Patterico's Pontifications

12/31/2021

New Year’s Weekend Open Thread

Filed under: General — Dana @ 12:51 pm



[guest post by Dana]

Happy New Year’s Eve! A neighbor here on the West coast told me that they always ring in the new year with New York and thus are in bed by 9:30 pm. Sounds good to me. With that, I am not doing a year-end round-up of notable news items because I just don’t have the energy to meet the expectation. However, please feel free to do so in the comments section if you’d like. With that, let’s go!

First news item

Presidents Biden and Putin chit-chat as Russia has massed 100,000 troops on the border with Ukraine, continues to demand that Ukraine never be allowed in NATO while telling Biden there will be a “complete rupture” if sanctions are put on Russia if it invades Ukraine:

“President Biden urged Russia to de-escalate tensions with Ukraine. He made clear that the United States and its allies and partners will respond decisively if Russia further invades Ukraine,” Psaki said in a statement Thursday.

“President Biden also expressed support for diplomacy, starting early next year with the bilateral Strategic Stability Dialogue, at NATO through the NATO-Russia Council, and at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. President Biden reiterated that substantive progress in these dialogues can occur only in an environment of de-escalation rather than escalation,” she added.

A senior administration official told reporters on Thursday that Biden laid out two paths for Putin — diplomacy leading toward de-escalation or punitive measures like economic sanctions and beefed up military assistance to U.S. allies in the region.

According to the report, the administration is keeping mum about why Russia requested the call.

Second news item

Official arm of the GOP pushes (in a now deleted tweet) anti-vax information:

Untitled

It’s like the GOP doesn’t want the pandemic to end.

Better late than never: At odds with the House Judiciary GOP, Trump continues to tout the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines:

Appearing on the right-wing YouTube channel Right Side Broadcasting Network (RSBN) on Thursday night, Trump wholeheartedly expressed support for the COVID-19 vaccines, which he noted has “saved millions of lives.” “We’re very proud of the vaccines,” he continued, while trying to thread the far-right needle. “But the mandates, they should not be—and they are trying to enforce these mandates, and it’s so bad for people and for our country.”

All of this pro-vaccine talk from Trump is not going over well with his loyalists. From Info Wars to Candace Owens, MAGAland has clearly been caught off guard by Trump extolling the effectiveness of the vaccines.

Third news item

“Test to stay”:

As another surge of Covid cases has swept the U.S., school districts around the country are pushing to keep classrooms open next week when students return from winter breaks.

At-home testing kits will be given out to classrooms if students test positive, with students taking two tests over the course of seven days. Students who are asymptomatic and test negative can return to school the day after their first tests.

This is certainly a change for the better. I hope all officials are on board with keeping kids in school as much as possible.

Third news item

Gov. Kristi Noem on minimizing the spread of Covid-19: just wash your hands!!:

She later added, “I tell people consistently: take the emotion out of this discussion. Start studying the science and the facts and let’s get back to the basics. Still, Pete, the number one thing that people can do to slow down the spread of a virus? Go wash your hands. Go wash your hands. I’m shocked by the amount of times that I have to go remind people of that. And if you’re sick, stay home.”

Noem must have missed this:

Evidence suggests the U.S. COVID-19 vaccination program has substantially reduced the burden of disease in the United States by preventing serious illness in fully vaccinated people and interrupting chains of transmission. Vaccinated people can still become infected and have the potential to spread the virus to others, although at much lower rates than unvaccinated people.

Fourth news item

Glenn Loury on unspeakable truths about racial inequality in America:

Violence on such a scale involving blacks as both perpetrators and victims poses a dilemma to someone like myself. On the one hand, as the Harvard legal scholar Randall Kennedy has observed, we elites need to represent the decent law-abiding majority of African Americans cowering fearfully inside their homes in the face of such violence. We must do so not just to enhance our group’s reputation as in the “politics of respectability” but mainly as a precondition for our own dignity and self-respect.

On the other hand, we elites must also counter the demonization of young black men, which the larger American culture has for some time now been feverishly engaged in. Even as we condemn murderers, we cannot help but view with sympathy the plight of many poor youngsters who, though not incorrigible, have nevertheless committed crimes. We must wrestle with complex historical and contemporary causes internal and external to the black experience that help to account for this pathology. (There’s no way around it. This is pathology. The behavior in question here is not OK. That one can adduce social-psychological explanations does not resolve all moral questions.)

Where is the self-respecting black intellectual to take his stand? Must he simply act as a mouthpiece for movement propaganda aiming to counteract “white supremacy?” Has he anything to say to his own people about how some of us are living? Is there space in American public discourses for nuanced, subtle, sophisticated moral engagement with these questions? Or are they mere fodder for what amount to tendentious, cynical, and overtly politically partisan arguments on behalf of something called “racial equity?” And what about those so-called white intellectuals? Do they have to remain mute? Or must they limit themselves to incanting anti-racist slogans?

I don’t know all of the answers here, but I know that those victims had names. I know they had families. I know they did not deserve their fate. I know that black intellectuals must bear witness to what actually is taking place in our midst, must wrestle with complex historical and contemporary causes both within and outside the black community that bear on these tragedies, must tell truths about what is happening, and must not hide from the truth with platitudes, euphemisms, and lies.

I know, despite whatever causal factors may be at play, that we black intellectuals must insist each youngster is capable of choosing a moral way of life. I know that, for the sake of the dignity and self-respect of my people as well as for the future of my country, we American intellectuals of all colors must never lose sight of what a moral way of life consists in. And yet we are in imminent danger of doing precisely that, I fear.

Read the whole thing.

Fifth news item

Going after Liz Cheney and trying to catch up with her hefty war chest:

Tech billionaire Peter Thiel and Donald Trump Jr. are co-hosting a pair of January fundraisers for Wyoming Republican Harriet Hageman, the Trump-backed primary challenger running against GOP Rep. Liz Cheney, according to an invitation to be sent out to GOP donors Thursday…Trump Jr. and his girlfriend, former Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle, are listed as the special guests for the two fundraisers.

Hageman is looking to close the financial gap with Cheney, who through the end of September had more than $3.6 million in her campaign account. Cheney has seen her fundraising numbers swell this year, as she drew attention for her criticisms of former President Donald Trump, including her January vote to impeach him, and her prominent role on the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

Hageman, who has received Trump’s endorsement, reporting having about $245,000 in the bank at the end of September, after launching her campaign just weeks earlier.

Sixth news item

Biden needs to stop saying things that aren’t true:

“The first rule of pandemic crisis response is that public officials must be sane, sober, and truthful in communicating with the public.” Trump has many skills, but that’s not one of them. As Jacob Sullum (who wrote the “Case Against Biden” companion piece), has previously observed, “Trump lies routinely, reflexively, and extravagantly, but his supporters do not seem to hold it against him.”

Well, supporters of all politicians at all times, including of President Biden at this time, need to develop more exacting standards. It’s not OK for a pandemic-era political leader to say, as Biden did just two weeks ago, that if you’re vaccinated, you “do not spread the disease to anybody else.”

It is not acceptable for a president to claim, as he did Tuesday in a single tweet, that Build Back Better is “fully paid for” (it’s not), that it “will not increase the deficit” (it would), and that it “won’t raise the taxes by one penny for anyone making less than $400,000 a year” (counters the Tax Policy Center: “roughly 20 percent to 30 percent of middle-income households would pay more in taxes in 2022″). Such hyperbolic balderdash is worthy of a 24-year-old social media intern at a hack think tank; not the Commander in Chief of allegedly the greatest nation on Earth.

Democratic self-governance requires a certain modicum of citizen self-respect. If elected executives can lie with impunity, they will lie with impunity, and the chances of those lies turning out somehow to be “noble” are roughly slim, none, and fat. There’s a pandemic still on, a world wracked with its usual uncertainties, and oncoming calamities we cannot currently see. Dishonest federal leadership will only make all those things worse.

Seventh news item

A view on the possible erosion of Christian values:

Pagans thought that the collapse of their beliefs would mean the collapse of Rome. Many 21st-century conservatives believe something similar about the erosion of Christian values: that the liberties of our open society are parasitical on our Christian inheritance and that when that inheritance collapses, civilization will, too.

Ms. Delsol does not see things quite that way. The ethics of the Christian age, she notes, were shot through with unacknowledged borrowings from the pagan values Christianity replaced. (Consider stoicism or the Hippocratic oath in medicine.) In the same way, today’s post-Christian progressivism comes with a large helping of Christianity. Why use Christian matrimony to unite gay couples, for example, rather than a new institution less wrapped up in Christian values? Because that is just the piecemeal way that civilizational change happens.

So if another civilization comes to replace Christianity, it will not be a mere negation, such as atheism or nihilism. It will be a rival civilization with its own logic — or at least its own style of moralizing. It may resemble the present-day iconoclasm that French commentators refer to as le woke. (The term means basically what it does in English, except that French people see wokeness as a system imported wholesale from American universities and thus itself almost a religious doctrine.)

Eighth news item

In which I agree with Kevin D. Williamson’s review of the new Netflix film Don’t Look Up:

Kyle [Smith] faults the film for failing to live up to Dr. Strangelove, and it doesn’t, but the 2020s offer very different material from the high–Cold War era. Dr. Strangelove’s power comes in part from the contrast between the real-world seriousness of the figures who populated the early-1960s military-industrial complex and the absurdity of the movie’s world. In our time, the absurdity itself is very much in the public square and a political factor in its own right. Meryl Streep’s performance as a trucker-cap-wearing populist president (coded red for Republican, but also a friend of progressive tech titans) is terrifying because it is so easy to imagine such a figure actually being elected president.

Miscellaneous

Flying in to 2022:

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Going into the new year, I am pressed to remember to treat others with an extra measure of grace. I say this because this was a particularly hard year for me. An unexpected situation arose which found a near-stranger – albeit a relative – living in my home for nearly 7 months while withdrawing from six years of morphine dependency due to chronic 24/7 pain from catastrophic surgery. The individual desperately needed a quiet respite and constant help to bring them back to some semblance of good physical, emotional, and mental health. For me, it was exhausting, unfamiliar, and isolating. For them, it was a second chance. This situation, along with caring for an elderly parent who this year unexpectedly lost the ability to independently walk, was overwhelming. Sitting down to write a post, no matter how sloppy or elementary it may have been (and there were a lot of those!), was therapeutic and provided a small window of escape. I offer this glimpse into my life only as a reminder that we are all going through stuff. Hard stuff, painful stuff, hurtful stuff, and stuff that will forever change us – for better or worse. During these mean seasons, it can be like stumbling blindly on hot coals during the day and collapsing on a bed of nails at night. Thus I am determined to remember that my hard year may have been a cakewalk for others experiencing something far worse. During this year, what might have seemed like a personal slight may have simply been a lack of energy, what might have seemed like rudeness may have just been the weight of knowing that there were still a dozen things left on the to-do list before X woke up from a nap, and what might have seemed like a lack of concern may have just been the inability to shake off the pressure at home. This past year, I’ve been on both sides of this particular coin. All of us only have so much emotional bandwidth, and there are times when it just can’t be spent on you – or me. With that, I’m hoping to refrain from jumping to judgment about others because I know what this year has been like for me but I don’t necessarily know what it’s been like for you. Grace upon grace to us all, we fragile and limited creations.

P.S. Obviously, politicians are exempt from this effort and open to criticism and judgment 24/7 unless I know they are going through some catastrophic family event. If they do the stupid stuff they’re fair game!

Happy New Year!

–Dana

12/30/2021

But of Course: Trump Supporter Who Told President Biden “Let’s Go Brandon” Is Considering A Run For Office

Filed under: General — Dana @ 11:23 am



[guest post by Dana]

Here’s how Trump supporter Jared Schmeck’s Christmas Eve phone call with President Biden went down:

The phone call started cordially enough. Schmeck, 35, had called the NORAD Santa tracker like he does every Christmas Eve. Normally, the call is automated. This year, the president and first lady Jill Biden were taking calls together.

For a couple of minutes, things were pleasant. “I assume you’re a dad,” said the president. “What do you want for Christmas?”

Schmeck laughed. “Maybe a quiet night.”

“Lots of luck, Dad!” Biden responded.

The president asked Schmeck what his children wanted for Christmas… The first couple then began wrapping up the amiable call.

To make sure Santa shows up, “you guys have to be in bed by nine o’clock!” the president said, adding: “I hope you have a wonderful Christmas”

That’s when Schmeck, speaking to the leader of the free world, parroted a catch phrase that’s been adopted in conservative circles, and which, when translated, means “[expletive] Joe Biden.”

“Yeah, I hope you guys have a wonderful Christmas as well,” Schmeck said. “Merry Christmas and let’s go, Brandon.”

Biden took the remark in stride. “Let’s go, Brandon, I agree,” he said.

It certainly wasn’t difficult to puzzle out what makes Schmeck tick, even before he spelled it out:

The southern Oregon father of four who ended a Christmas Eve call with President Joe Biden by declaring “Let’s go Brandon” told a former adviser to President Donald Trump this week that he believes the verifiably false claim that “the election was 100 percent stolen.”

Despite telling The Oregonian/OregonLive on Saturday that he was not a “Trumper” and the comment was in jest, Jared Schmeck said Monday he’s “proud” of using the conservative dig against Biden at the end of a live streamed Santa tracker call and called the moment “pretty darn funny.”

Donald Trump is my president and he should still be president right now,” Schmeck told Steve Bannon in an interview on Bannon’s program, “War Room,” which airs on a network called “Real America’s Voice.”

Schmeck wore a “Make America Great Again” hat and struck a defiant tone in the conversation with Bannon, saying that using the euphemism for “F*** Joe Biden” was a way to express his dissatisfaction with the president.

Anyway, it goes without saying that Schmeck is now considering a run for office. This is, of course, completely unsurprising, given today’s ReTrumplican Party. Schmeck will probably get some traction too because he flattered Trump by insulting Biden and now wears that like a badge of honor. Obviously, it’s impressive in certain circles. So here we are:

An Oregon man who invoked a coded vulgar insult of President Biden…is considering running for office and says he would welcome former president Donald Trump’s blessing.

“I want to pray about it, see what God has for me,” Jared Schmeck said of his political ambitions during an interview this week with conservative Christian broadcaster Todd Starnes that focused on his use of the phrase ‘Let’s go Brandon.”

“At the end of the day, I want [God’s] will for my life and the direction that it goes,” Schmeck added. “And I strongly believe that standing up is the right thing to do here as long as that message that I’m portraying is glorifying his name. And yeah, I’ll see where it goes.”

“Something tells me if you do run, you’ll be invited to a certain place in Florida,” Starnes said, referring to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club, where the former president now lives.

“I would be honored,” Schmeck replied.

The real question I have is: When Schmeck says that he “strongly believe[s] that standing up is the right thing to do here as long as that message that I’m portraying is glorifying his name,” does he mean glorifying God or glorifying Trump? Because certainly, they are not one and the same, no matter how much a large segment of White evangelicals have attempted to merge the two. And most certainly, God wasn’t glorified by Schmeck’s “Fuck Joe Biden” insult.

So I guess I’ve answered my own question.

–Dana

12/29/2021

Afghanistan, Lest We Forget

Filed under: General — JVW @ 11:03 am



[guest post by JVW]

As we catch the final dying embers of 2021, let’s not forget that one of the biggest fiascos of the past two administrations is still unresolved. National Review Online has the details:

In mid December, Bryan Stern and two of his colleagues did something few Americans have done since late summer — they flew into Afghanistan. Their goal was to rescue 47 American citizens and permanent residents stranded in the Taliban-controlled country.

Once on the ground in Kabul, Stern and his colleagues with the civilian rescue organization Project Dynamo gathered with their evacuees in safehouses, making sure everyone had a negative Covid test, and had all their vaccinations and travel documents. The next day, the group traveled to the airport, boarded three commercial planes, and flew to New York via Dubai.

“Every one of them has been trying to leave since August,” Stern told National Review of this newest batch of Afghanistan evacuees his volunteer group rescued. “Grown men and fathers cried on my arm when we went wheels up.”

While the Biden Administration is content to move on to omicron and Build Back Better, it’s comforting to know that there are still groups who are working to ensure that U.S. citizens and our Afghan allies are rescued from potential danger at the hands of the newly-emboldened Taliban. Meanwhile, of course, the administration continues to lie and obfuscate about the situation on the ground, and rescue group participants find our government to be a less-than-dedicated partner:

Stern has focused his most recent efforts on rescuing American citizens and green-card holders, people who can fly commercially to the United States. But efforts by dozens of private rescue groups who have focused their energy on saving other American allies in the 20-year war — people who typically don’t have the paperwork for a direct path into the U.S. — have slowed to a crawl.

Leaders of some of those groups who spoke to National Review are pointing fingers at the U.S. Department of State. They say the State Department is doing little to help them rescue American allies, and in some cases it is actively blocking their efforts. They’re calling on President Joe Biden’s administration to do more to help them save the people they once served with.

In their defense, the State Department argues that they do in fact appreciate the efforts of the rescue teams, and that the department is coordinating with them to check manifests and help ensure that evacuees are eligible to be permanently resettled in the U.S. Of course, one might argue, that is the absolutely minimum that the government can offer seeing as how it is sort of their responsibility to vet arrivals to our shores (yes I know: this duty is not entirely operative at our southern border). But the rescue groups are in fact struggling to hold evacuees in safehouses and keep them fed and protected during the period when they wait for the OK from the State Department. Jesse Jensen, a former Army Ranger who co-founded Task Force Argo and is running as a Republican for a Congressional seat in Washington, says that his organization managed to get 2,000 Americans and allies out of Afghanistan between August and October, but accuses the State Department of constantly changing the criteria for resettlement which is causing evacuation delays of eight weeks in some cases. And naturally the government isn’t shy about trodding all over private sector initiatives:

At one point, Jensen said, his organization negotiated 1,000 beds with a third-party “lily-pad country” to place their evacuees, but the state department “stole those beds from us” so they could resettle a separate group of evacuees who had initially been sent to Germany.

“The Germans were like, ‘We’re not going to keep these people. You need to get rid of them,’” Jensen said, alleging that a state department official reached out to his organization and said, “we need those beds, but it has to be your idea. It can’t come from us.”

The State Department declined to address Jensen’s allegation in its email to National Review.

For its part, the State Department claims that there are now fewer than a dozen U.S. citizens remaining in Afghanistan who wish to leave, which strikes me as arguing that anyone stuck in that hellhole is there by their own fault, which has become the standard talking point for the Administration and its defenders. In other contexts we call this “victim blaming,” but perhaps none of that is operative when the adults are back in charge as Official Washington is so fond of saying. And if you think our government is hostile to our citizens in Afghanistan, imagine what it must be like to be an Afghan ally of ours:

“I don’t think the current administration has any intentions of ever evacuating the men that fought and bled next to us, and their families,” said Ben Owen, the chief executive of Flanders Fields, an organization originally founded to help homeless veterans. Flanders Fields also joined the Afghanistan relief efforts over the summer.

Owen estimated there are easily over 100,000 American allies still trapped in the country. He noted that former Afghan national army commandos don’t qualify for SIV status.

“They get nothing. The U.S. government doesn’t see any duty to evacuate these guys. And they are dead. They are dead. They are dead if they get caught. I’ve had three executed in the last two weeks, one in front of his wife and children,” Owen said. “None of us are going to quit until we find a way to get them out. These guys, they fought like hell.”

Let’s acknowledge upfront that our government finds itself in a difficult situation. Clearly there is zero stomach in Washington to bring in 100,000 Afghan citizens and resettle them here (though one might observe that the Obama Administration had no compunction whatsoever about resettling 10,000 Syrians here and upping our overall refugee quota to six figures). But of course Joe Biden, like his old boss before him, was supposed to be this calming presence on the world stage who would spur cooperation among our allies and those who broadly share our same interests for world peace. The suggestion that the Biden Administration is doing virtually nothing to help find a home for our allies seems to be a pretty clear indication that, just like his boss, his vaunted ability to convince others to follow our lead is pretty much non-existent. Forgive me if this does not surprise me one damn bit. Into the breach steps a brave cadre of private citizens, but the petulant government is allegedly undermining them every step of the way:

Owen said that while the Taliban has temporarily stopped all charter flights out of Afghanistan, the biggest hurdle for most of the private rescue groups is that the State Department is not issuing what are known as “no objection certificates,” essentially letters to potential third-party countries stating that the U.S. government won’t object to them temporarily taking in evacuees. Kosovo, Albania, Rwanda, and Greece are among the countries that have demonstrated a willingness to work with private rescue organizations and the U.S. government, rescue group leaders said.

“All these countries are asking for is the U.S. Department of State, through an embassy in their country, to say, ‘Go ahead. We don’t care if you do this. We’re not going to help you do it, but we’re also not going to hinder your effort to do it,’” Owen said, adding that those countries are instead being told that if they accept evacuees from the private rescue groups they could be accused of facilitating human smuggling. “It’s incredibly frustrating to all of us.”

The State Department, he said, is “actively impeding our efforts to find third countries to accept flights of Afghans.”

Even Mr. Stern, who is trying to be diplomatic and give the State Department the benefit of the doubt as much as he possibly can, acknowledges that Foggy Bottom has dropped the ball: “[T]hey’re certainly not helping. Their position is, because we’re not contracted with you, we can’t and won’t help you.” The State Department’s response to NRO is that there are logistical problems with vetting refugees since there aren’t any U.S. boots on the ground in Afghanistan, which leads one to sarcastically wonder who exactly made the decision to evacuate the troops in the first place.

At this point Task Force Argo is out of money and would simply like to get its last three flights off the ground in Afghanistan (they grouse that the State Department has been reviewing the flight manifest since October). Flanders Field is struggling with financial issues too, Mr. Owen and his wife having dipped into their personal savings in order to continue their work, and Mr. Stern reports that members of Operation Dynamo are using their own credit cards to keep the operation aloft. Donor fatigue is a serious problem for all three groups; people who generously supported the missions back in the late summer when it dominated the news are wondering why they are still being called upon to give well after the media has moved on to sexier pursuits like COVID and White House intrigue four months later. It’s easy to forget Afghanistan despite our two decades of presence there, but Mr. Owen wants us to understand that it remains a very difficult and barbaric place:

“People are dying every single day. Girls are being sold into marriage. Women are being raped. Kids are being killed. It’s bad. We had a child get his finger cut off the other day because the dad wouldn’t turn himself in. The world needs to understand these things are happening,” he said. “We need awareness. We need the State Department to at least not impede third-nation agreements. It would be great if they would help us get them.”

You can donate to Project Dynamo here, to Flanders Fields here, and to Task Force Argo here.

– JVW

12/28/2021

Harry Reid, 1939-2021

Filed under: General — JVW @ 9:56 pm



[guest post by JVW]

Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid died earlier today at the age of 82 after battling pancreatic cancer for nearly four years. I blogged about his affliction three years ago when the New York Times Magazine had a piece about his life and illness since leaving office. At that time, as I pointed out, people close to Sen. Reid were saying that the Nevada Democrat “had months left, if not weeks” in his life, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise and is in fact a fitting capstone to his political life that this turned out to be a lot of hokum and bunkum, designed to elicit a measure of sympathy to an otherwise largely unsympathetic character.

Fans, or at least those who want to find a legacy-enhancer in the career of Harry Reid, are focusing on his role in passing Obamacare in the Senate, even though that included a very controversial parliamentary trick pulled off a dozen years ago right around this time (tempus fugit!). Despite that victory lap, even Democrat-sympathetic outlets such as CNN find themselves acknowledging that “Reid is often blamed for deepening an era of political polarization.” President Biden shows up to remind everyone that he served ninety years, or whatever it was, in the Senate, many of them alongside of Sen. Reid, and former President Obama quite naturally offers his own peculiar form of praise by evaluating the life of the late Senator almost entirely in terms of how useful he was to Mr. Obama’s own vast ambitions. Various other mediocrities have also added their own two cents on the life and career of Senator Harry Reid.

History will have its say on Harry Reid, but I think it’s inevitable that a major part of his legacy will be the breakdown in comity and cooperation between the two major parties in Washington during his leadership terms. For better or worse (you can probably guess which one I would choose), his career had a huge effect on life in modern America, so his name will rightly go into the history books and his leadership term will be studied in years to come. May he rest in peace.

– JVW

For Your Consideration

Filed under: General — Dana @ 6:37 pm



[guest post by Dana]

As we close out 2021, you can find some interesting (and brief) essays about current events at Bari Weiss’s Common Sense. And whether or not I agreed with them in full, they were worth reading. A few excerpts:

From Enes Kanter Freedom on freedom:

The first time I came to America, in 2009, one of my teammates at Stoneridge Prep, in Simi Valley, California, was criticizing the president. I was scared for him, because I thought he was going to be jailed. Then he sat down and talked to me about freedom of speech, religion and the press. “Wait,” I said, “you’re telling me a TV channel or a newspaper is not going to be shut down because they are criticizing the regime?” He told me that’s not how it works here. I was shocked.

The thing about freedom is, once you taste it, you want everyone else to taste it, too. That’s why I marched for Black Lives Matter and spoke out for democracy in Hong Kong. It’s why I advocate for Tibetan freedom and safety for Taiwan. It’s why I continue to call out the corporations that talk about social justice but ignore China’s Uyghur genocide. And it’s why, a few months ago, I changed my name. I’m now Enes Kanter Freedom.

From Ayaan Hirsi Ali on liberalism:

Since I left the world I was born into—the world of Somalia, the world of Islam, and all of the strictures that society and religion put on me as a woman—I have always identified as a liberal. I mean that in the most capacious sense of the world: a belief in the rule of law; in individual liberty; in equality between men and women; in due process; and in, yes, a belief that some cultures—namely, liberal and democratic ones—are better than others.

Lately, I worry that liberalism is insufficient. Or to put it another way: that the weak version of liberalism we see across the West cannot compete with muscular ideologies, like Islamism and populism rising on the right and the left across Europe and here in America.

A value-neutral liberalism that insists that all cultures and choices are equally good is liberalism in name only. For liberalism to win, it needs to stand up to its enemies yet again.

From Chloe Valdary on CRT and racism:

I was surprised to read [Derrick] Bell’s argument promoting school choice for black and white Americans alike. Bell also laments what he calls “racial balance remedies,” or the conflation of equality of opportunity with the notion that racial parity (the idea that an institution should perfectly match the racial breakdown of the community it serves) as the only measure of “anti-racism.”

This overlap between traditionally conservative views about education and critical race theorists can be helpful to those, like me, who are trying to fight racism by avoiding the temptation to caricature others. A vision of anti-racism that genuinely seeks to refrain from demonizing our differences has to begin with finding common ground.

Go see what you think.

–Dana

12/24/2021

Christmas Weekend Open Thread

Filed under: General — Dana @ 8:30 pm



[guest post by Dana]

A happy Christmas Eve and Merry Christmas to you. Consider this a different kind of Weekend Open Thread – one where I’m not linking to any political stories or current events. Instead, talk about whatever you want, including what you’re doing for Christmas, where you’re going, what you’re cooking, etc. And if you are alone this Christmas and need a place to hang out, feel free to do so here.

A Merry Christmas to our host for providing this site, and to JVW for keeping the place humming along with his grumpy humor. And finally, a Merry Christmas to all of you who return to the site, day after day.

I’m just going to leave this here because we could all use a heaping spoonful of wonder and delight:

–Dana

Cocaine Mitch Gives His 2021 Valedictory Address

Filed under: General — JVW @ 4:59 pm



[guest post by JVW]

Can you guys stand me yet again delivering a hosanna to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell? Because I’m a-gonna do it anyway, irrespective of your level of pique. My Man Mitch gave an interview to National Review Online recently which is well worth reading, but I want to pull out some parts of it which I think would cause the most raised eyebrows among our fellow conservatives (and you crypto-libertarians too).

When you’ve been around as long as Mitch McConnell, few things are new, and some are almost exactly the same.

So it is that McConnell once again is opposing a Democrat in the White House pursuing a transformational agenda at the same time he is targeted by a populist Right that considers him too establishmentarian.

Ten years ago, of course, the president was Barack Obama, and the powerful populist force was the Tea Party; this time, Joe Biden is president, and the populists are led by Donald Trump who is calling for his head.

Just so. His leadership role places him in a fantastically difficult position, and though we all understand that being the Senate Minority Leader is almost assuredly an easier task than being the Senate Majority Leader, I think we can all be thankful that the GOP isn’t led by someone as unctuous and condescending as Chuck Schumer. Back to the NRO piece:

“I feel pretty good at the end of this year, given where we started with an insurrection and an impeachment trial,” McConnell says. “And now we have a new administration that’s demonstrated to the American people just how hard left they are. We’ve had a couple of elections in which that was a huge factor indicating people don’t like what they’re selling. And I think we’re going to have a good environment going into the fall of ’22.”

Plenty of commenters are pointing out that he referred to the January 6 imbroglio as “an insurrection,” so it’s clear that Cocaine Mitch is not interested in mincing words and would like to move his party into a post-Donald Trump era. Continuing on, the GOP Leader explains why he agreed to let Republican Senators participate in the infrastructure bill, despite the remonstrances of many conservatives (like me):

How the debate over BBB played out seems to vindicate McConnell’s key tactical judgment of going along with funding for so-called hard infrastructure. He considered it “the most attractive part of the huge six-trillion-dollar package,” with the support of “75 percent of the American people.” He told his members that “it’s possible to put together a bipartisan package, pass it, and think of that as the sugar and the rest of it as spinach and leave them with the spinach and see if they can swallow it.”

A bipartisan group, including Rob Portman on the Republican side and Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema on the Democratic side, worked on separating it out, a step McConnell told them he’d consider supporting so long as it didn’t re-open the 2017 tax bill.

He views the passage of the infrastructure package as a victory in its own right. “It associated us with something that the American people like,” he says. “They always want to see us do at least some things on a bipartisan basis, and frankly . . . it was the only thing this administration tried to do this year that I thought had any merit.”

Then, the rest of BBB became harder. “I think,” he says, “the strategy of pulling the popular part out was a big part of defeating it.” Indeed, he adds, “that’s exactly what the progressives in the House were afraid of. They were right about that.”

So as a mouth-breathing uncouth right wing extremist, I will continue to believe that the infrastructure bill was wasteful and stupid, but I acknowledge that Sen. McConnell saw the endgame far more clearly than I did. In a perfect world neither infrastructure nor Build Back Better would have passed, but if it had to only be one and if passage increases the chances that Republicans take back the Senate then I will purse my lips, grumble under my breath, and accept the outcome.

And like any good leader, Sen. McConnell keeps close track of what is going on with the other side:

The next fight will be an attempt to overhaul the filibuster for the sake of an elections bill, but McConnell is “absolutely convinced Senator Sinema is not going to participate in that.” He says he talks to Manchin and Sinema “frequently,” explaining that “they want to operate in the political center, and so they’ve talked to us.”

As for Biden, McConnell says he hears from the president “once in a while,” although “we haven’t had much to talk about this year.” Why has Biden gone so far left? “I think he misread the mandate,” he says, “and took bad advice. Of course, Joe was never a moderate in the Senate. So I wasn’t totally surprised that . . . he ended up not being a moderate president.”

For those of us (including me) who wondered if “surrendering” to Democrats on allowing the debt limit increase without seemingly gaining any real concessions from Democrats was a wise move, Cocaine Mitch implores us to get real and read the tea leaves (except he doesn’t speak in the trite clichés in which I write):

As for his other tactical maneuvers that have been criticized, McConnell says shutting down the government and a crisis over the debt ceiling were “the two things we could have done to blow ourselves up and make us the issue instead of them.” By sidestepping them, he says, “we avoided some of these suicide missions that various members of my party in the past have tried to take us on.”

What’s his reply to the critiques of him from the populist right as too much of an accommodationist? “Well, my response to that,” McConnell says, “is look at the polls. How’s it look out there after a year of this administration? After a year of us not becoming the issue and letting them be [on] full display? We must be doing something right.”

As usual, I have given you a great deal of the NRO piece, but I still urge you to venture over there to read the few paragraphs I have left out, especially the part where the wise Kentuckian forecasts the 2022 elections. I stand by my earlier assessment that Mitch McConnell, a 36-year Senate veteran two months short of age 80 who was reelected this past November, needs to begin the process of preparing the next Senate GOP Leader for a post-Mitch party, but we should all feel grateful that he has been the guy at the helm in the Senate for the default conservative party these past fifteen years.

– JVW

12/23/2021

Christmas Tunes Revisited: Some Utterly Wretched Songs

Filed under: General — JVW @ 8:26 pm



[guest post by JVW]

One year (and one day) ago this evening I wrote a post covering some songs and albums which make my list for the best of Christmas music. Given my general grumpy disposition this Yuletide season, I thought it only appropriate that we discuss some of the more substandard, trite, grating, and annoying holiday carols known to man. Buckle up, friends: this may get contentious.

Now at the outset I want to say that I have zero interest in discussing novelty holiday songs — i.e., those which are designed to be intentionally offensive, eye-rollingly silly, or even moronically putrid. No, this post is reserved for songs which were actually designed to become Christmas classics, witless though they may be, and those which are somehow revered by hordes of our fellow human beings. The inspiration for this post was a back-and-forth which took place over at National Review Online earlier this month, in which some of the staff writers and a few guests took aim at various songs. It’s an entertaining debate, so allow me a moment to recap it here:

Back at the end of October, Kyle Smith Tweeted a funny picture taken of a jukebox at a Dallas bar, upon which was posted a notice explaining that the playing of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” is forbidden prior to December 1, and rationed to only one time per day thereafter. The illustrious Ms. Carey herself replied in a round-about way to the Tweet.

After Mr. Smith wrote a post in the Corner recounting the event, without particularly passing judgement on the song itself, Kevin Williamson replied that he was neutral to Mr. Carey’s oft-played hit, but he held particular contempt for “Santa Baby” and “Little Saint Nick,” which strikes even me as undue curmudgeonry, even though the former is overrated and the latter is a thin rewrite of “Little Deuce Coupe” with seasonal lyrics.

This brought Dan McLaughlin into the debate. He agrees that “Santa Baby” — in which the songstress is trying to seduce Jolly Old St. Nicholas for cryin’ out loud! — is indeed perhaps the worst Christmas classic, but he brought to my attention a holiday song which I had not yet had the misfortune to hear, “The Christmas Shoes” by NewSong, a emotionally-manipulative Christian-oriented tune designed to make you feel really shitty about enjoying the Birth of the Savior while others get by on less, though the song’s narrator virtue-signals his way through the story. This abomination apparently came from a novel and was turned into a TV movie starring Rob Lowe and the ex-girlfriend of tennis great Pete Sampras.

Mark Kirkorian came to the defense of “All I Want for Christmas,” declaring it a great song, and instead proposed the vainglorious anthem from my youth which accelerated the notion of pop stars being fonts of altruism, 1984’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas” by a collection of pompous British and Irish musicians with nothing better to do than condescend to Africans and advance the notion that all of Africa was parched Saharan desert rather than some of the most fertile agriculture land in the world. As we all know, this effort would be matched on our side of the Atlantic, and the whole look-at-us-coked-up-pop-stars-doing-good genre would be upped several notches over the next few years. NRO editor Jack Butler reminded Mr. Kirkorian that he (Butler) had raked the song over the coals the previous year, gleefully relating Morrisey’s classic quote about the effort: “It wasn’t done shyly. It was the most self-righteous platform ever in the history of popular music.” This brought back in Dan McLaughlin to protest that the tune itself was pretty good, and its political vacuity was no worse than that of the execrable John Lennon and Yoko Ono abomination “Happy Xmas (War Is Over).”

Then entering the fray was George Messenger, who confidently declared that Wham’s “Last Christmas” — another incessantly-played noël — was in fact the King of the Nativity Dung Hill, opining that its sheer (Ninteen-) Eightyness was akin to “being force-fed a Trapper Keeper.” Touché, Mr. Messenger! Alec Dent protested that though “Last Christmas” certainly isn’t for everyone, it isn’t the oblique and senseless narrative as charged by Mr. Messenger but rather a moving reminder of how the holiday season can turn one’s thoughts wistfully to loves lost, though stipulating that every single cover version of the song is awful. This final post brought the debate to an unresolved but nevertheless satisfying close.

But, dear Patterico’s Pontification reader, verily the worst Christmas song of all time is one that went nearly unmentioned (except for a brief acknowledgement in Dan McLaughlin’s first post): Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime.” Let me acknowledge upfront that this particular artist is tied for last-place on my list of favorite Beatles, just after Stu Sutcliffe and Pete Best. That said, I don’t entirely hate the guy. I’m actually for the most part a fan of the Wings Band on the Run album, and there are a handful of his other solo and band songs which I truly enjoy. However, Paul McCartney all too often unfortunately dishes up treacly tripe, and there is a certain amount of laziness in his output which suggests that he strives for ditties destined to receive radio play rather than satisfying standards which can stand the test of time.

I somehow doubt that anyone will be playing “Wonderful Christmastime” after the last fan with a living memory of Paul McCartney has shuffled off this mortal coil. It’s not going to be another “White Christmas” or “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” or — Lord, help us — “Santa Baby.” The hook itself is piffle: as Mr. McLaughlin aptly describes it, a sixty-second concept stretched by sheer banal repetition into a four-minute single. And frankly, I’m not sure that I would like the sixty-second version of the song all that much either. For some reason it is played rather frequently between Halloween and Epiphany, though fittingly one is most likely to encounter it being piped in over the sound system in some shopping plaza or else while trapped in an elevator. Though there are plenty of bad Christmas songs destined to bring out one’s inner Grinch (have I ever mentioned how much I loathe “Away in a Manger”?), I can’t imagine one that makes me want to reclaim Cindy Lou Who’s Christmas bounty any more than “Wonderful Christmastime,” truly the worst Christmas song of them all.

Now your turn: tell us which holiday classic really makes your skin crawl.

– JVW

12/22/2021

Constitutional Vanguard: A Proposal for a Reasonable Compromise on So-Called Anti-CRT Laws

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 3:20 pm



I’m off on Christmas vacation, but something has been on my mind. People have debated so-called anti-CRT laws. I have an idea for a standard that has proven workable because we already use it for religion:

It occurred to me: if McWhorter is right about Fake Antiracism (or “Electism,” to use his term) being a religion, maybe his observation could serve as a blueprint for how to approach the issue of teaching Fake Antiracism in schools. In short: allow it to be taught the way religion is allowed to be taught. Allow racism and antiracist theory, like religion, to be a subject that students may learn about . . . but do not allow teachers to indoctrinate children on the topic.

It’s a workable standard because we already use it with religion. Why not use it to teach children about modern theories of anti-racism — which, as John McWhorter says, is a religion itself?

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Hey, Wealthy White Liberals, You Might Want To Stop Helping The MAGA Train Gain Steam

Filed under: General — Dana @ 10:48 am



[guest post by Dana]

Wealthy, white New York liberal gets angry and smears poor people in a red state. Haven’t we seen this show before? I don’t normally pay attention to what Bette Midler says about anything, but given that she not only insulted everyone in the state of West Virginia but also echoed Hillary Clinton’s big campaign gaffe in 2016, I think it’s worth a look-see. Especially when one considers how Clinton later regretted insulting so many Americans seeing how she helped fire up the MAGA crowd. And we know how that story ended…

Here is Midler’s tweet:

And as a reminder, here is what Clinton said at a deep-pocket fundraiser during her 2016 campaign:

We are living in a volatile political environment. You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right?

The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that.

While Midler is not running for public office, her tone and sentiment are similar to Clinton’s. From their lofty monied perches, they both smeared a large swath of the population, and as we saw with Clinton and are now seeing with Midler (judging by the angry responses), Americans don’t like to be told they are less than. Whether it’s West Virginia or New York (remember Ted Cruz’s “New York values” gaffe?), no one likes to be publicly lumped into a giant insult made by powerful elites. It only serves to foment anger and resentment while confirming already-held beliefs about how they are viewed by the more privileged set. Worse, it is this sort of sneer that helped propel a Trump victory in 2016. You’d think Democrats would get that by now. After all, they had front row seats to the unintended consequences when one of their own hurled a mean insult at a far less powerful group of Americans.

Although Midler is not a political figure, her attitude toward those outside of her political, cultural, and economic orbit is similar to Clinton’s in that it serves to reinforce Trump supporters’ assertions in 2016, and perhaps even in 2024, that Trump was/is the only one willing to fight for them. So, wealthy, white liberal elites, you might want to get off your high horses and think twice before insulting the entire population of a red state. That is unless you want to help the MAGA crowd assume White House power again.

Midler later apologized for her insult. Well, sort of:

See, the thing is: she continues to insult West Virginians because they are the very ones who continue to vote Joe Manchin into office.

And I’ll just leave this right here:

literacy rates

–Dana

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