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Thursday, September 23, 2021
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Kevin D. Williamson


The Question Biden Needs to Answer

President Joe Biden hosts a virtual summit as part of the United Nations General Assembly from the South Court Auditorium in the White House complex in Washington, D.C, September 22, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters) There are missing pieces in the narrative concerning the lead-up to the tragic drone strike in Kabul. NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE W henever something awful happens in our government, there is a kind of informal competition among columnists to be the first to write: “What did the president know, and when did he know it?” It is a tedious cliché. But the matter of the Kabul drone strike in which U.S. forces killed ten innocent civilians — including an aid worker and seven children — raises precisely that question. Joe Biden as commander in chief bears some general culpability for this slaughter — but if he was leaning on his underlings to put some bodies into body bags in order to grease the … To Read the Full Story

Kamala Harris Was Set Up to Fail as Biden’s ‘Border Czar’

Vice President Kamala Harris visits the El Paso central processing center, near the border between the United States and Mexico, in El Paso, Texas, June 25, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters) She fell prey to one of the oldest political tricks in the book. NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE V ice presidents are, traditionally, as useless as teats on a boar. In that respect, Vice President Kamala Harris is shooting par for the course as Joe Biden’s border czar. Shoving the vice president off on some lonely policy ice floe is, by now, practically a ritual. Some of you may remember that Barack Obama ceremoniously charged his vice president, Joe Biden, with leading a campaign to “end cancer as we know it.” Cancer does not seem to have taken much notice of Joe Biden. Then again, it’s never been entirely clear why anybody ever did. Joe Biden is a schmuck from a … To Read the Full Story

Turning the Tide in the Pacific

The U.S. Navy Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Greenville enters Diego Garcia’s harbor, August 21, 2020. (Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Michael T. Porterfield/US Navy) Our new diplomatic-and-military partnership with the U.K. and Australia is a smart way to weaken China. But we should be wary of alienating EU allies. NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE A UKUS may sound like something that would give Harry Potter trouble, but it is meant to be something that will give Xi Jinping trouble. The newly announced Australia/United Kingdom/United States diplomatic-and-military partnership in the Pacific is a big deal conceptually, in that it is the seed of a NATO of the Indo-Pacific, and practically, in that the opening move of the new bloc will be providing Australia with nuclear submarines. Nuclear submarines are awesome military tools, and Australia’s possession of them will change, to some degree, the power dynamics of the South Pacific. Here the United States is engaged in realistic power … To Read the Full Story

Gun-Control Laws Aren’t about Preventing Crimes

A man grabs a gun displayed at Shore Shot Pistol Range gun shop in Lakewood Township, N.J., March 19, 2020. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters) They’re just another way of fighting the culture wars. In the latest issue of National Review, I write about the lax enforcement of our gun laws and touch on a theme that is worth exploring a little more: Gun control is not about gun crime — gun control is about gun culture. If we cared about keeping guns out of the hands of felons, we’d be locking up straw buyers. We’d be prosecuting prohibited “lie and try” buyers who falsify their ATF paperwork. And we’d be confiscating guns sold in retail transactions that were wrongly approved because of defects in the background-check system. But, for the most part, we don’t do much of any of that. Instead of doing the hard work of enforcing the law on people committed to breaking it, we focus almost all of our efforts on the most law-abiding group of Americans there is: People who legally buy firearms from licensed firearms dealers, a group that, by definition, has a felony-conviction rate of approximately 0.0 percent. These are law-abiding people, but they also are, in no small part, the type of people who mash the cultural buttons of the big-city progressives who dominate the Democratic Party both culturally and financially. From that point of view, what matters is not that retail gun dealers and their clients are dangerous — which they certainly are not — but that they are icky. That culture-war mentality produces a great deal of sloppy thinking and ignorant commentary. Consider the case of Gail Collins in Thursday’s New York Times. Collins is hopping mad about gun shows, about which she seems to know . . . not a whole lot. “Yeah,” she writes — really, “yeah” — “right now one easy way to buy a gun without having anyone check to see if you have a history of criminal convictions, mental illness or a domestic violence restraining order is to just plunk down some cash at a gun show.” This is — and this part still matters! — not true. There is no special legal exemption for gun shows, no matter how many times New York Times columnists insist there is. The laws that apply everywhere else in the world apply in the same way, to the same degree, to the same people, at gun shows. If you are a felon or other prohibited buyer, it is a serious federal crime to buy a gun at a gun show; in most states, including the allegedly Wild West state of Texas, it is a crime to sell a felon a firearm, at a gun show or anywhere else. If you are a licensed firearms dealer, then you have to run background checks at a gun show, just as you would if you were selling at your shop or anywhere else. If you live in a state in which background checks are required for private sales (New York, California, etc.), those rules apply at gun shows the same as anywhere else. Some gun-show operators mandate background checks on private sales even where they are not legally required. The worst that can be said of gun shows is that they provide a convenient venue for sales that could be made in precisely the same way, by and to the same people, anywhere else. Because this is a culture-war issue rather than a crime-reduction issue, Collins apparently has not bothered thinking much about the most obvious and most relevant question: Are guns bought at gun shows a significant contributor to crime? Fortunately, we have a whole federal office — the Bureau of Justice Statistics — that keeps track of these things. Its finding? “Among prisoners who possessed a firearm during their offense, 0.8% obtained it at a gun show.” Imagine me putting on my Sheriff Buford T. Justice accent: “Zero-point-eight percent!” #inline-newsletter-nloptin-6143a05f00a78 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.2rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-6143a05f00a78 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-6143a05f00a78 { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #cccccc; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-6143a05f00a78 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #e92131; background-color: #e92131; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-6143a05f00bf8 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.5rem; line-height: 1.7rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-6143a05f00bf8 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-6143a05f00bf8 { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-6143a05f00bf8 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #eba605; background-color: #eba605; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-6143a05f00ca0 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.3rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #dd9933; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-6143a05f00ca0 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #2d2d2d; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-6143a05f00ca0 { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #999999; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-6143a05f00ca0 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #dd9933; background-color: #dd9933; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-6143a05f00d4b .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.5rem; line-height: 1.7rem; color: #0f733c; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-6143a05f00d4b .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #2d2d2d; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-6143a05f00d4b { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #cccccc; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-6143a05f00d4b .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #0f733c; background-color: #0f733c; color: #ffffff; } Now, given that only 20 percent of prisoners in the BJS survey were in possession of a firearm of any sort at the time of their offense, my English-major math puts those gun-show guns at the scene of 0.16 percent of those crimes. That number rounds down to squat. When I hear Democrats protesting voter-ID laws, they habitually insist that “there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud.” That is true. But there is some voter fraud — there are people in jail for it, and people headed there for it — and we should take reasonable steps to prevent and discourage it, because the social effects of even a little bit of election fraud are very corrosive. There are lots of things that are not widespread that nonetheless deserve our attention. Are there people at gun shows profiting by intentionally providing criminals with weapons? Maybe, though gun shows aren’t really where the black-marketeers hang out their shingles. We do occasionally prosecute people acting as unlicensed commercial dealers (as opposed to occasional private sellers) at gun shows, which is appropriate. But, again, that offense is a crime whether those sales happen at a gun show, in a garage, or out of the trunk of a car — or at a gun shop, for that matter. The same BJS study contains one of the least surprising findings in the literature: The vast majority of criminals — 90 percent — do not get their firearms from any sort of retail operation. The share that acquired them legally in a retail setting (sporting-goods store, pawnshop, etc.) is even smaller. Collins goes on to spend five paragraphs excoriating Texas for its new “constitutional carry” law. I myself preferred the old concealed-carry regime, with the required classwork, shooting test, and background check. But what Collins does not mention is that this is not some new innovation unique to the redneck states — Texas now has the same law as radical, right-wing . . . Vermont, which has had constitutional carry for as long as we have had the Constitution. Texas joins Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming in this arrangement. Some of those states have relatively high rates of murder and other violent crimes (Alaska, Arkansas) — though not a single one of them has a murder rate as much as half that of the District of Columbia — while others (Maine, Vermont, Idaho) are among the safest states in the Union. The obvious conclusion is that whatever the important variable is in murder rates, it isn’t this. Like many gun-controllers, Collins can’t be bothered with the facts or data: “I’m going to go out on a limb and say that eliminating the sale of semiautomatic rifles would make the country more . . . gun safe,” she writes. I hope for the sake of her bones that the limb is not too far up: As anybody who follows this issue knows, all “long guns” combined — meaning all shotguns and rifles, not just the semiautomatic ones — account for a tiny share of murders, and by tiny I mean fewer murders than are committed with bare hands or blunt objects. So-called assault rifles as a class are so rarely used in violent crimes that the feds don’t even bother to break them out statistically. But as near as we can tell, they account for around 2 percent of violent crimes, maybe less. There are good reasons for that, having nothing to do with gun laws — it is easier to buy a long gun than it is to buy a handgun, but it is hard to stick an AK-47 down your pants or jam it into your glove box. You can go out and buy a .50-caliber Barrett semiautomatic rifle and do some real damage — if you are the kind of criminal who has $12,000 burning a hole in his pocket and a propensity for committing crimes in which it is convenient to use a 30-pound, five-foot-long rifle. As it turns out, that is not how most American criminals operate. But .50-caliber rifles are, for some reason, a target of the gun-control movement. Instead of such exotic weapons, criminals generally use handguns. Traditionally, the most common kind of firearm to be used in a crime in the United States is whatever the most common kind of handgun is at that time. For a long time, it was .38-caliber revolvers; now, it is 9mm and .40-caliber semiautomatic pistols. Criminals don’t get them from gun shows — when they don’t steal them, they get them from their girlfriends. We can and should enforce straw-buyer laws, but, if we are going to do so, we should go into that knowing that we will be locking up a lot of young women and, almost certainly, a disproportionate share of them will be black or Hispanic and low-income. Collins gives away the game, writing that a proposed gun-show regulation won’t actually do much, “but if it passes, we can at least savor the thought that the weapons lobby finally had a bad day.” Giving people you hate a bad day is a pretty poor basis for public policy. Collins’s contribution here is useless to the policy debate, and as journalism, it is somewhere between incompetent and dishonest, dwelling in that no-man’s land of mediocrity that stretches across so many op-ed pages. But that is really what Kulturkampf politics is all about: fortifying one’s own social status by exercising ritual domination over cultural rivals. That’s how you get punitive tax policies that don’t raise much revenue, “inclusiveness” policies based on exclusion, and gun-control proposals that don’t have anything to do with gun crime. It just feels good to exercise power over people you loathe or envy. That is the beginning and the end of it. And, if that’s what gets your pistons pumping — well, then, you need Jesus, or at least therapy. On the other hand, if you are interested in reducing violent crime, then you might want to consider policies that have at least a little something to do with violent criminals and the ways in which they actually arm themselves.

The Non-Debate on Taxes

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks during a campaign rally for Senator Bernie Sanders at Venice Beach in Los Angeles, California, U.S., December 21, 2019. (REUTERS/Monica Almeida) The mortgage has to be paid somehow, and politics beats the hell out of most rackets. NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE T he thing to keep in mind is, none of the half-bright grifters really means it. If you will forgive an over-egged metaphor, our contemporary Republicans and Democrats are not opposite poles of the political planet but a binary star system, both orbiting the same point: the pursuit of money, power, and status. They are, in fact, so fundamentally similar that without the cultural cues that are today the main means of political communication, it would be impossible to tell them apart. Consider the apparatchik of the moment, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and her big night at the Met Gala. To say that it … To Read the Full Story

The Billionaires’ Party

Bill Gates at the IMF/World Bank spring meeting in Washington, D.C., in 2018. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters) There are still friends of the ultra-wealthy in our politics. They just aren’t whom you'd imagine them to be. NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE ‘T oadies for billionaires” is how one excitable correspondent describes the Republican Party. But nobody seems to have told the billionaires. Politics is not based on policy, or economics, or analysis — politics is based on storytelling, and we typically are far more committed to our stories than to any other aspect of our political lives. (Oh, no, not you! You’re an enlightened philosopher–king. But that other guy. . . .) We stick with our stories even when the facts on the ground have changed. The Republican Party was, for a long time, the business party. Sometimes, that manifested itself in a principled commitment … To Read the Full Story

Why ‘Job-Creation’ Doesn’t Work

Homeless tents are seen next to the White House, in Washington, D.C., January 17, 2021. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters) The idea that jobs are the solution for people whose problems are not, at root, economic is a fantasy. NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE ‘T he best social program is a job,” Ronald Reagan famously declared, and though that dictum speaks to our collective aspirations of self-reliance, the fact is that a job is not a social program. That is obvious enough, but we need to really understand why and act on it. Poor people are, socially and politically, a problem — the softhearted among us are moved by their privation, while the less naturally sympathetic may simply object to other people’s poverty intruding into their comfortable lives through crime, public squalor, panhandling, and the like. The main streams of both political parties operate from the belief … To Read the Full Story

Warby Parker’s Shortsighted Sop to the Progressive Mob

Glasses are seen inside of a Warby Parker store in Brooklyn, New York, June 24, 2021. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters) When companies join the culture wars, they shouldn't be surprised if the blowback hits their bottom lines. NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE W arby Parker has decided to enter the culture war. Warby Parker is going to lose. Warby Parker, like many similar businesses, farms out part of its digital advertising to third-party firms that place ads on a variety of media platforms, usually driven by user data. One of Warby Parker’s ads cropped on up the Daily Wire, a conservative site founded by Ben Shapiro, and the usual progressive rage monkeys on Twitter did their usual cretinous thing, threatening to boycott the eyewear company. Warby Parker, which already engages in a great deal of marketing by means of social-justice gilding, did its best impression of … To Read the Full Story

Flexing the Quad

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold flies the Battle Ensign underway during the annual U.S.-Japan Bilateral Advanced Warfighting Training Exercise in the Philippine Sea, March 1, 2021. (Mass Communication Specialist Second Class Deanna C. Gonzales/US Navy) Japan wants to arm itself against China, and we should help. NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE I t is 7,000 miles from Washington to Beijing, but it is only a little more than 1,000 miles from Tokyo to Beijing. If it sometimes seems that Japan is taking China seven times more seriously than is the United States, the explanation may be as simple as that. Japan’s prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, is on his way out, and his most likely (though not certain) successor is a former foreign minister, Fumio Kishida, who embodies the increasingly assertive national-defense mentality of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party. Kishida has suggested that Japan requires, among other armaments, missiles that could be used to … To Read the Full Story

The End Roe Deserves?

Pro-life demonstrators at the 47th March for Life in Washington, D.C., January 24, 2020. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters) In a roundabout way that seems only fitting, Texas’s ‘heartbeat bill’ strikes at the ever-more-complex legal sophistry underpinning the constitutional ‘right’ to abortion. NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE M y local NPR and PBS radio affiliate, KERA, is a pretty reliable font of bad journalism: First, there was that breathless report about Chicago’s being ravaged by gangsters armed with explosive bullets, which do not actually exist, and now comes a report about Texas’s new abortion law that gets it almost precisely wrong. KERA claims, falsely, that the Texas law empowers random people to sue women for procuring abortions. In fact, the law is designed to expose not the women seeking abortions but almost everybody else involved in the procedure to civil liability. On this, you need not take my word … To Read the Full Story

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New Poll Shows Majority of Americans Lack Confidence in Biden’s Immigration Policy

President Joe Biden participates in a meeting of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate (MEF) on climate change, from an auditorium at the White House in Washington, D.C., September 17, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters) Amid the spiraling border fiasco in Del Rio, Texas, where over ten thousand undocumented migrants have been camping under a bridge while waiting to be processed by border personnel, a new poll shows that 56 percent of Americans don’t trust President Biden to make wise immigration policy decisions. Thirty-seven percent of Americans are “not at all confident” while 20 percent are “not too confident” in Biden’s handling of the immigration issue, according to a Thursday survey conducted by Pew Research. Biden’s approval for immigration policy-making dropped seven percent among Republicans, twelve percent among Democrats, and ten percent among Independents from March 2021 to September 2021, the poll indicates. An estimated 600,000 migrants have been released into the United States this year with notices to appear or report. Many of the migrants have been admitted under the refugee umbrella despite lacking legitimate clams to asylum. Hundreds of thousands more have been recorded as “got-aways” who escaped into the country without any processing. Among the blunders likely factoring into Biden’s low confidence rating on the immigration issue is the current situation in Del Rio, Texas, where overwhelmed Border Patrol agents have been struggling to apprehend and process thousands of mostly Haitian migrants streaming across the border. During a visit Saturday, Republican Representative August Pfluger noted that nearly 15,000 migrants had gathered at the port of entry, up from 12,000 just the day before, with “hundreds more gathering every hour.” #inline-newsletter-nloptin-614cee0b44930 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.2rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-614cee0b44930 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-614cee0b44930 { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #cccccc; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-614cee0b44930 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #e92131; background-color: #e92131; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-614cee0b44b08 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.5rem; line-height: 1.7rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-614cee0b44b08 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-614cee0b44b08 { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-614cee0b44b08 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #eba605; background-color: #eba605; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-614cee0b44be6 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.3rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #dd9933; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-614cee0b44be6 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #2d2d2d; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-614cee0b44be6 { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #999999; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-614cee0b44be6 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #dd9933; background-color: #dd9933; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-614cee0b44d15 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.5rem; line-height: 1.7rem; color: #0f733c; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-614cee0b44d15 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #2d2d2d; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-614cee0b44d15 { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #cccccc; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-614cee0b44d15 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #0f733c; background-color: #0f733c; color: #ffffff; } Migrants constructed temporary encampments under the bridge by the Rio Grande river as shelters, while officials sent toilets, water, medical supplies and other humanitarian aid. “Speaking to Border Patrol agents, the worst is yet to come, they’re worried about what is behind here, they’re worried about co-ordination with Mexico,” Pfluger told Fox News. “It’s worse than you could imagine,” he added. In the last week, the Biden administration also received criticism from Democrats, many of whom called the border circumstances a humanitarian crisis. Lawmakers such as Representative Maxine Waters slammed the Biden administration and the border patrol for allowing what she perceived as agents’ use of inhuman methods to corral the massive surge of migrants entering the country. Amid the accusations that officers wielded whips on horseback to manage the influx, a claim that was later debunked, Waters declared that those who approved the practice “are trying to bring us back to slavery days and worse than that.” Send a tip to the news team at NR.

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