[guest post by JVW]
Dana has the day off today and is using the Patterico’s Pontifications luxury yacht to run guns, granola, and Gatorade to the brave people of Ukraine, so here comes another Junior Varsity Writing edition of the Weekend Open Thread.
UKRAINE & RUSSIA
Kevin Williamson points out that Xi Jinping and his crew are quite certainly monitoring this situation closely and drawing lessons from it that they may wish to apply to Taiwan. He also points out how troubling it is that China appears to have very closely collaborated with Putin’s Russia over the past few months, including sharing with Moscow pre-invasion conversations Beijing had with Biden Administration officials.
At the same time, Xi has to be somewhat concerned with the way in which the West has united against Russian aggression: Germany is rearming, Sweden and Finland are mulling over allying with NATO, and even Switzerland is ditching strict neutrality in order to help put pressure on Russian financial systems. An invasion of Taiwan by China’s military would likely be far more practical than Russia’s invasion of a large country like Ukraine, but Xi has to be calculating that it would come at a far greater cost both militarily (Taiwan, though a small country, has a robust defense system even if the sheer size of China’s military would eventually overwhelm it) and economically. Williamson closes his column on a note of optimism:
A reinvigorated and possibly expanded NATO buoyed by a revivified Germany — and an energized Europe that has seen players such as Sweden and even Switzerland come off the sidelines — is a nightmare for Vladimir Putin. But it also frees up American resources — financial, military, political, moral, and intellectual — to support Washington’s turn to the Indo-Pacific. Putin’s war will be a setback for Moscow, but it will also be, in that respect, a real loss for Beijing. In ten years, Beijing may see this not as a masterstroke but a misadventure.
It would appear that the ominous 40-mile long Russian military convoy poised about 20 miles outside of Kyiv is, for the time being, stuck in place. Rumors have it that Russia did not expect such stiff resistance and thus did not provide enough fuel for the convoy to idle for several days, and Ukrainian air attacks on the convoy have apparently caused some damage. Despite that welcome news, at this point most military experts expect that Russia will eventually level the city in a month-long siege, no doubt inflicting thousands of deaths on armed resistance fighters and civilians.
(By the way, those people who donned whimsical hats and attached a trendy hashtag to their social media bios should be ashamed to have appropriated such a heroic term which truly best belongs to brave people who are laying their lives on the line in defense of their homeland, not needy narcissists desperately in search of “Likes.”)
If you are looking for a jaundiced take on events — and who loves a jaundiced take more than I do? — then read Peter Van Buren over at The Spectator (it probably requires a subscription, come to think of it). I’m pretty positive that nobody here will agree with 100% of what he writes, but there may be parts of his piece which have you quietly nodding in assent. He laments that Ukraine is not a worthy object of the West’s efforts, complains that misleading social media stories about acts of great heroism and hot Ukrainian women arming up is giving us a false view of what is truly happening, then goes through the ways in which he believes we are being propagandized into caring about a matter that is best left to Eastern and Central Europe and allowing this to be turned into a Trump/Biden partisan dust-up at home. Here is his thesis, which he saves for the final paragraph:
Trump has nothing to do with Putin, or Ukraine, and the latter two have nothing to do with American democracy. As in Orwell’s world, our thoughts are no longer our own. We are told how to think, and groomed how to vote.
By way of contrast, over at NRO, John McCormick declares that the neo-isolationists in the GOP are being marginalized.
An old Cold War-era Russian joke is resurfacing.
In Moscow, a man walks to a newsstand, purchases a newspaper, briefly scans the front page, then crumples up the newspaper, throws it out, and walks away. He does this the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that. Finally, the vendor asks the customer why he wastes his money each day looking only at the front page. “I am looking for an obituary,” replies the customer. The vendor reminds the man that the obituaries are found in the back pages of the paper, which the customer never opens. “Believe me,” replies the customer, “the obituary I am hoping to see will be on the front page.”
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is President Biden’s nominee to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer. The President thus makes good on his promise to nominate a black woman to serve on the Court. Dan McLaughlin seems to think that Judge Jackson is about the best that conservatives can hope for, given the narrow constraints Biden agreed to in order to secure the African-American vote. In the press conference announcing her nomination, she thanked God and affirmed that her faith had been important in molding her character. She also saluted America as “the greatest beacon of hope that the world has ever seen” and made a point to mention her brother and two uncles who are law enforcement officers. She is a wife and a mom which — at the risk of coming across as quite indelicate — contrasts her with the two justices whom Barack Obama got seated on the Court.
But that shouldn’t lull us into believing that she will be the second coming of Justice Byron White. McLaughlin also points out that in her one year on the bench in the D.C. Circuit, Jackson consistently ruled against former members and policies of the Trump Administration, and at times used the sort of heated rhetoric one expects from the New York Times Editorial Board or the ACLU. She is not a Horatio Alger success from hard work story like Clarence Thomas; rather, she’s the daughter of two upper-middle-class professionals (a lawyer and school principal) and was herself educated at Harvard College and Harvard Law, so you can be sure she is dialed into the same ideological bubble that gave us Elena Kagan and Ruth Bader Ginsburg (if Judge Jackson is confirmed, Amy Coney Barrett would remain the only justice with no rooting interest in the annual Harvard-Yale game). Her rulings are uniformly pro-labor, so don’t expect her to be a voice for reform of the federal bureaucracy. And, McLaughlin reminds us, she countenanced the Biden Administration’s cynical and knowingly illegal move to use the CDC to impose a national rent increase moratorium.
McLaughlin doubts that Judge Jackson would develop her own novel (if perhaps peculiar) judicial theory as Breyer did, nor does she seem likely to try to serve a role as a bridge between the progressive bloc and the Roberts/Gorsuch/Kavanaugh school of thought as Elena Kagan has endeavored. Perhaps, he muses, Clarence Thomas or Amy Coney Barrett might try to convince her of the beauty of originalism, but McLaughlin fears that in the end it is probably more likely that she becomes another Sonia Sotomayor, if to be sure a less strident one. In any case, given that this could very well be Joe Biden’s one and only Court nominee, McLaughlin believes that progressives might come to regret that he chose from such a narrow field.
Speaking of the Supreme Court, it reinstated the death penalty for convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in a 6-3 ruling divided along the expected ideological lines:
[. . .] The sentence had been vacated by the First Circuit, which questioned the selection of the jury and the exclusion of evidence from the death penalty phase that Dzhokhar wanted to use in order to show that his brother was the real mastermind. The Supreme Court rejected both arguments; Breyer dissented only on the second issue, and did not address the pretrial publicity question.
The article in the link (by Dan McLaughlin again) has a really interesting encapsulation of the various arguments made by the justices, covering all of the hot-button topics such as the fairness of the death penalty, how juries are selected, how a judge manages a trial, what rights to submit evidence do defendants have, and other interesting issues. I do not support the death penalty and would prefer that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev rot in prison for the rest of his life (or until President Ocasio-Cortez pardons him), but I won’t lose any sleep over him ending up with the needle in his arm in Terre Haute.
Progressives discover that that the laws they championed in the past might be blocking their present goals, immediately declare “that’s not real progressivism.” This with respect to Berkeley residents using the California Environmental Quality Act to prevent the University of California from building more student and faculty housing:
Note that this outcome isn't what California's elected Democrats want to happen.
“We can’t let a lawsuit get in the way of the education and dreams of thousands of students who are our future leaders and innovators,” Newsom said in a statement.
— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) March 3, 2022
It’s all about “protecting the environment” until sacrifices are demanded of the higher education cartel.
Rob Manfred is the worst commissioner in baseball history, and that says a lot when you consider that he is following in the footsteps of Keenesaw Mountain Landis and Bowie Kuhn. Last year we had his utterly asinine decision to move the All-Star Game from Atlanta in protest of the new Georgia voting laws, a move that hurt the predominantly-black city of Atlanta (the counties surrounding and including the city went overwhelmingly for Joe Biden in 2020) more than anywhere else in the state and was generally panned by both sides of the political divide. He follows up that epic failure this year by holding up a new collective bargaining agreement, even to the point of delaying the opening of the season, and then being lighthearted about it during the press conference announcing the delay. What a jerk, what a guy completely overmatched in his job. Say what you will about Bud Selig, and his decisions were not always good ones, but the man truly understood that as commissioner he was the steward of the game and he always tried to do what was best for the fans. MLB needs to get rid of Rob Manfred as soon as possible and get the players back on the field.
Remembering the loss of my all-time favorite libertarian humorist P. J. O’Rourke, my second-all-time favorite libertarian humorist Rob Long has a beautiful remembrance published yesterday, recounting one of their last email exchanges:
We had been talking, off and on, over the past few years about how his blockbuster book Holidays in Hell might be a television series. It would be set in various global hot spots, we decided, and feature the adventures of a recurring group of journalists.
“It’ll be challenging,” P.J. wrote, “but we really need to be as accurate as we can be.”
“What’s the hardest thing to capture about journalists?” I asked.
“The cowardice,” he said. “The cowardice is key.”
I laughed when I read it the first time. And I laughed when I read it the day he died.
Do yourselves a favor and read the whole thing. It’s a long piece, but P. J. deserves no less.
NRO had an article up on the Biden State of the Union Address the other night. It included an interesting picture of a moment shared between Vice-President Kamala Harris and Speaker Nancy Pelosi. One commenter suggested that conservatives try to meme it, so I gave it the old college try:
OK, that’s enough of that. I have a huge amount of respect for the work that Dana does to compile these Weekend Open Threads every Friday. Believe me, it’s not an easy task, especially if you are completely incapable of writing succinctly like I am. And I dread contemplating the number of misspellings and grammatical errors this post is bound to have, since I have no real interest in carefully copy-editing it beyond a quick cursory glance. As always, feel free to suggest your own topics in the comments.
Have a happy weekend everyone.