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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 email@example.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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 dying a year back, he remains in the fight — fueled in part by spiritual inspiration and, we contend, Godly intervention, surely the result of your entreaties. Please continue to ask (when we do, the door shall be opened). Also prayers for Officer J. He is determined to beat the cancer that torments him, and recommends a conspiracy — involving the communion of saints and believers such as you — to storm Heaven with specific intentions.
May He Who Knows Every Hair on Your Head Bring You the Peace You Seek,
Jack Fowler, who is in a penultimate frame of mind, seeking from you nothing, but offering his ether-receptacle for any who wish to send a missive, no matter the subject — it is to be found at email@example.com.
Look below, as you dive the depths of this week’s missive, and in between the astute observations about how one Dr. A. Fauci has exhausted us, and the wise analyses of how the rank and file (not just the Squad members) of the Democratic Party are yearning to bust open the Supreme Court, look for Mr. M.B. Dougherty’s reflections on “white supremacy” and its comprehensive blameworthiness, and other pieces that touch on how one Rev. M.L. King’s observations on character are laughable in these woke times.
Related and self-serving: One Prof. V.D. Hanson discusses this and other things in a podcast discussion had earlier this week with Mr. K. Relwof. You will find it illuminating (if you ignore the host’s blatherings). Victor’s wisdom can be heard here.
Now before you get into the appetizers and buffet bar that await, we have one friendly suggestion, which follows immediately. After that is considered, please do enjoy this week’s enormous fare.
Red and Brown and Blue Snow
Our friends at the newly established Kite & Key Media — which turns important research and data into palatable and informative (and mirthful) videos — is worth your attention and consideration. Do visit the website. And do catch the new video so you can learn about 1816 (and its Crayola array of snow) and then understand . . . How to Stop a Supervolcano.
AND NOW COMES THE ENCORE, FUN-FILLED AND EXCERPT-FORTIFIED FOR YOUR COMPLETE ENJOYMENT
1. In which we excoriate the fertilizer plant masquerade as legislation to increase the size of the United States Supreme Court. From the editorial:
The justifications that the Democrats have proffered are ridiculous on their face. They claim that the Republicans “packed” the Court themselves when, as the party in the majority in the Senate, they merely used their constitutional powers to approve or reject the candidates they were sent. They claim that the Court must be expanded to keep up with population growth and the workload that results — a contention that miscasts what the judicial branch does, and that does not make sense on its own terms (because all justices participate in every case, a court of 13 will not be able to take more cases than a court of nine, and in any event, the Court’s docket is smaller than it was a half century ago). And, finally, they claim that the Court is suffering through a crisis of legitimacy — which, given that it is more popular and more trusted than it was prior to the additions of Justices Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett, represents the very opposite of the truth.
What is the truth? That, as it grows more progressive, the Democratic Party senses that it will more frequently hit up against the Constitution itself, and that, when it does so, it is going to need judges who are not interested in what that Constitution actually says. To comprehend this is to comprehend the whole grubby initiative, which will confer benefits upon the Democrats irrespective of its success. If Biden and Co. succeed in their undertaking, the Court will become merely another legislature, there to rubber-stamp the Democratic Party’s transgressions. If the endeavor fails, the Court may nevertheless be so intimidated by the attempt that they begin to bend at the knees. And, either way, the public is taught to mistrust Article III.
2. Fauci fatigue is for real, and consequential, and harmful. Just go the %^$#@ away Tony. We’ve had enough! From the editorial:
And it’s hard to shake the sense that Fauci makes recommendations based on how he thinks people will react. Fauci admitted in December that he had changed his assessments about herd immunity, based on what he thought the public could handle hearing. In the pandemic’s early days, Fauci tended to cite the same 60 to 70 percent estimate that most experts did, but Fauci gradually boosted it to 85 percent. In an interview with the New York Times’ Donald McNeil Jr., Fauci “acknowledged that he had slowly but deliberately been moving the goal posts. He is doing so, he said, partly based on new science, and partly on his gut feeling that the country is finally ready to hear what he really thinks.”
At the beginning of March, Fauci forcefully criticized the state of Texas for ending its statewide mask mandate, declaring, “It’s risky and could set us back to a place that’s even worse than where we are now . . . and lead to additional surges.” And yet, Texas has seen its caseload continue to decline. When asked about the lack of an increase in that state, he answered, “You know, there are a lot of things that go into that. I mean, when you say that they’ve had a lot of the activity on the outside like ball games, I’m not really quite sure. It could be they’re doing things outdoors.”
3. The corporate-boardroom virtue-signalers have Zoom-gathered only to issue a lame-o statement about election-reform laws. From the editorial:
A major gathering on Saturday of management from over a hundred businesses, many of them enormous corporations, reportedly discussed imposing collective sanctions on Georgia — a plan that might at least skirt the edge of the antitrust laws and would represent a dramatic escalation of anti-democratic corporate bullying of self-governing states. But the statement released by the group Wednesday morning, to run as a newspaper advertisement, was underwhelming. Its tepid contents suggest that some of its signatories may have thought twice about engaging in bare-knuckles partisan side-taking on the basis of false information. Some very big corporate names appear, including Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Netflix, Microsoft, Starbucks, Apple, ViacomCBS, PayPal, American Express, Ford Motors, General Motors, American Airlines, JetBlue, Goldman Sachs, McKinsey, and Merck. But Georgia-based behemoths Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines are noticeable by their absence.
The statement itself is so generic, we doubt that any Georgia Republican who supported the bill would have trouble signing it themselves. “For American democracy to work, we must ensure the right to vote for all of us . . . the very foundation of our electoral process rests upon the ability of each of us to cast our ballots for the candidates of our choice. . . . We should all feel a responsibility to defend the right to vote and to oppose any discriminatory legislation or measures that restrict or prevent any eligible voter from having an equal and fair opportunity to cast a ballot.” Who would disagree with any of that? Indeed, a major point of the Georgia law was to make the state’s voting procedures more uniform across its 159 counties and prevent voters from having their ballots rejected by a subjective signature-matching process.
4. The Democrats have conjured up a new “hate crimes” bill, dealing with Asians (the very people so many Democrats and progressives seek to limit from entering merit-based educational institutions). It’s a joke, but not a funny one. From the editorial:
It goes without saying that violent crime is serious. There is also evidence that hate crimes against Asian Americans have risen during the pandemic. There could even be a federal role in fighting such crimes, if states fail to provide Asian Americans the equal protection of the laws.
So far, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is signaling that Republicans won’t filibuster the bill and instead will allow it to move forward so that amendments could be made before any final passage.
But unless Democrats are willing to address its significant flaws, Republicans should oppose this bill and trust voters to see through the Democrats’ ploy.
Yet, simply writing off Afghanistan as a “forever war” slights the rationale for staying, and the risks of leaving now.
It’s just not true that, as Biden put it, “our reasons for remaining in Afghanistan are becoming increasingly unclear.” The mission — preventing the creation of a Taliban-sponsored haven for jihadists — remains as clear as it was 20 years ago, and requires a continued, though modest, U.S. presence. Our involvement in Afghanistan was never about building a utopia at the war-torn geopolitical crossroads of Central Asia, despite U.S. efforts to support the development of democracy in the country and over-optimism at times about its prospects. Our involvement was always principally about preventing the reemergence of a terrorist threat capable of killing Americans on U.S. soil.
This isn’t merely a theoretical concern. Al-Qaeda reconstituted itself in Pakistan in the late 2000s, and we were able to hit the terror group from Afghanistan (including in the bin Laden raid). And ISIS attempted to establish a base in eastern Afghanistan several years ago.
Crucially, what Biden didn’t mention in his speech is how much the U.S. operation has changed over time. The war fought today is entirely different from the conflict in which Americans engaged in regular battles with Taliban forces.
Even under the Trump administration the U.S. role was largely counterterrorism, training, and supporting the Afghan government forces with air strikes. The most recent U.S. fatality resulted from an auto accident at an air force base in the UAE last November; the most recent combat death was earlier that year, in February prior to the beginning of a ceasefire with the Taliban.
One of the most radical banana-republic ideas floated during the 2020 presidential campaign was Democrats pushing Court-packing: expanding the size of the Supreme Court in order to change the outcomes of the Court’s decisions in their favor. This would, as I wroterepeatedly in 2019 and 2020, be by far more dangerous to the rule of written law than anything either party has done or proposed in recent memory. It is also hugely unpopular. Last week, Joe Biden announced a presidential commission to study the issue, signaling his continuing openness to what he once described as a corrupt power grab. Now, today, Democrats have introduced proposed legislation to add four more justices to the Court.
The Democrats’ bill, designated the “Judiciary Act of 2021,” is not simply the work of a few radical backbenchers. It is sponsored in the House by the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee (Jerrold Nadler) and the chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet (Hank Johnson). In the Senate, it is sponsored by Ed Markey, a 45-year veteran of Congress who is dean of Massachusetts’s congressional delegation and was a longtime committee chairman in the House. The press release announcing the bill contains statements of support from a flotilla of left-wing legal organizations.
Moreover, during the primary campaign, Court-packing was supported by Kamala Harris, now the vice president and next in line for the presidency should the 78-year-old Biden be unable to finish his term. With Democrats calling for an end to the Senate filibuster, it is entirely possible that the only thing standing between them and blowing up the Supreme Court is a few more House and Senate seats in the 2022 midterms. Republicans, who won multiple Senate campaigns in 2020 in which Court-packing was a major issue (notably in Maine, Iowa, and North Carolina) can and should make this a centerpiece of their argument in 2022 that Democrats simply cannot be trusted with a majority if the Republic is to survive.
2. Charles C.W. Cooke looks ahead to 2022 and find a Democrat Party that is inviting a Midterms’ backlash. From the piece:
The “defund the police” talk has mostly faded away. But it has been replaced with talk that is just as destructive, just as radical, and just as unwelcome to any politician whose margin of victory begins with a zero. Worse still, with the exception of reparations, these ideas are not coming from the likes of Rashida Tlaib; they are coming from the Democrats’ leadership. Further gun control was announced in person by President Biden during a televised press conference in which he called upon Congress to prohibit the most popular rifle in the country. Biden, too, takes direct responsibility for the situation on the border, and he is implicated by the plan to pack the Supreme Court, which was introduced by the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, and which sits alongside a committee the White House has created to “study” the issue.
Aided by a compliant press, Democrats have over-interpreted a narrow election win and a dispirited opposition as proof that the country is finally ready for their policies and that the coalition of the ascendant has finally arrived. This is incorrect. In 1937, when the last attempt to destroy the judiciary was proposed, the party enjoyed supermajorities in both houses and a president who had won reelection in a landslide. Today, the Senate is split 50–50, and, at the time of this writing, the Democrats have a 218–212 majority, which means that they can pass nothing on a party-line basis if there are more than two defectors. As the Washington Postpoints out, in 2020 the Republican Party came within 90,000 votes of controlling all of Washington. This really is no time for a suicide charge.
3. John McCormack checks out the numerous rationales underlying the court-packing plot, and concludes the essential one is to intimidate the current SCOTUS Justices. From the piece:
A second reason for introducing the bill, of course, is that many Democrats are deadly serious about blowing up the Supreme Court if they ever think they really need to do it — and introducing a bill now is a necessary first step to get there. As Brian Fallon of Demand Justice, a left-wing judicial activist group, tweeted: “Even the sponsors would agree it doesn’t have the votes yet. The point in introducing the bill is to build support for it, a project that will only be aided by bad rulings from this 6–3 Court.” Dan McLaughlin notes that congressional Democrats could be a couple of Senate seats away from having the votes to abolish the filibuster, which would be a prerequisite to packing the courts.
But the third and perhaps most significant reason that Democrats introduced their Court-packing bill is to intimidate the Supreme Court in such a way that Democrats never really feel they need to pull the trigger on Court-packing.
Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell argued in a floor speech that the bill is all part of an ongoing effort to intimidate Supreme Court justices. He said on Thursday that with the Court-packing bill, the “Left wants a sword dangling over the justices when they weigh the facts in every case.”
“Just like the last time the Democrats tried packing the Supreme Court, this scheme is meant to intimidate the justices into making liberal rulings,” Arkansas senator Tom Cotton wrote on Twitter.
4. Biden’s nominee to run the DOJ’s civil rights office, Kristen Clarke, is unfit for the job — so says David Harsanyi, and for very good reason. From the piece:
Kristen Clarke, Joe Biden’s nominee for assistant attorney general of the United States, once promoted racist pseudoscientific quackery, arguing that the human brain was structured in a way that makes black people superior to white people, and that “human mental processes” in the brain have chemicals that imbue one race with “superior physical and mental abilities” and “spiritual abilities.”
Rather than owning up to a youthful relationship with radicalism, Clarke, who made these comments in the Harvard Crimson as a 19-year-old, claims that her racist diatribe was a merely a parody mocking the controversial book, “The Bell Curve.” “What I was seeking to do was to hold up a mirror,” she says, “Put one racist theory alongside another.”
Purely by chance, Clarke also happened to invite a Holocaust-denying fraud named Anthony Martin — then a professor at Wellesley College whose assigned primary textbook was called The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews, which blamed Jews for the slave trade, and who wrote The Jewish Onslaught, published by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan — to speak at Harvard. Around the same time Clarke was writing unrecognizable satire about black supremacy, she was calling Martin an “intelligent, well-versed Black intellectual who bases his information on indisputable fact.” Weird that.
Clarke’s contention that she was penning Swiftian letters on race is about as plausible as her assertion today in front of the Senate that her Newsweek op-ed titled “I Prosecuted Police Killings. Defund the Police — But Be Strategic” wasn’t actually about “defunding the police.” Clarke said “the impetus for writing this op-ed was to make clear that I do not support defunding the police.” In the piece, Clarke literally defines what “defund the police” means, and then offers her ideas about redistributing funds. Maybe that, too, was satire.
5. The public-health establishment is incapable of telling the truth, and therefore in being assured of the trust of Americans, argues Jason Richwine. From the Corner post:
Public-health leaders have sown distrust throughout the pandemic, and the suspension of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is the latest example. On one hand, if dangerous clotting is merely the one-in-a-million risk that it is reported to be, then the logic of suspending J&J is difficult to grasp. On the other hand, if health authorities have reason to believe the risk is much greater than one in a million, then they have not been forthcoming with the evidence. Either way, they are not serving the public interest.
The reversal on masks last spring was a similar disservice. Authorities were either genuinely mistaken when they advised against masks, or they were lying to preserve supplies. Either way, they gave the public a reason to discount their advice going forward.
The trust issues continued into the spring and summer of 2020, with three major events standing out. First, the justification for lockdowns changed from avoiding overrun hospitals to minimizing transmission generally. The result has been an endless hodgepodge of restrictions that goes far beyond “15 days to flatten the curve.” That such restrictions often seem to lack an evidentiary basis has added to the public’s skepticism. In fact, it is often difficult to see any relationship at all between lockdowns and viral transmission, but the restrictions persist.
A second breach of trust occurred after Memorial Day. Public-health experts who had deemed lockdowns essential decided to look the other way when Black Lives Matter protesters packed the streets. Over 1,000 experts even signed a letter explaining that BLM protests are more important than containing COVID, but anti-lockdown protests are “rooted in white nationalism” and must be condemned.
6. Jimmy Quinn says the progressive-placating defense-spending cuts proposed by Joe Biden make Red China and Russia happy: From the article:
In short, every aspect of the current assault on the U.S.-led world order vindicates the 2018 National Defense Strategy, which aimed to begin reorienting the U.S. defense establishment away from Afghanistan and Iraq and toward “long-term strategic competitions” with China and Russia. The Trump-era document also explicitly called for building a military capable of fighting a conflict with Beijing or Moscow while simultaneously “deterring opportunistic aggression elsewhere.”
The Biden administration says that its budget proposal actually advances these goals, and in its official request to Congress states that it prioritizes “the need to counter the threat from China while also deterring destabilizing behavior by Russia.” But back in 2018, the panel of defense experts, which lauded the aims of the NDS, expressed skepticism that the Trump administration could meet the strategy’s goals without a drastic increase in funding after years of congressional neglect. The panel members wrote at the time that the administration’s budgetary plans “do not fund a level of military capacity and capability adequate to defeat either adversary should war occur while deterring other enemies simultaneously.”
It’s worth noting that that White House budget proposals rarely, if ever, become law in anything like their original form; they are, above all else, an expression of the administration’s budgetary priorities to Congress. But that makes lawmakers’ reactions too them instructive, and this case is no exception.
Unsurprisingly, Republican hawks on Capitol Hill are outraged at the Biden administration’s proposal. Senator Mitch McConnell and four of his colleagues last week sent a letter alleging that the plan “undermines Washington Democrats’ tough talk on China and calls into question the administration’s willingness to confront the Chinese Communist Party.” For all the steps that Biden has taken to shore up U.S. diplomatic support for Taiwan and confront Beijing’s malign behavior, the senators have a point.
7. The defense team for Derek Chauvin is stumbling along. Andrew C. McCarthy has the play by play. From the assessment:
Meanwhile, the rest of the defense case, which started Tuesday morning, has not gone much better for Chauvin than use-of-force expert Barry Brodd, whose rocky appearance I covered in last night’s column.
Nelson continues to attack the state’s causation proof — i.e., the prosecutors’ evidence that Floyd died from the police restraint, rather than from drug abuse or his constellation of medical problems. In this vein, the defense called Shawanda Hill, an old friend of George Floyd’s who ran into him in the Cup Foods store where Floyd passed the counterfeit $20 bill. Floyd offered her a ride home, and she was thus in the car with him and his friend, Morries Hall, when the police arrived on May 25. Nelson mainly elicited from her that Floyd was tired, fell asleep in the car, and was difficult to revive. The point was to show that Floyd’s behavior was consistent with fentanyl abuse.
It won’t get far. Hill also testified that Floyd seemed to be fine when she first encountered him and became alert and excited when the police arrived. This is consistent with the state’s medical testimony that, while Floyd had the dangerous opiate fentanyl (along with the stimulant, methamphetamine) in his system, the drugs did not kill him. Thus far, Nelson has not come close to refuting the state’s extremely persuasive medical-expert witnesses. That is obviously the top defense objective today: The trial is under way, with Dr. David Fowler, an internationally prominent forensic pathologist and, before his retirement, the chief medical examiner for Maryland, appearing as a defense witness.
Ms. Hill’s testimony shed no light on what Floyd was doing with Morries Hall, who had been sitting in the passenger seat (with Hill in the back), and who could be heard on one recording telling police that his name was “Ricardo.” Besides ingesting drugs, Floyd was also in possession of a small amount of narcotics and counterfeit money when his police altercation began. Hall declined to testify in the trial, and Judge Cahill has sustained his claim of the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.
8. White white white is the incurable, no-antidote explanation for every injustice this side of O’Leary’s Cow (and maybe even that too). Michael Brendan Dougherty has at the pigmentary foulness. From the piece:
It’s true that COVID-19 has brought anti-Asian sentiments and bigotries to the fore. But it’s not a “white supremacist idea” to blame China for the coronavirus. It’s also a Chinese idea. Taiwan still calls COVID-19 the “Wuhan pneumonia,” and its leaders remain angry that Chinese influence in the World Health Organization was used to exclude Taiwanese scientists from giving their input during the early crucial stages of the pandemic. This does not mean that Taiwan is in thrall to American’s history of “yellow peril” fear-mongering.
The theory becomes non-falsifiable. When a white person commits an act of violence against a non-white person, it is white supremacy. When reports are corrected and the perpetrator turns out to be a person of color, the motive is still white supremacy. This obliterates not just the agency of black and Hispanic criminals — recasting them as helpless automatons, moved by a system that victimized them first — but much of the human experience.
Ho says that white supremacy is the belief that non-whites are less than human. That seems like a perfectly serviceable definition. But Ho’s own belief in the mesmerizing influence of white supremacy robs non-whites of their humanity as well. Ignorance, bigotry, fear, hatred, and rage are all part of the human condition, and so too is our responsibility for our actions. The members of the Black Hebrew Israelites who killed three Jews in a grocery story in Jersey City in 2019 were not white supremacists, were not acting on behalf of white supremacy — and saying so insults not only the victims but the perpetrators.
9. Coercion remains an important unionization tool, as David Harsanyi explains. From the piece:
Organized labor exists because it is a big money-maker for Democrats. Former president Barack Obama attempted to push through a “card check certification” that would have compelled employees to decide on unionization in the open, where they could be intimidated by labor activists, rather than in secret ballot like any other fair election. Obama did, however, successfully institute “quickie elections” through the National Labor Relations Board, which not only violates the free-speech rights of employers but bars employees from making legal challenges to union campaigns until after elections.
Joe Biden is back at it. Democrats tucked an $86 billion bailout for union pensions in the “stimulus” bill. The president’s proposed $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan infrastructure bill is teeming with union goodies. Most elements of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, passed by the House earlier in the year, are in the proposal.
By “organize,” they mean force. For one thing, the bill would overturn existing state “right to work” laws that prohibit compulsory unionization and bar unions from creating closed shops that compel employees to pay dues. On top of that, it would strip employers of the right to hire replacement workers when union members strike; compel employers to hand over all employees’ cellphone numbers, addresses, emails, and work schedules to union organizers; institute backdoor card-check elections; and create a raft of new fines and punitive measures that could be used against companies that don’t acquiesce to labor demands.
On top of all this, employers are already severely limited in their ability to make anti-unionization arguments, while their opponents are largely free to engage in hyperbolic and misleading speech, amplified by their allies in the media. It has gotten so ridiculous that random members of the public can now effectively induce the government to sue employers in court for making jokes about a union.
10. Pay no attention to the Capitol Hill Killer! Kyle Smith ignores the MSM’s move-along refusal to report an important story. From the piece:
This was no run-of-the-mill random attack, or at least that’s how it appeared at first. The assault “sent shockwaves through Washington DC,” CNN.com intoned. In an unusual joint statement, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer dubbed the slain officer, William “Billy” Evans, “a martyr for our democracy.” Mitch McConnell issued a similar statement. President and Jill Biden sent their condolences. White House and Capitol flags were lowered to half-staff.
So this was a major national story. Or was it? The New York Times published three pieces about Green and the attack on April 2 and 3, but has since gone silent on Green. In contrast, the Times has done seven stories in the same time frame focusing on the location of MLB’s All-Star Game.
That beats CNN.com, which has run stories on the slain police officer, the attack itself, and politicians’ reactions to it, but as far as I can tell hasn’t run a single story primarily about Green himself, except for a piece that ran on its scrolling Politics Live blog. Nor has CNN explored his possible motives in any depth. Apart from the blog post, the most detail I can find about Green on CNN’s website is three paragraphs within a 25-paragraph story about Capitol Hill tensions that ran hours after the assault.
As for our most prestigious journals of thought, neither The New Yorker nor The Atlantic has mentioned Green, as far as I can tell. Our least prestigious journals of thought have missed the story, too: I see nothing on Green at Vox.com.
11. As Alexandra DeSanctis reports, the Abortion Industry wants to kill a new procedure to kneecap chemical killings. From the piece:
A chemical abortion takes place in two stages. First, a pregnant mother is given mifepristone — brand-name Mifeprex — which blocks progesterone, an essential hormone in the growth, development, and sustaining of a fetus. Twenty-four to 48 hours later, she takes a second drug, misoprostol, containing prostaglandins that induce cramping and bleeding to expel the fetus.
A little more than a decade ago, doctors began to develop a safe, successful way to halt that process, aimed at helping women who had taken Mifeprex to reverse the process of terminating their pregnancy before they took misoprostol.
Leaders in the abortion industry tend to deny that women ever come to regret abortion, a claim easily disproven by anecdotal evidence and scientific studies. Nevertheless, supporters of legal abortion insist that abortion-pill reversal (APR) is unnecessary because no woman would elect to undo a chemical abortion once she’s taken the first dose.
But according to Dr. Christina Francis, chairman of the board of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG), more than 2,000 women have chosen APR and successfully halted a chemical abortion.
12. Protests? Yes. Easter Mass? No. So goes the politics of permission at Princeton, as Abigail Anthony reports. From the article:
Princeton employees, including Vice President for Campus Life Rochelle Calhoun, the administrator responsible for the Social Contract, attended the vigil. Prior to the spring semester, Calhoun sent all undergraduate students an email stating that “students living on campus, in Mercer County or Plainsboro, New Jersey, are required to complete an online training, submit proof of a flu shot and sign the Social Contract by January 4, 2021.” Why is the person who helped craft the Social Contact publicly violating it?
Student clubs promoted the vigil to hundreds of undergraduates. The entire Class of 2023 received an email from its Class Council. To avoid Social Contract violations, the student groups claimed they had no role in organizing the event. However, an Instagram Story post by the Class of 2023 Class Council explicitly recognizes the co-presidents of the Asian American Student Association as organizers.
On March 29, I wrote an email to the Deputy Dean of Undergraduate Students, Thomas Dunne, with evidence that students had served as organizers for this event. I emphasized that, even if a student denied such involvement, the mere act of attending constituted a Social Contract violation. I observed that, if the university maintains that an event explicitly described as a “vigil” is a valid exception to the Social Contract, then members of the university’s Catholic organization should be exempt from contractual obligations to celebrate their Easter Vigil.
Dean Dunne’s response evaded my questions. Despite contrary evidence, Dunne wrote that “the rally was not organized nor registered by an undergraduate student organization.” He ignored the proof that attendance — regardless of organizational role — was a violation. He cc’d the Dean of Religious Life, Alison Boden, who later wrote that the Catholic chaplain had not requested approval for a gathering. Boden offered to open the university chapel for an Easter Mass at 25-person capacity. The Princeton University chapel can accommodate 2,000 people, and New Jersey currently allows places of worship to open at 50-percent capacity. Later, the university’s Catholic priest confirmed that the Dean of Religious Life had advised Princeton chaplains, in a meeting on March 10, to avoid providing services on campus. As a result, he did not request permission for a gathering.
13. Kyle Smith flies Ron Desantis up the flagpole. There are a lot of reasons for saluting. From the article:
And yet it’s exactly that hostility that has made DeSantis a national name. DeSantis is feasting on the media’s contempt for him. To conservatives, the failed and mendacious 60 Minutes attack piece amounted to DeSantis earning a Purple Heart. He took fire, and he survived. Not only that, he lobbed a few grenades into the enemy trenches.
He fights. The comparisons to Trump come easily, but DeSantis also brings to mind Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani, each of whom built a national profile that depended not only on policy successes but on combativeness with the press. (And all three men boast Italian heritage. Coincidence?) Giuliani and Christie both disintegrated, though, and that should give us reason to temper our enthusiasm for DeSantis’s prospects as a potential presidential nominee in 2024. The next presidential election is approximately 1,300 news cycles away. DeSantis should count on 1,300 days of nonstop bashing from the media. Perhaps he’ll emerge from this trial strong or perhaps the media will succeed in ruining him.
DeSantis possesses the dream resume for a Republican presidential candidate: middle-class youth, stardom on the Yale baseball team, Harvard Law degree, a Navy career that included a tour of duty in Iraq, successful stewardship of a large and diverse state, no Swamp stink on him. So far, he has proved to be far better at selling conservative ideas publicly than his presumed rivals Josh Hawley, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Tom Cotton.
14. The child-abuse that is part and parcel of trans demagogues gets pounded by Kathryn Jean Lopez. From the piece:
She started seeing a psychologist at 15 and was diagnosed with gender dysphoria. She recalls:
I was adamant that I needed to transition. It was the kind of brash assertion that’s typical of teenagers. What was really going on was that I was a girl insecure in my body who had experienced parental abandonment, felt alienated from my peers, suffered from anxiety and depression, and struggled with my sexual orientation.
But what did the adults do? They experimented on her.
Five years later, she would de-transition. But a double mastectomy cannot be undone. That “pause” on puberty and testosterone shots have a lifetime of consequences. Teenagers don’t think about infertility and breastfeeding. That’s why there are adults. But the adults failed Keira Bell. And the adults increasingly seem nowhere to be seen on these dangerous issues of gender confusion and ideology, which Pope Francis has described as a nuclear bomb on humanity. Sweet Keira is one of the walking wounded.
15. Cuba is still run by stinking commies, and as Néstor T. Carbonell reminds us, it remains a threat. From the article:
Today, due in part to the sanctions imposed over the last four years and the economic crisis convulsing Cuba, the Castro regime has started to introduce several overdue reforms. It has scrapped the dual-currency system, devalued the peso, and announced a “major” expansion of the private sector. However, the government maintains control of all large industries and wholesale shops, and continues to monopolize health care, education, communications, and professional services. And all cuentapropistas are still barred from incorporating their businesses.
If the Biden administration is truly serious about human rights in Cuba, it should not give in to a police state that just two months ago quashed a dialogue proposed by artists and young activists of the Movimiento San Isidro seeking to rescind two government decrees that were designed to strangle artistic freedom and silence independent media on the island. Repression has intensified in recent days against peaceful San Isidro protesters and against leaders of the major Cuban dissident organization (UNPACU), who had to go on an extended hunger strike to obtain the lifting of a police barricade.
There are also real national-security concerns. When Cuba was removed from the terrorist list, the Castro regime “provided assurances that it [would] not support acts of international terrorism in the future.” Yet it continues to harbor dozens of American fugitives, including convicted murderers on the FBI Most Wanted List, and provides an operational base to ten leaders of Colombia’s National Liberation Army — a designated foreign terrorist organization.
Moreover, in 2016 and 2017, several dozen U.S. diplomats and intelligence officers (and a number of Canadian officials) stationed in Cuba suffered severe headaches, nausea, dizziness, and loss of hearing and memory. Similar symptoms also afflicted American officials in China, Russia, and other countries in 2018–19. After several years of investigations, experts indicated that the most probable cause of the brain damage was “radiofrequency energy” — a type of radiation likely spurred by high-intensity microwave beams. Strong evidence points to “malicious, directed, and pulsed attacks.” The suspected perpetrator seems to be Russia, which has done significant research on pulsed-radiofrequency technology. The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency reportedly warned in 1976 that Soviet research on microwaves showed great promise for “disrupting the behavior patterns of military or diplomatic personnel.” Regarding Cuba now, there seems to be an additional Russian objective: weakening U.S. and Canadian intelligence on the island by forcing the evacuation of afflicted spies and diplomatic personnel. And the accomplice: the Castro regime. Accountability is a matter of urgency and should precede any new détente with Cuba. History tells us that impunity, if allowed to stand, is an invitation to more aggression.
16. John Fund describes how Big Tech doesn’t want you to see inconvenient truths about BLM and Hunter Biden. From the article:
But what explains Twitter’s censorship of Jason Whitlock, an African-American sports commentator formerly of ESPN?
Whitlock’s crime is that he posted a link to a real estate blog showing that Patrisse Khan-Cullors, a Black Lives Matter co-founder, was buying a $1.4 million home in a secluded Los Angeles neighborhood where only 1.4 percent of residents are black.
Whitlock had some fun zinging the self-described “trained Marxist” ideologue for her hypocrisy: “She had a lot of options on where to live. She chose one of the whitest places in California. She’ll have her pick of white cops and white people to complain about. That’s a choice, bro.”
Twitter promptly censored the tweet — posting a notice that it was “no longer available.”
Black Lives Matter was founded in 2013 in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman, who killed Trayvon Martin in Florida. The organization has long been explicitly Marxist, and an affiliate lavishly praised Cuban dictator Fidel Castro when he died. In 2020, donations to it exploded in the wake of George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis. The group took in at least $90 million last year but has received little scrutiny of its operations and finances. Asra Nomani, the widow of murdered Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, writes frequently about extremist groups and has reported on the tangled finances of BLM.
17. Jim Talent and Lindsey Neas finds the Biden Administration’s record with Red China to be quite mixed. From the assessment:
The United States is now outgunned, outmanned, and outranged in China’s near seas, especially within the crucial first island chain, the archipelagos nearest the coast of East Asia, extending from Japan to the Philippines. As a result, Beijing can to a large degree ignore world opinion, economic countermeasures, and reputational damage, and simply use coercion — the massing of maritime militia and coast-guard vessels backed by PLAN vessels — to seize territory and defend their territorial claims.
Which is exactly what the regime has been doing for almost a decade. China seized the Scarborough Shoal from the Philippines in 2012; declared an Air Defense Identification Zone in the East China Sea in 2013; seized reefs in the international waters of the South China Sea, an area twice the size of Alaska; and began construction of substantial port facilities and airfields atop them beginning in 2013. China uses its coast-guard vessels, backed by PLAN ships, both to support Chinese companies in extracting resources from the territorial waters of other nations and to prevent their neighbors from accessing their own resources in the same waters. The PLA routinely sends ships and aircraft to violate the airspace and territorial waters of Japan and Taiwan, and last year used force to coerce India in its border disputes with that country.
All of these developments — along with Beijing’s mass incarceration of, and brutality against, the Uyghurs in Xinjiang province and its occupation of Hong Kong — have been met with consistent diplomatic condemnation and, beginning with the Trump administration, the use of America’s economic power to impose costs on the regime. Those steps have pressured but not deterred it. In fact, Beijing has responded by turning to “wolf-warrior diplomacy” — sharpening the tone of its statements to make clear that reputational and economic costs will not prevent it from using force to achieve its objectives.
18. Andrew Michta argues that COVID has assaulted the common-sense approach to risk as a thing of mitigation, as opposed to the utopian idea of risk-elimination. From the essay:
And yet none of these public-health emergencies generated anything approximating the current government response to COVID-19. As of this writing, the total number of COVID-related deaths worldwide stands at 2.8 million, with 132.5 million cases reported and about 106 million infected people having fully recovered. This puts the current average case-fatality ratio at 2.1 percent of those infected (unevenly distributed across different countries and age groups), and when measured against the world population the 2.8 million COVID-related deaths represent 0.03 percent of the total. I mention these numbers not to make light of the tragic impact of each individual loss of life but to take a broader view of the scope of the pandemic versus the impact that the measures to combat it have had across our societies, especially the massive loss of GDP, the destruction of small businesses, and the unraveling of our educational system, with the impact falling predominantly on the young, social pathologies, including surging alcoholism, drug addiction, and domestic violence. Again, as with any public-policy decision, the course of action must be measured against the opportunity cost and the likelihood of success — and the now-regnant “culture of lockdowns” points decisively to excessive opportunity cost versus apparently only a marginal impact when it comes to reducing the infection rate, as the decline in the rate of infection last spring and summer could just as well rest on seasonal factors and the virus’s having not yet mutated as it could on lockdowns, social distancing, and masks.
What has arguably done most to erode public trust has been the arbitrary nature of the rapidly shifting public-health guidelines, with numbers of people who can/cannot congregate in one space literally pulled out of thin air. In a nutshell, the fundamental problem for every citizen since virtual self-incarceration was mandated by our governments’ executive fiats has been the cognitive dissonance between the scope of the threat and the measures taken to combat it: The severity of the measures adopted does not square with the nature of the risk. And while our political leaders might have been forgiven at the beginning of the pandemic, when few data were available, it is now obvious that, regardless of the mutated “variants of the virus,” this pandemic is nothing comparable to the plagues of yore.
Given the various strands that have been identified, this coronavirus will probably not be “conquered”; rather, it is likely to remain with us, much as a multitude of other airborne viruses have been with us for centuries. Unless each individual locks himself or herself in a hermetically sealed room, the pathogen will be “out there,” keeping all of us at some risk of infection, though over time vaccinations and increasing herd immunity will reduce that risk and, more importantly, new therapeutics will allow us to effectively treat those infected. The incessant testing, and making a clean test — and soon a proof of vaccination — the sine qua non for us to be allowed to do something as trivial as board an airplane, is evidence of a social psychosis unlike anything democratic societies have ever experienced, with the media breathlessly announcing the rising number of positive tests as a justification for yet another lockdown.
19. The author of Winnie the Pooh, Sarah Schuette reminds us, also wrote the beautiful Once on a Time. From the piece:
Milne is known to most as the creator of Winnie-the-Pooh, perhaps the most recognizable character in children’s literature (or all literature, for that matter). A poet and playwright, he began his career writing humorous pieces for Punch magazine before achieving remarkable success around the world with his plays. In 1917, three years before his son Christopher Robin was born, Milne published Once on a Time, saying he’d written it “for the amusement of my wife and myself at a time when life was not very amusing.”
All the components of a traditional fairytale are present in the story: warring kings, a marriageable princess, fairies, a prince, enchantments, a villainess. But, dear reader, it is decidedly odd.
First, if you’ve never heard the name Roger Scurvilegs, your education has been sadly neglected. For it is from Scurvilegs’s definitive, 17-volume history, Euralia Past and Present, that our narrator (Milne) supposedly draws this tale. This narrator is a charming fellow, constantly popping in to enlighten us about the characters, add bits of pertinent (or irrelevant) Euralian history, take issue with Scurvilegs for his romantic inclinations — but I’m getting ahead of myself. Let us review the synopsis:
King Merriwig of Euralia is off at war with the king of Barodia (due to an unfortunate affair involving a pair of seven-league boots, a morning constitutional, an outdoor breakfast, and some “Stiff Notes”). Merriwig has left his beloved daughter Hyacinth in charge of Euralia during his absence, and has instructed the Countess Belvane (Merriwig’s love interest, Hyacinth’s mother having been carried off by a dragon 17 years earlier) to act as her adviser.
1. Over 100 CEOs zoomed in to wage stakeholder capitalism and show their shallowness about citizens seeking to protect voter integrity. Vivek Ramaswamy is all over the virtue-signaling extravaganza. From the piece:
Liberals are no longer just cheering as CEOs wade into politics. They’re demanding it — or else. In recent weeks, activists staged a “die-in” at Coca-Cola’s museum in Atlanta. Bishop Reginald Jackson, an influential Atlanta pastor, used a bullhorn on the street to call for a boycott of Coca-Cola. Protestors gathered at the Delta terminal in Atlanta airport and demanded that Mr. Bastian “kill the bill.” The co-founder of Black Voters Matter declared, “If you can’t get involved in the business of fighting for democracy, then we’re going to have to get involved in your business.”
This recent reversal of progressive dogma on the role of corporations in politics is astounding. Al Gore once railed against lawmakers who are “now incapable of passing laws without permission from the corporate lobbies and other special interests that control their campaign finances.” Kamala Harris called on voters to “take a stand against corporate influence in politics.”
Democrats used to abhor the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. FEC because it permitted corporations to influence elections. Yet now they demand even more: Delta and Coca-Cola weren’t simply influencing one election, but the very laws governing how a state will conduct all elections in the future. Those who once argued that “corporations aren’t people” are now demanding that corporations act more like, well, people. This isn’t “Jim Crow on steroids,” as President Biden called it this month. It’s Citizens United on steroids.
2. Dan McLaughlin covers partisan boardroom machinations and Scranton Joe’s role in the blatant partisan operation. From the piece:
If this were simply a matter of corporate conspiracy against honest and orderly elections, the discussion would end there. It does not, though, because these are not just independent citizens petitioning the government. Almost all of them have business interests in favorable treatment by the federal government, and their collective action will curry favor with the party that runs all of its elected branches. Democrats, after all, currently control the White House, the House, and the Senate; they also hold both of Georgia’s Senate seats, and won the state in the last presidential election. Nobody on the call could have been unaware of whose side they were taking.
A crucial link in this chain of events is the Democrats’ high-profile elections lawyer, Marc Elias. Joe Biden, speaking from the bully pulpit of the presidency, has already publicly voiced his support for corporate action against Georgia for passing its election law. But as Biden, his press secretary, and Georgia Democrats have grown increasingly gun-shy about being seen to direct this effort, Elias posted marching orders Friday at his site “Democracy Docket” under the headline, “The Business Community Must Act.” It is unlikely that the timing of these public directions were coincidental to Saturday’s call.
The push by Bernie Sanders and fellow-traveling Congressional socialists to ban the profit motive from health care is asinine argues Casey Mulligan. From the article:
3. Benjamin Zycher laments U.S. energy policies that result in gains for OPEC and harm to the American consumer (and to energy independence). From the analysis:
The reality of an ongoing increase in the demand for fossil fuels is obvious, as reflected in the announcement early this month by OPEC+ that its oil production will be increased by a total of 1.15 million barrels per day from May through July. The production of fossil fuels in any given economy represents, literally, the transformation of indigenous natural resources into increased national wealth. When realized, competitive market forces will tend to allocate it among capital investors, workers, suppliers, and myriad others in accordance with perceived contributions to that wealth expansion.
Certainly, perspectives differ among the OPEC+ members on the rate of demand growth, on competitive conditions, on the appropriate timing of increased production, and thus on the most profitable choice among available output and pricing strategies. But the central perception of strengthening demand conditions is incontrovertible, and the OPEC+ membership sees no reason to deny itself the additional wealth attendant upon a production increase in response to improving market conditions.
4. It’s unconstitutional, argue Patrick Wright and Jay Carson, for local governments to tax out-of-towners. From the piece:
Two dozen municipalities — backed by the Michigan Municipal League — have asked the Michigan legislature to let them continue harvesting money from people beyond their borders. Yet no Michigander would support a law that let Indiana or Illinois tax individuals living in Michigan, so why should Detroit be able to dip into the paychecks of people who live and work in Flint? The answer is simple: It shouldn’t.
Unfortunately, this unjust taxation is currently happening in Ohio. Last year, the General Assembly passed a sweeping pandemic-response bill that classified work done at home as work done in the office, which is often located in higher-taxing cities. Since then, Ohio’s more than 600 local governments with income taxes have continued to take money from workers, many of whom have not set foot within the city for work in months, if not more than a year.
According to one Ohio report, nonresidents pay nearly 70 percent of city income taxes in the state. Yet these workers have no way to change local taxing laws, because they don’t live, and therefore can’t vote, in the cities taxing them. It is a modern-day version of taxation without representation.
The Buckeye Institute is currently representing workers in four lawsuits to reverse Ohio’s emergency-based local income-tax system. The cases point out that the U.S. Constitution’s due-process clause allows governments to impose income tax only on their residents, or on nonresidents for work performed within the local government’s borders. Additionally, Ohio courts have held that a tax must bear some “fiscal relation” to the benefits or services provided by the local government. For the past year, employees working from home have not availed themselves of city services, thus severing that fiscal relation.
It’s kind of a mystery how British actress Vanessa Kirby got an Oscar nomination for Pieces of a Woman, but the title might tell us all we need to know. Kirby’s role as Martha is a concatenation of cultural prejudices and advantages: She’s a Boston Brahmin debutante who marries down to blue-collar construction worker Sean (Shia LaBeouf). She’s pregnant but still tied to the influence of her domineering, bigoted mother Elizabeth (Ellen Burstyn). Hungarian director Kornél Mundruczó and his screenwriting partner Kata Wéber assemble these sociological puzzle pieces out of the contradictions of #MeToo-era sympathies.
Mundruczó’s camera dotes on Kirby (best known for her role on Netflix’s The Crown as rascal brunette Princess Margaret, but she’s a haughty blonde here). Kirby’s performance consists of mood scenes and attitude posturing, since Weber’s clichéd dialogue is subordinate to the director’s attempt at visual realism. But Kirby isn’t a commanding presence; she has that British theater-actor anonymity that never convincingly translates into American temperament or idioms. She’s miming a type — from an emotional distance and in a very actressy manner.
After Mundruczó introduces the mismatched couple, he circles the two of them in a 24-minute, unedited sequence of Martha’s pre-delivery contractions. His overlong, undisciplined style unapologetically follows the overrated, now forgotten Romanian film 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, by Cristian Mungiu from the previous decade — a pre-#MeToo art-movie rationalization for abortion as social mandate. In Pieces of a Woman, Martha and Sean’s interaction with a doula, who is standing in for their regular midwife, moves like a theatrical set piece. It is meant to be a tour de force but is monotonous. Kirby’s physical exaggerations and shrieks can only impress young feminists who are unfamiliar with movie birth stunts. (Julie Andrews followed her squeaky-clean image in The Sound of Music with a memorable one-take labor scene in the 1966 film Hawaii.)
Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley Richardson, said there were “so many sides to him he defied geometry.” A man’s man who liked to be called “Catherine” in bed, an apostle of frankness who often lied about his feats, a libertarian who spied for Stalin, he left us with a biography as overstuffed as his work was lean. He was an object of fascination like no other writer, and he receives his due in the superb new documentary Hemingway, a three-part, six-hour film for PBS directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, with a penetrating script by Geoffrey C. Ward.
Standing properly at the center of the documentary is Hemingway’s famously spare prose, and all of these years later it retains its pure, concentrated power, achieved by the literary equivalent of unlocking enormous force by splitting the atom. “I’ve tried to write a helluva good story about people without faking, preciosity or horses**t,” he said early in his career. (Hemingway’s words, both from his many letters and his prose, are read by Jeff Daniels: an odd choice, but you get used to it.)
As much as anyone, Hemingway created modern taste: Sardonic without trying to be funny, allergic to adornment, and guiding his readers in the opposite direction from aggressively difficult writers such as James Joyce and T. S. Eliot, he was the master who taught all subsequent artists how to say things by not saying them. The more elliptical he was, the more devastating.
From the New May 3 Issue, A Quartet of Pieces Filled with Quintessential NR Wisdom, and Some Even with Pleasant Memories
As is the custom, this missive, upon the appearance of a new issue of your favorite conservative magazine — and this is the case now as the May 3, 2021 issue is now out and about – recommends four or so articles for your consideration. Let us commence with the recommending!
1. China’s traditional ethics have been victimized by seven decades of Communist brutality, has not yet broken, writes Perry Link. From the essay:
The society was not always like this. In imperial times, a few hundred years ago, Confucian rules on how to “be a good person” were fairly clear, and, although it was by no means the case that the rules were always followed, there was a broad consensus that they ought to be followed. A victim of mistreatment could appeal to the public knowing that, because certain values were held in common, empathy would be forthcoming. Liu Binyan pointed me to some 17th-century popular stories in which a wronged party, driven finally to suicide, chooses the doorstep of the wrongdoer as the place to end life. Why make that particular choice? Because, as Liu pointed out, it says in effect: All right, you win; but the public can see, and heaven observes, that you have done wrong. And that statement had power.
Here “heaven” is an imperfect translation of tian, a broad concept that means roughly “the natural state of all things.” But tian in Chinese belief is more than physical; it is transcendent and has a moral will — it can anoint emperors and justify their rule, for example. It is one answer in Chinese culture to the human need for the supernatural, but it did not mean paradise in the sense of a place where one goes after death. About 500 B.C.E. Confucius commented that we shouldn’t worry too much about death because we still haven’t figured out life. Notions of heaven and hell came to China only a few centuries later, when Buddhism arrived from India, and the ideas were many. Buddhism spoke of not just one paradise but ten of them, and layers of hells, each more fearsome than the last. Moreover one’s afterlife flowed from one’s moral behavior on earth. Karma linked past, present, and future, and one’s “merit” could be carried from one existence to the next. Chinese civilization answered Buddhism by persecuting it at one level (defrocking monks and nuns and destroying monasteries) but adopting it at another. Daoism, a philosophy that was indigenous to China, accepted Buddhism’s heavens and hells, gave them Chinese names, and invented Chinese gods to preside over them. The great modern scholar Hu Shi (1891–1962) called this Daoist move “manufacturing an imitation product to take over the market.” Eventually Confucianism, too, produced a popular-religion version of itself, and a person could worship at a Confucian temple. Popular Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism were not antagonistic toward one another; a person could pray anywhere, as needed.
2. The title of Rich Lowry’s cover piece says it compactly: “Stacey Abrams, Fount of Disinformation.” From the essay:
Stacey Abrams is one of the great founts of disinformation in contemporary American political life. She’s managed to convince almost all Democrats to accept her ridiculous contention that she was the rightful winner of her 2018 gubernatorial race against Brian Kemp, which she never conceded. Her framework of looking at disputes over voting rules not as matters reasonable people can disagree about, or as fights for partisan advantage, but as an existential struggle over the attempted imposition of a new system of racist repression has prevailed on the center–left. Finally, she’s led the way in characterizing the new Georgia electoral law as the onset of Jim Crow 2.0, prompting denunciations of her state from corporate America and leading Major League Baseball to pull the All-Star Game from Atlanta.
She’s paid no price for her dishonesty and hysteria; rather, she’s been celebrated in verse and song. She’s been featured in Vogue (“Can Stacey Abrams save American democracy?” the headline asked) and was somewhere in the very outer orbit of Joe Biden’s VP short list. The way that Senator Elizabeth Warren slammed the new Georgia law is typical of her party’s Abrams-centric view of Georgia: “The Republican who is sitting in Stacey Abrams’ chair just signed a despicable voter suppression bill into law to take Georgia back to Jim Crow.”
Abrams is treated as an authority on all matters related to voting, when, in reality, the beginning of wisdom on such questions is realizing how utterly wrong she is.
3. Jay Nordlinger offers a charming memory-lane trip through the popular theme songs that made the idiot box whistle. From the piece:
There is a category of TV theme music I would characterize as “urban cool.” Think of the themes to Barney Miller and The Odd Couple. Both of those shows are set in New York. Peter Gunn is set in a city unspecified. Its music reflects some urban cool, too — also danger and excitement, for the protagonist is a private eye.
Many, many readers nominated the Peter Gunn theme as the best TV theme of all, or at any rate near the top. It is by Henry Mancini — who, in one passage, repeated, suggests Ravel’s Boléro (consciously or not, and I suspect consciously).
A long way from urban cool — though cool in its own way — is “The Fishin’ Hole,” the theme music to The Andy Griffith Show. It is the personification — the musicalization? — of carefree happiness. One of its three co-writers, Earle Hagen, does the whistling we hear.
Of westerns, there used to be a great many. And they had music to suit. Perfectly typical of this genre is the theme song to Rawhide, whose music is by Dimitri Tiomkin. He was born, Jewish, in the Russian Empire. He studied at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory, with Glazunov, among others. He was able to flee the Bolsheviks. Once in Hollywood, he helped create the sound of the American West. Isn’t the human imagination remarkable?
4. Oren Cass and Richard Oyeniran are alarmed that America is losing ground in the great semiconductor race. From the article:
The semiconductor industry includes “fabless” companies, which design chips, creating blueprints for the vast arrays of transistors whose embedded logic makes the digital world work; “foundries,” which operate the massive fabrication plants etching those blueprints into silicon; and integrated device manufacturers, which do both. Under the logic of comparative advantage, often cited by economists to explain how all countries can benefit from international trade by specializing where they are relatively better suited, one might expect America to be a global leader in both highly sophisticated parts of the supply chain. Yes, it might make sense for lower-cost Chinese labor to make T-shirts for Americans, but presumably it would be Americans using state-of-the-art technology to put microscopic transistors on chips for the Chinese. Thus the “trade” in “international trade.”
This is not how things have worked out. Beginning in the 1990s, South Korea, Taiwan, and China embarked on aggressive programs to create their own comparative advantage and win global leadership in the manufacturing process, offering generous subsidies for foundries to set up shop. Today, an advanced foundry costs 30 to 60 percent more to build in the United States than in Taiwan, Korea, or China, but not because of cheaper labor or better technology. In each case, the vast majority of that difference is explained by government support. China, pursuing its stated policy of becoming a global leader in all segments of the industry, provides land grants, cash grants, tax credits, below-market loans, and direct equity investments—with larger subsidies available to firms that agree to share their technology with local partners.
American firms have clamored to accept the offer. Domestic U.S. manufacturing capacity grew only half as fast as global capacity from 1990 to 2010, causing market share to fall from 37 percent to 13 percent. What began as losses in less sophisticated segments of the market ultimately became failures at the leading edge, as Asian firms gained experience and expertise. Intel competitor Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) abandoned its foundries in 2008 and now relies on TSMC for all its advanced chips. Though Apple used Intel chips in its laptops, it turned to TSMC and Samsung for the iPhone. As Intel struggled to move from 14nm to 10nm chips in the late 2010s, TSMC passed it and then lapped it again, marking the first time in five decades that Intel was beaten to market. In 2017, Samsung passed Intel to become the world’s largest chipmaker. TSMC’s stock price has increased fivefold in the past five years, and its market capitalization now doubles Intel’s.
Elsewhere in the Conservative Solar System
1. Crowd favorite and major public intellectual Daniel J. Mahoney takes to Law & Liberty to remind us of the importance of the late French political philosopher, Bertrand de Jouvenel. From the essay:
When one turns to Jouvenel’s three masterworks, one turns to much more solid ground, to high political philosophy informed by deep moral seriousness, yet fully attentive to the political stakes of the age. A civilized European in an age of war and tyranny, “having lived through an age rife with political occurrences, [he] saw his material forced” upon him, as he put it at the beginning of The Pure Theory of Politics. Yet Jouvenel recurred to the classics — Aristotle, Thucydides, Plutarch, Shakespeare, Montesquieu, Rousseau, Burke, Tocqueville and Constant — as indispensable guides to understanding modern and contemporary political thought and political activity. His thought is “normative,” that is, committed to inquiring into the nature of the Political Good and a natural “moral harmony,” and its accompanying affections, that must be the aim of any stable and decent political order. At the same time, it is preoccupied with the raw and disruptive political behaviors that need to be understood, controlled and “polished.”
Hence Jouvenel’s oscillation between his never-abandoned judgment that “politics is a moral science,” “a natural science dealing with moral agents” (as he put it in a final chapter added to the English-language edition of Sovereignty in 1957), and his search for an accompanying, if subordinate, “pure theory of politics” that would provisionally bracket the high “moral pulpit” of traditional political philosophy in order to understand “raw” political activity on its own terms. Like the unarmed bishop confronting the barbarians as they are about to sack Rome, normative political philosophy confronts “big men with a cruel laughter.” As Jouvenel puts it, the discipline does its best to teach such barbarians the art of “wise kingship.” At the same time, it tends to moralize the study of political phenomena. This tension between the normative and the behavioral in Jouvenel’s political science is a fruitful one, however. As a result, Jouvenel is a master at resisting the dual temptations of ahistorical moralism and a faux realism that forgets that human beings and citizens are indeed always and everywhere moral agents.
The conclusion is clear: Power is indeed powerless when it eschews justice and the real, if indeterminate claims, of the civic common good. Social and political affections, and rival claims to justice, are much more real than power understood as some self-subsisting good. This is why Jouvenel forthrightly rejects “sovereignty in itself,” a moral, philosophical, and juridical positivism that claims that laws are good simply because they have been promulgated by the sovereign authority. That is pure lawlessness and when carried out to its logical conclusion law loses its soul and “becomes jungle,” as Jouvenel writes in the conclusion of chapter XVI (“Power and Law”) of On Power.
2. Old pal Margaret Evans, in her wonderful Lowcountry Weekly column, recounts a strong dream, which prompts reflections on our current struggles. It’s a most worthwhile piece. From it:
I am on record as being highly skeptical of our current “moment,” driven by the antiracist teachings of professor Ibram X. Kendi (How to Be Antiracist), corporate diversity guru Robin DiAngelo (White Fragility), and other critical race theorists who dominate the conversation. To me, it seems high on showiness and low on substance. I’m a “by their fruits, ye shall know them” kinda person, and the fruits I’m seeing out there increasingly include anger, paranoia, resentment, distrust, defensiveness, guilt, fear, and a host of other emotions that seem unlikely to lead us into a bright future of racial harmony.
Reviewing DiAngelo’s White Fragility for The Atlantic, Columbia linguistics professor John McWhorter channels my own thoughts, writing, “Her assumption that all people have a racist bias is reasonable – science has demonstrated it. The problem is what DiAngelo thinks must follow as the result of it. . . . She does not see fit to address why all of this agonizing soul-searching is necessary to forging change in society. One might ask just how a people can be poised for making change when they have been taught that pretty much anything they say or think is racist and thus antithetical to the good. What end does all this self-mortification serve?”
“In 2020 — as opposed to 1920 — I neither need nor want anyone to muse on how whiteness privileges them over me,” continues McWhorter, who happens to be Black. “Nor do I need wider society to undergo teachings in how to be exquisitely sensitive about my feelings. I see no connection between DiAngelo’s brand of reeducation and vigorous, constructive activism in the real world on issues of import to the Black community.”
3. At The College Fix, Christian Schneider reports on the payback directed at Yale “Tiger Mom” law prof Amy Chua. From the piece:
Popular and high-profile Yale Law School Professor Amy Chua will no longer teach a small group of first-year law students, an apparent punishment handed down by administrators for allegations that she hosted parties with students during COVID.
Chua rose to fame for her “Tiger Mom” style of parenting, later drew the ire of the Yale campus community for defending Brett Kavanaugh in the months leading up to his nomination to the Supreme Court, and helped J.D. Vance write his best-selling book “Hillbilly Elegy.”
Chua, in an interview with The College Fix, said she is being targeted with lies and distortions — and that the effort can be traced to administrators who leaked details from her personnel file and informed a student journalist of her punishment before she learned of any of the allegations.
She called the situation she faces “surreal.”
“This is a law school,” she said. “All of us teach due process and transparency and rule of law.”
A day after the Yale Daily Newsarticle came out, Chua took to Twitter on Thursday to set the record straight, noting in a rebuttal memo that many believe “I am being targeted by ‘a small group of students’ who have never taken a class from me and who oppose ‘controversial’ opinions I’ve expressed.”
4. At The Spectator, Daniel McCarthy sees the death of the Democratic Party approaching. From the piece:
Simply put, Democrats know they can no longer win by the old agreed-upon rules, constitutional or otherwise. As recently as the Obama years, they were content with a system of 50 states represented by two senators each — because the party still had a wide enough base of support to win the Senate with an outright majority. They had taken control after 2006, amid the wreckage of George W. Bush’s forever wars, and kept it until 2013. Barack Obama’s coattails in 2008 were strong enough for him take off with 57 Democrats in the Senate and a majority of nearly 80 seats in the House.
Joe Biden had no coattails in 2020, even though he won 12 million more votes that Obama did in 2008. The 81 million who voted for him — or against Donald Trump — didn’t give Democrats a majority in the Senate, and Republicans actually made gains in the House. Do Puerto Rico or Washington DC have a better case for statehood today than they had in 2009? What changed? Nothing about PR or DC, but everything for the Democrats.
The party is dying because it has a demographic problem. Long after the culturally revolutionary New Left had carved its way into what was once a working-class party, bringing not only acid, amnesty and abortion but yuppie economics and new strains of identity politics, voters in what are now red states could still feel a connection to the party of FDR or JFK.
5. At Gatestone Institute, Guy Millière argues that President Macron has given up fighting radicalism. From the piece:
Only one political party dares to speak clearly of the dangers arising from the Islamization of France and radical Islam: National Rally. Its president, Marine Le Pen, is also often summoned by judges and condemned. In 2015, a French journalist compared National Rally to the Islamic State. Le Pen responded by posting on Twitter two photographs of crimes committed by the Islamic State and added, “This is Islamic State”. On February 10, 2021, Le Pen had to appear before a tribunal to respond to a complaint lodged against her by the French Ministry of Justice for “dissemination of violent messages seriously undermining human dignity, likely to be seen by a minor”. In court, the judge asked Le Pen in an accusatory tone, “Do you consider that these photos violate human dignity?” Le Pen replied, “It is the crime that violates human dignity, it is not its photographic reproduction”.
France is the main Muslim country in Europe (officially, 8.8% of its population is Muslim). Islam is the second religion in France, but come in first if one counts the number of active practitioners. Churches are most often empty and the number of congregants is dwindling (since 2000, 45 churches in France have been razed to the ground). Mosques, however, are full and more numerous. The number of Muslims who want to practice Islam is so large that in several cities, every Friday afternoon Muslims pray in the streets and block traffic during prayer time, while the police dare not intervene.
France is also a country where more than 150 mosques spread across the country host imams who deliver extremely radical sermons and call for action against the West. The number of young Muslims under 25 who place Islamic law above French law continues to grow and has now reached 74%. During the last decade, Islamists who have committed deadly attacks in France were mostly Muslims born in France. This was true of Mohammed Merah, who murdered soldiers as well as Jewish children in Toulouse in 2012; Said and Cherif Kouachi, who murdered twelve people at the magazine Charlie Hebdo in 2015; Amedy Coulibaly, who murdered people at a supermarket in Saint Mande, a few days after the attack on Charlie Hebdo, and Samy Amimour, one of the three terrorists who murdered 90 people in November 2015 in the Bataclan Theater. That makes radical Islam and Islamic terrorism a French problem.
A retired policer officer from a western city, a friend of this enterprise, has cancer and seeks prayerful support. Would you be so kind as to offer a heaven-directed plea for his recovery? This would be deeply appreciated.
Go in Peace, Conscious of the Creator’s Love for You and Yours,
How do you know Joe Biden is not truth-telling? Well, you know the old joke’s mouth-moving punchline. On (or better, against) the Second Amendment, the constitutional scholar / president has issued orders marinated in his authentic blippity bloop-blop blorp rhetoric that, when decoded, proves fib-filled and reminiscent of Burger King delicacies. In fact, David Harsanyi has provided that translation service, and explains Joe Biden’s Second Amendment Whoppers in a piece you should find worthwhile.
Unable once again to resist the left flank of his party’s base, Joe Biden has walked directly into a trap. “Today,” the White House proclaims in a press release, “the Biden-Harris Administration is announcing six initial actions to address the gun violence public health epidemic.” “The President,” it confirms, “is committed to taking action.”
A more accurate dispatch might have read: Today, the Biden-Harris Administration is achieving nothing of consequence while riling up some of the most committed voters in the country and damaging an oft-deployed progressive talking point about the infrequency of gun-control measures.
Keeping on the subject of Joe and fire sticks, POTUS has nominated an anti-gun (we’ll go with “fanatic” so as not to insult macaroons and pecans) to run the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. His name is David Chipman, he’s a Constitution-ignoramus, and he too gets the Harsanyi treatment. From David’s piece:
David Chipman, President Joe Biden’s nominee for director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), doesn’t possess a rudimentary understanding of the Second Amendment — which, considering this job, seems like a problem.
A couple of years ago, in reaction to local governments in Virginia declaring “Second Amendment sanctuary,” Chipman wrote a column in the Roanoke Times arguing that the “Second Amendment envisions firearms as being ‘well regulated,’ and individual sheriffs aren’t entitled to decide whether a particular regulation is constitutional — that’s the job of the courts.”
Of course, there is not a shred of historical evidence that the Second Amendment “envisions” the state inhibiting and restricting the ability of law-abiding citizens to own any firearms. That said, courts have already ruled on the question. Chipman may not have heard about the District of Columbia v. Heller ruling, but it found that individuals have a right to keep and bear arms unrelated to an individual’s membership in a militia. Now, I understand some people get excited when they see the phrase “well regulated,” but it was a common term in the late 18th century that meant “working well,” not, “Hey, let’s make more laws.” But even if it did mean that, the term is aimed at militias, not individuals.
There is plenty of NR wisdom to be found below, on a myriad of topics ranging from foreign to domestic. May you find much here to engage your intelligence and soul.
Bill Buckley was a fan of the Human Life Review, and its parent, the Human Life Foundation — a trustee of which is Your Humble Author, who some 15 years or so ago was directly directed by WFB to give love and attention to this important journal.
This Weekend Jolt epistle is a worthwhile means of accomplishing such, so know the following: The new issue of the Human Life Review is off the presses. For your recommendation, two pieces:
EXCERPT JUNKIES COME HITHER: TOO-MANY-TO-COUNT LINKS AND COPIOUS GOODIES TO SATISFY YOUR CONSERVATIVE CRAVINGS
1. Janet Yellin proposes a truly new stupid: A global minimum tax. It earns our derision. From the editorial:
Yellen’s proposal, which gets a nod in Biden’s infrastructure plan, is also more than a touch presumptuous. Taxation and sovereignty are inextricably intertwined. Different countries have different taxing and spending priorities; priorities, incidentally, that may change over time. The logic of why they should, at least to a degree, follow the prescriptions of the Biden administration may escape them. Quite a few will be irritated by what they may see as American bullying: Companies based in countries that do not go along with a global minimum tax may find that their U.S. subsidiaries are subjected to higher rates of taxation. That is not a way for America to win friends or, for that matter, investment.
It says a great deal that the idea of a global minimum tax has been welcomed by the EU Commission, and not only because of Brussels’s deeply engrained preference for harmonization over diversity. The EU’s more highly taxed countries (such as France and Germany) have long chafed at the competitive advantage that member states such as Ireland, as well as many in the poorer east, have derived from lower corporate-tax rates. However, it also says a lot that even the most tentative moves in the direction of a minimum EU corporate tax have gone nowhere.
If the EU, a relatively homogenous grouping, cannot agree on setting a minimum tax for its members, it is hardly likely to be in a position to accept Yellen’s global minimum tax. And if even the EU will not accept it, nor will anyone else of any consequence. Instead, America’s competitors will regard a major U.S. corporate-tax hike as a self-inflicted wound. And they will take the maximum possible advantage.
2. Cut cut here, cut cut there . . . and you have another 60 Minutes hack job. We condemn its smear of Ron DeSantis. From the editorial:
So egregiously dishonest was 60 Minutes’ attempt that, shortly after it aired, the director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management took to Twitter to condemn it. “I said this before and I’ll say it again,” Jared Moskowitz wrote. “Publix was recommended by FLSERT [State Emergency Response Team] and HealthyFla [Florida Department of Health] as the other pharmacies were not ready to start. Period! Full Stop! No one from the Governors office suggested Publix. It’s just absolute malarkey.” Moskowitz, note, is no ideological ally of Governor DeSantis. On the contrary: He describes himself as a “progressive,” served as a Democrat in the Florida legislature until 2019, and has worked in various capacities for Al Gore, Joe Lieberman, and Barack Obama. His father, Michael, is one of the top Democratic fundraisers in the state.
Unlike the producers of 60 Minutes, however, Jared Moskowitz is not a liar.
Alas, he is fighting against the tide. 60 Minutes’ lies will now be laundered and repeated until, in millions of minds around the country, they are habitually referenced as “facts.” In that status they will be joined by the oft-repeated lie that Florida has been “cooking its books,” which it has not. From the moment the pandemic began, the mainstream press has proven itself incapable of writing about Florida as anything less than a mysterious, godforsaken backwater that, somehow, has managed to stumble through this crisis despite itself. That Florida ranks in the middle of the pack for deaths, despite having the fourth-oldest population in the country and being the destination of choice for young people, seems not to matter. Nor do many commentators seem much to care that Florida has done this while managing to stay largely open; that there have been real, verifiable, and under-covered scandals elsewhere; that the most populous state in the union is holding a recall election for its governor over his COVID response; or that, at the moment the 60 Minutes segment ran, it was not Florida that was in crisis, but Michigan.
3. Rob Manfred’s political decision to move the All Star Game from Georgia turns Baseball from the National Pastime to the National Joke. From the editorial:
If MLB is suddenly passionate about the intricacies of the nation’s voting laws, it could have provided one specific alleged outrage in Georgia that caused it to make this move. Was it the newly extended voting hours? The decision to keep drop boxes permanently after their adoption on an emergency basis last year, only not at permanent pandemic levels? The requirement that voters write a driver’s license number or other identifier on absentee-ballot envelopes (when Ohio, the state where the last All-Star Game was played, has a similar rule)? The prohibition on people giving water within 150 feet of a polling station to people standing in line, although drinks can be given to poll workers to distribute and water stations made generally available?
We could go on. MLB stuck to gauzy generalities in its statement, one assumes, because citing the specifics of the law with any accuracy would expose its decision as being completely unwarranted. MLB moving the Summer Classic has all the hallmarks of a craven attempt to curry favor with fashionable opinion, after the president of the United States encouraged it to do so in an ESPN interview full of falsehoods about Georgia.
Certainly there is no consistency here. MLB had no problem a few years ago forging an agreement with the Chinese tech company, Tencent, to stream its games in China, where early-voting hours are famously restrictive. It’s been happy to have a cooperative relationship with Cuba, where ballot drop boxes are not nearly as available as one would hope. It allows the Yankees and Mets to play in New York, and makes its headquarters there, when New York doesn’t have no-excuse absentee voting and Georgia does, it offers fewer days of early voting than Georgia, and it has its own law against giving food and drink to voters.
Since the Republican tax reform of 2017, the federal government has allowed taxpayers to deduct $10,000 of their state and local tax payments from their federal taxes. What the Democrats now seek is a restoration of the unlimited tax deduction that had previously been in place. Only the highest earners hit that cap, so getting rid of it would directly benefit only them. The Tax Foundation estimates that lifting the cap would raise the after-tax incomes of the bottom-earning 40 percent of households by nothing. People in the middle of the income distribution would see an average increase of 0.01 percent. People in the top 1 percent, on the other hand, would receive a 2.8 percent increase. Another analysis, from the Tax Policy Center, found that the top 20 percent of taxpayers would receive 96 percent of the benefit of repealing the cap.
A tax cut with that distributional impact would normally outrage progressives, but could be worth supporting if strong considerations of economic growth or justice weighed in favor. They are, however, absent here. The Democratic enthusiasm for this tax cut has two sources. It disproportionately benefits not just high earners but high earners in high-tax, which is to say liberal and Democratic-run, jurisdictions: the kind of people who fund Democratic campaigns everywhere. It also makes it easier for state and local governments to maintain high levels of taxation: Taxpayers in other parts of the country pick up some of their burden. Public-sector unions are, for that reason, also enthusiastic about the deduction.
5. Team Ayatollah has a blank-eating grin, knowing Scranton Joe has arrived, ready to concede. From the editorial:
While no immediate breakthrough is expected this week, Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araghchi, who led the Iranian delegation, called Tuesday’s discussions constructive and announced that “expert level” talks will continue on Friday.
It’s no surprise that the regime is so giddy. The mere existence of these discussions has demonstrated the Biden administration’s interest in diplomatic theater to obscure its movement toward Tehran’s negotiating position.
On February 7, Biden was asked during an interview with CBS if he would lift sanctions to get Iran back to the table. He responded simply: “No.” He also indicated that Iran would have to stop enriching uranium first.
But the cracks had started to show in the lead-up to Vienna. Last Friday, the U.S. special envoy to Iran, Robert Malley, toldPBS NewsHour, “the United States knows that, in order to get back into compliance, it’s going to have to lift those sanctions that are inconsistent with the deal that was reached with Iran and the other countries involved in the nuclear deal.”
On Monday, ahead of the talks, State Department spokesperson Ned Price dodged a question on sanctions relief. “I will leave it to the negotiators to detail positions,” he said, effectively leaving the possibility open.
Hutchinson went on Tucker Carlson Tonight to explain his veto, in a segment that ended badly for him. When Carlson pressed the Arkansas Republican on studies showing the damage these “therapies” do to young people, Hutchinson waved these away, citing the opinions of unnamed doctors he’d talked with. The governor invoked the cause of “limited government” as his rationale for vetoing this bill. Carlson correctly pointed out that governments frequently intervene to protect children from harmful behavior — whether smoking cigarettes, getting tattoos, or marrying. Why should quack therapies then be a matter of freedom for minors?
Hutchinson had no good answer, although at one point he said that he wanted to “broaden the party.” This absurd reply naturally occasions another question: How many people will stay in your big-tent party when you can’t be bothered to defend minors from irreparable harm?
Hutchinson invoked the names of President Ronald Reagan and William F. Buckley Jr., the founder of this magazine, to buttress his points. By doing so, he only proved that a man of authority who will not stop the abuse of children will not stop at abuse of the dead, either.
1. Mamma mia does Luke Thompson give it to the Lincoln Project grifters between the beady eyes. From the piece:
As soon as the Lincoln Project lost access to television, it began to wither and die.
By midsummer 2020, the New York Postwas working to confirm that Weaver habitually groomed young men looking to work in politics, offering to mentor them and seeking sexual favors in return. In early August, with the Postclosing in, the Lincoln Project announced that Weaver had been “admitted to the hospital after a cardiac problem.” Weaver withdrew from public life and the Post abandoned the story.
The group had dodged a proverbial bullet. According to later reporting by the New York Times, the group’s senior leadership had been made aware of Weaver’s behavior two months after the group had formed, but word had not leaked, and so Weaver remained part of Schmidt’s post-election media ambitions. In the interim, Schmidt, Wilson, and an expanding roster of new associates continued to flog the organization on MSNBC and CNN, in the pages of America’s liberal magazines and newspapers, and across the Web itself. November came and went, as did the decisive Senate runoff elections in Georgia.
Eventually, however, the Internet struck back. Frustrated with a lack of movement by the Post, and concerned by the Lincoln Project’s grandiose plans to transform into a media empire, several of the men Weaver had targeted came forward on Twitter in January 2021.
Denials were followed by denunciations, which were followed in turn by resignations. When Horn left the group, Schmidt excoriated her as an opportunist, and the Lincoln Project posted private messages between her and a journalist. When Weaver’s targets pointed out that they had raised concerns with Mike Madrid and Keith Edwards, a Lincoln Project staffer who went to work for Jon Ossoff’s Senate campaign while still on the Lincoln Project payroll, Schmidt downplayed Madrid’s role with the group.
2. The glove don’t fit, so . . . move the goalposts. Dan McLaughlin looks at Democrats scrambling on their thoroughly dishonest Georgia-law spin. From the piece:
The campaign against the new law’s specific provisions has been just as dishonest. Democrats leaned heavily on false claims about a provision barring food and drink handouts to people voting, which responded to real issues. The barrage of lies about “voter suppression” has gotten so bad that even media liberals have had to take notice. Glenn Kessler of the Washington Postawarded “Four Pinocchios” to Joe Biden’s false claim that the law “ends voting hours early so working people can’t cast their vote after their shift is over.” Kessler even branded Biden a “recidivist” when the president repeated the same lie after Kessler pointed it out. The Atlanta Journal-Constitutionissued a correction after making a similar claim.
In reality, S.B. 202 beefs up Georgia’s power to force localities (which control individual polling places) to add more precincts and more voting machines, addressing a specific, longstanding complaint by Democrats about the state’s current voting system. More broadly, while the bill modestly shores up election security and efficiency, it also expands weekend voting statewide, permanently authorizes ballot drop boxes, adds more state oversight of local officials, requires pre-canvassing of mail-in ballots to expedite vote counting on Election Night, expands eligibility to be a poll worker, lets illiterate people have others help fill out their absentee ballots, and requires jails to give access to eligible inmates to apply for absentee ballots. On the whole, it creates broader access to voting in Georgia than existed before 2020, and bars nobody from voting. That may help explain why national polling shows that the Democrats’ effort is failing, and that voters are skeptical of corporations directing boycotts at it.
3. Rich Lowry saunters down memory lane to find the evidence of political martyr and author Stacey Abram’s enthusiastic history of . . . voter suppression! From the article:
Yes, by her own logic, Stacey Abrams suppressed the vote in Georgia and did it more blatantly than anything in the state’s new voting law, which will actually extend early-voting hours in many places.
Anyone calling the Georgia law “Jim Crow 2.0” at the very least has his enumeration wrong. The Stacey Abrams–supported bill in 2011 should, on these terms, get the 2.0 designation, rendering the new law Jim Crow 3.0.
Why? Abrams says that early voting could be “a cost-prohibitive burden” to local governments. Smaller jurisdictions, she writes, complained they’d have to cut back in other budgetary areas to maintain the longer period of early voting, and the costs of keeping a facility open were the same whether many people were using it or not.
4. Brad Raffensperger kneecaps the disinformation about the Georgia legislation. From the piece:
President Biden, Senator Warnock, and the other critics of Georgia’s new law care more about whipping up outrage among their base than talking about actual policy. If they looked at the facts, they’d discover that SB 202 makes some commonsense adjustments following an election stressed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The legislation moves Georgia from the subjective signature-match identity-verification process for absentee-ballot voting to objective ID numbers from photo IDs, free voter IDs, or other documents. I introduced this concept last year with the absentee-ballot-request portal, and it won bipartisan praise. With such close elections, moving to an objective standard takes pressure off of our local election officials.
It is also convenient for voters. Over 97 percent of Georgia’s voters have a driver’s-license number associated with their voter-registration record.
To ensure voters actually get their absentee ballots in time to cast them, SB 202 puts reasonable deadlines in place for receiving absentee-ballot applications and sending out absentee ballots, and moves Georgia closer in line with other state timelines. The massive increase in absentee ballots last year stressed Georgia’s election system. Over 500,000 people requested an absentee ballot but showed up in person anyway. This slowed down in-person voting and increased the possibility of double voting.
SB 202 takes steps to cut down voting lines. If voters have to wait more than an hour on Election Day, the relevant county has to add voting equipment or split the precinct if there are too many voters assigned to that precinct. The bill directs voters to cast ballots in their assigned precincts, eliminating the extra steps for processing out-of-precinct voters that lead to long lines.
5. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is acquiring all the right enemies. Isaac Schorr explains. From the piece:
The 60 Minutes segment comes as an addition to, not the inaugural entry in, a tired pandemic genre of insisting that DeSantis is at the head of a Jonesville-style death cult. From the very beginning, he was pilloried for what CNN’s Chris Cillizza called a “hands-off” approach, a false charge that would have been far preferable to Andrew Cuomo’s very hands-on approach, even if it were rooted in truth.
When the data didn’t conform to this invented morbid narrative of life (and death) in Florida, many in the media fell hook, line, and sinker for the lie that DeSantis was doctoring his state’s COVID data, a conspiracy theory pushed by a lunatic huckster who is right now being prosecuted on stalking charges. Indeed, Rebekah Jones’s deceptions were amplified by NPR, the New York Times, and Yahoo among many other supposedly reputable outlets.
At every turn, the accusations against DeSantis — that he’s incompetent, that he’s reckless, that he’s corrupt — have been proven demonstrably false. Worse yet for his adversaries in the press, DeSantis is adept at capitalizing on their lazy antipathy toward him. He confronts them with righteous anger that reminds voters why they adored the 45th president, just without the invectives, non-sequiturs, and baggage.
One of the great fears of the left-leaning chattering class has been that something far worse than Trump is on the horizon: That bad as he was, Trump was manifestly unfit for office and did little to help himself politically; that a more-savvy figure with an iota of self-control might achieve things Trump could only have dreamed of; that nightmare has been made reality — in part.
In their effort to destroy the man they saw as Trump’s successor, the press have twisted, lied, slandered, and whined. Much more than DeSantis, they themselves embodied their image of Trump. In so doing, they turned DeSantis — who barely triumphed over the hapless Andrew Gillum in 2018’s gubernatorial contest — into a national political force with all of the conservative cred of a Trump and none of the warts that offend many American sensibilities.
6. When it comes to disinformation, the Russians are amateurs compared to America’s woke media says Rich Lowry. From the article:
The Russians were amateurs, though. If they really knew what they were doing, they’d spread rank lies about election reforms passed by an American state, make the deceptions so pervasive that the president of the United States would casually repeat them, unjustifiably dredge up memories of a terrible period of repression in America, relentlessly racialize the debate, and intimidate corporate America into thoughtlessly entering the partisan fight and discrediting itself with a significant segment of the population.
No, Russian trolls operating somewhere in St. Petersburg didn’t undertake this highly successful information operation against the Georgia election law — Stacey Abrams and her allies in media and politics did.
If the Russians had the requisite skill, they’d spread the false story that a talented American governor had sold out his citizens by letting a campaign contribution distort his distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, suppressing all facts to the contrary and stoking yet more conspiratorial thinking about the governor among his political opponents.
The Russians couldn’t pull this off — yet 60 Minutes did, in a laughably dishonest report over the weekend about Florida governor Ron DeSantis using the most popular grocery store chain in the state to get the vaccine in the arms of Floridians.
7. We hope for Kirsten Gillibrand’s sake that hair bleach is infrastructure, because, as Cameron Hilditch analyzes, the Democrat cynics have declared just about everything else to be such. From the piece:
We’ve seen how this manipulation of language has been used in politics before. Progressives will habitually take a popular term like “justice” and try to cram as much of their agenda into this word as possible. This allows them to circumnavigate arguments over the merits of a given policy. Who, after all, wants to be in the anti-justice camp? And so, we’re fed phrases like “environmental justice,” “reproductive justice,” and “economic justice.” Underwriting this rhetorical revisionism is the belief that the battle for proprietary ownership over certain terms is among the most important political conflicts in society.
I hardly need to list too many examples of this. At least five or six have probably crossed your mind as you’ve been reading, the most obvious of which concerns transgenderism and the accompanying pronoun wars. The global environmental Left has even had some success in granting legal personhood to rivers, clothing them in a whole host of protections that our society systematically denies to unborn boys and girls. “Person,” as it happens, is probably the most powerful political word in our political vocabulary, which is why abortion advocates insist on using the Latin word for “little one” (foetus) instead when championing their cause. So much of the Left’s strategy for electoral conquest turns on this annexation of the English language. It’s a strategy of which voters are insufficiently aware.
Observing that literate Americans abandoned the field of this rhetorical battle when it came to COVID relief, the president clearly felt emboldened to advance upon the word “infrastructure” and capture it for his own political ends. As a result, we’re now faced with an “infrastructure” bill that would set the corporate tax rate at 28 percent, impose punitive measures on domestic-energy producers, expand long-term care services under Medicaid, drop $400 billion on a huge house-building scheme, eliminate the use of paper plates in school cafeterias, rewrite the country’s zoning laws, and expand collective-bargaining privileges for unions.
8. The All Star game relocation-idiocy gets the Andrew C. McCarthy treatment. From the piece:
Which is to say: It has been years since I’ve watched the All-Star Game, the can’t-miss event of my youth. When I learned that the woke Left had gotten the woke commissioner to accede to the woke White House’s instruction that the game be moved out of Atlanta — part of the campaign to slander Georgia’s voting law as racist — it was the first time I’d even heard that the game was scheduled to be in Atlanta. They could play it on Mars for all I care, or, better yet, not play it at all.
There is just one thing. I am part of the dying breed that MLB needs: the aging fanatic who loves the game and spends money on it. So, what have they done? They’ve taken a no-compete spectacle I’d long since stopped caring about, and, by politicizing my respite from politics, they have made me not only care about it but get bats**t over it.
I’m too addicted to the love affair I’ve had with baseball for 55 years to say I won’t watch it anymore. But I will watch considerably less . . . and I will not spend a thin dime on it.
9. Our National Pastime’s history of concern with states and their voting laws is . . . non-existent. Ryan Mills has the story. From the piece:
In fact, MLB’s steadfast commitment to voting rights and its interest in state election laws seem to be mostly new, coming only after President Joe Biden hyperbolically called the Georgia law “Jim Crow on steroids,” lied about its provisions, and then, during an interview with ESPN, backed pulling the All-Star game from Atlanta as a form or protest.
MLB — which played a game in communist Cuba in 2016 and has ongoing business with communist China – has not cited any specific provision of the Georgia law it disagrees with. Manfred has only said that MLB “fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box.”
But in the nearly two months that Georgia lawmakers were crafting and debating the election law, MLB leaders did not engage with them at all, and did not express any concerns about the law before Governor Brian Kemp signed it on March 25, state leaders told National Review.
“I do not recall any interaction with Major League Baseball for sure, and I do not recall any interactions with anybody representing the (Atlanta) Braves organization the whole time that we were debating and working through the bill,” said Barry Fleming, the state representative who sponsored the House version of the election bill.
MLB also didn’t engage with Kemp before he signed the law. He told Fox News he only had a brief conversation with Manfred before Manfred pulled the All-Star Game from Atlanta.
“I talked to the commissioner, offered to explain anything he wanted in the bill, because I heard they were getting pressured. He thanked me for that,” Kemp said. “And then I got a call saying they had moved the game. No dialogue whatsoever, which is just disappointing.”
10. The theme of whose corrupt ox is gored has Jack Crowe pulling the rug from under Hunter Biden’s late-night abettor, Jimmy Kimmel. From the piece:
So, rather than take the exceedingly rare opportunity to press Hunter on whether the emails extracted from the laptop, which show the younger Biden bending over backwards to sell his family name to a Chinese energy firm, are authentic (something he’s never explicitly denied but has never been pressed on), Kimmel let him off with a friendly, “Hey, you got wasted and lost a laptop that appears to incriminate you in international corruption at the highest levels, who among us?”
Arguably the worst part of Kimmel’s performance came when he passed over opportunities for genuine comedy because they would have conflicted with his actual goal of fluffing Hunter. Take, for example, his willingness to accept with a straight face Hunter’s claim that “corporate expertise” qualified him to sit on the board of the Ukrainian oil giant Burisma.
“I went to Yale Law School, I served on at least a dozen boards before Burisma,” he said, recounting his service on the board of Amtrak, which he was appointed to at age 36 and served on for three years.
“I had expertise in corporate governance,” he continued. “I was asked to serve on the board for corporate governance and I was a lawyer at Boies, Schiller and Flexner, which is how I was first approached.”
So, a multi-billion dollar Ukrainian energy company could find no one more qualified than a 44-year-old American with no discernible energy experience and well known personal issues to sit on its board; and the selection had nothing to do with Joe Biden’s role overseeing Ukraine policy as vice president. Now that’s funny.
So, in trying to be both a journalist and a comedian, Kimmel failed miserably on both fronts. He tried to be funny when the moment called for a serious grilling and he passed over the opportunity to be funny when Hunter offered it up on a silver platter.
11. Kyle Smith contends that Alexei Navalny is the bravest man on Earth. From the article:
Navalny, 44, is the world’s greatest journalist (his exposé of what is thought to be Putin’s billion-dollar Black Sea palace, which is so ornate it would make a Romanov blush, was the scoop of the century). He is also our leading dissident (he tirelessly campaigns against the authoritarianism and corruption of the Putin regime) and a fantastically gifted entertainer. Picture a Borat who, instead of ridiculing easy targets at no risk of anything except possibly of spraining a wrist picking up all of the awards sent his way, actually rides out into the wilds to oppose one of the world’s most evil men, under constant threat of assassination. That’s the best way to understand how Navalny, going undercover posing as an agent of state security, managed to get on tape a phone interview with one of his own (failed) assassins. Navalny even got the would-be murderer to explain how he did it: by putting the lethal nerve agent Novichok in Navalny’s underwear when he was campaigning against Putinism in Siberia. Navalny then got on a flight (to Moscow) that was so long that the killers assumed Navalny would be dead by the time the plane landed, but instead the pilot made an emergency landing and called an ambulance. First aid extended Navalny’s life. His wife arranged for him to get first-world attention in a German hospital, but even so he spent five weeks in a coma.
Lesson learned? No. As soon as Navalny woke up, he announced he would return to Russia and fight Putinism some more. Putin joked that he couldn’t possibly have ordered the hit because if he had, his spies would have finished the job (he laughed while he said this), and his regime announced that Navalny would be jailed if he came back. When Navalny did indeed return, this past January, the lawyer-turned-shareholder-activist-turned-unofficial-leader-of-the-opposition was immediately arrested at the airport. At his urging, Russians gathered in the street from coast to coast to protest the kleptocracy. Yet in his initial weeks in prison, Navalny continued to post jaunty updates on social media. He called his lodgings “our friendly concentration camp.” In recent days, his posts have taken a turn for the grim and he began a hunger strike last week.
Courage of this sort simply isn’t seen in Russia. It isn’t seen anywhere. It is incomprehensible, perhaps more today than before. As our world gets safer and safer, genuine physical courage grows rarer and rarer. It has become common, in the United States at least, for prominent persons to claim the status of political martyrdom when suffering nothing other than rude criticism. To all who claim to be soldiers for truth, defenders of democracy, and devotees of human rights, the existence of Navalny and his woes ought to at least be instructive — and humbling. He is determined to oppose Putinism with everything he’s got. If it costs him his life, as it probably will, so be it. “I’m not going to be able to persuade everyone but I will persuade some people simply because I stand on the facts and the truth,” he told The New Yorker.
13. Red China administers a crushing urban / rural apartheid system. Therese Shaheen sheds light on the nastiness. From the piece:
China’s apartheid relies on an internal-passport system that follows the bearer for his or her life. The system is straightforward: You are born urban or born rural, and you carry that with you until you die. This designation is enforced through an intricate system of quotas and restricted access to schools, jobs, health care, and the social safety net (such as one exists in the PRC).
The government uses the restrictions to control urban migration, throttling it to ensure sufficient labor for the fast-growing cities. Hundreds of millions of rural migrants to the cities form a permanent underclass, granted access to services — health care, education, unemployment stipends — only at the level available to their rural hukou status. In their book Invisible China, Stanford University scholar Scott Rozelle and researcher Natalie Hell write that the system has created two Chinas: the Republic of Urban China and the Republic of Rural China. While Rural China citizens can travel to Urban China, they write, “even if rural parents move from their villages to the big cities for work . . . they are not legally entitled to send their kids to urban public schools or to access urban public hospitals.” Since there is not enough access to urban jobs or services for the roughly two-thirds of China that has rural hukou status, migration to cities often splits rural families apart. Fathers or mothers or older sons may migrate to the city, leaving daughters and grandparents behind.
Chinese apartheid thus sustains the vast disparity in incomes between the cities and the countryside, where the World Bank estimates — and the CCP generally acknowledges — that hundreds of millions live on about $5 per day. While the wealth gap in the United States is decried by progressive politicians, it is no coincidence that a recent analysis of OECD data for 24/7 Wall Street and USA Today placed South Africa and China — the modern era’s premiere practitioners of apartheid — at No. 1 and No. 2 on the list of top 15 countries with the widest disparity between rich and poor. Both systems depend on systemic chauvinist policies by a prosperous advantaged minority against an impoverished majority. But what South Africa abandoned, China continues.
14. Now here’s a story that won’t surprise anyone: Jorge Jrisati reports that Red China is violating Americans sanctions on Venezuela’s dirtbag regime. From the piece:
There are four important takeaways for American foreign policy from all of this information.
First, sanctioned regimes learn rather rapidly how to avoid foreign sanctions. Recently, the Venezuelan opposition revealed that the Maduro regime has been sending gold to Mali via Russian planes. The gold is refined in Mali and then sold in the United Arab Emirates. The opposition report states that the scheme allowed the Maduro regime to earn profits of at least $1 billion.
Second, the U.S. government is not adjusting its policy of sanctions to these new geopolitical challenges, which is an issue I raised last October. At the time, I wrote about the mechanism that Iran has been using to ship gasoline to Venezuela, which is now being used to ship over 40,000 barrels of gasoline per day to Venezuela. This is in exchange for Venezuela giving Iran not only oil and gold but also control of key PDVSA refineries, such as El Palito refinery, which can process over 140,000 barrels of fuel per day.
Third, China is actively seeking to undermine America’s strategies on Venezuela and Iran, as both strategies assume the U.S. ability to pressure these two regimes: in Venezuela, so that the country experiences a political transition, and in Iran, so that the Rouhani regime is forced into a new nuclear negotiation.
15. Ireland’s lefty bureaucrats have brutalized the citizenry. Michael Brendan Dougherty tells the woeful tale. From the piece:
European nations such as France and Poland are going back into lockdowns now. Ireland never left. From mid October to Easter Sunday, with nothing but a five-day respite at Christmas, the government of Ireland has had people in what they call a “level-five lockdown.” The details of this arrangement are rather shocking. No visitors to any households. You can meet with members of one other household in an outdoor setting, so long as it is not a home or garden. Only 25 people may attend funerals or weddings. Anything aside from stingily defined domestic travel and even exercise beyond five kilometers is prohibited, and enforcement was dramatically stepped up in January. That is, even a 3.11-mile run is illegal. After some hemming and hawing, the government also admitted that saying Mass publicly is an offense. One note of difference from America, however, is that Ireland’s schools have been running.
The Irish government’s own Human Rights and Equality Commission issued a report in late February warning that the government’s empowerment of NPHET had made it “difficult to maintain effective democratic oversight.” It rebuked the government’s attempt “to secure the quasi-legal enforcement of public health advice, in a manner that may infringe the principle of legality.” Effectively, Ireland’s public-health regime was only “quasi-legal.”
The misery is perhaps enhanced by Ireland’s sometimes awkward place in the world. Culturally, it is a part of the Anglosphere; America and the United Kingdom have overwhelming media influence there. Ireland’s youth often emigrate or temporarily relocate to Anglophone countries around the world for work, and so conditions on the ground seen elsewhere are highly visible in Ireland on social media. But politically, Ireland is part of the EU’s botched vaccination rollout. And so Ireland sits in the longest and most stringent lockdown in the Anglophone world, while every radio program, half of the news programs, and the social-media feeds are filling up with news about how much faster everyone else outside of Ireland is being vaccinated. In recent weeks, there have been days when the United Kingdom vaccinated more people in a day than the Republic of Ireland had vaccinated since January.
16. Sean Kennedy shines light on Baltimore’s disastrous prosecutor, Marilyn Mosby, who seems not to have much of a problem with . . . crime. From the piece:
Under Mosby’s tenure, violent crime did not fall. In fact, it skyrocketed by 33 percent before last year. And that’s because she’s not very good at her job. While she publicly claims an astounding 93 percent felony conviction rate — 85 percent for homicide, 91 percent for gun crimes, and 98 percent for narcotics — she fails to mention that those numbers exclude cases that she dismissed while claiming credit for convictions on a lesser charge, including in homicide cases. If the denominator is small enough, Mosby looks impressive. But the truth is more sanguine.
She drops or loses more than 40 percent of her felony cases and fails to prosecute and imprison gun offenders. Shockingly, in 2018, Mosby secured convictions for only 18 percent of “felon in possession of a firearm” cases — a known precursor offense to violence. Even worse, of those convicted, most don’t see the inside of a jail cell for long, or even at all, despite Maryland’s statutory five-year minimum sentence. An analysis by the Baltimore Sun showed that 43 percent received less than a year in jail and 13 percent got no jail time at all.
And for homicide, Mosby isn’t getting very impressive results. Of the 202 murder cases resolved since 2017 (out of 1,300 murders in that period and 2,000 since she became state’s attorney), Mosby has secured guilty verdicts in 38 percent of them, while pleading out another 26 percent. Many of those pleas received lesser-charge convictions, including gun possession and obstruction of justice, as well as light sentences, in some cases only a few months in prison.
17. It’s blarney, pure and simple, says Corey DeAngelis: Public-school budgets are growing, not shrinking. From the analysis:
The latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau indicate Pennsylvania’s public schools received about $20,435 in funding per student in 2018, which was about 38 percent higher than the national average at the time, and about 76 percent higher than the Keystone State’s current average private-school tuition. Recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau also reveal that about 29 percent of Pennsylvania’s entire state budget goes toward education.
Worst of all is that the Inquirer was forced to correct the same erroneous assertion less than a year and a half ago. In December 2019, an Inquirer reporter claimed that public education had seen “drastic cuts to funding over the last few decades.” When pressed, the outlet changed that false statement to another false claim: that public education had seen “drastic cuts to funding over the last decade.”
Data from Pennsylvania and nationwide proved both of those statements to be false. But instead of retracting the article or changing the argument when presented with the facts, the journalist stuck with the same narrative after finally correcting the verifiably false claims about funding cuts.
This myth is persistent and widespread. After I pressured editors for eight days in 2019, for example, the Washington Postcorrected a piece by the dean of the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education, which had falsely claimed that “public funding for schools has actually decreased since the late 1980s, adjusting for constant dollars.”
18. Nonagenarian Donald Mace Williams shares his story of fending off the pandemic. Take a walk with him as he explains. From the piece:
I was born on Black Thursday — October 24, 1929, the first day, really, of the Great Depression, though the big crash was five days away. My family in the mid 1930s was desperately poor by modern standards. We lived in a pair of canvas tents for a while and then in a one-room, homemade (by my dad) rock cabin without electricity, heat, or running water. But we were far more comfortable and contented in that fragrant brush country than we would have been in an airless big-city flat. And though we once came a single meal away from hunger, we never got all the way there.
The Depression had this in common with COVID-19: our constant awareness of it. Grown people’s awareness, that is. I heard my folks say we were in a depression, but what I saw and felt was just life. Not so during the next decade. We were aware all the time that there was a war on. No more of this, no more of that, for the duration. That was like COVID for sure.
One thing I didn’t have to give up in 2020 was something that may have helped me survive the year of plague and my 90th year. Even during the worst times of COVID it was still okay to walk — just be sure to keep six feet away from people.
I walked mostly in the evenings, but I tried doing it before breakfast a few times. The first time, I got up at 6:30, groaned into my clothes and walking shoes, and stumbled out the door into the cool dawn. I stopped and threw my head back. The breeze, coming off a prairie field a quarter mile away, was proclaiming clover, daisies, and surely some kind of mint. My sense of smell has always been weak, and age has not strengthened it, but amid those nectars Methuselah or Joe Biden would have shut his eyes and smiled. My joints were feeling their age; my nose was six years old on a dewy morning in the 1930s. How could there be killer virions in such air?
19. Joseph Loconte shares the story of C.S. Lewis’s journey to Christianity. From the article:
Lewis was perfectly in step with the newly established zeitgeist, which regarded religion as inherently irrational and repressive. “Superstition of course in every age has held the common people,” he wrote, “but in every age the educated and thinking ones have stood outside it.” Mysteries about the universe remained to be uncovered, he conceded, but “in the meantime I am not going to go back to the bondage of believing in any old (and already decaying) superstition.”
Fifteen years later, however, Lewis — by then an Oxford scholar in English literature — abandoned his atheism and embraced historic Christianity. He went on to become the 20th century’s most celebrated Christian author. His works of apologetics, such as Mere Christianity and The Problem of Pain, have never gone out of print. His children’s series, The Chronicles of Narnia, awash in biblical imagery, has been translated into more than 47 languages.
Ironically, it was an argument over mythology — about the meaning of myth in human experience — that brought Lewis around. On September 19, 1931, in what might rank as one of the most important conversations in literary history, Lewis took his friend and colleague J. R. R. Tolkien on a walk along the River Cherwell near Magdalen College. A professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford, Tolkien had been studying ancient and medieval mythologies for decades; he had begun writing his own epic mythology about Middle-earth while he was a soldier in France during World War I.
20. Brian Allen travels to Fort Worth to check out a “Mythmakers” showing of the works of Winslow Homer and Frederick Remington. There’s . . . something missing. From the review:
“They came to stand for a distinctive American identity, particularly during an era of massive and destabilizing social, environmental, and cultural change.” Best to say up front what that “distinctive American identity” is, since that’s a big, meaty topic. It stays a bit of a mystery, but it has something to do with constructions of masculinity.
I wish art historians wouldn’t hitch an argument on the notion that a particular decade in America had an unusually majestic set of tumults. Every decade in American history presents “an era of massive . . . change,” be it social, cultural, environmental, political, or economic. At least that’s the case in each of the many decades I’ve occupied the planet. And what era? Homer’s life, for instance, spans the age of Jackson to the Progressive era, and these two bookend as many as five or six others.
The New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik writes an elegant essay introducing the catalogue. He’s a great thinker and graceful writer. He can tackle most subjects, but he’s Canadian. I like Canadians, but a Canadian who’s worked for The New Yorker for 35 years might not give an artist like Remington the benefit of the doubt, and Gopnik doesn’t. Having found no firm footing in the introductory panel, or in most of the labels, I read his essay.
“What we see when we see Remington is a complicated palimpsest of brief moments of observation, long sessions of calculation, neat packages of newly made myth, and the final purposes of Americanist propaganda,” Gopkin writes, as if this is a revelation. It’s not. Bill Truettner’s exhibition, The West As America, made this point 30 years ago. Alex Nemerov’s Remington and Turn-of-the-Century America did the job on Remington, and correctly so, in 1995.
1. So much for wanting to raise taxes: Brad Palumbo nails Chuck Schumer’s plans to fill the pockets of rich liberals with a big break. From the beginning of the piece:
Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer claims to be a progressive Democrat and champion of the working class, but he’s pulling every string he can right now to ensure that a tax cut for rich liberals makes it into President Biden’s infrastructure legislation.
Specifically, Schumer is working to include a repeal of the limits the GOP’s 2017 tax-reform package placed on the State and Local Tax Deduction (SALT). The SALT deduction allows citizens to write off their state and local tax bills on their federal taxes, reducing the amount owed in federal taxes for those who face higher taxes locally. In practice, it means that the cost of federal-government spending is not borne equally by all citizens: Richer residents of liberal states pay less of their share than they would otherwise. “More taxpayers claim the SALT deduction in states with higher-tax regimes that provide more government services (e.g., New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, etc.),” the Tax Foundation explains.
It sounds complicated, but it’s actually pretty simple: The SALT deduction gives many wealthy people in blue states a discount on their federal taxes. Schumer wants to remove the limit the GOP placed on the deduction in 2017, so that SALT beneficiaries can write off more and save more on their federal taxes.
2. No, our infrastructure in not crumbling, Joe, says David Harsanyi. From the piece:
I “remember” the bridge that went down on Interstate 35 over the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis in 2007. I also remember that federal investigators found that the collapse was due to a design flaw that escaped inspectors. Still, the proportion of American bridges rated as poor has decreased from 9.4 percent in 2012 to 7.5 percent by 2019 — and none of them are considered at risk of “falling down.” According to a 2018 Reuters analysis of the nation’s bridges — expansively defining a bridge as anything that crosses a creek or bigger — only 4 percent of those carrying significant traffic needed repairs. Of the nation’s 1,200 busiest bridges, the number considered structurally deficient falls to under 2 percent — or fewer than 20 bridges.
We could probably pay for all those repairs right now with the savings we would gain by overturning the unconstitutional Davis-Bacon Act, which forces the government to pay prevailing union wages.
Then again, what many voters probably don’t know when listening to Biden is that we spend plenty on roads and bridges. Federal, state, and local government spending is at around $415 billion per year on capital investments and maintenance. On top of that spending, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act of 2015 added another $305 billion over the past five years. Apparently, it did not fix things.
3. That imbroglio about Papa John’s founder John Schnatter being a racist — it was an inside-job set-up, says Dan McLaughlin, who lays out all the dirty details. From the beginning of the piece:
If you get asked in a corporate setting to “role play” or to have an honest conversation about “diversity” or racism, make sure you have your own recording or transcript. Or, better yet: Don’t play along. That is one lesson from the continuing saga of John Schnatter, the founder and “Papa John” of Papa John’s Pizza. Schnatter is still trying to rebuild his reputation after what increasingly looks like a vindictive smear campaign three years ago engineered by the ad agency hired by his own company. Only now, after a court order unsealing evidence in Schnatter’s lawsuit against the ad agency, can the public review a recording and transcript of the private conference call that sank Schnatter’s career and destroyed his good name.
With the newly released evidence, we can now get an inside look at a saga of culture clash and betrayal. This is a story of corporate cancel culture run amok, and the only thing that makes it different is that the target was a guy big enough to fight back. If Schnatter were anything but the founder, chairman of the board, and largest shareholder of the company, what chance would he stand?
4. Ever the fall guy for Tinseltown, the cultural elite are suddenly all warm and fuzzy about Mr. Capitalist, the woke kind anyway. Charlie Cooke finds it all worthy of comment, and he is right to think so. From the piece:
Two years later, amid a bitter fight over the extent to which the Religious Freedom Restoration Act should apply to Hobby Lobby, Wharton’s Amy Sepinwall put the case pithily in the Washington Post: “a corporation,” she submitted, “can’t have a conscience.”
Do progressives still believe this? Did they ever? Praising Major League Baseball for moving the All-Star Game out of Atlanta last week, Barack Obama said that the organization was “taking a stand.” Such pronouncements have become common over the last year, starting last summer, in the wake of the killing of George Floyd. “We’re entering the age of corporate social justice,” the Harvard Business Review suggested in June, which, among other things, meant that corporations should exhibit “a commitment to taking a stance, even if it alienates certain populations of consumers, employees, and corporate partners.”
And goodness me did America’s corporations oblige. So compliant were they, in fact, that at the height of their acquiescence it became impossible to order something as anodyne as a replacement dishwasher tray without being informed in 32-point font that the Acme Corporation of Wichita “stood fully” with Black Lives Matter. For months, multinational companies used the language of conscience with abandon. They cared, respected, empathized, affirmed, grieved, supported, funded, and helped. They believed things and declared things and avowed things — and they rejected things, too. They called on people and called out people. They stood in solidarity. Some even prayed.
5. Maybe the numbers are underestimating inflation, warns William Levin. From the piece:
The same story is evident in medical costs. In the CPI, medical care accounts for 8.9 percent of the total index. Yet within GDP, health-care expenditures total 17.7 percent of the economy. Why the difference? The CPI excludes medical costs paid through employer insurance premiums, even though those costs eventually are passed on to consumers. Nor does the CPI include any tax-funded medical care, including Medicare Part A and all of Medicaid.
Independently, private insurance premiums have soared in the past few years, doubling or more for many consumers. Yet the government index claims health-insurance premiums since 2013 have increased by only 45 percent. The difference is due to method: The CPI indirectly estimates insurance premiums “based on retained earnings method,” which the BLS explains as “leftover premiums income after paying out benefits.” Nor does the complex methodology used to estimate medical costs account for the fundamental irrationality of the U.S. health-care market, where standard back surgery, as an example, can “cost”, out-of-pocket, anywhere from zero to $150,000.
For an unbiased look at medical cost inflation, PwC calculates that U.S. medical costs have increased an average 6.1 percent annually since 2014. Over this same period, the CPI medical care increase is 2.8 percent.
Adding to the problem, the Fed and economists pay primary attention to “core inflation” which is defined as the CPI excluding energy costs and food. The theory is that food and energy prices fluctuate due to forces independent of inflation. As a result, the 50 percent jump in energy prices since the 2020 election does not count in the Feds’ inflation assessment.
Based on a stage play by Kemp, One Night in Miami uses an anachronistic conceit that is exploitative, not insightful like that in Nic Roeg’s Insignificance (1985), which convened 20th-century icons Marilyn Monroe, Joe McCarthy, Joe DiMaggio, and Albert Einstein as a cultural caprice. King and Kemp’s lackluster, humorless rip-off arrogantly suggests that the present is smarter than the past.
Yet with racism as their focus, they never descend from celebrity Olympus to address Fukuyama’s ideas on economics — or Thomas Sowell’s fundamental sociological question about “why the large-scale disintegration of the black family should have begun a hundred years after slavery,” during the Civil Rights Sixties.
These issues are buried under King and Kemp’s fantasy convocation that pretends to reveal the roots of black American dissatisfaction. None of the foursome addresses economics directly, but each man represents envied success. The discontent felt by these icons of civil-rights advancement leads to superficially political obsessions: How to be black, how to push society forward, how to use their celebrity. One Night in Miami’s end of history is epitomized by the disconnection these characters show from their chosen professions — the history of politics, boxing, sports, music, acting.
2. Boomer stumbling and much more is the takeaway from The Big Chill, rewatched by Kyle Smith. From the review:
The disillusionment plaguing the characters amounts to moping about careers, all but one of which are nothing to be ashamed of. Yet all but one of the characters are framed as sellouts. What’s wrong with selling Nike sneakers? Meg is a real-estate lawyer; good for her. In a previous life, she was a public defender who decided she didn’t actually like working for rapists and murderers. “Some of them are scum,” notes Harold, the sneaker guy. Goldblum’s Michael once intended to “go to Harlem and teach those ghetto kids,” and his girlfriend still does, but instead he flies around the country writing celebrity profiles that are only “32 paragraphs.” I picture 25-year-old journalists who are lucky to get paid to write a story of one-third that length wanting to zap Goldblum with the Melt Stick he used in Thor: Ragnarok, and that’s before anyone tells them about the extravagant salaries that People writers used to command, which would probably cover about six HuffPost writers today. What exactly has this guy got to complain about? Maybe he should stop cheating on his girlfriend and just be a good magazine writer instead of confusing himself with Albert Camus.
Similarly, the housewife Karen has a perfectly nice life, yet she’s considering throwing it all away because it isn’t ideal. Let’s examine her complaints: “I feel like I have never been alone in my own house. Either Richard is there, or the boys, or the housekeeper.” Sorry, Karen, but that’s not a real problem. Get yourself some time alone once in a while — Richard will understand. As for Karen’s complaint that she never gets to work on her fiction anymore, well, that’s an excuse a lot of nonwriters have. Either make time for it (say, by spending less time watching TV), or admit that you aren’t actually a fiction writer.
Maybe Karen’s husband is a bit boring, but he’s also, as she admits, a really good guy. Moreover, that dullard of a husband, Richard (the late Don Galloway, who later in life wrote a libertarian newspaper column), is the secret hero of the film. Because Galloway plays his man as a hopeless corporate dweeb (he drinks milk when the others are getting high), it doesn’t sink in with either the audience or the other characters that he has the surest grip on life: You make the best of whatever situation you find yourself in. What you don’t do is agonize about failing to live up to some unreachable ideal. The Michigan Seven in the film speak of themselves as “revolutionaries,” marinate in memories of the March on Washington, and wish they could have spent their lives working with “Huey and Bobby” (the Black Panthers). But this was a mere moment in time that happened to coincide with their college years.
This week’s Hollywood controversy over race, professional etiquette, and liberal hypocrisy points to strategic insights found in the year’s biggest release: Zack Snyder’s Justice League and its central figure, Cyborg.
Tasked with laying out the road map and master plot for the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) of Warner Bros., Snyder had to follow a master plot while clarifying his original story and deepening his characters — even the newly introduced superheroes. With all that on his shoulders, Atlas shrugged. Some characters were enriched, others got short shrift. Cyborg’s tale has the best enhancement. Whereas Bruce Wayne’s nightmare closes ZSJL on a powerfully disturbing note — returning psychologically damaged Batman to the DCEU’s center — it is Cyborg who dominates ZSJL, reviving the emotional appeal that Snyder had established with Superman in Man of Steel.
This shift of interest reflects the culture’s recent turnabout: away from the white alpha male toward the Millennial black male’s presumably neglected identity and moral crises. It may indicate Snyder’s political penchant, which, back in 2004, troubled obtuse fanboys who mistook 300’s antiquity politics for Bush-era jingoism. The shift could also be Snyder’s projection of parent-child relations — an anxiety preexisting the family tragedy, his daughter’s suicide, that cost him control over 2015’s Justice League. He is evidently concerned about myth, the nation-state, and the soul — our cultural heritage as it stands in an increasingly secular and racially panicked age.
The Chinese government is boycotting Western clothing retailers for expressing concerns about forced labor in Xinjiang, China’s biggest region. The companies are being pressured to scrub from their websites language about corporate policies on human rights, reverse decisions to stop buying cotton produced in Xinjian, and remove maps that depict Taiwan as an independent country.
The escalating fight comes after the European Union and the United Kingdom on March 22 joined the United States and Canada to impose sanctions on Chinese officials for human rights abuses in Xinjiang, a remote autonomous region in northwestern China.
Western companies doing business in China increasingly face an unpalatable dilemma: how to uphold Western values and distance themselves from human rights abuses without provoking retaliation from the Chinese government and losing access to one of the world’s biggest and fastest-growing markets.
The current dispute revolves around allegations that the Chinese government is forcing more than 500,000 Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic and religious minorities to pick cotton in Xinjiang, which produces 85% of China’s cotton and one-fifth of the world’s supply. Roughly 70% of the region’s cotton fields are picked by hand. The allegations of forced labor affect all Western supply chains that involve Xinjiang cotton as a raw material. Both the European Union and the United States import more than 30% of their apparel and textile supplies from China.
Last summer, when Black Lives Matter protests spread from the U.S. to Europe, the U.K.’s Conservative government established a commission on race relations in Britain. That group’s report landed on the prime minister’s desk — and on newspaper front pages — last week. The headline findings presented a rosy picture of Britain as a multiracial “model to other white-majority countries,” and unsurprisingly, a ferocious row ensued. But while the national debate it prompted was an angry all-or-nothing affair, the report provided a more nuanced picture of a country that has made progress on racial equality, but which is by no means a “post-racial” society.
The gap between the tone of the document itself and the unedifying argument surrounding it was striking. The Runnymede Trust, a think tank, branded the report a “whitewash.” Marsha de Cordova, a Labour MP and shadow minister, called the document “an insult” and a “divisive polemic.” David Lammy, another Labour shadow minister, said that black Britons were being “gaslighted.” So emphatic was the backlash in some quarters that, by the end of the week, BBC reporters were asking whether the whole project had been cooked up to create controversy.
It is a strange sort of whitewash that identifies shortcomings in the British system and proposes dozens of steps to address them. About these shortcomings, the report is explicit: “We do not believe that the UK is yet a post-racial society which has completed the long journey to equality of opportunity.” It outlines considerable racial gaps in health outcomes and suggests a new Office for Health Inequalities to address the issue. It describes the worst cases of the recent Windrush scandal, in which the Home Office mistook legal U.K. residents of Caribbean origin for illegal immigrants, as “egregious acts of discrimination.” The authors — eminent ethnic minority business leaders, academics, doctors, economists, and researchers — propose a beefed-up and better funded Equality and Human Rights Commission to fight racial discrimination. They acknowledge “big disparities” in the use of stop-and-search and call for police to use body cameras and receive de-escalation training. They advocate a pilot scheme to decriminalize Class B drug possession offences (cannabis, ketamine, and others). They ask the government to consider extending the length of the school day to close the attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their wealthier classmates. Of Black Lives Matter protesters, they say: “We owe the many young people behind that movement a debt of gratitude for focusing our attention once again on these issues.”
3. At The College Fix, the great Jennifer Kabbany reports on a student eviction at the University of Virginia over his nerve to question some progressive pabulum. From the beginning of the article:
A lawsuit filed against the University of Virginia by a former medical school student that claims administrators violated the student’s right to free speech may proceed, a district court has decided.
A judge ruled March 31 that Kieran Ravi Bhattacharya’s complaint against the University of Virginia alleging retaliation in violation of his First Amendment right to free speech may go forward, but the court dismissed three of his other causes of action.
The crux of the issue centers on a microaggression panel in October 2018 during which Bhattacharya questioned the moderators.
His lawsuit “alleges sufficient facts to find that Bhattacharya’s questions and comments at the microaggression panel were protected speech,” Senior District Judge Norman Moon ruled. “His expressions were not made at inappropriate times or places, nor were his comments disruptive or offensive.”
4. At Law & Liberty, John O. McGinnis dives into the polluted depths of H.R. 1. From the essay:
At least three of the important provisions of H.R. 1 are clearly unconstitutional while others are of dubious constitutionality. One provision would require candidates for President and Vice President to provide the past 10 years of their tax returns. But the Constitution already sets the simple qualifications for running for President. A President must be 35 years old and a natural-born citizen. Disclosing tax returns is not among the requirements. In U.S. Term Limits v. Thornton, the Supreme Court made clear that the Constitution sets a ceiling, not a floor, on qualifications for federal offices, striking down a term limit requirement for members of Congress. Even Justice Clarence Thomas in dissent suggested that it was only the states, not the federal government, that had authority to add qualifications.
It might be thought that this section is just an anti-Trump provision, but other wealthy men who ran for President, like Michael Bloomberg, would have also run afoul of it. Any person of substantial means has complicated taxes whose release would be the subject of both second-guessing and envy. In addition to its unconstitutionality, this provision favors career politicians at the expense of successful entrepreneurs in the race for our highest office, not a surprising development in a bill written mostly by career politicians.
The bill also imposes a huge variety of requirements on the states on how they are to conduct their election, including mail-in ballots, same-day registration, and at least two weeks of early voting. It also essentially bans voter identification laws. Congress arguably has authority to do this for congressional elections. Article I, section 4 provides: “The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.” Thus, so long as the requirements are imposed on the manner of election, Congress may well have the constitutional authority to impose them, although, as discussed below, some of these provisions are obviously unwise.
But the rules for deciding presidential electors are different. There, Congress’s power is limited to timing: “Congress may determine the time of choosing the electors, and the day on which they shall give their votes; which day shall be the same throughout the United States.” In contrast, the legislature of each state is given plenary power over the “manner” of choosing the electors. Indeed, the legislature could constitutionally choose the electors themselves, as some did early in the republic.
5. At Modern Age, Kevin Michael Saylor consider Virgil, the Aeneid, and the wages of furor. From the essay:
Cupidity may be the great temptation, but the terrible passion Virgil calls “furor” underlies all disorder in the cosmos and the soul. Furor is more than fury or rage, though it includes these. It is a frenzied madness: furor causes people to lose their heads. In The Aeneid, Juno, queen of the gods, embodies furor. She is as frightening of a literary creation as you will find, and so fully pervades the epic as to provide a dark undersong. For Johnson, “the anger of Juno . . . is close to being the central theme of The Aeneid.” For Harold Bloom, “there is a dark sense in which Juno is Virgil’s pragmatic muse, the drive of his poem.” For me, so central is Juno to Virgil’s purposes that we can reasonably speak of a counter poem, The Juneid, cutting through and across Aeneas’s narrative. Most of the induction to the poem addresses “Juno’s/ Savage implacable rage” (Ferry, 1. 4–5), much more than is addressed to the hero. The Aeneid is as much about furor as it is about anything. From the fourth line of the poem, Juno is “saevae,” savage and cruel. So cruel, in fact, that she becomes a prime model for Milton’s Satan. Milton transfers Juno’s “spretae iniuria formae” at the insult of Paris — his judgment that Venus and not she is the fairest goddess — to Satan’s “sense of injured merit.” According to K. W. Gransden, writing in Virgil’s “Iliad”: An Essay on Epic Narrative, Juno is the pattern for Milton’s Satan in “his determination to hinder, though he cannot ultimately alter, God’s plan for the salvation of mankind.” Juno’s predecessor in The Odyssey is Poseidon, but the sea god pales before Virgil’s villain, who forms the dark heart of his poem. Whatever Juno’s ostensible reasons for hating Aeneas and the Trojans, in truth she is simply baleful by nature, a principle of irrational evil and cosmic malignancy, encapsulating everything Rome must subdue.
The narrative begins when Juno unleashes a storm to shipwreck Aeneas and his followers in an attempt to divert them from their destiny in Italy. Virgil’s world is entropic, tending toward disorder at every level: the natural, the human, and the divine. Juno bribes Aeolus, who controls the winds, to create the squall. Aeolus is literally given “imperium” (meaning command / authority /rule and hence by extension “empire”) over the winds. He imprisons them in chains, for if “he did not, / in their speed they would surely bear away with them / the seas and the land and the deep sky” (Powell, 1.67–69). In Virgil’s description, absent the imperium of Aeolus over the winds, they would sweep to destruction all of creation. This force is what Juno represents and releases. Neptune, sensing a disturbance on his waves, comes to calm the seas and send the winds scurrying back to their cave prison, saving Aeneas and most of his people. Addressing the winds, Neptune asserts that he, not Aeolus, has imperium over the seas. Because the Olympian god is more powerful, the winds obey and order is restored.
Neptune provides the example for the proper use of power and authority. In the poem’s first great epic simile, Virgil compares Neptune calming the sea to a pious politician who calms with a speech a gathering mob who in their furor have armed themselves with stones and firebrands. The simile alerts us to the political nature of the scene and the poem more generally. Within the first 157 lines of The Aeneid, Virgil has ranged imperium against furor at the natural, political, and divine realms.
6. At The Imaginative Conservative, Brad Birzer puts his powerful Double-B wisdom into considering the question — What Remains of Conservatism? From the reflection:
I don’t mean to suggest there were no conservative voices. There were (and are), and they were (and are) often quite good (e.g., Tom Woods, The Imaginative Conservative, The American Conservative, National Review, Hillsdale College, and others), but the forces of chaos attempted to drown them out. After all, trying to explain the virtues of Christopher Columbus, for example, to a mob that sees everything through the radical and ahistorical lens of race, class, and gender is going to be painful for all involved. Where is the nuance, the subtlety, and hard search for truth? Where is the conversation? Not surprisingly, we lost the street debates on Columbus as the statues came tumbling down.
So again one must ask, what remains of traditional conservatism? Should we concede defeat and let the voices of Irving Babbitt, Paul Elmer More, Willa Cather, Christopher Dawson, Ray Bradbury, Russell Kirk, C.S. Lewis, and Robert Nisbet be merely voices from our past? Should we see them as women and men of beauty who had their say but are now relegated to some obscure museum of lost humanist causes? Were they merely authors of books that will never seem quite as wholesome in a digital era? Mossbacks, reactionaries, dreamers?
To my mind, these voices have never been more needed and more relevant. A humanist but certainly no conservative, George Orwell once famously remarked, “we have now sunk to a depth at which the re-statement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.”
In this fine Orwellian tradition, it is worth remembering three things, each of which reminds us what it means to conserve our most cherished traditions — that is, to be a traditional conservative — even in a time of chaos.
7. At Commentary, Mike Watson has definite queries about the Quincy Institute. From the article:
Bear in mind, the institute is named after a man who in 1825 endorsed “the rebuilding of Judea as an independent nation.” That the anti-Zionist scholars of the Quincy Institute are at odds here with their organization’s namesake is not surprising. In fact, they misunderstand John Quincy Adams’s foreign-policy thinking in general. Bacevich laments, “During the 20th century, particularly its latter half, Americans abandoned the precepts that had guided policy makers back in Adams’s day. . . . Meddling — always in a worthy cause, of course — became fashionable.” To him, “Adams’s singular achievement, articulated in the Monroe Doctrine, was to position the United States for hemispheric hegemony, while still heeding Washington’s dictum to avoid ‘interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe.’” He has also praised Adams for “avoiding unnecessary trouble” and continuing an American grand strategy that “emphasized opportunistically ruthless expansionism on this continent, avid commercial engagement, and the avoidance of great-power rivalries abroad.” Wertheim adds that Adams “came to strongly oppose U.S. expansionism in the 1840s and 50s.”
An informed understanding of Adams’s thought and career not only reveals a man very different from the caricature drawn by noninterventionists, it also provides a set of principles for American foreign policy today. Adams was assertive, even hawkish, in pursuit of American interests, which included not only territorial expansion and security in the Western Hemisphere, but also other interests that spanned the globe. He recognized the key role that Asia and the Pacific would play in the American future, and he confronted great powers to position the United States for its role as a Pacific power. He was a shrewd and exacting judge of power, and as American strength increased, so did his ambitions for his country. Yet he was not a cold-blooded Machiavellian; from the outset, he believed that the U.S. had a special destiny in the world and that its foreign policy must be informed by this purpose.
Alas folks, methinks all the juice that could be squeezed from this lemon has been squozed. And then there is this: Baseball has become Fredo. We will not let any harm come to it while mother lives. The run has been fun. Maybe the Author will contrive a Best-Of for your enjoyment or torture.
Please remember that the left lane is a passing lane. And do tip generously. Embrace your delusions if you prefer, but they do not negate the fact that it is God’s money, under your temporary stewardship, so share it abundantly and gracefully — and then watch what happens. ’Twill be beautiful.
May You Find Respite in the Wideness of His Mercy,
Jack Fowler, whose attempts at amateur theology may be the target of your brimstone rejoinders if sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mindful of these spiritual days, a purifying mix of joyfulness and sorrow as our traditions dictate, this edition will be of lesser girth than usual, but still one hopes appetizing. There is a new issue of the fortnightly gem known as National Review now ambling its way through the U.S. Postal System. It’s indeed a special issue, boasting of 20 articles about the good, the bad, and the ugly of California. See below for more, but do take some advice: If you don’t have an NRPLUS membership, which entitles you to immediate (true, electronic) access to NR, and to its archives, and to all those behind-a-paywall examples of journalistic brilliance, and so much more . . . well, you are ill-serving yourself.
Take the well-served option: Subscribe here. (Hey! There’s some big sale going on!)
More advice: Mark Antonio Wright, great American and executive editor of this enterprise, has commenced a new weekly / weekend column, dubbed “The Vitruvian Life” (Your Ignorant Correspondent initially believed it referred to a rutabaga-based diet or some other oddity, but was told “No fool — it has to do with that Da Vinci multiple-armstretching dude”).
At two separate Senate hearings last month, the current head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and the nominee to replace him warned of a growing threat of a Chinese attack. It could come “in the next decade, in fact within the next six years,” said Admiral Phil Davidson. His would-be successor, Admiral John Aquilino, a few weeks later offered a similar assessment: “There are spans from today to 2045. My opinion is this problem is much closer to us than most think.”
Their grim assessments are borne out by the facts.
First, consider the extent of the Chinese military’s buildup in recent decades. Not only has the People’s Liberation Army embarked on a massive modernization drive for the past 30 years, but these efforts have been supported by an extensive whole-of-country initiative to marshal precisely the kind of resources necessary for an eventual cross-strait invasion. Even one of China’s largest ferry operators has constructed ships according to PLA specifications that could transport equipment and personnel during an amphibious assault.
2. Atlanta-headquartered Delta execs wet themselves and gets woke over Georgia’s election-reform law. Someone needs a spanking. From the editorial:
Corporations have the right to free speech. They do not have the right to obedience to all of their demands. It is high time that state-level Republicans remembered that.
A variety of factors have led to the capture of America’s major corporations by the social-justice-warrior wing of the Democratic Party. Corporate C-suites and legal and human-resources departments are increasingly staffed by products of woke university educations. The “diversity and inclusion” business sector is now itself an $8 billion a year industry. Corporate managers who are not themselves left-wing culture warriors are easily pushed around by a vocal minority of their employees or customers brandishing boycotts, lawsuits, and Twitter mobs. This is especially prevalent in sports, entertainment, and journalism, where prominent employees wield outsized public platforms.
One result is that sports leagues, Hollywood, and big business have gotten into the habit over the past decade of threatening to pull their business from states whose legislatures pass laws that do not meet the approval of the cultural Left. We have seen this pattern over and over with laws in Indiana, Arizona, North Carolina, South Dakota, and other states that addressed hot-button topics ranging from immigration to religious liberty to transgenderism to same-sex marriage. What has followed, in nearly every case, is that state governors have folded like a cheap suitcase rather than stick up for the democratic right of a free people to pass laws through their elected representatives, chosen in free and fair elections.
3. Joe has proffered a gross infrastructure bill. It needs a kick in the asphalt. From the editorial:
The infrastructure bill’s spending, spread out over eight years, would be funded by 15 years’ worth of corporate tax hikes — not only pushing the tax on corporate income from 21 to 28 percent but also imposing a wide variety of other tax schemes, from a strengthened “global minimum tax” to a minimum tax on big companies’ “book” income (which does not include, for example, deductions for investment and previous losses). Details on individual income-tax hikes, meanwhile, await Biden’s next proposal. More than likely, all these tax hikes won’t fully pay for the spending, especially if parts of the agenda are renewed when they end. But they’ll be big tax hikes nonetheless.
It’s not really in dispute that, all else equal, higher taxes reduce economic growth. The Congressional Budget Office, for example, recently found that both labor and capital taxes reduce GDP, the former by reducing the incentive to work and the latter by reducing the incentive to save and invest. Meanwhile, the evidence that infrastructure investment will spur enough growth to compensate is disputed at best.
These taxes can also directly affect Americans whom Biden promised would be shielded. During the campaign, Biden vowed not to increase taxes on “anyone” earning less than $400,000. But that promise has now magically evolved to include households that pass the threshold only when both spouses’ earnings are counted. Of course, during the speech he was back to dishonestly claiming, “No one making under $400,000 will see their federal taxes go up. Period.”
4. The one institution that won’t be fact-finding about China’s role in the coronavirus genesis is WHO. From the editorial:
Not only was the work of the WHO investigators severely restricted by the Chinese government, they themselves have been strangely antagonistic to these conclusions. During a press conference in Wuhan, Peter Ben Embarek, the researcher who led the mission, called the lab-leak theory “extremely unlikely,” though after returning from China he clarified that it is “definitely not off the table.” (The WHO mission’s report this week reverts to Ben Embarek’s first formulation.)
Another researcher on the mission, Peter Daszak, president of the nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance, had organized a statement signed by researchers that called the lab-leak hypothesis a “conspiracy theory” almost a year before.
Notably, Daszak’s EcoHealth Alliance received a National Institutes of Health grant that it used to fund research at WIV, and he has co-authored over 20 studies with Chinese party-state researchers or otherwise funded by the Chinese party-state institutions, including the People’s Liberation Army. In other words, as a February letter by more than two dozen scientists criticizing the WHO mission’s work put it, his “public statements cast serious doubts as to his scientific objectivity.”
5. America’s teachers’ unions are devastating our kids. It’s beyond time to fight back. From the piece:
This isn’t bare-knuckle labor politics — it’s political child abuse.
The Centers for Disease Control has said that schools can be safely reopened while maintaining social distancing of as little as three feet. And, as we all know, the pronouncements of the CDC are the gold standard for our progressive friends — right up until they run into the demands of an important Democratic constituency, at which point, they become trash. American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten says she’s “not convinced” by the CDC’s advice. Weingarten, a lawyer by education and a union goon by profession, is, to say the least, not very well prepared to critically review the CDC’s public-health findings.
We have been through a great deal in the past year, with the schools and other institutions taking extraordinary measures that were generally, even when we disagreed, understandable. But 100 million Americans have now received at least one dose of one of the COVID-19 vaccines, and the research overwhelmingly finds that elementary-school education is a relatively low-risk proposition — and that every additional unnecessary delay in the return of ordinary education does real and lasting damage to children, especially to those whose families do not have the resources to adequately pick up the slack. A great many people have worked throughout this terrible episode, many at some considerable personal risk, and not only doctors, nurses, and ambulance drivers but also grocery clerks, warehouse workers, and taxi drivers. They have kept the country running while unionized teachers in Oakland and elsewhere have turned up their noses at the children they are supposed to be serving and looked instead to their own two-point agenda: (1) not going to work; (2) getting paid.
Many Wonderful Articles to Which Your Attention and Intelligence Are Called
1. It just goes on and on my friends . . . in a line from a kid’s song, and also a strategy of lockdown junkies. Michael Brendan Dougherty profiles the COVID dead-ender. From the article:
There’s been a strange additive quality to the COVID-19 pandemic. First, health experts said not to wear masks. Then, they told you to wear masks whenever you were indoors and couldn’t socially distance. Then, most states issued guidance approved by their own health departments that required you to wear masks and socially distance at the same time. And suddenly, in deep-blue states, people began wearing masks even when they were completely alone outdoors. Then the authorities told you to wear two masks. At least until you could get the vaccine. And then, on second or third thought, maybe just start buying masks in bulk so that you’re supplied until 2022. So saith Fauci.
And now, in America, you may be getting the vaccine. Your elderly parents or grandparents very likely had access to get one already. If you have one of the many qualifying conditions, or your state is liberalizing the criteria quickly, you yourself may be getting the vaccines. You might be planning your first big family get-together again for this Easter because of it.
Or you may be one of the vaccine-hesitant and you intend to be a free-rider on the herd immunity that vaccination of over half the population and infection of many more will bring. You are looking forward to normality. To traveling again. Or to reunions, weddings, and yes, funerals that are unmasked and undistanced. To those life-moments when people cry tears of joy or sorrow into each other’s shoulders, rather than into N-95s, because that is the policy of the venue.
Unfortunately, for you, there is the COVID dead-ender, and he stands in your way.
2. George Floyd resisted arrest, as Andrew C. McCarthy sees the evidence, which he finds powerful. From the analysis:
This does not mean the officers’ prolonged restraint of Floyd later on, as his life faded, was justified. That is the central issue the jury will have to resolve. But the latest evidence helps better explain what preceded the infamous and grim video footage of Floyd under Chauvin’s knee.
Notably, Floyd’s now-famous statements that he could not breathe and that police were killing him, as well as his cries for his mother, were not just reactions — as prosecutors and political activists have framed it — to his being placed in a neck hold by Chauvin after police put him in a dangerous prone position on the street. In reality, Floyd began calling for his mother, and crying out that he could not breathe and was going to die, while police were trying to get him to sit in the back of the squad car. Those claims may have been sincere, but if so, they were spurred by what Floyd maintained were his “claustrophobia” and anxiety over being taken into custody, not by the neck hold in which Chauvin subsequently placed him.
What’s more, it was not the idea of the arresting officers to place Floyd in a prone position on the street. Rather, after propelling his way out of the squad-car rear seat that four cops unsuccessfully struggled to place him in, Floyd insisted that he preferred to lie down on the street. The police restrained him in the position in which he put himself, which was not the position they wanted him in (they wanted him in the car). Reasonably convinced that Floyd was high on drugs (a conclusion supported by his erratic behavior, the accounts of witnesses, and later toxicology tests), the police called for paramedics to take him to a hospital, rather than continuing to try to thrust him in the squad car and take him into police custody.
That is, the police accused of murdering Floyd actually summoned medical help out of concern over his condition.
3. Georgia One: The Peach State proves a mecca for liars. Charles C.W. Cooke is keeping score: From the article:
Once again, the liars of the world have descended upon Georgia, which, in its infancy as a purplish state, has become a cynosure for fabulists of all stripes. This is the third time in as many years that Georgia has been wantonly maligned. Who among us would bet against there being a fourth before the end of next year?
The tradition started in earnest in 2018, when Stacey Abrams became nationally famous for refusing to accept the results of a fair election that she lost by 50,000 votes. Abrams still insists that she was cheated, is supported in this holding by many in the press, and has so effectively spread her distortions that, three years later, they are still echoed habitually by figures such as Elizabeth Warren.
Abrams’s complaints in 2018 were numerous, hysterical, and utterly meritless. She complained that her opponent was running for office while he was secretary of state — which he was, but which he’d done twice before without incident, which Democrats themselves had done happily in the past, and which was ultimately irrelevant given that the secretary of state’s office does not count or reject votes. She complained that Kemp had enforced an entirely mainstream law that strikes from the rolls anyone who hasn’t voted for three years and who, having been asked by the secretary of state’s office whether he or she is still a Georgia resident, has ignored the question for two consecutive federal elections. And she complained that Georgia had reduced the number of polling places — which was true, but which was the product not of Kemp’s being secretary of state, but of consolidation by rural counties and the rules set by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. Together, Abrams cast these complaints as the return of “Jim Crow” — a charge so historically illiterate and irresponsible that, in a sensible political culture, it would have disqualified her from public life in perpetuity. If the Georgia Tourist Board were looking for a Chief Mendacity Officer, Abrams would be a shoo-in.
4. Georgia Two: Rich Lowry finds that Joe Biden has opened his mouth and . . . yep, a big fat lie came out, with a side of canard. From the column:
Biden says the new law is “Jim Crow in the 21st century” and “an un-American law to deny people the right to vote.”
It’s now practically mandatory for Democrats to launch such unhinged broadsides. Elizabeth Warren, accusing Georgia governor Brian Kemp of having stolen his 2018 election victory over Democratic activist Stacey Abrams (a poisonous myth), tweeted, “The Republican who is sitting in Stacey Abrams’ chair just signed a despicable voter suppression bill into law to take Georgia back to Jim Crow.”
Anyone making this charge in good faith either doesn’t understand the hideousness of Jim Crow or the provisions of the Georgia law.
The old Jim Crow was billy clubs and fire hoses; the alleged new Jim Crow is asking people to write a driver’s license number on their absentee-ballot envelopes.
The old Jim Crow was poll taxes; the new Jim Crow is expanding weekend voting.
5. Considering their rhetoric, says Dan McLaughlin, you’d think Democrats want to do away with voter registration altogether. From the article:
Laws, after all, make it harder to do almost anything — even when “harder” means that the process overall is easier because government imposes order, but requires citizens to take some affirmative steps to learn the rules and comply with them. Is it “harder” to drive because you have to obey red lights and traffic signs? Yes, because you are not free to do whatever you want; no, because the roads work better for everyone as a result. Conservatives believe that we should, in general, have fewer laws, but not no laws: We recognize that having some laws is necessary for order, and order is necessary for the exercise of a citizen’s liberty.
So, yes, having any rules at all makes it very marginally harder, in some very minimal ways, to cast more votes. Is that automatically bad in all cases? One wishes that progressives would apply some of this spirit of unyielding doctrinaire libertarianism to laws that make it harder to open and run a business, pursue a trade, keep one’s own wages, or exercise core constitutional rights to practice one’s faith, speak freely, or keep and bear arms.
Ask yourself the question that few Democrats or progressives seem willing or able to answer: Why do we register voters at all? What legitimate purpose does voter registration serve? It makes it easier to vote only in the sense that a voter can show that he is eligible to vote — but progressives oppose every law that is premised upon the state having a legitimate interest in checking to ensure that any voter is eligible to vote. And just about everywhere in the United States, everybody is eligible to vote so long as they are (1) a U.S. citizen, (2) age 18 or older, (3) a resident in the place they want to vote, and (4) not a convicted felon. Those are the only restrictions, and they are quite lenient.
6. If you think there are wins to be had in the war against porn, Cameron Hilditch has some ideas. From the analysis:
The shortcomings of cumbersome bureaucratic plans for regulating pornography should not, however, cause social conservatives and anti-porn feminists to throw their hands up and resign themselves to a libertine cultural landscape. Technological innovation and market forces can be used to check the spread of pornography in much the same way they’ve been used to proliferate it. But for a rearguard action against pornography to be successful, it will have to begin at the grassroots level rather than be handed down from on high by legislators.
We already have examples of how this might work. The team behind Pi-hole, for example, has built a piece of open-source software that allows users to block their devices from accessing certain domain names by preventing those domain names from resolving to a useable IP address. At the moment, Pi-hole is used for things like blocking ads on websites, but the technology could easily be applied to pornography. It’s not hard to imagine a tech start-up that would market itself as an open-source anti-porn collective. Such an organization would keep an eye on the ever-growing list of porn sites and constantly update its program to block their IP addresses. Subscribers or “members” of the collective could have the program running on their home devices and organize themselves into physical and virtual neighborhoods and communities wherein each household was a member of the same collective. Devices operating on the 4G or 5G services of Internet companies would obviously be bound only by the policies of the service provider, but those companies tend to have robust parental controls for these services anyway.
Social conservatives who favor a legislative response to the proliferation of pornography will probably have little patience with this approach. But it is the only viable one in the long term. The only way to comprehensively ban pornography would be to have a complete and total government takeover of the Internet, as has been accomplished by the Chinese Communist Party. This would be somewhat analogous to the Norman strategy of total conquest in Ireland. It would also, for all practical purposes, mark the end of freedom and privacy in the United States of America. Few, one would hope, would regard this as a worthy price to pay for the extirpation of Internet pornography.
8. Kevin Hassett poses five questions to Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson. From the interview:
Looking back at Trump’s policies before the pandemic, what do you think the bottom line should be about their effectiveness?
My feeling is that progress was made, but we missed some big opportunities. We obviously made our tax system more competitive, but we didn’t simplify or rationalize it. I think we overshot in how much we lowered the corporate-tax rate. We didn’t really do much in terms of taking away tax preferences and simplifying the tax code. During the tax debate, I kept telling the members of my conference — and anyone who would listen — that we were too focused on rates and not focused enough on tax simplification and tax rationalization. One of my favorite sayings is “All change is not progress, all movement is not forward.” So we didn’t take the once-in-a-generation opportunity to dramatically simplify and rationalize our tax code. What I said in the budget hearing I reference earlier, and then discussed later with Tim Kaine, is just one example. I mean, it’s crazy that we have an arbitrary and different tax rate for capital gains. Now, I don’t think you should tax inflationary gains. Simply index inflation out of the gain, and then tax the remaining gain as ordinary income using the same individual taxpayer rates.
If we really simplify, we could even do away with the corporate tax and tax everything at the individual rate. I would prefer a flat tax, but I accept the fact that progressive tax rates are what Americans want, and a progressive system is here to stay. But we tax business income at the ownership level for Sub-S, LLCs and partnerships, and those business types are something like 95 percent of all American businesses. I proposed this way of taxing business income during the 2017 Tax Reform debate. I called it “The True Warren Buffet Tax.” There are many advantages to this system, including a more efficient allocation of capital and making stock ownership more advantageous and attractive to lower-income Americans. I am continuing to push this idea and hope to have more information in the near future.
But to be sure, the policy victories passed by Republicans and the Trump administration did have a big and positive impact on the economy and the lives of ordinary Americans. But you can always do better.
9. Kevin Williamson finds that bridge-building translates in Bidenese to political slush-funding. From the piece:
President Joe Biden is proposing a multi-trillion-dollar “infrastructure” plan that actually isn’t all that focused on infrastructure — because bullsh** is the common currency of this realm — and one of the things high on his agenda is subsidizing broadband Internet connections for areas that don’t have them. By industry estimates, about 93 percent of Americans have access to a broadband connection, and those who don’t mostly live in remote and rural areas. There are many more Americans who have access to a broadband connection but choose not to pay for one. The Biden administration complains that high-speed connections are “overpriced,” based on . . . the careful thinking and analysis that one naturally associates with Joe Biden.
Lack of broadband connections is not, in reality, much of a national problem for the United States, and it is becoming less of a problem every year as Americans gravitate toward the metropolitan areas where the jobs and the capital are, along with the good broadband connections. But this kind of project presses all sorts of New Deal, TVA, rural-electrification buttons in Democrats of Joe Biden’s generation. Hence the slogan, “Broadband is the new electricity.” These are not super-imaginative people.
Expanding broadband access isn’t going to do much for unemployed or marginally employed people in rural areas, but it is a big, fat subsidy for people like me: work-from-home knowledge-economy types with a yen for that sweet Unabomber lifestyle and in need of fast Internet in the bunker. If Biden is successful, it will be a red-letter day in the history of federally subsidized misanthropy. Pour one out in memory of Florence King.
10. There is no place in U.S. military training for Critical Race Theory, argues Senator Tom Cotton. From then piece:
Unfortunately, more than 70 years after Truman’s executive order, racist and un-American ideas of unequal treatment are creeping back into the Armed Forces under the guise of so-called critical race theory.
Critical race theory repudiates the principle of equality under the law that is articulated in the Declaration of Independence and that has motivated civil-rights reformers for generations. It claims that this American ideal is a sham used by the white majority to oppress racial minorities, and consequently that America is racist to its core. The theory concludes that the only way to end perceived discrimination against racial minorities is to systematically discriminate on their behalf — to fight fire with fire, so to speak. As Ibram X. Kendi, a leading agitator for critical race theory, wrote, “The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.”
Kendi’s belief in unequal treatment and discrimination has been embraced in fashionable left-wing circles. Increasingly, this ideology is institutionalized in corporate America, higher education, and other elite sectors in the form of “implicit bias training” and “diversity, equity, and inclusion” offices. Sadly, now these racist ideas are even being taught to our troops.
Last month, the Navy released a recommended reading list to facilitate the “growth and development” of sailors. One of the books on this list is How to Be an Antiracist, Kendi’s bestseller advocating critical race theory. Separately, the Navy’s Second Fleet created a book club for sailors to read White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo, a book that claims white people are inherently racist, whether consciously or subconsciously, and that race is the insidious subtext for virtually all human interactions.
11. Will the way the Southern Baptist Convention handles CRT impact its policies on adoption? Naomi Schaefer Riley does the analysis. From the article:
The truth, though, is that this controversy over critical race theory could have real-life implications for a population that is already among the most vulnerable — children in the foster-care system. In recent years Evangelical congregations, including a great many Southern Baptist ones, have led a revolution in foster care and adoption. They have formed hundreds of ministries and other organizations devoted to the recruitment, training, and support of families who foster or who adopt children out of foster care. And their efforts have shown enormous success, both in drawing more people into the system but also giving them the education and the help that they need to stay in it for the long term.
There are, of course, a disproportionately high number of black children in the foster-care system and a disproportionately low number of (nonrelative) black foster and adoptive families. And so, inevitably, many of the families who volunteer to foster or adopt do not look like the children they are caring for. There was a time when this development would have been celebrated as a triumph of tolerance and racial harmony. But that time is not today. Instead, it is hardly uncommon for our cultural elites to question these interracial relationships.
12. Max Eden and Tracey Schirra says conservatives can strategize a better way to defend women’s sports. From the piece:
And at the very highest level, the differences become even more stark. Serena Williams may well be the greatest female tennis player of all time. But she and her sister Venus were once beaten back-to-back by a 50-year-old man who smoked cigarettes and drank beer during the changeovers. Tori Bowie is an Olympic gold-medalist female sprinter. Her lifetime best performance in the 100-meter dash is 10.78 seconds. Men beat that 15,000 times in 2017 alone.
If collegiate athletic programs opt to exploit this biological advantage, women would still have the opportunity to compete. But it could herald the beginning of the end for the possibility of world-class female athletics.
Noem expressed concern that the NCAA could take punitive action against South Dakota. But it’s hard to imagine the NCAA bullying 20 states simultaneously. If it tried to, the NCAA would not only lose in the court of public opinion, but it also might literally lose half the country. The Constitution does not grant it monopoly power over college athletics. Another association, one actually dedicated to athletic excellence, could and perhaps should be formed in such a contingency.
The social pressure against any action will, of course, be immense. The Washington Post editorial board has declared that this issue is “a convenient way to whip up fears and bigotry about transgender people,” and the New Yorker’s Masha Gessen has insisted that all objections are rooted in “ignorance and hate.”
13. What Iran is selling, Red China is buying. Elliott Abrams warns about the fill-’er-up relationship. From the article:
Consider the numbers, too. According to the World Bank, total foreign direct investment (FDI) in Iran, from all sources, maxed out in 2017 at $5 billion, but by 2019 had fallen to $1.5 billion. It seems to have fallen further in 2020, to about $1 billion. This agreement with China — $400 billion in 25 years — calls for $16 billion per year from China alone. Does that seem realistic for Iran, a country that has never absorbed more than $5 billion in a single year in FDI from the entire world? There is also good reason to question the notion that China will significantly increase its reliance on Iran for oil: Would China want to rely on a sole, Middle Eastern source rather than diversify its supplies?
There are other ways of evaluating how real the $400 billion figure may be. According to the China Global Investment Tracker produced by the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation, in the 15 years between 2004 and 2019, China invested a total of $182 billion in the United States, or an average of $12 billion a year; $98 billion in Australia, or $6.5 billion per year; and $83 billion in the U.K., or $5.5 billion per year. The numbers are lower for countries such as Brazil, Canada, Germany, and Switzerland. How realistic is it, then, that China will invest more annually in Iran than it does — or has ever done — in any other country in the world?
This is not to suggest that a large economic deal between Iran and China has no meaning. One has to assume that Iran will sell more and more oil to China, defying and undermining U.S. sanctions. And one should also assume that China will increase its investments in Iran, in many sectors of the economy. Among other harmful effects, we should consider how this will affect China’s willingness to discipline Iran in the International Atomic Energy Agency for its continuing violations of the JCPOA, the Additional Protocol, and the Non-Proliferation Treaty — violations that bring Iran closer to being able to create a deliverable nuclear weapon.
14. Andrew C. McCarthy says the Big Hubris in Albany has a black belt in brazen stalling tactics. From the piece:
Cuomo and his allies are perversely exploiting the metastasizing of allegations against him as a stalling strategy. They urge that everything, including the kitchen sink, be thrown into the state assembly’s investigation, even such matters as bridge-safety concerns, which do not at the moment appear very serious. The point is to project the impression that Cuomo is not afraid of an impeachment investigation, while in reality making the investigation so extensive that the third-term governor would be in his fifth term by the time it concludes, if it ever does.
Preferential treatment amounts to a serious liability for the governor. That’s not just because it is an ugly look given that, as the New York Post reported Sunday, the nursing homes that were endangered by Cuomo’s policies were begging in futility for test kits while the governor’s family and friends were bumped to the front of the line.
It is a serious liability because it constitutes a black-and-white law violation that is explicitly made subject to potential removal from office under New York State ethics statutes. That puts it in a different category — if not of gravity, then of provability — than Cuomo’s two other scandals.
‘You cannot be pro-life and pro-AR15 at the same time.” So says Stanford professor Michael McFaul, echoing a line that is thrown around the political arena each and every time Americans debate gun control. Like those whom he is channeling, McFaul is wrong. Worse still, he is repeating a cheap slogan that is designed to appeal to people who are neither pro-life nor pro-AR-15, and, in turn, to short-circuit the debate with half-witted question-begging. The sole effect of McFaul’s contribution will be to have made us all dumber and less precise in our thinking.
McFaul’s claim rests upon a comparison of apples and oranges from which there is no coming back. Abortion is a process that, as with suicide or euthanasia or murder, causes every person at whom it is directed to die. It is true, of course, that many practitioners of abortion think that they are killing a life of no value, or that they are killing a life of less value than their own. But, irrespective of their moral calculations, they are indisputably still killing. To abort a baby is to stop it living, growing, and, eventually, being born. That is the point — and the sole point — of the procedure.
A gun, by contrast, is a tool — like scissors, or vacuums. Those tools can kill, yes. But they don’t always. There is a reason that you don’t hear pro-choicers saying, “You can’t be pro-life and pro-scissors” and that reason is that you quite obviously can be both things. You just can’t be pro-life and pro-murdering unborn babies with scissors. The same rule applies to guns. I have many guns, and, while they are indeed all capable of inflicting horrible damage, I have never hurt a single person with any of them. As with scissors, I can absolutely be pro-life and keep those guns for my defense; I just can’t be pro-life and murder people with them.
16. More from Cameron Hilditch: The gods may be crazy, but not as nuts as the Aztec-loving California Board of Education. From the piece:
Even a passing knowledge of Aztec history raises serious questions about this ritual (a passing knowledge of the First Amendment raises even more, but that’s a different matter). None, though, is more important than the question of what, precisely, has brought these deities back to life after so many centuries of slumber. Why do teachers and administrators in California want to revive these Aztec cults and set them favorably against Christianity?
We can’t ask this question properly — let alone answer it — without taking at least a cursory look at Aztec history and searching for the virtues that California’s Board of Education thinks it has found in the cults of these Mesoamerican deities.
The principal place of worship in the Aztec empire was the Templo Mayor in the city of Tenochtitlan, which was made up of twin pyramids, one dedicated to Huitzilopochtli, god of the sun, and the other to Tlaloc, the god of rain. Like all the Aztec gods, Huitzilopochtli and Tlaloc had an insatiable appetite for human sacrifice. The priests of Huitzilopochtli would appease their patron deity by laying out a sacrificial victim on a stone at the apex of the god’s pyramid, carving out said victim’s heart (while he or she was still alive), and then rolling the body down the side of the pyramid, at the base of which it was then dismembered and either disposed of or eaten. Post-conquest sources report that at the reconsecration of this pyramid in 1487, about 80,400 people were sacrificed in this way over the course of just four days. Even historians who regard this number as an exaggeration concede that the victim tally was probably still in the tens of thousands.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
Tlaloc was an even less attractive figure. He had a particular predilection for the sacrifice of children. The remains of more than 40 boys and girls were discovered at the excavation site of the great pyramid, most bearing the marks of severe and prolonged torture. This was to be expected given that the Aztec pictorial codices that have come down to us invariably show the children crying before being sacrificed. The priests of Tlaloc believed the tears of innocent children to be particularly pleasing to the god, and they took great care to ensure that their little victims were crying before and throughout the ceremony so that the smoke of the sacrificial fire would carry their tears up to the god above at the moment of death. The ritual began with the bones of the children being broken, their hands or their feet burned, and carvings etched into their flesh. They were then paraded before the celebrants of the ritual while crying. Insufficient tears from the children were believed to result in insufficient rains for the crops that year, so no brutality was spared. At the end of it all, the mutilated victims were burned alive.
The New Issue of National Review Is a Humdinger of a Special about California
The April 19, 2021 issue is bursting with 20 articles, analyses, and commentaries on the Golden State, the good, bad, and ugly of the sunkist place people are leaving in droves. Herewith we show off seven randomly selected, ripe, and juicy persimmons of persuasion.
1. David Bahnsen — prophet, no; keen observer, yes — writes the Article of Exodus. From the piece:
But there is one basic, objective reality that is impossible to spin away — people are leaving in droves.
I suppose that some states or pockets of the country in various periods, likely cyclical ones, could be susceptible to mass exodus. Weather conditions, quality of life, scenic options, pace, energy, educational opportunities, job-market dynamics — there are always reasons that could lead one to leave a certain place for another. But every one of those issues was a magnet to California decade upon decade — not a deterrent to coming or staying. Come spend a day with me in Newport Beach sometime and tell me that the weather is the reason people are leaving this state. You can rest assured that no part of California will receive a failing grade for its weather.
To leave a spot often branded as paradise for its warm, sunny, and consistent weather, there has to be a catalyst. Dreamers long flooded into California because of an entrepreneurial culture that was real and palpable. From Hollywood to Silicon Valley, from the Central Valley to San Diego, from downtown Los Angeles to the Inland Empire, whether in entertainment, technology, agriculture, sciences, big business, or small business, there was a dream associated with being in California. It was aspirational. It was a spot of infinite opportunity that also had the Pacific Ocean and 70-degree weather. It was no accident that California grew as it did, and no accident that such profoundly important businesses grew here, came here, were founded here, and flourished here. But, alas, it has been no accident, either, that all of this has wrenchingly reversed. The weather and the dreams have not changed. But the tax rates, the regulations, and the cultural climate have. And over two decades marked by a highly conscious policy shift, the Left has helped to reverse the New Year’s Day dynamic of folks around the country watching the Rose Bowl on ABC, wondering why they are shoveling snow off their driveways when those lucky SOBs in Pasadena are bathing in sunshine with a view of the San Gabriel Mountains. It takes a lot of work to reverse a force like that, but the work was done, and that force has been reversed.
2. Michael Gibson explains the trauma caused by San Francisco’s horrid district attorney, Chesa Boudin. From the article:
The Lyons mayhem is not an isolated case in the city by the bay. On New Year’s Eve, a parolee on the run from a robbery — also in a stolen car — sped through a red light, striking and killing two women, 60-year-old Elizabeth Platt and 27-yearold Hanako Abe, who were in the crosswalk. The driver, Troy McAlister, had been released twice by the district attorney in the previous year: the first time because Boudin refuses to pursue three-strike cases, of which McAlister’s was one; the second — as recently as December 20, when the SFPD arrested McAlister for driving a stolen car — because Boudin kicked the case to the state parole officers, who did nothing.
Welcome to San Francisco’s latest idiocy, a new experiment in governance where everything is allowed but nothing is permitted. A paradox, you might say, but take a walk down Market Street, down that great avenue in a great city in a great nation, and note the desolation of the empty streets, the used needles tossed on the sidewalks, and the boarded-up windows on storefronts. Consider that, at various unpredictable times in the last year, it has been illegal — for the sake of public safety during COVID — to run a mom-and-pop corner shop or to serve food at sidewalk cafés. Reflect for a moment that, since time immemorial, it has been illegal to build any new housing, because of the most onerous and confusing zoning laws in the known universe. Mark Zuckerberg can apparently influence national elections by tweaking algorithms, but he is powerless before the planning commission when it comes to building apartments for his employees. The city has banned plastic straws, plastic bags, and McDonald’s Happy Meals with toys. And yet, all the while, drug dealers sell their wares — COVID or no COVID — openly and freely at all hours of the day and night, users shoot up or pop fentanyl in public and defecate on the street, robbers pillage cars and homes with the ease of Visigoth raiders, and the district attorney frees repeat offenders who go on to sow disorder, pain, devastation, and grief. A profound melancholy hangs in the air of this city, punctuated only by the shrieks of a junkie dreaming of demons or by the rat-tat-tat-bam of the occasional firework. (Or was that a gun?) This is anarcho-tyranny. Everything is allowed, nothing is permitted.
3. Will Swaim attacks the attacks on California’s suburbs. From the piece:
And so the messaging continues. It’s McCarthyism turned upside down: The suburbs (not just Orange County, but everything outside the actual cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco) are nurseries of fascism, and in this California version of the Spanish Civil War, only the vanguard of the proletariat (Democrats, bureaucrats, and government unions) can stop the suburbs.
In their fight to kill the suburbs — as places of white people, conservatives, and (heaven forfend) Republicans — California’s environmentalists are helpful allies. Arguing that suburbs are sprawl, and that sprawl is killing the planet, they front a blizzard of legislation designed to choke the ever-living ghost out of the suburbs.
Animated by this philosophy, the regulatory war on suburbs takes many forms. One new law ties suburban development to a government-approved estimate of the number of miles a new homeowner might drive each day. As my California Policy Center colleague Edward Ring put it, the law “has a synergistic value to the greens: It makes war on single-family dwellings at the same time it makes war on the family car.” Instead of allowing suburbs to expand, another new law allows for benign-sounding “neighborhood multi-family areas.” Translation: In order to boost housing units but limit suburban growth, California governments may authorize the bulldozing of single-family homes in favor of subsidized multifamily units. (Two notable exceptions in that law exempt super-wealthy communities Marin and Santa Barbara.)
Other “inclusive zoning” laws don’t just require the legitimate abolition of racist prohibitions on home purchases; they require that local governments subsidize home purchases and apartment rentals in communities the poor cannot otherwise afford. Leveraging the state’s Ottoman environmental codes, private-sector building trades extort home-builders for union contracts. Government unions demanding new revenue have boosted the cost of residentialbuilding permits to as much as $100,000 per home.
In 1919, when California’s population was 3.35 million, it faced a similar problem. That year, the California State Irrigation Association distributed a water-infrastructure blueprint by Colonel Robert Bradford Marshall, a geographer, who wrote, “The people of California, indifferent to the bountiful gifts that Nature has given them, sit idly by waiting for rain, indefinitely postponing irrigation, and allowing every year millions and millions of dollars in water to pour unused into the sea.”
In the ensuing years, the state and federal governments, through the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project, built a remarkable system of dams, reservoirs, and canals, which provide the water that sustains the current population and turned the Central Valley into one of the world’s most productive agricultural regions. These projects also eliminated massive and routine floods. California used to fund water projects appropriately, via revenue bonds paid by end users.
California water policy has devolved largely into an insane battle over fish habitats. Fish populations are important, but flushing more water down the rivers isn’t doing much to revive their still-declining numbers. During the last drought, I covered a contentious meeting at the Oakdale Irrigation District, in the Sierra Nevada foothills east of the San Joaquin Valley city of Modesto, where officials were draining two reservoirs to help a handful of hatchery-raised steel-head trout. “Now we have sizable communities that eventually might open the spigots and have no water,” I wrote, “to help a fish so common I had it for dinner this week.”
Some conservatives see a dystopian future of Anglo population decline, minority and immigrant population growth, and increasing support for socialism and “cultural Marxism.” This is called “replacement” in nativist-populist circles, and the end result is America somehow becoming Nueva Cuba.
This is hogwash, of course. As with so many political tales, the reality turns out to be more complicated. In particular, the claim that Latinos and immigrants are die-hard Democrats and ideological leftists who will change America is false to the point of slander. The political future of California and America is not, and never has been, preordained by population change.
The claim that California politics was reshaped by the ballot initiatives of the 1990s is debatable. One reason is that it does not clearly map onto election results. We do not see a simple pattern of one party losing or gaining in the 1990s and 2000s. While Republicans did make gains in statewide offices and the state legislature in 1994, the national red wave of that year may have been more consequential than Proposition 187. While this was followed by Democratic gains in subsequent elections, that appears more like a return to the status quo than a new blue wave.
6. Peter Robinson shares notes from a once-golden state. From the piece:
“What went wrong?” asks Pete Wilson, who served as the Republican governor of California during the 1990s. “Hell, what didn’t?”
A native of the Midwest, Wilson moved to California in 1959. Seven years later, he began a political career during which he would spend four years in the assembly, a dozen years as mayor of San Diego, eight years in the U.S. Senate, and eight years as governor. The California that kept voting for Wilson — he never lost a general election — possessed a functioning two-party system. As late as 1999, Wilson’s final year as governor, the GOP remained competitive. Registered Republicans accounted for 36 percent of the California electorate. The GOP held 37 of the 80 seats in the state assembly, 15 of the 40 seats in the state senate, and 24 of California’s 52 seats in the House of Representatives. Today? Registered Republicans account for just 24 percent of the California electorate. The GOP holds 19 of the 80 seats in the assembly, nine of the 40 seats in the senate, and eleven of California’s 53 seats in the House of Representatives. The two-party system has collapsed.
Wilson names three causes.
The first: public employees’ unions. In the 1970s, Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation giving collective-bargaining rights to public employees, including state employees. This expanded the power of organizations such as the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). “Jerry claimed it was just a minor change,” says Wilson. “I said, ‘The hell it is.’” Then, in 1988, Proposition 98 amended the state constitution, ensuring that each year a certain portion of the entire state budget — typically at least 40 percent — would go to public schools. This gave the California Teachers Association (CTA) a reliable source of income. Since then, the SEIU, the CTA, and other public employees’ unions have built a political perpetual-motion machine. The unions back Democratic candidates. The Democrats, once in office, spend public money to the benefit of the unions. Then the unions back more Democratic candidates.
Trollope’s New Zealander (1855) is a collection of essays on the corruption and decay of contemporary British society, culture, and morals, but they could have been written about the California of today; as, indeed, they were written about that which we, in our continued abundance, share with Victorian England: “the inevitable result of prosperity and peace; that is, cowardice” (Duff Cooper).
California, with the world’s fifth-largest economy, is as dedicated to self-destruction as was 1914 Europe. Was there no alternative to the Great War? Could no one have stopped it?
Siegfried Sassoon reports in his Memoirs of an Infantry Officer (1930) that, after three years in the trenches, he wrote to his commanding officer demanding that he, or someone in authority, state the war aims. Sassoon was a decorated, combat-wounded officer, and rather than court-martial him (which was then their legal right), the military authorities judged him mentally incompetent and sent him to an asylum.
Today we, here, where it is always “either 72 degrees,” have real problems incident to prosperity: illegal immigration, technological change, homelessness; and, to round out the entertainment, the cry against problems whose evanescence is their most plaguing trait — systemic racism, micro-aggression, white privilege, and so on. We know that a disagreement over a real slight may potentially be healed but that one over a slight merely imagined will persist forever — its persistence being its own purpose, as hypochondria, a disease for exercising control, is not a problem but a solution.
Trump’s great crime was that of Galileo or Milton Friedman, pointing out that our problems could be solved by simpler solutions, given an honest analysis and a bit of will. This brings to mind the wisdom of a California sage, Sam Goldwyn, who once stormed into his office declaiming, “I want someone here to tell me what’s going on if it costs them their job.”
The prosperous person may employ a housekeeper; and, if increasingly wealthy, two or three, and then a household “manager” to oversee them; and, if downright rich, a pilot, a yacht captain, and (within my experience) a second “chase boat,” to transport the jet ski, helicopter, and security team.
Government is, finally, just the agglomeration of individuals as wicked, misguided, and sinful as ourselves. Our laws exist to keep in check those we elevate to power; for they will certainly misuse it. They may build the “train to nowhere,” a solution to a problem that does not exist; or let the schools decay to a position of 37th in test performance, out of a possible 50, all the while, and of necessity, raising taxes. They will not, any more than Goldwyn’s office boy, speak up to destroy their jobs. They will raise taxes to drive capital and business out of the state and, then, appalled by the drop in tax revenue, respond by further raising taxes.
Lights. Camera. Review!
1. Kyle Smith is pretty meh about Zach Snyder’s Justice League. From the review:
I shared in the general rejoicing when Snyder was allowed to finish and deliver his four-hour version of the film — Zack Snyder’s Justice League — to HBO Max. Snyder is an interesting filmmaker; Whedon is not. Snyder has ideas; Whedon has quips. Nevertheless, Snyder’s movie is a letdown.
What I ask of ZSJL is what I ask of any movie: Make me feel something. At first, I felt relief: Wow, this is a lot better than Whedon’s version! But malaria is better than Whedon’s version. The new cut is merely a run-of-the-mill 21st-century comic-book flick, only more ponderous and broody than average. I’ll take ponderous and broody over meretricious and smarmy any day. But Snyder’s cut doesn’t match the caliber of the finest “dark” superhero movies, such as the ones by Christopher Nolan and Snyder’s previous efforts, Watchmen and Batman v. Superman, both of which did an intriguing job of exploring how superheroes wear out their welcome and even gods on earth could come to be hated.
ZSJL, by contrast, is about mighty people punching and kicking each other all over the digital landscape. The scary scenes aren’t scary, the action scenes are only semi-thrilling, and the jokes are terrible. Virtually everything said by the Flash — played predictably irritatingly by one of the most irritating actors alive, Ezra Miller — is a would-be witticism that just clangs off the hoop. There isn’t a single line of dialogue in the entire four-hour extravaganza that goes swish through the net. It’s all “Get the hell off of me!” or “I do competitive ice dancing” — blandly functional or horribly witless.
Turner Classic Movies, the closest thing to a national film outlet on television, has succumbed to political fashion with its recent month-long series Reframed: Classic Films in the Rearview Mirror. Responding to the current political revisionism, TCM subjected its content of “beloved classics” to the oversight of politically correct agitators.
The network’s five regular hosts, Ben Mankiewicz, Alicia Malone, Eddie Muller, Dave Karger, and Jacqueline Stewart opined on the “problematic” aspects of films that were made before wokeness — putting them through the now standard race and gender sieve, testing them against self-righteous Millennial standards. Not surprisingly, none of the classics — The Jazz Singer (1927), Gone with the Wind (1939), Dragon Seed (1944), The Searchers (1956), The Children’s Hour (1961), Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), among others — were found to be woke enough.
This process of reexamination greets the vagaries of art with disapproval. It’s part of the dangerous new reconciliation fever, more reckoning. Not quite cancel culture, TCM’s Reframed still steps in that direction. It follows the same revisionism that distorts the history of Hollywood’s late-’40s to late-’50s blacklist: Everything is seen in terms of victimization and offense. TCM’s hosts, an Our Gang mix of age-race-sex political identities, discussed each movie according to their respective representation specialty. But the result was almost always the same: blame and condemnation, although film-noir expert Muller usually backed off from the latter, thus coming closest to scholarly appreciation.
Elsewhere in the Conservative Solar System
1. At Gatestone Institute, Con Coughlin looks at the Iranian sneaks and the U.S. mollycoddlers. From the piece:
With the Biden administration seemingly keen to recommence negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear programme, fresh evidence is emerging that Iran’s regime is up to its old tricks by attempting to conceal key elements of the programme from UN inspectors.
Iran has a long and undistinguished history of seeking to conceal the existence of key elements of its nuclear programme dating back to 2002, when a group of Iranian dissidents first revealed the existence of the Natanz nuclear enrichment site.
Enrichment is a crucial process in producing weapons-grade nuclear material, and the fact that Iran managed to build the massive underground facility about 100 miles to the south of Tehran in secret was the first major evidence that the regime was developing nuclear weapons.
Since then there have been many similar instances of Iran seeking to conceal the existence of key facilities from the outside world, such as the Fordow facility which was constructed during the late 2000s under a mountain to protect it from attack.
Now evidence has emerged that, with the Biden administration indicating that it wants to resume negotiations with Tehran on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear deal negotiated by former US President Barack Obama, Iran has resumed its attempts to conceal vital components from UN inspection teams.
2. At The College Fix, Henry Kokkeler reports on how Loyola University of Chicago pinheads students are demanding complete green energy in four years, among other idiocies demands. From the beginning of the piece:
Student activists at Loyola University Chicago have sent a list of demands to the administration, including moving the university to 100 percent renewable energy use by 2025 and a complete fossil fuel divestment by July 2022.
“In light of the 2021 Climate Change Conference, we are holding you accountable for your claims to celebrate youth activism,” Sunrise Movement LUC said in a petition on Actionnetwork.org, which has 108 signatures as of March 27. The students want the university to “[s]ource 100% renewable energy by 2025,” among other requests.
The petition follows a recent Climate Change Conference held virtually on March 9 by the university’s new School of Environmental Sustainability.
University officials opened the environmental school in December 2020 and said it was “the first-ever school dedicated to environmental sustainability across Jesuit institutions worldwide.” Keynote speakers at the recent climate conference included Dejah Powell, a leading organizer for the Sunrise Movement.
The Loyola group appears to be an affiliate of this national organization, founded in 2017. The national organization supports the Green New Deal, among other environmental initiatives.
“It is not enough to acknowledge youth activism–listen to and follow through with your own activists on campus,” the letter from the activists said. The Sunrise group “recognizes the intersection between environmental and social justice issues.”
3. At Law & Liberty, David L. Schaefer reflects on Andy Ngo and the true threats to our freedoms. From the piece:
More recently, a thoroughly anti-constitutional precedent was set by then-minority leader Chuck Schumer only last March, when he led a posse of about 75 members up the steps of the Supreme Court to warn recently appointed justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh that they had “released the whirlwind,” would “pay a price,” and would “not know what hit” them if they voted the “wrong” way on an abortion case. (Schumer’s act won a rare rebuke from the normally reserved Chief Justice Roberts, who denounced Schumer’s comments as “inappropriate” and “dangerous,” stressing, that “all members of the court will continue to do their job, without fear or favor, from whatever quarter.” In a proto-Trumpian response, Schumer spokesman Justin Goodman explained that his boss’s words didn’t mean what they sounded like, and denied that. Schumer was threatening or encouraging violence.)
A decade ago, an even more direct and threatening, though ultimately (mostly) nonviolent, challenge to constitutional government was offered by Wisconsin public employee unions who invaded that state’s Capitol to protest and attempt to block Governor Scott Walker’s program of reforming public-employee contracts so as to balance the state budget without raising taxes, and also liberate public school administrations from rigid tenure rules (closely paralleled in school districts throughout the country) that prevented them from hiring teachers based on merit and adjusting their pay based on performance. Walker’s reforms even went so far as to require public employees to contribute to their health-insurance and pension costs — while still paying less for those benefits than the average Wisconsin citizen. (See Walker’s retrospective view of the “Capitol Siege,” with over 100,000 occupying the building and its surrounding square). Although nobody died in the Wisconsin protests, several legislators, both Republicans and Democrats, reported receiving death threats at the time. And one woman who emailed death threats to Republican lawmakers also pleaded guilty to making a bomb threat. Yet it would be difficult to find criticism of either Schumer’s warnings or the Wisconsin unions’ attempt to intimidate their state’s public institutions in most of the “mainstream” media.
The threat to the rule of law, and even to the constitutionally protected freedom of speech, in today’s America goes well beyond the attack on the U.S. Capitol, let alone the other attempts to intimidate lawgivers and judges just mentioned. The wave of riots, violent crime, and looting ostensibly provoked by George Floyd’s death while police attempted to restrain him is of course well known. But as independent journalist Andy Ngo documents in his just-published book Unmasked, widespread rioting led by the loosely organized anarchist group Antifa began in his home city of Portland several years before the Floyd event. With considerable courage, Ngo both reported on and photographed the months of rioting in Portland and Seattle, entailing direct assaults on police departments and courts in both cities, attacks on police resulting in hundreds of injuries, and multiple deaths. Yet in each case local authorities let most of the violence go unpunished, with Seattle’s mayor Jenny Durkan even celebrating the establishment last June of the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” (CHAZ), from which police and other government personnel were excluded, as exemplifying a “Summer of Love” — until mounting deaths and other casualties, to say nothing of costly damage to local shops, finally caused her to shut it down after three weeks.
Brothers and Sisters of the Book Old and the Book New, on this remarkable weekend, feel the redemptive graces and know the promises of salvation. Whether it be Easter or Passover, may it fully deliver unto you and yours its unbound and everlasting beneficence.
As for NR’s Cancel Culture webathon, which ends on Monday upcoming, with a goal of $350,000, now about $40,000 in the distance, please consider giving, and if it takes a video of Your Humble and Pleaful Author to bring your generous inclination to fruition, then do watch it.
(Consider watching too if you get your jollies over a Bronx accent.)
Now: The man who initiated America’s harsh partisanship — once upon an overseeing of the hi-tech lynching of uppity blacks, as Mr. C. Thomas might put it, and did — had his first press conference as President, where he talked of fantasies about children starving in Mexico deserts courtesy of Mr. Trump. Our Leader, Mr. Lowry, concluded, having watched the performance, that Joe Biden is big-fat lying:
The Biden press conference was a train wreck and disgrace on the border. He repeated the Alejandro Mayorkas line that Trump was just pushing unaccompanied minors back into Mexico, when the truth is that they were flown home and handed over to social-service agencies in their countries. He then went even further, referring to Trump letting minors starve and die. He maintained that Trump hadn’t diminished the flow at the border, which is completely false. He gave no indication of any serious plan for us to do a better job of policing our own border, instead emphasizing building more shelters to house the migrants who are coming in record numbers. And he missed the point when a reporter asked a question about a small boy from Central America whose mother told the reporter she had sent him because she believed that Biden would let him into the United States. This performance would be roasted from beginning to end by fact-checkers — if they had any integrity.
The fish stinking from the head, Our Esteemed Editor also found that Mr. Biden’s Homeland Security boss, one Alejandro Mayorkas, too is a consummate fibber when it comes to the insanity on our Southern border. From the assessment:
It should be perfectly obvious what’s happening at the border, but the Biden administration and journalistic allies are denying it all the same.
Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has been leading the way with a haze of misrepresentations.
On Sunday, he said that Title 42, the public-health authority the Trump administration used to quickly remove migrants during the pandemic, is largely still in place. “The border is closed,” he said. “We are expelling families. We are expelling single adults. And we’ve made a decision that we will not expel young, vulnerable children.”
This is not true. It is a symptom of the crisis at the border that Border Patrol has been overwhelmed and simply releasing people. . . .
By way of blaming Trump for the crisis, Mayorkas said on Sunday, “Please remember something, that President Trump dismantled the orderly, humane and efficient way of allowing children to make their claims under United States law in their home countries. He dismantled the Central American Minors program.”
This is preposterous. An analysis by the Center for Immigration Studies explains the history. In response to the border crisis on its watch, the Obama administration created the Central American Minors program in 2014 to allow parents in the U.S. to petition for minors in the Northern Triangle to come to the United States. It was of limited use because it required that the parents be legally within the United States (when most parents who would have been interested are here illegally), while the minors had to qualify for refugee status (unlikely, since the Northern Triangle countries, whatever their other failures, generally aren’t persecuting people).
These are bad people. Very bad. Now, let us get on to the WJ.
But do remember, as mentioned in our last edition: Get Neal B. Freeman’s excellent new (spiritually timely too) book, Walk with Me: An Invitation to Faith. Available here.
COPIOUS CONSERVATIVE COMMENTARIES, EACH LAYERED WITH EXCEPTIONAL EXCERPTS
1. He finally faced the microphones, and softballs, and no surprise, Joe Biden, the former Neal Kinnock channeler, told brazen doozies. From the editorial:
Reporters aren’t in the practice, obviously, of being particularly tough on President Biden. But at his first press conference as president this afternoon, Cecilia Vega of ABC News politely nailed him to the wall on a key failure of his border policy.
She told an affecting story of meeting a nine-year-old boy at the border who had walked to the U.S. from Honduras, and said that when she called the boy’s mother, the woman explained that she had sent him to the U.S. because she believed that Biden would let him into the country.
This, of course, is exactly why there’s been a surge at the border. Biden created an exemption in Title 42 — the public-health authority that President Trump had used to turn back migrants during the pandemic — specifically for minors, and predictably there’s been a surge of minors.
In evading this reality throughout the press conference, Biden resorted to a haze of misrepresentations, and inadvertently exposed the senselessness of his own policy.
In response to Vega, he echoed a distortion often made by his Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and said that Trump had dumped children into the Mexican desert. Except Biden made the charge even more lurid by alleging that Trump had let children starve to death.
2. Kristi Noem capitulates to the NCAA and others with a dangerous, precedent-setting veto of South Dakota’s transgenderism / girls-sports legislation. From the editorial:
Appearing on Fox News to justify her decision to an indignant Tucker Carlson, Noem claimed she acted after consulting with legal scholars for “many, many months” and had been “working on this issue for years.” In other words: Trust me, there’s a great strategy here!
Except that there isn’t. And whoever these legal scholars are, Noem would be advised to immediately dump them. Her veto, which made sweeping substantive changes rather than small stylistic ones, was a flagrant violation of her powers and sets an unwelcome precedent for future governors to abuse their powers in a similar way.
Noem told Carlson that the “real issue” with the bill, as presented to her, was that “it wouldn’t solve the problem” of boys being allowed into girls’ sports, since it “would only allow the NCAA to bully South Dakota” and thus “prevent women from being able to participate in collegiate sports.” An alternative, she suggested, would be to pursue justice for female athletes and defeat the NCAA by building “a coalition.” This meant setting up a website, DefendTitleIXnow.com, which appeared after the controversy.
As she faced a backlash among conservatives — including many who had previously praised her governorship — her spokesman blamed the reaction on conservative cancel culture. Anybody who thinks that a politician taking criticism for a public action is cancel culture clearly has not been paying attention to what that cancel-culture debate is all about.
3. There is nothing right about the idea of the District of Columbia becoming our 51st State. From the editorial:
Washington is also the city of the permanent political class — a place of tremendous wealth that is largely reliant on American taxpayers. D.C. has a higher median income than any state, and its recession-proof suburbs are some of the wealthiest in the country. In many ways, large swaths of Maryland and Virginia already act as the voice of the federal government. That is exactly what the Founders were trying to avoid when they created a federal district.
Madison, also in Federalist No. 43, noted, “the gradual accumulation of public improvements at the stationary residence of the government would be both too great a public pledge to be left in the hands of a single State, and would create so many obstacles to a removal of the government, as still further to abridge its necessary independence.”
Washington, as it now stands, has already accumulated far more political power than any city in the nation. Transforming the seat of this authority into a state would create voters who are almost wholly incentivized to grow the power and size of the federal government at the expense of other states.
4. When it comes to screwing up, the Eurocrats are vaccine expert. This is turning into a disaster for the Continent’s people. From the editorial:
Making matters worse, the EU’s FDA, the European Medicines Agency (EMA), a body by definition particularly receptive to the precautionary principle that plays such a dominant role in EU policy-making (except when it comes to setting up a new currency), took its time to approve the first vaccines. Its first approval came some weeks after the U.K. and ten days or so after the U.S.
Since then, the EU has struggled to catch up. As of this Tuesday, the U.K. had administered about 46 vaccine doses per 100 people and the United States had administered 38. Meanwhile, the EU had administered fewer than 14. More lockdowns are either on the horizon or being put in place.
The contrast between the grim picture within the EU and rapid improvements in its renegade province, Brexit Britain, has not improved the mood in Brussels, which has spent months looking for scapegoats, most notably AstraZeneca, which has faced production problems in Belgium, and may have favored the U.K. (contract terms, and the pace at which an agreement has been reached, have consequences). At the same time, and somewhat paradoxically, some European leaders have publiclydoubted the extent of the Oxford vaccine’s effectiveness while some EU nations even temporarily suspended its use over (it seems) groundless health fears.
5. The President is shooing blanks with his call to defy the Second Amendment. From the editorial:
The president’s other ideas were just as ill-considered. As he confirmed once again, Biden hopes to prohibit the sale of certain cosmetically displeasing rifles and to ban magazines that are capable of holding more than ten rounds. But, as one of the architects of the now-expired 1994 “assault-weapons ban,” he should know better than that. Not only are so-called “assault weapons” used so infrequently in crimes that the FBI does not even keep statistics — rifles of all types, recall, are used less frequently as murder weapons than are hammers, fists, or knives — but the evidence that prohibiting them does anything of consequence is non-existent.
When, in 2004, the “assault-weapons” ban was up for renewal, a report issued by the Department of Justice submitted that “should it be renewed, the ban’s effects on gun violence are likely to be small at best and perhaps too small for reliable measurement.” Congress let it lapse, and, since then, the evidence has become no stronger. In their 2014 work, The Gun Debate: What Everyone Needs to Know, Stanford University’s Philip J. Cook and Kristin A. Goss concluded that “there is no compelling evidence that [the ban] saved lives,” while, in a research review that was updated in April of 2020, the RAND Corporation found the evidence that “assault-weapons” bans reduce homicides in general and mass shootings in particular to be “inconclusive.” The AR-15 is the most commonly owned rifle in the United States, and, as such, is almost certainly protected under the Supreme Court’s “in common use” standard. In Congress and in the courts, “inconclusive” ain’t gonna cut it.
“This is not a partisan issue,” President Biden said on Monday, “it’s an American issue.” And, indeed, it is. And yet Biden’s rhetoric suggests that he believes this dispute is between a set of people that has all the right answers and a set that simply refuses to accept that they’re wrong — a conviction that could not be further from the truth. Only one in four Americans believes that “stricter gun control” would “help a lot” to prevent gun violence, while more than half believe that universal background checks would make either a “small difference” or “no difference at all.” Over time, gun-control advocates such as Biden have simply tuned out this fact, to the point at which they are now unable to conceive of their critics as anything other than corrupt, bloodthirsty wreckers. Even now, with the National Rifle Association as weak as it has been in decades, gun-controllers assume that Congress’s continued hesitance must be the result of something nefarious. It’s not. Americans just aren’t sold on the agenda.
A Plethora of Conservative Brilliance, the Cornucopia Overflowing with Excerpts and Excellent
1. If Joe told us Easter fell on a Sunday, we’d have to check the calendar. Charlie Cooke looks at POTUS’s brazen lies about the filibuster — and at a media complicit with partisan mendacity. From the piece:
Joe Biden’s lies about his position on the legislative filibuster are so audacious, so brazen, so extraordinarily disingenuous that is is hard to know where to begin. Having supported the provision for nearly five decades, Biden now says that he considers it a “relic of Jim Crow,” that he was forced to reconsider its utility by the abuse that took place “last year” and “in the last 20 years,” and that he has no “expertise, in what the parliamentary rules and how to get there are.” No journalist who can look themselves in the mirror should repeat this without laughter, derision, or disbelief.
For half a century, Biden was one of the most emphatic defenders of the filibuster in the history of the United States. So passionate about it has he been, in fact, that he liked to shout at people who disagreed with him. To Biden, the filibuster was the Senate, if not the country, and, far from being a relic of Jim Crow, it was baked into the system from the outset. “The Framers,” Biden contended, “created the Senate as a unique legislative body designed to protect against the excesses of any temporary majority,” and those who so much as contemplated the “naked power grab” that abolition would represent did not understand that they were merely “temporary custodians” of that body. To take the “nuclear option,” Biden argued, would be “catastrophic.” It would destroy “America’s sense of fair play.” It would sully “the one thing this country stands for: Not tilting the playing field on the side of those who control and own the field.”
2. The lefties in Colorado are thrilled to make Jack Phillips a target of never-ending persecution, writes David Harsanyi. From the article:
And after years of great fiscal hardship, Phillips finally won a 2018 Supreme Court decision, in which the Court ruled that the Colorado commissioners had displayed “a clear and impermissible hostility toward sincere religious beliefs” in their efforts to punish him. This was a polite way of saying that the unhinged members of that commission had likened the largely powerless Phillips to Nazis and segregationists because he didn’t want to bake a cake.
While the 7–2 Supreme Court decision was a personal victory for Phillips, it did little to preserve religious liberty or free expression. Even today, a customer can walk into a business, with the force of government behind them, and demand a business owner create a product with overt political and religious messages that do not comport with that business owner’s sincerely held convictions.
And it is always worth reiterating that Phillips never declined to “serve” a gay couple in 2012, as so many misleading media reports claim. The couple, like everyone else, was free to buy anything they pleased in Masterpiece Cakeshop. Phillips refused to design a new cake from scratch for an event he felt undermined the sanctity of marriage. If it had been a pornographic cake or bawdy design for a macho-istic heterosexual bachelor party, he surely wouldn’t have made that cake either. Phillips isn’t discriminating against people; he is discriminating about the things he is willing to say.
All the Supreme Court has done is allow these cases to be adjudicated by judges who will use their mind-reading skills to discern everyone’s real intentions. After all, if former Colorado civil-rights commissioner Diann Rice hadn’t been a preening ignoramus while smearing religious Americans, the commission probably would have gotten away with it. If commissars of a similar kangaroo court keep their small thoughts to themselves, victims will have little recourse. SCOTUS has dissuaded no one.
Which brings us to the latest lawsuit.
3. To better understand why we must protect religious freedom in the US, Cameron Hilditch suggests taking a look at how it that “liberty” is treated elsewhere. From the piece:
A number of Western countries have replaced religion with worship of the state over the past century and, as a result, have come to view the American prioritization of religious liberty either incomprehensible or ridiculous. Conversely, many non-Western countries still rely on a state-sponsored religion to provide social cohesion and to underwrite the legitimacy of the regime. Where the drive to conserve political power is strongest, the promotion of religious liberty is weakest. It shouldn’t surprise Americans to learn that the conviction that liberty of conscience is a non-negotiable component of a humane society is one held by America alone.
We were reminded of this last month by Alexander Dvorkin, who since 2009 has been the head of the Russian government’s “Council of Religious Experts.” The purpose of this body is to decide which religious groups in Russia should be designated as “extremist” and therefore “liquidated.” Among Dvorkin’s recent targets were the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who were banned and brutally repressed in Russia in 2017. Dvorkin can thus be called, without much exaggeration, the Kremlin’s grand inquisitor.
Dvorkin appears determined to subjugate all other forms of religious association to the dominance of the pro-Putin, statist wing of the Russian Orthodox Church. He’s been successful enough in this respect to have had his services sought out on several occasions by the Chinese Communist Party, who’ve invited him to China and Hong Kong in the past to provide aid and cover to their own efforts at repression.
4. There is indeed a real election-steal going on in Iowa, says Rich Lowry, and it needs to be stopped. From the piece:
Well, the principled stand Democrats took against Congress trying to overturn duly certified elections lasted all of a month or two.
After rightly excoriating their Republican colleagues for challenging on January 6 presidential results certified by the states, House Democrats immediately turned to doing, in effect, the exact same thing in an Iowa congressional district their candidate lost by six votes.
Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks won Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District by the narrowest of margins over Democrat Rita Hart. After a recount, Iowa certified her victory. Hart chose not to challenge the result in the Iowa courts, and by any reasonable standard — and certainly by the standard Democrats so stirringly enunciated on January 6 and afterward — that should have been the end of it.
But Hart is petitioning for the House to overturn the election, and the House Administration Committee is now reviewing the case. Politico has reported that the effort to overturn the election, led by Democratic election lawyer Marc Elias, “has been blessed by the top echelons of House Democratic leadership.”
As far as Speaker Pelosi and Co. are concerned, it’s “honor the results of elections for thee, but not for me.”
5. Madeleine Kearns gets a different kind of slap-happy when recommending a return to a five-fingered, open-palmed lady’s rebuttal to uninvited tom-cattery. From the piece:
After reading through the various (credible) accounts alleging that Governor Cuomo pawed at and sleazed on often-much-younger women, making them feel uncomfortable and disrespected, I would like to make an observation: that there is a difference between a pig and a predator (and also, a difference between a regular pig and a pig who is also a bully). A regular pig can often be dealt with by using a healthy dose of womanly assertiveness and gumption, to be administered with swift and immediate effect.
Both the pig and the predator require apprehending, naturally, but to stun a piggish man, one normally need only splash him in the face with a cold drink. Or, should such a beverage not be readily available, a hearty slap will suffice. (Though it’s important to keep in mind that this is mostly a symbolic gesture and that, with a first offense, you need not bust his lip.) The predator, meanwhile, requires an intervention of an altogether more drastic nature. Pepper spray. Frying pan. Elegant silver pistol. Whatever happens to be handiest. In any case, the point is that proportionality is the better part of valor. And as for discretion — well, that is a woman’s art!
It is worth noting that we are, all of us, regardless of sex, humiliated in various ways throughout the course of our lives, and while this can often be unpleasant at the time, it can also serve as a useful and educational experience. Relations between the sexes are no different, and many misbehaving men do actually respond to being humiliated with immediate desistance and/or an apology. So, if you tell him to get the hell off, you may actually be doing both of you favor. You have set the boundaries. He has been warned. There is a chance for you both to leave it at that and move on.
6. Those young women athletes who thought they had a champion in South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem had best think again says Alexandra DeSanctis: From the piece:
One such consequence Noem mentioned is the retaliation that might result from the fact that the bill’s provisions apply to athletes at the collegiate level.
“Competing on the national stage means compliance with the national governing bodies that oversee collegiate athletics,” Noem wrote. “While I certainly do not always agree with the actions these sanctioning bodies take, I understand that collegiate athletics requires such a system — a fifty-state patchwork is not workable.”
In other words, Noem was insinuating that, if South Dakota were to require athletes to compete against their own biological sex, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) might censure the state or otherwise penalize athletic programs at the state’s colleges and universities.
In her style-and-form veto, then, Noem proposed that “Women’s Fairness in Sports” be revised to apply only to elementary and high-school athletics, governed by the South Dakota High School Activities Association.
The governor’s proposal went even further yet. In addition to entirely removing collegiate athletics from the bill’s provisions, Noem also altered the bill’s language to allow athletes to compete based on biological sex “as reflected on the birth certificate or affidavit provided upon initial enrollment.” This edit would permit a biological male to compete against women if he obtained the appropriate paperwork changing his legal records to match his gender identity — rather than his sex — at birth.
7. Pradheep Shanker nails the Left’s very misleading “racism” narrative over the Atlanta crazed shooter. From the piece:
It’s worth remembering, as we discuss this, that the term “Asian Americans” fails to capture the variety it is meant to describe. Even the U.S. Census Bureau has had trouble accurately defining it. Neither race, religion, nor geography clearly delineates what it means to be Asian American. Much of the Middle East is exempt from the broad definition, as is the entire eastern two-thirds of Russia, which is part of Asia. The definition has somehow been limited to nationalities and racial groups in Asia that reside south of the current Russian state, and East of Iran. And even this definition raises questions. How, for example, are China (with a population of 1.5 billion) and India (population 1.2 billion) included in a single subset of definitions of race, while Native American/American Indians as well as Pacific/Hawaiian Islanders both have their own individual subset, with a much smaller population for each? Indeed, India alone has more linguistic and ethnic diversity than all of Europe.
Even with this history of prejudice, and even with all the groups contained within the “Asian-American” demographic, the contemporary evidence that Asian Americans specifically are being targeted at a greater rate than other minorities remains unproven. The recent shift in narratives began with a study the media pounced on from the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism. It studied 16 U.S. cities and concluded that Asian Americans reported 150 percent more crimes in the last year than in prior years. But the numbers are so small as to be statistically meaningless. San Diego, for example, saw a grand total of one hate crime in 2020, without any in 2019. Large cities such as Chicago, Phoenix, and Houston had similar numbers. In fact, of the 122 total anti-Asian hate crime cases in 2020, 28 came from New York City, 15 from Los Angeles, and 14 from Boston. A credible or honest researcher would consider this more of a problem specific to those large urban centers than a nationwide problem. But such intellectual integrity is lacking among journalists.
Another source for this trend is Stop AAPI Hate, an Asian-American action group. The group says it recorded 3,795 ‘incidents of hate’ during the COVID pandemic. It counted 68.1 percent of those as verbal harassment, and 20.5 percent of them as ‘shunning.’ The problem, of course, is there is no historical baseline data. We have no significant evidence that there has been an interval increase in these acts after the start of the coronavirus pandemic, although the media have assumed exactly that fact.
8. Jim Crow Uptown: Tristan Yang attacks the segregated (race, orientation, et al) graduation ceremonies proposed by Columbia University. From the piece:
To segregate students by race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status is inherently harmful to the fabric of college communities and harms the social progress these events ostensibly intend to achieve. The embrace of resegregation in this scenario to combat “inequality” centers on one uncontrollable characteristic of an individual and reduces a person’s identity to superficial stereotypes, neglecting his or her nuanced existence. It also bears more than a passing, uncomfortable resemblance to the racism of decades past. People are multifaceted with their own experiences, talents, interests, and strengths. Failure to recognize that is not only ignorant, but also dehumanizing.
A common rejoinder to criticisms of these ceremonies is that those who want to end them do not care about the achievements of the students the ceremonies celebrate. This is not only untrue, but also condescendingly assumes that Black, Asian, “Latinx,” First-Generation/Low-Income, “Lavender” (LGBTQIA+), and Native-American students can only have their accomplishments celebrated through the uplifting of an institution that cannot see past their mere identities. It also assumes that America is so racially bankrupt that those in these groups must depend on an institution to be recognized as human. In this way, the university’s focus on identity reinforces campus division, as students depend more on institutional labeling to define who they are. The result is the undermining of campus unity to an almost irreparable point.
9. Jimmy Quinn smacks back at hooey propaganda from Pete Beinart and others who charge that condemning the ChiComs is some form of “panic” that causes anti-Asian racism. From the article:
There’s also Tursunay Ziawudun, the Uyghur woman who endured an unspeakably horrific ordeal in the Xinjiang camps. Now settled in the United States, she’s faced an onslaught of personal attacks by the Communist Party and its proxies. The attacks, which involved disclosing what Party officials claim are details of Ziawudun’s health records, was part of a broader smear campaign tarring Uyghur women who have spoken out, which the CCP has imbued with allegations of adultery and sexually transmitted diseases. And Ziawudun is not alone: As theWashington Post recently reported, other Uyghurs involved in vocal activism in the United States have been contacted by Chinese officials through detained family members’ social-media accounts, demanding that they remain silent.
This — the extraterritorial harassment of Beijing’s harshest critics — cuts to the core of the problem with Beinart’s argument. The human-rights abuses that the CCP feels compelled to deny or otherwise defend on the world stage require that it attempt to influence foreign democracies and target the regime’s opponents around the world. We can debate whether this is an “existential” threat, but to assert that is not unreasonable.
All of this points to why expressing concern about party-state’s intentions does not require that we speak in terms of caveats about the size of China’s military budget and its supposedly “good relations” with certain democracies.
It’s puzzling that Beinart argues that the party-state “has waged far fewer wars in recent decades than has the United States” as reason to be skeptical of the so-called anti-China hysteria. Taiwan has faced an onslaught of Chinese military pressure, in addition to a gray-zone warfare campaign that seeks to grind the democracy into submission. Most analysts expect Beijing to intensify its bid to absorb the island in the near future.
10. Michael Brendan Dougherty has had enough with Big Brother’s oppressive and endless COVID rules. From the article:
We have already lost some major metropolitan school districts in this race. Where teachers’ unions have been able to slow up and halt reopening, the conditions for reopening go higher and higher. New ventilation systems. Not one mask, but two. United Teachers of Los Angeles voted against another “premature” opening of schools until their demands for spacing are met. They want “a cleaning regimen” instituted before returning to work, something that we’ve known for the better part of a year does not reduce COVID transmission because COVID is not primarily spread by droplets on surfaces.
And make no mistake about it — this race is an economic calculation. Almost all the major players in the entertainment and service industries and many beyond will be recruited to one side of the argument or to the other in the next few months as people are vaccinated. And it’s the bottom line that will convince them.
Either these institutions will view the public-health technologies, permission slips, and terms of service as impediments to opening business, or as their last lifeline to a huge portion of their potential customers. Businesses, civil institutions, and churches that see the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel soon will view an ongoing post-pandemic COVID infrastructure as a potential obstacle, maybe even an expensive one, that keeps away customers who no longer want to be hassled about their body temperature, or asked about their recent travel and medical history. They will lobby against instituting it, or introduce roadblocks to ever implementing it in the first place.
11. Elizabeth Heng has some ideas as to how California Republicans can win. From the piece:
It’s worth looking at who did it, and how. In California’s 21st congressional district, David Valadao defeated the Democratic incumbent despite the district going for Biden by nearly ten points. In the sprawling San Joaquin Valley district, with its remarkable ethnic mix — it is over 70 percent Latino — diverse rural areas went remarkably conservative, mirroring a similar trend nationwide. In the 48th district, Michelle Park Steel defeated the Democratic incumbent in a coastal, urbanized, Orange County district with a strong minority presence: nearly 20 percent Asian and about 16 percent Latino. In the 39th district, my former colleague Young Kim defeated the incumbent Democrat in a district that runs mostly through Orange County and Los Angeles County. This district is remarkably mixed by ethnicity, with nearly one-third each being white, Latino, and Asian.
12. John Fund wants to get this straight: Big Lefty Brother says we need IDs to get COVIS shots, but not for voting? From the piece:
Eric Holder, President Obama’s attorney general, went so far as to claim in 2012 that “recent studies indicate that 25 percent of African-American voting-age citizens, lack a government-issued photo ID.” He vowed that his department wouldn’t allow ID laws to “disenfranchise” voters.
It is both preposterous and patronizing to assert that one out of four African-Americans lacks a photo ID when such a document is essential for so many things in life — from signing up for Medicare to cashing a check to entering the federal building where Holder used to work.
“The claim that voter ID keeps people from voting, particularly minority voters, has been completely debunked. We have over ten years of turnout data that shows that nonsensical claim is a myth created by the Left to oppose commonsense election reforms overwhelmingly supported by the American people,” says Hans von Spakovsky, a scholar at the Heritage Foundation and a former member of the board of elections in Fairfax County, Va.
He’s right. A National Bureau of Economic Research report in 2019 looked at ten years of turnout data and concluded that voter-ID laws “have no negative effect on registration or turnout, overall or for any group defined by race, gender, age, or party affiliation.”
Also absurd are claims that vaccine access, unlike voting, is not a constitutional right and therefore different. The Supreme Court has ruled that buying a gun is a Second Amendment right, but you need a photo ID to do it. The Supreme Court has ruled that same-sex marriage is a constitutional civil right. But almost every jurisdiction in the country requires those seeking marriage — of whatever kind — to present a valid ID.
In the 2020 campaign, Joe Biden proudly ran as an “Obama-Biden Democrat.”
But there is already one important difference between Biden and his old boss: Obama used to at least pretend to be concerned about our long-term debt, while Biden isn’t even going through the motions.
Just like Obama, Biden began his presidency by using a crisis as a justification to smuggle many long-time liberal priorities into a massive spending bill. Yet a few days after the passage of the 2009 stimulus bill, Obama convened a “Fiscal Responsibility Summit” at the White House to discuss ways to tackle the long-term debt.
“We cannot, and will not, sustain deficits like these without end,” Obama said at the time. “Contrary to the prevailing wisdom in Washington these past few years, we cannot simply spend as we please and defer the consequences to the next budget, the next administration, or the next generation.”
He went on to warn that, “if we confront this crisis without also confronting the deficits that helped cause it, we risk sinking into another crisis down the road as our interest payments rise, our obligations come due, confidence in our economy erodes, and our children and our grandchildren are unable to pursue their dreams because they’re saddled with our debts.”
14. More Charlie Cooke, who says the warning lights are flashing at the Biden Factory. Maybe Joe’s mask over his eyes? From the article:
Thus far, at least, Biden’s investors seem pleasantly surprised by the yield. Were his presidency to be evaluated on Progressive MarketWatch, it would undoubtedly generate a “Buy!” And yet, despite this unbridled optimism, some warning lights are flashing down at quality control — frantic, scarlet, unceasing warning lights, of the sort that augur disaster when ignored. Can Biden see them? Does he want to see them? Does anyone around him want to tell him about them? The answers to these questions will determine the fate of the next two years, and, thus, his presidency.
The first warning light pertains to the Democrats’ next legislative priority: H.R. 1 — or, if you are susceptible to question-begging nomenclative bullying, the For the People Act. In the Democrats’ eyes, H.R. 1 represents nothing less than the means by which American democracy will be preserved: a law that will safely land Flight 93, permanently banish the ghosts of Jim Crow, and finally usher the country out of the undemocratic hellscape in which it struggled until 2019. Indeed, H.R. 1 is held to be so imperative that it is being considered as the pretext for a daring run at the elimination of the filibuster.
The trouble with this plan is that H.R. 1 is deeply, deeply defective — and that, despite the best efforts of the factory’s marketing department, people outside of the rival Republican Party have noticed. In the Daily Beast, Jessica Huseman contrasts the “virtually unfettered praise in the media for H.R. 1” with the facts on the ground. The bill, she writes, “was written with apparently no consultation with election administrators,” shows “remarkably little understanding of the problems the authors apply alarmingly prescriptive solutions to,” “makes recommendations that appear to solve non-existent problems,” and would “would make elections less secure.” Despite having been told repeatedly that the bill was a mess, Huseman confirms, the “Senate did nothing to address the concerns of election officials,” many of whom were so alarmed that they “used the F-word a lot during [Huseman’s] chats with them.” It is, one told her, a “fu**ing bad bill” that would lead to a “clusterf***” next time people vote.
15. Martha Bradley-Doresy and Robert Maranto contend Biden will not stop the bureaucrats from conquering education. From the article:
Less than a decade later, President Obama’s Race to the Top (RTT) — another ESEA-related initiative — promised a near-national curriculum, the Common Core, in part to help increasingly mobile students who had to start over every time they changed schools. RTT also paid states to consider whether students actually learned anything when principals evaluated teachers, infusing some consideration of performance into pay systems previously set by seniority and whether teachers had an extra degree.
None of this changed schools. The politically toxic Common Core united strange bedfellows such as teachers’ unions distrusting any national testing and conservatives distrusting any national curricula. At best, the RTT replaced teacher-evaluation schemes that had found 99 percent of teachers effective with more-rigorous schemes that found 98 percent of teachers effective.
The public-school system enjoys the status of being the most layered, centralized, and massive bureaucracies in America, and federal intervention has only made things worse.
As two education analysts with a combined 70 years of studying — and studying in — U.S. public schools, we see historic explanations for the past 60 years of bipartisan school-reform failure to fundamentally change school bureaucracies. This same history also suggests that the Biden administration will get schools to hire more bureaucrats, but not to actually better serve children.
This bureaucratic behemoth was not created on purpose, at least not in its current form. Back in the early 19th century, America had small public schools that were run by local school committees, often located in houses of worship. It was a sensible arrangement when government was small and churches were the dominant social organizations.
16. Jay Cost has a thing for the Constitution, which has a thing for the Senate, which needs defending, and which gets it. From the piece:
At first glance, the American Congress appears to be indefensible on an intellectual level. Indeed, one can go back to the anti-Federalist writings of 1787 and 1788 to see opponents of the Constitution reject the partly federal, partly national nature of the institution. The dissenting delegates to the Pennsylvania ratifying convention of 1787 denounced Congress as a “solecism in politics” — a contradiction in terms. James Madison’s Federalist entries on the general subject of federalism are well argued, but his defense of equal apportionment in the Senate is a little forced, and for good reason — he vehemently opposed the idea at the Constitutional Convention. No delegate came into the Convention with a plan to build Congress as it was actually built, so the institution is reminiscent of the old saw that a camel is a horse designed by a committee.
But looks can be deceiving. A closer examination reveals colorful details about the Convention, especially the genius of the “small-state nationalists.” John Dickinson of Delaware and Oliver Ellsworth and Roger Sherman of Connecticut were as committed to a stronger national government as any of the delegates. Indeed, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Delaware all sent their best men to the meeting. They wanted the country to succeed. They knew that it was failing in that moment, and that only a new instrument of government would save it. But they were not willing to allow their states to be swallowed up by a potential Massachusetts-Pennsylvania-Virginia axis. Those three states were so large that they could essentially get whatever they wanted in a strictly democratic system of government.
Delegates from those states, especially Madison of Virginia and James Wilson of Pennsylvania, assured the small-state nationalists that they had nothing to fear: The large states were so diverse that they could never possibly agree on anything, and anyway, the only proper model of republican government is the rule of the majority. Yet the small-state delegates persisted, and who could blame them? They could not in good conscience go back home and present a constitution that threatened their constituents’ existences.
Though the small-staters were unyielding in their demands, they did not abandon the constitutional project. They stayed and worked through their disagreements — despite the fact that they were increasingly angry, and it was very, very hot in Philadelphia that summer. Ultimately, they embraced the compromise first suggested by Sherman — a House apportioned by population and a Senate apportioned equally. And in so doing, they found something more noble than majority rule: a form of consensus that would become the great bulwark of the American union.
17. Mackubin Thomas Owens isn’t taking lightly the slandering of our troops. From the article:
Let me be clear: There have been serious racial incidents involving military service members in the past, and military leaders were quick to deal with the perpetrators appropriately. But the idea that racism is somehow pervasive in the military is nonsense.
The problem with this latest campaign is that most of the recent claims about racism in the military conflate true racism and white supremacy on the one hand and racial prejudice on the other.
The former has traditionally referred to membership in, or sympathy with, the KKK, neo-Nazis, skinheads, or other groups that preach violence. The U.S. military has long been vigilant about the possibility of extremist groups taking advantage of military training to advance their own goals. Background checks have always been a part of the recruitment and enlistment processes. And the services have been quick to separate individuals whose background checks raise red flags.
The latter is a manifestation of what both Plato and Aristotle called “love of one’s own,” a feature of human nature. The Greeks preferred their ways to those of the Persians. The Athenians preferred their own laws to those of the Spartans. All humans prefer their own families and communities to others’.
Racial prejudice arises from generalizations about other racial groups, and is not unique to any one group. It has been my own experience that military service undermines such prejudice. Because service members learn to work toward a common goal with others from different backgrounds, the service often teaches them to rise above their preexisting prejudices.
It is also the case that although the services reflect the racial attitudes of Americans at large, they have done well in overcoming racial problems. As the late military sociologist Charles Moskos observed a quarter-century ago, the United States Army is the only American institution in which black men routinely give orders to white men. The military is, by necessity, a meritocracy, which gives it a leg up on other institutions in grappling with the problem of prejudice.
18. Kyle Smith finds the luxury product that was New York City has veered downscale. From the article:
The lack of Midtown workers, theater, and nightlife, combined with Bill de Blasio’s decision to fill up hotels with homeless people and shrug at sidewalk encampments and junk heaps until the New York Post calls attention to them, has created pockets of unease that evoke the creepy early 1990s, when some areas were effectively no-go zones after dark for those who felt vulnerable to muggings. Early one recent evening, 40th Street between Seventh and Eighth was a fright. One man was urinating in a doorway and others looked menacing. A sure sign that a block has become dangerous is when upscale, well-educated women avoid the place, and I didn’t see anyone around who fit that bill. On Eighth Avenue, there was a distinct aroma of human feces. On 9th Avenue and 39th Street, two squeegee men were running in and out of a small restaurant to get water, then harassing drivers. At an Italian restaurant nearby, my NR colleague Andrew Stuttaford and I got a table. Only one other table was in use, and the place closed early. At the time, thanks to one of Governor Cuomo’s many nonsensical edicts, restaurants were required to shut down at 10:00 p.m. (It has since been extended to 11:00 p.m., because as we all know, viruses typically strike at 11:01.)
In this particular place, though, the neighborhood is so dismal that there would have been no need to stay open past 10:00. “Last year, you would have had to fight for a table here,” Andrew pointed out. The stretch between (deserted) Times Square and (deserted) Penn Station has predictably turned seedy and grimy. Street rubbish, always a problem even in New York’s best days, is more noticeable than usual. The ratio of productive people to loiterers is way off. New York City really only works when it draws sufficient numbers of the well-heeled, so that it becomes risky for anyone to dare a mugging. Dead streets are a mugger’s ideal. It’s unclear what the per capita crime rate is right now because it’s unclear how many people are actually living and working in Manhattan. Certainly there are far fewer commuters, far fewer tourists, and far fewer residents than there were 18 months ago.
1. Stephen Soukup wants us to wake up to the fact that woke investing is a pain in the asset. From the article:
Without question, the asset manager that matters most in this battle is BlackRock, the CEO of which is Larry Fink, the star of the introduction to The Dictatorship of Woke Capital. BlackRock manages close to $9 trillion, making it by far the largest asset manager in the world. And Fink, as noted, is a crusader, a man on a mission who is bound and determined to use the power that other people’s money — your money, perhaps — gives him to impose his beliefs on the capital markets and, by extension, on the nation more generally.
BlackRock is known as one of the “Big Three” passive asset managers in the world — along with Vanguard and State Street. This is a true description, but it’s also incomplete. While its nearly $5 trillion in assets under passive management — i.e., index funds, ETFs — makes it the largest passive manager in the world, the firm also has significant assets under active management. Indeed, the roughly $2.5 trillion it has under active management would, in and of itself, make BlackRock the sixth-largest asset manager in the world. BlackRock is, in other words, a monster. It is a monster in the passive-management business, a monster in the active-management business, and a monster that public companies can hardly ignore.
As part of the Big Three, BlackRock has immense and almost shocking power to effect change at whatever companies it chooses. And the firm’s CEO is a crusader, a fanatic who intends to use this power to go set the world on fire (as St. Ignatius Loyola may or may not have told his Jesuits). This raises a host of very serious concerns — for investors, for consumers, for companies, and indeed, for American democracy.
For starters, the Big Three (of which BlackRock is biggest) holds, on average, about 22 percent of the typical S&P 500 company. This includes “18 percent of Apple Inc.’s shares. . . 20 percent of Citigroup, 18 percent of Bank of America, 19 percent of JPMorgan Chase, and 19 percent of Wells Fargo.” This gives them immense leverage. Moreover, the fact that the last three names above just happen to be the first, third, and fourth largest wealth-management firms in the United States (with $1.35 trillion, $774 billion, and $604 billion in assets under management, respectively) amplifies their power to dominate shareholder decisions exponentially.
2. Jordan McGillis sees creative accounting and fiscal fabrication from the Biden Administration when it comes to analyzing the economic cost of green ideas. From the piece:
Noah Kaufman, recently hired as senior economist for the Council of Economic Advisors (CEA), leads a new school of thinking on carbon pricing. Kaufman and a team of co-authors presented the case last year in the journal Nature that the Nordhausian social cost of carbon framework has outlived its usefulness. “SCC estimates will continue to improve,” they argue, “but methodological advancements are unlikely to narrow the range of SCC estimates much. After all, large uncertainties come from parameters that are inherently uncertain, such as the appropriate discount rates, risk aversion levels, issues around inequality and attempts to assign monetary values to non-economic climate damages.”
Rather than estimating harm from climate change and using the dollar-translated figure as a basis for cost-benefit analysis or a carbon tax, Kaufman suggests that we assume a goal of net-zero emissions and regulate from there with what he calls a near-term-to-net-zero carbon price. This approach, right or wrong, breaks distinctly with the methodology that garnered Nordhaus Nobel recognition and won the support of so many right-of-center thinkers.
The flaw here is obvious: If we don’t have trustworthy estimates of climate damages, as Kaufman alleges in Nature, how do we know zeroing out carbon emissions is a cost-efficient endeavor? The Nordhaus approach, inconveniently for Biden and his new CEA hire, finds that the policies required to achieve a goal like Biden’s for 2050 would cause more harm than they would alleviate through emissions reductions.
3. Of . . . interest: Steve Hanke knocks the stuffing out of Turkey strongman Erdogan’s ’s thrill for Islam’s theological theory of finance: From the beginning of the article:
Turkey’s President Tayyip Recep Erdogan has done it again. Late last Friday, he ousted the governor of the Central Bank of Turkey, Naci Agbal, replacing him with Islamist Şahap Kavcıoglu. Agbal is the third governor who has been shown the door in the last two years. Just what was Governor Agbal’s sin? To stabilize the Turkish lira, he cautiously raised Turkey’s policy rate by 875 basis points to its present rate of 19 percent during his short tenure of just over three months. Even with these increases, the real, inflation-adjusted interest rate is in deep negative territory (approximately -10 percent).
To understand the revolving door that faces Turkey’s central bank governors, we must understand what makes President Erdogan tick. And to do that, we have to understand Islamic finance, which is replete with theories about why interest rates should be avoided. Erdogan has made it clear that he embraces Islamic finance. Indeed, as he once clearly put it, interest rates are the “mother of all evil.” President Erdogan’s economic ideas are fundamentally rooted in charismatic, medieval texts that are far removed from the real world of today, or even yesterday.
Not surprisingly, on the first hours of trading since Governor Naci Agbal was axed, the lira plunged by 17 percent against the greenback, coming close to its all-time low of 8.52 TRY/USD. Lira instability and weakness and associated elevated inflation are nothing new for Turkey. Indeed, inflation has ravaged Turkey for decades. The average annual inflation rates for the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s were 22.4 percent, 49.6 percent, 76.7 percent, and 22.3 percent, respectively. Those horrendous numbers mask periodic lira routs. In 1994, 2000–01, and most recently since 2018, the lira has been torn to shreds.
Federal agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) have long varied in their focus and priorities, depending on their current leadership and the ideological composition of their members. In the Biden era, however, we may be seeing the dawn of a new age in the federal regulatory apparatus: one in which regulatory agencies, originally created and given their responsibilities by Congress, will begin implementing policies that are directly opposed to their statutory missions.
The SEC, as its website will inform you, has a multipart mission. It exists “to protect investors; maintain fair, orderly, and efficient markets; and facilitate capital formation.” That mission has guided the commission since the 1930s, when it was founded in the aftermath of the market meltdown that had ushered in the Great Depression. While not without controversy, the creation of a new finance regulator was meant to do something specific: protect investors and allow markets to work. In the new age of environment, social, and governance (ESG) theory, those goals might come to rank second — if they are considered at all.
During a speech at the Center for American Progress last week, SEC acting chair Allison Herren Lee said that “human capital, human rights, and climate change” are “fundamental to our markets,” and that the demand for information about those topics “is not being met by the current voluntary framework.” She assured her audience that “our efforts at the SEC should and will stay firmly rooted in our mission,” but that statement was not at all consistent with the rest of her remarks.
Lee clearly has plans that exceed the agency’s traditional parameters, announcing that “the perceived barrier between social value and market value is breaking down.” The COVID-19 pandemic, racial-justice protests, and climate change all became linked in the last year, as “the issues dominating our national conversation were the same as those dominating decision-making in the boardroom.”
And lest anyone think this is a technocratic verdict that will affect only nerdy readers of corporate 10-K statements, MarketWatch also summarized the acting chair’s remarks on further mission creep, warning that her proposed disclosure rules would require further disclosure of political spending as well.
If you don’t know that the Smiths were the greatest pop band of the 1980s — in fact, of the last half-century — then what do you know? American media underrated the British group during its brief artistic ferment (1984–87), which is the setting of the beguiling new movie Shoplifters of the World. Four Colorado teens react to MTV’s announcement in the summer of ’87 of the Smiths’ breakup by acting upon the fears and longings that the band’s records had expressed. Cleo (Helena Howard), Dean (Ellar Coltrane), Sheila (Elena Kampouris), and Billy (Nick Krause) embark on a blowout the day before Patrick (James Bloor) enlists in “Reagan’s army.”
This is an alternative-rock version of American Graffiti. Director Stephen Kijak and co-screenwriter Lorianne Hall tell the story using a similarly expansive playlist of greatest hits — only this movie isn’t a nostalgia trip, because Smiths songs express how the characters live. Their view of the world, their political and romantic desires, confirm everything that the Smiths (ingenious composer-guitarist Johnny Marr, drummer Mike Joyce, bassist Andy Rourke, and the incomparable lead singer–lyricist Morrissey) were making music about an ocean away in Manchester. Restless, precocious biracial Cleo paraphrases: “Denver, so much to answer for.”
The music’s dramatic resonances are, moment to moment, breathtaking. Note the driving escapade where a group of cyclists (a motif from the music video for “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before”) surround Cleo’s car and the sound of their spinning bike wheels blends with the ringing guitar intro for “William, It Was Really Nothing,” romantic resignation in 2:11 shimmering minutes. Romantic rebellion inspires Dean, a Morrissey lookalike and wannabe who works in a small music store, to invade the hard-rock radio station KISS-FM and, at gunpoint, force disc jockey Full Metal Mickey (Joe Manganiello) to play a Smiths marathon.
2. Kyle Smith is excited about the new Hepburn documentary, about Audrey (not Katherine!). From the review:
She was playing an unimportant role in an unimportant film in Paris when Colette, the author of the novel Gigi, spotted her at a hotel. Would Audrey like to go to Broadway to play the title part in the stage version of the story? She would. (This was a straight play; the musical of the same name had not yet been written.) Just six years after she had barely survived a wartime winter eating tulip bulbs, she was a star. After the play closed, William Wyler hired her to star in Roman Holiday, which won her an Oscar at 24, and the screen test that convinced him, as shown in the documentary, is absolutely enchanting. Her “movie debut” was actually her eighth appearance on screen.
Movie stars at mid century were very different from actors today: Instead of obsessively trying new looks, new accents, and new personalities in each role, they stuck to what they did best, working diligently to make their off-screen personas live up to the magic they created on-screen. As she was about to start filming Sabrina in 1953, Hepburn made an appointment with Hubert de Givenchy, herself choosing the designer whose dresses would come to be central to her singular appeal. The couturier was annoyed: He had thought he was meeting Katharine Hepburn.
The Hepburn-Givenchy partnership across seven films was, like Audrey herself, beyond compare, carrying on through Love in the Afternoon, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Charade, and How to Steal a Million. No other combination of lady and dresses was ever as beguiling. “There’s a purity about his clothes, but always with a sense of humor,” Hepburn is heard saying in Audrey, which was directed by Helena Coan. “Hubert would do something terribly simple but there’ll be just that one little bow or little rose, something that will give it . . . a little fun.” As a family friend remarks in the film, “When an artist meets another artist, the best things come out.” Givenchy even designed Hepburn’s low-key 1969 wedding dress, a piece so unassuming it could have been sold at the Gap.
Ohio State University recently announced it plans to hire 50 faculty members focused on addressing social equity and racial disparities.
The news comes as an economics professor and higher education watchdog calculated that the public university currently employs 150 diversity officials at a cost of $12 million annually.
In a 2021 state of the university address, President Kristina Johnson stated last month that she was encouraged by the Task Force on Racism and Racial Inequities to hire 150 new faculty within a new initiative called RAISE, which stands for race, inclusion and social equity.
“At least 50 of our RAISE faculty will be scientists, artists and scholars whose work addresses social equity and racial disparities in fields such as health care, education, justice and public safety, resources and the environment, the arts and creative expression, economic opportunity and leadership — building on what is already world-class scholarship across our colleges,” Johnson stated.
She added that the initiative would include a goal of hiring 100 underrepresented and Black, Indigenous, and people of color employees, also known as BIPOC, in all fields of scholarship, suggesting some sort of affirmative action plan.
2. At California Policy Center, Ed Ring argues that Gavin Newsom is trying to hide from his recall behind the pandemic. From the article:
In his 2021 State of the State Address, Governor Newsom’s focus, to the exclusion of nearly everything else, was to defend his response to the COVID-19 pandemic. A quick review of the 3,634 word transcript indicates only 20 percent of his remarks had to do with anything else. It’s understandable that Newsom would focus on the pandemic. Regardless of how it might have been handled better, it is a historic disaster. But Newsom’s failures as a governor, and by extension the failures of California’s ruling progressives, preceded the pandemic and cannot be overlooked because of it.
Newsom and his fellow progressives are doing everything they can to destroy California. The inherent vitality that Newsom boasts about is in spite of him and his party, not because of it. Non-pandemic topics that Newsom spoke about, briefly, included infrastructure, economic policy, education, housing, homeless, and forestry. These are indeed the big issues, and on every one of them Newsom and his party are doing everything wrong.
Here are some of the ways Newsom — or the governor who replaces him — could earn some credibility and do some good.
With respect to infrastructure, Newsom can apologize to residents of the San Joaquin Valley for the “bullet train” fiasco, and cancel the project. He can then pledge to do everything in his power to create useful jobs down there with infrastructure projects that matter: Repair the Friant-Kern Canal. Resurface and add lanes to Highway 99 and Interstate 5. Build the Temperance Flat Reservoir.
3. At Gatestone Institute, Lawrence Franklin reports on Red China’s hostility to the U.S.A. From the article:
China has been waging an asymmetric war against the U.S. for years. One frequent weapon against used by China against U.S. interests is the cyber attack. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) possesses a sophisticated and predatory cyber infrastructure consisting of several distinct sections of the General Staff. One attack orchestrated by China on the U.S. involved hacking into terminals which contained digital personnel records of millions U.S. federal employees. China’s hacking operations, however, are usually not disruptive, as opposed to Russian, Iranian and North Korean attacks. The clear objective of Chinese cyber assaults has been the theft of intellectual property and trade secrets. Mike Rogers former Director of the U.S. National Security Agency, has delineated China’s thieving attacks to have been collection missions covering most of the key sectors of the U.S. economy.
Several PLA officers as early as 2014 boasted in a military doctrine periodical that China will win the “Cyber Network War” against the U.S. The scope of China’s cyber offensive against America is massive, frequent, and comprehensive, covering the entire spectrum of critical technologies. China acknowledges the existence of a PLA cyber warfare unit, entitled “The Science of Military Strategy.” One source suggests that this unit may employ as many as 100,000 personnel.
China, as early as 2006, carried out laser attacks against U.S. imaging satellites during passes over China. The Chinese military has lasered U.S. naval personnel on ships in Chinese-claimed waters in the South China Sea. These aggressions by China also have occurred when U.S. assets were operating near the Japanese-owned but Chinese-claimed Senkaku Islands (called “Diaoyu Islands” by China).
One particularly aggressive and obvious indicator of Chinese hostile military intent occurred in the East African country of Djibouti, where both the U.S. and China have military facilities. After a U.S. C-130 transport took off from Camp Lemonier in early June 2018, both American pilots sustained injuries from a laser originating in the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Support Base at the Port of Doraleh. The Chinese attack prompted the Federal Aviation Administration to issue an official “Notice to Airmen” warning all pilots in the region. These assaults are occurring despite the fact that China is a signatory of the 1995 Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons. One 2013 PLA publication laid out China’s plans to deploy space-based laser weapons systems. China claims that it has developed four different military and portable lasers,. One of the hand-held models is designed to be employed against, presumably, U.S. drones.
The most blatant example of China’s hostility toward the United States is the dangerous, irresponsible and aggressive actions of Chinese naval and air assets in and above the South and East China Seas. There has been a pattern of such incidents dating back to at least 2001, when a Chinese fighter jet and a U.S. surveillance aircraft collided over the East China Sea, killing one of the Chinese pilots. One incident occurred in August 2014, when a Chinese fighter jet intercepted an U.S. P8 surveillance aircraft off southeastern China’s coast. The Chinese jet performed a complete rollover of the U.S. aircraft, coming within 20 feet of the P8. Another close encounter occurred in May 2017, when two Chinese SU-30 fighter jets approached dangerously near an U.S. WC-130 surveillance aircraft.
4. Madeleine Kearns goes off campus, to The Spectator, to share the straight dope on America’s doobious relationship with cannabis. From the article:
Few seem to grasp the greediness of the cannabis industry. ‘We are Big Marijuana,’ announced Jamen Shively, a tech entrepreneur, after Washington State’s legalization of recreational marijuana in 2013. ‘We are moving forward with plans to build a national and eventually international network of cannabis businesses. We are going to mint more millionaires than Microsoft.’ In the United States alone, the industry is valued at $13.6 billion. Democrats are scrambling into bed with big business to shaft the very people they nominally represent. Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York has just announced the allocation of a $100 million cannabis ‘social equity fund’ to ‘address and correct decades of institutional wrongs to build back better than ever before’. Cuomo heralds the ‘economic benefits’ of his Big Dope initiative and the ‘opportunity to generate much-needed revenue’. But opportunity for whom, exactly?
Neill Franklin, a cannabis reformer and law enforcement vet, is the executive director of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership. He tells me he’s ‘greatly concerned’ about Big Dope putting profits before the economic interests of people of color as the weed business goes ‘from the back room to the boardroom’. He says the industry has moved from ‘one where people of color were making the money, although illegal, selling it on street corners and neighborhoods and communities’, into the hands of Wall Street and ‘corporate America’.
I ask Franklin if he’s concerned about the consumers, given that cannabis is a cheap, down-market drug and almost certainly a health hazard. Surprisingly, he says he is ‘not really concerned about that’, since the way to get minority communities back on their feet and making good choices is with education, family services, opportunities for employment and social mobility.
But shouldn’t all that education and all those great community changes happen before we start setting up marijuana shops on street corners? ‘You have to do it simultaneously,’ he replies. ‘You have to build the plane as you’re flying. You know, you have to build the boat as you’re sailing it.’
5. At Modern Age, Scott Yenor looks into feminism and finds an aspiration for conquer and control. From the essay:
More broadly, feminism presents itself as, and indeed is, a late stage in the development of modern aspiration to conquer and control nature. The old view was that women differed from men in their bodies and in closely associated psychological characteristics. Differences in sex gave rise to differences in the way societies envisioned man and woman or, as we say today, gender differences. The feminist view was that the human body and mind were “standing reserve” that could be made and remade through the manipulations of a technological civilization, laws, or different feminist socialization. As Beauvoir, following her existentialist forbearers, put it, there is no essence preceding existence.
Today’s feminist epigones serve these larger goals without articulating them or, perhaps, without knowing them. Most scholars of a philosophic bent, even especially those followers of Leo Strauss who discovered that modern thinking itself came in waves of increasing radicalism, subjected feminism to few critiques as the radicals announced their ambitions. These scholars can be excused by the fact that they were aiming, at that time, to grasp the narrative history of political philosophy itself, even as it was working itself out in practice beneath their noses. Even those attuned to the significance of other aspects of the sexual revolution (like the revolution in gay rights) failed to recognize the significance of the feminist revolution.
The heyday of feminist thinking was the 1960s to early 1970s, when the “big think” books of Friedan, Millett, Firestone, Phyllis Chesler, and Germaine Greer pointed to new avenues of scholarship and activism. The National Organization of Women (NOW) was established in 1966, and rallies on behalf of women’s liberation peppered the country at this time.
In response to this Women’s Movement, the most sophisticated critics, it seems, thought natural limits and society’s conventions would contain its effects: men would always be men, women would always be women, and thus feminism could only accomplish so much before it subsided. This early intellectual confrontation proved inadequate to the purpose, though its shortcomings are quite interesting and revealing. Much has yielded to feminism’s impetus. Feminists have been more successful in selling a new idea of womanly honor than their critics thought possible, but not without quietly reinforcing sex differences in unpredicted ways.
6. The Divine Comedy turns 700. At The New Criterion, Daniel Epstein reflects on Dante’s eternal poem. From the essay:
It seems that Dante Alighieri (1265–1321) has always been in some kind of trouble. The Commedia is the work of an iconoclast. The poet so influenced Christian thought that it is hard for most of us to imagine the orthodoxy that first judged him. Dante was in serious straits during the years he was writing his masterpiece. And while the circumstances of his exile from his beloved Florence are murky, the man was likely the type who could not help but make trouble. He was haughty and outspoken, and he did not suffer fools gladly. His promising political career crashed in 1302 when he was accused of barratry and bribery. The Florentine government confiscated his property and forced him into exile.
Considering the fact that the Inferno was available in 1314, it is a wonder Dante was not executed in his lifetime, as his book attacked both the papacy and various governments of Bologna, Florence, and Genoa. The Dominican cleric Guido Vernani called Dante a “vessel of the Devil” in 1329. The industry of his sons Jacopo and Pietro in cranking out apologetic commentary on their father’s work was inspired by the fear that the church would condemn him as a heretic and excommunicate him, thereby causing them to lose their patrimony.
As it turned out, Dante had protected his poem and his soul by creating not only the Commedia but the medium that delivered its message. He wrote the first great Italian epic in Italian — instead of the conventional Latin. So not only clerics, doctors, and lawyers might know it, but also merchants, blacksmiths, and cobblers. And he invented the mesmerizing terza rima rhyme scheme, (A-B-A; B-C-B; C-D-C) that makes the verses easy to memorize. While the authorities had banned Dante’s treatise De Monarchia for its attack on papal authority, the Commedia was a different creature. It was a poem, a song, not a polemic. Dante received special dispensation as a poet. The poem so quickly pervaded the culture that there was not much anyone could do about it. You can ban a book, but it is impossible to suppress a song.
Certain qualities that first made the Commedia a sensation, such as its music, have made its appeal elusive to readers who know the verses only in English. The work is not a political or theological treatise, although Dante’s knowledge of European history and thought is thorough. In Dante’s own words, the subject of his poem is “the state of souls after death, and God’s justice as it manifests itself in the condition of souls after death.” If these strike you as profound mysteries, they will seem just as mysterious after you have studied the poem. Nevertheless, you will learn a great deal from it if you read the work in its entirety. That is unlikely to happen unless you appreciate it as poetry, rather than as a sermon or a fever dream.
7. John Steele Gordon, at City Journal, offers a history lesson and calls for the abolishment of the corporate tax. From the analysis:
The original income-tax section of the tariff bill of 1913 ran a mere 13 pages. By 1942, the Revenue Act ran 208 pages, or 16 times as long. And of those 208 pages, 162 — fully 78 percent of the text — dealt with closing or regulating the loopholes found in earlier revenue acts.
This expansion has continued ever since. Between 2001 and 2010, the tax code was amended no fewer than 4,130 times. Some amendments closed new loopholes, but others proved, in effect, to be new loopholes themselves. Many gave special treatment to just a few individuals or corporations. Thousands of lobbyists in Washington work solely on tax policy. In other words, the tax code’s byzantine complexity helps not only the rich and influential but also the members of Congress themselves, who can trade favorable tax treatment for campaign contributions. After all, if the best place to hide a book is in a library, the best place to hide a tax fiddle is in a tax code consisting of 74,000 pages of numbing prose.
Who pays the corporate income tax? Not the corporations — they’re just pieces of paper. The corporation writes the check, yes, but only people can actually pay taxes. As originally intended, the stockholders pay part of it because the tax makes the corporations less profitable, so their stock prices (and possibly dividends) are lower. But the workers also pay, receiving lower wages than they otherwise would, while customers pay higher prices. The exact ratio varies with each corporation’s competitive situation, but the Adam Smith Institute’s Ben Southwood calculates that, on average, workers pay 57.6 percent of the corporate income tax through lower wages. So a tax that began under William Howard Taft to assess the incomes of the rich mostly hits the average person.
8. At Commentary, Jonathan Marks watches ideology take aim at mathematics. From the article:
Andrea Bertozzi is a distinguished mathematician. A professor of mathematics at UCLA and the author or co-author of over 250 publications, Bertozzi has been elected to both the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences.
She is also now something of a lightning rod, not because of her work on higher-order partial differential equations but because of her work on predictive policing. Bertozzi’s research seeks to “determine where crime is likely to occur in the near future.” Whether predictive policing helps to allocate scarce policing resources better, and whether the data about crime on which any mathematical model must rely reflects racial bias, is a matter of controversy. Like other controversies among academics, this one has been joined in peer-reviewed journals. But even this controversy does not explain the trouble with Bertozzi. The trouble with Bertozzi, her critics allege, is that she is a collaborator. With the cops.
Bertozzi was to deliver the 2021 Noether lecture, jointly sponsored by the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) and the American Mathematical Society (AMS) to honor “women who have made fundamental and sustained contributions to the mathematical sciences.” Last June, Bertozzi, AWM and AMS agreed to cancel her lecture in light of protests surrounding George Floyd’s death the previous month. AWM apologized for its insensitivity in announcing Bertozzi’s selection during the protests and recognized that it had “ongoing work to do in order to be an organization that fights for social justice.” AWM’s inbox, it seems, had filled up “with well-crafted commentary on the pain that has been caused by algorithmic policing, the insensitivity of the AWM’s timing, and questioning the choice of speaker.”
A few days after AWM’s apology, mathematicians who objected to Bertozzi wrote a public letter that explained their objections and called for a “boycott” on “collaboration with the police.” Even if predictive policing were free of controversy, even if peer-reviewed research were to demonstrate its effectiveness and freedom from bias, “the structural racism and brutality in US policing” compelled these academics to profess that they “do not believe that mathematicians should be collaborating with police departments in this manner.”
To our Brothers and Sisters in Abraham, colleagues and friends (the beloved Kawiors, with Uncle Shraga so kindly sponsoring The Victor Davis Hanson Podcast), may there be a Blessed Passover for you and yours, one that even inspires your theological kid siblings. And may those who seek palms this Sunday find them in churches open and inviting and sacred and full of God’s children as Holy Week commences.
Talk about multi-tasking: We’re fighting the Cancel Cultural Totalitarians (the ideological forensics reveals the fingerprints of Marx, Stalin, and Mao are everywhere!) while at the same time there is a full-court legal effort to cancel National Review by that infamous Nobel Peace Prize Not-Winner, Michael Mann.
And about that, there is good news: Today we learned that a D.C. Superior Court judge granted National Review “summary judgment” in this case (similar motions for other defendants — Mark Steyn, CEI, Rand Simberg — are still pending). Truth be told, that’s better than good, it is terrific news. Especially for the First Amendment.
But this Mann Affair — a thing the climate scientist cast as a desire to crush National Review — is decidedly not over. Not by a long shot. Miles to go, as the poet wrote. Our bloodied adversary will surely appeal this ruling (one can only wonder what Sugar Daddy is bankrolling his massive legal costs) and force us to respond in kind. And spend in kind.
Yes, we celebrate today’s victory, hard-fought, but with a downside that carries on: Added to the choke-a-horse existing legal bills coming in (yep, insurance pays for a lot, including Mark Steyn’s legal fees, but then NR must pay for an astonishing amount out of pocket), we anticipate much more to come. Our pleas to you for help, in this very matter, remain, sad to say.
The lawsuit aside, the costs of engaging in conservative opinion journalism — that is the bone-marrow essence of National Review’s 65 years of athwart-standing — is costly, relentless, and dependent. Yes, dependent — on those who see NR as a cause, a necessary one, a mutual one, a thing critical for defending the principles we (that “we” includes you) share and cherish, so much so that we are determined to pass them on to the next generation.
Our reality: The red ink is so plentiful and persistent that we must stand on our tippy toes, chin up (it may be the only reason Your Humble Correspondent appreciates his ample honker).
Also our reality: You are there to help.
Our ongoing webathon — which commenced on March 8th (it will run till the 29th) — has seen contributions in all shapes and sizes from (momma mia!) over 2,000 readers as we seek to raise $350,000 to fight these rat-****** blankety blanks who utterly despise freedom and tradition and these United States, and who cloak themselves in moral superiority for one purpose — to control you, conventional plebian, to exert power of you, unwoke neanderthal, to make you genuflect, horrid hoi polloinick.
Look at that stamp — unthinkable it was that the American press would one day become foes of free speech and bald-faced liars about their chosen field’s commitment to truth, to who, what, when, where, why, how. Well, Mr. Pulitzer, that one day is upon us. At this time of upheaval and cowardice permeating so many institutions (the academy, tech, media, major corporations) it becomes increasingly clear to thousands, daily, that National Review is the one place that is reliable — for truth, for sanity, for sound conservative judgment.
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And we offer a special thanks to those whose past generosity has kept us in this important legal fight, whose ruling today we cheer as we prepare for its next battle, on behalf of our First Amendment.
Now let us get on with the Jolt. But first . . .
Point of Personal Privilege One: The new Capital Record podcast is worth your attention and listening. David Bahnsen’s interview this week with longtime NR pal Fr. Robert Sirico, founder of the quite essential Acton Institute, is wonderful, and recommended. Catch it here.
Point of Personal Privilege Two: Speaking of longtime NR pals, it would be hard to find one more longtime-ier, and pals-ier, than Neal B. Freeman (he may have written his first article for NR sometime around 1963, was Firing Line’s first producer, ran Bill Buckley’s 1965 mayoral campaign . . .). Neal has written a new book, appropriately in time for Easter, titled Walk with Me: An Invitation to Faith, now available at Amazon. We most heartily encourage you to obtain a copy.
One of its more interesting chapters was published recently in the magazine — In the Kitchen with Hitchens. Read it to get a sense of what Neal is up to in a book that is best described as a spiritual memoir. This very inviting offer of companionship on a quest for the Divine proved, for Neal, a thing of fits and starts and dry spells — and of determination. Here’s is how he summed up his journey, and purpose:
When you’re walking toward God, there are no easy steps. Happily, the last step is short, clearly demarked and, by that point in your journey, attained with little effort. We all know how warm and welcoming it feels to plant a road-worn shoe on a familiar front porch.
And from hard-won, lab-tested experience we know that the steps along the way are many and tentative, some of them misdirected, some of them doubling back on each other. We know the general direction in which we should be headed, but the exact route is beyond our ken and known only to Him. But even the most debauched among us can put one foot in front of the other.
There is one step that is different from all the others. By taking it, we announce our willingness to leave behind our old selves. We agree to open the door to the certain perils and uncertain rewards of a new life. By taking that first step, we commit ourselves to completing our journey of faith, or to die trying.
The purpose of this book is to invite you to take that first step. Please, walk with me.
1. The D.C. Superior Court finally hands NR an important ruling against Michael Mann. But this travesty is far from over. From the editorial:
The First Amendment exists to ensure that imperious and thin-skinned figures such as Mann are unable merely to declare what is true and what is false and silence anyone who dares to disagree. And yet, until now, our repeated appeals to its authority were left hanging.
As Justice Alito observed in his dissent from the Supreme Court’s denial of certiorari, “a journalist who prevails after trial in a defamation case will still have been required to shoulder all the burdens of difficult litigation and may be faced with hefty attorney’s fees,” which, after a while, would “deter the uninhibited expression of views that would contribute to healthy public debate.”
Having spent so much in our defense, we know exactly what Alito means.
If today is good news, it would have been much better if Mann’s suit had been dismissed in its entirety. Instead, Mann’s meritless and vindictive pursuit of Mark Steyn and the Competitive Enterprise Institute continues (Steyn quoted a CEI critique of Mann in his post). Friends of the First Amendment, whether right, left, or center, should rally to the defense of Steyn and CEI.
As for NR, this saga is far from over for us. Mann may well appeal today’s ruling. Also, Mark Steyn’s legal fees have always been covered by our legal insurance, and still are. Finally, we have the presumptive right for Mann to pay our legal fees for some of the case, an option that, as it happens, would require even more expenditures in the short term.
2. Nancy Pelosi and Co. are angling to swipe the Iowa Second from Republican winner Mariannette Miller-Meeks. Worth condemning, ya think?! From the editorial:
Hart could then have gone to court in Iowa, but rather than use the proper legal channels, she decided to wait two months and go instead to the Democratic majority in the House to overrule the recount. She has been represented in this effort by Marc Elias, the Democratic Party’s chief election lawyer, who is essentially asking his own clients to rule in his current client’s favor. The Des Moines Register called in December for Hart to drop her challenge and concede once she refused to subject her challenges to the scrutiny of the Iowa courts.
This should all have ended four months ago, when Hart declined to present her case in court. Instead, taking a page from Donald Trump’s playbook, Hart and Elias want Congress to substitute its own political judgment for the rule of law. The House has the power to judge the election of its members, but Miller-Meeks’s lawyers argued that the House has traditionally required challengers contesting the seating of members to first go through their state’s legal process. Hart didn’t.
Moreover, as Miller-Meeks notes, Hart’s complaint about the recount using differing standards for recounting ballots in different counties is largely the result of Hart’s own Al Gore-esque decision to consent to machine recounts in Republican-run parts of the state while insisting on hand recounts in Democrat-run areas.
Two months after Miller-Meeks was sworn in, Democrats on the House Administration Committee cast a 6-3 party-line vote to overrule her objections to the inquiry. Asked if she could foresee the Democrats handing the seat to Hart, Nancy Pelosi kept her options open: “I respect the work of the committee. . . . We’ll see where that takes us. There could be a scenario to that extent.”
3. This California “ethnic studies” curriculum plan is a horror show and needs to be kyboshed. From the editorial:
The first draft of the curriculum was so far outside the boundaries of the Overton window in California that it was rejected out of hand by the Board of Education, the governor, and even by the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times, who ridiculed it as an “impenetrable mélange of academic jargon and politically correct pronouncements.” One of its lesson plans included a list of 154 influential people of color but omitted to mention Martin Luther King Jr., Thurgood Marshall, or even the late congressman John Lewis. Pol Pot, however, the architect of the Cambodian genocide, did make an appearance, alongside other violent revolutionaries.
Antisemitism has also plagued the development of the model curriculum from the start. An early draft listed the anti-Semitic BDS campaign alongside Black Lives Matter and #MeToo as an example of an historic American social movement and also referred to the 1948 Israeli War of Independence only as the “Nakba,” an Arabic word meaning “catastrophe.” Even in the final version of the curriculum, Jews have been relegated to an appendix. Their outsized contribution to American life does not warrant a place in the core content of the course in the eyes of the curriculum’s authors.
4. The only thing the COVID bill is going to stimulate is an addiction for big government. From the editorial:
What is really happening is that progressives are building a — federally funded, over-budget — castle in the air. If Biden wants to spend even larger sums on infrastructure in future legislation, he will not have the helpful context of his first weeks in office and a continuing pandemic. And even in this bill, they were unable to secure an increase in the minimum wage, losing the votes of eight Senate Democrats and all the Republicans. (They can’t blame the filibuster for that.) Its biggest-ticket items, money for state and local governments and checks to households, will do little to expand the federal government on a permanent basis.
Meanwhile, polls continue to suggest that most Americans do not believe the federal government should grow larger and do not trust its competence. These are generalities, of course, and have in the past been compatible with public support for specific government interventions. But there is not much evidence the public is part of any grand “realignment.”
It may well turn out that voters will feel well-disposed toward the ruling Democrats over the next two years as we emerge from COVID-19. The Democrats are making a dubious bet, though, if they believe voters will be more inclined to credit them for any happy conditions because of this legislation. CNN found 61 percent support for it, yes. But CNN found 54 percent support for President Obama’s stimulus in February 2009. The Democrats still lost the House in the next election.
5. President Joe forgets where Senator Joe stood (correctly) on the filibuster. From the editorial:
Alas, Biden is not alone in his overnight conversion. Unlike Mitch McConnell and his Republican colleagues, who resisted intense anti-filibuster pressure from President Trump, the Democratic Party has folded, almost to a man, within seven weeks. In 2017, 31 of the 48 senators who caucus with the Democrats — including figures such as Kamala Harris, Ed Markey, Mazie Hirono, and Cory Booker — signed a bipartisan letter affirming their opposition to “any effort to curtail the existing rights and prerogatives of Senators to engage in full, robust, and extended debate.” Introducing the letter, which ultimately received more than 60 signatures, its co-author Senator Collins cast it as a defense of “an important tradition of the Senate that recognizes the rights of the minority.” Perhaps she should have appended a few extra words: “even if that minority is Republican.”
Principle aside, the timing of Biden’s change is strategically dubious. The Senate is currently split 50-50 been the parties, with the vice president breaking any ties. The House is as closely divided as it has been in decades. Already, Democrats are having trouble getting to 50 votes — a problem that is only likely to grow as the honeymoon phase wanes. It would take just a single death or retirement within the Democratic caucus to render the move against the filibuster either perilous or moot.
And it is the Democratic Party, not the Republican Party, that has most recently benefited from the safeguards accorded to the minority. In 2017, despite having an outright Senate majority and a long list of priorities, Mitch McConnell instinctively understood that the pendulum can swing fast and that the best legislative rules take stock of that fact. Is Chuck Schumer unable to resist as did McConnell?
6. We argue that the Army should not backtrack on it’s gender-neutral fitness test. From the editorial:
Recent reporting by Task & Purpose, a military-news outfit, reveals that Army brass is weighing whether to backtrack on the new gender-neutral Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) to instead include different evaluation metrics for men and women after early results indicated that as many as 65 percent of female soldiers were failing the test versus only 10 percent of men.
The new test, a replacement for the decades-old Army Physical Fitness Test and widely trumpeted as both gender-neutral and a better match for the physical demands of modern combat, comprises six events: a deadlift, a standing power throw (throwing a 10-pound medicine ball backwards over your head), push-ups, a drag-and-carry shuttle run, leg tucks (hanging from a pull-up bar and raising your legs to your chest), and a two-mile run. The test may not be perfect, but its stated purpose was to create a new meritocratic test for the new gender-neutral Army.
Those pushing for a fully gender-integrated military have long deployed conveniently shifting arguments to suit their purposes: “The standard will be the same for both men and women,” they told us when pushing for women in the combat arms. Indeed, as secretary of defense Ash Carter promised in 2015, “as long as they qualify and meet the standards,” women could serve in Army and Marine Corps infantry units, in the special forces, and in any other uniformed capacity.
An Uber-Smattering of Articles Wise and Essays Intelligent, Fitted Out with Generous Excerpts
1. Rich Lowry predicts Chuck Schumer and the filibuster-busters will regret any such decision. From the piece:
If the rules around the filibuster have changed over time, the basic practice dates from the beginning of the Senate. The tactic got its name in the mid-19th century and has remained part of the identity of the Senate ever since.
There is now an effort to brand the filibuster as inherently an instrument of hatred and repression. The filibusters of civil-rights legislation in the mid-20th century are justly notorious, but the tactic has often been used to progressive ends, most recently thwarting as much of Trump’s legislative agenda as possible.
Back in 2017, more than 30 Senate Democrats, including Kamala Harris, signed a letter urging that the tactic be preserved. Of course, Biden himself has long favored it. As late as last year, he was saying that ending the filibuster would be “a very dangerous move.”
Democrats have changed their tune now, obviously, because they control the Senate. But the timing still isn’t propitious for them. It’s not as though the Democrats have a robust majority. They have the slightest advantage, thanks to Harris, in a 50-50 Senate. An unexpected retirement or illness could put their control in jeopardy, and it’s hardly a guarantee they will hold the majority after 2022.
2. Jack Butler has the back of Independence Day, of late toyed with by our Distant-Pissant-Barbecue-Celebrating POTUS. From the piece:
The most egregious part of all this is the seeming attempt by the president to use the somewhat-suspect aegis of “public health” to encroach upon the fundamentally American spirit of liberty, to mix up positive liberty (goods granted by the state) and negative liberty (freedom inherent in all of us) in such a way as to render them difficult to distinguish.
It actually reminds me a bit of the United Kingdom’s National Health Service. Over the course of the pandemic, the U.K.’s government-run health-care system has taken on an even more religious character for many citizens there than it had before (and that’s saying something; recall its prominent and worshipful place in the 2012 Olympic opening ceremonies). It just so happens that the NHS was founded on July 5, a date that this year Britons wereurged to celebrate as a kind of holiday.
Biden’s attempted co-opting of our national holiday celebrating freedom from government bears an eerie resemblance to this culture of state worship across the pond. But the peril of identifying freedom as something the government gives you is forgetting that it can just as easily take things away.
3. The political goal of lefties and progressives, says Mario Loyola, is to make America into a one-party state. And guess what — it ain’t your party. From the essay:
The great innovator in this new form of democratic centralism was of course Barack Obama. His transgender-bathroom and sexual-harassment orders under Title IX used federal education programs to impose progressive social priorities on state and local schools and universities by lawlessly threatening to cut off unspecified education funding if they didn’t comply. Using informal agency “guidance” to skirt the Administrative Procedure Act’s parameters for agency action, the Title IX orders were merely a trial balloon.
The tactic of using informal guidance to impose major national policies on Americans through the instrumentalities of state and local government — who have to comply or else risk penalties that would end the career of almost any politician — is the new frontier in the progressives’ democratic centralism. It is why President Biden’s quiet rescinding of Trump-era executive orders meant to limit the use of guidance documents was perhaps the most impactful of all the new president’s actions so far — and we have only seen the beginning of what progressive presidents will do with this newfound power.
The progressives’ relentless drive to loosen election-integrity laws, pack the courts, eliminate the Electoral College, and do away with the filibuster, among other priorities, all have a common theme. Each of them are perfectly representative of “democratic centralism,” in the same sense that China’s Communists use the term.
And notice something else: The progressives’ expansion and centralization of government power never takes a step back, even when they lose an election. Why is that? For the same reason that the Framers put so many limits on government power in the first place: because men are not angels and cannot be expected to limit the powers of their own offices. Irrespective of his party, anyone who has these powers will use them and will by their use entrench them.
4. Dan McLaughlin is all over the Harvard prof who wants deny the voting franchise to those in the Party of Lincoln. Take this seriously, he says. From the beginning of the piece:
Remember that brief moment between November and January when Democrats and their voices in the media told us that asking legislators to overturn elections and attacking the legitimacy of the results of elections was a bad thing? Well, Democrats’ old tricks of rejecting outcomes, attacking legitimacy, arguing that it is rigged when their side loses, and spinning conspiracy theories are never far from hand. The latest example comes from Democrat Rita Hart’s ongoing effort to get House Democrats to reverse the election of Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks by the people of Iowa’s second district to represent them in the House.
It is concerning enough that Democratic politicians act in self-serving fashion — that’s what politicians do — but it should particularly alarm us that the progressive intellectual class is continually pressing them to go even further. If misbehaving Republican politicians often embarrass the party’s intellectuals, misbehaving Democrats have their side’s scholars and pundits whispering in their ears like Iago, urging them to ever-more-radical steps. In this case, that means pursuing systemic and draconian “reforms” that aim explicitly at ensuring that a brief moment of narrow Democratic partisan control of the federal government is weaponized to prevent another peaceful transfer of power back to Republicans. This is branded as “majoritarianism,” but it is ultimately the politics of “one man, one vote, one time.”
Take, for example, a forthcoming law-review article by Harvard law professor Nicholas Stephanopoulos (no relation, so far as I know, to George). Stephanopoulos argues that “majoritarian democracy” is “under siege.” He draws his diagnosis from the recent writings of former Stanford law professor Pamela Karlan, who now serves in the Biden administration as principal deputy-assistant attorney general for the civil-rights division of the Department of Justice (conveniently, a post not requiring Senate confirmation). Both are activist lawyers as well as law professors: Before joining the Biden administration, Karlan was the lead lawyer arguing Bostock v. Clayton County; Stephanopoulos was one of the driving forces behind Whitford v. Gill, which tried to get the Supreme Court to throw out partisan gerrymanders. Given the close relationship between Stephanopoulos’s article and Karlan’s writings — along with Karlan’s powerful government position — we should not lightly disregard this as simply harmless academic scribbling.
5. Fight Back One: Samantha Harris counsels on how to combat classroom “critical race theory” crapola. From the piece:
Most people know that the First Amendment protects freedom of speech. But it also protects freedom of conscience — that is, the right to hold our personal thoughts and beliefs free from government intrusion. The freedom of conscience is why the Supreme Court ruled that, even during the darkest days of World War II, a public school could not require its students to salute the American flag. Justice Robert H. Jackson, writing for the majority, explained that “if there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”
The freedom of conscience is also why a Nevada mother is suing a Las Vegas charter school for forcing her son to participate in a mandatory class that “required students to reveal their race, gender, sexual orientation and disabilities and then determine if privilege or oppression is attached to those identities.” In the coming years, the First Amendment right to freedom of conscience will play a crucial role in the fight against the indoctrination of our children.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 also prevents discrimination, including the creation of a hostile environment, at public and private institutions receiving federal funding (which include most private colleges and universities). Many of these critical race trainings, particularly when mandatory, may create a hostile environment by continually singling people out for criticism solely on the basis of their skin color — such as when an employee at Smith College expressed discomfort at discussing her race publicly and was berated in front of her colleagues and told that her distress was merely a “power play,” a manifestation of white supremacy. These trainings have even infiltrated the corporate world: A whistleblower recently leaked slides from a diversity training for Coca-Cola employees suggesting that they “be less white.”
6. Fight Back Two: Keith E. Whittington strategizes on how to counter the threat to free speech on college campuses. From the article:
Liberal and moderate academics are deeply affected by the erosion of tolerance for dissent on our college campuses. Many of them decline to speak out on controversial subjects precisely because of the fierce intimidation that they face from their own side — and, to be frank, that they all too often face from politicians and activists on the political right. This creates an illusion of ideological conformity. Jonathan Zimmerman of the University of Pennsylvania, a self-described liberal Democrat and a founding member of the AFA, recently described the problem in an op-ed in the Chicago Tribune:
If you’re affiliated with a college or university and it initiates a set of diversity trainings, you probably won’t bring up research suggesting that these trainings either have a negligible impact on racial attitudes or make them worse. People might conclude that you don’t support diversity, period. That’s just too big a risk to take, especially if you don’t have tenure.
Or if your university releases a statement condemning acts of police violence, you won’t ask out loud why it didn’t also denounce the rioting that followed some of them. For the record, Biden has condemned both. But if you repeat what he said, dear professor, you might be reviled as a racist by the same colleagues who are celebrating Biden’s projected victory.
For conservatives to win more support from liberal academics on free-speech issues, we must be willing to defend the rights of liberal academics to voice their own dissenting views. As a purely strategic matter, conservatives can build more support for the protection of their own speech rights by making common cause with liberal academics who wish to have their speech rights defended. Free critical inquiry and robust intellectual debate are at the very heart of what universities do, and we should recognize that conservatives and liberals alike have an interest in these universal principles. More broadly, the ability to have conversations across the ideological divide and to tolerate those with whom we differ is essential to living together in a liberal democracy. Universities should be models for how we build healthy communities despite our differences.
7. Cameron Hilditch finds the Golden State’s ethnic-studies curriculum to be repulsive. From the article:
The first question all this raises is one of pity and compassion: Will no one think of the poor writers at the Babylon Bee, whose Herculean task it is to satirize this dizzying pinnacle of woke insanity? If present trends continue, we will soon have to pass antitrust legislation aimed at reality itself on account of its unfair and anticompetitive monopoly on satirical content.
On a more serious note, however, the fact that such a document as this could be on the brink of becoming law in the richest and most populous state in America is troubling in the extreme. The religious component of this curriculum might void the entire bill in the end, running afoul of the First Amendment as it so obviously does. But the fact that it could be signed into law in the first place is evidence of just how completely conservatives and liberals alike have abandoned the field of education to radical progressives over the last century. There are few, if any, institutions in American life that can meet radical educational theorists and mandarins on their own territory and win long-term legislative battles. What is needed is a kind of Federalist Society for education, to which right-thinking parents, teachers, administrators, and academics can belong, and through which they can organize for change.
Opponents of the progressive education agenda have limited the effectiveness of their advocacy in the past by conceiving of the fight in terms of the familiar opposition between free markets and state control. It’s necessary to have this fight, but it’s no longer sufficient. The sooner that conservatives and classical liberals wake up to this fact, the better it will be for America’s children.
8. You’ve got to admit, says Itxu Díaz, that social media has given a global platform to a lot of chooches and reprobates. From the piece:
In 2021, we live under a pandemic of narcissism, for which there is no vaccine. The metaphor is not mine, but that of the American sociologists Jean M. Twenge and W. Keith Campbell in The Narcissism Epidemic. The authors differentiate between prevailing narcissism and healthy self-esteem. In the second case, people have an extraordinary opinion of themselves, but this does not prevent them from maintaining a sense of ethics and, above all, from continuing to love others. In the first case, what one feels for oneself is more akin to adoration, with the outside world appearing to be a rival, which awakens all kinds of grudges and hinders any way of relating to others.
Twenge and Campbell’s research uncovers a dangerous link between narcissism and the rise of socially reprehensible behavior in children and adolescents. It is also fair to note that narcissistic stupidity is not the exclusive terrain of young people: My neighbor, who looks to be about 1,400 years old, spends his days taking suggestive selfies of himself on the floor of his apartment, although the only thing they suggest to me is to block him.
When two individuals become famous for beating up a homeless man and broadcasting it live on social networks, our system of social punishment becomes ineffective. To the histrionic extent that these guys want to be famous at any cost, the punishment for their crime will be all the same to them if along the way they have managed to get their face reproduced on millions of phones. The number of followers gives them the false illusion that their actions have garnered ironclad support. In some insane way, they view these followers as accomplices who approve of their misdeeds.
Not long ago, a couple of idiots who worked in Spain as caregivers in an old people’s home posted, on their private social networks, a video in which one of them humiliated an elderly lady with almost complete paralysis. The worker insulted her, spat on her, and harassed her, while her friend — who filmed the scene — laughed her head off. Unexpectedly, some kind-hearted person distributed the video outside the girl’s private Instagram, and both miscreants were identified, fired, and socially repudiated.
One of them uploaded a video apologizing, but when someone shows herself to be the offspring of a hyena, apologies are welcome, however, they cannot alter the fact that we still think that girl has a heart of stone and a conscience drowned in sewage.
9. Roger Maxwell says woke books should have no place in military training. From the article:
On February 23, the chief of naval operations Admiral Michael Gilday released an updated version of the Navy’s Professional Reading Program. The program, a long-standing tradition that curates suggested readings for all members of the Navy, has a stated aim of educating and training the sailors that compose this branch of the Armed Forces. According to the Navy’s official website on this program, Admiral Gilday believes that in order to “outthink our competitors, we must study and apply lessons we’ve learned from the past.” He further holds that “one of the very best ways to do that is to foster an environment where every Sailor deepens their level of understanding and learning.” Many of the 48 books listed in the newly released reading checklist cover topics relevant to the Navy’s overall mission of becoming a more lethal fighting force: naval strategy, deep-dives into future world superpowers, leadership development, technology changes in the domain of warfighting, etc.
However, the checklist also included several books that are overtly political in nature, threatening what should be the apolitical nature of our nation’s fighting forces. As just one example, Ibram X. Kendi’s overly wrought screed How to Be an Antiracist somehow landed on the admiral’s book list. Writings in a similar vein appear on the list as well, including Jason Pierceson’s Sexual Minorities and Politics, as well as Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. The inclusion of these books, especially given the hot-button topics they cover (and the controversial takes they provide) seems to place the Navy squarely into the realm of politics, which it has stridently attempted to avoid in the 200-plus years of its existence.
The inclusion of these books on an official DoD website is an embrace of partisan politics by a branch of the U.S. Armed Forces. One need only look at the contents of these pieces of literature (“literature” being used loosely) to understand just how true this statement is. Kendi’s book argues that capitalism is a racist construct. Alexander’s obfuscates real issues of violent crime in order to argue that incarceration rates for minorities are predominately, if not exclusively, based on race. Perhaps most egregious of the three, the openly partisan nature of Pierceson’s “textbook” practically hits the reader over the head with its agenda. Each piece of writing offers its own particular viewpoint; it just so happens that each is of the woke, left-leaning variety.
10. Adam Smith, slavery foe, may be long dead and buried, but that, writes Daniel Klein, is irrelevant to the Cancelers. From the piece:
In a Glasgow classroom on February 16, 1763, a student recorded Smith as saying that slavery was born of the “love of domination and tyrannizing,” which is why slaveholders clung to it. Contrary to popular belief, slavery was not profitable, and, as early as 1776, in his landmark book, Wealth of Nations, Smith emphasized that costliness.
So, in the first of Smith’s two published books, he railed against the injustice of slavery. And in the second, he demonstrated that slavery wasn’t even in slaveholders’ self-interest.
For years Smith was acknowledged by British abolitionists as an opponent of slavery. Yet now, in 2021, we’re supposed to believe that his “link” to slavery was discreditable?
Smith is not the only Scottish professor whom Clarkson commemorated in his great 1808 work. The others include Smith’s Glasgow teacher, Francis Hutcheson, and Smith’s Glasgow student, John Millar, as well as William Robertson of Edinburgh University. Clarkson also could have noted Gershom Carmichael, Hutcheson’s teacher at Glasgow. In other words, a long line of liberal moral philosophers helped to persuade their fellow citizens of the rank injustice of slavery. Their words deserve to be commemorated.
As for colonialism, Smith again is guilty. . . of being an opponent. In Wealth of Nations, appearing just a few months before the American Declaration of Independence, he suggested that the British government just let the American colonies go. And he advocated bringing an end to the British East India Company, which effectively ruled India as a monopoly backed by the Crown.
11. Dan McLaughlin Encore: He makes the case for populists to take on the classical-liberal approach to defending free speech. From the essay:
At heart, the classical-liberal position is that the freedom of speech is a good thing in and of itself, and therefore that the protection of good and true ideas requires us to extend protection to bad and false ones as well. All things being equal, more speech and more freedom are better. We should trust people to work their way through the marketplace of ideas toward the truth. We should give more space to dissenters in part because they sometimes help us find the truth, and in part because a decent respect for our fellow man should lead us to tolerate people who think differently. We are all freer, and safer, and more polite to each other if we maintain a strong culture of tolerating speech that itself may be ugly and rude. We seek protections for people we disagree with, because we may find ourselves in need of those one day. And because we value persuasion, we are also quicker to forgive those who may have said nasty things in the past that they no longer profess.
The populist critique is that classical-liberal conservatism is essentially contentless. In the populist telling, classical liberals are so wrapped up in defending the soapbox that they lose the soap. Conservatives who don’t insist on treating moral and factual truth as superior will, we are told, end up conserving nothing. This is something of a caricature, of course. Few people are so absolutist in their defense of free speech that they believe in no limits at all: You can still go to jail for fraud, be sued for knowing libel, or be fired from a communications job for being bad at communications. And a robust marketplace of ideas is only valuable if there are also people willing and able to sell their own ideas in that marketplace.
But are the populists consistent and serious about the worthlessness of the classical-liberal defense of free speech? Is their critique even popular? Consider: The biggest issue that unites and motivates conservative populists right now is the threat of cancel culture to free speech. But if you listen to conservatives around the country, this is by no means just a populist concern; it is broader even than just a conservative concern. Lots of people are worried about the stifling culture of intolerance and deplatforming on the Internet, on campus, and in the workplace. And they frequently frame those concerns in free-speech terms, and in a reaction against the biased and unfair standards applied by the cancelers. The classical-liberal argument is both popular and populist because it resonates with traditional American values and rhetoric. The actual disagreements between the populists and the classical liberals are in many cases much less than meets the eye.
12. Tom Cotton lays out the case for how the USA can best Red China. From the piece:
Next, we ought to sever China’s information pipeline for stolen intellectual property from American colleges and universities. China commits up to 80 percent of international intellectual-property theft and is the subject of nearly half of all FBI counterintelligence cases for economic espionage. Much of this malign activity occurs on American campuses and in American labs and research institutions. Yet in 2018–19, approximately 370,000 Chinese students were allowed to study in the United States — half of whom were enrolled in STEM courses. Chinese citizens still study at prestigious research institutions, American researchers participate in Chinese talent-recruitment programs, and CCP-aligned firms bankroll colleges, universities, and professors. This open access is unwise and ought to be restricted. The U.S. government should bar Chinese nationals from studying in STEM fields at the graduate or post-graduate level, prohibit Chinese funding of U.S. universities and research institutions, and end America’s satellite university system in China. This will minimize further theft and end the ridiculous and dangerous practice of welcoming Chinese military researchers into our nation’s most advanced laboratories.
We must also terminate our reliance on China for essential supplies such as rare-earth elements, pharmaceuticals, and personal-protective equipment (PPE). China supplies 80 percent of America’s rare-earth imports — which are essential for high-tech manufacturing — and processes 85 percent of the world’s supply of rare-earth elements. China has used its leverage on rare-earth elements to extort concessions out of Japan and is now looking to curb rare-earth exports required for U.S. manufacturing of the F-35. Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, China placed similar export curbs on pharmaceutical products and PPE. This strategic weakness must be quickly eliminated, and the production of essential products ought to be re-shored through Buy American requirements, tax incentives, and large-scale stockpiling.
13. The Fantastic Four seems preferable to “The Quad,” but whatever it’s labeled, the four powers confronting Red China need to concentrate on their teamwork, opine Seth Cropsy and Harry Halem. From the piece:
Even more striking at the partisan level has been the variation in commitment to “anti-war” causes. Democratic support for the anti-war movement virtually evaporated in 2009 despite, lest we forget, multiple attempts to impeach Mr. Bush over his conduct of the Iraq War. Republicans are equally guilty: Challenges to the constitutionality of Mr. Obama’s military actions in Syria and Iraq vanished on January 20, 2017. If Mr. Biden’s recent Syria strike demonstrates anything, it is that politics has remained remarkably normal. Apart from fringe progressives — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her vanguard cohort — there will be no opposition from Democrats to executive military action.
It is, however, encouraging to identify an emerging continuity between Mr. Biden and his predecessor. The Biden administration seems committed to maintaining “the Quad” — the Asian security forum that includes the U.S., Japan, Australia, and India. The Quad stemmed from efforts to coordinate relief after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Although a formal security relationship seemed imminent in 2007, American, Indian, and Australian policy shifts buried the idea for nearly a decade. The Trump administration resurrected the Quad in November 2017 through ASEAN, building off America’s joint naval exercises with the three potential members. The Quad’s high point came in October 2020, when its four members participated in Exercise MALABAR, traditionally a bilateral Indo-American affair.
Moreover, other American allies have begun to recognize the link between the Indo-Pacific balance and their own interests. In February, France deployed a nuclear-powered attack submarine to the South China Sea, and it plans to deploy an amphibious assault ship and frigate in preparation for U.S.-Japanese military exercises in May. Germany will deploy a frigate to the Indo-Pacific this fall. The Royal Navy’s Carrier Strike Group will deploy to the Indo-Pacific this year, marking the first British capital-ship deployment east of the Suez in a generation.
Mr. Biden has shown little interest in confronting China in his first weeks in office, but he has signaled his willingness to maintain the Quad. Moreover, talk exists of expanding the Quad by incorporating South Korea as a “Quad Plus” member.
14. Jimmy Quinn reports on former SoS Mike Pompeo’s warning that we should be prepared for Red China detaining Olympians who criticize the Commie rats. From the piece:
A number of prominent U.S. politicians and human-rights advocates have criticized the decision to host the games in Beijing, given the CCP’s brutal campaign against the Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples in Xinjiang. At a rally in front of the White House yesterday organized by a number of Uyghur and Tibetan groups, Tursunay Ziawudun, whose experience of rape in the Uyghur camps was documented recently by the BBC, said, “I cannot believe this genocidal country is hosting the Olympic Games in 2022.”
In January, Pompeo, while still secretary of state, issued a formal determination that such a crime is taking place: “I believe this genocide is ongoing, and that we are witnessing the systematic attempt to destroy Uyghurs by the Chinese party-state.”
Pompeo said Thursday that he worked with the International Olympic Committee to “deliver them a set of facts that unmistakably demonstrates that the Chinese Communist Party ought not to be rewarded with the noble efforts that Olympians undertake.”
“The IOC has a moral responsibility to the world to say we’re simply not going to permit a set of leaders to behave in this way to destroy an entire group of people,” he continued.
The International Olympic Committee, however, under the leadership of its president Thomas Bach, has been unwavering in its determination to ensure the games take place in Beijing. On Friday, the committee once again rejected calls to move the 2022 games, saying that it is not a “super world government,” though Bach also claimed that the committee is monitoring the human-rights situation in China closely.
15. Charlie Cooke smacks down a Bill Maher-monologue filled with ChiCom Envy. From the piece:
Maher’s first mistake is to compare what is expected from a single Communist government with what is expected from 51 democratic governments that, by design, expect most innovation to come from the market. In America, the federal government does not — and should not — “build cities,” and nor does it “create” the middle class. That’s not a bug, it’s a feature. We are different from China because we want to be different — and we are supposed to be different — from China.
That difference has unavoidable consequences. Maher draws a distinction between “authoritarian government” and “representative government,” but then he describes political differences at the national level as “squabbling tribes,” as if the democratic process playing out in a divided country is a problem to be solved. It’s not. Indeed, it’s unavoidable if, like Maher, you don’t want a government that breaks promises, puts people in camps, and punishes dissent. With apologies to Tom Friedman, there is simply no way of being “China for a day” without accepting all of the other stuff that we don’t want. China, I’m afraid, is a package deal.
This aside, it is simply not true that we “never do anything” in America. As a people, we are far, far more innovative than China, which is why they are so determined to steal or copy our stuff. Hell, as I write these words, we’re watching this country innovate its way out of a global crisis — just as it always, always manages to do. Do we think that just happened?
16. Jianli Yang and Aaron Rhodes report on how Red China cracked down and crushed democracy in Hong Kong. From the piece:
Xi Jinping’s motives behind the idea of “patriots ruling Hong Kong” are obvious. He and other CCP leaders believe that Hong Kong authorities have been overly tolerant of the democratic opposition for the past 20 years, giving Hong Kongers the impression they could arm-wrestle with the central government, which they imagine would not dare to turn the tables on them because of the interests of the so-called foreign powers in Hong Kong. The central government had been trying to make Hong Kong a positive example of “one country, two systems” to appeal to Taiwan.
But while the model found no acceptance in Taiwan, Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen used it to make waves in Hong Kong itself. Since Taiwan has made it clear that peaceful reunification is not possible, the role of Hong Kong as a model has become meaningless, and the Chinese central government has begun to gradually clean up the problems left behind by policy blunders when reformulating a new program for Taiwan. With a new American administration showing little inclination to soften the stiffer stance toward China established by President Trump, the relationship between China and the United States has deteriorated to the worst level since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. So patience has lost its rationale.
Given this, it’s not surprising that the U.S. has condemned the CPP’s changes to Hong Kong’s internal governance. But other Western governments have joined the U.S. in its condemnations. U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken tweeted that the changes “run counter to PRC international commitments,” and that “we stand with allies and partners speaking out for the rights and freedoms of the people in Hong Kong.” In a review of political conditions in Hong Kong, the European Union described an ”alarming political deterioration” and a “severe erosion of autonomy, democracy, and fundamental freedoms,” promising undisclosed “further steps” in response. The Group of Seven (G7) nations expressed “grave concerns” about the plan, predicting boldly that it would “stifle political pluralism.” A statement from the foreign secretary’s office said that the United Kingdom would now consider China to be in a state of ongoing non-compliance with the Sino-British Joint Declaration that was supposed to guarantee Hong’s Kong’s autonomy and rule of law until 2047. “China must act in accordance with its legal obligations and respect fundamental rights and freedoms in Hong Kong,” U.K. foreign secretary Dominic Raab said. But Beijing simply shrugged off this command, saying that Hong Kong’s electoral system was China’s internal affair.
17. Ruel Marc Gerecht and Mark Dubowitz make the case for Biden to not revisit the Iran Deal. Of course, they admit — he likely will anyway. From the beginning of the piece:
Although President Biden has demanded that Iran reenter the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action before it receives economic relief, he will probably soon start green-lighting billions of dollars in assistance and lifting sanctions. Tehran will undoubtedly remain in violation of the atomic accord and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to which Iran is a signatory. Biden will do so for the same reason that Barack Obama repeatedly gave ground in negotiations with the Islamic Republic: fear of risking war or publicly conceding a nuke to the clerical regime. Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, who has an autarkist streak and despises the United States, has been ratcheting up the pressure.
Tehran has increased the quantity and quality of its enriched uranium and started to construct and deploy advanced centrifuges faster than what the JCPOA allowed. The clerical regime is also preventing the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency from accessing Iran’s nuclear facilities, which is in violation of the NPT. And for the fourth time under the Biden administration, an Iran-guided Shiite militia has rocketed an American base in Iraq. The president responded to one of the attacks with a limited strike in Syria.
Khamenei has been point-blank — more so than he often is when he wants to give himself wiggle room: “We have no sense of urgency, we are in no rush to see the United States return to the JCPOA; this has never been a concern for us. . . . What is our entirely reasonable demand is the lifting of sanctions; this is the usurped right of the Iranian nation.”
Although senior officials in the administration are loath to say this publicly, they need the credible threat of U.S. military power and the pain of sanctions to drive the supreme leader back into negotiations. As punishing as sanctions had been for two and a half years under Donald Trump’s maximum-pressure campaign, they did not crack the fortitude and faith of Iran’s ruling elite.
18. How goes the recall of Gavin Newsom, and the Janus-induced cash-crunch future of California’s Big Labor is a tale told by fool, but quite possibly with accuracy. Like the stopped clock, twice daily. From the article:
All this and more has led the California Policy Center and similar pro-freedom state groups to devise and implement a battle plan — replicated by conservatives in other states — that defends workers’ First Amendment rights and produces a de facto result of drying up the cash sea that Big Government Labor unions took for granted and depended upon.
The results are remarkable. So are the consequences.
When Janus was issued in 2018, California had approximately 1.5 million government-union members. In the intervening three years, largely through efforts of CPC and other groups, the membership number has dropped by 18 percent. That’s roughly 270,000 people. The dollar significance — many fewer dues payments are coming in — amounts to roughly $200 million less annually in Big Labor’s coffers.
CPC’s five-year goal is to see that government-union membership drop by an additional 180,000, which would mean an overall post-Janus cut of 30 percent. In two-year election-cycle terms, this means that government unions could have $720 million less to spend on behalf of left-wing candidates, referenda, and causes.
Swaim (who co-hosts NR’s popular weekly Radio Free California podcast with David Bahnsen) says it is the ground-game efforts — an amalgam of digital engagements, website sessions, phone calls, text messages, and personal meetings — that have achieved this.
19. Sarah Schutte sings the praises of children’s author Hilda Van Stockum. From the article:
Four years after A Day on Skates, Van Stockum published the first of her Bantry Bay series. Set in Ireland, the trilogy chronicles the doings of the lively O’Sullivan family: Father and Mother, Michael, Brigid, and the twins, Francie and Liam. Growing up, book two of this trilogy (Francie on the Run) was my personal favorite, and its vignettes and adventures have stayed with me for years. (The story of Teig Mulligan, recounted close to the end of the book, has particularly tickled my fancy, and what an amusing audio drama it would make!) These books, like the Mitchell series, strove to exemplify wholesome family life and capture the sweetness, small woes, and sacrifices that go into creating and maintaining a home, no matter where.
Van Stockum’s writing career spanned four decades, and her lighter (though not trivial) books eventually made way for stories of a more serious tone. The Winged Watchman, for example, is set in Occupied Holland as seen through the eyes of two brothers, ages eleven and 14. Despite dealing with the heavier subjects that come with writing about World War II, Van Stockum’s depictions of dark themes never become gratuitous. Evil is real. Terrible events occurred during that era, and the images painted by Van Stockum’s pen made a lasting impression on my young mind during that first reading. But here, as in her other stories, the love of family and light of faith shine through the oppressive darkness, giving readers young and old strong portraits of courage, love of country, and selflessness.
With all the trillion-dollar numbers spinning about government policy these days, it’s easy to lose perspective on the scale of recent federal spending. We decided to put the past year’s policy into perspective by calculating the future tax hike that would be necessary to pay the bills rung up since January, 2020. What the average American owes for the stimulus will shock you.
The exercise is not farfetched. Rumors spread throughout Washington last week that the Biden administration is considering tax hikes to pay for COVID-19 relief enacted this year and last. To some extent, it is amazing that the U.S. experienced a 32 percent drop in GDP in the second quarter of last year and did not dive into a depression, and some credit is surely due to those who crafted stimulus bills. On the other hand, the five bills passed to provide relief, once one subtracts out loans that will be repaid, together added $5.3 trillion to the debt that you, dear reader, will have to pay back someday. Think of COVID-19 relief as a new car payment, of course without any delivery of four wheels, an engine, or a chassis. When you see the numbers, you will realize that the comparison is not an exaggeration.
This is not an academic exercise. The thing about debt is that it eventually has to be paid. There is no such thing, annoying economists like us tend to remind too often, as a free lunch. Even if the debt is rolled over ad infinitum, the lunch is not free because taxpayers have to pay higher interest each year to cover the additional borrowing, which crowds out other government services. Milton Friedman famously argued against aggressive stimulus because, he said, taxpayers would look ahead to their future tax hikes and save today to prepare themselves for the worst. Whatever the government tries to do will be futile.
When we think of Beijing’s drive to crush Hong Kong’s nascent democracy, what comes to mind are images of mass demonstrations and of pro-democracy icons rounded up, imprisoned, and brought before judges to face sham trials under the National Security Law (NSL) forced upon the city by the Chinese Communist Party last May.
It is natural for China’s crackdown on Hong Kong to get most of the ink, especially given that it continues apace even today: In addition to a recent move to charge 47 pro-democracy figures under the law, the National People’s Congress last week restricted candidacy for the city’s Legislative Council elections to “Patriots Only,” the final nail in the coffin of Hong Kong’s hopes for democratic government.
But earlier this month, the nonprofit Hong Kong Watch released an extensive report on another, less-noticed aspect of Beijing’s repression: the ways in which a gradual influx of “red capital” helped to bring the city’s democrats to their knees.
3. Brian Yablonski analyzes the Biden Administration’s conservation goals and says it is private lands that will provide a solution. From the beginning of the piece:
One of the first tasks facing the soon-to-be confirmed Interior secretary Deb Haaland will be to carry out a few short paragraphs of an order signed by President Joe Biden in January: to conserve 30 percent of all U.S. lands and waters by 2030. Understated in its rollout, “30 by 30” ought to be seen as President Biden’s conservation moonshot.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, only 12 percent of the land in America qualifies as “protected,” including wilderness areas, national parks and monuments, and private lands under conservation easements. To achieve an additional 18 percent, we would need to conserve an extra 440 million acres — an area more than four times the size of California.
There will be a push to use old, divisive tools on public lands to score easy gains, such as designating new monuments or banning fossil-fuel development. But conserving land does not necessarily require a heavy hand from the federal government. The administration should use this moment to explore newer, more-creative market-based solutions. Indeed, whatever its instincts to the contrary, this would be its best chance of success.
Whether President Biden’s moonshot lifts off or turns out to be a damp squib will hinge largely on how the administration engages private landowners. With 900 million acres of farm and ranch lands in America, and another 445 million acres of privately owned forests, these lands are where the greatest gains will be won or lost.
4. Steve Hanke and Robert J. Simon argue that cryptocurrency boards are better bets than Bitcoin. From the article:
Putting aside Bitcoin’s meteoric ascent in price, which has been punctuated by dramatic booms and busts, it is important to note that its designation as a “cryptocurrency” is a misnomer. A currency is characterized by four fundamental features. To qualify, it must be unit of account, must be a standard for deferred payment, must be a store of value, and must serve as a medium of exchange.
Just how does Bitcoin stack up when it comes to these currency criteria? Bitcoin’s volatility turns out to be its Achilles’ heel. In 2020, Bitcoin’s annualized daily volatility was an astonishing 67 percent. If we look at the most important price in the world, the USD–euro exchange rate, and the world’s international currency, the U.S. dollar, the dollar’s annualized daily volatility in 2020 was only 7.8 percent. Since Bitcoin’s source code predetermines that Bitcoin’s supply will ultimately be fixed and totally inelastic, all market adjustments can take place only via price changes, not quantity changes. As a result, it is destined to be inherently subject to extreme price volatility. This means that Bitcoin will never serve as a reliable unit of account. You will rarely see items with Bitcoin price tags attached. You will also never see deferred contracts (contracts under which payment is made under a long-term credit arrangement) written in Bitcoin. Can you imagine someone writing a mortgage contract denominated in Bitcoin?
Bitcoin’s volatility also renders it unattractive for most corporations to hold in lieu of cash reserves. Indeed, Bitcoin, which is considered an intangible (something, incidentally, that brings inconsistent and opaque accounting treatment in its wake), throws considerable risk on to balance sheets. In short, it is not a reliable store of value. It’s no surprise, therefore, that most corporations are unwilling to take on the risks associated with holding Bitcoin on their balance sheets. A recent survey found that roughly 5 percent of finance executives said that “they planned to hold bitcoin as a corporate asset in 2021” and “84 percent of respondents said they did not plan to ever hold bitcoin as a corporate asset,” citing volatility as their foremost concern.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League (that’s the complete title) differs significantly from the 2017 film Justice League, a project Snyder began that was mutilated when Warner Brothers assigned Joss Whedon to rework it. Through the confluence of venal corporate interference, a rare instance of public outcry about the movie business (the online demand #ReleaseTheSnyderCut), and the opportunity to jump-start the new streaming service HBO Max, Snyder got carte blanche to complete his vision, to make things right.
Snyder takes the idea of Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) uniting with three more superheroes, Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Flash (Ezra Miller), and Cyborg (Victor Stone), following Superman’s death at the end of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), as a metaphor for spiritual endeavor. In Snyder’s mythic distillation of moral combat, this league of superheroes fights an evil threat from another dimension, the horned villain Steppenwolf and his even more rough-hewn master Darkside (they promise, “Down with the modern world. Back to the Dark Ages”).
ZSJL shows the superheroes’ dynamic, physicalized anxieties that, in the grand scheme, are sometimes confusedly political but go back to primordial conditions and foundational myths. The opening scenes linking different eras and characters in parallel situations and life instances are fantastically designed and with the most emotionally intense facial portraits since Joseph von Sternberg. This is a modern epic about worry and longing.
2. If you think the Academy Awards no longer matter, you’d get Kyle Smith’s vote. From the article:
As recently as 2009, when The Dark Knight failed to get a Best Picture nomination despite its obvious excellence and cultural impact, appealing to a broad audience was a central concern of AMPAS, which expanded the category to as many as ten nominees the following year, hoping that some blockbusters would wind up in competition for the top prize each year. That did, initially, happen — Avatar was among the nominees in 2010 — but in 2015 AMPAS (a group of proud gentry liberals) became petrified of social-media hashtags making spurious accusations of racism. It then undertook to change the taste of its voting body. Instead of membership being offered only to the most accomplished veterans — which yielded slates of nominees that balanced artistic achievement with traditional Hollywood concerns such as star power and audience engagement — AMPAS implemented a vigorous affirmative-action program.
The voting body is today much more diverse and much younger than it was in 2009, but its tastes are so out of the mainstream that the Oscars are today a sort of West Coast version of the Independent Spirit Awards, giving all of its attention to art-house offerings. The average American looks at this year’s list of obscure Best Picture nominees — Mank? Nomadland? Promising Young Woman? Judas and the Black Messiah? The Father? Minari? Sound of Metal? The Trial of the Chicago 7? — and thinks: I have no interest in any of these titles. All of them are downers, most of them push an overt political agenda, and none of them puts a beloved movie star front and center except The Father (in which Anthony Hopkins plays a man being destroyed by dementia). There is no glamour or Hollywood magic attached to any of them. All of them are essentially TV movies (though all of them had pro forma theatrical runs). Most of them are more interested in wrestling with intractable social problems (which, being intractable, tend to frustrate audiences) than in entertainment.
3. More Armond, who seconds the motion, and sees Hamilton outdueled: From the piece:
In the past, film adaptations of such Broadway hits as West Side Story, The Sound of Music, Funny Girl, Hello, Dolly!, Fiddler on the Roof, even the cynical Cabaret, once united our cultural identity, and, as a result, all were Oscar-nominated. The Academy’s rebuff of Hamilton has revealed that the show’s cultural status was not insuperable; it was always simply a means of progressives’ self-intoxication. It entertained no one outside of Broadway and editorial-page writers.
That Hamilton’s Tony Award–winning co-star Leslie Odom Jr. got an Oscar nomination for a different film (impersonating Sam Cooke in the miserable One Night in Miami) certifies that Hamilton lacked real star power (creator Lin-Manuel Miranda sucked up all the publicity, yet his whiney-voiced characterization left viewers cold). In Disney’s streaming version, Odom gave the show’s emotional void no more than the superficialities of black belligerence — acting the role of Aaron Burr as if to showcase Dixiecrat black villainy, a black Judas to Miranda’s Latin messiah.
And yet, none of the Academy’s eight Best Picture nominees rival the “legendary” impression that Hamilton made. Each soon-to-be forgotten film offers a passive-aggressive reorganization of American principles into sentimental sermons about class, race and sex, as if progressives have finally convinced everyone to think alike, but without joy, satisfaction, or social harmony in return — just self-righteousness and misery, well symbolized by Frances McDormand’s grim visage in Nomadland. Not a single film is uplifting; but neither was Hamilton, which surely is the reason it flopped. This year’s Oscar nominees all flop. They’re anti-populist non-entertainments.
From the April 5, 2021 Issue of National Review, a Quartet of Quality and Wisdom
As is our custom, from the new issue — all of the content being superior — we pick four pieces (ok, maybe we will add a bonus) for your curiosity and consideration.
1. The trio of Nicholas Eberstadt, Derek Scissors, and Evan Abramsky gauge America’s petroleum independence, its virtues, and its threat from Team Biden. From the cover story:
Although it has gone strangely unheralded so far, the United States just marked an energy milestone of great historical and strategic significance. In 2020, according to official figures, the U.S. exported more oil and petroleum products than it imported. This is the first time in generations that America has attained such qualified, but nonetheless meaningful, “independence from foreign oil.” It would have been considered impossible barely 15 years ago, when imports peaked. The transformation has greatly benefited the American economy and enabled much more foreign-policy flexibility. It is also a powerful asset for the U.S. in its competition with China.
The Biden administration should be mindful of the economic and strategic advantages that America enjoys from its new energy profile. As Team Biden charts its policy on climate change, it should be careful not to sacrifice these gains in a headlong rush toward an ambitious green agenda.
The data documenting America’s new status as a net petroleum exporter come from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the Department of Energy’s statistical office, which reports a U.S. surplus of about 600,000 barrels per day for 2020 in international petroleum trade. Separately, trade statistics from Comtrade, the U.N.’s authoritative international-merchandise database, show the U.S. generated a trade surplus from petroleum of about $19 billion last year.
America had not experienced a surplus from petroleum trade in a very long time. The EIA was established in 1949 and at no previous point in its history did its annual estimates for overall U.S. exports of petroleum — i.e., crude oil, liquefied natural gas (LNG), and other petroleum products — ever surpass imports. According to EIA numbers, America had run an uninterrupted petroleum deficit for at least seven straight decades, from 1949 through 2019.
Earlier energy statistics for the U.S. are spottier and not wholly comparable to the EIA’s numbers, which track total physical volume. Historical U.S. trade data on petroleum, which extend back to 1882, are instead given in dollars. The EIA keeps annual physical data back to 1920 on the U.S. trade in crude oil, but crude is only one component of the petroleum business (most recently accounting for just over a third of U.S. petroleum exports in 2020). In 1943, at the height of World War II, the U.S. exported more crude than it imported, but that was the country’s last trade surplus in crude. We have to go back to the Great Depression (1933– 39) to find a peacetime period when America registered both a physical surplus in oil trade and a dollar surplus in petroleum trade — and we have to go back more than a century if we are looking for both of these in a “normal” peacetime year. Our modest 2020 petroleum trade surplus, in other words, is not completely unprecedented. Nevertheless, America’s petroleum profile in 2020 marks a symbolic departure from a much more dependent past — one with implications for the future that should not go underestimated.
Sentenced to three years in prison for treason, he spent the rest of his life in house arrest in the countryside. In the era of Nasser and Sukarno, Mossadeq became a nationalist hero. To give just one example of this disguised anti-Americanism, Stephen Kinzer (of the New York Times) wrote All the Shah’s Men, an account of the nationalization of Iranian oil, in which he bowed to Mossadeq as a titan, a towering figure, “one of history’s most gifted visionaries.”
The worst that can be said of the shah is that his drive to industrialize didn’t fit the society. A Western model was disrupting the settled order. “It was a dynamic country that few wanted to live in” is Takeyh’s neat aphorism. The book the shah published celebrating his so-called White Revolution, a series of reforms aimed at modernization, was an unrealistic fantasy. Takeyh attributes to him a “typical mixture of arrogance and self-pity.” There were a number of capable politicians who could have headed off the revolution, but the shah would not appoint them for fear that they might seize power. He preferred sycophants. A celebration of the 2,500-year anniversary of the Achaemenid Empire was held in ancient Persepolis and cost between $200 and $300 million. The watching world thought of him as a superannuated playboy. His private life is almost never referred to by Takeyh, so it comes as a surprise that in his palace “he stewed more than he schemed and passed the time with card games and detective novels. He slept with a pistol and frequently changed bedrooms. His wife worried that he might suffer a nervous breakdown.” Missing from this account is some comment on the Pahlavi Foundation, often said to consist of a very large sum of ill-gotten gains.
Ayatollah Khomeini appeared from nowhere. He denounced the shah in this style: “You wretched, miserable man, 45 years of your life have passed. Isn’t it time for you to think and reflect a little, to ponder where all this is leading you, to learn a lesson from the experience of your father?” Left-wing intellectuals, students, women denied their rights, the educated, and the illiterate were a coalition of the discontented. In 1963, Khomeini was arrested and exiled to Turkey and then to the Iraq of Saddam Hussein, where he was to spend 13 years, followed by some final weeks in France. Assassination would have brought revolution to a stop; there was no known plan for it. Khomeini specialized in sending cassettes to Iran, promising to bring human rights and democracy to the people, many of whom he was shortly to murder as corrupters of the earth.
At the same time, Republicans have been declaring a new self-understanding. On Election Night, Hawley tweeted, “We are a working class party now.” A few days later, Rubio was only a little more cautious: “The future of the party is based on a multiethnic, multiracial working-class coalition.” Representative Jim Jordan (R., Ohio) has joined the chorus. The GOP, he said, “is no longer the ‘wine and cheese’ party. It’s the beer and blue jeans party.”
Just what it means to be a working-class party, though — on that there is less clarity and less agreement. Most Republicans haven’t endorsed any legislation to raise the minimum wage or to create a wage subsidy or a child allowance. Rubio criticized Romney’s plan for sending “welfare assistance” to low-income parents.
One reason that consensus on a policy agenda for the working class may be elusive is that the definition of the group itself is ambiguous. Look at the relationship between voting behavior and income, and the notion that the Republicans are becoming a working-class party looks illusory. AP Votecast found that about 40 percent of the 2020 electorate belonged to households making less than $50,000 a year, and Joe Biden got a majority of their votes. Trump did best among voters making between $50,000 and $100,000. One could reasonably consider those voters in the core of the middle class. The Census reports that in 2019, median income was $69,000: Half of households made more, and half less.
Income used to correlate with political behavior much more strongly. In 2000, George W. Bush did 17 points better among the highest-earning households than among the lowest-earning ones. In 2020, the difference for Trump was only five points.
These days, when people talk about how the working class votes, they are generally referring to levels of schooling rather than of income. As recently as 2012, college graduates were a bit more likely to vote Republican than everyone else. In 2020, those with college degrees were significantly more likely than others to vote Democratic. (That excludes voters with postgraduate degrees, who have long given a majority of their votes to Democrats.) This education-based realignment has occurred throughout the developed world and has taken the same basic form, with voters who have college degrees to the left of those without.
4. Madeleine Kearns crowns Meghan and Harry, royal pains. From the piece:
Perhaps at this point I am at risk of losing my American readers. Why should you care about any of this, given that you fought a war over 200 years ago to be free of monarchist concerns forevermore? I sympathize. (I am Scottish, after all.) Still, an appalling celebrity culture, a culture of narcissism, is being mainstreamed and celebrated — and with astonishingly little opposition because it is cloaked in wokeness.
Markle’s version of events begins like every princess book, with a wide-eyed and innocent heroine who was good-natured and trusting and had simply no idea what she was getting herself into. Within the first five minutes of her interview, she made a reference to Princess Diana (her husband’s mom), whom we, the audience, are presumably supposed to consider her kindred spirit, a previous shooting star with the same Markle sparkle. (All nonsense, of course.)
Then, after this contrived setup, the interview reached its first emotional plot twist — the moment “when everything changed,” Markle tells us. This was when she endured heartache and torment when the royal family were unwilling to make a public statement in her defense after British tabloids reported that Markle had made Kate Middleton cry over the bridesmaids’ dresses at Markle’s wedding, when in fact “the reverse happened” — Kate had made Markle cry (the ultimate proof of being in the right, as every little girl can attest). Markle reveals that Kate even sent flowers and a note taking “accountability” for her actions. “I would never have wanted that to come out about her,” Markle says of her famously discreet sister-in-law. “I protected that from ever being out in the world,” she tells Oprah’s audience of millions.
Why does this soon-to-be 40-year-old millionaire mother think we should care about which grown woman made which grown woman cry over an item of clothing? Something to do with the sisterhood, I think: “If you love me, you don’t have to hate [Middleton],” Markle says. “And if you love her, you don’t need to hate me.” Of course, what Markle doesn’t realize is that most of us neither love nor hate either of them. We have our own lives, with people in them
BONUS: John J. Miller goes back a near century to recall Charles Curtis, the Veep who knew a thing or two about races, political and mixed. From the piece:
In 1884, Curtis won election as county prosecutor, the first step in his long rise. When he ran for Congress in 1892, Demo crats suggested that his Indian ancestry rendered him unfit for office, but voters elected him anyway in what was elsewhere a lousy year for GOP candidates. He served on the House Committee on Indian Affairs and drafted a law that came to be known as the Curtis Act, which sought to weaken tribal loyalties and encourage Indians to assimilate into white society — a stance that makes Curtis controversial in some Indian circles today. He aspired to the Senate and finally was elected to it in 1907. Over the next two decades, he rose in its Republican ranks, becoming Senate majority leader in 1924 and remaining in the post until his vice presidency.
Party leaders tend to focus on the passage of legislation rather than the writing of it, and Curtis fits the mold: “The historian studying our times, going over the history of legislation for 30 years, will not find Curtis’s name attached to any measure of first importance,” wrote White in 1925. Even so, Curtis was the man who first introduced the Equal Rights Amendment to the Senate, in 1923. It went on to become a major cause of feminists in the 1970s. Today it remains a project of progressives, who see its possible revival as a route to equal-pay mandates and guaranteed abortion rights. Curtis probably would not recognize the thing it has become, but he was present at the ERA’s conception.
The most impressive feat of Curtis may involve his constituent relations. He was famous for remembering the names of voters, and he tried to stay in close contact with as many as possible. His half-sister Dorothy described how she helped him keep “books filled with the names of Kansas voters, the citizens of every county and town” and “a short biography of each voter, with his achievements, sometimes with a description of his personality.” One anecdote describes letters poured into the Curtis office in a 24-hour period, and how Curtis and a throng of secretaries mailed replies to each correspondent by the following day. “Charley Curtis would have been a hell of a Rotary Club member,” says R. David Edmunds, a retired history professor at the University of Texas at Dallas.
Elsewhere in the Conservative Solar System
1. At The College Fix, Tyler Hummel reports on more academic lunacy about pigmentation — the latest is to attack “white woundedness.” From the article:
Berea College hosted an online webinar Wednesday to discuss the concept of white citizenship as terrorism. It was led by Professor Amy Brandzel, author of “Against Citizenship: The Violence of the Normative.”
The one-hour lecture, while held March 17, made national headlines last week because of its provocative title: “White Citizenship as Terrorism: Make America Great Again, Again.”
A flier for the event stated “if terrorism is defined as the use of violence and threats to create a state of fear towards particular communities and identities, then this is what ‘Trumpism’ is at its core.”
Brandzel is an assistant professor of American Studies and Women Studies at the University of New Mexico. Brandzel’s online bio states the scholar “works across the connections and contradictions within feminist, GLBT/queer, postcolonial, and critical race theories on identity, citizenship, law, history, and knowledge production.”
The lecture began with a land acknowledgment, wherein Brandzel admits to being a “white settler who lives on unseated Pueblo, Navajo and Apache Land.”
China’s military buildup threatens its neighbors and regional stability in the Far East. Beijing’s aggressive military expansion has made its navy the largest in the world, and it has been flexing its maritime muscle in the South China Sea and Indo-Pacific region. It continues to build its ballistic missile capacities as well.
Further, China’s expertise in cyber-warfare is both well-established and feared. It has allowed the PRC to hack into computers and steal intellectual property, as well as other cyber crimes.
But the junction of China’s growing cyber capabilities and its aggressive military buildup is in the application of artificial intelligence (AI) to military weapons and systems.
Conducted by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), China’s strategy in military expansion moves on many fronts, and AI work is integral to all of its military goals. The PLA has been committed to prioritizing innovation over expansion in its modernization efforts at least since 2014.
The PLA believes it can leapfrog the U.S. in the course of this transformation. China, however, has many challenges to developing and deploying AI-based systems that the U.S. does not. They lack the kind of technical talent the U.S. has, as well as the skill to manage the enormous quantities of data that such systems rely on, both for development and for operations. Not surprisingly, their organization, too, is a hindrance to innovation in the military AI space.
3. At The Catholic Thing, old NR colleague Brad Miner considers what it means to be a “practicing Catholic” (in the new era of Biden Catholicism). From the article:
That we even have the term “practicing Catholic” is revealing. Despite living in New York for the last forty-four years, I don’t think I have ever heard any Jewish friend be called a “practicing Jew,” although more often Jews here are referred to by more specific adjectives: Orthodox, ultra-Orthodox, Conservative, liberal, Reform, secular. Most often, Jews who attend Sabbath services are “observant,” although I suspect that term may seem odd to the Haredi.
Anyhow, observant may be analogous to practicing.
But I also can’t recall ever hearing anybody describe themselves as a practicing Methodist or Presbyterian or Episcopalian or Lutheran, but, obviously, I haven’t been everywhere or spoken to everybody, so I haven’t heard everything. Still, I haven’t heard that.
To the extent that this is true, it’s because we Catholics know only too well that a whole lot of people who call themselves “Catholic” have very little knowledge of the faith and put very little of what they do know into use. They favor “a woman’s right to choose” and abortion, and they disfavor getting up on a Sunday morning and going to Mass. You could say they’re “out of practice,” the way I am with French and the drums, which were old passions allowed to cool.
As we know, every Sunday is a Holy Day of Obligation, and dwindling attendance at Mass on the Lord’s Day is all you need to know about who’s “practicing” or who’s not. And if you go on any Holy Day of Obligation when it falls on a weekday, you know one of two things: either many “Catholics” don’t grasp the meaning of the word “obligation” or they don’t care.
Some of this may be the (sometimes) admirable American belief that nobody tells us what to do. In this case, of course, it’s abominable.
4. At Law & Liberty, Mark Pulliam questions the constitutionality of abortion. From the essay:
But what if everyone was wrong about the premise of the debate?
What if the Reconstruction Era Fourteenth Amendment, instead of protecting a woman’s right to an abortion, protected the unborn child’s right to life? What if the 39th Congress intended to include the unborn as “persons” under the Due Process Clause? So argues Professor John Finnis of Notre Dame’s law school in a provocative article in the April 2021 issue of First Things. Finnis acknowledges that the text of the Fourteenth Amendment, drafted in 1866 and ratified in 1868, is silent on the subject of abortion, as is the drafting history and congressional debates on the measure. He nevertheless contends that the intent to protect the unborn is evident in the reliance of proponents of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 (the provisions of which the Fourteenth Amendment was designed to uphold) on William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765).
Blackstone assigned the beginning of life (and thus legal protection) to the unborn upon quickening. At least “by the dawn of the nineteenth century,” Finnis argues, abortion was prohibited under English law from the time of conception. Therefore, if the Fourteenth Amendment was intended to confer on the newly-freed slaves (and others) the rights of Englishmen (as Finnis contends, quoting James F. Wilson, the sponsor of the Civil Rights Act of 1866), the term “any person” in the Due Process Clause includes the unborn. Ergo, abortion deprives the unborn of life without due process of law, and is therefore unconstitutional. In other words, states would be constitutionally forbidden to permit abortion.
Finnis closely explores the reasoning of Roe and delves into the common law background of the concept of “quickening” in America during the 19th century. Finnis is a world class philosopher, and his philosophical arguments are compelling. But wait a minute. The article is about constitutional law, not moral philosophy.
Even if Finnis is correct about the derivation of the Fourteenth Amendment and the meaning and significance of Blackstone’s Commentaries — even if, contra Roe, unborn children are “persons” entitled to due process — does that mean, as the title of Finnis’ article suggests, that “Abortion is Unconstitutional”? Not necessarily. Section One of the Fourteenth Amendment reads, “nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” Where is the state action?
5. At The Spectator, Bruno Maçães believes the forthcoming post-COVID era will provide a technological explosion. From the piece:
Take transportation and energy: the demand for driverless cars and delivery vans boomed last year because people were fearful of getting infected. In response companies quickly scaled up their plans. Last October, for example, Waymo announced the launch of a taxi service that is fully driverless. Walmart announced in December its plans to use fully autonomous box trucks to make deliveries in Arkansas later this year. As retail goes online as a result of the pandemic, massive delivery volumes are now placing greater pressure on others to follow suit.
Meanwhile the aviation and space sectors are also getting creative. Supersonic air travel may return, 20 years after the retirement of Concorde. Boom Supersonic, a startup, will test the XB-1 this year as a prelude to a larger aircraft capable of carrying up to 90 passengers at twice the speed of sound. Airbus has given itself five years to develop a commercially viable aircraft that runs on hydrogen, a Herculean task that could revolutionize the whole aviation industry. SpaceX could be working on a human mission to Mars by the end of the decade.
Two researchers from Cambridge and Columbia have even suggested building a space elevator they call the Spaceline. This would involve extending a line, anchored on the moon, to deep within Earth’s gravity well. Its purpose? To have a cable allowing free movement from Earth to the Moon. Ideas once imagined as long-term projects are now treated as achievable aims. COVID could have accelerated development not only of greener vehicles and travel, but energy production itself. Scientists are now developing a compact (trash-can-sized) version of a nuclear fusion reactor, renewing hopes that the long-elusive goal of mimicking the way the sun produces energy might be achieved and eventually contribute to the fight against climate change.
6. At Commentary, Wilfred C. Reilly shows the good-news evidence of race in America. From the essay:
Yes, racism exists. However, there are significant caveats that merit discussion. First, many of the studies used to demonstrate the prevalence of contemporary bias are limited in scope. Devah Pager and her team looked only at hiring for non-affirmative-action entry-level jobs in the private sector, primarily with white-owned employers, in Milwaukee near the turn of the past century. While Pager, who died in 2018, was a skilled and ethical scholar, it would be hard for a critic from the right not to notice that this is probably the only sector of the modern job market in which a qualified upper-middle-class minority job applicant might find himself at a hiring disadvantage. It would be fascinating to see this study replicated in the context of public-sector jobs, or desirable experience-based union jobs, or diversity-forward positions. For that matter, fully 36 percent of U.S. businesses today are minority- or woman-owned. What does “racial hiring bias” look like for applicants to that sector?
Entering trickier ground, we may (discreetly) note that discrimination does not always reflect blind irrational bias. While I would still opt not to work with a business that had such a rule in place, common sense compels us to admit that there might be reasons other than “hatred” for a bar owner’s reluctance to usher a group of 100 male Hispanic soldiers into an entirely black or white night club packed full of drunks. At a more serious level, several scholars have speculated that reaction to stereotypically black names on resumés is as likely to reflect perceived affirmative-action effects or class bias as it is racism — and, indeed, one significant study finds no negative effect for middle-class black names. It is only a bit glib to say that, while “Sharkeshia Freeman” may well face discrimination in the professional job market, “Marcus Freeman” probably will not.
Finally, bias against a whole range of groups seems to be as prevalent as bias against “blacks” or “persons of color,” on those occasions when this is actually measured. The same Gallup polling project that turned up the 8 percent anti-black statistic also found that 7 percent of Americans would never vote for a Catholic candidate, 8 percent would never vote for a woman of any race, 9 percent would never vote for a Hispanic or a Jew, and fully 19 percent would never vote for a practicing Mormon.
These caveats aside, probably the best and broadest response to the fact that some racism exists in present-day America is this simple statement: “To be sure, but we’ve spent an incredible amount of blood and treasure to counteract it.” Although this is almost never said openly these days, the Civil War and the civil-rights movement are over, and the good guys won both. Back in 1954, the Brown v. Board decision brought an end to at least legal de jure segregation, with the government’s writ being enforced, often by armed might. In 1964, the Civil Rights Act made most forms of discrimination civilly if not criminally illegal. Pro-minority affirmative action has been the law of the land since the Philadelphia Plan in 1967. Such diversity-forward programs recently turned 53 years old — and it is rather remarkable how rarely this empirical fact is used as a rebuttal to claims of widespread “white privilege.”
Social justice activists have been arguing for some time that scientific societies and institutions need to address systemic sexism and racism in STEM disciplines. However, their rationale is often anything but scientific. For example, whenever percentages in faculty positions, test scores, or grant recipients in various disciplines do not match percentages of national average populations, racism or sexism is generally said to be the cause. This is in spite of the fact that no explicit examples of racism or sexism generally accompany the statistics. Correlation, after all, is not causation. Without some underlying mechanism or independent evidence to explain a correlation of observed outcomes with population statistics, inferring racism or sexism in academia as the cause is inappropriate.
One might have hoped for more rigor from the leadership of scientific societies and research institutions. Alas, this has not been the case. In the current climate, many have simply adopted popular rhetoric and the jargon of critical theory has begun to dominate communications by these institutions. Pandering and virtue signalling have begun to generate proactive initiatives by the highest levels of the scientific community, often replacing the focus on science itself. Here are a few examples from the past few weeks alone.
In December, the American Physical Society (APS), the largest society of physicists in the world, sent out a letter to its membership arguing that Trump’s Presidential Executive Order 13950 on Combatting Race and Sex Stereotyping was “in direct opposition to the core values of the American Physical Society.” The order therefore needed to be rescinded in order to “strengthen America’s scientific enterprise.” The order (since