The Weekend Jolt

Will We ‘Bear Witness’ to Cuba’s Cries — or Do Something More?

People shout slogans against the government during protests against and in support of the government in Havana, Cuba, July 11, 2021. (Alexandre Meneghin/Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Joe Biden dealt his best bud Barack Obama many moments where the latter must have privately muttered Arrested Development’s best recurring line — “I’ve made a huge mistake.” One of them came early in their bro-ship, during that heady 2008 campaign season, when then–veep nominee Biden predicted Obama would be tested within six months of taking office.

And so it was presaged, and so it came to pass. Among other world events, massive crowds of Iranian protesters took to the streets as part of the Green Movement to challenge what they saw as a crooked election in mid-2009. Famously, President Obama, while calling on Iran’s government to stop using violence against its people, summed up the U.S. posture toward this upheaval as one of “bearing witness.”

Which is something you need when you’re getting a document notarized, not challenging a tyrannical regime.

Tehran responded by killing, jailing, and torturing those who dared defy the government, and eventually putting candidates Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi under house arrest. A decade later . . . they are still under house arrest.

It’s a cautionary tale, as we once again “bear witness,” to the inspiring protests in Cuba against that tyrannical regime. In response, the communist government is detaining dissidents and shutting off communications. A country with an estimated 130 or so political prisoners won’t hesitate to lock up a few more.

From NR’s editorial:

The latest dictator, who took over from Fidel’s brother Raúl, President Miguel Díaz-Canel, has encouraged his supporters to confront the protesters in the streets and promised that he is “willing to resort to anything” to keep the “revolution” in power.

It’s not idle talk. He has unleashed the so-called Black Berets of the interior ministry to beat people up and issued dog-whistle calls for security forces to take off their uniforms and pose as counter-protesters taking the fight to the anti-government demonstrators. The regime has an awful lot of informers and policemen, and no one should take its oppressive capacity lightly — suppressing dissent is its core competency.

What can we do? First, speak the truth.

To his credit, President Biden issued a statement on Monday hailing the “clarion call for freedom” by the protesters and calling on “the Cuban regime to hear their people and serve their needs at this vital moment.” That’s a fine sentiment, although it’d be even better if Biden acknowledged the simple truth that this communist government — like any of its kind — can never represent or provide for its people.

Across the water, Cuban Americans are rallying. Ryan Mills visited a rain-drenched demonstration in Little Havana, where relatives showed their support and spoke plainly about what, collectively, they’re up against:

“I want to see my country free,” said Ariel Ramon, 50, who attended the demonstration near FIU with his wife and son. Ramon came to the U.S. 22 years ago. He wishes he was there now, but because he can’t be, “I need to be here,” he said, referring to the demonstration.

The protesters in Cuba are fighting for freedom, he said. “Not communism, not socialism. They want to be free, and now.”

So can we do more than “bear witness” here? If so, what?

Some in the Miami crowd this week spoke of intervention, either humanitarian or military, sensing an opportunity with Fidel gone. “There’s no fear anymore,” Nury Gomez, who attended the rally on Tuesday, told NR.

Of course, interventions in Libya and Syria during the Arab Spring serve a cautionary tale of another sort, though the risk of more muscular meddling in the Caribbean is certainly tempered by the absence of bloodthirsty jihadists. NR’s editorial offers nonmilitary policy ideas — excerpted in more detail below — including helping Cubans bust through Internet shutdowns. Florida’s Ron DeSantis is among those discussing this, and Biden said Thursday the U.S. is considering the possibility. Marco Rubio spoke on the Senate floor this week about the urgent need for the U.S. to lift the cover other nations provide the regime. Writing from Spain, Itxu Díaz laments this collaboration and underscores the importance of an unequivocal U.S. and EU position. Néstor Carbonell, here, calls for establishing contact with reformists inside the government in support of a democratic transition and being prepared to counter any attempt by Russia/China to intervene. And Senator Ted Cruz writes about the need to project strength to the regime, and solidarity with the people.

It is perhaps ironic that Biden’s prediction for Obama’s early presidency included a comparison to JFK’s early foreign-policy crises. On Biden’s watch, as with JFK’s, we’re back to Cuba. Will it end any differently this time?

Special Issue Alert

National Review is out with a new, very special issue that’s all about the China threat. Its repression of ethnic minorities, its vision for a new world order, its temptation to take Taiwan . . . all (and much more) are covered in our digital and analog pages. The table of contents is here.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

The president’s voting-rights speech this past week was an exercise in alarmism: Joe Biden Talks Down Democracy

Democrats might as well torch the rulebook if this is OK’d under reconciliation: Democrats’ New Amnesty Gambit

The United States and all who support freedom can do more than just cheer on the unprecedented protests in Cuba: How the U.S. Can Help Cuba Protesters

ARTICLES

Rich Lowry: The Point of the Anti-CRT Fight Should Be to Take Over the Schools

Cameron Hilditch: How Critical Race Theory Gets into Classrooms

Andy McCarthy: Kevin McCarthy Must Stop Stalling on the January 6 Committee

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Twenty Years in Afghanistan Is Enough

Dan McLaughlin: Dear Reporters: The Capitol Riot Was Not 9/11

Aron Ravin: Cuba Is Crying Out. Will We Listen?

Ryan Ellis: More Money to the IRS for Predatory Audits? Hell, No

Dan McLaughlin: Why Aren’t Democrats Angrier at Kamala Harris and Xavier Becerra?

Kyle Smith: Biden’s Blatherplate Executive Order and the Media’s Rapture

Caroline Downey: How Critical Race Theory Is Remaking a Connecticut School District

David Harsanyi: Joe Biden’s Shameful Voting-Rights Speech

Ryan Mills: One Year after Riots, Twin Cities Marked by Lawlessness, Racial Division

Christiana Holcomb: The Real Story of Males in Women’s Sports

Jerry Hendrix: On the Eve of Destruction

Jim Geraghty: Hey, Maybe the Walls Aren’t Closing In on Donald Trump After All

John McCormack: Senate Dems on Fleeing Texas Lawmakers: Actually, Obstruction Is Good

Ellen Carmichael: The Inhumanity of Joe Biden’s Travel Ban

Dominic Pino: How Congress Used a Fake Emergency to Create Web Welfare

Kevin Williamson: It’s Not ‘Just Property’ That’s Lost When Mobs Riot and Loot

Isaac Schorr: Chaos at the College Republican National Committee

CAPITAL MATTERS

In a special guest column, Scott Turner breaks down how lower taxes and lower regulation under the Trump administration benefited black Americans: African Americans and the Economy under Trump

Benjamin Zycher argues that ordinary people will end up the big losers in the fossil-fuel litigation game: Litigation against Fossil Producers Is Litigation against Energy Consumers and Voters

Robert H. Bork Jr. convincingly defends his father’s views on antitrust, and issues a warning to conservatives flirting with a hyper-intrusive approach: Conservatives Step into the Left’s Antitrust Trap

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Armond White sniffs out a cinematic gem, a story about a hermit/restaurant supplier and his pig/truffle finder and a haute & haughty hipster hell: Pig — Nicolas Cage’s Poetic Tale about Moral Fungus

Kyle Smith recommends a full-of-grit documentary about the New York City bars that were shut down by COVID: How Publicans Survived the Pandemic

And Brian Allen gives us all access to a one-stop-only showing of Albert Pinkham Ryder’s work: A Riveting Ryder Show at the New Bedford Whaling Museum

FROM THE NEW AUGUST 2, 2021, ISSUE OF NR

Mike Pompeo: Our Broken Engagement with China

Dan Blumenthal: Beijing’s Grand Strategy

Seth Cropsey: Why We Might Lose a War with China

Martha Bayles: The CCP Goes to Hollywood

James Holmes: Sun Tzu and Us

EXCERPTS ARE INFRASTRUCTURE

Is Cuba’s communist regime actually in danger? We can only hope. From the editorial, here are a few ways the U.S. can support those protesting:

The protests spread so quickly because word about them got around instantly on the Internet. Predictably the government has shut down Internet access. Willing companies operating in Cuba should be, if at all possible, enlisted to work toward circumventing this shutdown, and the U.S. should boost the broadcast power of Radio Marti.

We should keep up the diplomatic pressure. The administration should instruct its representatives at the United Nations to make raising the regime’s human-rights violations a priority there. It should make clear that Cuba will remain a State Department–designated state sponsor of terrorism for as long as the Communist Party remains in power, and that even further lifting of sanctions — an Obama-era initiative that only served the interests of the regime — is completely off the table.

In response to the coming crackdown, we should reduce both U.S. and Cuban Embassies to the chargé d’affaires level, and reduce the range of activities of Cuban diplomats in Washington and New York to 25 miles (the U.N. Embassy is a nest of spies, and there’s no reason to allow Cuban diplomats to travel the country giving anti-U.S. speeches at universities).

The protests are the first significant sign that the 60-year pall of fear in Cuba is beginning to lift. Now, it is the mafia in charge of the country that has to be afraid. They will surely do their worst to re-establish control. Let them know the world is watching and we know — and will do everything reasonable in our power to support — the rightful rulers of Cuba, its people. Cuba libre.

From the new issue, Seth Cropsey imagines what a military confrontation with China over Taiwan might look like, and it’s not pretty:

China’s immediate objective need not be conquering Taiwan and eliminating all resistance there. Rather, it need only neutralize all forces on Taiwan that can attack PLA ships and aircraft and thereby disrupt PLA operations in the western Pacific. Thus, truly disrupting Chinese plans would require preventing PLA sea and air control of Taiwan and preserving enough offensive capability on Taiwan to strike back, either against a PLA naval force or against bases on the mainland. This would require forward-deploying forces to Taiwan or having naval assets near enough to the First Island Chain to support Taiwan during China’s opening bombardment and naval envelopment.

However, current American force structure is not designed for this sort of engagement. The U.S. Navy’s combat power stems from its aircraft-carrier strike groups and submarine forces. Its “Expeditionary Strike Groups,” glorified amphibious-assault units, would be less relevant in a high-end naval conflict. Big-deck amphibs may field F-35B planes, but the lack of their own intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and targeting assets and the limited range of “vertical take-off and landing” (VTOL) fighters and “short take-off and vertical landing” (STOVL) fighters would hamper their effectiveness. American carrier strike groups are more effective: A two-carrier strike group with two full air wings would field 80 to 100 fighter aircraft. . . .

The United States is in a strategic bind. American naval forces are not optimized to fight within range of the enemy’s most lethal capabilities. But the most effective American strategy demands aggressive operations that would place American forces close to China’s coastline.

Rich Lowry surveys the landscape of anti-CRT laws and urges conservatives to keep pressing forward, as part of the “most potent grassroots movement since the Tea Party”:

The danger in the current fight over CRT isn’t that the right overreaches, but that it settles for too little. . . .

It is a common conservative lament that almost all the institutions in American life are arrayed against us, and so it is. In this context, taking control of the K-12 schools in a swath of America would be a very big deal, involving the partial recovery of an enormously influential institution.

We obviously aren’t taking back the universities, the philanthropies, the media, and all the rest.

The schools, it turns out, are much more achievable. All it requires to make enormous progress is winning school-board seats in low-budget, low turnout (at least for now) elections in communities around the country.

Because education is still largely a local affair, much of the fight for schools can be carried out on markedly more favorable terrain than is found at the federal level. There are red areas in every state in the union, and the hyper-localism of school-board races gives angry parents a lot of sway.

The beauty of this moment, of course, is that there are many such angry parents.

Dominic Pino delivers the origin story of an entitlement, with a thorough history of how Congress birthed a broadband benefit under cover of pandemic:

The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBBP) was established on the 2,422nd page of the 5,593-page Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 — or the fourth section of the ninth title of Division N, “Additional Coronavirus Response and Relief.” . . .

The EBBP provides up to $50 per month to qualifying households for broadband service (up to $75 per month if the household is on tribal land). It also provides a one-time discount of up to $100 on a new computer purchase. . . .

“Emergency” is being used as a magic word to expand government, not a term to describe reality. The FCC bent over backwards to make exceptions and issue guidance in consultation with Internet-service providers at the start of the pandemic to make sure people’s Internet access wasn’t cut off. All things considered, it was quite successful in doing so. There may have been issues along the way, but the emergency was averted.

Nevertheless, Congress created the EBBP. It’s a temporary program, but will it remain one? Once millions of Americans are accustomed to receiving $50 per month for their Internet bills for possibly a year or more, will Congress have the will to take it away from them?

Ellen Carmichael makes a convincing case for reconsidering the COVID travel ban on Europeans:

In recent days, daily COVID-related deaths in America have plummeted to just double-digits, the lowest since mid-March 2020. Despite worries about coronavirus variants, it turns out the vaccines are extremely well-suited to combat them, leaving very few vaccinated people hospitalized and even fewer dead. Cases are down, too, with new coronavirus diagnoses around 3 percent of what they were at the pandemic’s peak.

While there are still sadly a small number of holdouts, America’s overall vaccine response has yielded tremendous benefits to us at home and abroad. We’re doing more and masking less here in the U.S., and we’re able to travel more freely across the globe, too. In the spring, EU member states signaled they’d ease travel restrictions on Americans, ultimately lifting all bans on travelers from the U.S. last month. President Biden did not reciprocate. . . .

On the campaign trail, Biden told voters that he’d bring about a return to normal relations with Europe and an end to “erratic policies” from the White House. He has failed on both accounts. For an administration who promised us policies grounded in science and compassion, they deliver neither, and real people are hurting because of it.

Kyle’s savage dismantling of the media’s Biden E.O. coverage is gold from start to finish:

The basic structure of the document is as follows: In each section, hundreds of words of uncontroversial but superfluous space-filling (“Robust competition is critical to preserving America’s role as the world’s leading economy”) lead to campaign-speech-style affinity signaling, otherwise known as applause lines. Except they’re not applause lines if they’re in a document no one is going to read, much less read aloud to a delirious audience. . . .

Now for the meat. (Phil Collins drum break in the middle of “In the Air Tonight,” please.)

The big payoffs — the wowsers, the money shots, the Captain-America-picks-up-Thor’s-hammer crowd pleasers, the passages that made all of those headline writers punch out their dreamy “Biden smites the Monopoly Man as the little guy regains hope” headlines — are the passages where Biden tells agency heads he appointed, and who work for him, that they have X amount of time to publish a proposed minor rule change so that the process of actually changing a minor rule can begin and the rule might actually conceivably get changed around the time the Washington football team wins its next Super Bowl.

The big consumer-protection detail relating to phones, for instance, is this: The head of the FCC is told to “consider . . . prohibiting unjust or unreasonable early termination fees for end-user communications contracts, enabling consumers to more easily switch providers.” Consider. NPR reported this as a move to “ban steep early termination bills.” I can consider buying a zeppelin, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.

Shout-Outs

David French, at The Dispatch: Lost Friendships Break Hearts and Nations

Thomas Hogan, at City Journal: The Prosecutor Exodus

Bill McGurn, at the Wall Street Journal: A PTA Purge of Asians

Michael Barone, at the Washington Examiner: Joe Biden’s big lie

CODA

Chick Corea died this past February. It would be risible to attempt summarizing the virtuosic jazz pianist’s career and contributions in this compact space; the man seems to have logged more minutes recorded than minutes on this earth, a Shakespeare-level output of artistic work. So here’s just one splash of creativity by which to remember him: “The Hilltop.”

From My Spanish Heart, the duet with Stanley Clarke on bass is a cheerful romp with a satisfyingly thumping motif. As it progresses, the song forces the listener to distinguish between the two types of strings, a muted piano imitating bass and natural harmonics imitating piano, until it all merges in a burst of musical color that would suit the Fantasia treatment. The notes fall back into place. The motif returns. Chick’s keystrokes whisper goodbye.

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

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