The Big StoryJoe Biden’s diplomatic blitz continues, and unlike last week’s largely uneventful G7 summit or the president’s fairly unexciting confrontation with Turkish despot Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of an otherwise pro forma NATO gathering, this week’s U.S.-European Union meetup has already produced some actual breakthroughs. After 17 years, a dispute between the United States and European Union over allegedly anticompetitive policies toward Boeing and Airbus, the world’s only two producers of medium- and long-haul commercial aircraft, is over. For years, the United States had imposed billions in tariffs on various European goods as retaliation for what it considered to be unfair subsidies for the France-based Airbus. The European Union had alleged the same about Boeing and imposed tariffs of its own on U.S. products. The deal shows Biden repudiating the Trump administration’s former appetite for confrontation with allies, but there are still some key points of divergence here. The United States’ fact sheet on the deal talks about the agreement as if it’s entirely about building a united front against China’s unfair economic practices—a bit forced in this case, since China doesn’t have anything close to a competitor to Boeing or Airbus. Maybe the anti-China stance is meant to head off criticism that Biden dropped U.S. tariffs intended to protect a major domestic industry. In any case, the Europeans don’t buy it—China wasn’t mentioned in their fact sheet on the deal. Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron is now loudly complaining about the allegedly disproportionate focus on China at the recently concluded NATO summit, arguing “China has little to do with the North Atlantic.” It’s unclear if the United States and some of its closest allies are really on the same page about perhaps the biggest single issue in international affairs. Read about it here: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/15/world/europe/US-EU-Airbus-Boeing.html, and https://www.politico.eu/article/nato-leaders-see-rising-threats-from-china-but-not-eye-to-eye-with-each-other/The RestHistorically low turnout is expected in Iran’s presidential election this Friday. Possible culprits include widespread discontent with the regime, a popular unwillingness to participate in democracy theater for a government that’s brought the country to the brink of social and economic catastrophe, and a young population’s disenchantment with the slate of hopefuls the regime’s unelected leadership has permitted to run, a field packed with hard-liners and lacking a true “reform” candidate. Read more: https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/iran-vote-turnout-poses-test-youth-frustrations-hopes-2021-06-14/ An actually meaningful election looms in New York City, where Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams is now the clear favorite in the city’s Democratic mayoral primary June 22. The crosstabs of the latest polling show why Adams probably has this thing wrapped up, despite a recent residency scandal and the possibility that the pragmatic NYPD veteran will unite the progressive vote around the activist and lawyer Maya Wiley: An astonishing 49% of Black voters plan on choosing Adams, and he also holds massive leads among voters older than 45 and voters who never attended college. Read more: https://twitter.com/ryanmatsumoto1/status/1404564367635468288 A final bit of election-related news, this one related to a vote that, baruch HaShem, is already over and done: Documents given to the House Oversight Committee and obtained by The New York Times show former President Donald Trump pressuring Department of Justice officials to push for the results of state-level presidential votes to be reexamined or overturned. Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/15/us/politics/trump-justice-department-election.html The Biden administration will announce a new national strategy for countering whatever the government considers to be domestic terrorism, an undertaking that will require dramatic increases in the number of federal lawyers, agents, and analysts dedicated to the issue. Hopefully the leviathan will have learned from recent experience, and this new war on terror will prove less of a turning point in the relationship between Americans and their government, and in the privacy and civil liberties of U.S. citizens—who are the explicit target of these new efforts—than the last one turned out to be. Read more: https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/christopherm51/biden-plan-combat-domestic-terrorism?scrolla=5eb6d68b7fedc32c19ef33b4 More weird economic news amid an oddly slow post-pandemic hiring rebound, high-profile supply chain disruptions, and the biggest rise in inflation in a decade: Retail sales fell 1.3% in the United States in May, as the number of big-ticket purchases such as cars and furniture dropped. Read more: https://www.wsj.com/articles/us-economy-may-2021-retail-sales-11623701250Two Stanford University mental-health-services employees, one of whom headed the school’s counseling and psychological services department until 2017, sued the university over allegedly antisemitic treatment from colleagues and organizers during a series of diversity, equity, and inclusion trainings in 2020. Read more: https://jewishinsider.com/2021/06/stanford-university-antisemitism-diversity-equity-inclusion/ A staggering 60% of American Jews witnessed some kind of antisemitic comment or incident, either online or offline, during last month’s 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas, according to a poll from the Anti-Defamation League. Read more: https://www.adl.org/blog/survey-of-american-jews-since-recent-violence-in-israel “Even North Korea isn’t this nuts...I saw so many similarities to North Korea that I started worrying," a defector from the Hermit Kingdom said of the various ideological orthodoxies she encountered while studying at Columbia University. One suspects there’s a bit of hyperbole at work here, but she’d know, right? Read more: https://nypost.com/2021/06/14/north-korean-defector-slams-woke-us-schools/ Elsewhere in the annals of U.S. unfreedom, Reason Magazine has the story of a promising young composer whose career was destroyed after he wrote a single Instagram post last summer that seemed to question whether arson was really the proper response to police killings of Black people. Read more: https://reason.com/2021/06/15/daniel-elder-cancel-culture-choral-composer-antifa-blm-gia/\n\nIn a thrilling reunion of the 11 p.m.-12 a.m. bloc on Comedy Central of a decade ago, former Daily Show host Jon Stewart, who elder millennial types such as myself once treated as a Walter Cronkite-like human 50-yard-line of all reality, told Late Show host Stephen Colbert that he believed the lab-leak theory of the novel coronavirus’s origins, likening the virus’s emergence down the street from the Wuhan Institute of Virology to “an outbreak of chocolatey goodness in Hersey, Pennsylvania.” Meanwhile, evidence has emerged that the institute kept live bats on its premises, contrary to the claims of those who insist on a natural origin for the virus. See more: https://twitter.com/ClayTravis/status/1404781074581016578, and https://www.nationalreview.com/the-morning-jolt/yup-the-wuhan-institute-of-virology-kept-live-bats-within-its-walls/\nThe Back PagesThe newsletter this week is being compiled from Corneille Estates, a tranquil sliver of boardwalk, marsh grasses, and Lyme disease situated on the western side of Fire Island, near Ocean Beach. I have traveled all over the world, been everywhere from Morgantown to Mogadishu, but Fire Island, which is a mere three hours from Brooklyn, is the only place that’s given me the feeling of having left the earth entirely. Yes, it’s packed with townie Long Islanders—our neighbors were aurally polluting the block with a Drake song until a moment ago, although luckily they’ve desisted, relinquishing the sound-world to the chatty birds and the hypnotically rustling plant life. But one can only reach Fire Island by boat, via a meditative journey across the watery void, a half-hour trip in which cosmic distances are traversed and the five boroughs vanish from existence. (Once you hit land, only members of the local cabal get golf carts, and I assume cars are out of the question unless you’re a crime lord of some kind.) The sky is a giant inverted mountain range, the alpine cloud banks rearranging themselves in ever more hallucinatory fashion as the day advances—“metallic, holographic shimmer to the sky, mid-band of clouds a dull purple rainbow over a dark blue lower bar of cloud, sun shining between cracks in the continents,” read my iPhone notes from around 6 p.m. yesterday, written in a state of total sobriety, by the way—and between 8:15 and 8:30 p.m. the sun balloons to triple its usual size as it approaches the horizon, as if you’re not really looking at the earth’s sun but at some other, unknown celestial body. Sky-watching is a crucial activity on days when the weather’s been this cold and unpredictable and when it’s a bit too biting to stay on the beach for more than an hour at a time. But part of the extraplanetary magic of this place is that you notice yourself thinking about the sky so often, or at all. The laws of nature are in flux here. At night, when the wind goes still, you can somehow hear the waves crashing on the beach from thousands of feet away, an effect that’s uncannily absent during daylight hours.\n\nThe island just about depopulates during the midweek in June, which is still a little too cold to be considered The Season around here. The human terrain nevertheless warrants some comment. The new ferry terminal in Ocean Beach, a project dating from the ancient days before the coronavirus pandemic, has finally been completed, the lone real change in a town that stays reassuringly identical year after year. Arrivals are now greeted with a large sign reading Hate Has No Home Here—interesting phrasing considering that almost no one actually has a home here; the settled population of Ocean Beach is in the low triple digits, and in my imagination the island is run by a secretive cartel of year-rounders who ensure that a single scoop of ice cream is exactly $5.50 everywhere between Summer Club and Point o’Woods. “Everywhere between” has its own meaning on Fire Island, though. Despite being about 20-odd miles long, Fire Island doesn’t have a lot of “everywhere between,” unless you own a boat or are willing to walk on sand for a while. Most of the towns, all of them achingly lovely redoubts of simulated rusticism, are not linked by paved roads of any kind, a message that perhaps you should stay in your own damn town and leave the people in the other towns alone, thus repaying them for being so kind as to leave you and your town alone. Cherry Grove and the Pines, icons of American gay life, are buffered by miles of wilderness on either side, and this isn’t an accident (also the boardwalk-like wooden streets in both places are much better maintained than are their counterparts in the island’s more heterosexual precincts, for what it's worth). This segmentation has its advantages and disadvantages, psychically and practically, though it did lead to the following unreal sentence, spoken to me by a spry elderly woman on the beach near Atlantique yesterday: “How far are we from Lonelyville?”\n\nIn Ocean Beach, the pandemic has ended. The doomsday siren at the volunteer fire department sounds at noon every day, but only for calibration and tradition’s sake—the danger has passed. There are no masks anywhere, indoor or out. Until recently, one had to travel to Mea Shearim, Miami Beach, or Turkmenistan to taste such freedom, but no longer: The mask hassling has ended; sanity has been restored. Can the sanity survive the Islanders’ brush with their first Stanley Cup berth in nearly 40 years? It is as if no other team exists here; barely a single bar TV was tuned to the Nets disaster Sunday afternoon, which was concurrent with the Isles’ Game 1 triumph in the conference finals, an event for which life practically halted. And while Fire Island feels blissfully disconnected from the rest of the world, nothing is disconnected from everything, at least not in the Kabbalistic sense: If you’re at the Fire Island Minyan Saturday morning, please come over and say “hi.” Your shul is wonderful, I love the mechitza made of fishing net, your oneg is never anything short of sumptuous, your people are warm, your baseball discussion is on an admirably advanced level, your Tablet readership is appreciated, and I promise I’ll actually give money this year.