach compared with the wrath of the voters in elections to come.

But wait! That’s not all.

Before we seamlessly transition into the links portion of the program, please take note: NR is out with a special issue on Roe, which you can thumb through here and get a glimpse of below.

Carry on.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

That inflation editorial, again, is here: Biden’s Inflation Problem

ARTICLES

David Harsanyi: Democrats Have Only Themselves to Blame for the Inflation Fiasco

Andrew C. McCarthy: Where John Durham’s Investigation Is Heading

Andrew C. McCarthy: Trump Blasts Infrastructure Blowout? That’s a Good One . . .

Caroline Downey: Memo Confirms National School Board Group ‘Actively Engaged’ with White House While Drafting ‘Domestic Terrorists’ Letter

Charles C. W. Cooke: Biden Torches the Norms He Promised to Restore

Brittany Bernstein: A Theater Professor Suggested Students Should Have Thicker Skins, So They Demanded He Be Fired

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Will We Finally See the Faces of Children?

Kathryn Jean Lopez: Saving Us from the Gospel of the Woke

Mark Morgan: Cash to Illegal Immigrants Is the New Low in Biden’s Open-Borders Push

Kevin Williamson: The Archbishop Has Spoken

Rich Lowry: An Abysmal Child-Care Proposal

Ryan Mills: White Students Not Allowed at Pennsylvania School District’s Drone Camp

Philip Klein: What Democrats Have in Common with Robert Moses

Jimmy Quinn: State Department Suddenly Uneasy Using the Term ‘Malign Influence’ to Call Out China

And if you didn’t get a chance to read this lovely post on life and Labs from Mark Antonio Wright, here’s another shot at it: R.I.P. Boomer

CAPITAL MATTERS

Kevin Hassett takes a closer look at the true cost of government spending sprees: The Real Cost of Building Back Better

Alexander William Salter suggests that the rebirth of socialism in America has been greatly exaggerated, thankfully: That’s Not Real Socialism!

David L. Bahnsen is out with a new book, There’s No Free Lunch: 250 Economic Truths; you can find a piece of it here: Sound Economics Enables Human Flourishing

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Armond White takes a whack at the new Princess Diana movie: Spencer — A Poor-Little-Rich-Girl Fairy Tale

Brian Allen absorbs a too-sprawling show at the Whitney but plucks out some highlights for your enjoyment: Jasper Johns Show: A Good Idea That Fizzles

Kyle Smith is quite taken by Belfast: The Year’s Best Film to Date

FROM THE NEW NOVEMBER 29, 2021, ISSUE OF NR

Matthew J. Franck & Robert George: Roe Undermines the Supreme Court’s Legitimacy

Charles C. W. Cooke: The Secular Case against Abortion

Hugh Hewitt: John Roberts v. Roe

Ramesh Ponnuru: The Corruption of History

Erika Bachiochi: Women Do Not ‘Rely’ on Abortion

THESE EXCERPTS ARE FULLY PAID FOR; THEIR TRUE COST IS ZERO DOLLARS

In NR’s special Roe issue, Hugh Hewitt contributes a bold prediction — and a message for Chief Justice Roberts. (The last line makes sense in context, promise):

When the Supreme Court turns to the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization this fall, I believe that six justices will vote to overrule the combined doctrines of 1973’s Roe v. Wade — the original and sweeping intervention by the Supreme Court in the organic development of state statutory systems regulating abortion — and its 1992 “do-over” in Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

The entire cobbled-together façade of jerry-rigged, ad hoc, and incoherent abortion case law will be swept away, and the half century of strained readings and outright judicial inventions overruled. The repeated attempt by the Supreme Court to legislate at one remove from representative state and federal elected legislatures will, blessedly, end. Abortion will be legal in many states — even late-term, “partial birth” abortions — and, in other states, almost never allowed after a heartbeat is detected in the unborn baby. The Court will walk away from the now obviously failed effort to forge a national consensus by diktat where none can be had. The issue will return to the political realm to be decided, and after an initial burst of emotional reactions, the Court and the rule of law will be better for it. And the near-uniform chorus of elite media claiming a republic-ending departure from the doctrine of stare decisis will be largely ignored, the media discredited as they are on this issue by their relentless, decades-long effort to disappear half the country’s deeply felt beliefs on the subject. . . .

Time to jettison Roe and Casey. Chief Justice Roberts wrote most of the necessary portion of the opinion in 2010.

Andrew McCarthy reads the prosecutorial tea leaves — he’s quite good at that kind of thing — pertaining to John Durham’s Russiagate probe, in the wake of the latest indictment:

If special counsel John Durham has cracked the core of the Russiagate case, if he has established that the Steele dossier on which the FBI substantially based its spy warrants was fraudulent, does that mean he is nearing a sweeping conspiracy indictment? Will there be criminal charges that target the real 2016 collusion — not between the Trump campaign and Russia, but between the Clinton campaign and U.S. officials who abused government investigative powers for political purposes?

Almost certainly not.

All signs are that Durham will end his investigation with a narrative report. It has looked that way for a long time. There are reasons why then-attorney general Bill Barr appointed then-Connecticut U.S. attorney Durham as a special counsel shortly before the Trump administration ended.

Unlike ordinary federal prosecutors, who either file charges or close investigations without comment, special counsels are required by regulation to write a report for the attorney general. As we saw with special counsel Robert Mueller’s report in 2019, there is typically great outside pressure on the AG to make such reports public (though doing so is not required). Barr obviously knew enough about Durham’s investigation to grasp that there was unlikely to be a grand, overarching criminal-conspiracy case; there had, however, been rampant malfeasance and abuse of power that might never come to light absent a comprehensive investigative report.

Durham’s indictment of Danchenko and his mid-September indictment of Democratic lawyer Michael Sussmann appear to confirm that he is building toward a final report, not wide-ranging criminal charges.

I am not saying there will be no more indictments. There could be. But if there are, they will likely be similar to the indictments of Sussmann and Danchenko — who, you no doubt noticed, were separately charged, and are not alleged to have conspired with each other or anyone else.

Caroline Downey has another important installment in her coverage of what prompted the infamous DOJ memo aimed at protesting parents:

Internal documents released Thursday confirm that the National School Boards Association coordinated with the White House before formally sending a letter to the Biden administration requesting federal intervention to probe and potentially prosecute parents for threatening school administrators.

In an October 12 memo, obtained by the nonprofit Parents Defending Education, NSBA president Viola Garcia stated that the organization had been “actively engaged” with federal departments including the White House, Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, before sending their letter to the president.

Chip Slaven, NSBA’s interim executive director, wrote in a September 29 email that the letter, which characterized parents as potential “domestic terrorists,” was revised to include details of “specific threats” at White House staff’s urging. As a result, the NSBA letter cited 24 local news outlet items detailing “threats” parents leveled against school board members, the vast majority of which did not constitute criminal threats.

In response to the letter, which the NSBA has since apologized for, Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a Department of Justice order mobilizing the FBI to coordinate with federal law enforcement to target parents deemed to be engaging in “threatening” behavior against school board members.

ICYMI, this Brittany Bernstein piece from last weekend is well worth the read:

Coastal Carolina University (CCU) recently bowed to a woke mob of theater students who demanded professor Steven Earnest be ousted from his role after 16 years at the university — because he suggested that a misunderstanding on campus was not a big deal.

The controversy began with a September 16 incident in which students discovered a list of names on a classroom whiteboard. The students, realizing that the names all belonged to students of color, quickly assumed that racial foul play was behind the list, and they organized a protest.

However, a prompt investigation by the university revealed that the list had come out of a discussion between a visiting artist and two students of color who said they were hoping to connect with other non-white students on campus. The trio wrote down the names of other students of color who might wish to form a group to discuss their shared experiences.

The committee explained the misunderstanding in an email to campus but wanted to make clear that the investigation — which revealed the whole to-do had been over nothing — “in no way undermines the feelings that any of you feel about this incident.”

“It should have never happened and the DEI committee will be discussing with faculty and students the gravity of the situation and how to handle these requests in the future,” the email said.

Earnest dared to question that pandering attitude, writing back: “Sorry but I don’t think it’s a big deal.”

Shout-Outs

Arvin Bahl, at City Journal: Coalition of the Sane

Frederick Hess, at The Dispatch: Defend Gifted Education. And Then Do Much More.

Tom Rogan, at the Washington Examiner: Why Kirsten Gillibrand’s UFO amendment deserves bipartisan support

Hailey Fuchs, at Politico: The political war around daylight saving time takes a nasty turn

Honorable Mention

Do you live in or can you travel to Miami, New York, or Philadelphia? National Review Institute is opening a new round of Burke to Buckley Programs for this spring in those cities. In the words of LeVar Burton, you don’t have to take my word for it. Here’s the 411 from NRI:

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

The primary goal is to prepare Fellows to better communicate first principles and other foundational ideas in their workplace, community, and family. Over eight dinner sessions that are led by notable conservative thinkers and National Review writers, each class of 20 to 25 Fellows gathers to learn and engage in spirited and respectful debate. The ideal candidate will be a mid-career professional with at least ten years of professional experience in medicine, finance, the military, arts, education, law enforcement, or the law, among other fields. He/she will have an interest in exploring key texts in the canon of conservative thought and American ideals. This program is not for recent graduates or people working in the fields of public policy or politics.

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

CODA

Beto O’Rourke is back in the news amid speculation over a possible run against Texas governor Greg Abbott. His perennial re-emergence always brings to mind — for me, anyway — his association with the Mars Volta singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala, with whom Beto played in a band in the ’90s. Beto’s Biden endorsement was too much for the Bernie-backing Cedric to bear, so we won’t expect a reunion of those old mates, but having the Mars Volta’s catalogue is enough.

For some time, this font fiddler cultivated an unhealthy obsession with the group before losing track of their career. But every listen is a reminder of how talented they are. Here’s a Spanish-language, mostly acoustic number off their Amputechture album: “Asilos Magdalena.” As with many of their tracks, it offers several minutes of gorgeous songwriting that is bracketed by . . . other sounds, in this case the intrusion of psychedelic atmospherics, distorted horror vocals, and some electric-guitar chatter. You get used to it. Maybe. For something slightly more conventional, but still unique, the De-Loused in the Comatorium album is a fine introduction to this band.

Meanwhile, this Coda blurb would be remiss if it didn’t mention NR’s tribute, by Jack Butler, to Led Zeppelin IV, marking 50 years on our turntables. Are radio stations still doing “get the Led out”? Those segments were required listening for teenage me. Good times, those (bad times as well, of course).

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

Elections

Make No Mistake: Terry McAuliffe Earned His Loss

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Democratic candidate for governor of Virginia Terry McAuliffe walks up to the stage at a rally in Arlington, Va., October 26, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Sharron Angle. Martha Coakley. Terry McAuliffe.

Consider this an updated pantheon of candidates who really put in the work to lose.

The lackluster Coakley famously fell to Republican Scott Brown in true-blue Massachusetts a decade ago. Angle’s ill-fated Senate campaign later that year against Harry Reid in Nevada featured, among other missteps, this entitled response to a reporter: “I’ll answer those questions when I’m the senator.”

They’ve got nothing on Terry, who, no matter the excuses we might hear, deserved every note in the political power chord that rang out this week upon his thumpin’ by Youngkin in Virginia.

It wasn’t just the Piedmont-shaking debate moment when he said parents shouldn’t be telling schools what to teach. Even setting aside the myriad factors that worked against him — the Merrick Garland memo, the Loudoun County sexual-assault case, an unpopular president of the same party, congressional Democrats’ spending blitz, an affable and unflappable GOP opponent, and a national mood shift that has voters clearly souring on D.C.’s incumbent party — McAuliffe’s losing campaign was a tapestry of abysmal conduct, evincing a haughty and dismissive view toward the voters he needed to reach.

Instead of trying to understand the perspective of parents concerned about critical-race-theory-inspired curricula and other animating education issues in the exurbs, McAuliffe opted to demean them by claiming the controversy was “made up” and the debate itself was “racist.” In his role as surrogate, former president Barack Obama, too, waved away what he called “phony” culture wars. Philip Klein writes about how Democrats keep botching this issue.

Meanwhile, as independents were swarming to Glenn Youngkin’s campaign, education surged to become the No. 1 concern for state voters, according to a Washington Post poll. Education voters suddenly favored the Republican by nine points; they had preferred McAuliffe by 33 points a month earlier.

While these seismic changes were occurring, McAuliffe simply defaulted to the playbook of insisting Youngkin is Trump. So committed was he to this narrative that he fabricated an event featuring the two of them. In an Angle-esque moment, he cut short an interview with a local news reporter who apparently should have asked “better questions.” And one of the most ridiculous campaign stunts in modern memory was staged the Friday before Election Day, when the Lincoln Project dispatched a squad dressed as tiki-torch-bearing white supremacists to a Youngkin campaign stop, an incident McAuliffe aides initially used to smear Youngkin’s supporters.

Even if the actors had intended to be up-front about this hoax, what was it ever meant to achieve? Once the hoax was revealed, the optics of LARPing a tragedy would undermine any attempt to truly link Youngkin to Trump and his terrible Charlottesville response. All of this — all of it — telegraphed an utter disregard for and unfamiliarity with the voters McAuliffe needed to court.

If 2017 gubernatorial-election results were any gauge, solid-blue cities like Richmond, Norfolk, and Arlington/Alexandria were never a concern — but McAuliffe needed to convince those in the populous and lighter-blue Northern Virginia counties to stick with him in large numbers in order to replicate Ralph Northam’s success (and his own four years earlier). It so happens these are places where cheap political stunts and the ploy of premise-rejection are widely recognized as such. Live in Northern Virginia? Odds are high that you, your neighbor, or your other neighbor work in politics or media or public relations or government or some combination of these or some industry that makes money off of these. McAuliffe and his allies were treating the swing voters here as rubes, dopes, and cranks, all spun up over nothing and all assuredly malleable upon contact with the right slogan or ad — mere grist for the machine that would restore him to his rightful place.

Youngkin cut the Democrats’ margins in Loudoun County in half on Tuesday. He trimmed them in Fairfax and Prince William Counties. A bit farther out, in Stafford County, where voters went for the Republican by a few points in 2017, Youngkin won by eleven points. There are important lessons here for the GOP, concerning how to run in a semi-post-Trump world (more on that below). Democrats can choose to take away some lessons too. (Spoiler: They won’t.)

But viewed in full, McAuliffe’s conduct of this campaign amounted to a most deserved defeat.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

Glenn Youngkin showed Republicans the path to victory on Tuesday night. Will they take it? Glenn Youngkin’s Big Win

ARTICLES

Dan McLaughlin: The Big Red Wave of 2021

Philip Klein: Five Takeaways from the Virginia Governor’s Race

Philip Klein: Virginia Shows Why a Credible Conservative Needs to Challenge Trump in 2024

Charles C. W. Cooke: No, McAuliffe Didn’t Lose Because Democrats Failed to Pass Biden’s Left-Wing Agenda

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Can Dems Cut Off the COVID Anchor?

Alexandra DeSanctis: Progressives Cry ‘Racism’ to Excuse Democratic Losses in Virginia

Brittany Bernstein: GOP Adds 13 Democratic House Seats to 2022 Midterm Target List after Election-Night Successes

Isaac Schorr: Republican Edward Durr, Truck Driver Who Spent $153 on Campaign, Defeats New Jersey Senate President

Madeleine Kearns: Funeral Decorum in the Age of Social Media

Jay Nordlinger: A Free Spirit

Jim Geraghty: Why Are We Shutting Down Firehouses over the Vaccine Mandate?

Alexandra DeSanctis and Carl R. Trueman: Notre Dame Students Go to War over ‘Woke’ Catholicism

Kyle Smith: Give Alec Baldwin a Break

Asra Q. Nomani: Virginia Parents Have Had Enough of ‘Woke’ Lies at Their Schools

Charles C. W. Cooke: The Entirely Needless Meltdown over ‘Let’s Go Brandon’

Kevin Williamson: The OPEC Dodge

CAPITAL MATTERS

The data disagree with the notion that inflation is a “high-class” problem. Joseph Sullivan has the chart: Inflation: A High-Class Problem? Not So Much

The Biden administration is not helping alleviate the supply-chain mess. Quite the opposite, says Iain Murray: Biden’s Agenda Would Worsen the Supply-Chain Crisis

Daniel J. Pilla warns that just because the White House has backed off its IRS-surveillance plan doesn’t mean the idea is dead: The White House Abandons Bank-Reporting Plan . . . for Now

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Armond White praises Kanye’s latest: Kanye West Finds God on Donda

“The Met’s got a case of malaise, and it starts at the top.” Brian Allen explains: Profiling the Met’s Leaders

The cast and crew of Spencer are begging for an Oscar they don’t deserve. From Kyle Smith: How Not to Approach Princess Diana

YOU’VE MASTERED THE LINKS. YOU ARE READY FOR EXCERPTS

Glenn Youngkin shows Republicans how to win. It would be wise to take heed. From the editorial:

There’s a danger in overinterpreting one election outcome on a night when there was clearly an anti-Democratic wave around the country. . . . But the Virginia gubernatorial race has been a national focus for months, and there are clearly lessons in how Youngkin prevailed in a state that Biden carried by ten points and where, until recently, the GOP seemed bent on self-immolation.

Youngkin realized his coalition had to consist of voters firmly attached to Trump and those turned off by him. He welded them together by avoiding criticisms of Trump while maintaining an arm’s length from him personally, taking care to brand himself as a relatable and inoffensive suburban dad, and — importantly — emphasizing the cultural issues around education that resonated with and motivated both pools of voters.

Youngkin rightly and unapologetically hit “critical race theory,” the rubric for racialist indoctrination and 1619-style critiques of America, hard. But his message on education was much broader. He defended high standards and advanced learning, inveighed against school closures, talked about the need for greater school safety, and pushed back against explicit content in education, all the while advocating higher pay for teachers. . . .

Youngkin’s win, and the other wreckage around the map for Democrats, presumably makes passing Joe Biden’s reconciliation bill even harder and signals a bleak midterm election cycle ahead for Democrats. But his victory could be most significant in showing a path ahead for the GOP, if it can take it.

Ah, the logical holes in the excuse-making for Democrats’ election losses are yawning. Not only are they suggesting Congress isn’t spending enough money, but Alexandra DeSanctis highlights the immediate cries of “racism,” which of course fly in the face of the election of Republican minority candidates to top office in Virginia. Anyway . . .

Already, progressives are pointing to exit polls showing an enormous swing to the GOP among white working-class women, who voted for Joe Biden last fall but supported Youngkin this time around — the nasty implication being that these women were motivated to vote by Republicans’ supposedly racist agenda. Totally ignored, or even outright dismissed, are the many nonwhite voters who backed the GOP.

McAuliffe himself obliquely indulged in this fantasy in his statement conceding the election.

On several counts, progressives have begun to coalesce around a narrative that doesn’t hang together — one that displays a shocking unwillingness to grapple with the problems facing their party. For one thing, it makes little sense to assert both that critical race theory doesn’t exist and that parents who oppose it are doing so because they don’t want their children to learn about race or slavery.

If progressives admit that CRT exists at all, they pretend that it’s merely an effort to teach school children about the complicated history of race in our country. In fact, a quick investigation reveals that the proposed curricula contain, in most cases, highly inaccurate history aimed at indoctrinating kids into racially divisive identity politics. . . .

Finally, the “white supremacist” theory for Democratic losses intentionally ignores that two of the top Republican candidates voted into office were Winsome Sears, a female Jamaican immigrant elected lieutenant governor, and Jason Miyares, a Cuban American who was elected attorney general. It’s hard to imagine why Virginians voting en masse for the GOP out of thinly veiled racial animus would throw in their lot with this ticket.

Speaking of the Virginia election, Asra Nomani published a lengthy piece in these pages earlier this week about what’s really going on in the schools:

Since Wednesday, October 6, Fairfax County Public Schools staffer Rob Kerr has been teaching a weekly two-hour course to teachers here at Marshall High School called, “AC-1608: How to Be an Antiracist Educator.”

If you happen to be white, look out — through the lens of this teaching, you’re racist. Consider this module in Kerr’s course: “Exploring and Understanding Whiteness,” which includes listening to a podcast by Bettina Love. She is the founder of the radical Abolitionist Teaching Network, whose core philosophy is that America’s schools, and especially its white teachers, are “spirit murdering” black children.

The Fairfax County “Antiracist Educator” syllabus, revealed here for the first time, borrows key concepts from the dour, divisive doctrine known as critical race theory, which holds that all white people are intrinsic oppressors of all minorities and especially black people. Lessons include “the Creation of Racist Systems,” “the building blocks of racism in the United States,” not to mention the ills of “whiteness.”

Education officials and politicians deny critical race theory is taught in K–12 schools, in a pattern of deception that parents are facing nationwide. We’ve heard of white lies, where folks fudge the truth. These are “woke” lies. But we’re now standing up with moral courage as unapologetic parents in a mama bear — and papa bear — movement. And we’re not just standing up against critical race theory. There’s a whole list of dubious woke education polices we’re fighting. These include: the elimination of merit exams for entry into once-elite schools; the elimination even of advanced math; the curating of pornography by some school libraries; and the cover-up of sexual assaults in schools.

Shout-Outs

Christine Rosen, at Commentary: Critical Race Theory Is Coming for Your Doctor

Brad Wilcox and Max Eden, at the Wall Street Journal: Youngkin Makes the GOP the Parents’ Party

Adam Kredo, at the Washington Free Beacon: Most American Parents Unaware China, Saudi Arabia, Qatar are Major Donors to US Universities

Ben Zeisloft, at Campus Reform: College Republicans told that they cannot endorse Glenn Youngkin

Honorable Mentions

(1) Members of the NR family are out with new books, and you really should read them. David Harsanyi is out with Eurotrash: Why America Must Reject the Failed Ideas of a Dying Continent, excerpted here. And John Fund and Hans von Spakovsky are out with Our Broken Elections: How the Left Changed the Way You Vote.

(2) Do you live in or can you travel to Miami, New York, or Philadelphia? National Review Institute is opening a new round of Burke to Buckley Programs in those cities. From the source, here are the deets:

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

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

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

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

CODA

In honor of Diwali this past week, why not some Bollywood music?

This is the moment when this keyboard clacker admits his Pandora app toggles among three stations during the workday, depending on mood: Charles Mingus, Porcupine Tree, and A. R. Rahman (for whom the word “prolific” would be an understatement of his contribution in the realm of Hindi and Tamil scores).

So here’s a smattering of popular songs from the latter artist, something uplifting to move past all the spooky vibes of last month: “Ghanan Ghanan,” “Rang De Basanti,” and “Chaiyya Chaiyya.” Hope you enjoy.

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

NR Webathon

What Happens When Free Speech Dies

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Riot police officers detain a demonstrator during a protest against the second reading of a controversial national anthem law in Hong Kong, China, May 27, 2020. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

A society’s freedoms are a reflection of a society’s values. So it should alarm us when our society begins to view with ambivalence, or worse, a right that had long been held in high regard — especially when that right already is deemed disposable in countries spanning East and West.

Reminding Americans, at this moment, why freedom of speech remains so important amounts to one of the urgent missions of our day. It’s one that National Review has taken up with vigor, and the cause is just one of the reasons we’re asking you to support our work as part of our fall webathon, which draws to a close this weekend.

We’re not talking only about cancel culture here, which we’ve reported on extensively. We’re talking about a rising illiberalism that threatens to change the character of the country for the worse. Charles C. W. Cooke warned about this in a February cover story for National Review. We’ve followed disturbing trends on campus all year. For a full month, Andrew McCarthy has been sounding the klaxon about the implications for First Amendment–protected dissent of recent DOJ intervention concerning the schools. Taking the big-picture view, Charles explains here what is at stake and why vigilance is needed to preserve our system and its benefits:

It is not an accident that the United States is the richest and freest nation in the world; it is a choice. The glories of this country are the direct result of our having established a creed (the Declaration of Independence), a set of political rules (the Constitution), and a set of economic standards (free markets under law) that correctly comprehend how human nature actually is, as opposed to how the utopians among us would like it to be. . . .

I cannot prove this, but I suspect somewhere in my bones that we will get just one shot at America — one — and that if it goes, then so does the classically liberal order that has done wonders for the world.

Others are starting to take notice. In September, the Economist featured “the threat from the illiberal left” on its cover as well. One article included this haunting line: “Belief in foundations of liberalism such as free speech declines with each generation.”

This is a demonstrable trend. Pew found that 40 percent of Millennials “say the government should be able to prevent people publicly making statements that are offensive to minority groups.” Compare that with 27 percent for Generation Xers and 24 percent for Baby Boomers. Making the data even more alarming is that it was gathered in 2015; one can only presume that the percentage today, especially among Generation Z, is even higher.

None of this is to argue that people should be comfortable disparaging minority groups or anybody else; they obviously should not. But that’s a separate question from whether the government should police speech, which would necessarily entail its determining what counts as offensive and what counts as a marginalized group in need of protection — a classification that, as this NR editorial explains, can be remarkably broad.

Take a look around the world to appreciate how unique America’s view of freedom of expression is, even now. The same Pew study found that 62 percent in Italy and 70 percent in Germany supported such government controls on speech. (That figure was 28 percent for the U.S. as a whole.)

And take a look around the world to see what happens, on the oft-invoked slippery slope, when government has the power to restrict speech.

NR has stayed abreast of these developments and reported back to you. Scotland recently abolished its “blasphemy” law, only to swap it for new restrictions on offensive speech. In Finland, a grandmother and MP faces prosecution for social-media comments questioning her church’s sponsorship of a pride parade.

Heading east, it gets worse. In China, a former journalist was arrested this month for mild criticism of China’s role in the Korean War and a new film depicting it. As reported by William Nee on NRO, the government is wielding a new criminal charge of “infringing upon the reputation and honor of heroes and martyrs.” Let’s also not forget about Thailand’s draconian prohibition against insulting the royal family, punishable by stiff prison sentences; a recent Hong Kong law against besmirching the Chinese national anthem; or Pakistan’s infamous blasphemy laws.

We can see the casual disregard for freedom of speech seeping into American life, not just in polls but in the recent DOJ letter warning of an FBI crackdown on protesting parents. Andrew McCarthy asked on these pages last weekend whether we have freedom of speech to the degree we thought. “Whether freedom of speech truly exists is a cultural question, not a legal one. It hinges on the society’s commitment to liberty as something that is lived, not merely spoken of,” he wrote, making that same observation above about freedoms reflecting values.

What does our culture value? One recent survey found that a majority of college students support shouting down speakers with whom they disagree; 23 percent supported the use of violence toward this end. At some colleges, the percentage supporting such violence crept into the 40s.

That is not a culture that values free speech. It is a culture that values freedom from emotional, political, and intellectual disturbance of any kind. These shifts in attitude, which have escaped campus and are spreading quickly, have had a stifling effect, including on news coverage of the pandemic and other major stories. Jim Geraghty wrote this week about “anti-journalism” that hid uncomfortable narratives, regardless of whether they might be true.

Some groups and individuals are starting to fight back, from alumni associations challenging the higher-ed brain freeze to lone comics like Dave Chappelle. NR is standing up, and standing with them, for these freedoms.

That webathon link we keep surfacing, one last time, is here. We appreciate your support however it is expressed — whether by donation, subscription, general interest and engagement, or all of the above. Read on.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

Build Back Better is back, and it’s still bad: Democrats’ Spending Monstrosity

The proposed tax on unrealized capital gains would amount to one of the most convoluted and arbitrary funding mechanisms known to government. So let’s not: Democrats Rotten Billionaires Tax

The world is on fire, but at least we’ve got a gender strategy now: Bidens Absurd Gender Strategy

Senators Sanders needs to be stopped, again: The Foolishness of Prescription-Drug Price Controls

ARTICLES

Mario Loyola: The Real Culprit in Our Supply-Chain Crisis

Philip Klein: Revenge of the Parents

Philip Klein: Build Back Better Framework: The Bad and the Ugly

Rich Lowry: What It Means If Glenn Youngkin Wins

Jim Geraghty: Wait, How Many Coincidences Does the Natural Spillover Theory Require?

Steven Camarota & Jessica Vaughan: The Whole Justification for Sanctuary Cities Is Wrong

David Harsanyi: America Is the Most Tolerant Place on Earth

Nate Hochman: The Return of the Grassroots Right

Caroline Downey: Garland Refuses to Dissolve School-Board Task Force Despite National School Board Group Apology

Alexandra DeSanctis: Republican Senators Demand Answers from Garland on Public-Schools Memo

Dan McLaughlin: The New Jersey Governor’s Race Gets Closer under the Radar

Senator Tom Cotton: In Defense of Qualified Immunity

Senator Mike Lee: Why Work Matters in the Post-COVID Economy

John McCormack: Why McAuliffe’s Vulture-Capitalism Attack Fell Flat

Charles C. W. Cooke: Will the Real Joe Manchin Please Stand Up?

Kevin Williamson: A European Welfare State Requires a European Tax Regime

CAPITAL MATTERS

Daniel Tenreiro just wants to know, what are they thinking? Bidens Capital-Gains Tax Grab Would Wreak Havoc

Dominic Pino homes in on the case of a California rail-yard project to illustrate how onerous regulations choke infrastructure progress: How Government Stands in the Way of Infrastructure Improvements

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Resident Dune fanatic (and NRO submissions editor) Jack Butler shares his thoughts on the new film: Dune Is a Beautiful, Faithful Tease

Armond White pauses to appreciate this 1976 Italian film, newly released on Blu-ray: Illustrious Corpses Puts American Political Films to Shame

Kyle Smith takes a closer look at the Chappelle hullabaloo: The Dave Chappelle Problem Is Worse Than You Think

Brian Allen tours a new exhibition on Iranian art at the Asia Society: Persian Parables

FROM THE NEW NOVEMBER 15, 2021, ISSUE OF NR

H. R. McMaster: Preserving the Warrior Ethos

Kyle Smith: Cackling Kamala

Kevin Williamson: The ORC Invasion

Leah Libresco Sargeant: Becoming Literate in Suffering

WITNESS THE POWER OF POSITIVE LINKING, WITH THESE EXCERPTS

Consider this your weekend reading. H. R. McMaster has a thorough and thoughtful cover story in the latest edition of NR on America’s damaged warrior ethos:

The warrior ethos that emerged in the modern Western world has its origins in the warrior myth as embodied by Achilles, the hero of the Trojan War in the Iliad. In America, the warrior ethos evolved into a covenant that binds warriors to one another and to the citizens in whose name they fight and serve. It is grounded in values such as courage, honor, and self-sacrifice. The ethos reminds warriors of what society expects of them and what they expect of themselves.

One might wonder why this esoteric topic deserves attention, especially when our nation has experienced multiple traumas and faces many practical challenges at home and abroad. Understanding war and warriors is necessary if societies and governments are to make sound judgments concerning military policy. American citizens’ expectations help the military establish standards that guide recruitment, training, personnel policies, and even how forces organize and modernize to deter war and defend the nation. In democracies, if citizens do not understand war or are unsympathetic to the warrior ethos, it will become difficult to maintain the requirements of military effectiveness and to recruit the best young people into military service. The warrior ethos is what makes combat units effective. And because it is foundational to norms involving professional ethics, discipline, and discrimination in the use of force, the warrior ethos is essential to making war less inhumane.

The warrior ethos is at risk. If lost, it might be regained only at an exorbitant price.

Parents are fed up and striking back, most visibly in Virginia. Philip Klein explains the significance:

The starkest example currently is in Virginia. Over the summer, few political observers gave Republican Glenn Youngkin much of a chance against the seasoned Terry McAuliffe in a state that Joe Biden carried by double digits. Yet less than a week out from Election Day, the race is a tossup, and Democrats are so panicked that Biden, Kamala Harris, and Barack Obama had to plan late rallies in an effort to save the governor’s mansion. While it is unclear whether Youngkin will be able to overcome the substantial Democratic advantage and emerge victorious, it’s become clear that parents are a huge reason why polls are so close. . . .

The Virginia race is happening against the backdrop of a national backlash among parents that has been brewing over school closures, masking requirements, and critical race theory in the classroom.

School closures are likely to go down as one of the most destructive public policies in decades. Schools remained shut down months after the science was clear that children faced little risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19 and that they were not major spreaders. In many districts, teachers’ unions dug in on closures even as their members skipped the line to get vaccinated before more vulnerable populations. Virtual learning was no substitute for in-person learning, and this led to unnecessary social isolation and increased depression among children. And for all the talk about equity, liberal closure policies disproportionately affected low-income, black, and Hispanic students. The harm done during the year-plus of closures will likely be irreparable. . . .

What teachers were not banking on when they dragged their feet in returning to work is how it would affect parents’ attitudes toward public schools.

The Biden administration’s gender strategy (a) probably isn’t the most-needed strategy from the federal government at present and (b) is part of an approach that aims to salve so many aggrieved groups as to apply to virtually everybody. Enjoy the editorial:

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have no clue how to deal with the many crises their administration has created, exacerbated, or failed to get under control, but as of last Friday they now have a 42-page gender strategy. Gender strategy?

Yes, the “National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality,” the first-ever such declaration because in the near-quarter millennium of this country’s existence no one ever thought we needed one, lays out a list of goals and aspirations and solutions to alleged problems whose existence keeps being asserted without evidence. . . .

As is usually the case with feminist calls to arms, the stated mission of aiding females quickly broadens into an all-purpose pursuit of social justice for the large majority who claim marginalized status: Among those described as needing more federal “equity” are “Black, Latino, and Indigenous and Native American persons, Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, and other persons of color; members of religious minorities; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons; persons with disabilities; persons who live in rural areas; and persons otherwise adversely affected by persistent poverty or inequality.” Since even a centimillionaire feels the bitter sting of inequality when contemplating the lifestyle of a billionaire, it would appear that the Biden definition of unfairly treated people in need of federal uplift includes more or less everybody.

Steven Camarota & Jessica Vaughan have dug up some data that call into question the narrative used to justify sanctuary cities:

Immigration advocates have long asserted that local law-enforcement agencies should not cooperate with federal immigration authorities because doing so would cause immigrants to avoid reporting crimes out of fear of deportation. This justification for “sanctuary” jurisdictions has always been dubious, but now we have data that directly refute it. Starting in 2017, the Department of Justice added a citizenship question to its annual National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), which is the largest and most authoritative survey of crime victims. The 2017–19 NCVS indicates that the whole basis for sanctuary polices is a myth; it turns out that crimes against immigrants are reported to police at rates that match or often exceed those for crimes against the U.S.-born. . . .

Whether we looked at all crimes, violent crimes, property crimes, or serious violent and property crimes together, the survey shows that immigrants report crimes to police at rates that are at least as high as do the U.S.-born.

Among serious crimes, generally prosecuted as felonies, 62 percent of those committed against immigrants were reported to police, as were 60 percent of serious crimes against noncitizens. Both percentages are significantly higher than the 53 percent reporting rate of crimes against the native-born. Immigrants and specifically noncitizens are also significantly more likely to report serious violent crimes — rape, sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault — than are the native-born. Even violent felonies against immigrant women — including noncitizen women, who are thought to be especially reluctant to come forward — were reported to police at significantly higher rates than were similar crimes against U.S.-born women.

Noncitizen Hispanics theoretically should be the most fearful of police because a large share are in the country illegally. In government surveys such as the NCVS, we estimate that roughly two thirds of noncitizen Hispanics are either illegal immigrants or live with one. And yet the NCVS shows that 57 percent of serious crimes against noncitizen Hispanics were reported to police, compared with 53 percent for the U.S.-born.

Shout-Outs

Eric Boehm, at Reason: How Democrats Could Hide $2 Trillion in New Spending With Budget Gimmicks

Blake Smith, at UnHerd: The Democrat who could bring down Biden

Bloomberg News: The Chinese Companies Polluting the World More Than Entire Nations

Rémy Numa, at Fox News: McAuliffe buys ‘fake news’ ads in effort to sway voters

Honorable Mention

Do you live in or can you travel to Miami, New York, or Philadelphia? National Review Institute is opening a new round of Burke to Buckley Programs in those cities. Here’s what you need to know, straight from the source:

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

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

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

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

CODA

Great music is still being made, but it’s hard to find much of it tied to any particular movement save for maybe hip-hop (blame Spotify?). Which is why the sound of the ’90s still holds sway. The flannel shirts and torn jeans, the stripped-down chord progressions that valued the visceral over the virtuosic, the brooding and outright-disturbing lyrical portraits of Eddie and Kurt . . . that all belonged to an exciting and emerging style, with each album defining it in a new direction. Grunge was the most dominant of the era, but the decade was bursting with creativity elsewhere in the alt-rock and indie-verses too. One of the more unpredictable, and enjoyable, innovators was Soul Coughing. The band had a few sort-of hits like “Circles” and “Super Bon Bon.” But the jazzy, sample-heavy albums — featuring an upright-bass player and vocals that drift frequently into spoken-word, free-association poetry — are replete with catchy bits and phrases strewn about the tracks.

Here’s two from their Ruby Vroom debut: the lovely “True Dreams of Wichita” and “Mr. Bitterness,” which locks in on a groove better than just about any song not named “Stayin’ Alive.” The band produced an even more eclectic grouping on their final album toward the end of the decade — music that only the ’90s could have tolerated and encouraged.

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

NR Webathon

Both Sides Matter

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

Dear Weekend Jolter,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

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

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

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

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

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

ARTICLES

Dan McLaughlin: The Democrats’ Prophets of Doom

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

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

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

Jay Nordlinger: Leopoldo and His Purpose

Rich Lowry: Superman Jettisons the American Way

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

Philip Klein: Liberals’ Defense-Spending Misdirection

Dominic Pino: Everything Wrong with American Infrastructure in One Tunnel

Charles C. W. Cooke: Biden in Wonderland

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

Bing West: A General Who Failed in War Assesses Risk

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

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

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

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

Jack Crowe: What Else Is EcoHealth Alliance Hiding?

CAPITAL MATTERS

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

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

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

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honorable Mention

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shout-Outs

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

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

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

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

CODA

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

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

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

NR Webathon

The Government Should Do Its Job, and Only Its Job

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

Dear Weekend Jolter,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We followed up with an editorial slamming the memo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

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

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

ARTICLES

Michael Brendan Dougherty: January 6 Was No Hoax

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

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

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

Ryan Mills: Does Masking Students Make a Difference?

Tom Cotton: Secretary of the China Lobby

Jay Nordlinger: An American general, &c.

Philip Klein: CBO Blows Up Democrats’ Spin on Taxes

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

Kevin Williamson: What If There Is No Meritocracy?

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

Mario Loyola: Rise of the Woke Taliban

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

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

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

CAPITAL MATTERS

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

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

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

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

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

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

FROM THE NEW NOVEMBER 1, 2021, ISSUE OF NR

Jimmy Quinn: The Anti-Anti-China Left

George Gilder: Life after Capitalism

John Fund: Kyrsten Sinema Is Arizona’s New Maverick

Alexandra DeSanctis: Home Invasion

HUNGRY FOR MORE CONTENT? OUR CONTENT CONTAINERS RUNNETH OVER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shout-Outs

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

The Washington Post: China’s COVID stonewalling is unacceptable

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

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

CODA

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

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

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

NR Webathon

Stop the Madness

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

Dear Weekend Jolter,

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

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

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

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

He continues:

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

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

Need more reasons?

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

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

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

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

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

That donation link, again, is here.

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

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

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

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

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

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

ARTICLES

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

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

Jay Nordlinger: George F. Will, Ever and Always

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

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

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

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

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

Rich Lowry: We Should Arm Taiwan to the Teeth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Wokeness Is Weakening Dave Chappelle

CAPITAL MATTERS

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

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

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shout-Outs

Steven Malanga, at City Journal: The New Secession Movement

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

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

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

CODA

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

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

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

White House

Financial Literacy Dies in Darkness

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

Dear Weekend Jolter,

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

Here’s Jen Psaki with the good news:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But boy are they going to try.

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

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

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

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

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

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

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

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

ARTICLES

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

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Governor Kathy Hochul Is One Weird Duck

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

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

Rich Lowry: The Age of Progressive Misinformation

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

Tom Cotton: The COVID-Clemency Disaster

Joel Kotkin: Joe Biden, Nowhere Man

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

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

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

Kevin D. Williamson: How Government Is Supposed to Work

CAPITAL MATTERS

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

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

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

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

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

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

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

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

FROM THE NEW OCTOBER 18, 2021, ISSUE OF NR

Kevin D. Williamson: What Is Texas?

David Harsanyi: How Jen Psaki Plays the Press

Caroline Downey: The Guilford Five

James Copland: How to Rein in Critical Race Theory

Jack Fowler: God and Student at Thomas Aquinas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shout-Outs

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

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

Steven Pinker, at Quillette: Be Rational

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

CODA

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

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

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

The Biden Crises Keep Piling Up

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

Dear Weekend Jolter,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read on, readers.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

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

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

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

ARTICLES

Kevin Williamson: The Question Biden Needs to Answer

Philip Klein: Democrats Can’t Hide Their Israel Problem

Tom Cotton: No More Jailbreaks

Michael Brendan Dougherty: We Will Regret Masking Kids

Stanley Kurtz: Noem Must Fix South Dakota Standards Fiasco

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

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

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

Dan McLaughlin: The Eastman Memo Is a Tragedy of Errors

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

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

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

CAPITAL MATTERS

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

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

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

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shout-Outs

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

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

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

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

Honorable Mention

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

CODA

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

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

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

Politics & Policy

The Magic Slogan That Justifies Everything

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

Dear Weekend Jolter,

We should probably talk some more about the dress.

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

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

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

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

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

NR’s editorial succinctly addresses this shortfall:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

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

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

ARTICLES

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

Michael Brendan Dougherty: No Trust, No Exit

Jack Butler: The Myth of the Red Pill

Kevin Williamson: The Billionaires’ Party

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

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

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

Yuval Levin: The Future of Conservative Constitutionalism

Jeb Bush: The Dumbing Down of Expectations

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

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

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

Nate Hochman: Who Is Kristi Noem, Really?

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

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

CAPITAL MATTERS

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

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

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

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

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

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

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

FROM THE NEW OCTOBER 4, 2021, ISSUE OF NR

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

Ryan Mills: Where Have All the Officers Gone?

Hannah E. Meyers: The ‘Systemic Racism’ Stereotype

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shout-Outs

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

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

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

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

CODA

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

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

U.S.

Our Post-9/11 Bond

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

Dear Weekend Jolter,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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EDITORIALS

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

ARTICLES

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

Rich Lowry: When a Western Society Goes Insane

Kyle Smith: Trump’s Legacy Comes into Focus

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

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

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

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

Jay Nordlinger: Refugees and America

Kevin Williamson: Warby Parkers Shortsighted Sop to the Progressive Mob

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

David Harsanyi: You Should Definitely Get a Job

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

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

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

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

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

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

CAPITAL MATTERS

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

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

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

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

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

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

EXCERPTS ARE LIKE TWEETS, BUT WITH MORE CHARACTER

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

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

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

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

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

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

Both of those mechanisms have worked brilliantly so far.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shout-Outs

Steven Malanga, at City Journal: When Flags Waved

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

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

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

CODA

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

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

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

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

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

Amen, Het.

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

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

World

News Alert — the Taliban Have Not Changed

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

Dear Weekend Jolter,

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

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

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

Pardon our confusion.

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

Thoughtful.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Those guards must still need the HR training.

NR’s editorial notes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NR’s editorial frames consideration of this question simply:

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

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

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EDITORIALS

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

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

ARTICLES

Rich Lowry: When National Honor Meant Something

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

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

Jay Nordlinger: The Afghan Disaster

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

Victoria Coates: After Afghanistan

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

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

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

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

Michael Brendan Dougherty: The Crumbling Justification for Vaccine Passports

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

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

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

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

Philip Klein: Another Looming Disaster

CAPITAL MATTERS

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

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

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

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

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

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

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

AND HERE THEY ARE, EXCERPTS FOR THE WEEKEND JOLTER SOUL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shout-Outs

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

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

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

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

CODA

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

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

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

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

Politics & Policy

The Democratic Party’s Icons Crack and Crumble

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(Getty)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

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

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

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

Rich Lowry writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

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

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

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

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

ARTICLES

Michael Brendan Dougherty: The Lies Are Exposed in Kabul

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

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

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

Dan McLaughlin: Red Warning Lights Flashing for Democrats

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

Andrew McCarthy: Biden’s Appalling Trust in the Taliban

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brad Taylor: The Day Afghanistan Died

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

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

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

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

CAPITAL MATTERS

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

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

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

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

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

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

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

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

FROM THE NEW SEPTEMBER 13, 2021, ISSUE OF NR

Bing West: Who Will Trust Us after Afghanistan?

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

Noah Rothman: The ‘Forever War’ Fallacy

Andrew McCarthy: Counter-terrorism since 9/11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pompeo says unequivocally “yes.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shout-Outs

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

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

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

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

CODA

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

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

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

National Security & Defense

Afghanistan’s Thin Blue Line Dissolves

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

Dear Weekend Jolter,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

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

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

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

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

ARTICLES

Ben Sasse: Worse Than Saigon

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

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

Jim Geraghty: Something Is Wrong with the President

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

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

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

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

Ken Buck: Reckless Spending Is Washington’s Bipartisan Sport

Rich Lowry: President Biden’s Man-Made Disasters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CAPITAL MATTERS

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

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

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

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

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

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

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

AND NOW, YOUR ENTRÉE, THE EXCERPTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Trump–Taliban agreement is disgraceful.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Was it worth it?

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

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

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

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

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

Shout-Outs

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

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

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

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

CODA

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

Speaking of Radiohead . . .

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

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

But listen:

Today, we escape, we escape.

Pack and get dressed,
Before your father hears us,

Before all hell breaks loose.

Health Care

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

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

Dear Weekend Jolter,

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

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

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

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

That number again, “Effectively zero.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

As a vaxxed Kyle Smith puts it:

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

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

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

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

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

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

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

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

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

ARTICLES

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

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

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

Alexandra DeSanctis: Cuomo’s Halfhearted Farewell Apology

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

David Harsanyi: The Insufferable Hypocrisy of John Kerry

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

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

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

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

Will Swaim: The Coming California Bacon Apocalypse

Philip Klein: After Infrastructure Surrender, Republicans Deserve to Lose

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

Rich Lowry: The Biden Blowout Is Just Beginning

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

Ryan Mills: Conservative Groundswell Shakes Up South Dakota School Board

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

Jay Nordlinger: ‘Hello to Music’

CAPITAL MATTERS

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

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

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

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

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

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

FROM THE NEW SEPTEMBER 1, 2021, ISSUE OF NR

Ramesh Ponnuru: Fighting for Life

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

Daniel Tenreiro: Universities Are Complicit in Ballooning Student Debt

Matthew Brazil: How China and Russia Spy on Us

NEVER MIND THE BOLLOCKS, HERE’S THE EXCERPTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

The bill, it should be noted, would come on top of the $6 trillion that was spent in response to COVID-19 and in addition to the half trillion dollars in new spending Democrats just advanced with Republican assistance. Were the full agenda to get through, it would mean that Washington would have enacted $10 trillion in new spend