The Tea Party was far from perfect, and its poor strategic decisions (such as the ill-fated effort to defund Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment while controlling just one chamber of Congress) have been well documented. That said, the Tea Party served one important purpose.
Historically, the path of least resistance was always for Republicans to come to Washington and rubber stamp more spending. At the height of the Tea Party’s power, there was a period during which Republicans were more afraid of voting to increase spending than they were of voting to cut spending. That was an important development that effectively put the brakes on Obama’s legislative agenda after 2010.
The Tea Party indeed suffered from strategic errors, grifters in their midst, and attachment to a party with an impressive record of caring about fiscal issues until they’re in power. But we could sure use somebody in the halls of power yelling “STOP.”
Andy explains here why exactly the move was unconstitutional, and you can read more on this down below. But groundswells and grassroots don’t get provoked by legal arguments alone — it’s injustice, and a sense thereof, that moves people. See: Floyd, George. So here we have the federal government very explicitly picking winners and losers, twisting their authority to give one category of people a pass on dubious grounds while punishing another — landlords — for how they make a living.
And not all of them are sipping Calvados on the verandas of their Hamptons estates. By one estimate, there are roughly 10 million “individual investor landlords” in the U.S., many operating just one or two units. “About half of all housing providers are mom-and-pop operators, and without rental income, they cannot pay their own bills or maintain their properties,” National Association of Realtors President Charlie Oppler said in a statement, alongside a new legal challenge.
One of Raj Sookram’s tenants stopped paying rent in December. Another man hasn’t paid him a cent in 20 months. He now owes Sookram over $20,000.
One woman stopped paying this spring, Sookram said, then demanded that he fix her hot water heater when it blew. That ended with city officials threatening Sookram with daily fines.
In all, Sookram said, about half of the tenants living in his 13 Rochester, N.Y., rental properties are behind on rent. Sookram said he’s struggling to pay his bills and taxes. He’s had to take out loans and work side handyman gigs to provide for his wife and three kids.
As the coronavirus pandemic drags on – and as the federal government continues to extend its legally dubious eviction moratorium – more and more people are “jumping on the bandwagon, like, ‘Oh, I don’t have to pay you,’” Sookram said.
Rental assistance is out there, but the program is slow to pay out. The CDC order, meanwhile, threatens a year in jail and fines of up to $250,000 for individuals who don’t comply.
The appropriate response to publicly confessed lawlessness is calm refusal. As soon as possible, state governors, legislatures, and courts should make it clear that they intend to follow the law as set by the Supreme Court, rather than the “law” as set by the arrogations of the director of the CDC. To a man, landlords should follow suit, as should every public and private institution connected to the management of private rentals.
But back to the issue of injustice. Landlords, who last time we checked are ordinary taxpaying people, have been told for months on end that they cannot use the leverage they normally have to seek payment for services rendered or otherwise ensure that their units generate income. They, too, have bills to pay but face the threat of fines that would bankrupt them if they move to recover the income with which to pay those bills.
So when one property manager tells Ryan, “At this point they’re just abusing us,” it’s hard not to empathize, and to wonder when the backlash is going to hit.
In other news . . .
Well, there’s plenty of other news. It was a banner week for defiance, whether on the part of Biden and his eviction decision or of Governor Cuomo. More on that sordid affair below, but first, an update on a V.I.P.
And the “P,” dear readers, stands for “Program.”
Burke to Buckley Program Deadline Extension, Chicago Edition
The eviction moratorium’s not the only thing being extended. The deadline is being extended for applications for the fall session in Chicago of National Review Institute’s Burke to Buckley Program. The new deadline is Sunday, August 8, at midnight (that’s tomorrow if you’re getting this in your inbox at the usual time). To apply, click here. Again, this is for Chicago’s session.
Classes are designed for mid-career professionals, from a variety of vocations outside public policy. This program is a deep dive into the foundations of conservative thought — and, as a perk, participants also receive invitations to exclusive networking happy hours and other events when they occur. For more information, visit this site.
NAME. RANK. LINK.
If Cuomo won’t step down on his own now that his sexual-harassment history is clear, he should get some assistance: Make Cuomo Go
President Biden knows the eviction moratorium is built on flimsy foundations, yet he issued a new one anyway: Biden’s Eviction Overreach
After a number of federal courts ruled against the Biden administration’s interpretation of statutory and regulatory provisions, the administration continued to press its case in the Supreme Court. There, four justices were ready to invalidate the moratorium outright; a fifth, Justice Kavanaugh, acknowledged the basic correctness of those justices’ position but decided that immediate invalidation would be overkill given that the moratorium was due to lapse in five weeks. Kavanaugh was clear, though: (a) if the moratorium were not on the cusp of expiring, he would have invalidated it, and (b) “clear and specific congressional authorization (via new legislation) would be necessary” if the moratorium were to be extended.
Consequently, by unilaterally decreeing a moratorium extension in the teeth of that ruling, President Biden is acting in bad faith. It is now a constitutional offense. Specifically, and in blatant violation of his solemn duty to execute the laws faithfully, Biden has usurped Congress’s legislative authority and declared the power to legislate. He is running roughshod over the separation of powers, which is the foundation of our constitutional framework, limiting power and preserving liberty.
That is why this is a constitutional violation, one even more profound than a theorized violation stemming from the Commerce Clause — since Biden has been admonished by the Supreme Court that what he is now doing would be wrong.
But the eviction moratorium is a prime example of a much larger problem with presidential emergency powers.
Since federal emergency-powers law took its modern form during the presidency of Gerald Ford, there have been 71 national emergencies declared — an average of 1.6 every year. Incredibly, 37 of those national emergencies — more than half — are still in effect. Those dozens of semi-permanent emergencies include the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, six crises declared by Bill Clinton touching everything from the business dealings of Colombian narco-traffickers to the development of weapons of mass destruction by the no-longer-extant government of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, eleven emergencies declared by George W. Bush, ten declared by Barack Obama, and three declared by Donald Trump, including the famous “National Emergency With Respect to Imposing Certain Sanctions in the Event of Foreign Interference in a United States Election.”
Ronald Reagan observed that nothing in this life gets as close to immortality as a federal program, and that is doubly true for a federal emergency.
There is one relatively small procedural tweak we could make that would improve this situation greatly: forcing Congress to vote to maintain states of emergency.
[Jess] Bradbury’s eight-year-old daughter is preparing to start third grade, and things in the district have changed. She said the school board is pushing political activism over core academics, hurting its rankings. Textbooks have become political footballs. The district hired a consultant to identify diversity and equity problems to solve. At one point middle schoolers were surveyed about their gender identities, Bradbury said.
Bradbury, a technology professional who’d never even attended a school-board meeting before the pandemic, decided in January that she needed to do something. She now is part of a wave of conservatives across the country — moms, dads, grandparents, teachers — who’ve been energized over the last year by national school debates to run for seats on their school board, hoping to change the direction of local institutions typically dominated by the Left.
Many of the new conservative candidates, including Bradbury, initially were troubled by their school district’s reluctance to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic. But once they were engaged on that issue, their concerns blossomed. In the wake of racial justice protests that erupted after George Floyd’s death last year, they say they’ve found schools in the thrall of left-wing social-justice activists pushing divisive “anti-racist” dogma and controversial gender views.
“I guess the silver lining with COVID is that it has awakened a lot of us to what’s been happening in the districts that we wouldn’t have otherwise paid attention to until it was too late,” Bradbury said in an interview with National Review.
This week’s damning New York AG report on Governor Cuomo puts the onus on state officials to act. From the editorial:
What next? All too many misbehaving politicians have learned the playbook for riding out storms until public attention moves on, or rallying their own tribes to take the focus off themselves. If there is hope for toppling Cuomo, it begins with the deep and bitter divisions between the state’s establishment Democrats and the progressives who loathe Cuomo. . . .
It would behoove the two wings of the party to move together against Cuomo. A sounder approach, and one that does not require awaiting the 2022 election, would be to proceed more swiftly to impeachment and removal of the governor, perhaps even bringing charges solely on sexual harassment. New York City’s Democratic mayoral candidate, Eric Adams, has called for impeachment to go forward.
Republicans in the legislature would like to drag out the investigation to cover broader-ranging topics of corruption and malfeasance, but they would doubtless ultimately support Cuomo’s removal from office regardless of which of the several available grounds are chosen. While Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul is no prize, neither is she part of the far-left wing of the state party represented by James, Bill de Blasio, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
We published a piece last weekend on Huey Long. This conjured memories of the fabulous O Brother, Where Art Thou? (it features a populist governor in the South) and its equally fabulous soundtrack, which was, impressively, curated before the filming.
The musical glue of the movie is “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow,” integral to a plot steeped in literary, cinematic, and historical references. That song tends to overshadow the quieter “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues,” the next stop on the track list. It shouldn’t. The Skip James number, as performed by Chris Thomas King, who also appears in the film to play it, is a humble work of effortless man-and-his-guitar fingerpicking. The stuff of campfires and starry skies, of wistful thoughts and memories.
We’ve grown accustomed to these words, inured to the sense of alarm they’re supposed to convey: words like “unsustainable” and, paired, “fiscal crisis.” So when they were mentioned throughout a government report in March about the urgent need to get our fiscal house in order as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic is handled, it was treated as just another D.C. document, delivered, posted, and archived online.
Under our projections, the debt will reach its highest point in history [as a percentage of GDP] in 2028 and continue to grow faster than gross domestic product. . . .
Key trust funds are projected to be depleted within 15 years or less. . . .
According to CBO, high and rising federal debt increases the likelihood of a fiscal crisis and could lead to a large drop in the value of the dollar . . .
The report urged Congress and the administration to “quickly pivot” to fix this, once the pandemic recedes and the economy recovers. Well, we have a vaccine, and the economy is running hot, in part from the $6 trillion in COVID relief approved already. So what does D.C. do?
The never-ending crisis mentality is breeding a never-ending crisis-spending binge. This is how we get to Congress’s advancing, on a broad bipartisan basis, a $1 trillion infrastructure bill this past week (with $550 billion in new spending) — an Obama-stimulus-sized enterprise, which is a pittance compared with the $3.5 trillion partisan package Democrats insist should accompany it. The first part might be “paid for,” at least on paper. But it’s more of a down payment toward the larger bill that the majority party wants. We should not presume they’ll be satisfied with one-eighth a loaf. AOC already is playing the race card against Senator Kyrsten Sinema for daring to challenge the full price tag. It’s increasingly evident that Republicans are being played, and little consolation that they might know it too.
The decision of Republicans to collaborate with Democrats is both bad policy and makes little sense politically. As we have been saying for months, despite what the media (and evidently, some Republicans) will tell you, America’s infrastructure is not crumbling and is not deeply in need of repair. There is not an economic justification to spend money to stimulate an economy that will recover on its own as the nation emerges from the pandemic (growth accelerated at an annual rate of 6.5 percent in the second quarter, the Bureau of Economic Analysis announced on Thursday). Also, it is not as if the government is in the black. The Biden administration’s own estimates foresee debt as a share of the economy surpassing the World War II record this year. And Fed chairman Jerome Powell, who had been insisting that inflation is going to be transitory, has conceded that it will take longer to abate than he previously expected.
The myth that the group of Republican negotiators has been helping to perpetuate is that there are two completely separate pieces of legislation under consideration: One, a $550 billion bipartisan plan that focuses on traditional infrastructure; and two, a $3.5 trillion social-welfare bill that includes a host of liberal priorities — subsidized college and child care, expansion of Medicare and Medicaid, elements of the Green New Deal, and perhaps even immigration amnesty.
In reality, the two bills are clearly linked.
All the imperatives are pointing in the other direction right now — flashing bright red the need to mend our ways before printing-press spending habits cripple the country long-term and worsen inflation short-term.
One might have expected that, assessing the scene in January of 2021, the Democratic Party would have said, “Well, I guess all the money is gone.” But it didn’t.
And why would it, given that we are now so far down the hole that the public has come to see astronomical numbers as mere abstractions? Even ten years ago, a trillion dollars was regarded as an enormous amount of money — enough, perhaps, to disqualify any spending proposal at the first hurdle. Now? Nobody seems to care. $2 trillion? $4 trillion? $10 trillion? None of it is deemed real anyway, so what does it matter?
It might not even be just $4 trillion that we’re talking about here. According to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (those fiscal prudes), Congress is playing games and poised to set early expiration dates for some policies. Translation: The true cost over a decade, should those policies be extended years from now, could rise above $5 trillion, and up to $6 trillion including infrastructure. Phil explains.
Granted, the Delta variant is scrambling any effort to plan past the pandemic, whether to head off a fiscal crisis or to give consistent mask guidance. But as Jim notes here, the goalposts have moved considerably:
Very quickly and subtly, the goal of our COVID-19 response has shifted from preventing hospitalizations and deaths to preventing infections — even though COVID-19 infections are likely to continue for many years, even if vaccinations grow more and more widespread.
COVID-19 is here to stay. At some point, we’re going to have to declare the “emergency” phase over and take up watchdogs like the GAO and CRFB on their advice. Already, inflation is taking a bite out of wages. What’s to come? You’d think after the year and a half we just had, warnings of a once-unthinkable crisis might merit a closer look.
WE ALWAYS SERVE OUR EXCERPTS STIRRED, NEVER SHAKEN
Jack Crowe snagged some interview time with Mike Pompeo this past week in California. Here’s the former secretary of state on the trend of military leaders’ entering political fights, particularly in the social-justice space:
Speaking with National Review after his Monday night speech at the Reagan Library, the former secretary of state and Army cavalry officer urged the Pentagon’s top brass to restore the American military’s apolitical tradition.
“Our military leaders have to stay out of these political fights,” he said. “It’s possible to do. You can be both a really great general and not opine on the political turmoil of the day. This is the mistake that I see too many senior military leaders make: They feel compelled to respond to the political noise.” . . .
The West Point graduate said he has no problem with military officers and enlisted men being widely read on the subject of race, and sympathized with the plight of officers confronted by a generation of enlisted men steeped in racial essentialism. But, he argued, when immutable characteristics are given outsized priority in determining who is promoted, and considerable time and resources are spent adjudicating sociopolitical issues, readiness will inevitably suffer.
“Our military was designed to do two things: break stuff and kill people, and be ready to do so when peace can’t be achieved,” he said. “When they start engaging in these conversations about diversity and BLM, no, your job is to find the best tank platoon leader you can find, the best long-range sniper you can.”
Two Shanghai-based researchers recently announced proudly in a pre-peer reviewed published paper, “For the first time, a mammalian animal model of male pregnancy was constructed by us.”
This macabre experiment involved rats. The males were castrated, and uteruses were transplanted into their bodies. Surgery then symbiotically attached the rodents to female rats to ensure that the females’ blood nurtured the organs now in the male bodies. After that, rat embryos made via IVF were implanted into the uteruses now in the males’ bodies. The pups were gestated in the transplanted uteruses, then delivered via Caesarian section. Several of them reportedly survived.
Was the need to determine whether a male mammal could be manipulated so that he gave birth of such scientific importance to justify experimenting on the animals in this way? China is obsessed with learning about developmental biology. But does potentially gaining such knowledge justify what was done? No! The research, funded by National Natural Science Foundation of China, was unvarnished animal abuse. As such, it should be decried by all people who understand the human obligation to treat animals in our care humanely.
Moreover, and relevant to the animal-abuse issue, what great human need was furthered by the experiment? None that I can perceive.
Is PolitiFact covering for President Biden’s and VP Harris’s own vaccine skepticism? David thinks so, after the outfit rated as “false” the claim that they distrusted COVID-19 vaccines:
PolitiFactcontends that such accusations are completely false, as Biden and Harris were merely “raising concerns about the rollout by then-president Donald Trump, not the vaccines themselves.” This is an absurd distinction, tantamount to arguing that Donald Trump is “only raising concerns about those who conducted the 2020 election, not the election itself.”
Of course, if the former president released a statement promising never to take any vaccine that was produced during the Biden presidency, it would rightly be seen as perpetuating skepticism. Conspiracy theories about vaccines revolve around the producers and disseminators of the medicine. Vaccines do not organically appear from the ether. They are made. And both Biden and Harris worked to discredit those charged with creating them.
Harris claimed, for example, that even public-health experts who vouched for the vaccine shouldn’t be believed, because they “will be muzzled, they will be suppressed, they will be sidelined, because he’s looking at an election coming up in less than 60 days, and he’s grasping for whatever he can get to pretend that he has been a leader on this issue, when he has not.” Or, in other words, any vaccine produced during the Trump presidency should be seen as unreliable.
Recently, Kodak’s Instagram account featured work from a forthcoming collection, Dust, by Patrick Wack, a Parisian photographer who has been working in western China and now resides in Berlin. Wack has been photographing the changing life of western China for the better half of a decade. . . .
The artist himself is admirably frank that he had documented Xinjiang’s “abrupt descent into an Orwellian dystopia.”
After deleting Wack’s photographs from their account, Kodak was frank as well, but not admirable. Kodak blamed “management loopholes.” . . .
We have to be clear-eyed about how communist parties can forge political and moral corruption out of the profit motive. American companies such as the Marriott hotels are the kind of lickspittles for power who fire their employees to appease China’s absurd rage over a liked tweet.
Kodak can argue to itself that it’s not really bending the knee for the Chinese Communist Party, it’s just protecting shareholders. But what we actually see in its groveling are the frontiers of Chinese political power, extended into America through not only the commercial vehicles of Chinese state-owned enterprises such as Huawei but also our own storied American companies.
*For more on this subject, see Jimmy Quinn’s highlights from a hearing that put names and faces to the corporate courtship of the CCP.
By standing aside, Biles chose not to risk her team’s performance just so she could save face and avoid personal embarrassment or to avoid the hate and blame she must’ve known were coming. It was a courageous and humble thing to do, as much as we might wish she could’ve performed at her usual 100 percent, wowed the world, and brought home another gold. The fact that she admitted her weakness was deeply humanizing, a powerful reminder that even the most glorious athletes aren’t invincible.
A former colleague is responsible for introducing this writer to Johnny Cash’s haunting cover of “The Mercy Seat.” (Thanks, Greg.) From the frantic lyrics to the religious allusions to the piano that sounds like it’s shouting the convict’s case from a high register, the story about a prisoner on his way to the electric chair stops you dead.
It’s Johnny’s rendition of a song by Nick Cave, who considered its inclusion on the album, American III: Solitary Man, an honor and was positively chuffed when producer Rick Rubin called to notify him.
“The version is so good. He just claims that song as he does with so many,” he once said. “He can sing a line and give that line both heaven and hell.”
It’s a neat forensic formula, in three steps: (1) Cite social problem X. (2) Invoke bothersome activity Y. (3) Demand to know why those pursuing bothersome activity Y aren’t instead confronting social problem X.
This recipe is what cooks up passages like this one from MSNBC, regarding the Blue Origin space launch:
Doctor bills and rent remain unalleviated, and the racial disparities . . . seem ever starker, enshrined in new voter-suppression legislation around the country and in the disproportionate death toll of the pandemic on communities of color. But a new “flying circus” has arisen nonetheless — another race to space, even more ludicrous than before, with a rarefied circle of lily-white billionaires serving as well-heeled ringmasters.
The same basic construction works around the house: i.e., How can you think about poker night at Sean’s house when there’s a food desert in Akron and tax software isn’t universally free?
Anyway, Dan McLaughlin chops down the rickety stilts of this argument here. The point is that the private-sector space jaunt this week by Jeff Bezos, and before him (by a few days) Richard Branson, should be something to cheer. Not only is spaceflight unassailably awesome, these trips are a step toward future collaborations with NASA, the expansion of satellite Internet (a race that involves several companies), and, yes, a space-tourism sector that might or might not be thriving decades from now.
Yet this promise ran repeatedly into the notion that somehow the absence of these flights would resolve world hunger. Mostly, this juxtaposition was a jumping-off point to complain about Bezos’s tax payments or Amazon’s treatment of workers, which are fair-enough targets — but the fantasies about all the goodies that could otherwise be bought with Bezos’s fortune come at a time when deficit spending is so astronomical as to render tax revenue irrelevant to those decisions. COVID relief alone has totaled $6 trillion. Democrats are discussing another spending package totaling $4 trillion. Think Congress is holding out for an extra $6 billion in wealth taxes from Bezos? Thanks, Jeff, that can cover a week of interest payments.
America’s problem is not a drought of spending; quite the opposite, as Phil explains here. So if Jeff Bezos wants to drive a minivan to Mars, it is a pursuit with little bearing on our troubles on this planet.
Critics of the two men have tended to suggest that there is something “selfish” about their endeavors. The opposite is true. Unlike with state-backed initiatives, the risks that were accrued here were almost entirely private. Both Virgin Galactic (Richard Branson’s outfit) and Blue Origin (Jeff Bezos’s company) have developed their technology at their own cost and under their own steam, and, in the process, they have revolutionized the space industry in ways of which America’s federal government could only have dreamed. Going forward, Branson and Bezos both plan to open up their products to paying customers. Virgin Galactic will begin accepting space tourists this year. In addition to its own passenger service, Blue Origin is already working on a number of projects with NASA, as well as with private organizations that are in need of its “road to space.” They will be joined in the arena by a host of other businesses — among them Boeing, SpaceX, and the Sierra Nevada Corporation — all competing with them for customers.
Couldn’t Samuel Morse have been less of a showboat about it when he sent his famous message on the new telegraph line between Washington and Baltimore, “What hath God wrought?”
Wasn’t it incredibly selfish of Henry Ford to build racing cars early in his career, when winning automobile races does nothing to improve the human condition?
Why did the Wright brothers waste their time flying a plane at Kitty Hawk, when they could have focused on the abuses in the meatpacking industry instead?
But there were upsides for the public to their innovations, and there are upsides now, including the development of cheaper rockets and cheaper satellites, in turn fueling more innovation. “Consider just one dimension,” Rich observes. “In any major conflict that involves rival militaries targeting each other’s satellites, the power that has the ability to launch new satellites quickly and easily will have an edge.”
Sure, they could do that, if they want to. But if they don’t? That’s fine, too. The thing is — and this seems to be the part that far too many people seem to struggle with — it’s their money. It’s not your money; it’s theirs. And you don’t get a say in how they spend it.
If Branson and Bezos want to build personal rockets that take them up to the edge of space, they can. If they want to lie in a golden bath and drink champagne all day, they can.
And even though Jim Geraghty was taking a break this week, your eagle-eyed weekday host was still thread-spotting — and flags this one that explains the benefits, in the form of jobs and reusable-rocket technology and more, of these ostensibly ostentatious displays.
This new American identity is, of course, getting pushed by every lever of elite culture. It is defined by “anti-racism” instead of the American creed, Black Lives Matter instead of, say, the American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars, and new rituals, holidays, and heroes instead of ones that have been long established and, to this point, uncontroversial.
The national anthem? It will now compete with the black national anthem and, by implication, risks becoming the “white” national anthem.
Juneteenth is worthy of commemoration but is being set up as a competitor holiday to July 4.
1776, that most iconic year, is under pressure from 1619. . . .
Why does it matter? A nation is to a large extent defined by its symbols and associations, the holidays, rituals, heroes, and history — the mystic chords of memory — that constitute its collective self-understanding. This is how a nation tells itself what it is and what its priorities should be.
One might even say that a significant fraction of the Democratic Party no longer practices economics when formulating policy, but instead commits itself to de-economics. Frankly, it’s the only explanation for the ridiculous arguments that abound today.
Economics is, after all, founded on the principle that models of firms and workers can be very useful for understanding how the world works. These models begin with the idea that resources are constrained and incentives matter. . . .
Against this backdrop has emerged an enormously destructive de-economic view that incentives do not matter. Under this theory, one can lift the unemployment-insurance benefit to the heavens, and people will still go to work just as they did when the benefit was low. The individual income tax can be lifted, and people won’t respond by working less. The capital-gains tax can be lifted, but people will not invest less and the economy can still grow. The corporate tax in the U.S. can be, as President Biden proposes, lifted above the effective rate that President Trump inherited, and yet the economy will still grow. The minimum wage can increase, and nobody will lose their job. The Keynesian multiplier is two, so government spending can make society richer, but when government spending collapses by 10 percent relative to GDP — as it is currently scheduled to do — GDP will not suffer.
Last week, Pope Francis completely reversed the policy of his living predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, when it comes to the traditional Latin Mass. And he did it without warning his bishops, and while showily exhibiting his personal animosities and neuroses. . . .
Here’s the background. In 2007, Benedict declared that the liturgy as it had existed before the Second Vatican Council was sacred and good for Catholics today. He affirmed that it had never been forbidden, implying strongly that it never could justly be forbidden. He instructed bishops to make generous use of it, and to allow any of their priests to say it if they were serving a stable group of faithful who requested it. Numerically, this tiny movement grew a great deal, but it also remains small. Perhaps 4 percent of Catholic parishes in the United States have a regular traditional Latin Mass.
In 2021, Pope Francis now revokes all this permission, because he says that the traditional Latin Mass threatens the unity of the Church and is being used to weaken adherence to the Second Vatican Council. (What this adherence consists of is maddeningly unclear, and always has been.) In the recent apostolic letter Traditionis Custodes, he takes the extraordinary step of requiring every diocesan priest to essentially “reapply for permission” to his bishop. He obliges the bishops to be suspicious of Catholic laymen and priests who like the traditional Latin Mass. He demands that bishops who want to expand its use to another parish in their diocese first get permission from Rome. It’s almost impossible to overstate how audacious and invasive this regime of micromanagement and heresy-hunting is. It’s clerical McCarthyism. And his vision is to see the celebration of the old Mass eventually abolished.
Stunning, sad, weird, baffling, vengeful, and crazy barely begin to describe this situation.
Mariam Ibraheem is a Christian from Sudan who has lived to tell the story of her death sentence. When she married a Christian man, she was informed she had broken apostasy law. She was raised by her Christian mother after her Muslim father abandoned her, so Sudanese authorities say she’s a Muslim apostate. For refusing to recant her faith, she was imprisoned with her nine-month-old son on Christmas Eve. While in prison, she unexpectedly learned she was pregnant; she was forced to give birth in shackles. She and her children were granted asylum by Italy in 2014, and they have since moved to the U.S. From the stage at the International Religious Freedom Summit, she declared, “My freedom is in Christ.” . . .
Before I even entered the conference hotel on the closing day, I met Father Joseph Fidelis Bature, a Nigerian priest who, with the help of Aid for the Church in Need, ministers to women who have been tortured by Boko Haram. When he and his bishop became aware of the horrific torture these women have undergone, he went to Italy for psychological training. He works with a team of counselors who occupy the women; most of Boko Haram’s victims are Christian, but some are Muslim women who wind up in the care of the Catholic church. Without going into details, he tells me that is it not unusual for these women to be raped in the most brutal ways — often involving a gun. He talks to me about his own faith and how God has been with him as he has faced the heart of evil and its ravages.
Let’s dip into some prog this weekend, outside the King Crimson/Yes/Rush holy trinity — for a band called Porcupine Tree. You may or may not have heard of them, but they were producing albums for 20 years. Their founder, Steven Wilson, had an auteur’s control over the direction of the band, later going on to forge a solo career . . . and along the way playing in a slew of other groups, remixing classic albums (including Yes albums), and helping produce one of the finest prog-metal albums ever made, Opeth’s Blackwater Park.
So he’s got credentials, okay?
Off their final studio album, The Incident, “Time Flies” is a song that proves its title. Easy-listening and immersive, it clocks in at over eleven minutes, and it doesn’t feel like it. Really. The lyrics, dealing with themes self-evident from the name, are eminently relatable for those of us who have made it past 35. And the solo is evidence that Wilson can make his guitar . . . do things . . . much in the way that David Gilmour can (rounding out the comparison, “Time Flies” sounds like an alternate take from Animals in spots). If impatience is your virtue, skip to the guitar stuff just past the six-minute mark. And the weird psychedelia of the video is the price of admission, sorry.
Joe Biden dealt his best bud Barack Obama many moments where the latter must have privately muttered Arrested Development’s best recurring line — “I’ve made a huge mistake.” One of them came early in their bro-ship, during that heady 2008 campaign season, when then–veep nominee Biden predicted Obama would be tested within six months of taking office.
And so it was presaged, and so it came to pass. Among other world events, massive crowds of Iranian protesters took to the streets as part of the Green Movement to challenge what they saw as a crooked election in mid-2009. Famously, President Obama, while calling on Iran’s government to stop using violence against its people, summed up the U.S. posture toward this upheaval as one of “bearing witness.”
Which is something you need when you’re getting a document notarized, not challenging a tyrannical regime.
Tehran responded by killing, jailing, and torturing those who dared defy the government, and eventually putting candidates Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi under house arrest. A decade later . . . they are still under house arrest.
It’s a cautionary tale, as we once again “bear witness,” to the inspiring protests in Cuba against that tyrannical regime. In response, the communist government is detaining dissidents and shutting off communications. A country with an estimated 130 or so political prisoners won’t hesitate to lock up a few more.
The latest dictator, who took over from Fidel’s brother Raúl, President Miguel Díaz-Canel, has encouraged his supporters to confront the protesters in the streets and promised that he is “willing to resort to anything” to keep the “revolution” in power.
It’s not idle talk. He has unleashed the so-called Black Berets of the interior ministry to beat people up and issued dog-whistle calls for security forces to take off their uniforms and pose as counter-protesters taking the fight to the anti-government demonstrators. The regime has an awful lot of informers and policemen, and no one should take its oppressive capacity lightly — suppressing dissent is its core competency.
What can we do? First, speak the truth.
To his credit, President Biden issued a statement on Monday hailing the “clarion call for freedom” by the protesters and calling on “the Cuban regime to hear their people and serve their needs at this vital moment.” That’s a fine sentiment, although it’d be even better if Biden acknowledged the simple truth that this communist government — like any of its kind — can never represent or provide for its people.
“I want to see my country free,” said Ariel Ramon, 50, who attended the demonstration near FIU with his wife and son. Ramon came to the U.S. 22 years ago. He wishes he was there now, but because he can’t be, “I need to be here,” he said, referring to the demonstration.
The protesters in Cuba are fighting for freedom, he said. “Not communism, not socialism. They want to be free, and now.”
So can we do more than “bear witness” here? If so, what?
Of course, interventions in Libya and Syria during the Arab Spring serve a cautionary tale of another sort, though the risk of more muscular meddling in the Caribbean is certainly tempered by the absence of bloodthirsty jihadists. NR’s editorial offers nonmilitary policy ideas — excerpted in more detail below — including helping Cubans bust through Internet shutdowns. Florida’s Ron DeSantis is among those discussing this, and Biden said Thursday the U.S. is considering the possibility. Marco Rubio spoke on the Senate floor this week about the urgent need for the U.S. to lift the cover other nations provide the regime. Writing from Spain, Itxu Díaz laments this collaboration and underscores the importance of an unequivocal U.S. and EU position. Néstor Carbonell, here, calls for establishing contact with reformists inside the government in support of a democratic transition and being prepared to counter any attempt by Russia/China to intervene. And Senator Ted Cruz writes about the need to project strength to the regime, and solidarity with the people.
It is perhaps ironic that Biden’s prediction for Obama’s early presidency included a comparison to JFK’s early foreign-policy crises. On Biden’s watch, as with JFK’s, we’re back to Cuba. Will it end any differently this time?
Is Cuba’s communist regime actually in danger? We can only hope. From the editorial, here are a few ways the U.S. can support those protesting:
The protests spread so quickly because word about them got around instantly on the Internet. Predictably the government has shut down Internet access. Willing companies operating in Cuba should be, if at all possible, enlisted to work toward circumventing this shutdown, and the U.S. should boost the broadcast power of Radio Marti.
We should keep up the diplomatic pressure. The administration should instruct its representatives at the United Nations to make raising the regime’s human-rights violations a priority there. It should make clear that Cuba will remain a State Department–designated state sponsor of terrorism for as long as the Communist Party remains in power, and that even further lifting of sanctions — an Obama-era initiative that only served the interests of the regime — is completely off the table.
In response to the coming crackdown, we should reduce both U.S. and Cuban Embassies to the chargé d’affaires level, and reduce the range of activities of Cuban diplomats in Washington and New York to 25 miles (the U.N. Embassy is a nest of spies, and there’s no reason to allow Cuban diplomats to travel the country giving anti-U.S. speeches at universities).
The protests are the first significant sign that the 60-year pall of fear in Cuba is beginning to lift. Now, it is the mafia in charge of the country that has to be afraid. They will surely do their worst to re-establish control. Let them know the world is watching and we know — and will do everything reasonable in our power to support — the rightful rulers of Cuba, its people. Cuba libre.
China’s immediate objective need not be conquering Taiwan and eliminating all resistance there. Rather, it need only neutralize all forces on Taiwan that can attack PLA ships and aircraft and thereby disrupt PLA operations in the western Pacific. Thus, truly disrupting Chinese plans would require preventing PLA sea and air control of Taiwan and preserving enough offensive capability on Taiwan to strike back, either against a PLA naval force or against bases on the mainland. This would require forward-deploying forces to Taiwan or having naval assets near enough to the First Island Chain to support Taiwan during China’s opening bombardment and naval envelopment.
However, current American force structure is not designed for this sort of engagement. The U.S. Navy’s combat power stems from its aircraft-carrier strike groups and submarine forces. Its “Expeditionary Strike Groups,” glorified amphibious-assault units, would be less relevant in a high-end naval conflict. Big-deck amphibs may field F-35B planes, but the lack of their own intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and targeting assets and the limited range of “vertical take-off and landing” (VTOL) fighters and “short take-off and vertical landing” (STOVL) fighters would hamper their effectiveness. American carrier strike groups are more effective: A two-carrier strike group with two full air wings would field 80 to 100 fighter aircraft. . . .
The United States is in a strategic bind. American naval forces are not optimized to fight within range of the enemy’s most lethal capabilities. But the most effective American strategy demands aggressive operations that would place American forces close to China’s coastline.
The danger in the current fight over CRT isn’t that the right overreaches, but that it settles for too little. . . .
It is a common conservative lament that almost all the institutions in American life are arrayed against us, and so it is. In this context, taking control of the K-12 schools in a swath of America would be a very big deal, involving the partial recovery of an enormously influential institution.
We obviously aren’t taking back the universities, the philanthropies, the media, and all the rest.
The schools, it turns out, are much more achievable. All it requires to make enormous progress is winning school-board seats in low-budget, low turnout (at least for now) elections in communities around the country.
Because education is still largely a local affair, much of the fight for schools can be carried out on markedly more favorable terrain than is found at the federal level. There are red areas in every state in the union, and the hyper-localism of school-board races gives angry parents a lot of sway.
The beauty of this moment, of course, is that there are many such angry parents.
Dominic Pino delivers the origin story of an entitlement, with a thorough history of how Congress birthed a broadband benefit under cover of pandemic:
The EBBP provides up to $50 per month to qualifying households for broadband service (up to $75 per month if the household is on tribal land). It also provides a one-time discount of up to $100 on a new computer purchase. . . .
“Emergency” is being used as a magic word to expand government, not a term to describe reality. The FCC bent over backwards to make exceptions and issue guidance in consultation with Internet-service providers at the start of the pandemic to make sure people’s Internet access wasn’t cut off. All things considered, it was quite successful in doing so. There may have been issues along the way, but the emergency was averted.
Nevertheless, Congress created the EBBP. It’s a temporary program, but will it remain one? Once millions of Americans are accustomed to receiving $50 per month for their Internet bills for possibly a year or more, will Congress have the will to take it away from them?
In recent days, daily COVID-related deaths in America have plummeted to just double-digits, the lowest since mid-March 2020. Despite worries about coronavirus variants, it turns out the vaccines are extremely well-suited to combat them, leaving very few vaccinated people hospitalized and even fewer dead. Cases are down, too, with new coronavirus diagnoses around 3 percent of what they were at the pandemic’s peak.
While there are still sadly a small number of holdouts, America’s overall vaccine response has yielded tremendous benefits to us at home and abroad. We’re doing more and masking less here in the U.S., and we’re able to travel more freely across the globe, too. In the spring, EU member states signaled they’d ease travel restrictions on Americans, ultimately lifting all bans on travelers from the U.S. last month. President Biden did not reciprocate. . . .
On the campaign trail, Biden told voters that he’d bring about a return to normal relations with Europe and an end to “erratic policies” from the White House. He has failed on both accounts. For an administration who promised us policies grounded in science and compassion, they deliver neither, and real people are hurting because of it.
The basic structure of the document is as follows: In each section, hundreds of words of uncontroversial but superfluous space-filling (“Robust competition is critical to preserving America’s role as the world’s leading economy”) lead to campaign-speech-style affinity signaling, otherwise known as applause lines. Except they’re not applause lines if they’re in a document no one is going to read, much less read aloud to a delirious audience. . . .
Now for the meat. (Phil Collins drum break in the middle of “In the Air Tonight,” please.)
The big payoffs — the wowsers, the money shots, the Captain-America-picks-up-Thor’s-hammer crowd pleasers, the passages that made all of those headline writers punch out their dreamy “Biden smites the Monopoly Man as the little guy regains hope” headlines — are the passages where Biden tells agency heads he appointed, and who work for him, that they have X amount of time to publish a proposed minor rule change so that the process of actually changing a minor rule can begin and the rule might actually conceivably get changed around the time the Washington football team wins its next Super Bowl.
The big consumer-protection detail relating to phones, for instance, is this: The head of the FCC is told to “consider . . . prohibiting unjust or unreasonable early termination fees for end-user communications contracts, enabling consumers to more easily switch providers.” Consider. NPR reported this as a move to “ban steep early termination bills.” I can consider buying a zeppelin, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.
Chick Corea died this past February. It would be risible to attempt summarizing the virtuosic jazz pianist’s career and contributions in this compact space; the man seems to have logged more minutes recorded than minutes on this earth, a Shakespeare-level output of artistic work. So here’s just one splash of creativity by which to remember him: “The Hilltop.”
From My Spanish Heart, the duet with Stanley Clarke on bass is a cheerful romp with a satisfyingly thumping motif. As it progresses, the song forces the listener to distinguish between the two types of strings, a muted piano imitating bass and natural harmonics imitating piano, until it all merges in a burst of musical color that would suit the Fantasia treatment. The notes fall back into place. The motif returns. Chick’s keystrokes whisper goodbye.
Reports have popped up sporadically over the past year that China is upping its online disinformation/propaganda game to give Russia a run for its money. Those in the American media who might elevate this pernicious garbage should take note.
Exhibit A is MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, who shared a state-sponsored cartoon mocking America over shooting deaths. It depicted a couple of neatly dressed chaps sharing a toast while a yokel brandishing firearms dances near a fresh grave (representing the victims) against a blood-spattered background. The caption: “How a gun-happy nation spends its #FourthofJuly weekend.”
With thumb and forefinger contemplatively stroking chin, Hayes tweeted, “Continue to be grimly fascinated by how much America’s truly exceptional levels of gun violence figure in the perception of the country around the world.”
The problem for Hayes is that the outlet is not a reflection of public opinion in China, much less around the world. It’s operated by the Chinese government itself which — as the United States’ chief geopolitical rival — has an interest in distracting from the genocide it is committing against its Uyghur Muslim minority, among other grievous human rights abuses.
It’s disturbing that Hayes would amplify and affirm such a stereotype propagated by the CCP, but it’s also worth simply noting the category error he’s made, having mistaken the motivated and shoddy sophistry of a genocidal regime for the perception of the United States “around the world.”
This is but a snapshot in Twitter time, but it speaks to a broader strategy of China’s shifting its online propaganda from nation-aggrandizing info ops to more Russian-ized digital campaigns with a malicious bent (including the spreading of disinformation about COVID-19), as detailed last fall by NBC.
What makes the above cartoon effective is that, as David notes, the inherent anti-gun message of it resonates with a certain segment of this country. Yet, once in a while, these operators set aside their M.O. of simply inflaming existing divisions and tell you what’s really on their minds. Jimmy Quinn finds such a message from Li Yang, China’s consul general in Rio de Janeiro, mocking — almost delighting in — the Surfside tragedy.
This is tantamount to a U.S. diplomat trolling Iran over earthquakes. It’s about as gross and bereft of class as one can imagine. And it’s worth remembering any time we see state-run outlets attempting social commentary on America.
Okay, let’s take a break here . . . and move to some in-house business of a much more positive persuasion.
Burke to Buckley Program Deadline Is Almost Here
Before commencing with the linking, let it be stated that applications are due July 15 (that’s just around the corner, folks) for the fall session of National Review Institute’s Burke to Buckley Program. Applicants have two options for in-person programs: Chicago, click here; or Dallas, click here.
These classes generally are designed for mid-career professionals, from a variety of vocations outside public policy. This program is a deep dive into the foundations of conservative thought — and, as a pleasant perk, participants also receive invitations to exclusive networking happy hours and other events when they occur.
For more information, visit the site and see NRI’s crisp description here:
The Program follows a syllabus, designed by NRI trustee and celebrated academic Daniel J. Mahoney, that fosters a rigorous examination of conservative principles and how they apply to the issues of the day. Incorporating readings from Burke to Buckley, the syllabus focuses on the foundations of conservative thought. For each session of the eight seminars, participants are expected to complete a reading assignment which typically takes between one and two hours to complete. During each meeting, participants will discuss the readings with a leading conservative thinker. Past discussion leaders have included luminaries such as Lee Edwards, Kathryn Jean Lopez, Bobbi Herzberg, John Hillen, Yuval Levin, Christopher Wolfe, and John Yoo.
Brian Allen has discovered an exhibition whose target demo is clearly me — a collection of photographs showing state capitols across the country. Aren’t these buildings magnificent? He provides a peek inside here: A Pictorial Tour of America’s State Capitols
And it’s time for the movie industry’s “midyear reckoning.” Armond breaks down his top picks of 2021 to date: Best Films of 2021 So Far
IN THE WORDS OF IAN MALCOLM, THE EXCERPTS . . . FIND A WAY
When our progressive friends talk about “socialism,” they inevitably point to some rich capitalist European country with a larger welfare state and higher taxes than ours, but actual socialism — central planning, government control of the commanding heights of the economy, state-run enterprises — looks a lot more like Pemex.
National oil companies are the living dinosaurs of socialism. Even as the purportedly socialist Nordic countries spent decades privatizing everything from state-owned banks in Norway to the postal service in Sweden, state-owned oil companies still soldiered on. In many cases (as in Norway’s Equinor, formerly Statoil) even those have been partially privatized and are operated as shareholder-owned firms in which there are private investors in addition to the state. As a rule of thumb, the more completely an oil company is controlled by the state — the more socialistic it is — the less responsibly it behaves on every criterion from the treatment of workers to corruption to environmental impact.
Pemex offers us its most sober assurance that there was no environmental damage associated with the fire that had the Gulf of Mexico doing its best impersonation of the Cuyahoga River in 1969. But only a fool takes such an organization at its word.
Pemex is a state-run enterprise that was created the way socialists prefer: by nationalizing the assets of privately owned oil companies in Mexico and reorganizing that expropriated wealth as a state-owned monopoly. It has one of the worst environmental records of any company in the world, and its executives consistently lie about, minimize, and cover up its misdeeds.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) deserve much of the blame for plummeting vaccination rates. Public-health officials have botched their pandemic response and messaging nearly every step of the way — inadvertently stoking skepticism of the vaccines.
Take the CDC’s worst mistake: its decision, in partnership with the Food and Drug Administration, to pause the use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine for ten days because of a risk of blood clots. The risk ended up being less than one in a million.
That overreaction triggered an immediate drop in public trust in the vaccine. Immediately after the CDC advised halting the J&J shot, the number of daily first doses of all vaccines administered plummeted by some 40 percent compared with weeks earlier.
Recent data have confirmed just how damaging that choice was. According to recent polling, more than 40 percent of unvaccinated Americans say that their biggest concern is that the J&J shot causes blood clots. More than one-quarter believe that every vaccine causes blood clots.
For most of the last year, activists have closed this South Minneapolis intersection to traffic, blocking the roads with concrete barriers and junk, and declaring it an autonomous zone, “The Free State of George Floyd.” In the wake of Floyd’s death last year under police officer Derek Chauvin’s knee, activists have been holding this neighborhood hostage, declaring they won’t return the streets until state and city leaders meet their 24 wide-ranging demands.
The streets are partially open to traffic now. The city cleared the barriers in early June. But activists have re-erected some of them, and their demands are still painted on the road.
. . . And in a city where crime is on the rise generally, violence has been particularly pronounced in and around the “sacred” square. Over the last year, at least two people have been murdered within one block of 38th and Chicago, and dozens more have been raped, robbed, or assaulted.
Neighbors and business owners who spoke to National Review said that living and working in the area over the past 13 months has been “frustrating” and “mentally draining.” Some older residents said they fear for their lives and the lives of their family members.
In early August 1974, the Rumsfelds were taking a much-needed vacation in Greece and the south of France. In the days before cell phones, this meant effective isolation from both Brussels and Washington. Rumsfeld had spent the early summer managing the most recent crisis between Greece and Turkey, ostensibly both NATO allies, more or less single-handedly as the administration increasingly turned inward to protect the embattled president. He needed a break. He knew events back home were serious, but it had not occurred to him that Nixon might resign. The end therefore came as a surprise to him. On a drive through Saint-Tropez, Joyce gently insisted he pull over and look at the newspaper she had been reading. The news was sensational. She didn’t want to upset the children in the back seat, as they knew the president. According to the reports, Nixon was close to becoming the first American president to resign, which would make Rumsfeld’s old friend from Congress, Gerald Ford, president of the United States. When they arrived at their destination, there was a telephone message that the vice president’s office wanted Rumsfeld to fly home immediately. He was actually in the air when Nixon dramatically departed by helicopter from the White House on August 9, 1974. Rumsfeld was picked up at the airport by his former congressional aide Dick Cheney in an ancient VW bug. They went straight to the White House to begin the transition to the Ford administration, in which they would both serve at the highest levels.
Looking for a song for your summer? Something that captures the roll-the-top-down, hit-the-road impulse that, if airline and hotel prices are any gauge, we’re all feeling nowadays? Rebirth Brass Band and, specifically, “What Goes Around Comes Around,” should fit the bill and then some.
It’s the rare immediately catchy song that doesn’t get any less infectious on repeated listens. Just try not to swerve whilst driving.
And, for a bonus track, James writes in with a “change of pace” for this section, offering Khatia Buniatishvili’s rendition of Schubert’s Impromptu No. 3 in G-flat Major. The masterful performance can be heard here. Enjoy.
The American Revolution was a squalid, miserable affair for the winning side. While the British were able to, for a time, have their pick of house and harvest in New York City, the Patriots often didn’t have so much as shoes.
Existence was even more wretched for those taken captive. This account, recalled in the rather obscure History of Long Island (1839), comes from one Alexander Coffin, held aboard the notorious Jersey (the British prison ship, not the state):
I soon found that every spark of humanity had fled the breasts of the British officers who had charge of that floating receptacle of human misery. . . . Many of the prisoners, during the severity of winter, had scarcely clothes sufficient to cover their nakedness . . . we were fed (if fed it might be called) with provisions not fit for any human being to make use of; putrid beef and pork, and worm-eaten bread. . .
Another account survives from Captain Jabez Fitch, who was taken prisoner in 1776 and did 18 months on the ships. In this passage — transcribed, to the best of this writer’s ability, from Fitch’s manuscript — he recalls a fellow captive who,
after he was taken and stripped . . . [was positioned] as a mark for them to shoot at for diversion or practice, by which he [suffered] two severe wounds, one in the neck and the other in the arm.
He lived, briefly, but his captors went on to “destroy him” and hundreds of others by means of starvation.
Fitch’s account was logged from a time when victory was far from certain. Yorktown was five years away. What on earth could have motivated these colonist-soldiers, and all who would join, to keep going?
Thomas Paine’s immortal words, from The American Crisis pamphlets beginning that same momentous year, help explain the case (in part, one of sheer survival) as it was made at the time:
America will never be happy till she gets clear of foreign dominion . . .
There are cases which cannot be overdone by language, and this is one. There are persons, too, who see not the full extent of the evil which threatens them; they solace themselves with hopes that the enemy, if he succeed, will be merciful. It is the madness of folly, to expect mercy from those who have refused to do justice . . .
Howe is mercifully inviting you to barbarous destruction, and men must be either rogues or fools that will not see it. I dwell not upon the vapors of imagination; I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as A, B, C, hold up truth to your eyes.
“I dwell not upon the vapors.” . . . Indeed, pity the sap who might enter any rhetorical ring with Thomas Paine. More to the point, these writings serve us a powerful reminder: American independence — with it, the country we have today — was never a sure thing. It took the collective will, wisdom, wit, and warfare of thousands to accomplish. It took the cooperation and faith of generations to uphold. This weekend, as we celebrate this occasion, we should contemplate not only this historic mobilization of national spirit, but all that has gone right since — even with our current angst over the uglier parts of the American story and the attendant legacy of racism.
The Revolution didn’t devour its own. Its leaders died in their beds. At the end of long lives, sworn political enemies John Adams and Thomas Jefferson struck up a respectful correspondence, and both died on July 4, 1826, still honored 50 years after the Revolution.
When the country’s politics factionalized after the war, no one was guillotined or exiled for his beliefs. Instead, the profound disagreements between the two sides played out in battles in the newspapers and at the ballot box.
There is nothing at all wrong with our bitching and moaning all day about the government or the culture or this or that; indeed, as citizens, that is our right and our responsibility. But it is a great sin to do so absent context, and the reality is that Americans who are alive in 2021 have won the grand prize in the cosmic lottery.
And it all started with what Paine, years after publication of his above call to arms, happily declared “the greatest and completest revolution the world ever knew.” In that closing message, he spoke to the opportunity ahead:
To see it in our power to make a world happy — to teach mankind the art of being so — to exhibit, on the theatre of the universe a character hitherto unknown — and to have, as it were, a new creation intrusted to our hands, are honors that command reflection, and can neither be too highly estimated, nor too gratefully received.
Food for thought, along with the following links, while we consume grilled food for digestion this wonderful weekend.
New York City’s complete botching of vote tallies in the mayoral primary this week neither inspires confidence nor reflects competence. And it raises some serious questions about ranked-choice voting. From the editorial:
Residents of the world’s greatest city deserve better than this craziness, which may not be sorted out until mid July. Elections should be well-regulated, transparent, decisive, and as speedy as possible. Gothamites are instead dealing with an opaque, confusing, slow-moving monstrosity understood by almost nobody.
Other cities, and Maine, have implemented a similar system. Let them take note: RCV is proving to be a debacle for New York City. Some would argue that the New York City Board of Elections was never a synonym for competence in the first place. And that point is well taken. But the complexity of tabulating votes in this system clearly played a role in this bungle. Elections not only don’t need to be complicated, they shouldn’t be.
Yeah, the government illegally took their property, but it’s just for another four weeks.
That is the only way to read Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s maddening, though mercifully brief, opinion late yesterday, in which he joined the Supreme Court’s three reliable lefties (Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan) and Chief Justice Machiavelli (a.k.a Roberts) in upholding the eviction moratorium. In our editorial last week, National Review called for the moratorium to be ended — which is what four conservative justices (Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, and Barrett) believe should be done.
Kavanaugh concedes that District Judge Dabney Friedrich was correct in ruling that the CDC lacked legal authority to seize from property owners their right to evict tenants who stopped paying their rent. Yet, he declined to disturb this lawless bullying because it is scheduled to lapse on July 31. . . .
The CDC has gone too far, so why should the Supreme Court abide such lawlessness for one more moment?
Rich questions why the disproportionate number of black homicide victims has not galvanized a movement by now:
The basic picture is that blacks are about 13 percent of the population and half of all homicide victims.
The most reliable figures come from before the current surge in murders. A report from a couple of gun-control groups broke down numbers from the Centers for Disease Control.
In 2019, black males accounted for half of the gun homicides in the United States, or 7,590 of the 14,414 total, with black females accounting for almost another 1,000.
Compared with the 7,590 black males killed in 2019, 2,261 of the murder victims were white males, and 1,955 were Hispanic males. In short, blacks were 63 percent of male gun-murder victims.
The number, as you might expect, is even starker for young black males, ages 15 to 34. They were 37 percent of gun-murder victims even though they are only 2 percent of the population; the rate at which they are shot and killed is 20 times higher than for white males of the same age.
And it bears repeating that Paul Gosar’s association with Nicholas Fuentes is not okay, not in the slightest. From John McCormack, on why:
Late Monday night, a flyer began circulating on Twitter that advertised an upcoming fundraiser hosted by Nicholas Fuentes, a vile racist and anti-Semite, for Republican congressman Paul Gosar of Arizona. “He is really, honestly, hands down the best congressman in America,” Fuentes said of Gosar in a livestream that same night.
A few hours after the flyer for the fundraiser — which Fuentes has reportedly confirmed he is hosting — began to circulate, Gosar responded on Twitter. “Not sure why anyone is freaking out,” he wrote. “I’ll say this: there are millions of Gen Z, Y and X conservatives. They believe in America First. They will not agree 100% on every issue. No group does. We will not let the left dictate our strategy, alliances and efforts. Ignore the left.” . . .
The media and the Left frequently cry wolf about bigotry, but there should be no doubt about Fuentes. He once called a writer a “race traitor” because he “work[s] for Jews.” He opposes interracial marriage and has praised segregation.
“Enough with the Jim Crow stuff. Who cares? Oh, they had to drink out of a different water fountain, big f***ing deal. Oh no, they had to go to a different school,” Fuentes said in one video. “It’s better for them, it’s better for us.”
“I’m getting really sick of world Jewry — that’s what it is! what it is! — running the show, and we can’t talk about it,” he said in another video.
Perhaps no genre triggers revulsion like “jazz fusion.” But once you work through these psychosomatic complications, the Mahavishnu Orchestra catalogue has a lot to love. The always-changing ensemble scorches on songs like “Birds of Fire,” but here’s a wonderful deep track included on The Lost Trident Sessions called “I Wonder.” Carried along by a single, briefly pizzicato progression set to an odd time signature, the piece builds into a synth frenzy. And unlike much in the jazz-fusion genre, this has the added benefit of being short. For a slight variation — one with a bit more edge to it — members Jerry Goodman and Jan Hammer performed the same song on their album, Like Children.
Trying to keep up with every half-baked, hyperbolic piece of trollery on social media is a futile charge, but these strands do matter when they start to interlock to form a narrative.
Here’s one narrative taking shape: Those who don’t want critical race theory (CRT) taught in the schools would prefer that lesson plans default to a supposed status quo of covering up the national stain of slavery and the raw struggles of the Civil Rights Movement.
As Joy Reid recently put it: “What do you WANT taught about U.S. slavery and racism? Nothing? Or what?” This accompanying tweet also made the rounds: “Currently, most k-12 students already learn a kind of Confederate Race Theory, whereby the Daughters of the Confederacy long ago imposed a version of history wherein slavery was not so bad and had nothing to do with the civil war, and lynchings and violence never happened.”
Not sure what schools she attended. Dan McLaughlin correctly labeled this “nonsense.”
But it’s nonsense that has legs, and that will continue to coarsen an already-vitriolic debate until some measure of honesty is restored. The notion that America’s public schools simply don’t teach about these momentous eras in American history keeps popping up, implying GOP-led state efforts to curtail CRT or related instruction are conspiring to keep it that way. Here’s one meme that riffs on this idea. And here’s The Daily Show quipping that those states have made it illegal to teach about Juneteenth. It’s just a meme. Yes. It’s just a joke. Yes. But this coincides with an increasingly regnant narrative that CRT critics want to suppress basic history — here’s an example of this seeping into news coverage — and that it’s secretly funded, non-organic astroturf anyway.
[T]he New Yorker’s Jane Mayer suggested last week that the escalating pushback against critical race theory “has all the red flags of an dark money astroturf campaign.” We are stuck, it seems, in Stage One of the Kübler-Ross Scale of Progressive Political Grief.
If they wish to, figures such as Mayer can spend the next few years insisting that the resistance to critical race theory that we are seeing from parents across the country is little more than a mirage. . . . Sneering, scoffing, and laughing off the revolt, they can submit in anger that those complaining about the development are suffering from “white fragility” or are engaged in a “moral panic” or are just trying desperately to prevent their kids from learning about slavery and civil rights.
What they can’t do, however, is make any of that true.
The merest glimpse at public meetings on the topic, and the raw emotions of concerned parents, should disabuse anyone of the progressive notion that this is a concocted “Astroturf” movement put up by shadowy right-wing billionaires. It turns out that ordinary Americans and first-generation immigrants want their children to learn American ideals instead of Ivy League faculty-lounge jargon.
As for the argument that lawmakers and parents are confusing CRT for run-of-the-mill equity instruction, Charles counters:
America’s insurgent parents are worried about the pedagogical consequences of critical race theory, rather than about the existence or minutiae of critical race theory itself. . . . As Columbia’s John McWhorter has observed, there is nothing at all wrong with alarmed parents describing as “critical race theory” the key premises to which they object, given that those presumptions are “descended from” the “teachings” of critical race theory, and that “their architects openly bill themselves as following the tenets of CRT.”
Public-education curricula are not perfect. In some cases, they’re not even adequate, and that is surely the case for certain districts’ teaching of civil rights and civil war in America. But improving them starts from the baseline of not misrepresenting the current state of instruction, or this debate. Students are taught about slavery, about its role in causing the Civil War*, and about the Civil Rights Movement.
CBS last year published the findings of an investigation into how black history is taught, reporting: “While most state standards do directly mention the teaching of two defining moments in American history, slavery and the civil rights movement, what states expect their students to learn about these topics can vary drastically.”
In 2017, National Council for the Social Studies published an essay noting that “the legitimacy of K-12 Black history as an academic subject for schoolchildren is largely unquestioned,” that one survey found civil-rights topics are among the most popular, and that several states have passed black-history-education mandates. The same essay lamented how instruction nevertheless can be superficial or spotty and offered a number of suggestions (for instance, “enslavement should not be the first contact school children have with Black history”).
Both reports, and others, show clear room for improvement — including by ensuring students learn the fundamental detail that slavery was the primary cause of the Civil War (*districts are not necessarily as consistent on this as they should be) — but also make clear these subjects are, of course, being taught in the schools now. To suggest otherwise is just plain nonsense.
Accuracy about this, and about what’s being proposed, would help. Intentional or not, this Post report correctly describing Florida’s efforts was a step in the right direction.
Meanwhile, NR has endeavored to cover this issue thoroughly. Cameron Hilditch has a helpful “reader” on the matter — with highlights from this publication and others, from all sides. And in case you missed them, Ryan Mills and Rich Lowry both published detailed accounts earlier this month of curriculum fights at the local level. Ryan posted a fresh account of Loudoun County’s this week. Which brings us to the newest issue of NR — and the cover story on CRT, by Michael Brendan Dougherty. You can read it here.
Here’s more, on subjects CRT and otherwise, from the week.
Moms are rising up in counterrevolutionary revolt. I’ll say it again, moms are rising up in counterrevolutionary revolt against critical race theory, “anti-racism,” the introduction of the 1619 Project into high-school curricula, and the suddenly invasive demands of diversity, equity, and inclusion consultants who are being hired by their school districts. Although progressives wish, in vain, that this movement were an Astroturf operation run by shadowy right-wing donor networks, it has been springing up in school districts in reaction to initiatives led by administrators themselves.
Tatiana Ibrahim stood up in front of the Carmel school board in Putnam County, N.Y, and denounced what she termed the “communist values” that teachers and administrators in the district are promoting. “Stop indoctrinating our children. Stop teaching our children to hate the police. Stop teaching our children that if they don’t agree with the LGBT community, they’re homophobic,” Ibrahim demanded. “You have no idea of each child’s life,” she said, before announcing, in an only-in-America moment, that she is a Christian and her daughter is a Muslim.
The never-ending quest to find some actual workers who support the socialist agenda crashed into the following number [Tuesday] night in New York City: 46–17. Those two figures are from the Bronx, the poorest, least white, least-educated, and hence most proletarian borough of New York City. Ex-cop Eric Adams, preaching the gospel of law and order, won 46 percent of the first batch of votes tallied in the Bronx. Lawyer Maya Wiley, an MSNBC socialist campaigning on defunding the police, got 17 percent. Adams also trounced Wiley in Staten Island, the borough that for decades has been New York City’s redoubt for the white middle class and working class. In Staten Island, Adams beat Wiley by a score of 31–13 in early tallies.
Socialist heads are spinning, but New York City advances a trend seen elsewhere in the country, in which some of the least-affluent minorities are moving right even as affluent whites are moving left. Just as South Florida Latinos don’t want to hear about socialism, neither do Bronxites. (The Bronx is the only majority-Hispanic borough of the five that constitute New York City; a 2013 survey estimated the non-Hispanic white population to be 10 percent.)
The socialists just can’t seem to process enough white people through Oberlin to get themselves to a majority, even in their intellectual capital, New York City.
There have been some salient examples lately of the Left devouring its own (likethis) with unrelenting enforcement of ever-changing standards of conduct . . . but this takes the cake in the intramural culture wars. Caroline spotlights a Seattle LGBT event charging “reparations” to white attendees:
In the city of Seattle, an organization called Capitol Hill Pride hosts an annual festival to celebrate the LGBTQ community.
Capitol Hill Pride’s leaders say their goal is to create a welcoming environment for people from all walks of life in Seattle, so when they learned that an LGBT event — set to take place in the city’s Jimi Hendrix Park on Saturday — will bar white people unless they pay “reparations,” they sent a letter to the Seattle Human Rights Commission demanding an ethics investigation into what it said constituted “reverse discrimination.”
Organizers of the black-exclusive event, coined “Take B(l)ack Pride,” advertised that “white allies and accomplices are welcome to attend, but will be charged a $10 to $50 reparations fee (and given a wrist band as proof of payment.” The ad suggested that the funds raised will go towards subsidizing black and brown trans and queer members as well as performers at the parade.
In an interview with National Review, Capitol Hill Pride Director Charlette LeFevre confirmed her group’s rejection of the initiative and clarified their own mission: “We’re all inclusive, not exclusive.”
Meanwhile, not even Middle-earth is safe from the mind-bruising vocabulary of the woke. Bradley J. Birzer lets the discussion titles for the Tolkien Society’s upcoming annual conference speak for themselves (while speculating that an upcoming Amazon series is the reason for this bizarre exercise):
Discussions, as listed at the website, include: “Gondor in Transition: A Brief Introduction to Transgender Realities in The Lord of the Rings”; “Pardoning Saruman?: The Queer in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings”; “The Lossoth: Indigeneity, Identity, and Antiracism”; “The Invisible Other: Tolkien’s Dwarf-Women and the ‘Feminine Lack’”; “Queer Atheists, Agnostics, and Animists, Oh, My!”; and, most enigmatic, “‘Something Mighty Queer’: Destabilizing Cishetero Amatonormativity in the Works of Tolkien.”
While I have yet to read the papers and know only the titles for reference — some of which are so obscure and obtuse that I remain in a state of some confusion — let’s, for a moment, consider “Pardoning Saruman? The Queer in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.” In what way is Saruman, an incarnate Maia angel, sent by the Valar to do good in Middle-earth (Saruman really fails at this), queer? Is he in love with himself? True, with his immense ego, he might very well have been. Is he in love with Orthanc? Perhaps, but there is nothing in the text to support this. Is he in love with Radagast the Brown? No, he considers him a fool. Is he in love with Gandalf the Grey? No, he’s jealous of Gandalf and had been from their first arrival in Middle-earth. Is he in love with his bred Orcs? Wow, this would be twisted. Is he in love with Wormtongue? If so, nothing will come of it, for the lecherous Wormtongue has a leering and creepy gaze only for Eowyn. And, so, I remain baffled by all of this. Nothing about a queer Saruman seems to make sense. . . .
Still, aside from simply being woke and employing outrageous jargon, the Tolkien Society is anticipating a successful Amazon.com series. It’s trying to get in front of the series and influence it.
It is not much justified as an economic measure — and never really was. Our left-wing friends talk about landlords as though they were all twirling their mustaches like Snidely Whiplash when not rolling in piles of gold ducats like Scrooge McDuck. In reality, many landlords are small businesses or individuals, some of whom have low incomes. Low-income landlords tend to derive a greater share of their household incomes from rent than do higher-income landlords, meaning that eviction moratoria do not prevent economic hardship but merely transfer it from one party to another.
Check out our own Daniel Tenreiro on the Capital Record podcast, talking media bias, Big Tech, and more with David L. Bahnsen.
Time to get a little bit weird. This sign-off segment has focused in recent weeks on jazz and folk, but the penman behind the WJ has proclivities for much more insufferable genres (heard of math metal?). And one of the more insufferable things this writer does in furtherance of his insufferable interests is to make a point of visiting a local record store whenever setting foot in a foreign country, and picking up something representative. So one long weekend in Reykjavík, this habit led to the discovery of an Icelandic band called Sólstafir. Atmospheric, haunting, bracing, yet desolate . . . these are all adjectives conjured by this cover art, for an album that contains this title track, “Ótta,” to which all those same adjectives apply. As might one of those waves on the cover (and by the way, waves in Iceland are serious business, responsible for tourist deaths much like bison attacks in Yellowstone), the song takes you away. . . .
Perhaps this author is looking back fondly through hilarity-colored glasses, but there once was a time when comedians could ding the leading Democrats of the day — even the Big Dog himself — without fear of an audience or, worse, an online reprisal. Jon Stewart came along and brought comedy deeper into the political space, essentially merging the two, and did so from a liberal perspective during the height of the Bush-whacking years. Yet he was, and remains, a free thinker — an undeniably adroit one — who could agitate his own side, and both sides, when he deemed fit.
He was, in a sense, a transitional figure, bridging an era of political humor that used the former in service of the latter, and a modern era that flips the formula — so that the jokes, often stale and predictable, serve the cause.
So when mentor Jon Stewart joined protégé Stephen Colbert earlier this week and took it upon himself to savage the Chinese government and attempt to convert anyone still denying the plausibility of the COVID lab-leak theory, whether out of stubborn loyalty to one side’s narrative or for some other reason, it was a bellow from that era not quite bygone. It was an effective one. His Sauron’s eye for absurdity locked on its target and stated what is so painfully obvious to anyone willing to think outside partisan team-playing:
The disease is the same name as the lab. That’s just a little too weird, don’t you think? . . . What about this . . . there’s been an outbreak of chocolaty goodness near Hershey, Pennsylvania. What do you think happened? “Oh, I don’t know, maybe a steam shovel mated with a cocoa bean.” Or it’s the f***ing chocolate factory!
He’s since endured arrows, of course, from the press, which burst forth with copious advisories that comedians should not be treated as experts, mind you. But the message made it through to those Americans whose jobs don’t involve a content-management system (and to paraphrase Sideshow Bob, yes, this author recognizes the irony of using a CMS in order to decry it). The audience applauded, recall, when Jon Stewart pivoted to his lab-leak argument, and then continued to hoot and cheer as he steamrolled his sparring partner.
Huzzah, hallelujah, and hot damn, that was good television. For nearly a year and a half, we’ve been told that an extremely far-fetched theory about the origins of the coronavirus was the only acceptable story, and that an extremely plausible explanation about the origins of the coronavirus was “debunked,” “disproven,” “nutty,” a “conspiracy theory,” and just plain unsayable.
Conservatives can deal out unpleasant truths all we want, but the culture at large has so marginalized us that nothing we say really breaks through, and both the legacy media and Silicon Valley tech firms are increasingly brazen about simply denying conservatives access to the microphone. Stewart is different. He is worshipped by the left-of-center media. At his peak, he seemed to enjoy as many adoring profiles as he had actual viewers. When he speaks, lefties listen.
As for Colbert, the study in contrasts didn’t go so well. Peter Spiliakos puts it succinctly here: “Colbert is terrified of his Very Online fanbase. . . . It is ironic because, 15 years ago, Colbert was a more original comic than Stewart, but the demands of nightly doses of craven partisanship for year upon year have ruined him.”
For the Very Online, don’t expect Jon Stewart’s time back in the late-night spotlight to sway minds. But for everyone else, his stating-the-obvious routine resonates. Public pressure will keep growing on the Biden administration, the WHO, and the scientific community as a whole to renew the COVID-origins investigation with vigor.
The message: Ya’ know, that Jon Stewart’s got a point.
More broadly, the Daily Show ex-host’s bit — flecked with his trademark flourishes of darting around the set, speaking directly to the camera, grimacing, going nasally, cracking up at his counterpart’s occasional riposte to restore levity — is a reminder that it’s okay, once in a while, to perceive that one’s political others are not all cretinous mouth-breathers; to weigh competing ideas before assuming the right one; and to say, “Wait a minute, the other side’s got a point.”
Enough with the yappin’. Let’s get with the linkin’.
OUR EXCERPTS ARE FREE-RANGE AND GRASS-FED, AND YOU CAN TASTE THE DIFFERENCE
Biden’s highly anticipated, highly hyped summit with Putin ended with agreements of dubious worth — and a typically fact-free Putin press conference afterward. More from the editorial:
If the Russian president has any intention of changing direction, he didn’t indicate it during his solo falsehood-filled press conference that followed the three-hour meeting with Biden and his aides. Putin appeared to relish his role at the podium, hitting softball questions from Russian state media and parrying U.S. reporters’ queries with what Biden later termed “ridiculous” whataboutist answers. He denied that Russia perpetrates cyberattacks, instead claiming that the U.S. leads the world in the field. Asked repeatedly about his penchant for jailing, shooting, and poisoning Russian journalists and opposition figures, Putin invoked Guantanamo Bay and the U.S. war in Afghanistan, said he doesn’t want a Russian equivalent of Black Lives Matter and the Capitol riots, and defended his brutal squelching of dissent by citing the arrests of the January 6 rioters. . . .
The two sides agreed to a strategic dialogue that seeks to “lay the groundwork for future arms control and risk reduction measures” and to each return its respective ambassador to the other’s capital following a recent dispute in which Russia recalled its Washington envoy after Biden called Putin a “killer.” But potential bilateral arms-control agreements with Russia carry the risk of unacceptably constraining us in the Indo-Pacific unless they include China, too, and getting Russia’s ambassador back to Washington isn’t exactly an urgent priority, especially given Putin’s aggression in recent months.
I keep thinking of Cecilia Paul. She was one of the foster mothers who poured her heart out to vulnerable children in Philadelphia. She died over the course of the court case that was decided today by the Supreme Court, in a unanimous ruling against the City of Philadelphia. Philadelphia severed its contract with Catholic Social Services because of Catholic Church teaching on marriage – a position that most Democrats had relatively a half second ago. . . .
Adults have some fundamental differences these days. We’re not going to come to agreements anytime soon. But can we agree that children should not suffer more than they already are? Let Catholic Social Services serve according to conscience and let there be other choices. We need to learn to live together again, and with the best interest of suffering children as a priority.
From what Biden tells us, in the three years before his father announced his presidential candidacy, he spent night after night crawling into the worst neighborhoods in America hundreds of times, probably thousands of times, dealing with the worst characters, flush with money and willing to do almost anything for the next hit. Advantage was taken by certain fellows whose specialty it is to separate crack fiends from their money. . . .
Watching Biden’s insane drug odyssey crash across the country against a backdrop of big-time politics recalls the adventures of a previous Hunter, one who was actually sharp and talented. There are even several mentions of ibogaine, the drug Hunter S. Thompson made famous when he fancifully accused a straitlaced presidential candidate, Ed Muskie, of being in its grip in 1972. As for Hunter S. Biden, well, imagine Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas as rewritten by a dullard lawyer with a vestigial sense of privileged pompositude and a lot of hurt feelings about his mistreatment by Fox News Channel. Why, how dare they accuse this upstanding citizen of being some sort of icon of corruption? All he did was accept a million bucks a year from a Ukrainian energy firm in exchange for attending two annual meetings, then set out to blow it all on crack and strippers.
Fundamentally, the conflict is about whether students should be educated to have an allegiance to the historic American nation and its institutions, or whether they should be educated to have an allegiance to a notion of “justice” and to an egalitarian ethic that fundamentally seeks to critique those institutions, radically reform them, or replace them altogether.
This conflict is the result of a broken truce. The uneasy but mostly accepted way of teaching American history at the secondary level was to reconcile the above impulses by teaching an allegiance to the historic American nation and its institutions, precisely because that nation and its institutions embodied or enabled the pursuit of a more perfect and just union and the spread of democratic values. In effect, American high-school education took from Martin Luther King Jr. the notion of our Founding and its documents as promissory notes. This truce, if it was noticed at all, tended to be critiqued only by paleoconservatives.
But, in the last six or seven years, that truce has become untenable as it has come under assault from the Left. As predicted, progressives have adopted a set of ideological commitments — and experienced a series of setbacks — that impel them to reject major features of our Constitution. They are objections to its most anti-majoritarian features — the Electoral College, the Senate, and, in many cases, the Bill of Rights. The far more aggressive critique of the Founders and their work serves this larger agenda of constitutional reform and revolution. The pedagogy in colleges has finally worked its way down to the secondary level.
The battle lines were drawn. There were dueling petitions for and against the class. And as has happened repeatedly in schools nationwide, parents and community members quickly retreated to their respective ideological camps.
To opponents of the course, it was apparent this was an attempt to inject critical race theory into the school, even if the syllabus doesn’t specifically mention it. “Anyone who believes this particular course is not critical race theory doesn’t understand what critical race theory is,” said Maggie McCluskey, a mom who helped lead the opposition to the class.
To supporters of the course, the opponents were flaunting their white privilege and trying to whitewash American history. “Many critics want to shroud themselves in the European fairytale that downplays the role of slavery and racism in our country’s foundation,” wrote Bonnie Jean Feldkamp, a newspaper columnist and Fort Thomas native who in May attended a packed community meeting about the proposed course.
The Kentucky case is emblematic of the cultural battles raging across the country in American schools, both public and private. While much of the attention has focused on schools on the liberal coasts or in big progressive cities, groups such as Parents Defending Education have noted that in many cases, like in Fort Thomas, the battles are raging in conservative communities in red states, including Utah, Oklahoma, Texas, and Florida.
Mel, from . . . well, he didn’t give a location, so we’ll arbitrarily assign him one . . . Mel, from Tucson (maybe?), writes in with a suggested tune, having noticed with some delight our mention of Don Menza’s solo from “Channel One Suite” a couple weeks back. He recommends, as strongly as one can, the sax man Pete Christlieb — specifically his work on “Limehouse Blues.”
This was a new one to me, and one gem of a discovery. You can listen to it here. Christlieb has had a rich career, playing with The Tonight Show house band for many years, acts ranging from Natalie Cole to Steely Dan (listen for him in “Deacon Blues”), and his own ensembles.
Now, the Coda has gotten a wee bit sax heavy in recent weeks, so promises, promises to veer off into other instrumental space soon — that is, unless Bleeding Gums Murphy’s estate releases a posthumous track. That’s two Simpsons references in this newsletter, for those keeping score at home.
This week I (Isaac Schorr) have been tasked with filling in for the irreplaceable Judson Berger, who has himself only recently taken over for the inimitable Jack Fowler.
It’s a grueling charge, but one I have nevertheless accepted — partially out of a sense of duty and partially out of youthful bravado. Fortunately for you and me, my colleagues brought their A-game during my appointed term, so with any luck I can turn in a replacement-level performance.
One figure not up-to-snuff this week was Vice President Kamala Harris, who, in trying to strike a balance between compassion and common sense on immigration issues, struck neither. In Guatemala, Harris delivered a message to migrants who might consider showing up at the U.S. border: “If you come to our border, you will be turned back. Do not come.” It’s a good, humane message to send, but as Jim Geraghty observes, it arrives at far too late a date.
Dan McLaughlin also knocked Harris, not only for her misleadingly permissive campaign talk, but also her meandering, nonsensical answers to simple questions about the border now. Questions such as: Why she hasn’t visited it yet? Her explanation is “I haven’t been to Europe. And I mean, I don’t — I don’t understand the point that you’re making.” No, no she doesn’t.
But just how bad are things? Surely not that ba– . . . oh wait, there’s Jim Geraghty again to point out that over 180,000 migrants were caught trying to cross the border illegally in May. “This is the third straight month to hit a new high in the past two decades,” writes our in-house Good News Correspondent.
But let’s set her troubles aside for a moment to ponder one of our own in the latest edition of National Review magazine (you may have heard of it): Woke Capitalism! What is it? How much of a problem is it, really? And how do we fight back? We’re asking the right questions and providing the correct answers. More on this later.
Now, enough yammering — on to the good stuff!
NAME. RANK. LINK.
The U.S. Innovation and Competition Act could have been a meaningful step toward getting serious about competing with Communist China, instead it’s more like a shuffle in what can — we suppose — generously be described as the right direction: The Disappointing Senate China Bill
Do anti-racists fantasize about “unloading a revolver into the head” of all people with a certain skin tone. Charlie Cooke thinks not:
Today’s edition of the Washington Post comes with the comforting news that the psychiatrist who told an audience at Yale’s medical school that “she fantasized about killing White people” was, in fact, simply expressing to the world how deeply she cares. In an April 6 lecture, prosaically titled “Psychopathic Problem of the White Mind,” Aruna Khilanani explained that she dreamed of “unloading a revolver into the head of any white person that got in my way, burying their body, and wiping my bloody hands as I walked away relatively guiltless with a bounce in my step, like I did the world a fu**ing favor.” Perhaps because they lacked the tools to interrogate and educate themselves, some observers responded rather negatively to these ideas. But, as Khilanani clarifies today, they have got her completely wrong: What she said was not the product of a demented, bigoted, Charles Manson–esque mind, but of a legitimate “frustration about minority mental health,” a desire to “have more serious conversations about race,” and, ultimately, love. Khilanani does what she does, she told the Post, “because I care.”
Well, that’s a relief.
It does not take an exquisitely trained mind to understand why the oft-trailed and much-coveted “Conversation about Race in America” never actually happens in earnest — and, indeed, why it is unlikely ever to happen in earnest. Thanks to the ever-shifting pseudo-scientific nonsense that underpins almost every contemporary “academic” framework, the plain words a given person uses when discussing race do not tend to matter much these days. What matters, instead, is how our self-appointed arbiters of taste wish those words to be perceived. Thus it is that any self-evidently racist comment made by a favored player is immediately justified in terms that would typically be reserved for an especially pretentious exhibit of modern art — “the intermittently blank canvas explores the tension between sound and electricity in an era of existential dread” — while the jokes, mainstream political opinions, unfortunate coincidences, and childhood indiscretions of the disfavored become crystallized into the permanent mark of the Klan. Who, in his right mind, would consent to talk on the record under these rules?
I was a prosecutor for a long time, and prosecutors are in the business of proving stuff. Every good one will tell you that the best case is a strong circumstantial case. It is the most airtight and least problematic kind of proof.
Circumstantial cases are a tapestry of objectively provable facts. No one of those facts, by itself, establishes the ultimate conclusion for which all the interconnected facts collectively stand. Instead, each single fact supports a subordinate proposition that must be true in order for the ultimate conclusion to be valid. Stitch enough of those subordinate propositions together and the ultimate conclusion is inexorable.
We have a natural human reluctance to trust circumstantial evidence. In our own lives, we know what we know — or at least what we think we know — because we have lived it. We don’t need to run down a plethora of clues to grasp our own experiences. We can describe them firsthand. If we worked in a lab that came under scrutiny, we could tell everyone how an accident there happened — or assure them that it didn’t happen. Ergo, we reason, what we really need is direct evidence, someone like ourselves who can narrate the goings-on.
Only then, we tell ourselves, can we really know. Even when all the disparate circumstantial trails lead to the same answer, we instinctively ask how we can trust that answer unless and until it has been confirmed by someone who was there.
But that is not how it works in the real world. Once you get beyond the narrow limits of your own experience, everything else is about what you can trust. And you quickly realize you can trust a constellation of objective facts that fit together (i.e., circumstantial evidence) more reliably than the subjective account of a witness — “direct” evidence — whose entanglement in a controversy may erode his credibility.
The murderer is apt to tell you he didn’t do it. And even the murderer who tells you he did do it is apt to be lying about something significant. Maybe he’s currying favor with the prosecutor, who has demanded testimony against an accomplice in exchange for a reduced sentence; maybe he is settling a score with the accomplice; maybe he has mistakenly assumed that the accomplice was complicit because of what some intermediary told him.
This one’s somehow even more fun to read the second time around. Charlie wonders why CNN has not yet sent Fredo Cuomo to the lake for a quick fishing trip:
Watching Chris Cuomo work is a little like watching a man jump out of an airplane without a parachute and then become irrationally angry at those who tell him he’s going to die. In 2015, in response to a debate over the wisdom of cartoons depicting Mohammed, Cuomo submitted on Twitter that “hate speech is excluded from protection.” “Dont just say you love the constitution,” he added belligerently. “Read it.” Having been told by figures from across the political spectrum that this was nonsense from start to finish, Cuomo dug in his heels. “I will keep saying one word,” he contended: “chaplinsky.” Thus was a misdescription of American law transmuted into a misdescription of American history. Not only has the Chaplinsky ruling been effectively overturned; it did not deal with “hate speech” in the first place. Rarely have confidence and ability been so perfectly mismatched.
Despite his training as a lawyer, the nature of the First Amendment has proven utterly elusive to Cuomo. Commenting last summer on the spate of riots that swept the nation, he wondered aloud why people were objecting to the violence. “Please, show me where it says that protests are supposed to be polite and peaceful,” he asked on air. Before long, he was obliged in this request by a hilarious viral video in which an unkempt man eating noodles points nonchalantly at the part of the First Amendment’s text that reads, “the right of the people peaceably to assemble.” The message of the spot: Don’t just say you love the Constitution. Read it.
David Harsanyi rebuts an ill-conceived effort at recasting the Second Amendment as a tool of white supremacy:
It was slavery skeptic John Adams, in his 1770 defense of Captain Thomas Preston, one of the soldiers responsible for the Boston Massacre, who argued that even British soldiers had an inherent right to defend themselves from mobs. “Here every private person is authorized to arm himself, and on the strength of this authority, I do not deny the inhabitants had a right to arm themselves,” he noted. When Pennsylvania became the first colony to explicitly guarantee the right to bear arms, it was Benjamin Franklin, by then an abolitionist, who presided over the conference. It was the anti-slavery Samuel Adams who proposed that the Constitution never be used to “authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the press, or the rights of conscience; or to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms.” In the writings and speeches of nearly all American Founders, the threat of disarmament was a casus belli.
In making her case that the Second Amendment was predominantly an invention of the South, Anderson stresses that most American jurisdictions did not even have their own Second Amendment before the constitutional convention. She’s right. Many anti-Federalists believed that enshrining these rights on paper would lead to future abuses. Of course, Southerners didn’t need permission to suppress black slave revolts, anyway. They had done so on numerous occasions before the nation’s founding.
Yet, by 1791, of the four jurisdictions that had written their own Second Amendments, three of them — Vermont, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania — had already abolished slavery. When Vermont authored its first constitution in 1777, in fact, it protected the right to keep and bear arms in the same document that it banned slavery.
Now that the filibuster is an obstacle to passing Joe Biden’s agenda, the long-standing Senate procedure has been deemed a threat to our system of government and to racial justice that only a naïf or cynic can support.
And that means you, Joe Manchin.
The West Virginia senator has been badgered for months by reporters eager to get him to change his mind on the filibuster, or at least show some flexibility. Now the pressure campaign from within his own party has ratcheted up to include over-the-top insults that have an air of desperation about them.
After Manchin reiterated his support for the filibuster and made clear his opposition to H.R.1, a sweeping Democratic voting bill, in an op-ed over the weekend, progressive House Democratic member Mondaire Jones from New York unloaded on Twitter. Per Jones, the headline of Manchin’s piece might as well have been “Why I’ll Vote to Preserve Jim Crow.”
This is a preposterous smear and a transparent attempt to bludgeon Manchin into submission by defining his sincere attachment to Senate tradition and belief in bipartisanship as tantamount to racism.
Last night, after I had written my column, I got two pieces of news, which I would like to discuss here in the Corner. In Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, the longtime dictator, has been sweeping up political rivals. Four of them have been arrested, as you can read in this report. One of them is Felix Maradiaga, who is being represented by Jared Genser, the international human-rights lawyer. According to Jared, Felix has been severely beaten and “disappeared.”
Two years ago, I podcasted with Felix, here. I then wrote a piece: “Nicaragua in Hell: Ortega’s crackdown and people who resist it.” Here is a brief excerpt:
Felix Maradiaga borrows an old line: “Nicaragua produces more history than we can consume.” He is a Nicaraguan political scientist, entrepreneur, and human-rights activist who has been forced into exile. The regime made him a bogeyman. Then a gang of the regime’s supporters beat him to a pulp, knocking his teeth out in the process.
Felix was safe in exile, when I spoke with him. But he returned to Nicaragua, to try to help those struggling for democracy there. He is incredibly brave — and warm and bright and altogether winning. I hope he will get through his present, latest ordeal.
The other piece of news: Orhan Inandi is apparently being held captive in the Turkish embassy in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. Inandi is a Turkish exile. There is a large Turkish exile community in Kyrgyzstan. They are opponents of the Erdogan regime back home. Inandi is an educator, the president of a school system.
Getting to the truth of how the COVID-19 pandemic started is not a matter of “I told you so’s.”
For all we know, the “zoonotic spillover” theory might hold in the end. Or it might not. But to this point, the competing lab-leak hypothesis was never truly examined; to the contrary, it was ridiculed, condemned, and treated as “dangerous” misinformation.
No, the purpose of determining how this catastrophe started is to fortify the world with the knowledge to prevent the next one, while also seeking accountability.
National Review never let up in the quest to find this answer, for more than a full year before the rest of the “establishment” caught up. So it is with a sense of duty, and gratitude, that we near the conclusion of this past week’s webathon by asking, once more, for your support to continue this important work. Due to the overwhelming response, we are raising our fundraising goal to $100,000 and extending the webathon to Monday.
Small donations, big donations (heck, even recurring donations) . . . all are welcome, if you are so inclined. Know this: The funding from readers like you goes a long way.
Jim Geraghty, who’s been the tip of the spear on that reporting, wrote about how that coverage came together and how he was given complete editorial freedom to pursue this story, starting by following the strands from a YouTube video that posited a lab-leak theory:
[H]oly smokes, a whole bunch of the allegations in that video could be verified.
There really were pre-pandemic job postings of the Wuhan Institute of Virology declaring that “a large number of new bat and rodent new viruses have been discovered and identified,” and there really was a suddenly withdrawn research paper from a Chinese doctor asserting that the evidence pointed to a lab accident, not a wet market, and there really were Chinese state-television documentaries showing researchers in caves capturing virus-shedding bats with exposed skin.
We won’t hold our breath. But we won’t let up either.
Because this is about learning what happened, and preventing the next catastrophe. Don’t take our word for it.
Virus expert Peter Hotez told Meet the Press on Sunday: “There’s going to be COVID-26 and COVID-32 unless we fully understand the origins of COVID-19.” (It was a bit rich how the Washington Post article on that same warning attributed the lab-leak theory to “new reports.”)
And former secretary of state Mike Pompeo told NR’s Jimmy Quinn last month: “It’s not important so that I’m vindicated. It’s important because the next one will kill 30 million people. And that lab is still operating today.”
However, the same barriers to truth exist today that have existed for over a year on this subject (among others). Please, help National Review keep up the pressure. We’ve been heartened all week to see readers like you not only open your digital wallets but also share your thoughts (positive thoughts!) about the work we do:
“I can’t imagine life without NR!”
“Mr. Buckley would be so proud of your work.”
“Thanks for the excellent writing and trustworthy investigative journalism!”
“That Weekend Jolt writer sure is handsome and quick-witted.”
Okay, that last one was made up. But the rest are bona fide. And that warmth is a two-way street. As ever, we thank you — our readers, our lifeblood — for your support, your interest, your curiosity.
Now, without further ado . . . here is your week in review.
May 2018: A profile of Luo Dongsheng, part of a team of researchers from the Wuhan Institute of Virology collecting samples from a cave in Hubei, central China, noted that, “Luo’s team has collected a full rack of swabs and bagged a dozen live bats for further testing back at the lab.” A picture illustrating the story showed the researchers with exposed skin on their wrists.
December 26, 2018: Three students were killed in an explosion in a laboratory at Beijing Jiaotong University while carrying out sewage-treatment experiments. The Beijing Emergency Management Bureau investigation subsequently concluded that, “the students purchased and stored dangerous chemicals and carried out risky experiments in violation of regulations. University personnel also failed to oversee and manage the safety of laboratories and scientific research projects.”
Sometime in 2018–2019: According to Voice of America, “About a year before the coronavirus outbreak, a security review conducted by a Chinese national team found the [Wuhan Institute of Virology] did not meet national standards in five categories.”
The beyond-parody plan was a blueprint for an “anti-racist” revolution in how the district’s schools conducted their business so radical and thoroughgoing it wouldn’t have been out of place at Oberlin College.
Nearly everything, from curriculum to discipline policies to teacher training to hiring decisions, would be filtered through the prism of diversity, equity, and inclusion. A director of equity and inclusion would be hired to oversee implementation of the plan, including the goal to “[e]mbed diversity and inclusion curriculum/initiatives for students as an ‘enrollment to graduation’ process in all grades.” . . .
The overwhelming sense from the plan is that it would have created a regime to constantly hector students about diversity and inclusion, snitch on them for any alleged offenses, and then hold them accountable for them.
Indeed, the most insidious part of the plan proposed to “[s]trengthen wording and consequences” in the student code of conduct “for microaggressions and discriminatory behavior.” It called for creating “a process for campus administrators to include incident notes to document microaggressions and discriminatory behaviors in the discipline offense history for students.” . . .
Noticing that Ngo’s body language didn’t match that of the rioters, a member of the group approached him and asked “Can you see with those goggles on?” Ngo recognized the warning signs from his previous run-ins with the group and knew he had to evacuate. He hurried away, only to be confronted by another mob dressed in black just one block over. One member of the crowd then asked, “Why do you look so nervous?”
Ngo, now panicked, heard someone say “I think it’s him.” He started north, walking briskly, until more Antifa members caught up to him and demanded he remove his facial covering, Ngo said. When Ngo refused, someone pulled off his mask, exposing his identity. They yelled, “It’s him! Get him! Get him! It’s Andy!,” Ngo recalls.
After sprinting several blocks, flagging down traffic and running down the middle of the street, Ngo was viciously attacked by a member of the mob. The aggressor beat the back of his head repeatedly. Bleeding in several areas, Ngo managed to escape from his clutches and bolted away again, he said.
With many businesses in Portland boarded up in response to the constant destruction, Ngo said he had limited options for refuge at 11:30 p.m. He finally found shelter in the Nines Hotel, but upon entry was immediately asked to wear a mask and then exit, despite his many frantic pleas to “Call the police.”
“It felt like at any moment the hotel security were going to feed me to the wolves,” Ngo commented.
David Eisner encourages our leaders, in dealing with Colonial Pipeline-style ransomware thieves, to strategize a response by looking to the nation’s dealings with . . . the Barbary pirates. It’s history stuff for history buffs:
On May 15, 1815, Captain Steven Decatur led a powerful group of ten ships to Algiers. Within weeks, Decatur had so convincingly defeated Algiers that he was able to dictate unprecedented surrender terms from the Algerians; they would cease to receive tribute from the U.S., they would pay $10,000 in damages, and they would release all American captives unconditionally. Decatur then sailed on to Tunis Tripoli and Morocco, where he made similar demands and received similar terms. The Second Barbary Wars opened free trade in the Mediterranean, not only for the U.S., but also for Europe. A mere 50 years after American independence, the U.S. was still isolated but able to defend its commerce. Free of piracy, American trade flourished.
America today faces the modern equivalent of the Barbary pirates. And, similar to the Barbary pirates, today’s hackers often operate with the support or cover of hostile powers. The wisdom of our Founding Fathers should not go ignored.
Christiana Holcomb, who represents the high-school athlete whose USA Today op-ed was edited post-publication to scrub the word “male” in describing transgender athletes she had to compete against, sounds off here:
There’s no mistaking what happened: USA Today editors, rather than stand up as honest brokers of public debate, gave in to the demands of the woke mob and replaced a word — even removing a whole sentence explaining that men have natural physical advantages — without notifying Chelsea.
This is wrong. It’s also out of touch with the majority of Americans. Just this week, Gallup released data saying that most Americans believe that athletic competition should be separated based on biological sex.
COVID-19 may well be waning in Britain, but the regulations it has yielded are most certainly not. The current British approach to travelers flits wildly between bureaucratic imbecility, calculated indifference, and jarring Orwellianism. By the time I got on the plane to London, I had had two vaccinations, taken a stateside COVID test, pre-booked a test in the U.K. for the return leg, and filled in a “passenger locator” form that the British government intended to use to make sure that I was quarantining as promised. But this wasn’t enough. To get into England, I was also obliged to spend $170 to pre-purchase a couple of at-home COVID tests that would be delivered by mail once I had arrived.
Oh yeah, and that report on Trump insisting he’ll be “reinstated” by August? It’s confirmed.
Next weekend, Isaac Schorr will be pinch-hitting on the Weekend Jolt. In all likelihood, this whole operation will run much more smoothly in light of this fact.
Maybe you know Buddy Rich as the idol of Miles Teller’s character in Whiplash. Maybe you already were a fan. But this isn’t about Buddy Rich. This is about Don Menza.
The Buffalo-born tenor sax player let loose one of the most furious solos in history in 1968, belting it out around the five-minute mark of “Channel One Suite” with the Buddy Rich Big Band. The entire composition swings, and is well worth the listen, but if you’re pressed for time in between Zoom calls, then skip to the Menza cadenza. It’s also a crash course in circular breathing, for those curious.
The waft of petrol this weekend carries with it a reminder of another big incentive for vaccination: freedom to travel.
Or at least, it will be an incentive provided local and international governments cooperate by easing restrictions.
Domestically, the COVID curtain is steadily lifting. See the sea of green (more of a chartreuse, really), representing no restrictions, in this AAA map on state-by-state travel rules. The organization estimates the number of Americans traveling for the Memorial Day weekend will rise 60 percent over last year, still below 2019’s level, but a clear sign of pent-up demand for new surroundings.
Foreign governments can follow. The International Air Transport Association — and granted, they’ve got skin in the game — is pressuring countries to open their borders to vaccinated travelers, no restrictions attached. Pointedly, the trade association cites such action as a “powerful motivator for vaccination.”
The inverse also could be true. This is a discussion that played out over mask mandates and other rules — the concern that leaving restrictions in place for all would suggest to the unvaxxed that getting vaxxed offers little additional benefit (beyond the core benefit). Then the CDC rolled back mask guidance for the vaccinated.
Are travel restrictions next? Europe appears to be moving to allow unfettered entry to vaccinated Americans. Not so much, Canada.
As John Fund noted earlier this week, not only does our shared land border remain largely closed, but Canada continues to restrict nonessential air travel by Americans, and their travel protocol for those allowed in is far stricter than America’s — “despite the U.S.’s comparable record on vaccinations and its better record on COVID-19 cases.”
When is President Biden going to jawbone his fellow liberal Justin Trudeau to open the border?
Greece, France, and Spain will all be open by early June. Last week, even the intensely bureaucratic European Union agreed to accept vaccinated visitors this summer. But there’s no sign that the U.S. is seriously pressuring Canada to reopen.
As Jim Geraghty observes, Americans are still getting vaccinated by the millions. States and countries with a crippled tourism sector should see these millions as cash-dripping, sentient pairs of swim trunks aching to convert currency into mojitos, inauthentic wood carvings, and 90 minutes of cramped parking. And provided they do, those who had been shunning the shot might see a future in which they leave the house for something other than perishables as yet another incentive to make an appointment.
On a related topic — and one that must at least be mentioned before trudging onward — it’s been one hell of a week for the COVID-origin debate. As noted in last weekend’s newsletter, the lab-leak theory has gone “mainstream,” yet not only in the media — now, the top levels of the Biden administration have come around. This item from Isaac Schorr, however, is a reminder of how, no matter how many stories you might see acknowledging the months-long media failure to take this seriously, some folks just never learn.
Oh, and there’s a brand, new issue of the magazine out, and you won’t want to miss the cover story on Fauci. Peter Navarro, for one, holds nothing back.
ONCE YOU’VE CULTIVATED A SERIOUS SCROLLING HABIT, THE LINKS ARE NEVER ENOUGH. ALLOW THESE EXCERPTS TO SLAKE THE THIRST
In a guest column, Dov Hikind provides a thorough accounting of how and why certain Democrats feel the need to pair any condemnation of anti-Semitism with condemnation of Islamophobia and other types of prejudice:
What’s really going on here is obvious to any keen observer: These members of Congress equate the documented rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes with a rise in Islamophobia because the criminals behind the recent pogroms were almost all non-white pro-Palestinians. An unequivocal condemnation of the violence would force these members to wrestle with the existence of a particularly pernicious strain of anti-Semitism that cannot be attributed to white supremacy. . . .
A quick search of these same folks’ Twitter history drives this point home. Whenever there was an attack on Jews and the culprits were white supremacists, they condemned antisemitism while calling out white supremacy, too. Clearly, they understand the need to name the source of hatred — except when it isn’t white supremacists to blame, but “people of color.”
This conflation of antisemitism with Islamophobia is more malevolent than it appears. For not only do those attempting this rhetorical trick wish to avoid pointing fingers at anyone who can’t be called a white supremacist. Their goal is also to deny outright that there is a particularly hateful strain of anti-Jewish ideology in pro-Palestinian advocacy.
“They haven’t lifted a finger, as I understand it,” he told National Review in an interview on Wednesday, regarding the U.S. government’s efforts to investigate the COVID-19 pandemic’s origin. “They haven’t even raised it with Xi Jinping, and I don’t know that it was raised when National-Security Adviser Sullivan and Secretary Blinken were in Anchorage. I don’t know that they laid down their demands, nor do I know if they told them in the case that you don’t comply with these demands, here are the costs we’re going to impose on you.”
If COVID-19 is a man-made disaster, searching for the people, the institutions, and the governments that authored this disaster is not scapegoating, it’s necessary fact-finding before doing justice.
What might justice look like in practice? It might include global bans on gain-of-function research. This one measure alone would constitute a kind of quiet revolution, an admission that not every kind of scientific research is in fact beneficial to humanity. The reputation of the entire scientific enterprise itself would suffer immensely from the fallout.
If it was a gain-of-function research project gone wrong, then the public-health officials who supported and authorized it will meet a dramatic fall from the stature they attained in the past year.
And if subsequent research and investigations can show that actions of the Chinese government — its stonewalling, and its manipulation of the World Health Organization at the outset of the pandemic — contributed to an overall worse global outcome, it might be time to bring up the word “reparations” in international affairs again.
That’s not all. Jim, who has been sounding the lab-leak alarm longer than almost anyone, takes this moment to meticulously explain the evidence here:
The lab-leak theory requires us to believe that SARS-CoV-2 is either a mutated version of the strain that attacked the miners in 2012, another virus found in the bats living in that copper mine, or a version of one of those viruses altered through gain-of-function research. It fits with the remarkable coincidence of an outbreak of a pandemic of a coronavirus found in bats beginning in a city with two facilities researching coronaviruses found in bats. It explains why no cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed in Yunnan Province until late January. It might even explain why cellphones went dark within the lab for several weeks, if that NBC News report is accurate.
This lab-leak theory would at least partially explain the Chinese and Wuhan government’s secrecy, the regime’s initial lies about the contagiousness of the virus, the sweeping efforts to cover up the truth about the virus, including threatening doctors with arrest, the persistent refusal to cooperate with the World Health Organization and its teams, the withholding of data about the initial patients, and the Chinese foreign ministry’s laughable accusations that COVID-19 is a U.S. bioweapon.
Which scenario makes more sense to you?
China’s role in COVID-19 remains under investigation. But its influence over Hollywood is in plain sight. From the editorial:
The movie business fancies itself a fierce opponent of racism, sexism, and excessive carbon emissions, even as it habitually prostrates itself before a regime that subjugates Muslims, perpetuates female infanticide on a breathtaking scale, and burns so much coal that its carbon emissions are more than double those of the U.S. Every Academy Awards ceremony bristles with disgust for the supposed pervasiveness of injustice in America, and at any given moment, Hollywood is threatening to boycott this or that state over some allegedly intolerable legislative act. Yet it’s hard to picture just what level of obsequiousness Hollywood might not consider in exchange for the right to continue to claim one out of every four dollars its movies generate in China. Last year, in the credits of the remake of Mulan, Disney thanked the “security agency” that persecutes Uyghurs in Xinjiang province.
Homicides have remained high into the current year. In 32 cities with data, the first quarter of 2021 saw 24 percent more killings than the same period in 2020, and 49 percent more than the same period in 2019. Liberals are starting to get antsy that high crime could drive voters back to the right, endangering Democratic chances in general and soft-on-crime reform initiatives in particular.
On a Monday night in early December, Baret Lepejian called his son Lucas: He wanted to know what he thought about California governor Gavin Newsom’s newest order re-shuttering the state’s beleaguered bars and restaurants as coronavirus cases climbed across the country.
Lucas Lepejian, who has been managing the family’s saloon, Tinhorn Flats, while his dad is overseas for business, didn’t agree with it, but there wasn’t much he could do but wait it out.
“I go, ‘It’s Monday night for you, right?’ He’s like, ‘Yep.’ I’m like, ‘Thursday morning, you’re reopening,’” Baret Lepejian recalled in an interview with National Review. “He started laughing. He thought I was joking. He’s like, ‘You know there are 30,000 restaurants in L.A. closed?’ I’m like, ‘100 percent fully aware, and I said there’s going to be 29,999, and there’s going to be one motherf***er that’s going to be open, and that’s going to be us.”
But what about Bob? you might ask. Seeing as we marked Dylan’s 80th birthday this past week, yes, it would only seem appropriate to close with him. Dan McLaughlin and Kyle Smith both published tributes this past week to the master singer-songwriter. Please do read them.
Being forced to pick just one Dylan track is enough to induce a mild panic, but space is at a premium, so we’ll have to do so. From his Freewheelin’ days, “Girl from the North Country” possesses a certain haunting resonance that cuts through time. Don’t you agree?
Call it “debunker mentality” — the media tendency to treat as debunked that which has merely been disputed. This tends to show up in coverage of uncomfortable narratives, like, just spitballing here, the possibility that COVID-19 can be traced to a Wuhan lab.
But today — and maybe it’s the vaccines talking, or maybe the return to normalcy has kindled more committed curiosity about the outbreak’s origins — those summary dismissals are getting a second look. Jim Geraghty pointed out earlier this week how discussion of the COVID lab-leak theory has moved from guarded whispers to something one can now do in polite company. More specifically, how it’s being entertained at the highest levels of the cultural and scientific mainstream.
The highly paid intern behind this newsletter is old enough to remember when mere mention of this scenario — that not accompanied by a scoff and a sneer — was enough to earn you the moniker of conspiracy theorist. (Take it away, Vox.)
Turns out this was simply a theory . . . hold the “conspiracy.”
As Jim chronicled, institutions ranging from Science magazine to the Washington Post editorial board contend today that the lab-leak theory is viable, just as is the “zoonotic spillover” explanation that it could have jumped from animal to human, and are pressing for answers. Further, the CDC’s Rochelle Walensky had a blink-and-you-miss-it moment, testifying Wednesday that “a lab-based origin is one possibility.”
Here’s one telling example of how the tone in the press has shifted: This freshly stamped editor’s note on a since-archived fact-check from PolitiFact. The confident headline had been: “Tucker Carlson guest airs debunked conspiracy theory that COVID-19 was created in a lab.” The editor’s note is as follows:
When this fact-check was first published in September 2020, PolitiFact’s sources included researchers who asserted the SARS-CoV-2 virus could not have been manipulated. That assertion is now more widely disputed. For that reason, we are removing this fact-check from our database pending a more thorough review. Currently, we consider the claim to be unsupported by evidence and in dispute. The original fact-check in its entirety is preserved below for transparency and archival purposes. Read our May 2021 report for more on the origins of the virus that causes COVID-19.
Granted, Tucker’s guest, a virologist, may have gone too far in alleging here that the virus was “man-made.” The original fact-check acknowledged the less-dramatic possibility that the virus could have been studied in the lab and escaped. Yet both scenarios were collectively considered “dangerous” ideas in some corners last year. Both, at times, were, wait for it: Debunked! As NR’s Jimmy Quinn recalled, a February 2020 statement in The Lancet bluntly warned such “conspiracy theories” would stir up “prejudice.” For more, see Drew Holden’s terrific thread on the evolution in media coverage.
Pressure is building, but I don’t expect China to allow any such open and rigorous investigation. If I am right, the CCP’s refusal to cooperate reasonably on an issue of such crucial import to the entire world should be deemed circumstantial evidence that the lab has something to hide.
Maybe that’s the first action point going forward. The recognition that “expert consensus” is a guild’s conspiracy against the public. Real experts disagree, often violently. The public-health consensus against masks, then for them, or against the lab-leak theory and then for it, has turned out to be nothing more or less than a profession closing ranks in a crisis. If everyone agrees, then nobody can be blamed, and we can all keep going to the same conferences and approving each other’s grant funding.
The “consensus” is now a basic level of curiosity about “lab leak.” The theory has gone mainstream, it is said. Does that mean it’s not cool anymore?
Ponder the question. Ponder these links.
NAME. RANK. LINK.
The Supreme Court’s 6–3 conservative majority will have its first chance to weigh in on abortion. The stakes are high: Overturn Roe
And he’s dazzled by the performances of Christoph Waltz and Vanessa Redgrave in this Beltway murder-mystery “bio-farce”: Swamp Creatures in Georgetown
Kyle Smith puts Hollywood’s leading pot evangelist on notice, that comedy and wokeness don’t actually mix: Seth Rogen’s Apology Tour
WHAT YOU’VE SEEN TO THIS POINT WAS JUST A TASTE. THIS IS THE FULL MONTY (of excerpts, people)
Here’s a one-two punch. Maddy notes the case of John Staddon, a Duke professor who reportedly “was booted off the American Psychological Association’s email listserv for stating that there are only two sexes.” The prof then offers his side of the affair in a piece for NR:
Recently, I was excluded from an email discussion listserv of the APA. I was not told exactly why, though I believe it was for a few mildly skeptical comments I had made about nonbinary sex. And I enjoyed the irony that my expeller told me, while in the act of kicking me out, that he recognizes “there are a wide range of views about many issues.”
Maybe so. But the biological facts here are clear. All mammals reproduce sexually; reproduction requires an egg and a sperm, the male supplies the sperm and the female the egg — no room for a third party. Male and female are it.
President Biden has sent the world a profoundly different message. Instead of seeking peace through strength, he has invited violence through weakness.
President Biden has emboldened anti-Semitic terrorist groups such as Hamas by shunning Israeli leaders and restoring more than $200 million in aid to the Palestinians that had been canceled by the Trump-Pence administration. He unilaterally took the Iranian-backed Houthis off the list of designated terrorist organizations. And worst of all, he has announced his intention to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal, destabilizing the entire region. . . .
Every tepid statement uttered by the Biden-Harris administration is built on a false equivalency between Israel and Hamas. One is a sovereign nation with a legitimate government, and a trusted ally. The other is an internationally recognized terrorist organization that has fired more than 3,000 rockets at Jewish families and businesses in the past week.
Moving on to the current veep . . . According to our sophisticated internal metrics, Charles’s story on the “Kamala Harris Problem” took off on social media like a well-scripted debate line on busing. Maybe he’s onto something:
Now holding the vice presidency, Harris remains impressively unbeloved. Per a recent YouGov poll, her net approval rating is ten points underwater among all voters and 25 points underwater among independents, 44 percent of whom say they have a “very unfavorable” opinion. For a vice president to engender such feelings — especially at this stage in the cycle — is unusual, to say the least.
. . . There is a reason that, having been picked as Biden’s running mate, Harris was quickly shoved offstage.
What about Harris’s performance as vice president do we expect will change this dynamic? It’s now been two months since she was publicly selected to lead the Biden administration’s response to the roiling border crisis, and not only has she declined to visit the region even once, but, when asked about her absence, she has delivered her trademark dismissive laugh. Harris likes to say that she’s focused on the “root causes” of the surge in migration. But this is nonsense. She is focused on staying out of the way so that Joe Biden’s non-threatening uncle act doesn’t disintegrate in the face of its abundant contradictions. With conflict in the Middle East, rising inflation, and rocky unemployment numbers, on top of the continuing situation on the border, the last thing that the Democratic Party needs is for Kamala Harris to be more prominent than she is.
Which, in the long run, is a bit of a problem.
From the editorial on the Court’s decision to hear a Mississippi abortion-law case:
The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear Mississippi’s appeal in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization to decide the fate of the state’s Gestational Age Act. That law, passed in 2018 and held in limbo ever since by the courts, bans abortions after 15 weeks except “in a medical emergency or in case of a severe fetal abnormality.”Nothing in the text or history of the Constitution bars such laws, and the Court should say so.
Better still, it should put an end to the long charade of judge-invented abortion law. The Court should say that Roe v. Wade never had any legitimate basis in our Constitution, and return the issue to the people’s representatives. It should do so precisely because this issue is too important not to be decided by the people.
The reason most comics don’t play the woke game is that they understand intuitively that no matter how woke you go, you will be out-woked. Rogen can never whip himself with enough cat-o’-nine-tails, because someone will always point out that the instrument is a product of patriarchal culture on the high seas, where preteen sailors were treated abusively and people might well have made gay jokes. The lesson here is pretty obvious: If you’re a comedian, be funny, and write off the few dozen people on the Internet who keep saying “that’s not funny.” And at all costs, don’t become one of them.
In the D.C. burbs anyway, it’s striking just how closely the CDC guidance is followed, in both directions, for better or worse. Once the mask-away guidance came down, it was as if town life returned. Not just in the sense of being able to see people’s faces again, but in the general din and verve of Main Street. Plenty of other states had reached this point weeks, if not months, ago. But here, no longer does the reopening seem tentative, or conditions based. It’s happened.
In that spirit, and recognizing now is a completely different context from then, this nevertheless seems an appropriate close: “Freedom.”
Even while pushing $6 trillion in spending and mass-producing executive orders, Joe Biden has run the country much as he ran his campaign — quietly. The less said, the less can go wrong. And aside from the restive press corps, few wanted to hear from him anyway (see viewership figures for Biden’s joint-session-of-Congress address for evidence of this).
So long to that luxury. Things are starting to go wrong, and the president’s presence is requested.
In fairness, the Biden comms team would have been within their rights to call time and head to Old Ebbitt midweek, for a round of plums in perfume-filled man hats or whatever it is they drink in Connecticut, never to return. Still reeling from last week’s confirmation that millions of jobs are available but only a fraction are being filled, the new-ish administration now faces the added — and scarier — prospect of inflation. On Wednesday, it was reported that the Consumer Price Index rose 4.2 percent from a year ago, higher than expected and the biggest yearly jump since late 2008.
Bit by bit, the stats from the administration’s own agencies are starting to crack its protective layer of very-confident assertions. Statements like “nothing has changed” at the border (Biden); “I don’t believe that inflation will be an issue” (Janet Yellen); and there’s not “much evidence” of people staying home rather than working due to generous unemployment benefits (also Biden, who in the same series of breaths warned would-be loafers, not that they exist, that they must accept any “suitable job” offered or lose benefits).
Something is different in the Washington air. It’s not just the eye-welding pollen or the tingling sense of childlike wonder-terror that accompanies one’s first spotting of a cicada molt knowing that, like a lone White Walker, it is a mere portent of the eschaton. As Phil Klein noted Thursday, the Biden presidency’s honeymoon, it seems, is over:
When Biden became president, he in many ways was set up for success. The economy had experienced two consecutive quarters of robust growth, and unemployment was less than half of what it was during the peak of the coronavirus downturn. COVID-19, while still raging, had peaked weeks before he was sworn in, and he inherited two highly effective vaccines that had already started being administered to more than a million people a day. Going purely on autopilot, the economy was primed for success as the vaccines became more widespread and more parts of the country reopened.
This past week’s events were a reminder that Biden can’t simply ride this wave to a successful presidency. Events — such as the cyberattack on the pipeline — happen that may not be directly in the president’s control but, nonetheless, have major implications on the country and end up requiring a response. . . .
It’s still early, but this week demonstrated that there’s more to a successful presidency than simply slapping on a mask and avoiding late-night tweeting.
Add in that hacked-pipeline fiasco and the escalating conflict between Israel and Hamas/Islamic Jihad, and we see a period in which the president contrived a sense of crisis to justify historic levels of spending giving way to a moment in which the president must respond to those actually occurring. Biden sought to assure the nation on the pipeline disruption, in remarks from the Roosevelt Room. And he initially took heat for not showing ample support for Israel’s right to defend itself, eventually leading to a (you guessed it, Wednesday) call with Benjamin Netanyahu doing just that.
Probably not how his team saw the week going. It was supposed to be all popcorn and Sour Patch Kids watching the House GOP meltdown from afar, as Liz Cheney got the leadership boot. For the record, that also happened Wednesday.
Now, before commencing with the links . . . two final mentions.
1) If you haven’t already seen Charles C. W. Cooke’s exposé on Rebekah Jones — the Florida dashboard manager who alleged a vast, yet bogus, COVID-data conspiracy — in the latest issue of NR, please do take the time. It’s an eye-opener. More on that later.
2) A humble plug: It is not too late to pick up tickets to National Review Institute’s (virtual) 2021 Ideas Summit, Part II, coming up May 20–21. Live from the Greenbrier, participants will be streaming to a national audience panel discussions and remarks on everything from energy independence to cancel culture. Check out the agenda and more here.
Nationalizing elections isn’t the president’s job. Controlling the southern border is. Yet, when Biden isn’t blaming Donald Trump or seasonal migration patterns for the crisis on the border, he’s pretending nothing is wrong.
There were 178,622 apprehensions on the border in April, according to Customs and Border Protection — the highest total in more than two decades. To put the number in context, last April there were 17,106 apprehensions. . . .
Demanding we wear masks isn’t the president’s job. Conducting foreign policy is. And since Biden took the reins, the Middle East has dramatically destabilized.
For four years, Israel had a reliable ally in the White House. Donald Trump moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, recognized Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights, made it clear that the U.S. supported Israel’s right to self-defense, and cut aid to the Palestinians that has been traditionally used to incite terrorism. . . .
Biden has sent the actual opposite signals. He restored the incitement money to the Palestinians to signal closer ties and at the same time has shown a desperation to return to the disastrous Iran deal. His administration has signaled a willingness to even lift sanctions aimed at its sponsorship of terrorism.
Against this backdrop, it is no surprise that Palestinians have felt emboldened to step up attacks against Israel, and that Iran has been so ready to call on its proxies to carry out these attacks.
The Elise Stefanik who’s ascending to Cheney’s former leadership post is not exactly the same Elise Stefanik who rose up in politics during the Obama era. John McCormack tracks her evolution:
When it comes to Trump, a significant turning point in Stefanik’s career came with the first impeachment trial, in November 2019. On the first day of the House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment hearing, Stefanik was widely praised across the political spectrum as the Republicans’ most effective questioner.
Stefanik’s opposition to impeachment didn’t make her unusual — not a single House Republican voted to impeach Trump the first time around — and her defenses of Trump were usually (but not always) based on factually sound arguments. But the episode did make Stefanik “a new Republican star,” according to a tweet at the time from Donald Trump. She raised half a million dollars in two hours after an appearance on Hannity.
If the first impeachment trial was a turning point for Stefanik, January 6 was more like a point of no return.
This is a story about Rebekah Jones, a former dashboard manager at the Florida Department of Health (FDOH), who has single-handedly managed to convince millions of Americans that Governor Ron DeSantis has been fudging the state’s COVID-19 data.
When I write “single-handedly,” I mean it, for Jones is not one of the people who have advanced this conspiracy theory but rather is the person who has advanced this conspiracy theory. It has been repeated by others, sure: by partisans across the Internet, by unscrupulous Florida Democrats such as Nikki Fried and Charlie Crist, and on television, by MSNBC in particular. But it flows from a single place: Rebekah Jones. To understand that is to understand the whole game. This is about Jones, and Jones alone. If she falls, it falls.
And boy does it deserve to fall.
Jones’s central claim is nothing less dramatic than that she has uncovered a massive conspiracy in the third most populous state in the nation, and that, having done so, she has been ruthlessly persecuted by the governor and his “Gestapo.” Specifically, Jones claims that, while she was working at the FDOH last year, she was instructed by her superiors to alter the “raw” data so that Florida’s COVID response would look better, and that, having refused, she was fired. Were this charge true, it would reflect one of the most breathtaking political scandals in all of American history.
But it’s not true. Indeed, it’s nonsense from start to finish.
For well over a year, a certain clique of researchers tarred the idea that COVID-19 initially escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan as a conspiracy theory. Now, their grip on that narrative within the scientific community is loosening, as a growing chorus of experts calls for a closer look at this lab-leak hypothesis.
In a letter published this afternoon at Science, 18 scientists call for an investigation into the pandemic’s origins that does not discount the possibility of a lab leak. “Theories of accidental release from a lab and zoonotic spillover both remain viable,” they write. “Knowing how COVID-19 emerged is critical from informing global strategies to mitigate the risk of future outbreaks.”
The Hess & Warren duo make a compelling case for why the Right needs to step up and reclaim education from the Left:
Aside from the invaluable, successful campaign to expand school choice, conservatives have spent most of the past couple decades either saying “no” (to campus cancel culture and federal overreach) or championing putatively bipartisan proposals (such as No Child Left Behind). . . .
Yet, education is an issue that the Right should own. After all, where the Left is hemmed in by its relationships with unions, education bureaucracies, and the academy, the right is unburdened by such entanglements. Where Biden’s proposals are all about subsidizing the status quo — making community college “free” or funneling dollars into slow-footed K–12 systems — the Right is free to reimagine institutions and arrangements. And, as the Left increasingly takes its cultural lead from its woke fringe, only the Right is positioned to defend shared American values such as hard work and personal responsibility that resonate broadly across the political spectrum.
The dismal jobs report issued Friday paints the picture. Millions unemployed. Millions of jobs available. And, for now at least, never the twain shall meet. The National Federation of Independent Businesses reports that over four in ten business owners have positions that have not been filled, while the Bureau of Labor Statistics had 7.4 million job openings at the end of February. And still the Help Wanted signs proliferate.
Why? In part, the problem is political. Inexplicably, the federal government has decided to hand out a seemingly endless supply of no-strings-attached “stimulus” checks and massively enhanced unemployment benefits to Americans no longer in need of either, and then to affect surprise when those people sit at home. For a brief period during the pandemic, it made sense to encourage people to stay at home. Now, though, it most certainly does not. Then, we needed to relax our preference for work a little. Now, we should be repeating the magical five words that have done so much to build this country into what it is: “Go and get a job.”
Yes, yes, this is the kind of “check this out!” clip that your extended family would send around, but seriously . . . check this out. Tommy Emmanuel is at his best — which is a unique kind of stratospheric best considering the Everest heights at which his mediocre resides — here, kicking off a Beatles medley with a version of “Day Tripper” that sees him seemingly, inexplicably playing the parts of nearly all Fab Four. At once. Now forward this to your parents/kids/uncle/au pair/in-laws/college roomies.
It is more than possible this author is kvelling over the Australian guitar hero due to unbridled excitement about seeing him in the coming week in the swampy Beltway burbs, presuming COVID doesn’t ruin the occasion as it’s ruined everything else. But as noted in last week’s column, don’t let one person’s objectionable tastes crowd out the CODA. If you’ve got a tune to share with this subscriber list, send a link to email@example.com. Thanks for reading.
Before commencing with the bountiful buffet of brainfood (to be injected via link), a word about the authorship.
Rumors that Jack Fowler was removed in a bloodless coup are, to quote multiple sources close to developments, “untrue to the extent that there were two injuries.” But, as the inimitable force a.k.a. Kaj Relwof indicated in last week’s column, he has left the virtual building — with quite the legacy in his wake. We wouldn’t be surprised to see him in NR’s orbit from time to time, so the fresh-faced custodian of this weekendly column — moi — will have to refrain from any brash declarations about sheriffs and towns. That said, from this averted trope extends the question . . . of whether things might start to change ‘round here. Meh. Here at NR, we’re still using standard-issue iPhone 4s. So to answer in evolutionary terms, there’s yet time on this plateau before the laws of punctuated equilibrium require any rapid upgrades.
Still, the new author (who will honor his predecessor’s tradition of shunning first-person, unless I forget) acknowledges this baton pass — or is it a torch? — is itself a change, and so humbly seeks your indulgence for any tweaks, tucks, trims, and the trouble they might cause. Rest assured, the purpose of this column remains the same: to deliver you the best, the most incisive, at times the most derisive, commentary and reporting the Interwebs have to offer. We do hope you visit NationalReview.com often, but the Jolt and its Jolterificness exist to collate the week’s coverage in one convenient place. Do enjoy.
Without further jabbering, may we present to you, the news:
For House GOP Conference chairwoman Liz Cheney’s ouster and replacement, it’s increasingly looking more a matter of when than if. Kevin McCarthy was caught trashing her, and predicting a vote to remove her from leadership, on a hot mic early in the week. The House GOP No. 2, Steve Scalise, then came out in favor of bumping aside No. 3, Cheney, in favor of Elise Stefanik of New York. Trump, afterward, joined in.
As John McCormack reports, Cheney is not intending to go quietly, so a vote next week to force it is likely. So . . . what happened, when just a few months ago, she survived a similar push for removal over her vote to impeach Trump?
MBD does an admirable job laying out the landscape, noting how the always-unruly and forever-fractious congressional GOP offers no true base of support for Cheney in her decision to continue to call out Trump’s stolen-election claims and condemn the January 6 Capitol riot:
A House caucus that had a larger, visible, and organized faction of Republicans who relied on the kinds of suburban voters who held their nose and voted for Trump but were repulsed by January 6 could protect a figure like Cheney and even demand that leadership include someone like her. No such thing exists. . . .
Right now, Donald Trump’s political power makes for an unstable GOP. Even in defeat, he still has the unstinting loyalty of a large share of the Republican electorate. But his promotion of election conspiracy theories divides Republicans. He forced two viable Senate candidates to repeat these theories in Georgia, and they lost. Rejecting the same theory very likely will make Cheney electorally unviable in Wyoming. . . .
And so, for now the only thing that can unite the Republican conference is to stop litigating Trump and square up against the Biden White House and the Democratic Congress that empowers him. As Peter Spiliakos points out, Mitch McConnell condemned President Trump’s actions on January 6. But now that Biden is president, McConnell has been focused on opposing Democrats. In this environment, any Republicans who seem genuinely more passionate about opposing other Republicans than Democrats — Mitt Romney also comes to mind — will find themselves in jeopardy.
Cheney, including in a Washington Post op-ed, is demanding Republicans make a choice they’d rather not — an isolating decision. Like No Country for Old Men’s Sheriff Bell, this western lawmaker surveys a landscape she doesn’t quite recognize, her place in it uncertain. “Any time you quit hearin Sir and Mam the end is pretty much in sight,” a retiring Bell observes of changing times, as he accounts for the “breakdown in mercantile ethics” (specifically, in the drug trade, whose transactional and amoral nature is its common bond with Cheney’s line of work). Her spurs could soon join his.
Let that sink in. It reminds one of that old Vonnegut story, “Harrison Bergeron,” only classrooms are acting it out, instead of reading it.
Meanwhile, in between scanning the articles below, if you haven’t checked out a couple (relatively) new regular columns from the NR team, you really should. They include Forgotten Fact Checks, produced by the News Desk, and The Vitruvian Life — a spicy advice column “for the young conservative in the modern world” from that dispenser of wisdom, Mark Antonio Wright.
A SAMPLING OF THE INTELLECTUAL SUCCOR THAT AWAITS IN THE LAND BEYOND THE LINKS (AND IN SOME CASES THE PAYWALL)
Andy McCarthy gives a thorough and even-handed history of the Rudy Giuliani-Ukraine-Biden-Trump saga, and offers a warning to the Biden DOJ regarding the Rudy raid:
If Giuliani were charged, there’s a good chance he would be acquitted. That would undercut the political claims about Russian disinformation and Ukrainian corruption that the Biden administration would otherwise be in a position to make.
Worst of all, a Giuliani prosecution would convince Trump supporters, along with other Republicans and conservatives, that for all his malarkey about unifying the country, President Biden is committed to fortifying the two-tiered justice system: The earth is scorched to prosecute Republicans, while Democrats get a pass. This will further fuel our combustible politics and ensure that the next Republican administration is pressured to exploit the Justice Department as a political weapon against Democrats.
Word that the AFT was influencing CDC guidance for schools is, shall we say, instructive. From the editorial:
Now, a Freedom of Information Act request by the conservative watchdog group Americans for Public Trust, reported by the New York Post, reveals the depth of political interference in the school-reopening guidance. The powerful American Federation of Teachers, which spent nearly $20 million to elect Democrats in 2020, was deeply involved in crafting the CDC guidance. One AFT email to officials in the Biden White House said: “We were able to review a copy of the draft guidance document over the weekend and were able to provide some initial feedback to several staff this morning about possible ways to strengthen the document.” This and other AFT emails to the White House were then forwarded to Walensky by the White House, lest she miss the point of who was calling the shots. The AFT also leaned on Walensky directly, and AFT president Randi Weingarten lobbied her by phone. As a result, the Post noted at least two instances of AFT-drafted language being inserted verbatim into the CDC guidelines, in each case to limit in-person instruction.
Many Americans have had their eyes opened during the past year to the lengths to which the teachers’ unions will go in placing the interests of their members ahead of the interests of children. Now, they can see the Biden administration bending the CDC itself to the union’s will. Whatever this is, it is not science.
Charlie has had it with COVID culture. Really, just, he’s done:
I have never been of the view that our responses to the pandemic were all unnecessary or illegitimate. Certainly, I never bought that it was a “hoax.” Yes, yes, COVID wasn’t the Second World War; but it also wasn’t just “the flu.” And so, to mitigate the risk to myself and others, I’ve played along with a good deal: I’ve been happy to wear a mask when asked to by businesses or the law; I have been happy to get vaccinated, having waited in line for my turn; and, unusually for me, I have happily supported at least some of the government’s spending, on the grounds that a state that is willing to deprive people of their liberty and livelihood should do at least something to mitigate the damage. All in all, I have agreed to eschew my usual absolutism in favor of the sort of balanced, scientific, and ultimately moderate approach that was adopted from the start here in Florida. Now, though, the time for such acquiescence has passed, and in its place we need something different: mockery, vehemence, resistance, dudgeon, exasperation, and, if it comes to it, a thorough raising of the middle finger. Enough!
Madeleine Kearns writes insightfully about Caitlyn Jenner’s comments last weekend, and coins a new term — old-school transsexualism:
On Saturday, an interviewer for TMZ asked Jenner about female-identifying transgender persons — males — competing in girls’ and women’s sports. Jenner replied, “I oppose biological boys who are trans competing in girls’ sports in school. It just isn’t fair. And we have to protect girls’ sports in our schools.”
. . . The fact that Jenner refers to transgender-identifying females as “biological boys” suggests that Jenner’s conceptualization of transsexualism is of the old-school variety. Jenner’s claim to femaleness is metaphysical, not material. Jenner acknowledges that, despite looking like a Barbie doll, a transgender woman is still — biologically — a man.
One of the reasons Jenner’s candidacy and campaign make for compelling television is just the sheer, brazen weirdness of it all. For Jenner the decline of California is told in a parable of a rich man leaving for Sedona in disgust at the homeless. Morally it should be off-putting, but it does get at a truth. The story Jenner tells about personal gender transformation is not the usual one of throwing off the burdensome expectations of society and religion. Instead, Jenner tells it as a conversion story, as God’s reward for being a good dad who completed his work. It begins with the counsel of a Christian pastor and ends with the hope of the “Pearly Gates,” and enjoying God’s affirmation for “being myself.”
To a small-o orthodox Christian, or maybe any non-Californian, Jenner’s testimony comes across as an inferno of narcissism and schmaltzy daytime-talk-show sentimentality. You hear it and think, “Is Jenner going to get away with this?” Will Republicans, Californians, or God stand for it?
Stay tuned and find out.
Lastly, Ryan Mills provides a raw and startling and deeply reported account of the real-world impact the migrant surge is having on our schools, and of what the children who make the dangerous journey must endure. From the piece:
The kids tend to show up in Garrett Reed’s classroom in shock.
Many have never been to a big city like Houston before. But now they’re here, in the United States, in Reed’s Wisdom High School classroom, with its smart boards and online learning hub. A school administrator hands each kid a laptop. Many haven’t used a computer before.
None of them speak English. Many don’t even speak Spanish, but rather K’iche’ or maybe Mam, indigenous Mayan languages from the Guatemalan hinterlands.
Many of the kids have just made the dangerous journey to the U.S. through Mexico, enduring a gauntlet of crime filled with thugs, thieves, and predators of a variety of stripes – gangbangers who recruit the boys, sex traffickers who prey on the young girls.
“They’re traumatized. I mean, not all of them, but most of them,” Reed said. “A lot of them just put their head on the desk and cry. That’s what happens. That’s fine. Just cry.”
With your aforementioned (and hoped for) indulgence, we’ll attempt a small retooling of this missive’s bitter end, to close with a song. It’s the weekend, after all, and politics ain’t the only thing in life that matters.
So please do savor, from an album chock-full of stellar tracks, Duke Ellington’s incomparable “Mount Harissa.” It’s named for a hilltop in Lebanon, one visited on his band’s 1963 world tour — which the album commemorates (and which also was cut short by JFK’s assassination). Have a listen here, and let Paul Gonsalves guide you.
This newsletter-er has his own, often insufferable, musical predilections, but is an open-minded sonic traveler. So by all means, if you’ve got a tune to share with the world (or, rather, this subscriber list), send a link to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading.
Is it a torch, or a baton? Whatever it is, this missive passes next week to the care of the exceptional Judd Berger, NRO’s managing editor. He will give it the dignity, savoir faire, and keen insight it deserves, but, sadly, never got with your Regularly Scheduled Carnival Barker.
Why this change? It is precipitated by Your Humble Correspondent’s retirement from NR, that place founded 65 years ago by William F. Buckley Jr. It would be a staggering understatement to describe working for him as a mere “honor.” Or for Rich Lowry.
Having been employed here for over three decades, in lieu of a customary gold watch, the only thing desired was the chance to say good-bye to the readers and supporters, many of whom — courtesy of previous duties as Publisher and Cruise Director — have become fond friends and welcome acquaintances. That wish was kindly granted: NR has published an au revoir, and if you care to read it, you will find it here.
Should you choose not to read it . . . heading for the exits (the final day is Friday, April 30 — if you are reading this on May 1 the exits have been gone through), advantage will be taken of the current location of your eyeballs for a direct purpose: If you love NR half as much as This Poor Schlub has over these three decades past, and if you agree that it would be a good thing for NR to still be standing athwart three decades hence, please make a contribution, here.
From Heaven’s heights, my buddy Bill would look kindly on your doing this.
To those who have shown selfless camaraderie, who have sent succor to NR, no matter if it compared to the Widow’s Mite or the Billionaire’s Pocket Money, Your Departing Blatherer says thank you. For that and so much more. The appreciation is very real. It will last until the last day.
The keyboard is getting soggy, so let us get on with the Jolt by considering the top piece on NRO this Friday morning, Charlie Cooke’s Biden’s Con against America. The entire thing is worth your read (we note with happiness that CCWC is once again full-time writing), but since the article is behind a paywall (wouldja get NRPLUS already?), here’s a healthy snippet:
Talk like a moderate; act like a radical. Talk about normality; act like a revolutionary. And, at all stages, aggressively hide the ball. Progressive pundits have taken to saying that Biden poses a problem for conservatives because he is so “boring.” That’s one way of looking at it, certainly. Another is that he is a fraud. The man who ran on a return to normalcy — and whose party avoided unified Republican government by only 90,000 votes — now says he wants to be FDR. Heaven help us all.
If anyone truly thinks that Biden is “boring,” it is because, having been intoxicated by the Trump Show, they are looking only at this president’s style. One-hundred days into Biden’s presidency, and there is scarcely a single part of American life that the man isn’t trying to change. At the latest count, he wants to spend six-trillion new dollars; to raise taxes to their highest level in three decades; to raise the minimum wage to $15 nationally; to turn the Senate into the House and turn the Supreme Court into the Senate; to oversee a federal takeover of elections and the police; to force as many workers as possible into unions, while banning right-to-work; to prohibit the most commonly owned rifle in the United States; and much more besides. Some of this, Biden is now open about. Much of it, however, he is still not. That $2 trillion “COVID relief” bill you’ve heard about? It wasn’t really about COVID relief. The “Infrastructure” bill? It’s not really about infrastructure. The “Families” bill? You get the picture. Nor are the contents described accurately. Two-hundred-billion dollars in new spending on Obamacare. That’s a “tax cut,” apparently. “No increase” in the estate tax? Well, unless you count the step-up basis, which is really the whole game. It’s as if, having finally been elected president after 50 years in politics, Joe Biden has decided to push every priority his party ever failed to get through.
To those who find this outcome surprising (and not in a Gomer Pyle way), and to those who were all too invested in letting their political illiteracy get the better of them in the 2020 presidential campaign, well, you were warned (it was obvious to even This Charmless Pontificator) about the horror show awaiting America, and the mendacious Delawarean who would front for the nasty things which Mr. Cooke catalogues.
Come May, 2021, it’s a little late for Katy bar the door talk.
OUR POTATOES HAVE NO LUMPS, BUT ARE CHOCK FULL OF DELICIOUS LINKS AND YUMMY EXCERPTS
1. The Democrats are playing games while Tim Scott is proposing sound ideas. From the editorial:
Set aside race for a moment, and we see this reasoning for the absurdity it is. By the Democrats’ lights, if more men than women are subjected to law-enforcement stops, that means “disparate impact” and thus “profiling,” because police are supposed to pretend that men do not commit vastly more crime than women. Yet, nobody would seriously dispute that the disparate rates of male arrest and incarceration are due to disparate rates of male crime — and, for that matter, young male crime. In fact, following their own logic to their own bizarre end, the bill even penalizes disparate impacts on the basis of gender. That could compel police departments to either greatly restrict stops of men, or expand stops of women for no good reason.
The same is true when applied to race. The majority of crime is reported to the police, not observed by the police. We know who is committing crimes not because of police suspicions but from victim reports, the bulk of them filed by people of the same race as the perpetrator. The remorseless fact is that young black men violate the law at rates that are themselves disparate to their share of the overall population — and perpetrate most of that crime against their own neighbors.
This is just one of countless ways “disparate impact” theory warps policy. Rather than grafting it onto our law, we should be purging it. As applied here, it would hopelessly distort honest police work and spawn endless litigation and enrichment of the trial bar. The bill is also, like most things to come from Nancy Pelosi’s Democrats, designed to funnel taxpayer money to left-wing activist groups, by appointing them to give “training” to police.
Tim Scott’s JUSTICE Act offers better policy ideas, including some sensible overlap with the Democrats’ proposals, and Democrats acted shamefully by filibustering Scott’s bill last year instead of engaging with him. As Scott observed Wednesday night, they “seemed to want the issue more than they wanted a solution.” While Scott (like the Democrats) envisions an expanded role for the Department of Justice in collecting data and criminalizing the falsification of police records, not all of his ideas need to be federalized. More states should take the lead on requiring body cameras and restricting no-knock warrants and dangerous chokeholds. Chokeholds are not the only issue with restraint techniques that can prove deadly: The Floyd case itself, like the Eric Garner case, illustrates the hazards of police restraining suspects in ways that compress their chests.
2. Joey has concocted a nasty piece of vindictive policy with his proposed capital-gains tax hike. From the editorial:
Turning to the grim details, if this proposal is approved, those earning more than $1 million a year will face a top tax rate on long-term capital gains of 43.4 percent (once the Obamacare surtax on net investment income is thrown in), compared with 23.8 percent today. That would be a top rate higher — generally much higher — than anywhere in Europe, and that’s before considering what state and local taxes can do to the math. Those living in high-tax states such as California and New York will be looking at a top rate in excess of 54 percent, and for those lucky enough to be resident in de Blasio’s New York City, over 58 percent. Those who have been making plans to leave will get moving, and others are likely to join them, something that would come as a major blow to their governments’ already-shaky finances.
Some defenders of this increase argue that it will lead to a “fairer” tax system. Leaving aside the fact that the U.S. income-tax system is already sharply progressive, as well as the unequal treatment of capital losses and gains under current rules, this also ignores the way that the tax is levied on nominal capital gains. No adjustment is made for inflation, which even at the relatively low rates of recent years can matter, particularly if the asset is held over a longer period (which is what those who rail against “speculation” claim to want). This will be of even more relevance if relief provided by the “step up” in the cost basis on death is pared back. And if inflation picks up . . .
President Biden’s address to Congress connected only intermittently with reality.
On his telling, every good thing that has happened in America since he took office — from vaccination to job creation — is a tribute to his wisdom, rather than a continuation of a trajectory set beforehand. All presidents say such stuff, and they all get away with it, although Senator Tim Scott made a valiant attempt to correct the record. Worse was the dishonesty of Biden’s sales pitch for his policies.
He insinuated that the ten-year ban on assault weapons had reduced the murder rate in the U.S. — something neither careful studies nor a casual look at the trends supports. He pretended that the Trump administration had ended successful efforts to control migration across our southern border, a brazen inversion of the truth. He claimed that the country supports federal legislation that would, among other things, ban states from verifying voters are who they say they are. Poll after poll says otherwise. He promised that Medicare could save hundreds of billions of dollars by cracking down on drugmakers. Not according to the Congressional Budget Office, it can’t.
Biden conjured a world in which there was no danger from unprecedented deficit spending, no possible adverse consequences from raising taxes on corporations and rich people, no spike in violent crime that needs attending, and no foreign threats that demand of us more than platitudes about leadership.
Even as he proposed one of the most radically Left policy agendas in American history, he continued to feign an eagerness to work with Republicans.
1. So much for not being a Socialist. Rich Lowry checks out Biden’s first 100 days. From the column:
The fate of Biden’s legislative agenda hangs by a thread, depending on whether Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, relatively moderate Democrats, support his proposals. If FDR had been equally dependent on a couple of ideologically unsympathetic Democrats from the outset of his administration, he wouldn’t be FDR.
If Biden feels emboldened by his first 100 days, he is defining achievement downward. FDR signed into law more than a dozen major measures addressing the Great Depression during his first 100 days, while Biden got a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill — a huge amount of spending, yes, but much of it is temporary.
Pro-Biden pundits are currently exulting that he has about a 53 percent approval rating, a respectable showing, if hardly a position of overwhelming strength from which to try to revolutionize the country. Significantly, FDR initially grew even more powerful after 1932. Republicans dropped down to only 17 senators and 89 congressmen in 1936, whereas Biden will be lucky to hold on to his slender congressional majorities next year.
With his legislative margin of error so thin, it’s unlikely that Biden will get his way on much besides spending and taxes. Almost all of his sweeping proposals, from federalizing elections to making D.C. a state, will fall by the wayside.
2. Alexandra DeSanctis watches the President move heaven and earth to spread abortion on demand. From the analysis:
Though Biden has long claimed to be “personally pro-life,” he has never shied away from supporting legal abortion, arguing that to oppose abortion as a politician would be tantamount to imposing his religion on others.
As president, Biden appears to have shed any last vestiges of pretending to believe that unborn human beings deserve even minor protections under the law or that pro-life taxpayers ought not be forced to fund elective abortions.
Early in the administration, Planned Parenthood president Alexis McGill Johnson announced that her organization was helping the Biden transition team to staff the incoming administration, and she told Newsweek that they expected Biden to follow marching orders when it came to abortion.
“The first thing we would like to see would be an executive order on day one, within the first 100 days, that demonstrates the administration’s commitment to sexual and reproductive health care,” Johnson said.
3. More Alexandra, who take on the Washington Post’s Holy Joe coverage. From the piece:
In reality, Biden’s Catholicism has very little do with whether he attends Mass or talks publicly about being Catholic, as any reporter familiar with Catholic teaching would know. What some leaders and countless Catholics take issue with is Biden’s active support for unlimited elective abortion, funded by the U.S. taxpayer — a set of policies that blatantly contradicts the Church’s unequivocal condemnation of abortion as an intentional act that takes an innocent human life.
Rather than noting the Catholic Church’s non-negotiable teaching in defense of the sanctity of every human life from the moment of conception or explaining that Biden’s position on the subject contradicts his professed faith, Boorstein instead describes his support for abortion merely as “a source of shame” for some American Catholics.
The controversy within the U.S. Catholic Church over Biden’s active pursuit of abortion policies that flout Church teaching has nothing to do with shame or with the “loud right wing of the church,” as Boorstein puts it. And it isn’t, as she suggests, a question of “abortion purity.”
4. The president of College of the Ozarks, Jerry Davis, wants Uncle Sam out of Girls’ dorms and showers. From the piece:
Just three weeks after President Biden’s Day One executive order, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development issued a rule change that forces religious schools to open their dormitories, including dorm rooms and showers, to members of the opposite sex. The directive claims that the 1974 amendments to the Fair Housing Act require these changes, but that law does no such thing.
We were thus forced to file our lawsuit, represented by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), to protect our female students and the integrated Christian education we excel at providing. The lawsuit explains that the HUD directive contradicts the historical judicial interpretation of the Fair Housing Act, under which “sex” means what everyone knew it to mean then, and what most people know it means now: biological sex. The suit also points out that the Biden administration issued this bureaucratic fiat in violation of laws requiring them to seek public input first — an opportunity we would have used to underscore the drastic effect this executive action has on the religious liberty of educational institutions.
This policy, advanced by President Biden, forces College of the Ozarks to decide between defending its religious liberty from government overreach or violating our core reason for existing. Young women should not be forced to share private spaces — including showers and dorm rooms — with men, and a religious institution should not be forced to betray its religious beliefs. The government’s threats include harmful fines that could easily amount to six figures, in addition to punitive damages and attorneys’ fees. Fair Housing Act violations can even put someone in jail.
College of the Ozarks is a Christian institution. Our vision statement is “to develop citizens of Christlike character who are well-educated, hardworking, and patriotic.” We take our faith commitment seriously and believe that President Biden’s actions instigate a fight with religious institutions by forcing them to oppose their religious beliefs, protected by the First Amendment.
Such a flagrant violation ought to be shocking. This is America — land of the free, isn’t it? Unfortunately, this doesn’t feel or look like freedom. Instead, a small, private Christian college nestled in America’s heartland is suddenly faced with something akin to George Orwell’s novel 1984. The Biden administration touts this as freedom for all; it’s quite the opposite and, sadly, will only further divide our great nation.
5. Tim Scott’s response to the Biden speech elicited ugly reactions, which David Harsanyi recounts. From the articleng
Tim Scott gave a competent Republican response to Joe Biden’s mendacious speech last night. And boy, the contrived, hyperbolic outrage and derision we saw from liberal talking heads was something to behold.
Some of it was just farcical. Take MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace’s contention that the speech, in which Scott praised the Trump administration vaccines, was “delivered from a planet where facts don’t matter.” Operation Warp Speed, she claimed, “didn’t do anything to get a needle in the arms, so a lot of disinformation.” Well, it did help boost the life-saving innovation that flows through those needles – not to mention a million needles into arms every day by the time Joe Biden got his shot.
But Scott’s most controversial statement, allegedly, was to contend that, “America is not a racist country.” All the usual suspects took to social media to mock the senator for simultaneously saying the nation wasn’t racist and pointing out that he had personally experienced bigotry. Of course America is a racist nation, they wailed, before getting “Uncle Tim” trending on Twitter to try and prove it. The Left’s demeaning of any African American who strays from leftist orthodoxy is one of the ugliest acceptable smears in our political discourse.
6. More Scott: John McCormack profiles the Left-triggering happy warrior. From the piece:
Scott was at his best when he spoke of his own family and on the issue of race in America. “I have experienced the pain of discrimination,” he said. “I know what it feels like to be pulled over for no reason. To be followed around a store while I’m shopping.”
At the same time, Scott made the case that “original sin is never the end of the story. Not in our souls, and not for our nation. The real story is always redemption.” This was, after all, the “country where my grandfather, in his 94 years, saw his family go from cotton to Congress in one lifetime.”
Scott also pointed out that he has experienced “a different kind of intolerance.”
“I get called ‘Uncle Tom’ and the N-word — by ‘progressives’! By liberals!” he said. “Just last week, a national newspaper suggested my family’s poverty was actually privilege . . . because a relative owned land generations before my time.”
Scott said all of this more in disbelief than in anger or outrage. Yet his very existence — as a happy warrior and conservative African American who acknowledges the problem of racism while arguing that “America is not a racist country” — was enough to trigger the Left. As if to prove Scott’s point, liberals on Twitter made the phrase “Uncle Tim” a trending topic.
Since 2016, many Republicans have come to believe that their path to being a successful GOP politician is to mimic Donald Trump in both substance and style. Tim Scott proved on Wednesday night that that isn’t the only way. He proved that it’s possible to effectively fight the Left, the mainstream media, and the Democratic Party by telling the truth with a smile on his face.
7. Philip Klein watched the Biden speech and – having many choices at its malarkey – focuses on its health-care deceptions. From the piece:
First, there is no basis on which to claim that Medicare could save hundreds of billions of dollars by negotiating drug prices. The Congressional Budget Office has questioned whether the leverage that the Secretary of Health and Human Services would have over drug manufactures is really greater than a private plan. For instance, could a politically appointed official really issue a credible threat to walk away from negotiations over a drug, knowing that Medicare beneficiaries — a powerful voting bloc — could get angry if a given drug is not covered? In a 2019 note recounting its work on the topic, CBO said it stood by its prior conclusion that “providing broad negotiating authority by itself would likely have a negligible effect on federal spending.”
So there isn’t much to speak of in terms of savings from negotiations. And yet, Biden claimed tonight that the supposed savings would be enough to pay for an Obamacare expansion, which would cost $200 billion, according to the White House “fact sheet” released earlier Wednesday.
Biden also claimed he wants to use the phantom savings to “expand Medicare coverage and benefits” and to do so “without costing taxpayers one additional penny.”
Biden accounting in a nutshell: manufacturing phony savings, and then using those “savings” to claim he has a magical plan to pay for hundreds of billions of dollars in liberal wish list spending.
8. Then there was Biden’s broadband boondoggle, of which Doug Brake is all over. From the article:
The administration sells its plan on the promise of future-proof networks. Who wouldn’t want a future-proof network, especially if it can be paid for by simply increasing the national debt? But what advocates really mean by future-proof networks are fiber optic-based networks. Sure, fiber is the latest and greatest broadband technology, offering tremendous speeds. But unlike existing networks (those originally built for telephones and cable television and since repurposed for pretty darn good broadband), fiber requires all new infrastructure, which is expensive to install. In many areas, only providers who don’t care about covering their costs, e.g., municipal governments, will take on that burden.
Unless the subsidy well is bottomless, requiring fiber builds means more money spent on fewer networks. This likely means leaving many places that truly need subsidies with no broadband at all. Setting unreasonably high expectations for broadband performance means about 58 percent of the country could be eligible for subsidies, rather than focusing on the approximately 6 percent that have no broadband at all.
Perhaps the most direct attack on the competitive system for broadband from the Biden proposal is the explicit call to prioritize funds for municipal and nonprofit operators. Progressive activists have long pushed for local-government-owned broadband monopolies instead of lightly regulated private competition. Biden’s plan would make areas now served by both AT&T and Comcast, for example, with pretty good broadband speeds at reasonable prices, eligible for a federal grant for the local government to build an entirely new, gold-plated broadband network. What could possibly go wrong?
9. Own it, Joe. Rich Lowry explains why the border crisis is a thing of Biden’s making. From the piece:
He said that there’s no way to solve the migrant crisis without addressing the violence, corruption, gangs, political instability, and destitution in Central America. Then, astonishingly enough, he claimed to have alleviated all these problems as vice president until Trump came along and ripped it all up.
It’s not clear what Biden is even referring to, but if what he said were remotely true, there never would have been a migrant crisis under Trump in 2019 because conditions in Central America would have been too favorable for people to leave.
As for Trump supposedly reversing all the progress in conditions on the ground, it’s not even clear what Biden’s theory is. Trump did suspend aid to Central American countries to get them to cooperate on stemming the flow of migrants, but the aid was quickly restored when the countries played ball.
It’s completely obvious that what have driven the crisis at the border are expectations that Biden would be more welcoming than Trump and the exemption that Biden created for minors in Title 42, used to turn around migrants during the pandemic.
Biden has also ended Remain in Mexico, the successful program to get migrants to wait in Mexico while their asylum claims are adjudicated in the U.S. (if they are allowed in the U.S. during this process, they will never leave, even if their claims ultimately fail).
10. Good question, Michael Brendan Dougherty: Why isn’t John Brennan in prison? From the article:
Then again, a history lesson is almost beside the point. John Brennan is giving moral lectures about what good liberals should do. This is like Jeffrey Epstein giving a lecture on the virtues of chastity and poverty. Brennan’s CIA spied on the U.S. Senate. That alone should be enough of an embarrassment to lead him out of public life forever. For years, Brennan acted as the “conscience” of Obama’s drone-warfare policy. He literally made the call, from safety, to bomb people based on their profiles: their age, sex, religion, ethnicity, and a handful of other observable activities. He also spent the past four or so years fulminating like a psychopath on cable television and social media.
11. More Harsanyi: David explains the double standard that is applied to and protecting John Kerry, Iran’s BFF. From the article:
Barely anyone in political media even bothered covering the story. As of this writing, ABC, CBS, and NBC have not mentioned it. The Times buried a single line about the alleged Kerry–Zarif conversation deep in its piece. The Washington Postdidn’t refer once to Zarif’s claim in its own article on the leaks. The paper’s first citing of the exchange came via reporter John Hudson’s uncritical regurgitation of a State Department talking point, which claims that the strikes had already been disclosed to the public by the time Kerry mentioned them.
That timeline doesn’t exactly work. We know Kerry likely met with Zarif and other Iranian officials in mid-April 2018 in an effort to undermine official U.S. policy regarding the Iran deal. It wasn’t until September 2018 — and then only because of an apparent leak — that the Israelis disclosed the 200 strikes.
12. Even More Harsanyi: The MSM are more in the Joe tank than the Barry one. From the article:
The press corps has shifted, instantaneously upon Inauguration Day, from playacting hero to assuming the duties of a state-run media. And it’s nearly impossible to keep an accurate accounting of all the fabricated, skewed, and misleading coverage it spews. Whether proactively working with Democrats to convince voters that a Georgia election-integrity bill was worse than Jim Crow or minimizing the border crisis, most of the political media function as a communications shop for one party.
It took more than 60 days for Biden to hold a press conference, the longest of any president in modern history, and yet, no one put up much of a fuss. When the press finally had the chance to question the most powerful man in the nation, they put on perhaps the most obsequious display in presidential press-conference history. PBS’s Yamiche Alcindor told Biden that it was his morality and decency that sparked the border problems. Not a single mainstream-media critic, as far as I can tell, objected to this puffery. Zeke Miller of the Associated Press wondered if Biden would support blowing up Senate norms to circumvent obstinate Republicans. CBS News reporter Nancy Cordes, too, wondered why Biden wouldn’t blow up the filibuster to stop Republicans, who were allegedly restricting voting for the “young” and “minorities.”
This matters. “The media” comprise well-funded outlets that set the agenda, narrative, tone, and focus of coverage. Most political reporters share the same objectives and set of values as Democrats, and so they constantly engage in discussions dictated and framed by one party.
13. There are more Millennials than Boomers, so Michael Brendan Dougherty considers what that will mean for politics and policy. From the piece:
It’s almost impossible to overstate how much the Baby Boomers have distorted American society and government. The story of the second half of 20th-century American government has basically been a story about the Boomers. The expansion of highways and suburbs allowed them to have a childhood unlike anyone before them. By the early 1960s, almost the whole of popular culture and the bulk of advertising dollars were dedicated exclusively to them, and this continued into their tawdry middle age (The Big Chill), and into their oncoming sexual dysfunction (Viagra and Cialis commercials). At nearly every step since their birth, government bent to subsidize their lives more. When Boomers depended on the financial markets, the response to a financial crisis was to save Wall Street long before saving the entry-level jobs that Millennials needed. Zoning and building policies inflate the value of Boomer-owned homes. Even policies that are putatively for Boomers’ children, expanded Pell grants and preferential treatment of student loans, were ways of surreptitiously lifting the financial burden on Boomers.
And so, buoyed by government and society, Boomers now control almost half of the household wealth in the nation. Millennials control roughly 3 percent. Nearly three in five childless Millennials say they don’t have kids because it is too expensive to raise them. This sudden push to use the government to smooth income for young people is a generational watershed.
The change is not just governmental. In recent years, social media and other technology companies have essentially destroyed the mass-broadcast popular culture that was the formative institution and primary identity marker for Boomers. Generation X is willing to indulge in a tiny nostalgia for Nirvana and Soundgarden, but they have none of the appetite for catechizing people into the Stones and the Eagles the way Boomers did.
14. Assessing American museums over the past year, Brian Allen finds virtue-signaling and so much more from the progressive playbook running rampant. From the piece:
The appeal came on Earth Day. “Care for community, art, and the environment is fundamental to the Yale University Art Gallery,” the appeal begins. Well, at least art’s still in the mix. If “community” is fundamental, the museum has failed. The gallery’s closed. Even Yale students are restricted in their use of the space. And it not just Yale. The last of the Lockdown Lovers are the Ivy Leagues and other highly selective schools, the federal bureaucracy, and big-city public-school teachers’ unions.
Isn’t Yale’s letter an odd, tone-deaf pitch, or is the new normal a virtual community? Is it that easy to forget the joy of seeing people enjoy great art?
During 20 years as a museum director and curator, I never considered the environment as “fundamental” to my work. I like breathing clean air and drinking clean water but occupied myself with exhibitions, fundraising, and scholarship and left the plumbing and air filtration to others.
The gallery uses “natural cleaning and maintenance materials,” the appeal reads, and has cut energy consumption by 25 percent. My cleaning lady uses those materials, too, but she’s not sending annual appeals. And about that 25 percent: That means you don’t need as much money!
The letter says the museum offers yoga in the galleries, except that the galleries are closed, so they’re offering virtual yoga. I like yoga. I’d never tout it to raise money for, in my opinion, in better days, the finest university art museum in the country. Oh, the scorn from the heavens spewed by the likes of history painter John Trumbull, who founded the gallery — volcanic and sulfuric, now that yoga beneath the Van Goghs and Manets is now its rallying cry. “Is this why we fought the American Revolution?” he bellows.
15. The star of My 600-lb Life, “Dr. Now,” is his kind of conservative hero, writes Kaj Relwof. From the reflection:
Success does not come easy, though. It is achieved through the monotone hectoring of the 77-year-old surgeon, he of hunched posture, alarming dye-job combover, and clipped English that speaks truth to power and powdered doughnuts, a strange star in a visual medium, but a star nonetheless.
In an age of required pitying and babying — when Americans fear to call the bare-faced liar a bare-faced liar, and instead sanctify contrived victimhood — the empathetic but un-connable emigre understands that he is engaged in a deadly (literally) serious business. He understands that he cannot allow the portly patient to justify his 20-pound weight gain without a direct counterattack. Minus Dr. Now’s bluntness, this patient, already on a path to an early grave, will arrive all the sooner.
This unwillingness to allow lies to go unchallenged should make conservatives smile: To shock the system, the fabulist must be told, directly, that he is lying, and that his excuse-mongering is not fooling the man who is trying to help save that life.
Does Dr. Now enjoy the position he must take? Probably not. But whether he knows it or not, he has emerged as a refreshing image of leadership, absent amid America’s cultural cave-ins. He is the sort of role model who is sorely missing among the woke-accommodating presidents of universities and corporate boards.
1. Is stagflation on the horizon? Kevin Hassett and John Cochrane smell what’s cooking on the Fed’s stove. From the analysis:
The Fed intends to deliberately let inflation run above target, in the belief that this will drive up employment, especially among disadvantaged groups. But in the 1970s we learned that there is no lasting trade-off between inflation and employment. Sustainable employment and wages result only from microeconomic efficiency, better incentives, and well-functioning markets. The record employment and fast-rising wages just before COVID-19 struck, especially among disadvantaged groups, were not the result of inflation or of monetary policy.
The Fed now believes that the “Phillips curve,” linking inflation and unemployment or output, is “flat” and “anchored,” meaning the Fed can run the economy hot for a long time with little inflation, and that a little inflation will buy a lot of employment, not the stagflation of the 1970s.
The Fed has announced that it will delay interest-rate hikes until inflation substantially and persistently exceeds its target, just as it delayed responses in the 1970s.
If they return to the beliefs of yore, central bankers are likely to react as before. Inflation will be quickly dismissed as “transitory pressures” or “supply disruptions.” The Fed will respond slowly, always concerned that really nipping inflation will cause too much economic damage. Officials will give lots of speeches, but take little action.
Unlike in the 1970s, the Fed now knows how important inflation expectations are. But the Fed seems to think expectations are an external force, unrelated to its actions. Expectations are “anchored,” Fed officials say. Anchored by what? By speeches saying expectations are anchored? The Fed has “tools” to fight inflation, it says. What tools?
There is only one tool, but will the Fed use it? Will our Fed, and the government overall, have the stomach to repeat 20 percent interest rates, 10 percent unemployment, disproportionately hitting the vulnerable, just to squelch inflation? Or will our government follow the left-wing advice of 1980, that it’s better to live with inflation than undergo the pain of eliminating it?
Property taxes are generally the most hated of all taxes, and with good reason. As they pay their property-tax bills each year, owners are forced to cut a check and realize the cost of government. From the small-business owner who is struggling to make payroll to the millennial attempting to make his first home purchase, high property-tax burdens affect everyone. In some cases, retirees on fixed incomes can tragically be taxed out of their homes as property-tax bills steadily increase.
Addressing the issue of excessive property-tax burdens can be an extremely challenging endeavor at the state level since most real property taxes are levied at the local levels of government and are thus based on the spending levels set by those local governments. However, in our view, state lawmakers in Topeka, Kan., have just perfected the recipe for states across America to address this problem.
After passing in the Kansas House and Senate by overwhelming, bipartisan margins, Democratic governor Laura Kelly recently signed the “Truth in Taxation” property-tax reform into law. While Governor Kelly vetoed a similar bill last year during the COVID-shortened session, she likely saw the writing on the wall, with massive margins in support of the reform again this year.
COVID-19 has resulted in a flood of new investors participating in the marketplace. For many of them, upcoming shareholder meetings may be the first time they can vote their shares. But shareholders should be worried. Biden’s new SEC chairman, Gary Gensler, will advance reforms that will overrule the shareholder-voting process and pull businesses further to the left.
Biden’s Securities and Exchange Commission is preparing to move away from its traditional role as an independent financial regulator toward becoming an activist agency that seeks to regulate disclosures of companies’ climate policies and environmental and social governance issues. Essentially, the financial regulator will determine which environmental metrics are materially important for public companies to disclose to investors. Mandated disclosure runs counter to the democratic process of shareholder voting and would invalidate the wishes of shareholders who have consistently opposedsimilarshareholderproposals.
Although ESG (environmental, social, and corporate governance) is still a somewhat poorly defined term, it has become a catchall for boardrooms and federal regulators who emphasize “conscious” or “stakeholder” capitalism. The “social responsibilities of business” are nothing new, but businesses are moving away from Milton Friedman’s view that management teams should put the interests of shareholders first to a model that they should run for the benefit of various “stakeholders” including communities, employees, customers, and, oh yes, shareholders.
4. Brian Riedl offers four principles that should be part of a conservative alternative to the Left’s infrastructure agenda. From the piece:
It is not hard to see why our government is so bad at infrastructure. The inflation-adjusted cost of interstate construction spending per mile quadrupled from 1960 through 1990, and it has continued to grow since then. Labor costs are higher in part because the Davis-Bacon Act raises wage costs by as much as 22 percent, and America requires many more workers to do the same building work as Europe. American subway systems are by far the most expensive to build in the world, and in New York City they cost four times the world average.
Perhaps most egregious, the Environmental Impact Statements required for large projects commonly exceed 1,000 pages and require on average seven years to complete (compared with no more than one to two years in Canada and 3.5 years in the European Union). Several recent statements took more than 17 years to complete, and in one particularly egregious example, “the Southeastern High Speed Rail Corridor was proposed in 1992,” columnist Megan McArdle notes. “You will be thrilled to learn that in September 2017, the Department of Transportation announced the completion of the project’s Tier II Draft Environmental Impact Statement.”
Environmental Impact Statements create delays in part because in America — unlike many other countries — environmental and historical reviews can be challenged in court by a wide range of stakeholders, and these challenges can take years or even decades to be decided before any ground can be broken. Other countries use faster, non-judicial options to enforce these regulations, rather than expensive and time-consuming lawsuits that essentially become a project veto.
Rather than address these escalating costs and delays, President Biden would throw $1 trillion at this broken system. In fact, he would raise costs further by tightening higher-wage rules and imposing stricter “Buy America” requirements that limit trade and lower-cost options.
Lights. Camera. Review.
1. Amazon Prime’s Them, the race-horror series, is all in with white exploitation, says Armond White. From the piece:
Whom is the Amazon Prime racial-horror series Them aimed at? Not angry, dejected blacks but guilt-ridden whites — be they woke viewers or venal Hollywood producers. Them’s ten-episode narrative about the black Emory family relocating from North Carolina to Compton, Calif., in 1953 exemplifies an as-yet-unnamed genre: white exploitation.
Early on, Them’s woke phoniness is plain to see: The Emorys are introduced amid such Jim Crow–era cultural detritus as a Doris Day song sheet. This misplaced anthropological detail is intended to indict American white supremacy, but Them’s creator, who goes by the Hollywood hip-hop name Little Marvin and boasts about his fondness for horror-film tropes, uses Day perversely. In generic terms, Marvin’s Them is a freaky Millennial reboot of the 1954 monster movie Them, about predatory giant ants (as if predicting Malcolm X’s 1963 “Chickens Came Home to Roost” snark), and Day sticks out because Marvin obviously doesn’t know or respect Day’s politics (or her famous relationship with pioneering black pop artist Sly Stone, of Sly and the Family Stone). And that’s just the start of the craven antipathy and ignorance hidden inside the phenomenon of white exploitation.
Don’t confuse Them with social-justice expression. We’re witnessing a new cultural phase in which productions such as HBO’s Watchmen, Lovecraft Country, Queen & Slim, and Antebellum shamelessly combine race embarrassment and resentment.
A handful of young black men get unjustly killed by police, millions of young black men grow up without fathers, and it’s utterly obvious which problem does more damage overall. Yet the entire weight of the culture denies what is staring us in the face.
Concrete Cowboy, a wonderful Netflix film about a black teen named Cole who gets rescued from drug-dealing street life by his father’s tough love, is an inspiring and beautiful story. But it’s also an important one, an unanswerable argument about how young black men, like everyone else, can achieve success: hard work, discipline, focus, rejection of criminal misadventures. Paternal figures are vital to their formation, and rarely has a film made the case more stirringly than this one. It is a brisk rebuke to so much that is noxious and misleading about what media, cultural, and political figures tell us every day. The thesis, stated a couple of times, is simply this: “Hard things come before good things.” Everyone must be taught this, especially young people, and especially young males. Why are we so averse to saying it?
After Cole (convincingly played by Caleb McLaughlin from Stranger Things) gets kicked out of school for fighting, his exhausted mama kicks him out of the house: She is done playing. She sends him to his estranged dad, Harp, played with quiet masculine gravitas by the always-great Idris Elba, the London-born actor who disappears into the role of an ex-con who found a calling and meaning on horseback in North Philadelphia. Harp even keeps a horse in his row house.
3. Kyle Smith watches the Oscars and finds himself trapped in a preachy and boring affair. From the piece:
In an effort to reduce contact, the stage was a fake supper club built within Union Station in Los Angeles. (“Some local advocates criticized the city for making access to public transit more difficult for the weekend,” Variety delicately noted.) And the feel of the show was . . . strange. Most of the principals were at least in the same room, avoiding the bland Zoom-meeting feel of the Golden Globes.
But to assure maximum boredom, hosts read off biographical snippets about people the audience has, in most cases, never heard of. Reese Witherspoon: “Michael Govier’s favorite film at twelve years old was Citizen Kane.” Halle Berry: “As a young architecture student, [Best Production Design nominee] Nathan Crowley had no idea he could ever be a part of the industry.” Well, maybe he thought he’d be part of the architecture industry. Also, maybe he thought there were other industries besides showbiz.
The first Muslim Best Actor nominee (for Sound of Metal), Riz Ahmed, asked the crowd to raise their hands if they had started their career by working on a short film, and the camera angle made it impossible to tell how many answered affirmatively. Not that it mattered. Really, who cares? The show is supposed to be directed at the millions in the audience, not the dozens in the room, and it was a strange question to waste the audience’s time on. “How many here would say red is their favorite color? How many have been to Vancouver?”
4. Oscar night was a massive display of arrogance, says Armond. From the piece:
We need to recognize the partisanship inherent in the media’s unwavering attention to politicized institutions such as the Oscars. The affront goes further than the grandstanding speeches. But even those have become increasingly arrogant, such as the harangue given by the Best Live Action Short winner with the suspicious name Travon Free (a Daily Show comedy writer and co-director of Netflix’s anti-cop paranoid horror comedy Two Distant Strangers). Free announced, “Today the police will kill three people. And tomorrow the police will kill three people. And the day after that, the police will kill three people, which amounts to about a thousand people a year. And those people happen to disproportionately be black people.” Free’s rhetorical overkill matched his dyed-blond afro hairstyle, signifying the proud, irresponsible indifference to decorum (and facts) that runs through most Hollywood content, ruining it for everybody.
Even actress Marlee Matlin, grinning idiotically, joined the industry’s carelessness when her awards presentation went outside the film industry to salute “a cellphone video taken by a young woman named Darnella Frazier that became a catalyst for change.” We should realize from such instances that these filmmakers are not good Samaritans with sympathy and insight into human experience. Instead, they are the most easily swayed, politically gullible, and potentially dangerous messengers imaginable. They’ve been given the privilege of addressing the public, and it’s a privilege they abuse.
Their ideological arrogance feeds into their custom-designed vanity. They’re vapid, like teenagers eager to conform. This makes them more assertive than ever, but it doesn’t make them good filmmakers. It only guarantees that they throw dull, unpleasant parties.
The May 17, 2021 Issue of Your Favorite Magazine Commands Your Attention
The new issue of the mighty fortnightly is in the USPS’s wild and wooly system, but if you have an NRPLUS membership, you can begin reading the entire thing pronto. That marketed, what follows are four recommendations from the new issue.
1. In his cover essay, Christopher Caldwell investigates the progressive call for equity and . . . segregation. From the essay:
If you wanted to be blunt about it, you might call equity a noexcuses imperative to eliminate all collective racial inequalities. There are many such inequalities in our system, and blacks are on the unenviable side of most of them. They possess the fewest financial assets, fare the worst in school, have the hardest time finding work, live the shortest lives, commit the most violent crime, and spend the most time in jail. Equity’s proponents, most of them progressive Democrats, say their aim is to ensure that all races share equally in economic growth and get a fair shake in the justice system. Republicans say that Democrats are abandoning equality of opportunity for equality of result.
Put that way, “equity” sounds like a new name for something that Americans have been arguing about for two or three generations now. Affirmative action, after all, tips the playing field of opportunity in minorities’ favor. “Diversity” is all about managing results. Feminists’ equal-pay-forequal-work campaigns might be considered a harbinger of these equity debates.
But in two ways the equity movement is radically new.
First is in the categorical simplicity of its diagnosis. It views all inequality across groups as illegitimate on its face — as evidence of white racism, in fact.
Second is in its tools. Equity doesn’t concern itself with more-traditional understandings of inequality — differences, say, between bosses and laborers. It is about equality for blacks, as laid out in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and for the various groups, from immigrants to transgender people, that have come under the act’s protection in the decades since. The power of civil-rights law to punish employers and schools, to investigate those suspected of noncompliance, and even to silence detractors has been steadily strengthened by bureaucratic fiat and litigation. Race-conscious rather than race-blind, open to almost any kind of remedial discrimination, equity has brought us to a crossroads. Either our civil-rights laws are being overstretched to the point where they are growing intolerable to much of the country (though people remain frightened of saying so) or they are in the process of becoming the supreme law of the land, overriding even the Constitution.
2. Andrew C. McCarthy considers Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, and analyzes the application of due-process rights to beleaguered police officers. From the article:
The two decades of mayhem that began in the 1960s were aimed at extorting public funds on the pretext of reforming cities and eliminating racism. By contrast, Siegel explains, today’s riot ideology, refined by Black Lives Matter Marxism and expressed in the writings of Ta-Nehisi Coates, holds that “America is inherently racist beyond redemption and that the black inner city needs to segregate itself from the larger society (with the exception of federal welfare funds, which should continue to flow in).” The most notorious manifestation of this aggression has been “defund the police” campaigns — with the funding, of course, being redirected toward favored progressive programs and the underwriting of woke activism.
A less well-appreciated development, one whose damage will be hard to undo, is the erosion of due process.
Few even pretend that the “protests” over Wright’s killing have been “mostly peaceful,” as the media-Democratic mantra goes. The rioting, burning, looting, and destruction of local businesses started instantly, persisted for over a week, and resulted in well over a hundred arrests — after another ritual: the initial mandate of police passivity, leading inexorably to an urgent need for police intervention. In part because of police involvement in an incident that ignites violent demonstrations, and in part out of officials’ ill-conceived hope that rioting will burn itself out, cops are first encouraged to desist in enforcing the laws; this only whets the sociopathic appetite, and as more businesses are destroyed and lives shattered, there follow the inevitable demands for police intervention.
3. Nicholas Eberstadt, that rare expert on North Korea, explains ways in which the Biden Administration might better handle the Rocket Man. From the beginning of the essay:
The review of North Korea policy announced by the Biden administration shortly after the president took office is still apparently a work in progress — but Kim Jong-un wrapped up his own review of North Korea’s Biden-administration policy in March. We know this because Pyongyang launched two short-range ballistic missiles that month, violating nearly a dozen U.N. Security Council resolutions specifically prohibiting such tests and daring Team Biden to do something about it. More challenges may soon be in store, given Pyongyang’s interest in testing both the performance of its latest WMD and the mettle of the new U.S. administration.
Kim is intent on continuing the North’s nuclear march. Nuclear weaponry is the key to his state’s goal of unconditional reunification of the Korean Peninsula on its own terms. He wants to be able to fight and win a limited nuclear war on the peninsula, and also — this is a necessary corollary — to train a North Korean nuclear arsenal on the U.S. heartland to serve as a checkmate against any possible U.S. intervention in a Korean crisis. This is the ultimate purpose of the relentless quest for credible intercontinental nuclear capabilities that the Kim dynasty has been pursuing for three generations — and the regime has been drawing ever closer to its goal.
Can the Biden administration stop Kim and thwart his nuclear ambitions? The answer is yes — if it is serious about doing so. Biden has the power and the options at his disposal to progressively reduce the North Korean threat. Accomplishing this, however, will take a vision and resolve his predecessors lacked — and determination as well not to repeat their mistakes in dealing with Pyongyang
4. David Mamet thinks through the consequences of society’s bullying fixation. From the piece:
In the schoolyard the healthy child learns to differentiate between happenstance, bad manners, and outright aggression. This is a daunting task, and he might come to his parents for comfort and wisdom.
In the old days this was found on the spectrum of “Come here and get a hug” through “That was terrible of him”; but rarely did it require appeal to the school or, as we see today, to the police.
In that far-off time it was not in fact unknown for the father or uncle, just returned from thrashing the Axis, to respond, “Well, hit him back.”
The child had to learn to assess his or her own feelings, part of which was to suppress them sufficiently to allow diagnosis of the offender’s intention.
Was the aggressor: brash, unfeeling, awkward, inappropriate, or actually intent upon harm? Could we thus determine an appropriate response, that is, one that would restore to us that autonomy we had lost in automatic response to an affront?
If not, we, you and I, were consigned to a world where our equilibrium was in the control of every last person on earth — excluding ourselves. The current Statist Hysteria insists that this lack of control, rather than being an imbecile puerility, is a heroic sensitivity to Social Justice.
But passivity attracts aggression in the schoolyard, and in the culture, just as it does in geopolitics. It awakens aggression. As we will see in China’s reaction to a Biden foreign policy in distinction to that of Trump; and jihadist glee over America’s abandonment of Israel.
Elsewhere in the Conservative Solar System
1. At National Catholic Register, Michael Warsaw takes the opportunity of Biden’s 100-days hulabaloo to note 100 days of religious and cultural disappointments. From the piece:
Moving forward, it looks like Biden intends to continue with his initial “shock-and-awe” approach to national governance, rather than moderate it.
According to Axios, sources close to Biden say he is “brimming with confidence” after being able to advance so aggressively in his first three months, and therefore intends to push forward now even more aggressively on the economy, inequality and voting. Axios predicted the president will continue this push with “the unspoken Biden formula: Talk like a rosy bipartisan; act like a ruthless partisan.”
Such extreme partisanship bodes poorly for the nation’s common good. And, from a faithful Catholic perspective, there is an additional hazard associated with Joe Biden’s propensity for promoting radical agendas from behind a benign mask of genial faith. As Catholic commentator Fran Maier recently pointed out during a conference at Villanova University, “Biden’s rosary beads, his public nods to saints, and his attendance at Mass all serve to normalize his administration’s policies and actions that directly attack key Catholic beliefs on abortion, sex, family and marriage.”
In turn, this means that U.S. Catholics have a double responsibility at this political moment. We need to highlight how Biden’s policies and actions in these areas are harming all Americans. We also need to highlight how they are undermining the Church, by making it seem that it’s possible to remain authentically Catholic while dissenting so fundamentally on such key moral issues. This double challenge will not be easy, but faithfulness requires both prayer and action in defense of the truths upon which our Church and our country have been founded. Let us stay united in this effort.
2. John Hillen, once upon a time the Exec Chairman of NR, and the man whose badass tank was at the tip of the spear in the Battle of 73 Easting, knows a thing or two about leadership, and in Law & Liberty, says a thing or two about restoring it. From the piece:
The good news is that just as trust in institutions can decline, it can also be rebuilt. The high standing of the American military in the public’s mind, rebuilt since the Vietnam era, is a case in point. Institutions regain trust when they show competence, character, and act in the proper context. In other words, they deliver what they promise, they have integrity and can be trusted, and they root themselves and their role in the context of a self-governing democratic republic.
This first quality is the most obvious measure of success and engenders some trust. The other two are more subtle and have a more pernicious effect on trust.
How to judge the success of the US government? After $22 trillion and 60 years has the federal government’s war on poverty been successful? Much of the data suggests not — the poverty rate has hardly changed. 50 years and over $1 trillion later, there are calls to end the war on drugs, due to its lack of demonstrable success.
The part of government that fights actual, not metaphorical, wars — the US military — is the most highly regarded institution in America and has been for some time now. But it has had its own struggles with wars — and indeterminate results from them. Now, war is a complicated venture to say the least. It is not just military operations — as Clausewitz reminded us, war is the continuation of politics by other means, so it has been possible for the US military to demonstrate tremendous military competence even within the political setting of an uncertain outcome.
Judging success in government is difficult, as I learned when I was a senior government official in a large agency. We tended to measure inputs — our budget, the number of programs we oversaw, the number of our staff. We tended not to measure outcomes. Still, some outcomes are measurable. It has been 20 years since Congress (11% trust rating) passed a budget in what is called on The Hill “regular order.” So, sometimes political institutions are simply not doing their job and it is very plain to see.
Hardly a spot remains on the planet — and off — that China does not consider up for grabs, and that includes the North and South poles.
China’s ambitions in the Arctic include: In 2018, China issued its first Arctic policy paper, “China’s Arctic policy” and with a straight face declared itself, a “near-Arctic state”, wanting a “Polar Silk Road.” In fact, China is some 3,000 kilometers from the Arctic Circle. Its “Polar Silk Road” would create new shipping routes linking Asia and Europe via the Arctic, as part of the Belt and Road Initiative, a gigantic development, infrastructure and investment initiative that seeks dramatically to enhance China’s global influence by making countries worldwide increasingly dependent on China.
The Polar Silk Road also seems highly driven by China’s desire for more access to oil, gas and other natural resources in the Arctic region. Greenland, for instance, plays a key role in China’s plans for the Polar Silk Road, because the autonomous territory, a part of Denmark, is estimated to have the world’s largest undeveloped deposits of rare earth materials in addition to uranium and substantial oil and gas reserves believed to lie off its shores. Rare earth materials are necessary components in the building of such various equipment as combat aircraft, weapons systems, wind turbines and electric vehicles, among other things. They are available in different geographic locations, but are difficult to process. Last year, China produced 90% of the world’s rare earth materials.
In its new five-year plan for 2021-2025, China reaffirmed that it would continue work on its “Polar Silk Road” and “participate in pragmatic cooperation in the North Pole”. It also stated that it would “raise its ability to participate in the protection and utilization of the South Pole” (Antarctica).
Of the many contributions the book makes to our understanding of the early republic, the most original is to show that Washington was not only the father of the country but of the Constitution. The biggest change from the Articles — “its breathtakingly strong chief executive, by American Revolutionary standards” — was due to Washington. Washington wanted an institutional structure that could win another war and, better yet, deter potential enemies. And the Framers were only able to make this pivotal structural change because everyone was confident in the man — Washington — that they all knew would be the first and precedent-setting President. Moreover, Washington’s letter transmitting the Constitution to the Continental Congress was very influential just because his name was on it.
In contrast, James Madison, often called the Father of the Constitution, failed to get his key recommendations into the Constitution, like a congressional veto on state legislation. His now famous theoretical contribution to the ratification debate in Federalist No. 10 was completely ignored at the time. Instead, the most influential Federalist essays were those of Hamilton and Jay that stressed the need for unity and unified military command in a dangerous world — a defense of Washington’s strategic vision.
More generally, Washington comes off as indisputably deserving of the refrain, “First in War, First in Peace, First in the Hearts of His Countrymen.” Even in death, he, unlike Madison and Jefferson, not only manumitted his own slaves but paid for their upkeep. This was a substantial cost to his estate. Fittingly for a man of action, his final message to his fellow citizens was through a selfless deed on behalf of liberty. Amar’s book should remind everyone of why it is right that statutes of Washington are planted thickly through the continent. He was America’s prime mover. To cancel him is to repudiate its creation.
5. At The College Fix, Christian Schneider finds archeology nerds opposing video lectures that call for research base on . . . science. From the beginning of the article:
A group representing over 7,000 archaeologists has refused to post a video of a lecture delivered at its annual meeting earlier this month after complaints the topic was too racially charged.
The Society for American Archaeology meeting, held between April 15 and 17, featured a pre-recorded lecture by San Jose State anthropology professor Elizabeth Weiss and attorney and anthropologist James Springer that discussed the role of creationism in archaeology.
On Wednesday, the SAA released a statement apologizing to ” those who were harmed by the inclusion of the presentation.”
“After careful review of the recording, the SAA board finds the presentation does not align with SAA’s values, and so has chosen to not re-post it at this time,” it read.
In their presentation, Weiss and Springer argued that many Native American creation myths stemming from oral traditions have worked their way into scientific research and are given as much weight as scientific data such as DNA.
“By promoting objective knowledge and scientific reasoning, we would say that we are doing our best to help students, colleagues and the public understand the world around us, and negating the misinformation promoted by creationism,” Weiss told The College Fix in an email.
The lecture was accused of being racist, which Weiss refutes.
6. More TCF: Joseph Silverstein reports on a Stanford student senate member calling for the eradication of whites. Well, at least she didn’t say honkies. From the article:
Stanford University student Gabrielle Crooks, a member of its student government, expressed her hatred for white people in a series of tweets this past summer.
“Yes I think white people need to be eradicated yes I will go feral over mediocre white men we exist,” she wrote in July 2020.
Despite advocating for genocide, her student senate page biography states that she aspires to be a “human rights attorney” and “address racial violence.” She is also a Black Recruitment and Orientation Committee coordinator at Stanford.
Crooks is currently seeking re-election to the student senate, with voting to take place this week. In her candidate statement, Crooks accuses Stanford University of having “serious problems with regard to race” and “an unfortunate, but intimate, history with racism.”
In another tweet, Crooks alleged that the United States is a racist country, spelling America as “amerikkka”; “not a passionate amerikka lover in my IR [international relations] class….. I thought y’all were joking,” she tweeted in October 2020.
Crooks also tweeted she “has friends who are white but she just can’t support it.” She also tweeted “why do white people think everything is about them.”
7. At Quillette, Shane Trotter tallies the huge damage of grade inflation. From the analysis:
In a decade working in high schools, I’ve seen a consistent push to reduce writing, reading, and note-taking, expand late work windows, lighten workloads, dilute the weight of assessments, and, most fundamentally, to eliminate failures. The same can be seen at the university level. The amount of time college students have spent on academic work has gone from 40 hours per week in 1961, to 27 in 2003, to less than 12 hours in 2008. During that time, the average grade has risen in both public and private universities, while national SAT scores continue to decline. Today’s graduates are not smarter or more prepared for their future, but at least they think they are.
The roots of these trends can be found in generations of self-esteem culture and a gradual educational shift from a standards-driven approach to one of customer service. As consumerism enveloped society, our schools became more concerned with perception and appeasement than learning. School, in the eyes of parents and educators alike, became something to game — the lessons taught an arbitrary ritual that stood between students and the diploma they needed.
Still, schools are moving further away from standards. Walk into any high school professional development and you won’t hear discussion about what skills students will need for an uncertain future or about specific competencies that students are struggling to master. Instead, there is a parade of new strategies to make learning effortless. Schools have embraced the ideology of intrinsic motivation. If students aren’t invested in their learning, the thinking goes, it is because we haven’t made the environment fun enough, interesting enough, safe enough, or (education’s answer to everything), because we have not understood the ways that today’s digitally distracted youth learn and, consequently, have not integrated enough new technology.
8. At The New Criterion, Myron Magnet considers the roots of America’s defounding. From the essay:
But, though the traders and Tea Partiers didn’t quite understand it, the federal government long ago had turned from the shield of individual liberty into a vast engine of redistribution. That transformation could occur because the Framers’ Constitution was body-snatched by the doctrine of the “living constitution,” which — as Woodrow Wilson first formulated it — saw the Supreme Court sitting as a permanent Constitutional Convention, making up laws as it went along, heedless of the 1787 scheme’s checks. Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal used Wilson’s doctrine as a license to remake America’s economy and society. Once the Supreme Court buckled to FDR’s threat to pack it and started voting his way, the justices allowed an utterly foreign governmental structure to devour the Framers’ republic from within, until it broke out of the shell as something altogether different.
Not that FDR was entirely frank about his transformative enterprise. Where Wilson had dismissed the Framers as obsolete relics in a Darwinian age, Roosevelt claimed to extend their great work even as he undid it. In his second inaugural address of 1937, he hailed the 150th anniversary of the Constitutional Convention, which had “created a strong government with powers of united action sufficient then and now to solve problems utterly beyond individual or local solution” — a wildly false characterization. Chastened by America’s near-loss in the Revolution, the Framers sought to create a government strong enough to protect national and individual independence but not so strong that, given mankind’s inherent power-hunger, it could become what they called an “elective despotism.” So they limited that power to such clearly enumerated tasks as raising an army, a navy, and taxes; coining and borrowing money; and regulating foreign and interstate commerce. All other matters they emphatically left to “individual or local solution.”
They certainly didn’t mean to put the whole U.S. economy under federal regulation. But as FDR later admitted, when he took the oath to defend the Constitution just before delivering the 1937 address, he had wanted to shout, “Yes, but it’s the Constitution as I understand it.” The New Deal’s main thrust, after all, was precisely to take total control of the economy, under the ruse of federal power to regulate interstate commerce.
For one who projected such jaunty optimism, FDR had a surprisingly gloomy view of America’s future. The nation’s great days of discovery and invention, when government needed only to keep out of the way, were behind it, he thought. Now, Depression-stunned America had produced more than its purportedly underpaid workers could afford to consume, as FDR inaccurately saw it. America’s task now, he said, “is the soberer, less dramatic business of administering resources and plants already in hand, . . . of distributing wealth and products more equitably, of adapting existing economic organizations to the service of the people. The day of enlightened administration has come.” The bureaucrat would take over from the business titan.
Today, the eight selective high schools inside the New York City public system informed kids and their parents about admissions for the next academic year. The schools — among them Bronx Science, Stuyvesant, and Brooklyn Tech — are among the best-known in the country. In all, 23,000 kids applied, of whom 18.1 percent, or around 4,200, were admitted. Eliza Shapiro, who covers the public schools for the New York Times, is alarmed. “Somehow, the number of Black and Latino kids getting into NYC’s specialized high schools is DECLINING. Schools will be 9% Black/Latino this year,” she tweeted. “The numbers, year after year, tell us the same story. Nothing has worked to diversify these schools with the admissions exam in place as is.”
She makes the point that 28 percent of the kids admitted are white, while only four percent are black. A disaster for diversity.
Oh? Well, who do you think is getting in? If you add whites, blacks, and Latinos together, they will constitute around 37 percent of the kids at these eight schools. Now take a wild stab at the ethnic origins of the absolute majority of admits — a stunning 53.7 percent in all. You guessed it. Asian.
And it’s not only that. Asians made up the plurality of kids seeking admission — 35 percent of the applicants were Asian, compared to 18.5 percent white and 18.4 percent black.
In other words, Asians sought placement in these schools at an absolute rate nearly double that of whites or blacks.
This is the case even though Asians make up a little less than 12 percent of New York City’s population. Black people make up 26 percent. White people make up around 26 percent. Latinos make up around 26 percent. And Asians? Around 12 percent.
Making the diversity question entirely one about black vs. white placement is disgraceful. Asians are a smaller minority in New York City than whites or blacks, and some intra-Asian groups are among the city’s poorest.
For your listening pleasure, here’s a wonderful version of The Last Round-Up by the Sons of the Pioneers.
Alexandra DeSanctis gets married today (Saturday, May 1). Pray for God’s blessings for her and her husband please. Mark Wright and our former colleague Nat Brown both had their families enlarged in these last few days. Pray too please for God’s blessings on these little ones.
For H and J, yes, prayers that they conquer their afflicting cancers.
Pray too that National Review stays in the fight, enduring and succeeding, for the sake of our beliefs, for the sake of forthcoming generations.
Your support and friendship have meant the world to me.
Peace Be with You and Yours Dear Friends,
Jack Fowler, who can be reached at email@example.com, and, as he must keep a promise, will end his last-ever WJ with these words: Bald Scotty.
What is there to say in the face of such on-the-spot bare-faced mendacity?
It’s not as if the nimble mind isn’t worthy of occasional awe: Like The Godfather’s Jack Woltz recalibrating his insults (directed at that smooth-talking German-Irish sonofabitch Tom Hagen). But to imply an attempted murder(s) knife attack is nothing more than teens-having-funnery — all for the contrived sake of cop-bashing, well, that crosses a line.
Pray, one that marks the edge of the Grand Canyon. (Or we’ll settle for the safety-as-you-know-is-paramount platform edge at the Milford train station.)
There’s plenty on lefty knife idiocy below. And plenty on all others sorts of additional lefty idiocies (there are so many!) there too, in this late-April edition of what may be (or, may not be) your favorite Friday / Saturday posting / missive from NR.
STRAP ON THE FEED BAG BECAUSE YOUR STRONG APPETITE YEARNS FOR THE AWAITING PLETHORA OF READY AND INTELLECTUALLY TASTY EXCERPTS, WHATEVER THAT MEANS
1. The White House Ringmaster zooms the Climate Clown Show for a most unserious gathering. From the editorial:
The climate radicalism of Ocasio-Cortez and of the Biden administration itself is mostly a radicalism of rhetoric and posture. If the goal is to radically reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in a way that mitigates climate change some decades down the road, then creating a jobs program for Democratic activists is not a meaningful proposal. It is simply a way to raid the treasury while linking the political priorities of the moment of New Deal nostalgia. The fact that it is unserious does not mean that it cannot do both political and economic damage in the real world, if it is pursued with sufficient vengeance. One suspects that Chairman Xi understands that even if President Biden doesn’t quite.
If we could set aside the culture war for a half a minute, we might discover some points of cooperation. For example, the U.S. electricity-generating sector has significantly improved its greenhouse-gas profile in recent years, not because it was visited by bright young things employed by a Civilian Climate Corps but thanks to — prepare to clutch your pearls — fracking. Natural gas is a much cleaner fuel than coal from a carbon-emissions point of view, and an abundance of inexpensive natural gas enabled normal economic forces to act in the green interest. We could be exporting enormous quantities of the stuff to the rest of the world, helping to displace coal power with cleaner gas power while doing precisely what it is Senator Markey and his congressional allies say they want to do at home: creating good jobs. But that would require, among other things, infrastructure, from pipelines and storage facilities to new export terminals on the West Coast. Private investors are ready to build these at their own expense, but the Biden administration and its allies stand in the way of this and other practical measures that have a chance at producing both consensus and results. Neither “Green New Deal” radicalism nor puffed-up summitry credibly promises as much.
2. The people of Hong Kong, and notable heroes such as Jimmy Lai and Martin Lee, are deserving of full-throated support as their ChiCom oppressors. From the beginning of the editorial:
April 16 was a dark day for Hong Kong — a city that has seen many dark days in recent years, and whose days are getting darker. A court handed down sentences for nine advocates of democracy. What were they sentenced for? Well, advocating democracy.
The U.S. secretary of state, Antony J. Blinken, issued a statement condemning the sentencing. He said that “Beijing and Hong Kong authorities are targeting Hong Kongers for doing nothing more than exercising protected rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of speech.”
Obviously, the Chinese government fears democracy. Eight of the nine people just sentenced have, at one time or another, been democratically elected to Hong Kong’s legislature. And the ninth — Jimmy Lai, about whom more in a moment — is an ardent and brave supporter of democracy.
Martin Lee, one of the nine, has long been known as “the father of democracy” in Hong Kong. Other democrats, worldwide, have been in awe of him since the 1980s. Lee founded the first democratic party in the city, the United Democrats of Hong Kong. Now 82, he was arrested last year for taking part in a protest. He made a poignant statement: “Over the months and years, I’ve felt bad to see so many outstanding youngsters being arrested and prosecuted, but I was not charged. Now I’ve finally become a defendant. I feel proud that I have a chance to walk this path of democracy together with them.”
3. COVID vaccines are safe and the core of our pandemic exit-strategy. People should be getting the shots, and the media should can the hysteria over outlier stories. From the editorial:
Vaccination not only protects the vaccinated individual; a vaccinated person who does get infected sheds much fewer viruses than an unvaccinated person, making infection of others less likely. It doesn’t eliminate it completely, but a study of nearly 5,000 vaccinated Israelis concluded that “viral load was substantially reduced for infections occurring 12 to 37 days after the first dose of vaccine.”
But some media institutions seem to think every time a vaccinated person gets infected, it’s big and shocking news. The New York Post felt the need to tell us about a Brooklyn woman who was infected three weeks after getting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Then they wrote about an Alaskan woman who was infected with COVID-19, recovered, and then was infected again on April 12. The same day, the paper separately told us about a Brooklyn man who was infected two weeks after getting the J&J vaccine.
On the other hand, the Post editorial board sensibly observes, “You’re far likelier to die in a plane accident than get a blood clot from J&J’s jab, yet we still allow air travel. And getting as many people immunized ASAP is vital to beating COVID and saving far more lives.” It has also followed up with a cover editorial urging people to get vaccinated. That’s great, now could you guys go talk to your colleagues in the news section?
4. Meanings gleaned from the prosecution and guilty verdict of Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis. From the editorial:
If there is a silver lining in such a tragic story, it is about policing. Among the most compelling witnesses in the case were police officials. What had to have impressed the jury was how far Chauvin strayed from standard detention procedures. Police are trained that, if they must use a prone restraint, they are to roll the suspect onto his side as soon as he is secured — and especially if he has stopped resisting — in order to facilitate breathing.
American cops also go by the credo, “In my custody, in my care.” No matter how serious the crime, no matter how loathsome the suspect, they are responsible for the wellbeing of the people they detain. If a detainee falls ill, they are duty-bound to administer care — and trained to do so as “first responders.” If a detainee loses his pulse, they are trained to begin CPR immediately.
Chauvin did none of these things. As prosecutors said, “He wouldn’t let up, and he wouldn’t let up.” The police witnesses expressed a healthy disdain for that. They know nothing makes a good cop’s job harder than a bad cop.
George Floyd died because Derek Chauvin was a bad cop. We are, of course, mindful that police have a very tough job, dealing with uncooperative and often dangerous suspects, many with drug-abuse and health problems — such as the ones Floyd had, which likely contributed to his death. But the police power to use necessary force, which must necessarily be superior force, never justifies excessive force. That is the message of this emphatic verdict.
1. Has anyone ever so worn out welcome and trust as Spin Dr. Fauci? Kyle Smith takes account of his expert-floperoo predictions and meanderings. From the piece:
July 17, 2020 [on PBS]: “We’ve got to do the things that are very clear that we need to do to turn this around. Remember, we can do it. We know that when you do it properly, you bring down those cases. We’ve done it. We’ve done it in New York. New York got hit worse than any place in the world. And they did it correctly by doing the things that you’re talking about.” (The death toll in New York State on July 17, 2020 was under 28,000. The death toll in New York State on April 19, 2021: 51,122. A new study points out that New York had the “worst overall outcome” of any state in the pandemic.)
(The Atlantic: “Advising people that they must do nothing differently after vaccination — not even in the privacy of their homes — creates the misimpression that vaccines offer little benefit at all,” writes epidemiologist and Harvard Medical School professor Julia Marcus. “Vaccines provide a true reduction of risk, not a false sense of security. And trying to eliminate even the lowest-risk changes in behavior both underestimates people’s need to be close to one another and discourages the very thing that will get everyone out of this mess: vaccine uptake.”)
2. Rich Lowry says “W” and plenty more in the GOP establishment can’t help but be wrong about immigration reform. From the piece:
For his part, Bush sounds as if he’s learned nothing. In his Post piece, he cites all the usual measures at the border included in these sorts of bills — “manpower, physical barriers, advanced technology, streamlined and efficient ports of entry.”
That’s all fine, but it is no substitute for rigorous enforcement in the interior of the country and can’t counteract the open-borders message sent by welcoming illegal immigrants into the country.
In that regard, Bush professes, as all supporters of comprehensive immigration reform always do, to oppose amnesty as “fundamentally unfair to those who came legally or are still waiting their turn to become citizens.”
He then calls for an amnesty couched as, in one of the laziest clichés in the immigration debate, bringing illegal immigrants “out of the shadows.”
This will be achieved “through a gradual process in which legal residency and citizenship must be earned,” by requiring “proof of work history, payment of a fine and back taxes, English proficiency and knowledge of U.S. history and civics, and a clean background check.”
Such requirements are always promised in comprehensive immigration bills and are always toothless, serving only as a way to deny that the amnesty for illegal immigrants is indeed an amnesty.
3. More Rich, who climbs the platitudes from Biden’s virtual Climate Summit Lowry: From the piece:
Consider China, which the Biden administration has been desperate to get on board. Amazingly enough, climate envoy John Kerry was the first Biden official to visit China, signaling that climate change is more important to the administration than China’s threatening behavior toward Taiwan, its aggression in the South China Sea, its suppression of the Uyghurs, its predatory trade practices or its theft of intellectual property.
Kerry got verbiage from the Chinese about tackling climate change “with the seriousness and urgency that it demands.”
This is a great coup, just not how Kerry imagines. Every time we pump up China as a partner on the climate, we feed the ridiculous pretense, which President Xi is desperate to create, that China is a good global citizen overwhelmingly concerned with the planet’s welfare.
It’s highly doubtful China is going to reach peak emissions in 2030, or zero by 2060, its latest promise. Beijing is bringing a massive amount of coal-fired power plants online. Regardless, who’s going to hold China accountable for its climate pledges, and how, precisely?
4. More Climate: David Harsanyi lays into Biden’s acute denialism. From the analysis:
“The signs are unmistakable, the science undeniable,” Biden claimed. “Cost of inaction keeps mounting.” Now, I realize that people repeat these contentions with religious zeal, but the evidence is extraordinarily weak. For one thing, there is action. Market innovations keep creating efficiencies all the time. For another, we live in the healthiest, most equitable, most prosperous, most safe, and most peaceful era in human existence. Affordable fossil fuels have done more to eliminate poverty than all the redistributionist programs ever concocted. By nearly every quantifiable measure, the environment is also in better shape now than it was 20, 30, or even 50 years ago. A lot of that is grounded by an economy that relies on affordable energy. Also, though every weather-related event is framed in a cataclysmic way, not that long ago, being killed by the climate was serious concern for most people. Today, it is incredibly rare.
Progressives, however, regularly maintain that we are facing an existential crisis. One might point out that science’s predictive abilities on climate have been atrocious. But, really, these days, “science” is nothing but a cudgel to push leftist policy prescriptions with little consideration for tradeoffs, reality, or morality.
The Malthusian fanaticism that’s been normalized in our political rhetoric is also denialism. “Science,” as the media and political class now practice it, has become little more than a means of generating apprehension and fear about progress. It is the denial of the modern technology and competitive markets which continue to allow human beings to adapt to organic and anthropogenic changes in the environment. Even people who mimic doomsday rhetoric seem to understand this intuitively. The average American says they are willing to spend up to $177 a year to avoid climate change, not the approximately $177,000,000 per person it would cost to set arbitrary dates to get rid of a carbon-energy economy.
5. More David, More Climate: The new Green New Deal promoted by crackpots AOC and Ed Markey is still the stuff of Planters. From the piece:
Senator Ed Markey and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez “formally” reintroduced the Green New Deal today. The first iteration of the plan, lest anyone forget, proposed the elimination of all fossil-fuel energy production; the end of all nuclear power; the phase-out of all “combustion-engine vehicles” — so trucks, airplanes, boats, and 99 percent of cars; the “retrofitting” of every home, factory, and apartment building in the country; the construction of “high speed rail at a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary;” the guarantee of a government a job; a “family-sustaining” wage with free college, state-provided “healthy food,” and “safe, affordable, adequate housing” for everyone; the banning of meat; and “economic security” for all who are “unable or unwilling” to work, among other socialist grab-bag items.
All in the next decade.
6. More AOC, More Climate: Mario Loyola explains the true desires of the Queens Socialist’s agenda. From the analysis:
Worse still, despite the largest bureaucracy in the known universe, the capacity of the federal government to process permit applications is frightfully tiny. In a typical year, federal agencies issue permits to, at most, a few dozen solar and wind projects across the entire country. Individual federal agencies get totally overwhelmed by just a handful of permit applications. But guess what. The word “permit” also doesn’t appear once in the Green New Deal resolution.
Without overcoming these challenges, the Green New Dealers’ vision of a zero-carbon future is simply a fantasy. Yet they can hardly bring themselves to acknowledge that these challenges even exist. It’s hard to say whether they simply don’t understand the reality facing their zero-carbon ambitions, or just aren’t interested. Either way, their priorities simply seem to lie elsewhere.
I once asked a radical environmentalist: “If we found out that the planet was warming for purely natural reasons, would you be in favor of climate engineering to stop it, because the current temperature and sea level are the right ones for humans?” He was appalled. “No, of course not, man,” he said.
What really keeps that young man up at night, and many others like him, is not climate change, but capitalism. As Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said at the Green New Deal rally this week, “The climate crisis is a crisis born of injustice. It is a crisis born of the pursuit of profit at any and all human and ecological cost.”
The Green New Dealers may be in shabby shape when it comes to climate policy, but if saving the planet requires socialism, their hearts are in the trim.
7. More Climate, More Commies: Jimmy Quinn says Red China’s lip service will do nothing to stop Beijing’s environmental abuses. From the piece:
But there’s little reason for optimism about the administration’s “cooperative” approach, which has ramped up ahead of a virtual Earth Day summit that Biden is hosting later this week and in anticipation of an annual U.N. climate conference slated for November. Increasingly, China’s domestic energy production makes it ever less likely that it can meet the goals that it set out under the Paris Agreement and elsewhere. When the country’s leaders make sweeping pledges, as Xi did at the U.N. in September when he promised that China would reach carbon neutrality by 2060, they generate more fawning headlines than the follow-on action to achieve them would warrant. By every indication, China’s not just failing to cut its emissions; it is increasing its ability to continue to grow them, and it does so as certain Western observers play up Beijing’s false promises over a tangible trend that sees declining U.S. carbon emissions.
Data from 2020 illustrate this underappreciated discrepancy. Three-fourths of all new coal plants commissioned last year were commissioned in China, even as the number of coal plants in the rest of the world declined, according to a report by the Global Energy Monitor. As the situation stands, China will only continue to distance itself from achieving the benchmarks called for under the Paris Agreement. These are plants that will go online, meaning that they will account for future emissions growth. “They’re likely going to increase the amount of coal-power capacity that they have through 2025, maybe even 2030, and the IPCC, in their reports to keep global warming well below two degrees, called for between a 50 and 75 percent decrease in coal power generation by 2030,” said Christine Shearer, one of the report’s co-authors, in an interview. Currently, China accounts for half of coal-power capacity under development globally. But counted with projects to which Chinese entities offer financial assistance or engineering support, the country accounts for two-thirds to three-fourths of coal power being developed around the world, Shearer noted.
8. Tyler Merritt has something to say about the Men and Women in Blue, and their media and political detractors. From the piece:
Trevor Noah and Rashida Talib have a right to voice their opinions — just as I do. So here’s mine: These celebrities and politicians couldn’t walk a mile in the shoes of these officers or do what these brave men and women do every day. We’re talking about people who put their lives on the line for us on a regular basis without so much as a thank you from the national media.
Indeed, media coverage plays a large role here. So a plausible defense of such voices as Trevor Noah’s asking, “Where are the good apples?” is because we don’t hear their stories nearly enough. So, for once, let’s hear some of these stories.
Here’s one that took place on a stretch of highway outside Las Cruces, N.M. There, on February 4, Officer Darian Jarrott of the New Mexico State Police was shot at point-blank range by a drug dealer, Omar Cueva, at a traffic stop. Because of a miscommunication, Officer Jarrott was facing this suspect, who was known to have a violent criminal past, by himself. When Cueva pointed a gun pointed in his face, Jarrott did not even draw his own weapon, but seemed to have peacefully convinced Cueva to hand over his rifle — until Cueva changed his mind and fired. He shot Officer Jarrott multiple times and left him for dead.
Then there’s the case of Tampa, Fla., Master Patrol Officer Jesse Madsen. Last month, he stopped a drunk driver (barreling down the highway at over 100 miles per hour toward oncoming traffic) from slamming head-on into a young woman’s car by placing his car between them. Madsen, a father of three and beloved husband, didn’t survive the impact. As of today, there has been no mention of him on CNN.com.
9. Charles C.W. Cooke checks out the snowflakes while analyzing the new kids game, knife fighting. From the piece:
Just when I thought that America couldn’t possibly get any softer, people start suggesting that there’s a role for the police in preventing knife murders. The snowflake generation strikes once again.
Is there any tradition that the radicals won’t ruin? As the brilliant Bree Newsome pointed out on Twitter, “Teenagers have been having fights including fights involving knives for eons.” And now people are calling the cops on them? I ask: Is this a self-governing country or not? When Newsome says, “We do not need police to address these situations by showing up to the scene & using a weapon,” she may be expressing a view that is unfashionable these days. But she’s right.
Disappointingly, my colleague Phil Klein has felt compelled to join the critics. In a post published yesterday, Phil asked in a sarcastic tone whether the police should “somehow treat teenage knife fights as they would harmless roughhousing and simply ignore it.” My answer to this is: Yes, that’s exactly what they should do — yes, even if they are explicitly called to the scene. I don’t know where Phil grew up, but where I spent my childhood, Fridays were idyllic: We’d play some football, try a little Super Mario Bros, have a quick knife fight, and then fire up some frozen pizza before bed. And now law enforcement is getting involved? This is political correctness gone mad.
10. Meanwhile, that aforementioned Philip Klein considers the instant and new philosophy of Stab-It-Outicism. From the piece:
There are really two layers of arguments here.
One is that cops should somehow treat teenage knife fights as they would harmless roughhousing and simply ignore it. The other idea is that the officer should have figured out a way to resolve the situation without doing any harm — this even though video suggests a girl was seconds (or less) away from being stabbed. Why not shoot the leg? Or shoot the knife out of her hand?
People evidently believe this is like the movies. That somehow a cop is like Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name in The Good,the Bad, and the Ugly, shooting a rope from hundreds of yards away to free Tuco from being hanged. In reality, this is not a sniper carefully getting in position to shoot a target. We’re talking about shooting a small, erratically moving target in real time. It is completely unrealistic to expect, no matter how well-trained a cop is.
To be clear, it’s possible more details will emerge that will require us to further reevaluate what transpired in Columbus. But the idea that cops need to take a step back and let teenagers stab it out with each other is completely insane.
11. Michael Brendan Dougherty is on to the MSM and how it made up its own reality about the death of Capitol Hill police officer Brian Sicknick. From the article:
Many times, news stories are constructed just from a little accumulated hearsay. Instead of reporting that an event happened, newspapers report a subject’s claims that something happened, but do so in a way that makes the event itself seem like fact. Outrage and social-justice entrepreneurs have used this feature of the news business to produce hundreds of hoax political crimes. Those stories, too, explode and disappear in the flood of corrections eventually, but only after readers have internalized the atmosphere of crisis they created.
What’s insidious about this is that the news business itself increasingly resembles the QAnon phenomenon. The Q accounts on social media use basically the same techniques of de-contextualizing and re-contextualizing events within a pre-determined narrative, then moving on to the next arc before the previous one completely falls apart. The Capitol rioters were following the twists and turns of the Q accounts on Instagram and other message boards, the accounts hyped up Sidney Powell and Lin Wood that promoted the theory that Mike Pence could just refuse to count the phony electoral votes and, voilà, Trump would remain president. And once Biden was inaugurated, that narrative receded.
What’s astonishing in retrospect about the Q phenomenon is how much it resembled the mainstream media’s fascination with the Steele dossier and the drama of Robert Mueller’s investigation. In both cases, there was a supposed secret truth that would be revealed in an epic conclusion when the hero of the story laid a trap for the villains to walk into. In both cases, when the great, hoped-for narrative resolution didn’t materialize, a new narrative took over.
12. Transgenderism will brook no opposition, writes Charlie Cooke (encore!), about the canceling of Richard Dawkins. From the piece:
Demonstrating adroitly that nobody is safe from our current bout of gladiatorial Calvinball, the American Humanist Association has decided to retroactively cancel Richard Dawkins on the grounds that he is insufficiently devoted to transgenderism’s creed.
Dawkins’s crime was to have suggested on Twitter that transgender people are not, in a scientific sense, members of the sex with which they identify. “In 2015,” Dawkins wrote recently, “Rachel Dolezal, a white chapter president of NAACP, was vilified for identifying as Black. Some men choose to identify as women, and some women choose to identify as men. You will be vilified if you deny that they literally are what they identify as.” In response, the AHA said that Dawkins was “making statements that use the guise of scientific discourse to demean marginalised groups, an approach antithetical to humanist values,” and took away an award that it had given Dawkins in 1996, thereby confirming his initial hypothesis.
Further justifying its decision, the AHA said that it was “aware that cis-white heteronormative patriarchal institutions, power structures, and social attitudes harm Indigenous, Black, Brown, LGBTQ+, disabled individuals, women and other communities — especially those at the intersections of marginalised identities.” Is there any institution left in America that doesn’t talk like this at the drop of a hat? Richard Dawkins, a renowned evolutionary biologist, says that men aren’t actually women, and immediately we hear incantations. It’s liturgical in nature and in habit: Our father, who could absolutely be our mother . . .
13. A stopped clock is right on occasion, and so is Bill Maher. Of late, maybe more so than before, suggests Kyle Smith. From the article:
Maher is consistently strong on the culture of freedom of expression, cancel culture, and the like, but later in the same episode he went so far as to defend Ron DeSantis, and red-state governors in general, for their approach to COVID. In a blistering seven-minute monologue Maher tore into medical professionals who misled us about the pandemic, media outlets pushing “panic porn” for ratings (“the U.S. national media reported almost 90 percent bad news even as things were getting better”), and conservatives who have “some loopy ideas about COVID.” But he reserved most of his scorn for liberals who are making disturbingly out-of-touch miscalculations about risks. Maher cited a shocking poll that showed two-thirds of Democrats believe the chances of being hospitalized if you get COVID are 20 percent or higher. (Actually, it’s less than 5 percent.)
Maher noted that there is a massive societal cost to this, and it’s being borne by our children. He cited the “exaggerated view of the danger of COVID to, and the mortality rate among, children. All of which explains why the states with the highest share of schools that are closed are all blue states.” Maher suggested conservative media should be responsible for “climate change denial” on the right but that the liberal media should be asked, “How did your audience wind up believing such a bunch of crap about COVID?” He segued to the media’s bizarre fixation on scolding beachgoers for supposedly spreading infection even though it appears “the beach is the best place to avoid it. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”
Liberals blinded by their priors about Republican governors are, Maher noted, willfully ignoring good news from Florida and Texas. “I’ve read that the governor of Florida reads,” he said. The audience laughed, expecting Maher to pull the rug out with the usual joke about Republican stupidity, but he didn’t. Instead, he described Governor Ron DeSantis as “a voracious consumer of the scientific literature and maybe that’s why he protected his most vulnerable population, the elderly, way better than did the governor of New York. Those are just facts.” Yet when everything gets filtered through politics, “If their side says COVID is nothing, our side has to say it’s everything. [President] Trump said it would go away like a miracle and we said it was World War Z.”
14. Maybe the problem with America’s schools, argues Daniel Buck, is the woke idiocy being taught at our colleges’ lefty education departments: From the piece:
I’m a conservative, but I began my career as an advocate of progressive pedagogy simply because I didn’t know anything else existed. While most teachers don’t openly align with political progressivism, they still look to the university for pedagogical guidance and curricular materials. So long as the university develops our teachers, influences our practices, and crafts educational materials, the faucet will run unchecked. To combat the progressivism in public schools, conservatives need to aim their focus at the university, not public schools or their teachers.
Progressive education falls into two broad iterations. The first is relatively benign — albeit questionably effective. In the minds of educational theorists such as Dewey and Rousseau, schools are not meant to transmit the best of any culture or shape the character of their students, but merely to observe and suggest. In place of teacher-directed classrooms and classical curricula, students choose their own literature and follow their own interests. Many conservatives and libertarians are quite comfortable with such child-centric philosophies of learning.
The second iteration features structuralists, Marxists, and feminists such as Michel Foucault, Paolo Freire, and bell hooks, who advanced an approach to instruction called “Critical Pedagogy,” one which goes beyond Rousseauean ideas of self-directed learning to instead deconstruct the very idea of being “educated.” Progressive pedagogy in the Rousseauean tradition is mediocre in its results but politically neutral; critical pedagogy is propaganda attempting to pass as instruction.
At its most egregious, schools of education push ideas such as “activist pedagogy,” which, as the name implies, would see students who will grow up to be activists deconstructing the society in which they live. In the ’90s, far before Critical Race Theory entered the common lexicon, Gloria Ladson-Billings advanced the need for “Critical Race Theory” in schools. Even Billings still maintained a belief in academic excellence, though, which authors like Ibram X. Kendi now renounce to instead suggest we test students on the mere knowledge of their own environments. In my own graduate program, our textbook suggested teachers should, if required to teach classic literature, do so through a Marxist, feminist, post-colonial, or critical-race “lens.”
How should conservatives think about the intersection of property rights, government regulation, and Big Tech? Part of answering this question requires us to gain a better understanding of the American legal tradition’s sources, recovering them from recent distortions. Justice Clarence Thomas recently sought to educate us on just this.
In his concurring opinion in Joseph Biden v. Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, Justice Thomas noted that First Amendment doctrines may not always apply when it comes to the considerable powers of Big Tech companies to control access to speech. Instead, he suggested that the Court and lawmakers might have to consider other legal limitations on the powers of Big Tech. “If part of the problem is private, concentrated control over online content and platforms available to the public,” he suggested, “then part of the solution may be found in doctrines that limit the right of a private company to exclude.” Those limits are found in the law. In many respects, Big Technology companies are like common carriers, such as telegraph and telephone companies, a legal status that entails a duty to serve everyone.
As this analogy shows, Justice Thomas correctly interprets positive law in light of the more fundamental, common law that we inherited from England at the time of the Founding. Our written constitutions and statutes often presuppose and declare preexisting rights and duties that the common law has long drawn from natural law, such as the duty not to steal, and from immemorial customs, such as the liberty to wander into a bookstore.
16. Pennsylvania Dem guv Tom Wolf is loving his extended game-playing with executive power, which Kevin Mooney says is long overdue for ending. From the piece:
In Pennsylvania, the business community is challenging Democratic governor Tom Wolf’s executive overreach amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Pennsylvanians’ year-long calls for lawmakers to limit Wolf’s emergency powers have resulted in a historic ballot referendum, which would amend the state’s constitution and restore checks and balances if passed. Voters will be presented with that opportunity during the May 18 primary next month.
Since his initial restrictions last March, Wolf has vetoed at least twelve bills that lawmakers crafted to reopen the economy. He also enacted an uneven, opaque waiver process to determine which “life-sustaining” businesses could stay open. The Wolf administration has refused to release “exactly what criteria it was using to consider applications, or explain to applicants why waivers were granted or denied,” according to Spotlight PA.
Though Wolf has postured himself as an advocate for senior citizens who were most vulnerable to COVID-19, he has hindered lawmakers’ efforts to save essential senior-housing construction projects. Indeed, last spring, Wolf’s veto of a state senate bill to reopen the construction industry — based on federal guidelines — signaled that his pandemic response would prove chaotic. Wolf eventually relented to legislative pressure, but his initial executive actions delayed the completion of crucial senior-housing projects during the crisis.
17. Red China’s doing its 1619 takeoff, says Cameron Hilditch. It’s the 1921 Project. From the essay:
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party, and Xi is celebrating the occasion with a massive nationwide “Party-History Study.” The whole country is being subjected to a national propaganda campaign, mandating that every man, woman, and child in China learn the history of the CCP and the tenets of classical Marxism. Not just schools but also workplaces and public institutions will set exams testing each citizen’s proficiency at regurgitating the Party line on demand.
On February 20, Chairman Xi gave a speech at a “Mobilization Conference on Party-History Study and Education” in which he outlines the nature and purpose of the “party-history study.” From an American perspective, it’s perhaps the most important and revealing public address that Xi has yet given. Throughout the speech, published in the March 31–April 1 issue of the CCP’s official ideological magazine Qiushi, he spells out with crystaline clarity his view that the great-power rivalry between China and the West is, in the final analysis, an ideological battle to the death between capitalism and communism. Much of the speech could easily have been given by any of the Bolshevik premiers who preceded Mikhail Gorbachev.
The central theme of the speech is the contrast between “historical materialism,” as understood and endorsed by the CCP, and “bourgeois history” as practiced in the West. It’s clear that by “bourgeois history” Xi means the practice of investigating documents, artifacts, and records in an attempt to understand the past on its own terms. This academic methodology, which renounces the distorting practice of drafting history into the service of contemporary political ends, is anathema to him. He makes clear his view that history is valuable only to the extent that it is useful for political ends in the present. The purpose of the party-history study, he says, is to “comprehend the power of ideology and increase the political consciousness” of the Chinese people. “Marxism,” he continues, “is a powerful ideological weapon for us to understand the world, grasp the laws, pursue the truth, and transform the world. It is the guiding ideology that our party and country must always follow.” For this reason, he concludes, the study of history “cannot be for a moment without theoretical thinking, or without ideological guidance.”
18. There’s not a single issue over which someone can realistically describe Red China and the U.S. as allies. Isaac Schorr vents. From the piece:
And yet, now that China has arrived as a great power — one prosecuting a genocide inside its borders while seeking to extend them — many, including the powers-that-be in the Biden administration, seem intent on repeating those same mistakes. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Antony Blinken or the other top brass at the State Department believe that with time, sunlight, and water, the current regime will soon give way to a better one. Few could have such naïveté fairly ascribed to them. However, they are acting on another equally pernicious premise: that the fundamental character of the CCP can and should be set aside at times so that the United States can work with the country on discrete issues.
We see this belief manifesting itself most notably and most recently in the United States’ efforts to engage with China on environmental issues. On Saturday, the American and Chinese governments released a joint statement announcing that “the United States and China are committed to cooperating with each other and with other countries to tackle the climate crisis, which must be addressed with the seriousness and urgency that it demands.” Jimmy Quinn has already poured cold water on the idea that China’s actual environmental performance aligns with its lofty green rhetoric. Contra this statement, China is primed to increase its already world-beating emissions over the next several years. And nothing in the statement, or the Paris Agreement, or any other international accord will hold the CCP accountable for the discrepancy between its words and its actions.
The only beneficiary of the issuance of such a statement is the CCP itself, which has, for all intents and purposes, gotten the American government to certify that it takes climate change seriously and is acting to remedy it. Worse, this statement seems to place the United States and China on equal footing as contributors to and solvers of the problem, which the Chinese propaganda machine is sure to use to counter critiques of the regime’s human-rights violations and aggressive geopolitical posturing. It’s an enormous error for the Biden administration to earnestly believe and act upon the idea that the CCP is interested in environmental improvement, rather than the benefits that appearing to commit to such a goal confer upon it.
19. Harsanyi Encore: In which David excoriates Elizabeth Warren, of the Cherokee Tribe, for nastily meddling in the affairs of the nation of 12 Tribes. From the assessment:
This week, Senator Elizabeth Warren implored Israel’s opposition parties to unite and oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu so that the United States could facilitate the creation of a Palestinian state. Though Democrats have quietly meddled in Israel’s elections numerous times over decades — from Clintonistas to Obamaites to the now-disgraced Lincoln Project — I can’t remember a United States senator ever openly chiming in on the democratic process of an ally in quite this way.
Speaking at a conference put on by the pro-Palestinian group J Street, Warren lamented Israel’s reluctance to go along with the “two-state solution,” which would in fact entail acquiescing to the demands of Hamas and the more “moderate” Palestinian Authority, which diverts hundreds of millions of dollars in international funding for monthly salaries, free education, insurance, and medical care for terrorists and their families. Rather than demand that Palestinians cease firing rockets at Israeli civilians or stop spreading anti-Semitic conspiracy theories among their population or scale back their “martyrs’ fund,” Warren said that the only way to alter Israel’s trajectory is for the opposition to unite against Netanyahu.
Warren claims that Netanyahu “has precipitated four stalemate elections in two years in his frenzied effort to immunize himself from well-documented charges of corruption,” which is a weird way of pointing out that the prime minister called for elections after a coalition collapse. Imagine, if you can, Warren’s reaction if a foreign political leader openly offered the GOP advice on how to win back the presidency. Foreign interference, indeed.
20. Who cares about facts, writes Robert Joseph, when you want to smooch Iran’s tuckus, as the Biden Administration seems intent on doing. From the article:
The administration’s myopic focus on rejoining the JCPOA also ignores the fundamental changes in the security environment of the Gulf region since 2015. The growing collaboration between Israel and the Gulf states, reflected in the Abraham accords, has at its core the goal of containing Iran and deterring its aggression. American allies from Jerusalem to Riyadh understand the nature of the Tehran regime and are working together to confront the threat. The concessions that the Biden administration is reportedly willing to make to return to the nuclear agreement will directly undercut the position of our allies. With relief from sanctions and with tacit agreement from the United States that it will not support the democratic opposition to the religious dictatorship, the Biden policy will strengthen our adversary and undermine our allies, to the long-term strategic detriment of our national interests.
Biden administration officials will, of course. reject all the above criticisms. Their response is conveyed in yet another frequently heard talking point, stating that rejoining the JCPOA is only the first step — a step that will be followed by negotiations to address the agreement’s flaws, such as its failure to limit ballistic missiles, and curb Iran’s malign behavior in the region through armed interventions and support for terrorism. These are the same objectives that were sought in the original negotiations but abandoned when the supreme leader ruled them out. That position has not changed, and there is no indication that it will. When the U.S. lifts sanctions as a condition of rejoining the agreement, it will be the last step, not the first step. Iran will have again achieved its objectives. And the U.S. will have again paid a high price for a bad deal.
Finally, as for ending Iran’s involvement in acts of state terrorism, one need look no further than the city where the negotiations are currently taking place. In February, an Iranian agent assigned to Tehran’s embassy in Vienna was convicted in a Belgian court of committing an act of state terrorism, for planning and supplying an explosive device intended to bomb a peaceful rally near Paris attended by tens of thousands seeking a democratic and secular Iran. Today that same embassy is providing support to the Iranian delegation in the JCPOA talks, and the reaction of the European host governments and the Biden administration: complete silence. But the message for Iran is loud and clear.
21. Kaj Relwof warns that weak-kneed Nutmeg Republicans could give hope to ballot-harvesting Democrats. From the article:
Challenged to point to any case in recent years when any Connecticut voter has been denied the right to vote, H.J. Res. 58 supporters have refused to take the bait and answer — because the answer is, there is no case. Indeed, the state laws which implement the constitution’s protection of election integrity are comprehensive and reasonable, allowing for voting by absentee ballot for those in the military, the ill and disabled, voters who will not be in a municipality on Election Day during voting hours, for those who “tenets of their religion forbid secular activity on the day of the primary, election, or referendum,” and for poll workers and other officials whose duties preclude them from voting at their polling place on Election Day.
The fact is, in any town in Connecticut, weeks before an election, assuming ballots are printed and available, a voter may apply (including in person at a municipal clerk’s office) for the ballot, receive it, and vote on the spot.
The author of this article would know, having cast his ballot several times via this means.
Yes, in Connecticut, blue Connecticut, of all places, there is some semblance of election-law sanity, on a par with the views held by a majority of Americans.
The battle to undo that has commenced and may take to the floor of the august legislative chambers in Hartford in the next days or weeks.
Those citizens who are appalled at the prospect of electoral chaos and disenfranchisement that will result from the adoption of the 58 and 59 twins should take heart: Even with the Democrats’ enormous numbers in the legislature, the 75 percent threshold is a supremely high one to reach.
A victory — for election integrity, for common sense, and for conservatives — is quite possible.
But then, maybe these citizens should despair after all, because the same can be said about Republicans’ ability to snatch defeat from Victory’s jaws.
1. Tom Spencer runs the number and concludes Janet Yellen’s global tax will cause earthly damage. From the article:
In her speech, Yellen explained that the pressures of tax competition have prevented countries from enjoying full sovereignty over fiscal policy. If countries wish to spend more, and fund that spending with high corporate taxes, then they risk companies’ offshoring their profits and taking away any revenue that governments might gain. Countries such as Ireland, Moldova, and Paraguay have adopted extremely low rates to attract businesses to their shores. This has helped them compete with richer nations internationally, but has also resulted in a drop in American tax revenue, as companies move their profits toward these “havens.”
For Yellen, that simply won’t do.
But a global minimum tax isn’t the way to fix these problems. While countries’ abilities to raise corporate taxes is restricted by the fact that companies may offshore profits (and that may be problematic for governments in high-tax countries), that is a feature, not a bug. This economic phenomenon is well-known. It’s just called the Laffer Curve.
2. You got a friend in me — not. Jerry Bowyer wonders if Big Tech will soon be sitting alone in the cafeteria. From the piece:
Have we made the point, Bezos and Jassy? They will never accept you. The mob cannot be bought off. In the eyes of the radicals, no number of banned books or censored conservatives will atone Amazon of its original sin: being a corporation. The Left is no more fond of Amazon than it was when Ryan Anderson could still sell books on the platform. But all these tech giants have, or had, a natural defender in conservatism, a movement that has historically been oriented toward defending businesses (even the mega-caps) from the interventions of the state. Now they are losing their support, and there is little reason to believe that the next Republican president or Republican-controlled Congress will respond to years of censorship by doubling down on free markets. From Senators Marco Rubio and Josh Hawley to President Trump to Tucker Carlson, conservatives are increasingly showing an enthusiasm, if mostly in rhetoric, to forgo their party’s historical inclinations and use the whips and reins of government to curtail the Left’s intrusion into the boardroom.
3. The story goes, says Sally Pipes, that Americans can’t afford health care. The facts say something quite different. From the article:
Eighteen percent of those polled by Gallup said that someone in their household had foregone care in the last twelve months because of cost. Thirty-five percent said they had cut spending on recreation to be able to afford health care.
These are eye-opening findings. But polls tell us what people say; numbers show what they really do. And there’s plenty of economic data to show that things are more complicated than Gallup’s survey says.
For instance, are Americans really delaying health care because they can’t afford it? If they were, we should have seen that pent-up demand satisfied in January, when household incomes rose by 10 percent.
That month, consumer spending jumped 5.3 percent. It wasn’t the health-care sector that saw the biggest gains, according to CNBC. The sharpest increases went to electronics and appliances outlets, furniture stores, and online retailers.
In other words, when Americans got their hands on surplus cash, they didn’t rush to the doctor’s office. They bought computers and remodeled their kitchens.
Despite the pandemic, between February 2020 and February 2021, U.S. household income rose 13 percent, according to the Commerce Department. Again, that extra income did not go to health care. In fact, consumer spending on health care remained down year-on-year as recently as January.
Where’s all that money going? The personal-savings rate leapt 80 percent last year. The food-delivery business is booming. Pet supplies are flying off the shelves. Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies projects that spending on remodeling will increase on an annualized basis through early next year.
You’re going to want to bail on this review after you read the next sentence, but don’t, because there’s a twist coming. Hope is a delicate Norwegian drama about a woman diagnosed with terminal cancer. But it’s not really about that. It doesn’t become clear until the final, perfect, wordless image of the film, but Hope is actually reassuring, in its way.
Tenderly written and directed by Maria Sodahl after her own cancer diagnosis, the film begins in triumph, with the premiere of a brilliant ballet choreographed by Anja (subtly portrayed by Andrea Bræin Hovig), who is living with her partner of 20 years, a producer named Tomas (Stellan Skarsgård). The pair have never married but they are raising six children together, three of them from his previous marriage.
Without directly addressing the topic, the film makes it clear that something has gone awry in this relationship. Tomas and Anja are polite to each other, but there’s a chill in the air, a distance, a silence. On the surface the pair preside over a large, bustling family, but when the two are alone, there seems to be very little to say. He didn’t even bother attending her premiere, and doesn’t much seem to care how it went over.
When The Simpsons stirred animated television 32 years ago, with cartoonist Matt Groening’s eccentric alternative-press satire of the American-family archetype and sitcom vet James L. Brooks’s professional finesse, it was the acme of modern wit. Now, it’s been outwitted by its evil twin, Seth McFarland’s Family Guy (which regularly bashes famous conservatives). It’s just another example of modern decadence. The show’s creators have given up being funny and opted instead to scold and censure. It’s the same peculiarly decayed savvy and perverted social perception that ruined late-night television comedy. The Simpsons crew is another Hollywood outfit intent on dividing America and the pop audience.
This insult goes to the heart of contemporary cultural betrayal. The Smiths’ “Panic” is an evergreen song about the effects of the political tyranny — it’s strikingly relevant today. But The Simpsons avoids noting the song’s prescience and chooses cheap mockery. Unlike past Simpsons celebrity parodies (Barbra Streisand, the Rolling Stones, Aerosmith), this pointedly political offense exposes today’s craven showbiz practices. Not surprisingly, Quilloughby was voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, an actor who ironically won fame and an Oscar nomination (for playing Alan Turing in The Imitation Game) through Harvey Weinstein’s influence.
The Simpsons slams Morrissey by ridiculing and misrepresenting his animal-rights stance and repeating media calumny that accuses him of racism. Lisa comes out and says it: “You’re a huge racist!” Lisa’s fractured psyche compels her need to attack others. When the empowered Left eats itself, no hypocrisy is out of bounds. One cultural institution viciously attacks another. Instead of teaching the complex moral lessons in Morrissey’s art, The Simpsons continues its practice of PC superiority. (One Simpsons actor apologized to the nation of India for the portrayal of the Apu character, yet the show’s producers have never apologized for the Reverend Lovejoy and Ned Flanders characters that trash Christianity.)
3. More Armond: He blasts the Oscar-snub of Michelle Pfeiffer. From the piece:
Michelle Pfeiffer’s role as Frances Price, a sardonic widow and mother living out her dwindling inheritance in French Exit, is the finest characterization in any movie from 2020. That she is not in contention for this weekend’s Academy Awards is reason enough to ignore the charade. It has become a kangaroo court in denial of meritocracy, an offense that deserves disdain the same way that Frances Price battles modern hypocrisy. She pulls her son Malcolm (Lucas Hedges) out of his boarding school, and they book an ocean liner to France, knowing she will meet her destiny.
In this comedy about wealth and death, Frances takes on privilege and finality with a boldness that Pfeiffer, whose film career began as the cheerleading babe in Grease 2, had to refine her talent to achieve. Defying all obstacles, Frances is world-weary without becoming defeatist. She questions social proprieties and keeps moving forward — an existential cheerleader wearing couture as a middle-aged socialite’s armor. Frances insults anyone in her way, saving admiration for others who transgress (her perception of a Parisian street bum) and for Malcolm, the son she dotes on (“I’ve never been so hurt as when I saw your face for the first time, because you were me”).
French Exit is a variation on Patrick Dennis’s Auntie Mame, the très gay comic novel from the 1950s in which a madcap woman urges her nephew to “live, live, live!” Pfeiffer’s madcap turn is not a drag queen, but her graying red hair, pale skin, and low voice impersonate French art-film actress Isabelle Huppert, whom an American arriviste might envy as a model of haughtiness. Pfeiffer uses that exasperatingly humorless attitude so that Frances (novelist Patrick deWitt’s Millennial twist on Auntie Mame) approaches mortality with the eccentricity of a screwball comedy heroine. The scene where Frances starts a fire in a Paris restaurant just to get a snotty waiter’s attention is as audacious as any stunt Carole Lombard or Katharine Hepburn ever pulled, yet ominous. Similarly, Frances is attached to a black cat who she believes is her late husband’s reincarnation.
In a bitterly divided land, the great uniter is staring us squarely in the face: craft beer. From faithful Christians to revolutionary socialists, from beardy progressives in Brooklyn out to Orange County libertarians, everyone loves to monkey around with beer, and consuming the product makes us matey and cheerful. You want less rancor? Bring on more suds.
A disorganized but cheerful and spirited documentary, Brewmance, takes us through how the magical beverage is made out of only four ingredients (barley, hops, water, yeast), how the craft brew industry got going in the Seventies (all praise and thanks to Fritz Maytag, who built up San Francisco–based Anchor Steam), and what it takes to launch a commercial craft brewery. All this is seen through the eyes of two new startups in Long Beach, Calif.: Liberation Brewing Company and Ten Mile Brewing Company.
Liberation Brewing Company is run by Dan Regan, a trombone player who quit his band, Reel Big Fish, when it was time to get married and settle down to a boring job as a university administrator. Regan, the kind of guy who says things like “We got pregnant” and whose friends call him a socialist, developed a lot of expertise in craft beers while touring with his band, whose members made a habit of spending the afternoons on the road sampling the wares at whatever breweries were closest. He comes up with a stylish logo for Liberation Brewing (a tongue-in-cheek Cold War image of a falling bomb), and we watch as he takes over an old 98 Cents store, renovates the space, and finally, gloriously, opens to the public.
Elsewhere in the Conservative Solar System
1. At the beloved and exceptional Gatestone Institute, Judith Bergman sounds the warning about Red China’s predatory fishing fleet, emptying out the seas. From the piece:
Communist China seems increasingly to be depleting the world’s oceans of marine life. The country has by far the world’s largest fishing fleet of anywhere between 200,000 to 800,000 fishing boats — accounting for nearly half of the world’s fishing activity — approximately 17,000 of which belong to its distant-water fishing fleet. The growth has been made possible by enormous state subsidies. In 2012, for instance, the Chinese state poured $3.2 billion in subsidies into its fishing sector, most of it for fuel. However, according to a report from 2012, “government support for the fishing and aquaculture sector could be as much as CNY 500 billion (USD 80.2 billion, EUR 61.7 billion) when regional and national subsidies for rural-based fish farmers are taken into account.”
As noted by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), many industrialized countries, having depleted their domestic waters, go distant-water fishing in the territorial waters of low-income countries, but China’s distant-water fleet is by far the largest in the world. The ODI also noted that ownership and operational control of China’s fleet is both “complex and opaque”.
“China’s leaders see distant water fleets as a way to project presence around the world,” Tabitha Mallory, CEO of the consulting firm China Ocean Institute and affiliate professor at the University of Washington toldAxios. “The aim is to be present all over the world’s oceans so that they can direct the outcomes of international agreements that cover maritime resources.”
Chinese fishing vessels deplete the stocks of countries not only in Southeast Asia, but also as far away as the Persian Gulf, South America, West Africa and the South Pacific. Their predatory and unsustainable fishing methods are endangering not only marine life, but also the livelihoods of local fishermen. China is considered to be the largest perpetrator of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) in the world, as well as the largest subsidizer in the world of such practices.
2. Eradicating Western Civ honors courses (and The Bible!), reports The College Fix’s Rachelle Hernandez, is the new mantra of Black students at Chicago’s Loyola University. From the article:
The Honors Black, Indigenous, People of Color Coalition described a number of goals in an Instagram post. The group appears to have deleted its entire Instagram page, as it no longer can be seen as of April 20, however the Loyola Phoenix has a screenshot of it.
Students want to “Eradicate the focus on Western Civilization and Tradition and expand the scope of the Honors 101/102 to have a greater emphasis on global intellectuality” the post said, and “Diversify faculty that will honor and respectfully teach each text with cultural competency.”
Other goals include better support for racial minority students in the honors program and recruitment of a diverse student body.
The most recent syllabus posted is for the 2018-19 school year, but based on comments made by the students, it appears to be still in use.
Students are asked to read works such as “The Prince” by Machiavelli, “Persuasion” by Jane Austen and the writings of Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare.
One historical work that students are upset about is the Bible.
“I personally did not like reading the Bible whatsoever, in any capacity,” honors student Himani Soni said during an Honors BIPOC townhall in March.
Once — long enough ago for the grandparents of anyone reading this not to have been born — things were real (I mean the world, not plastic or nylon), but we have forgotten that. Now the world is as we please to see it.
For example, now a person can have a penis but not be male, simply because that person ‘identifies’ as, that is, personally prefers to be, a woman, or both a man and a woman, or neither. And whereas in grandmother’s day such a person would have been regarded as, at best, ‘quirky’, now anyone who does not go along is an ‘ist’ of some sort — perhaps a ‘genderist’?
The unreal became a double helix of our inner and outer worlds, as the Selfism of the Me Decade of the Sixties and the Culture of Narcissism of the Seventies saturated the DNA of Western culture. Near the turn of the twentieth century ‘character’ became ‘personality’, the root of which word lies in ‘mask’.
One acquired traits rather than virtues and flaws and could not only reinvent oneself (e.g., Oscar Wilde, Madonna) but be celebrated for the act. And it became precisely that: an act. We became a population of performers, even creating fictionalized, curated Selves in the form of online ‘profiles’.
Lying beneath such a weltanschauung of unreality is its epistemology. But since theories of knowledge — from Plato to Descartes to Bishop Berkeley to the non-existence of consciousness itself — are above my pay grade, we’re better off at ground-level. Martin Luther may have made “every man his own priest,” but postmodernism, arising inevitably from the detritus of our fake imperium, has made each of us the maker of worlds, each with its cause, slogans, concepts, policies, programs, style, trends, and linguistic requirements.
4. More from TIC, this time the ever-lovin’ Brad “Double B” Birzer shares his C.S. Lewis Top-10 book list. From the piece:
The seventh book is Lewis’s little (but mighty and profound) book, An Experiment in Criticism, published first in 1961, just two years before his death. In it, Lewis offers his most incisive as well as expansive definition of mythology. Further, he notes, in a theme he pursued much of his life, the best critics are those who love the genre they’re criticizing. Those who lack any sympathy whatsoever, with the subject analyzed, have no business reviewing that particular book, piece of music, or work of art. His two chapters on myth and fantasy are, alone, worth the price of the entire book.
One of Lewis’s best theological fantasies (is it fiction, an allegory, or a work of theology?) is The Great Divorce. Having almost nothing to do with marriage and its dissolution, the book — in Dantesque fashion — follows one man (Lewis himself) from hell into purgatory and toward (does he ever reach it?) heaven, guided by the spirit of George MacDonald. Though it moves at a blistering pace (hence, one must ask if it’s more fiction or more theological treatise), Lewis as author and as character asks the most vital questions one can ask: what is man, what is God, what is free will, what is relationship (to man and to God)? It is a beautiful story that captivates from the first to the last moment.
5. At The Spectator, Stephen Miller discusses the knife fight to which Democrats have brought a gun. From the analysis:
‘Let them kill each other’ is now the message coming from the White House, the activist left and mainstream media pundits in the wake of the police shooting death of 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant. After several hours of speculation, Bryant was shown on police body camera footage attacking multiple people with a long kitchen knife outside a residence. Bryant was shot when she charged a girl up against a vehicle with the knife. The officer fired four times, mortally wounding Bryant, who was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Instead of admitting error in jumping to conclusions — that this incident was somehow linked to Derek Chauvin being found guilty of the murder of George Floyd — Twitter activists, cable news hosts and even the White House doubled down on the tale of a racist police officer sticking his gun where it didn’t belong. Bree Newsome, the activist famous for scaling a flag pole and tearing down a Confederate flag tweeted, ‘Teenagers have been having fights including fights involving knives for eons. We do not need police to address these situations by showing up to the scene & using a weapon against one of the teenagers. Y’all need help. I mean that sincerely.’
Valerie Jarrett, a former Obama adviser, echoed this sentiment by tweeting, ‘A Black teenage girl named Ma’Khia Bryant was killed because a police officer immediately decided to shoot her multiple times in order to break up a knife fight. Demand accountability. Fight for justice.’ While appearing on CNN, former head of the NAACP Cornell Brooks declared it a schoolyard fight:
‘What if it were your daughter, what if it were your child, a member of your family, your neighbor in a — essentially in a teenage fight, a schoolyard fight?’
Attorney Ben Crump tweeted, ‘As we breathed a collective sigh of relief today, a community in Columbus felt the sting of another police shooting as @ColumbusPolice killed an unarmed 15yo Black girl named Makiyah Bryant. Another Child lost! Another hashtag.’
The New York Times later printed Mr Crump’s tweet, editing out his claim that the girl was unarmed. The Times has not explained why they edited a published tweet without editorial comment.
6. At the National Association of Scholars website, Louis K. Bonham reports on Orwellian doings at the University of Texas, Austin. From the beginning of the report:
Last summer, a working copy of the University of Texas at Austin’s (UT) “Faculty Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion — Strategic Plan” was leaked by a UT employee. As detailed in an earlier National Association of Scholars article, this plan included political litmus tests for hiring, promotion, and even scholarship. As the article concluded:
In the name of “diversity, equity, and inclusion,” university leadership has decided to end its search for truth and to instead become a redistribution scheme for the transfer of money from students and taxpayers to new hires that, by necessity, must be committed zealots of the regime. If this plan takes effect, Texans of diverse opinions can say goodbye to any dream of being hired by its most prestigious university.
Not to worry — UT eventually responded, explaining that the leaked document was only an incomplete draft, and that UT would “continue to seek faculty with a wide range of political, religious, philosophical, ideological, and academic viewpoints.” Last week, after rumors from UT insiders circulated that UT President Jay Hartzell might be tactically delaying approval of this plan until after the Texas Legislature adjourns in May, UT quietly announced that the plan had been approved.
While the final version of UT’s strategic plan has been massaged from the prior draft, in substance the plan’s means, objectives, and import remain the same: all faculty hiring and promotion decisions — and even the conferring of endowed chairs and teaching awards — must now be scrutinized through the lens of whether faculty contribute to “diversity, equity, and inclusivity.” Millions of dollars will be spent on mandatory “diversity officers,” whose job will be to enforce this diversity orthodoxy. New positions will be created that will be open only to those who would “increase diversity” at UT. Muddying the waters further, the plan now adopts the amorphous, undefined concept of “diversity skills” as a yardstick for hiring and performance.
Of course, what UT actually means by “diversity” (much less “equity” or “inclusivity”) is never specified. What is clear is that UT is not merely focused on guaranteeing equal opportunity and nondiscrimination (and perhaps enhanced faculty recruiting/retention efforts among certain groups) in hiring and promotion, but is instead implementing an “equality-of-results” identity-politics model. More troubling, all prospective and current faculty are effectively required to embrace this new orthodoxy.
7. At Law & Liberty, Kai Weiss and Nathaniel Bald glean lessons from Europe’s Christian Democrats. From the essay:
Of the new ideas emerging from the fusionists’ supposed downfall, national conservatism and integralism dominate most conversations. Whereas Catholic integralism hopes to achieve a confessional state through which the government actively promotes religious beliefs — potentially even penalizing those who do not follow the prescribed faith — national conservatism has risen to prominence with a reorientation away from global capitalism and towards more national and local approaches, including industrial policy and protectionism under the banner of the national interest. The idea that connects these emerging factions is a greater reliance on strategy and intervention from the central government.
Both groups make accurate observations. Local communities, social institutions such as the family and Church, and Tocquevillian associations that make up the social fabric have been severely weakened. To some extent, globalization and technology have played roles in the unraveling of society (although we should not underestimate the destruction government policy has wrought). A loss of a more profound understanding of the human person, dignity, and freedom has left our modern societies often with strictly materialistic, progressive, and relativistic worldviews that lack a greater appreciation for what a good and free life actually is. One does not need to be an ultra-traditionalist to believe that modern society is coming apart on several fronts.
Conservatives should not, however, resort to the false promise of centralized political decision-making to fulfill their hopes by brute force. A rich tradition from Europe which has infrequently caught the attention of Americans may offer an alternative path: Christian Democracy.
8. In the new issue of Commentary, Jonathan Schanzer profiles the Biden Administration’s gutting of Trump achievements in U.S.-Saudi relations. From the essay:
The kingdom’s detractors today embrace the idea of empowering Iran at the expense of its Sunni neighbors. The kingdom’s defenders, by contrast, see Saudi Arabia as an important bulwark against Iran. This is the simplified version of the story. But a better argument for giving Saudi Arabia an opportunity to earn its place in the American alliance system stems from its ambitious reform plan, launched in 2016, known as “Vision 2030.”
Simply put, the goal of Vision 2030 is to drag Saudi Arabia out of its antiquated oil economy and to shed its ascetic Wahhabi ideology in the process. Under the leadership of the kingdom’s impulsive crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman (commonly referred to as MBS), the country set its sights on improved education, a shift away from the economic model in which the state rains money on the populace, and a raft of reforms that would better serve its own people, who are skewing younger each year and are hungry for change.
The process has been profoundly imperfect, but nonetheless astounding. Radical clerics who for years dominated public opinion in the kingdom have become marginalized. Women are driving. The country’s ubiquitous religious police, the mutawa, has been de-fanged. And the export of Wahhabi ideology is down, with madrassas and other traditional Saudi-funded hotbeds of extremist education shuttering across the Muslim world.
The effort is far from complete. Women still lack the same rights as men. Citizens are jailed for political reasons. And there is no free press to cover it. The country is still a monarchy in every meaningful sense. But the changes are nonetheless jaw-dropping to those familiar with the country’s history of backwardness. The Saudis invited me to see it for myself, and while much work remains, I can attest to the change.
My greatest skepticism related to how the Saudis view Jews. If they couldn’t cease to vilify adherents of other faiths, then their reforms would be short-lived and insignificant. The Saudis seem to understand this. The government-funded Muslim World League was for years a loathsome NGO that promoted vile anti-Semitism. But in recent years, under the leadership of cleric Mohammed al-Issa, the NGO has conducted pointed outreach to Jews, signaling major shifts in its views. The Muslim World League has even launched a campaign decrying Holocaust denial, representing a remarkable shift from its pre-9/11 platform.
9. Last but oh-so-not least, t the Voegelin View, Lee Trepanier interviews fan favorite Daniel J. Mahoney about Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and his memoir, Between Two Millstones. From the interview:
What did Solzhenitsyn think of Sakharov? What did he make of Gorbachev’s reforms in the Soviet Union?
On the deepest level, Solzhenitsyn admired Andrei Sakharov, the Soviet physicist (and one of the inventors of the Soviet version of the hydrogen bomb). They had engaged together in the great “encounter battle” with the Soviet state in the fall of 1973 that Solzhenitsyn describes so artfully and energetically near the end of The Oak and the Calf. Sakharov was a man of immense dignity and nobility who was moved by “pangs of repentance and conscience,” as Solzhenitsyn put it, to challenge the totalitarian Soviet state he had once faithfully served. His was a “heroic conversion.” And by the mid-1970s Sakharov no longer blamed the Soviet tragedy on Stalin alone, but had come to appreciate the essential corruption of the Soviet enterprise since its founding in 1917.
But this fundamentally good man stubbornly held on to illusions. While rejecting Marxism, he remained dedicated to atheistic humanism and a misplaced faith in “all-round progress,” rule by experts and technocrats, and a world-governing authority in the form of a World Government. Solzhenitsyn was appalled by this scientism (and its hostility to religious consciousness) coupled with a faith in the religion of Progress, World Government, and an apolitical “human rights ideology.” Solzhenitsyn admired Sakharov’s final fight for civic and intellectual freedoms during the meeting of the Congress of People’s Deputies in 1989. Here, near the end of his life, Sakharov was an undisputed voice of truth and civic integrity.
Solzhenitsyn noted that he and Sakharov were of the same age, grew up in the same country, were uncompromising in fighting the same evil system, and were “vilified at the same time by a baying press; and . . . both called not for revolution but reforms.” Despite their significant differences, as much spiritual as political, they respected and admired each other. Both were undoubtedly heroes who believed in liberty and human dignity and were willing to sacrifice a great deal for that cause. One thing alone divided them: “Russia.” Sakharov was an internationalist and hardly had any deep affective attachment to historic Russia. Thus, in Solzhenitsyn’s chastened love of country, he could only espy a lurking danger for the present and future.
At first, Solzhenitsyn feared that Gorbachev’s reforms were superficial, a new and temporary set of reforms within the broader structure of ideological orthodoxy and state tyranny. Gradually, he came to realize that glasnost did indeed entail the very publicity — and at least partial openness — for which Solzhenitsyn himself had been calling for so many years. Of course, Gorbachev had continuing illusions about Lenin and never freed himself wholly from Communist categories and thinking. Later, Solzhenitsyn worried about a repetition of February 1917, a headlong fall into chaos and disorder in a too-precipitous effort to “democratize” the country and to “liberalize” the economy. The themes of his epic March 1917 were very relevant to this new situation, but the book was not yet available to Solzhenitsyn’s compatriots.
“H” as we shall refer to him, young father and husband afflicted with tumors, still needs fervent prayers. Yours. Days from dy