Weekend Jolt: Is the Ukraine War Becoming a Global One?

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Russia's war in Ukraine — setting aside Vladimir Putin's ...

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WITH JUDSON BERGER August 27 2022
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WITH JUDSON BERGER August 27 2022
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Is the Ukraine War Becoming a Global One?

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Russia's war in Ukraine — setting aside Vladimir Putin's broader territorial ambitions — was never going to be limited to Ukraine. The impact on supply chains and other global economic factors made that clear in the early months. And while "Putin's price hike" was a convenient slogan for the Biden administration and its preexisting inflation problem, the U.N. has estimated that 1.6 billion people are "exposed" to some dimension of the "cost-of-living crisis" the invasion stoked.

But the war's reach may be expanding in other ways.

For one, it has been brought home to Russia itself. Andrew Stuttaford has tried to unpack the significance of the killing of Darya Dugina, daughter of Russian ultranationalist Alexander Dugin, in a Moscow suburb. Introducing us to the apt Italian word dietrologia, he notes the Russians will blame the Ukrainians but wonders whether there's more to the story, perhaps the possibility of a false-flag operation to rally Russian support.

This is not an isolated incident, however. The Washington Post ran an interesting piece on the anxiety inside Russia as it becomes clear the war is not merely happening "over there" as televised drama for domestic consumption:

The killing immediately heightened a sense of vulnerability among Russia's most elite and visible promoters of the war in Ukraine, who now realize that they might be targets and that the government is potentially unable to protect them. . . .

Saturday's car bombing followed massive explosions in southern Russia and occupied Crimea this month, as well as mysterious fires in buildings and warehouses across the country. Suddenly, the war that still seems a world away for many ordinary Russians has hit extremely close to home. . . . "By now it should be obvious to everyone that there are no safe places," pro-Kremlin war reporter Yury Kotenok tweeted, adding that Russians could no longer ignore the war. "Moscow is now a front-line city."

These tensions raise the possibility of further escalation, of course. Not that the Kremlin needs an excuse.

NR's Diana Glebova reported last week on another curious death, that of Latvian-American Putin critic Dan Rapoport, in Washington, D.C. His body was found on the sidewalk outside his apartment building. Authorities say they don't suspect foul play in what is being reported as an apparent suicide, but those who were close to Rapoport have suspicions:

"The stakes of getting to the bottom of [Rapoport's death] are high," prominent Russia historian and journalist David Satter, who was a friend of Rapoport, told National Review. . . . Rapoport's widow, Alyona Rapoport, said that her husband did not commit suicide.

This could be another dietrologia situation, in which the full story is not ever quite known. Concerns about Russia's Ukraine war spilling over Ukraine's borders, however, focus more on the immediate region, and are not new. They focus especially on the threat to Moldova, which has been beset by dozens of bomb threats in recent weeks; Russia has already meddled as well with the energy supply for Poland and Bulgaria, among other countries. Recent movements from the Nordic and Baltic nations reflect a state of alert well beyond the front lines: Latvia wants to bring back the draft in preparation for a feared Russian attack, while NATO over the summer invited Finland and Sweden to join the alliance, a step the U.S. Senate swiftly approved. This week, a damaged nuclear plant in the warzone heightened concerns of a potential catastrophe of continental proportions.

With no end in sight to the war, expect the conflict to continue to reverberate outward, in ways severe and in ways trivial but in any case noticeable. No matter how many populations are touched, this won't dilute the suffering in Ukraine itself, now six months into this horror. Our colleague, Luba Kolomytseva, is from Kharkiv and just conducted an interview with an old childhood acquaintance. What he describes is something we should all want not just contained but stopped in its tracks — and deterred from being attempted ever again.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

The student-debt wipeout is premised on falsities: Biden's Student-Debt Decree Wrong on Every Level

A less-than-graceful exit: Good Riddance, Dr. Fauci

The CDC is not being straightforward about monkeypox and, as a result, is not helping those most at risk: The Monkeypox Deception

The military-recruitment crisis is here: Too Few, Not Proud Enough

ARTICLES

Rich Lowry: Biden's Student-Debt Debacle

John McCormack: Top Economist for Obama Warns Biden's Student-Debt Plan Recklessly Fuels Inflation

Charles C. W. Cooke: Biden's Student-Debt Bonfire Is a Classist Message to the Uncredentialed: Screw 'Em

Brittany Bernstein: Majority of White House Staffers Eligible for Biden's Student-Loan 'Forgiveness'

Diana Glebova: Mar-a-Lago Search Affidavit Released

Kevin Williamson: The Left's Opt-In Totalitarianism

Jack Butler: Biden's Historians Hurt America, Dishonor Their Profession

Jim Geraghty: Who’s Not Helping the 2022 GOP Senate Candidates?

Caroline Downey: ‘It Just Works’: Progressive Educators Rediscover Power of Phonics after Failing with DEI-Infused Method

Andrew McCarthy: Could Trump Talk Himself into an Indictment?

Daniel Buck: Get Phones Out of Schools

Ryan Mills: Covid Conspiracy Theorist Rebekah Jones Wins Dem Nomination for Congress in Florida

James E. Livingston: Kabul Made Saigon Look Like a Triumph

Senator James Lankford: More IRS Audits Are Coming for Americans at All Income Levels

CAPITAL MATTERS

And another thing on the student-debt "cancellation." Dominic Pino points out that this torpedoes those deficit-reduction claims: Canceling Student Debt Would Undo Reconciliation Bill’s Deficit Reduction

And another thing: Can Anyone Sue over Biden's Student-Loan Lawlessness?

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Brian Allen braves the Ogunquit traffic, and he is rewarded for it: A Visit to a Historic Maine Resort Town to See Miller and Walker Exhibitions

I still can't promise I won't watch this, Armond: House of the Dragon Revives Fascist Art

FROM THE NEW, SEPTEMBER 12, 2022, ISSUE OF NR

Yuval Levin: Republicans Need an Agenda

Charles C. W. Cooke: A Long Goodbye to Trump

Ramesh Ponnuru: Republicans Must Act on a Late-Term Abortion Ban

Jason Lee Steorts: Dear Mr. Rushdie

EXCERPTS, DECLASSIFIED

NR, as glimpsed in the links immediately preceding this, is out with an expansive special issue exploring and, in spots, proposing a 2023 agenda for Republicans. Yuval Levin sketches a roadmap here, and it's a fine place to start:

The notion that politicians vying for seats in Congress should put some set of policy ideas before voters is hardly a bold, piercing insight. People seeking to be legislators should presumably seek to legislate, and candidates who want to be elected lawmakers should probably explain how electing them could result in better laws.

And yet, for more than a decade now, Republicans running for Congress have treated the question of whether to propose particular policy ideas at election time as though it were a tangled strategic quandary. Indeed, they have often concluded that offering an agenda would be a mistake, and that instead proposing nothing would be more clever, savvy, and even principled. 

Some have made a kind of libertarian argument that Republicans should be the party that wants government to do less, and so should not dream up clever new programs but only stand in the way of bad ideas from the left. Others have argued that a Republican congressional majority should just advance the agenda of a Republican president or oppose and investigate a Democratic one, since you can't really govern from Congress anyway.

But more often, the case is more cynical than that, and focused on saving Republicans the trouble of having to defend anything. Voters are in a sour mood, this argument suggests, so let the election be a referendum on the Democrats and the public will vote "No." Why put a target on our own backs?

This is not a mindless view. Its most prominent advocate over the past decade has been Senator Mitch McConnell, who is nothing if not savvy and effective. But it is nonetheless profoundly wrong.

The case for passivity on libertarian grounds makes little sense given the sheer scope of the progressive administrative state. If what you want is a government that doesn't overreach, then you want a government very different from the one we have, and you're going to need a lot of legislation to get there. As F. A. Hayek put it, "Liberty in practice depends on very prosaic matters, and those anxious to preserve it must prove their devotion by their attention to the mundane concerns of public life and by the efforts they are prepared to give to the understanding of issues that the idealist is often inclined to treat as common, if not sordid."

The case for focusing just on the president, meanwhile, is outright constitutional dereliction. Our system cannot function when the first branch is willfully weak and passive. And oversight of the executive does not amount by itself to an agenda fit for a legislature. What will you have achieved when you've spent two years really getting to the bottom of Hunter Biden's odious corruption? At best, you might agitate your core voters enough to elect you again — but to what end? More hearings? By all means, Congress should hold the executive branch to account, but as a supplement to, not a substitute for, legislative work. And while it's true that you can't simply govern from Congress, you can set the parameters of governance; recent presidents have rarely vetoed bills supported by bipartisan majorities.

But the argument against giving voters something to oppose may actually be the most deficient. It runs to the heart of what has gone wrong with American politics, and what it would take for Republicans to make the most of some extraordinary opportunities for electoral success over the coming years. . . .

Republicans who want to be legislators should help voters see how they would legislate — and they should propose to legislate in ways that would be broadly popular. This means not only proposing an agenda but speaking especially to the issues that now most frustrate the electorate, and to those that might be most amenable to legislative bargaining and remediation.

For Republican candidates for Congress, that should mean, at the very least, proposing a substantive agenda that tackles rising living costs, education issues with a federal nexus, immigration, health care, and the various challenges arising around the governance of information technology. Those aren't the only issues that matter, but they are among the ones that at this point best combine the public's priorities and the potential for legislative action.

Charles C. W. Cooke finds the real message to the masses in Biden's student-debt magic erasure:

President Biden announced that any American who has both college debt they vowed to repay and an individual yearly income under $125,000 (or a family yearly income under $250,000) will be given up to $20,000 by the Treasury — which means by you, and by me, and by everyone else who pays taxes in America.

Why? Well, that's the question. . . .

It seems so arbitrary. Why does Biden not want to do the same thing for loans on trucks owned by plumbers? Why not for mortgages — which, given how heavily it subsidizes them, the federal government clearly thinks are worthwhile? Why not for credit cards or auto payments or mom-and-pop credit lines? The answer, I'm afraid to say, is disgustingly classist: Because Joe Biden and his party believe that college students are better than everyone else. Because Joe Biden and his party believe that college students are of a finer cut. Because Joe Biden and his party prefer college students to you, and they think that those students ought to be rewarded for that by being handed enormous gobs of your money.

Electricians, store managers, deli workers, landscapers, waitresses, mechanics, entrepreneurs? Screw 'em. Sure, college graduates make more money than non-graduates, and their unemployment rate is lower, too. But non-graduates don't have access to the president, so they don't matter. They're tradesmen, the riff-raff, the great unwashed. They're background noise, dirty-handed types, second-classers. They don't deserve $10,000 in debt reduction. What would they even do with it? Go hunting? Give it to their church? Their role is to subsidize the superior people, and the superior people go to college.

Why did Joe Biden do all this? That's why. Why was this what Joe Biden chose to break his oath to achieve? That's why. When it came down to it, good ol' Scranton Joe sent cash from the sort of people he cynically pretends to care about to the sort of people he actually cares about: the privileged, accredited, self-dealing clerisy that his ever-dwindling political party now calls its base.

Caroline Downey reports on the rediscovery of phonics, after an ill-advised educational turn away from it:

As a school principal in Oakland, Calif., Kareem Weaver was once called into an English classroom to pacify a seven-year-old African-American girl who was throwing a tantrum because she was struggling to decipher a word.

Frustrated, sitting with her arms folded, the child insisted that the word was "rock." Her aggravation grew as the teacher repeatedly said "no," urging her to remember the story from the previous day, which featured context clues of pictures of a "home" and a "bone," to help her solve the mystery. Finding the situation hopeless, she darted away from the teacher, crawled under chairs, and stirred up trouble with other students.

The word that stumped her was "stone." Weaver realized his school system's literacy strategy needed an overhaul, he said. In 2015, Weaver and some colleagues had fought for a social-justice-infused reading curriculum that was less mechanical and rigid and more about humanistic story telling, Time magazine reported. But then he saw the error of their ways.

"She is in tears because the teacher has her in a guessing game. Why don't we walk her through the vowels and consonants instead of making her play Inspector Gadget and Tic-Tac-Toe?," he thought at the time, he told National Review.

The school wanted to suspend that first grader for the disruption she was causing, Weaver said, without considering that, perhaps, the school was failing her. While well-intentioned faculty believed they were being supportive and doing the right thing by using "whole language learning," which builds on the premise that reading and writing develop naturally in children, the method was leaving many kids, especially minority students, out to dry.

In Oakland, Weaver helped lead the charge to implement old-fashioned explicit systematic reading instruction, using phonics, which he summarizes as: "we teach you the sounds of language to make sure you know what you're hearing and then we will teach you how to hear them accurately."

ICYMI, Jack Butler explores the phenomenon of #TheHistory, with an Indiana Jones reference to boot:

"We are only passing through history," says the villainous archaeologist René Belloq of himself and his rival (and our hero) Indiana Jones near the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. "This," he says, pointing to the Ark of the Covenant, which Jones threatens to blow up unless Belloq releases Marion, Indy's flame, "this is history."

Today, there is a group of historians not content merely to pass through history. Instead, they want to help make it. Toward that end, they have attached themselves to the presidency of Joe Biden, the presidency having become essentially sacralized as an office of near-spiritual significance. They have consulted with him and guided him, as recently as this month. And they presumably hope that, with their help, he can become a world-historical figure. But in this endeavor they have dishonored their profession and even damaged the country.

Even before Biden became president, one of this crew was already leveraging a historian's knowledge of the past in service of a glorious Biden future. Jon Meacham, author of The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels, formally endorsed Biden in March 2020. "Donald Trump won't be the last American president," he wrote in the Washington Post. "But history — ancient and recent — tells us that, come November, we ought to make Joe Biden the next one." (Convenient!) He then gave a speech for the 2020 Democratic National Convention. He called the upcoming contest "a choice that goes straight to the nature of the soul of America." (Subtle.)

Shout-Outs

Megan McArdle, at the Washington Post: Biden's student loan 'fix' will likely make the problem worse

Timothy Carney, at the Washington Examiner: IRS free-file will either be horrible, be run by TurboTax, or both

Sergiu Klainerman, at Tablet: Eisgruber's Emails

Theodore Kupfer, at City Journal: Where Did Wokeness Come From?

CODA

In keeping with an incorrigible habit of crowdsourcing playlists, I sent out a flare last weekend seeking Zappa recs, this being a catalogue I don't know nearly enough about. A common thread in the responses: appreciation from classical lovers for Zappa's musicianship and composition.

David Baron recommends, among other albums, Burnt Weeny Sandwich, which is truly terrific. Here, here, and here, for example.

Ralph Reddick suggests several songs, among them "Cheap Thrills," and not the Sia one. And Nick Sayer puts in a word for "Cosmik Debris," and pretty much all of Apostrophe (').

Thanks for sending, thanks for reading. As a programming note, I'll be out next weekend. As usual, expect the quality to improve considerably in my absence.

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