The Weekend Jolt

National Review

The Lyin’ of the Desert

Dear Weekend Jolter,

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.

Done through closed fingers here.

(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.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

Desert fibbing from Cornpop’s intimidator: Biden Press Conference: President Lied about Border Crisis

Say it ain’t so, Kristi: Governor Noem Capitulates; Transgender-Bill Veto Sets Dangerous Precedent

The 51st State mistake: D.C. Statehood Is an Idea Whose Time Should Never Come

Gun-control defies claptrap-control: President Biden Ignoring the Second Amendment Is Not a ‘Commonsense’ Step

EU is stuck . . . for vaccine common sense: The European Union’s Vaccine Rollout Is a Disaster Unfolding

ARTICLES

Charles C.W. Cooke: The President’s Lies Are Brazen Beyond Belief

David Harsanyi: Cakebaker Jack Phillips’ Never-Ending Persecution

Cameron Hilditch: Religious Liberty in America: Why It Matters

Rich Lowry: Iowa Congressional Election: Stop the Steal

Madeleine Kearns: Bring Back the Slap

Alexandra DeSanctis: Kristi Noem’s Sports-Bill Veto Was a Mistake

Pradheep Shanker: Atlanta Shootings: The Left’s Anti-Asian Racism Narrative Is Misleading

Tristan Yang: Columbia University’s Segregated Graduations Exposes Woke Corruption

Jimmy Quinn: No, Condemning the CCP Is Not ‘Panic’

Michael Brendan Dougherty: A Quick Return to Normal Life Means It’s Vital to Stop More Coronavirus Regulations

Elizabeth Heng: How Republicans Can Win in California

John Fund: IDs Required for COVID Vaccination but Not for Voting?

Philip Klein: Joe Biden Doesn’t Even Pretend to Care about Deficits

Charles C.W. Cooke: Joe Biden’s Domestic Policy: Warning Lights Are Flashing, Does He See Them?

Martha Bradley-Doresy and Robert Maranto: Bureaucracy and Government Monopoly Have Conquered Our Schools, and Biden Won’t Fix It

Jay Cost: In Defense of the U.S. Senate

Mackubin Thomas Owens: Accusations of Rampant Racism and Extremism in Military Ranks Are False and Damaging

Kyle Smith: New York City: Not a ‘Luxury Product’ Anymore

CAPITAL MATTERS

Stephen Soukup reveals the ugly history of P.C. investing: Woke Asset Managers Wield Increasing Political Power

Jordan McGillis sees Biden’s green policies floating in red ink: The Biden Administration’s Climate Cost Problem

Steve Hanke knocks the stuffing out of Turkey’s thrill for Islamic finance: Erdogan’s Love Affair

Richard Morrison warns of bureaucrats unbound: The SEC’s Regulatory Creep

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEWS.

Kyle Smith admits to a screen crush: Audrey Documentary Reveals the Original People’s Princess

Armond White is beguiled: Shoplifters of the World Captures the Spirit of Smiths’ Tunes

COPIOUS CONSERVATIVE COMMENTARIES, EACH LAYERED WITH EXCEPTIONAL EXCERPTS

Editorials

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 publicly doubted 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:

Looking past the tumult of the presidential race, the real story of 2020 was the remarkable Republican and conservative performance at every other level. Deep-blue California was very much part of that, with Republicans seizing three new congressional seats from Democratic opposition — including the first California-Republican win over a Democratic incumbent since 1994.

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.

What’s happening here? First and foremost, we’re seeing a breaking of the ethnic balkanization and bloc-voting upon which Democrats nationally have pinned their hopes. Asian-American voters understand that a party whose fervent ideologues would deny their children equitable admission to educational opportunity is not for them. Latino voters understand that the cultural values espoused by a progressive movement unfriendly to religion and family are not their own. African-American voters understand that the politics of job destruction and high taxes are exactly the opposite of what their families and communities need.

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.

13. Our debt is now historic, says Philip Klein, and Joe Biden doesn’t even pretend to give a hoot. From the beginning of the article:

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.

Capital Matters

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.

4. What Could Possibly Go Wrong? Richard Morrison warns the if SEC bureaucrats have no limits, won’t every regulator feel unconstrained? From the piece:

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.

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEWS.

1. Armond White finds Shoplifters of the World beguiling. From the beginning of the review:

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.

Elsewhere in the Conservative Solar System

1. At The College Fix, Alex McKenna reports on how Ohio State University is all in on race-obsessing. From the beginning of the article:

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.”

A Dios

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.

A special prayer of thanks to all who have supported NR’s Cancel Culture webathon.

May The Permeating Blessings of the Ancient of Days Soften Hard Hearts,

Jack Fowler

Who can be excoriated for errors grammatical and intellectual and maybe even theological via pointed missives sent through the ether to jfowler@nationalreview.com.

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