Weekend Jolt: Less Than a Gallon of Gas

Dear Weekend Jolter,

You might have noticed we're doing something a bit different this ...

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WITH JUDSON BERGER May 14 2022
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WITH JUDSON BERGER May 14 2022
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Less Than a Gallon of Gas

Dear Weekend Jolter,

You might have noticed we're doing something a bit different this week — an all-hands effort to persuade more of our regular readers to take the plunge and subscribe to NRPlus. (To those who have and are reading this anyway, thank you.)

There's just cause for this, which I'll get to momentarily.

But first, I want to briefly emphasize how much of a deal is on offer right now. Somebody should stop this steal: By clicking this link, you'll be taken to our 60 percent off page. Math is hard, which is why we went into the communication arts. But the numbers guys tell me that discount means you can subscribe to NRPlus for 40 bucks, or just about $3 per month. To put that in perspective, well, it's less than the cost of a gallon of gas these days, sad to say. And you'll go farther with a subscription.

So, what do you get in return? Rich Lowry succinctly summarizes the very many benefits of membership, but, in short, you get access to all the paywalled stuff, commenting privileges for articles and blog posts, invites to members-only conference calls with writers and editors, and — this one's important — something on the order of 90 percent fewer ads. Overall, life is much more pleasant as a member. Plus, no paywall means you can read the magazine online and Kevin Williamson's weekly newsletter, which is for subscribers only as of this past Tuesday. Kevin explains here the thinking behind our inexorable march toward a subscriber-based model, as opposed to a strictly traffic-based one, which can warp editorial decision-making. It really boils down to two things: the desire to be independent and the desire to exist. Both are important, we think.

Plus, you'll get insight into trends that, let's face it, many other publications are missing, as Jim Geraghty explains.  

That discount-subscription link, one more time, is here, where you can also check out the deal for a print-digital bundle. All this said, enjoy the week's highlights below, (mostly) gratis.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

There's a difference between protesting outside the Supreme Court and protesting outsides justices' homes, and the president should recognize that: Biden Must Reject the Left’s Intimidation Game

Democrats want to avoid discussion of what their Women's Health Protection Act does for a reason: Barbarism in the Senate

NR pays tribute to a legend, and a force: Midge Decter, R.I.P.

ARTICLES

Charles C. W. Cooke: Chuck Schumer Keeps Leading Senate Democrats to the Slaughter

Rich Lowry: The Shameful Pro-Abortion Protests Threaten the American Order

Rich Lowry: We Need to Take the Fentanyl Crisis More Seriously

Nina Shea: Cardinal Zen's Arrest Is an Inflection Point

Jay Nordlinger: Coming to Grips with Abortion

John Fund: Chicago's Decline Accelerates as Boeing Abandons It

Mario Loyola: When 'Inclusivity' Is Code for 'Intolerance'

Madeleine Kearns: Britain Should Move On from 'Partygate' and 'Beergate'

Kenin M. Spivak: Biden's Racial Preferences Gone Wild

Julaine Appling: Leftist Attacks Won't Intimidate the Pro-Life Movement

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Conservatives Don't Oppose Biden's Ukraine Policy; They Want More of It

Alexandra DeSanctis: The Truth about Democratic Abortion Extremism

Kyle Smith: Has Johnny Depp Changed the #MeToo Game?

Jim Geraghty: The Worst Possible Timing for an Infrastructure-Spending Spree

America's Crisis of Self-Doubt

CAPITAL MATTERS

The metaphor in this headline makes sense once you read Joel Thayer's piece about the Biden administration's 5G problems: Biden’s 5G Camel

Dominic Pino breaks down the formula fiasco: How Government Made the Baby-Formula Shortage Worse

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Of the latest morphing music video, Armond White rules that Michael did it better: Kendrick Lamar's Deepfake

You'll get no surprises in the new Top Gun, and that's fine in Kyle Smith's estimation: Mach-10 Nostalgia

Brian Allen is in Italy, soaking it all up and serving ocular delights for those of us stateside. He begins in Rome: A Meaty, Tasty Look at Baroque Genoa at Rome's Scuderie del Quirinale

FROM THE NEW, MAY 30, 2022, ISSUE OF NR

Dan McLaughlin: In Dobbs, the Supreme Court Must Not Be Intimidated

Alexandra DeSanctis: Pro-Life, Post-Roe

Nate Hochman: Elon Musk's Town Square

Andrew Stuttaford: On the Baltic Frontier

Kevin Williamson: The Three Pro-Life Movements

IF YOU SUBSCRIBE TO NRPLUS, YOU'LL GET MUCH MORE THAN THESE EXCERPTS

Andrew Stuttaford is back from the Baltics. He writes about the region's Putin management in the latest issue of NR:

If Putin prevails in Ukraine, an emboldened Kremlin will be looking in the direction of the Baltic, nominally to help those supposedly oppressed "compatriots" living there, but with a broader objective in mind. If Moscow can somehow get away with subjugating Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, it will have demonstrated that, in their case, NATO's much-vaunted collective defense cannot be relied upon — and if that's true for them, who might be next? It would be a demonstration that could tear the alliance apart.

The Baltic leaderships know what might, one day, be at stake. For their size, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia have sent Ukraine a remarkable amount of matériel for reasons both moral and — as a method of forward defense — practical. Meanwhile, recruitment has surged for the Kaitseliit, the Estonian Defense League, a force roughly analogous to the U.S. National Guard and maintained in a high level of readiness. Latvia is mulling a form of conscription (the other two Baltic states already have mandatory military service — in Lithuania's case reintroduced after the annexation of the Crimea — and the reserve capabilities that come with it). All three countries have surpassed the NATO defense-spending target of 2 percent of GDP, and all three now are aiming at approximately 2.5 percent.

Another change that has followed the invasion has been strong Baltic pressure (much of it from Estonia's impressive prime minister, Kaja Kallas, who has found her voice in this crisis) to supplement the three countries' NATO tripwire, which currently consists of multinational battle groups in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, totaling some 4,000 troops in all, and was set up after the earlier Russian aggression in Ukraine.

But if the Russians risked tearing through that tripwire, despite what would undoubtedly be a fierce defense, the Baltic states (with their combined population of only around 6 million) would swiftly be overrun, leaving them with little alternative, regardless of any insurgency (something not unknown in these parts) other than to await rescue. After the massacres in Bucha and other parts of Ukraine, there are no illusions about what even a brief Russian occupation would mean. Thus the suggestion made to me, echoing that made by the three Baltic premiers last month, that as much as a division of NATO forces (as well as added equipment) should be placed in each Baltic country. This, for both military and political reasons, would bolster NATO's deterrence as well as underline the key message that the alliance has no second-tier members: Its governing principle continues to be all for one and one for all.

Earlier this week, NR published a statement of some significance on the "crisis of self-doubt" gripping the nation. Many prominent conservatives, representing different points on the political spectrum, signed it. It begins:

We live in an age of increasing national self-doubt.

The American project, as such, is under assault. Our history is the subject of a revisionist critique that is all-encompassing, unsparing, and very often flatly inaccurate. Our traditional heroes are under threat of being run out of the national pantheon. Our institutions, from elections to the job market to law enforcement, stand accused of perpetuating a systemic racism that is impossible to eradicate. Our educational system, from kindergarten through graduate school, is increasingly a forum for crude propagandizing. Our system of government is attacked as archaic, unfair, and racially biased. Our traditional values of fair play, free speech, and religious liberty are trampled by inflamed ideologues determined to impose their will by force and fear.

The national mood resembles those of the 1930s and 1970s, when radical critiques of America got considerable traction and our national self-confidence often seemed to hang by a thread.

It is in this context that we reclaim what once was a consensus view of America that has now become bitterly contested.

No matter the fashion of the moment, we believe that America is a fundamentally fair society with bountiful opportunity; that its Founding was a world-historical event of the utmost importance and established governing institutions of enduring value; that its original sins have been honorably, if belatedly, repudiated; that it came to be wealthy and powerful primarily through its own internal strengths, not via expropriation and conquest; that its model of ordered liberty is a boon to human flourishing; that its people are a marvel and its greatest resource; that its best days needn't be behind it, and that it remains a beacon to mankind.

To the extent that these notions are falling out of favor, it is the responsibility of those who love America to revivify them.

From NR's editorial on the escalating protests surrounding the Supreme Court and its members:

There are questions of law here, but also questions of democratic norms that are, in the long run, more important.

Some of the legal questions are obvious enough: Firebombing the offices of Wisconsin Family Action is against the law. So is vandalizing and desecrating churches. It is also against the law to attempt to bully the Supreme Court and its justices, to act "with the intent of interfering with, obstructing, or impeding the administration of justice, or with the intent of influencing any judge, juror, witness, or court officer, in the discharge of his duty." The First Amendment protects political speech, but it does not protect speech that is part of an effort to commit a crime — and threatening a judge with violence in an attempt to force him to change his opinion is that. . . .

The personalization of politics — and of political protest — in our time is a lamentable development, whether it is bullying Supreme Court justices at their homes or terrorizing Tucker Carlson's family at his. A society in which there is no private life, no separation between the public and private spheres, is a totalitarian society — and it is a society in which civic peace is ultimately impossible. Screaming in front of the Supreme Court building is rambunctious democracy, but screaming at a Supreme Court justice from the sidewalk in front of her house is unhinged fanaticism.

It escapes no one's notice that the anti-abortion movement is not without a history of violence at its fringes. That violence has always been roundly and unequivocally denounced, from the halls of government to the pages of this magazine, and, especially, by pro-life organizations and committed pro-life activists.

The mob at Justice Alito's house is there for one purpose — to try to intimidate the Supreme Court. Let us be honest about this and, if the president can be bothered, behave accordingly.

On a related note, Julaine Appling, president of Wisconsin Family Action, gives her account of the attack on that group's Madison office:

Early Sunday morning on Mother's Day, a leftist anarchist group attacked our office in Madison, Wis. They broke windows and threw two Molotov cocktails into the office, lighting a fire. Making their views abundantly clear, the arsonists graffitied the outside of the building with the message, "If abortions aren't safe, then you aren't either."

God was watching over us that morning, because thankfully, no one was in the office at the time. But imagine if anyone had been. They would have been seriously injured. Additionally, one of the Molotov cocktails did not ignite — an error on the attacker's part that saved our building. Otherwise, it likely would have burned to the ground.

This act of violence was intended to terrify us into silence, to make us afraid to go to work, to go home, to convene in public with like-minded family, friends, and colleagues. Even worse, to terrify us (all of us who share these opinions) enough to alter our core beliefs and values. Threats like this, right here at home in America. Because I have a different opinion from abortion activists and the violent Left. Because I proudly lead Wisconsin Family Action, an organization dedicated to promoting and protecting the values of marriage, family, life, and religious liberty. . . .

This is what happens when leadership is missing or when leadership implies that violence is an acceptable tactic to employ. In 2020, Wisconsin governor Tony Evers basically looked the other way when violence erupted in Kenosha and Madison. That kind of nonresponse fosters attacks like the one against Wisconsin Family Action, leaving Wisconsin citizens who disagree with his policies extremely vulnerable to similar violence.

In fact, Governor Evers's initial response to the attack on Wisconsin Family Action said nothing about demanding a full investigation and criminal prosecution. Though he mentioned us, he condemned "violence and hatred in all its forms," then told his supporters he'd keep supporting abortion.

But let me be clear: The violence needs to stop, and it needs to stop now.

What's behind the baby-formula shortage? Dominic Pino finds a familiar, if not the obvious, culprit:

About 40 percent of major brands were sold out at the end of April, which is nearly four times the rate in November. Walmart, Target, Kroger, CVS, and Walgreens are all limiting formula purchases at their stores in an effort to discourage people from hoarding. At Amazon, many popular varieties are unavailable. . . .

The seemingly obvious culprits for the shortage are what everyone has blamed for everything over the past year: supply chains and labor shortages. But that can't be the answer here. It is true that baby-formula manufacturers face the same shipping problems and hiring challenges that most other industries are dealing with — yet most other industries don't have 40 percent of their products sold out nationwide. Something else must be at play.

The proximate cause of this shortage is a recall of baby formula made by Abbott Labs. . . . But one brand recalling some of its product lines should not cause shortages across the country. It's not as though Abbott is the only major formula producer: Nestle and Reckitt Benckiser make multiple types of formula each.

In a free market, widespread shortages shouldn't occur. The price should rise as supply gets low, which encourages more production. The increased production should prevent a prolonged shortage before it has a chance to get started, then bring the price back down as well.

The overarching problem is that price signals in the baby-formula market don't work well to begin with. A 2010 study from the USDA's Economic Research Service estimated that 57 to 68 percent of all baby formula sold in the U.S. was purchased through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

That means over half of the baby formula that's consumed in the U.S. isn't really bought and sold on a free market at all. . . .

With WIC expanded to cover the majority of baby-formula consumption, manufacturers have less incentive to meet demand. When a negative supply shock, such as the Abbott recall, happens, the normal market mechanisms that would thrust other manufacturers into overdrive fail to function as they should. Increased government involvement in the baby-formula market, while coming from the best of intentions, sets it up for shortages like the one families are currently experiencing.

Shout-Outs

Salena Zito, at the Washington Examiner: Who is Kathy Barnette?

John Murawski, at RealClearInvestigations: Taxpayers Funding 90+ 'Equity' Programs across Federal Government

Steven Malanga, at City Journal: A Summer of Blackouts?

Andrew Fink, at the Dispatch: The Legacy of Soviet Anti-Jewish Propaganda Rears Its Ugly Head

CODA

One of the cool things about this humble newsletter gig is that I get to discover new music I never would have stumbled across, thanks to the suggestions you, the readers, send in from time to time. William Johnson just came through with another, a band named Scythian, which is local to me. These guys have been around, carving out a groove in the Celtic/folk genre as well as launching Virginia's Appaloosa Music Festival out near Front Royal. A smattering of their uplifting music can be found here, here, and here. Hope you like.

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