The Weekend Jolt

National Review

Shooting Blanks

Dear Joltarian,

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.

Ditto for Charlie Cooke’s takedown of Biden’s Gun-Control Theater. Here’s how it begins:

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.

NAME. RANK. LINKS.

EDITORIALS

Earthly desires: Janet Yellen’s Global Tax Cartel

Edito, ergo smear: 60 Minutes’ Dishonest DeSantis Hit Job

Moral Rain-out: MLB All Star Game: Georgia Boycott Is Hypocritical

Blue taxes: Democrats Keep Trying to Lift the SALT Deduction Cap

Ayatollah Love: Iran Nuclear Deal & Biden Administration: Concessions to Tehran Are Coming

More GOP Wimpery: Asa Hutchinson’s Veto: A Big Mistake on ‘Gender Reassignment’ Therapy

ARTICLES

Luke Thompson: Lincoln Project: Rise and Fall

Dan McLaughlin: Georgia Voting Law: Democrats Losing Argument, Moving Goalposts

Rich Lowry: The Time Stacey Abrams Suppressed the Vote

Brad Raffensperger: Georgia Voter-Access Law: Setting Record Straight

Isaac Schorr: Ron DeSantis Has All the Right Enemies

Rich Lowry: Woke Disinformation Is More Pervasive Than Russian Disinformation

Cameron Hilditch: Joe Biden & Infrastructure: Everything Counts

Andrew C. McCarthy: MLB All Star Game Relocation: Woke Politics Sets Corporate Agenda

Ryan Mills: MLB Has Never Shown Interest in Voting Laws in Georgia or Anywhere Else

Jack Crowe: Hunter Biden: Jimmy Kimmel Tries to Make Corruption Funny

Kyle Smith: Alexei Navalny: The Bravest Man on Earth

Therese Shaheen: China’s Apartheid System Enforces Internal Inequality

Jorge Jrisati: China Is Violating U.S. Sanctions on Venezuela with Oil Purchases

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Ireland’s COVID Lockdown Is the Most Miserable in Western World

Sean Kennedy: Marilyn Mosby: The Baltimore Prosecutor is Deceptive and Shameless

Corey DeAngelis: Public-School Funding Growing for Decades: Shrinking Budgets Is a Myth

Donald Mace Williams: How a Long Daily Walk Helped One 91-Year-Old Survive the Pandemic

Joseph Loconte: How J.R.R. Tolkien Helped C. S. Lewis Accept Christianity

Brian Allen: The Art of Winslow Homer and Frederic Remington at the Amon Caret Museum

CAPITAL MATTERS

Brad Palumbo sees rich libs banking on Chuck: The Schumer SALT Deduction-Cap Repeal Is a Tax Bailout for Rich Liberals

David Harsanyi walks the girder: Our Infrastructure Is Not Crumbling

Dan McLaughlin reports the Papa John mugging: John Schnatter Was Railroaded by Corporate Cancel Culture Run Amok

Charles C.W. Cooke on biz-lovin’ libs: Are Corporations Good Now?

William Levin finds inflation numbers deflated: How Official Statistics Underestimate Inflation

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Armond White witnesses dull wokery: One Night in Miami Erases True History of 1960s Black Icons

Kyle Smith offers big thoughts: The Big Chill: Boomers Discover Truth of Their Own Failings

More Armond, who finds bloodless decency: Zack Snyder’s Justice League: Cyborg Superhero Rejects Martyrdom and Vengeance

Now Hear This Before We Move Along . . .

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:

By the great Wesley Smith, an essay titled Defeating Technocracy Is Crucial to Life, and, by David Quinn, Is Euthanasia Next for Ireland?. A grisly thought, that.

Please also consider subscribing. Done here.

EXCERPT JUNKIES COME HITHER: TOO-MANY-TO-COUNT LINKS AND COPIOUS GOODIES TO SATISFY YOUR CONSERVATIVE CRAVINGS

Editorials

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.

4. Reviving the state-and-local tax deductions is a bad idea (unless you are Chuck Schumer hoping to reward blue-state liberals). From the beginning of the editorial:

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, told PBS 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.

6. Asa Hutchison’s veto gets deserved comeuppance. From the editorial:

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.

Articles

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 Post was 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 Post closing 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 Post awarded “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-Constitution issued 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.

The Abrams legislation cut the days for early voting from 45 all the way down to 21.

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 Post corrected 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.

Capital Matters

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.

Lights. Camera. Review.

1. To Armond White, One Night in Miami is woke and dull. From the review:

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.

3. That cyborg, writes Armond, from Zach Snyder’s Justice League is the black kid that Hollywood ignored. From the beginning of the piece:

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.

Elsewhere in the Conservative Solar System

1. At Gatestone Institute, Soeren Kern covers Red China’s pushback against companies critical of its Uyghur-oppression. From the beginning of the piece:

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.

Human rights experts say at least one million Muslims are being detained in up to 380 internment camps, where they are subject to torture, mass rapes, forced labor and sterilizations.

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.

2. At City Journal, Oliver Wiseman recounts the pushback to critics of race-sloganeering. From the beginning of the piece:

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.

Baseballery

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.

A Dios

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 jfowler@nationalreview.com.

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