A Glimpse of COVID Common Sense

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Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser testifies at a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on the D.C. statehood bill on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., March 22, 2021. (Carlos Barria/Pool via Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Perhaps you live in a state that accepts — and has for some time — that COVID-19 is part of the fabric now, and is manageable. The mandates have ebbed, folks (hopefully) have gotten vaccinated, and they have resumed normal life and commerce, appreciating that the threshold for doing so — the development and distribution of an efficacious shot — has been met.

If you don’t, well, the culture is quite different. Your neighbors, your local businesses, government officials, and the media they all consume promote a lifestyle that incorporates COVID precautions more or less permanently. Stores and restaurants urge customers, vaxxed or not, to mask up as a matter of civic duty. It’s unclear when and if this approach ever ends.

Make no mistake, these are two worlds — post-pandemic and perma-pandemic, both existing at the same time in the same country amid similar circumstances. The key to uniting them remains elusive. But the path might have gotten a bit clearer this week, thanks to a handful of Democrats challenging the assumptions of perma-pandemic life.

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Exhibit A is Washington, D.C., mayor Muriel Bowser. Earlier this week, the executive suggested that “we’re moving from a pandemic to an endemic” and sounded downright libertarian as she proposed: “Rather than the government telling you what you need to do to keep safe, you will evaluate risk and act accordingly.”

Let that quote sink in, from the very bluest place on the electoral map. The next day, Bowser moved to mostly end the District’s indoor mask mandate, which makes sense in a city where roughly 90 percent of adults have gotten at least one jab. Some mask rules will remain in effect, but as Michael Brendan Dougherty writes:

It’s a notable development because it is a Democratic mayor articulating to the public that COVID is going (has gone) endemic, and that the state of exception we’ve been living under, wherein the government takes responsibility for managing population-level risks, will end by shifting the management of ongoing COVID risk to the people.

Over in Colorado, Democratic governor Jared Polis was similarly defiant as he was pressed repeatedly by Face the Nation why he’s not implementing more restrictions: “For folks who are vaccinated, you know, this is still a higher risk than usual in the background. But this is like the endemic state of what this virus will always be. It’s no longer a pandemic for you.”

To sum up, a Democratic governor all but declared the pandemic over, for those who wish it to be. The same governor also has said he doesn’t plan to bring back a mask mandate amid a COVID surge, as such a mandate hasn’t stopped a similar surge in neighboring New Mexico. Instead, he’s pushing hard for people to get vaccinated.

This speaks to something Charles C. W. Cooke wrote about back in August — that the vaccines help a great deal, but beyond that, “there’s no rhyme or reason to this pandemic.” It can be startling to hear. High death rates afflict states with Democratic governors and Republican governors, with strict COVID rules and without them.

As might be anticipated, both Polis and Bowser are being met with the traditional expressions of angst and agony, the rending of garments, the calls to relent, from some in the media as well as inertia-prone officials with less responsibility. Federal health czars, too, would prefer to stay the course. Anthony Fauci said just this week that “a degree of normality” can be restored once cases are below 10,000, a bar not touched since March 2020. Even then, Fauci said, he could not be “definitive.” The goalposts aren’t just moving; they’re not even visible.

Challenging this attitude will take resolve. But when some Democrats show it, when figures like Mayor-elect Eric Adams in New York City, for example, talk about revisiting COVID policies, it promisingly points to a future when, accepting an imperfect reality, local pols might force the exits back into focus for the laggard states. Other considerations remain, including how to address future variants, how to deal with breakthrough cases, and what policies to keep in place for children who can’t yet get the shot or haven’t for other reasons. But this burst of COVID common sense is an encouraging step, and we’ll see how the winter months play out.

Some almost-closing thoughts from MBD:

We’re still a long way from where we should be — but the ongoing restrictions are sustained in part by the lingering belief that we can entirely eliminate COVID, or that once we can get vax-resisters to just submit in a sufficient number, we never have to think about COVID again. That’s not how it’s going to work. Instead, the most fearful and cautious will have to accept that they will have to manage their own risks again. Getting Democrats to just say that — out loud and in public — is the first step to making it happen.

Those thoughts were almost-closing, because there is one last thing. That is, the application deadline for the spring session of the Burke to Buckley Program has been extended to December 1. Interested? Here’s that pitch again from National Review Institute:

The best thing you’ll do in 2022 — if you love freedom, learning, and engaging with fellow conservatives — is to apply now for one of the spring 2022 Burke to Buckley Fellowship Programs (in either Miami, New York, or Philly)! The deadline to apply is December 1.

More details and an application can be found here.

On to the meat and the potatoes . . .

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

Saule Omarova’s nomination for comptroller of the currency should be withdrawn or, barring that, rejected: Biden’s Commissar

Troubling signs from Biden’s meeting with Xi Jinping: Biden’s Worrisome Kid-Glove Approach to Xi

The protesters in Glasgow for COP26 were right about one thing: We’ll Always Have Paris

ARTICLES

Dan McLaughlin: Since When Can’t You Say ‘Woke’?

Charles C. W. Cooke: The Collapse of Kamala Harris

Kevin Williamson: Biden’s Phony Gas-Price Investigation

Alexandra DeSanctis: Loudoun County School Board Settles after Losing First Amendment Lawsuit

Ryan Mills: St. Paul Rent-Control Initiative Backfires, Unleashes ‘Chaos’ in Housing Market

Rand Paul: Joe Biden’s Orwellian Coronavirus Regime

Rick Scott: In Biden’s Sticky Inflation Crisis, Poor Families Suffer the Most

Tom Cotton: Winning the War on Crime

Michael Brendan Dougherty: What Rittenhouse’s Crying Means to Psychos

Rich Lowry: Joe Biden’s Incredible Shrinking Presidency

Jim Geraghty: Another Reminder of China’s Corruption and Brutality: The Disappearance of Peng Shuai

Jay Nordlinger: Fight for Music

Daniel Tenreiro: Science Goes Woke

CAPITAL MATTERS

Joel Zinberg and Sally Satel point to promising signs from the courts regarding a rash of “public nuisance” cases in the opioid wars: Ending the Epidemic of Public-Nuisance Litigation

Andrew Stuttaford has some unvarnished thoughts about Prince Charles: Charles the Climate Prince

No, installing activist leaders at the Fed is not a good idea. From Joshua Klein and Christina Parajon Skinner: Hijacking the Fed

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Armond White lauds the trio of tales that compose Love Is Love Is Love: Eleanor Coppola’s Post-Feminist Convention

Did you know that Vincent van Gogh did a series of paintings dedicated to only olive trees? Me neither. But they’re in Dallas, and Brian Allen went: Van Gogh’s Olive-Grove Paintings in Dallas Are a Must-See

Kyle Smith is pleasantly surprised by the latest Ghostbusters installment: Stay Puft, Marshmallow Man

WE WERE SOMEWHERE AROUND BARSTOW ON THE EDGE OF THE DESERT WHEN THE EXCERPTS BEGAN TO TAKE HOLD . . . 

Last weekend, we published a piece on Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai’s sexual-misconduct allegations against a high-profile political figure in China. She has since disappeared, at least from the public eye, in a case that has swiftly drawn the world’s attention. Let’s hope it stays fixed there until she’s accounted for and her claims addressed (seemingly bogus email statements don’t count). Jim Geraghty provides an overview here:

On November 3, Peng Shuai accused former vice premier Zhang Gaoli of coercing her into sex, and declared they later had an on-off consensual relationship. She posted on her verified social-media account, “That afternoon I didn’t give my consent and couldn’t stop crying. . . . You brought me to your house and forced me and you to have relations.” Zhang Gaoli has been a powerful Chinese government official since the late 1980s, serving as vice premier from 2013 to 2018 and as a member of the country’s highest ruling council from 2012 to 2017. Zhang Gaoli is a longtime friend and ally of Chinese president Xi Jinping.

Shortly after posting her accusation, Peng Shuai disappeared. . . .

There is very little reason to give the Chinese government the benefit of the doubt here. The Chinese government is not the laws-based force for stability and order that its cheerleaders in the West want to believe it is. The men who run China’s government are deeply corrupt brutes who enforce their will from the barrel of a gun and who are willing to harm anyone who gets in their way — even one of the country’s most successful and famous athletes. They see other people as objects to be used and discarded as they please. They are no more ethical or legitimate rulers than the Mafia or drug cartels. They just have a worldwide propaganda effort to hide or downplay their crimes and celebrate them as poor boys who worked hard and rose to the top.

Peng Shuai made an explosive accusation against a longtime close ally of the man who runs the Chinese government, and then she disappeared. That is not likely a coincidence.

Dan McLaughlin has a characteristically smart piece on the never-ending language wars; in this case, the war over the word “woke”:

Language has power because words have meaning. The ability to communicate meaning from one person to another is the purpose of language; more than anything else, it is what separates humans from the rest of the animal kingdom. In politics, communicating meaning is essential to persuasion, to the building of coalitions, and to the defeat of error and wickedness.

One of the most effective ways to prevent criticism of an idea is to deprive people of the language in which to name it. Political propagandists understand this, which is why they are now objecting so loudly to terms such as “critical race theory,” “woke,” “identity politics,” and “cancel culture.” The point is not that these terms are imprecise in what they mean — they can be, as are many other terms in common use in American political discourse. The point is precisely that they are understood to have a distinct meaning. The propagandists of wokeness want to prevent that meaning from being communicated among ordinary citizens who have long lacked the words in which to express things they see and know to be wrong.

Example: Adam Serwer of The Atlantic argues that using the term “woke” “expresses sentiments the people using it would be uncomfortable articulating directly,” which is his code for calling people racists. . . .

Note that the critics of using the terms such as “woke” and “critical race theory” never offer a more precise terminology for the ideology these terms describe, because their goal is not clarity but camouflage. That may work in the jargon forest of academia, but it is a deeply anti-democratic way to approach popular discourse on how the governed may supervise the government.

This is an especially contemptible tactic when people engaged in a movement for social change are nonetheless doing battle against naming their own movement.

Charles C. W. Cooke surveys the landscape of takes on Kamala Harris and says, “Hold my Christmas ale”:

That America’s voters disdain Harris as much as they obviously do gives me an extraordinary amount of hope for our future. In December of 2019, I celebrated Harris’s departure from the presidential primary with a “good riddance” that turned out to be woefully premature: “May Harris’s failed attempt,” I hoped, serve to “destroy her career and sully her reputation for all time.” Alas, the first part did not happen; on the contrary, Harris was springboarded up to within a heartbeat of the most potent office in the land. But the second part? Well, I got that in abundance. We are now ten months into this baleful presidency, and already Harris is the most unpopular vice president in history. And they say Christmas doesn’t come early!

Harris’s apologists like to insist that she is as unpopular as she is because she’s a non-white woman. But this explanation gets the cause of the disapproval backwards. Kamala Harris isn’t disliked because she’s a non-white woman; Kamala Harris was chosen as vice president because she’s a non-white woman, and she’s disliked because she has nothing to recommend her beyond those facts. In the highest of high dudgeon, her defenders will propose that this is Joe Biden’s fault, for not “using” Harris correctly in her role. But this too is unjust. In truth, there is no good way to “use” Kamala Harris, because Kamala Harris is a talentless mediocrity whose only political flair is for making things worse than they were before she arrived. . . .

Can you find a single utterance of hers that has so much as approached being compelling or worthwhile? I doubt it. Harris is not interesting, she’s not substantive, she’s not provocative, or innovative, or wry. She’s not funny. She’s not amiable. She’s not accomplished or persuasive or adroit. She’s a heedless, cowardly, cackling cipher — an insipid, itinerant woolgatherer, whose first instinct in any situation is to resort to farcical platitudes or to suggest wanly that we should all have a “conversation about that.” Were she to be cast in a kids’ movie, it would not be as the hero, but as the ghastly mid-level bureaucrat who sends the hero’s dog to the pound halfway through the second act.

ICYMI, Ryan Mills reports on how a rent-control initiative in Minnesota just backfired, good intentions and all:

Democratic leaders in Minnesota’s capital city are scrambling for solutions after developers put several large projects on hold across St. Paul in the wake of last week’s election, when residents approved what may be the strictest rent-control policy in the country.

The rent-control ballot initiative in St. Paul was overshadowed nationally by an effort in neighboring Minneapolis to disband that city’s police force. But while the Minneapolis police initiative went down in flames, left-wing activists on the eastern bank of the Mississippi River succeeded in their effort to cap rent increases at 3 percent annually, including on new construction, a step most communities that have imposed rent-control policies have specifically avoided out of concern that it would discourage future investments.

The St. Paul initiative passed last week with 53 percent support.

Opponents of St. Paul’s rent-control initiative warned before the vote that developers and financial investors would pull the plug on projects if the ballot measure were to pass. And that appears to be exactly what’s transpired over the past week. Large developers who spoke to the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the St. Paul Pioneer Press told reporters that they’re pausing their projects across the city, and they are “re-evaluating what – if any – future business we’ll be doing in St. Paul.” Lenders are pulling out of new projects, they say, worried about the impact of the new policy.

Attempts by National Review to reach those developers for comment were unsuccessful.

B Kyle, president and CEO of the Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, said her organization is in the process of cataloguing all of the projects killed or put on hold because of the measure. It’s not just new development projects at risk, she said. Kyle said she’s already been told of dozens of buildings that have had 2022 rehabilitation projects stopped. She said there’s now “chaos” across St. Paul because of the rent-control measure.

Shout-Outs

James Freeman, at the Wall Street Journal: A Buffalo Saber to the Socialist Heart

J. D. Tuccille, at Reason: Your Next Car May Refuse to Start if It Thinks You’ve Had a Drink

Henry Kokkeler, at the College Fix: Stanford president defends campus free speech in face of controversies

Charles Creitz, at Fox News: Could Kamala Harris be replaced?

CODA

This purveyor of piddling paragraphs will be on vacation for the next two Weekend Jolts (a widely recognized unit of time in some cultures, mind you). My colleague Isaac Schorr will be assuming full responsibility for our Saturday missive during this stretch, so expect the quality here to briefly improve.

In the spirit of unbridled travel, of hitting the road, let’s close with the Who’s “Going Mobile” — which come to think of it could have fit well with the soundtrack for Nomadland if that movie weren’t such a drag. Anyway, catch you all in December.

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