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Dear Weekend Jolter,

The plate here is groaning, piled high with links, like a monument to Jimmy Dean, determined to get the stir-crazied through at least an afternoon during this spell of forced isolation.

So, about those masks. They’re alleged uselessness has been . . . unmasked. Linda Halderman looked into Japan’s “mask culture,” and find it is a weapon against the pathogen. From her piece:

The medical nightmare that is uncontrolled coronavirus spread has afflicted Americans with another painful condition: economic paralysis. But Japan, despite sharing a maritime border with China and nearly one million tourists in January 2020, has so far managed to spare its 127 million citizens the medical and financial disaster of COVID-19. With about ten geographically isolated “hotspots” across Japan, there have been fewer COVID-19 deaths in that nation in a three-month period than among the 400,000 people of New Orleans, Louisiana, in the past six weeks. Japan has not been immune from economic damage, which is global. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, moreover, recently voiced concern about a possible explosion in outbreaks. But the country has, for now, managed to keep the growth in cases and deaths modest while keeping much of its economy open.

What are the lessons? The 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic took the lives of nearly 500,000 Japanese. (For perspective, the combined death toll after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was 200,000.) Since then, a phenomenon began to emerge: “mask culture.” The wearing of cloth or paper “sickness masks” while healthy and in public has become such a standard practice in Japan that in average years, the nation manufactures 4.3 billion face masks for personal use. The typical Japanese citizen goes through 43 masks per year.

Initially a personal public health decision, daily mask wearing became a social etiquette standard and then a fashion accessory. Within the past several years, “sickness masks” have morphed into a trendsetting statement worn by celebrities and fashionistas. Daily public use is ubiquitous.

By the way, she’s talking about masks that go over the mouth, not over the eyes, Kemosahbee. All that having been blathered, assuming you are saddled up, it’s time to cry out Hi-Yo Silver! Away! . . . to the Weekend Jolt!

Editorials

1. We high-five the presidential executive order undoing Obama Administration fuel-economy standards. From the editorial:

The critics of the new fuel-economy rules should give up on pretending that this is about fuel economy, about saving Americans money when they fill up their vehicles. This is about the global-warming crusade. Transportation is a major source of greenhouse-gas emissions in the United States, and tailpipe emissions are a big part of that. Congress has been given several opportunities to enact a sweeping climate-change agenda, and Congress repeatedly has declined to act. The pollution rules in the Clean Air Act were intended to address local air-quality issues (think of Los Angeles’s smog problem, once much worse than it is today) and domestic externalities — not to recruit the United States into a global climate-change crusade. President Barack Obama infamously vowed to act unilaterally when Congress declined to go along with his agenda: “I’ve got a pen, and I’ve got a phone!” he thundered. President Trump has a pen, too. Using the regulatory process as a pretext to yoke the United States to climate-change radicalism was cheap and undemocratic — and it is, as it turns out, impermanent.

If the Democrats want to pass a law subordinating the economic interests of the United States to fashionable global-warming hysteria, then let them do it. We are confident that Nancy Pelosi would be happy to oblige, and Joe Biden has promised to out-crackpot the crackpots on the issue, imposing a net-zero standard on the United States as a whole by 2050.

All the Democrats have to do is bring the voters on board and convince them that a version of the economic hardships Americans are suffering during the coronavirus shutdown are worth continuing to endure for the sake of global warming—which is what a net-zero rule imposed on the U.S. economy would effectively demand.

What a Deal: Consider It Half Free!

There is a flash sale of NRPLUS (flash in the PG sense). The Suits (encouraged by The Blazers) have decreed there will be a 50%-off offer that will run through this evening (Saturday, April 4). If you have yet to become an NRPLUS member, which has more perks than that coffeepot grandpa left on the burner, do become one now, right here.

A Quartet of Sextets of Profound Writings of Conservative Wisdom and Monumental Reporting and Analysis, All of Which Will Stoke Your Intellectual Fires

1. Your Humble Correspondent believes that this is one of the most important pieces NRO has published of late — Christopher O’Dea’s rundown of China’s plans for global hegemony. From the essay:

By quietly acquiring a global network of commercial ports from countries and investors unable or unwilling to maintain their critical economic infrastructure, China has reverse-engineered the logic of conquest: Chinese state-owned companies now control a base network of the sort that previous global hegemons obtained through military victory. Expect China to use the coronavirus crisis to accelerate its efforts to use that economic leverage to pull host countries deeper into Beijing’s political orbit.

It’s too early to say that the coronavirus crisis spells the end of globalization, but as the pandemic unfolds, the outlines of a new international trade and political order are emerging in the Mediterranean region. Call it “globalization with Chinese characteristics.”

As the death toll in Italy soared, China flew in a team of medical experts and nearly 30 tons of medical equipment. On a phone call a week later with Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte, Chinese president Xi Jinping pledged additional supplies and medical personnel. China also shipped medical equipment to Spain, Austria, and the Czech Republic, and millions of protective masks to France, the Netherlands, Greece, and other nations. But the aid was too late. By late March the death toll in Italy had surpassed the total that China was officially reporting, and even the news that the number of cases had dropped for the first time was accompanied by photos of Italian-army trucks carrying the dead on their final journey.

2. Bruno Maçães seconds the motion that brutal Peking Marxists have far-reaching plans in exploiting the locally sourced coronavirus. From the commentary:

Forget about “mask diplomacy.” It is no more than a distraction. There are other ways for China to use the coronavirus pandemic to upturn the existing global order. I see three main levers.

The first one is the direct comparison between the situation in China and elsewhere. The numbers of cases and fatalities provided by Chinese authorities almost certainly misrepresent the real figures by more than an order of magnitude, but the fact remains that a semblance of normalcy was achieved in a small period of time. If the United States fails to do the same, its prestige will suffer a severe blow. People all over the world will quickly change their perceptions about relative power and capacity.

The second lever resides with industrial value chains. Last month General Motors, Ford, and Fiat Chrysler closed all their automotive production plants across the United States and Canada. Other sectors have followed. In the meantime, China contained the worst of the pandemic to one province, allowing economic activity to quickly resume elsewhere. The most recent data show renewed activity in the flow of goods across the country, as well as at ports worldwide that do business with China. If the freeze in Europe and America continues for much longer, Chinese companies will be able to dramatically expand market share and replace Western-led value chains. Just yesterday Chinese authorities announced that manufacturing activity expanded in March, defying expectations of a contraction. In February the official Purchasing Managers’ Index hit a record low of 35.7. It bounced back to 52.0 in March. Prepare for a worldwide wave of Chinese acquisitions at knockdown prices.

Finally, in a more extreme scenario, important countries could experience the kind of economic shock that leads to widespread social and political collapse. At that point, China would have a unique opportunity to step in, provide aid, and refashion these countries in its image. It would look like a repeat of the Marshall Plan and the beginning of the American world order after the ravages of World War II. Indonesia, South Asia, and even Russia might be of special interest in such a scenario.

3. Senator Tom Cotton was the man who saw this chaos coming and sounded the alarms. John McCormack recounts. From the story:

What tipped the senator off to the true nature of the threat? Why was he the first and the loudest voice in Congress to sound the alarm about the looming pandemic?

In an interview with National Review, Cotton is quick to point out that he doesn’t have a background in science or public health, but he does have two eyes. As a long-time China hawk, he found his interest piqued early on by reports “primarily from East Asian news sources.”

“Two things struck me about China’s response,” he says. “First their deceit and their dishonesty going back to early December. And second, the extreme draconian measures they had taken. By the third week of January, they had more than 75 million people on lockdown. They were confined to their homes and apartments, otherwise they were arrested. In some cases, the front doors of those buildings were welded shut. All schools had shut down. Hong Kong had banned flights from the mainland. [These are] the kind of extreme, draconian measures that you would only take in a position of power in China if you were greatly worried about the spread of this virus.”

On January 31, the president announced a ban on entry to foreign travelers who had been in China in the previous two weeks, while allowing Americans and permanent residents to continue to travel back and forth between the two countries. The measure was not as stringent as Cotton’s call for a ban on all commercial flights, but Cotton points out that the president “did not have many advisers encouraging him to shut down travel.” Advisers who were supportive tended to be national-security aides, he adds, while “most of his economic and public-health advisers were ambivalent at best about the travel ban.”

“I commend the president greatly for ultimately making the right decision contrary to what the so-called experts were telling him,” he says.

Of course, while the travel restriction may have bought the United States time, that time was largely squandered by the catastrophic failure of the CDC and FDA to ramp up testing for the coronavirus in the United States.

RELATED: This is the kind of liberal dip-dung being published about Cotton back in January. Here it is.

4. Marco Rubio jumps on the World Health Organization, the toady of Red China, consumed by politics. From the commentary:

Examples that could prove fatal are rife. In December, the WHO refused to act on or publicize Taiwan’s warning that the new respiratory infection emerging in China could pass from human to human. In mid January, despite accumulating evidence of patients contracting what we now know as COVID-19 from other people, the organization repeated the CCP’s lie that there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission. In January the WHO, at Beijing’s behest, also blocked Taiwan from participating in critical meetings to coordinate responses to the coronavirus and even reportedly provided wrong information about the virus’s spread in Taiwan. These actions are unacceptable and should not be allowed to continue.

The world’s leading global health organization cannot be used as a tool of the CCP, and the U.S. — the WHO’s largest financial contributor, giving five times as much money as obligated — must take steps to ensure it does. Once this pandemic is under control, WHO leadership should be held to account. That includes Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who has allowed Beijing to use the WHO to mislead the global community. Today, WHO leadership continues to laud the CCP’s response even as more independent international observers raise questions over whether it is in fact under control in China. At this moment, Dr. Ghebreyesus is either complicit or dangerously incompetent. Neither possibility bodes well for his future at the helm of this critical organization.

I will also work with my colleagues in Congress to review U.S. contributions to the WHO. Most of our contributions can be used at the discretion of the WHO leadership. Maintaining current levels of U.S. contributions should depend on whether the WHO can reclaim its independence. First, we need investigations into the WHO’s unacceptably slow decision-making on whether to declare a global pandemic and into how China has compromised the integrity of the WHO. As well, we need accompanying reforms.

5. David Harsanyi blasts those who have made grandstanding journalist Yamiche Alcindor a hero at the expense of MyPillow CEO Michael Lindell. From the piece:

MyPillow CEO Michael Lindell, a self-made former crack addict, is going to transform 75 percent of his manufacturing capacity to make 10,000 cotton face masks per day by the end of the week, ramping up production to 50,000 a day in a month. That sounds like a patriotic act to me, especially given that Lindell is undertaking the effort without being forced to do so by a federal agency. I hope the guy becomes a billionaire after this is all over.

NBC? Not so much. The headline on its “analysis” of Lindell’s remarks was “Trump fluffs MyPillow in Rose Garden.” This matched the basic tone taken by a large faction within the political press. Why? Presumably because, at the end of his remarks, Lindell claimed that the Lord Almighty had helped elect Donald Trump president to save our once-beleaguered nation from its alleged depravations. Listen, if there is a God, I hope He refrains from tipping the scales of presidential contests. But it’s not surprising to hear an evangelical Christian talking about the world this way — unless, that is, you’ve never met one.

Of course, anyone who shows anything less than hostility toward the president is immediately cast as a reactionary, and their actions dismissed as questionable and self-serving. Many of the CEOs who have stood with Trump at his press conferences — this week, or in weeks prior — hold varying religious and partisan beliefs. The press didn’t have similar qualms about the CEOs of CVS or Walgreens, because they kept their views to themselves.

Lindell is a villain for speaking his truth, as the kids say. Yet the real heroes of our age — White House political correspondents — are applauded for speaking theirs. Yesterday, PBS’s Yamiche Alcindor, one of the many pundits masquerading as a dispassionate journalist, was chided by Trump during his presser. Immediately, journalists, who are now perhaps the most tribalistic group in American political life, rallied around her with fawning tributes to her bravery and victimhood (because Trump only lashes out at black women, apparently). #WeLoveYamiche is the hashtag, if you’re interested.

6. Rebeccah Heinrichs reviews the White House Pandemic Team and finds any judgment about its actions useless until we are through this madness. From the piece:

As for the matter of containing and mitigating the disease, Americans should have an idea about whether they can have confidence in their government. Dealing with a potentially devastating new disease to which the population has no immunity and of which there are no known vaccines is frightening enough without worrying about the government’s competence.

That’s why this charge from former Obama-administration officials — including Beth Cameron, who served as the senior director for global health security and biodefense on the National Security Council (NSC) under Obama — is so serious: that the Trump administration’s decision to “dismantle” the directorate the Obama administration created to quarterback pandemic responses is to blame for “leaving the country less prepared for pandemics like COVID-19.”

Former Trump officials, including former national-security adviser John Bolton and Tim Morrison, have disputed Cameron’s characterization. They say that there has always been a highly competent team at the NSC focused on and coordinating efforts to recognize and handle the threat of pandemics.

The facts back up Bolton and Morrison. During the summer of 2018, Bolton reorganized the Trump NSC. In January 2017, there were directorates for nonproliferation and arms control, for weapons of mass destruction and terrorism, and for global health security and biodefense. Bolton merged the three directorates into a “counterproliferation and biodefense” directorate. According to administration officials I spoke with, this reorganization was designed in part to have better cooperation between those monitoring and preparing for intentional biological threats on one hand and for naturally occurring biological threats on the other. This directorate is now headed by Anthony Ruggiero.

7. More Harsanyi: The title says it all: “The FISA Scandal Is about Corruption, Not ‘Sloppiness.’” From the commentary:

A new IG report looked at another 29 applications the FBI filed to get permission to spy on “U.S. Persons” (this can include green-card holders who are non-citizens). The FBI couldn’t even find “Woods Procedure” files — which contain “supporting documentation for factual assertions contained in the FISA applications, as required by FBI policy” — for four of the applications, while every single one of the other 25 that auditors examined had “apparent errors or inadequately supported facts.” In addition to the 29 applications audited, the IG looked at the FBI’s own “application oversight mechanisms” relating to 42 FISA applications.

Put it this way, the new IG report found a total of 390 problems in 39 of the 42 applications that “including unverified, inaccurate, or inadequately supported facts, as well as typographical errors,” and it found another 20 issues per application in the new audit.

If you’re keeping score at home, only three of 75 FISA applications (4 percent) used to spy in the investigation, starting in October 2014, were not problematic. Whoops!

It’s even worse than it looks, because Horowitz didn’t scrutinize the raw-evidence case files, which, for all we know, is teeming with mitigating evidence and facts omitted from the applications. If agents were this “sloppy” with warrants, what makes anyone believe that they collected the foundational evidence in a more professional manner?

8. California was supposed to be the epicenter, wasn’t it? Victor Davis Hanson asks some questions about the known unknowns in the Golden State. From the piece:

Even at this midpoint in the virus’s ascendance, most believed that California would be faring far worse. And they have good reason for such pessimism. California in a normal year usually experiences the greatest number of deaths associated with the flu in the United States, and it ranks about midway among the states in flu deaths per capita. The state was hit hard by influenza unusually early in the first weeks of November, including a strain that at the time was characterized as probably not “A” but a rarer “B” — and on occasion quite virulent. A typical news story related, in early 2020, “California health officials have identified 16 outbreaks since the start of the flu season Sept. 29. Flu cases, hospitalizations and flu deaths are all higher than anticipated, according to the health department.” Many Californians complained late in 2019 of getting the flu a bit early, with flu symptoms that were somewhat different from the norm, at times including severe muscle aches, some digestive cramping, an unproductive cough, and days or even weeks of post-fever fatigue.

Forty-million-person California, in normal times — that is, until around or shortly after February 1, 2020 — hosts dozens of daily direct flights from China in general to San Diego, SFO, LAX, and San Jose, and in particular, since 2014, several weekly nonstop flights from Wuhan. Of the nearly 15,000 passengers who were estimated to be arriving every day in the U.S. on flights from China in 2019 and 2020, the majority flew into California. After the ban, there were thousands of Chinese tourists who remained in California and could get neither direct nor indirect flights home to China.

Travel forecasts from China for 2020, even amid the trade war, had estimated more than 8,000 daily arrivals in California. Two years ago, Los Angeles mayor Garcetti bragged that 1.1 million Chinese tourists had visited L.A. — more than 3,000 per day. The greatest number of foreign tourists to Los Angeles are Chinese, and the city is the favorite spot in America of all visitors from China. During the months of October, November, January, and February alone — before the travel ban — perhaps nearly 1 million Chinese citizens arrived in California on direct and indirect flights originating in China.

9. The impeachment idiocy, and much more courtesy of the bogus crisis manufacturers, was the fiddling, says Rich Lowry, while the fires burned in Wuhan. From the column:

After all the energy devoted to inflating the Russians into a clear-and-present danger to the workings of America here on our shores, that threat has instead proved to be China, which loosed a virus on the world that has temporarily crashed the American economy and shut down much of American life, including elections.

After we spent months pretending that Trump would somehow be ousted from the presidency by his own party in the Senate, not only is he still the president, all people of good will are rooting for him to perform as ably as he can in this crisis.

After acting as though we had endless time and energy to waste on nonsense because the stakes were so small in what was, until the day before yesterday, a time of peace and prosperity, we have been jolted into a period when our national decisions really matter, and time and resources are of the essence.

In short, the epidemic has put in stark relief the pettiness and absurdity of much that has taken place in our national life since Trump won the presidency. This crisis is the unmistakable punctuation mark on that post-2016 era and the beginning of something new.

10. How goes the Constitution in times of true duress? Andy McCarthy explains. From the beginning of the piece:

Pandemic in the land is putting strain on our self-image as a free people for whom the rule of law is our ne plus ultra.

Alas, when it gets down to brass tacks, even those two beacons, liberty and law, are as much in tension as in mutual need. It is by law that society restricts our freedom. On the other hand, as Burke observed, without the order that a just legal system ensures, there can be no liberty worth having. We would descend into anarchy, into the law of the jungle.

Times of true security crises — war, natural catastrophes, or the sudden spread of a potentially deadly disease — have a remorseless way of reminding us about some brute realities.

It is all well and good for libertarians to say that the Constitution is not suspended in emergencies, and that are our rights are never more essential than when government’s tyrannical tendencies rear their head. But then real emergencies happen. Inevitably, unavoidably, our rights get restricted — sometimes dramatically.

This is not because government tends to tyranny, though it does if unchecked. It is because people crave security and community. They are willing to sacrifice their individual liberties, at least to a degree and for a time, to preserve them. This does not make them craven. It makes them rational.

11. More Lowry: All of a sudden, borders matter. Even to EU dimwits. From the column:

We are all restrictionists now. In the coronavirus crisis, everyone realizes the importance of borders, even the people who not long ago were ideologically hostile toward them.

Borders mark off the sovereign territory of one people from another. They are a means — if they can be enforced and defended — for a sovereign state to protect its people from invaders and unwelcome immigrants and goods. They are a tool almost every nation has used to try to keep the coronavirus from gaining a foothold in its population and to try to keep it from spreading further.

The lyrics of the treacly John Lennon classic “Imagine” — recently performed by celebrities organized by actress Gal Gadot as a balm in this time of distress — have never been so absurdly inapt. If there were really no countries and the world were as one, we’d be even more vulnerable to whatever threat arises in a city in central China, or anywhere else on the globe.

Of course, travel restrictions haven’t prevented the spread of the disease — there’s no such thing as an airtight seal. But restrictions at least bought governments some additional time, and openness to foreign travel from China had been an accelerant on its spread.

The EU travel restriction was an attempt to hold off the hardening of borders between EU nations themselves. Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Poland tightened their borders without coordinating with other EU countries. Even Angela Merkel’s Germany, which provided the kindling for populist movements across the continent with its open-borders approach to the 2015 migrant crisis, restricted travel without coordinating with its neighbors.

12. Hard to believe but Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin is keeping alive the Iran Deal. Jonathan Tobin explains. From the piece:

Those waivers are among the last vestiges of Obama’s disastrous Iran deal, which enriched and empowered the regime while also allowing it a legal path to a nuclear weapon.

Why is Mnuchin pushing for yet another extension of the waivers?

In July of last year, the Treasury Department said it required the extensions so it could gauge the impact of the sanctions on the nations that continue to use the waivers to do business with Iran and to work with its nuclear program. At that time, a “senior administration official” told the Washington Post that the goal was still to end the waivers but that Trump had sided with Mnuchin over Pompeo on the question because of the Treasury’s “legitimate concerns” about the effect of the sanctions on other nations.

But several months later, it appears that Mnuchin is seeking to change the administration’s basic purpose in dealing with Iran. Rather than replacing Obama’s terrible deal, the administration would bow to European and Russian pressure to maintain it in place. Mnuchin is apparently more interested in good relations with the international community than in using American economic power to roll back the alarming gains Iran has made in the Middle East — gains made as a result of Obama’s misguided attempt to bring about a rapprochement with Tehran.

This is a huge mistake. Richard Goldberg, of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (a key resource on Iran policy) has argued that we could retain the waiver if the Europeans, Russians, and Chinese promised to “snap back” sanctions in the event that Iran violated the deal. Indeed, under the pact, these countries have pledged to hold Iran accountable. But none of them have any intention of doing so. What they want is to preserve the nuclear deal at all costs; they want to roll back Trump’s sanctions policy, which has made it harder for the Iranians to continue funding terror.

13. Brian Allen checks out the Aubrey Beardsley exhibition at the Tate Museum in London. The work of the young, tubercular Victorian is mad, indecent, and plenty more. From the beginning of the review:

Aubrey Beardsley (1872–1898) was tubercular from childhood and knew he’d probably die young. As an artist he worked with urgency, and that’s why his drawings look like a linear pressure cooker. He was as focused and fervent as a missionary. His gospel? To make art that created, in his words, “a new world of my own . . . quite mad and a little indecent.”

Mad, indecent, pungent, dreamy, and more. Aubrey Beardsley is the new exhibition at the Tate showing a rich, comprehensive selection of his drawings. It’s a retrospective of his career and striking in every respect. Bring your monocle, though. It’s time travel to the age of Victoria, and the drawings are small, exquisitely realized, and as randy as they are refined.

The show is chronological and covers all of Beardsley’s book and periodical projects. He was prolific, so covering him takes seven galleries with over a hundred drawings and a space for a film. There are some books and posters in the show as well as the periodicals he illustrated. Beardsley’s drawings weren’t the finished product — the printed sheet was — but it’s a delight to see his foundational work, as faithful as the reproduction process was.

Lighting is low — it’s a drawings show — and spooky, as is much of Beardsley’s art. The wall colors are deep blues, oranges, and greens, deep but not that muted. The colors have a touch of copper and are ever so slightly metallic. The Tate’s shows always look good. This one is gorgeous.

14. More Museums: This one of The Bible, and its transparent effort to document an investigation into a potential forged artifact. Colette J. Loll oversaw the study, and recounts it. From the piece:

Starting in 2002, 70 more Dead Sea Scroll fragments appeared on the market. Dead Sea Scrolls experts endorsed them as authentic. Between 2009 and 2014, Steve Green, president of Hobby Lobby and collector of biblical manuscripts and artifacts, purchased a total of 16 fragments with plans to display them in the soon-to-be-built Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. When they were published in 2016, scholars had already started to doubt the fragments’ authenticity. While five of the fragments underwent scientific testing in Germany in 2017, the museum opened with the fragments on display, with signs informing visitors of their uncertain status. In October 2018, the German lab concluded that the five fragments were “inconsistent with ancient origins.” This prompted the museum to investigate its entire collection of 16 fragments more comprehensively, and they sought my help to do so.

I am the founder and director of Art Fraud Insights, a consultancy dedicated to art-fraud-related lectures and training and to specialized investigation of artworks. I have led an anti-fraud initiative for a major online auction house, trained federal agents in forgery investigations, curated museum exhibitions, and lectured at universities and museums throughout the world. My message has consistently been the same: Fakes and forgeries permeate every sector of the art and culture market. The risk of fraud is substantial, and no collector or institution, no matter how affluent or sophisticated, is immune to it.

When the Museum of the Bible retained my firm, it gave me the green light to recruit and manage an independent advisory team — of scientists, conservators, and technicians — to design and conduct a rigorous scientific protocol for the imaging and materials analysis of the questioned fragments. Both the museum and the research team agreed that the approach needed to be designed to ensure objectivity, transparency, and reproducibility. That meant that the only role the museum had in our research was to provide access to the collection. It was mutually agreed upon that the museum would not influence the team’s research direction or findings and that our report would be final and released, unedited, to the public.

From May through October 2019, comprehensive imaging and scientific research and analysis were conducted on the fragments, with National Geographic photographers capturing several phases of the state-of-the-art process. Museum of the Bible wanted to fully document the process, regardless of the results, to facilitate transparent communication with the scholarly community and the general public. From the beginning, plans were in place for a conference to announce the completion of the scientific research effort and to disclose its conclusions.

15. The New York Times’ 1619 Project, writes John G. Turner, suffers from the same inherent mistake of other pick-a-year contrivances to explain the meaning of America. From the end of the piece:

So if 1619 and 1620 do not suffice, what about the more obvious 1776 and 1787? 1776 is the nation’s actual “birth year,” but it is far from satisfactory as a starting point for explaining American principles. The only thing that really united the members of the Continental Congress was that they rejected the authority of the British Parliament and monarchy to tax and rule them without their consent. Four score and seven years later, Abraham Lincoln insisted that the nation had been “conceived in liberty” and “dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” It is one of the greatest lines in American history, but it presents an aspirational rather than realistic view of our origins. Author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, made plain, through his actions and his other writings, his belief in African inferiority.

What about the drafting of a new constitution in 1787? The delegates to the Constitutional Convention crafted an enduring framework of government. Although they forged the Constitution through a series of compromises on representation, slavery, and executive power, they enshrined the principles of republican government, checks and balances, and the separation of powers. The first U.S. Congress then passed the amendments that became the Bill of Rights. The decisions of these years shaped the future American political order. The Constitution remains “the supreme law of the land.”

And yet. The decisions of the American Founding were made by a small subset of the American population, even though the principles they enshrined appealed to many others. Understanding what became the modern United States is utterly impossible without close attention to a host of later developments: the abolition of slavery through the carnage of the Civil War, the New Deal (like it or loathe it), the Civil Rights Movement, and the Immigration Act of 1965.

Whether the subject is slavery or liberty, American history is a story of contested principles. A single birth year cannot unlock the very meaning of the nation, not least because how historians and others explain the past hinges on how they understand the present. An overemphasis on 1619, 1620, or any other year, makes our history far too simple.

16. Former senator Jim DeMint remembers his late colleague, Tom Coburn. From the piece:

Some of his detractors — pork-barrel politicians and their K Street funders, mostly — nicknamed him “Dr. No.” But they misunderstood. Elected officials who take their oaths of office seriously — left, right, and middle — have to vote no, and often, because the Swamp has so warped federal policy and institutions. During Tom’s tenure in Congress, saying yes to the oath of office meant saying no to Washington.

When Tom first raised red flags about Congress’s addiction to earmarks — special spending provisions inserted into legislation at the explicit direction of individual members — leaders in both parties, to say nothing of the media, laughed at him.

He didn’t mind. Tom Coburn understood that for outsiders, to win the fight, you first had to win the argument.

Year after year, bill after bill, he showed that earmarks were corrupt and corrupting. They warped Congress and empowered insiders and influence-peddlers at the expense of the public. Projects such as the notorious “Bridge to Nowhere” not only wasted a lot of money; they also covered up even more, because once members got their own personal teaspoon of Swamp water into a bill, party leaders became free to pour in gallons more without losing any votes. Every year, he and his staff put out an exhaustive report on dumb, abusive programs — the annual Waste Book.

Soon after Tom won the argument, he won the fight. Congress banned earmarks, in large part because of the grit and intelligence of one man.

17. The crisis has brought out the Paul Krugman in Paul Krugman. John Hirschauer cannot help but observe. From the piece:

Krugman’s portrait of conservatives as the cartoon villains in this crisis does, however, beget a second question: Krugman laments the “centrality of science-hating religious conservatives to modern conservatism,” but how is his implication that this situation is not “China’s fault” anything other than “denialism” itself? If it is not “China’s fault” that the nation’s officials smothered information on the person-to-person transmission of the virus, arrested dissidents who tried to tell the truth about its dangers, allowed 40,000 families to gather in the outbreak’s epicenter for a banquet well after doctors knew the virus was contagious, and failed to prevent the virus from spreading around the world like wildfire, then whose fault is it? Republicans’?

The third and most pressing question Krugman’s piece raises pertains to “experts.” What specific “expert” advice about the coronavirus are conservatives alleged to have ignored, here? Before the seriousness of the pandemic became apparent and the world shut down, some of the “experts” cited by Krugman’s own newspaper told us that travel bans “don’t work” to mitigate the coronavirus’s spread. Should we have listened to them? A writer at Vox claimed that “most health experts said there’s no good evidence to support the use of face masks for preventing this disease in the general population.” Were people who distrusted this advice and wore their masks in public “denialists”? How about those who were skeptical when the World Health Organization chapter in Asia said largely the same thing? Should we have heeded the advice of New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot when she encouraged “New Yorkers to go about their everyday lives” and suggested that the “spread” of “racist ideas” was “the greatest risk to New Yorkers”?

18. Kevin Williamson says adios to the Green New Deal. From the piece:

Without failing to appreciate the severe immediate economic consequences being felt by Americans in this episode, asking retail and service-industry workers to forfeit their incomes for a few months until their establishments can reopen is a relatively manageable thing even if we are (as I believe we should be) very liberal in doing what we can to protect them financially in the meantime. Telling everybody who works in coal, oil, natural gas, petrochemicals, plastics, and refineries — and a great many people who work in automobiles, aviation, shipping, utilities, construction, agriculture, manufacturing, food processing, utilities, and dozens of other fields — that their companies and their jobs are going away forever is a much larger thing. Telling everybody who does business with those people that they’ll have to consult Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for solvents and industrial polymers — and, you know, lights — would send waves of chaos rippling around the world hard and so fast that you’d need Tom Araya to properly give voice to them.

“Oh, but we’ll find them jobs in the new green economy!” comes the response. “It’ll be a net positive!” As though petroleum engineers were lumps of labor that could be reshaped at will by a committee of lawyers in Washington, if only we gave them the power. Nobody is buying that. Not many people are that stupid.

As I wrote at the beginning of this outbreak, Americans are hard to quarantine. We may yet end up paying a very heavy price for that — in some circumstances, a non-compliance rate of 20 percent (i.e., if every fifth person is a knucklehead) will have effects quite similar to a non-compliance rate of 95 percent. A 51 percent majority works in a city-council election, but an effective social-distancing regimen requires much more.

Those spring-break clowns down in Florida and the “coronavirus party” doofuses in Kentucky are We the People, too, and if they are not willing to spend a couple of weeks watching Netflix to save grandma’s life — or their own lives — then do you really think they’re going to take an economic bullet over the prospect of losing 3 percent of world economic output a century from now to global-warming -mitigation costs?

19. There’s a new British show called Upstart Crow, about Willy Shakespeare. Kyle Smith has seen it and likes it. Very much. From the review:

What might it have been like to be history’s most celebrated literary genius, the greatest man of his century, a figure of such vast and enduring influence that, 400 years later, innumerable people still quote him every day without even knowing it? Well, Shakespeare probably spent a lot of time griping about his critics, his audiences, his actors, his family, his social standing, his superiors, and his endless rump-ravaging commutes between London and Stratford-upon-Avon.

At least that’s the Bard emerges in an imaginative and very funny BBC half-hour show by Ben Elton, Upstart Crow. (All 20 episodes are offered on the wonderful streaming service BritBox, which combines the best offerings from the BBC and another major producer of British television, ITV.) Posterity may have placed Shakespeare on its highest pedestal, but his day-to-day existence was a sitcom, or could have been. Elton, who wrote every episode, stuffs his scripts with gleeful lowbrow humor, comic anachronism, and flowery pastiche of Elizabethan idiom (“Heaven forfend, I am a dunceling clumbletrousers”). One running gag is Will’s endless series of complaints about the coach service between his home and his stage 100 miles away. The joke is that everything he says sounds exactly like a National Rail commuter today, but in 16th-century vernacular (“Now we’re jammed together like two boobies in a bodice!” he says about one overcrowded carriage). But beneath the gag, there’s an awareness that Shakespeare’s life must have been miserable in many ways. Imagine regularly traveling 100 miles on 16th-century transportation! Bard or no Bard, Shakespeare must have put up with a lot (and he died at 52). Even basic hygiene would have been unheard of. Will’s mischievous old dad frequently razzes him while doing his business on a chamberpot stationed an arm’s length from the dining table.

20. More Armond: He catches The Call of the Wild and develops a hankering for pancakes, there’s so much sap. From the beginning of the review:

Harrison Ford’s recent movie adaptation of The Call of the Wild flopped at last month’s box office, and now the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) got $75 million as part of the Senate’s emergency-relief compromise package. Thoughts about these catastrophes came together with the PBS segment on Jack London’s novel The Call of the Wild that was part of the program The Great American Read. It was kill-time viewing for the Chinese coronavirus quarantine, but the coincidence rings an alarm.

The Great American Read was an eight-part series from 2018 designed to encourage literacy among boob-tube watchers, continuing the CPB’s enlightenment mission — Sesame Street for everybody. So London’s 1903 novel, included among the program’s list of “America’s 100 Best Loved Books,” was presented like storytime hour, and the novel’s virtues were explained by surprise literary expert Chelsea Clinton.

One dismaying, and condescending, CPB trend was its decision to include celebrity figures in the lineup of go-to liberal talking heads typically seen in PBS docs. Using celebrity to fight illiteracy mostly promotes celebrity. Chelsea Clinton’s appearance on The Great American Read exposes CPB political bias, and her book testimony promotes Clintonian it-takes-a-village propaganda. (Was Hillary busy on another ghost-written book?) Chelsea’s obtuse reductionism offends the pleasures and legacy of American literature as much as the Disney film does, the latter reducing London’s characters to CGI animation + Harrison Ford.

21. Somewhere between the amount of Baskin Robbins flavors and Heinz Varieties, Dan McLaughlin has catalogued Twitter types. Here’s a slice from the undertaking:

Let me introduce you to the 41 worst kinds of people you will meet on Politics Twitter. Politics Twitter is, sadly, ubiquitous, whether or not you originally thought your corner of Twitter was about politics. These are not precisely in order of badness (in many cases, especially egregious offenders fall into multiple categories). For brevity, I’ve focused on bad actors of a type particular to Twitter, rather than simply recite categories like “idiot” or “anti-Semite” or “jerk.”

The Assassin: The Assassin is on Twitter for one reason: to get you off. He is the single worst kind of Twitter user. He’ll call your day job, doxx your home address, tweet lewd things about your children. There’s no reasoning with the Assassin; he goes, or you go.

Captain Screenshot: One of the fine features of Twitter is that tweets don’t exist in a vacuum. They may be part of an ongoing, connected thread; they may be part of a conversation. People who want to engage can respond, or tag you, or quote-tweet. But not Captain Screenshot! Captain Screenshot posts an image of a single tweet, invariably to trash it and its writer, often in the most bad-faith reading imaginable. Worse, but not uncommon, is when Captain Screenshot drills the writer for not mentioning something that . . . is mentioned elsewhere in the thread or conversation. And because Captain Screenshot doesn’t tag or respond to his targets (if he’s feeling especially antisocial, he’ll refer to them by a cutesy nickname, slur, or Spoonerism), the writer may be unaware of how his words are being misconstrued, or puzzled as to why his mentions are suddenly filling up with bile. Worst of all is when Captain Screenshot blocks someone but keeps trashing that person from behind the block.

The Chief Dufflepud: The Chief Dufflepud’s signature characteristic is twofold: He has a legion of sycophantic followers who trail after him giving off praise like Sir Robin’s minstrels, and he constantly reinforces their reinforcement of him by retweeting their hosannas to his brilliance and courage. If you argue with the Chief Dufflepud, he will make sure that your mentions are flooded with these people, none of whom will add anything knowledgeable to the discussion; they will simply assert that you have been Owned and Destroyed by The Great One and should Take The L.

22. Teachers’ unions in California, reports Willl Swaim, are not going to let a little old pandemic get in the way of charter-school hate. From the article:

That’s how we might read the headlines from California this week. On the one hand, we hear union leaders banging the drum for social solidarity; on the other, we see them using coronavirus-induced panic to advance with utter cynicism the sorts of initiatives that demand they be delivered unto their tormenters (attending Catholic school, as I did, should do the trick).

Consider this morning’s story from the Los Angeles Times: “Citing the coronavirus emergency, the L.A. teachers union on Thursday called for a moratorium on new charter school approvals and a halt to new campus-sharing arrangements with charters.”

United Teachers of Los Angeles president Alex Caputo-Pearl has always hated charter schools — they are typically non-union and (just as typically) outperform union-run schools. But in a letter to the LA school board, governor Gavin Newsom, and state superintendent of public instruction Tony Thurmond, ACP cites the coronavirus as the new reason we can’t afford new charter schools — and especially the space-sharing deals that have allowed charters to move onto campuses with extra capacity in the low-income areas targeted by charters. “Low-income” means “dirty”: His concern, ACP insists, is for hygiene, but even that sounds remarkably like a callback to the water-fountain and bathroom apartheid of the Old South.

UTLA isn’t unique in leveraging the battle to insist upon its prerogatives. Across the state, California Teachers Association locals are stalling efforts to implement distance-learning technology. The governor’s “important emergency declarations have not suspended obligations to negotiate with unions,” CTA spokesperson Claudia Briggs said this week. Translation: Yes, yes, we’re in a crisis, but no mere pandemic can be allowed to infringe on union power.

23. More McCormack: He praises as a man of conscience the Democrats’ last liberal pro-lifer, Dan Lipinski. From the article:

It’s fair to say that Lipinski was the last liberal pro-life Democrat in Congress. Lipinski’s opponents tried to paint him as a conservative, but right-to-life issues are really the only place where he’s broken ranks with the party. In recent years, he earned a 7 percent rating from the National Rifle Association, for instance, and had voted with his party 87 percent of the time, “compared to 92 percent for the average House Democrat,” Roll Call reported. He points to his strong record of supporting unions and environmental regulations.

But Lipinski wouldn’t compromise on first principles or sacrifice his conscience to advance a progressive policy agenda. In 2010, he voted for Obamacare when it included an amendment prohibiting tax dollars from subsidizing elective abortion, but he voted against final passage when that amendment was stripped. Cuellar and Peterson voted against the health-care bill both times. Over in the Senate, the remaining self-described pro-life Democrats, Bob Casey Jr. of Pennsylvania and Joe Manchin of West Virginia have mixed records. Although they have voted for late-term abortions bans, they support funding for Planned Parenthood, and Casey voted for Obamacare in 2010.

The dwindling number of pro-life Democrats is bad for the pro-life movement, Lipinski says, because it will enable the Republican Party to take the votes of pro-lifers for granted. The near-extinction of pro-life Democrats is bad for his party, he says, because it has cut off a slice of voters.

24. More McLaughlin: He takes on the call for “Common-Good Constitutionalism.” From the beginning of the commentary:

Harvard Law professor Adrian Vermeule thinks conservatives should abandon originalism as a method of constitutional interpretation. His argument is such bad constitutional law that it is really neither constitutional nor law. It is terrible political and legal strategy. It is at odds with American constitutional history. It reflects the worst impulses of the Right in the Trump era to ape the most illiberal and corrosive habits of the Left. It would not produce the good society Vermeule envisions. And in a final irony, given Vermeule’s desire to effect something like a traditional-Catholic theocracy, it would promote a distinctly un-Catholic approach to tradition, legitimacy, and rules.

The essential argument of originalism is that the Constitution is a legitimate source of law because it was enacted by the people. It follows from this that changes to the law should be made by the people through the amendment process, rather than by unelected judges’ deciding what the law ought to be. Thus, whatever the Constitution was understood to mean when it was ratified by the people is what it continues to mean. This is the same way in which courts of law read statutes or contracts. Indeed, the “textualist” school of statutory interpretation, which considers the meaning of the statute’s words when they were written, is a longstanding and arguably even more successful project of many of the same conservative judges who promote originalism.

The New April 20 Issue of America’s Premier Magazine Is Special Indeed, with 15 Pieces Covering the Coronavirus Scourge

Our bossman, Rich Lowry, has corralled pieces by 15 exceptional writers to create a truly special issue, focusing on the numerous aspects of the coronavirus onslaught. As is our habit here, we share selections from the issue, which, as ever, is terrific from cover to cover.

1. Chris O’Dea, in another gem, discusses how Red China is going to exploit the debacle it caused. From the beginning of the piece:

While many in the U.S. and the West shelter in place hoping that warmer spring weather will slow the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus, China is planning its own Spring Offensive.

China sees an opportunity to exploit the fear and carnage of the outbreak to strengthen its hold over global supply chains—and the medical-equipment and pharmaceuticals sector is the next industry in China’s sights.

It’s a bold move, but a deeper look reveals the fundamental weakness in China’s dominant position in global logistics and points to two strategic opportunities for the U.S. The first is to bring supply chains for vital medical, pharmaceutical, and technology products and rare-earth minerals back home to the United States. The second is to cripple the Chinese commercial maritime network that has allowed the Chinese Communist Party to sit atop a global supply system like a puppet master pulling the strings of commerce from Wuhan to Westchester.

China’s game plan is to pit large companies and financial investors against Western populations. Leading Chinese business schools and the creator of China’s top state-owned cement company believe that large U.S. companies and investors can be persuaded to increase foreign investment for the production of pharmaceutical and medical supplies in China. The calculus is that China will be more successful at keeping companies in China by appealing to the financial motives of those that are already invested there than it would be by opposing anti-globalization political constituencies that want companies to move manufacturing out of China.

It’s the latest application of the predatory economic and financial strategy that China has long used to gain dominance over almost every industry it has targeted, to coerce developing nations into accepting Chinese loans in exchange for giving mineral rights to China, and to pressure developed countries such as Italy and Greece to turn their historic harbors into ports for China’s global maritime empire. But China’s pharma gambit may be too little, too late. The political tide China is hoping to sidestep by appealing to the financial motives of U.S.-based multinationals is turning against the country now that American consumers, their homes brimming with Chinese-produced electronics, realize the full cost of moving so many critical domestic manufacturing jobs to Communist territory. Americans now understand the urgency of moving production of vital goods back to the United States.

2. Ramesh Ponnuru says that the Fed needs to prepare for the economic recovery. From the piece:

Markets cannot see the future, but they are pretty good at processing current information that bears on it. Their implicit projections do not easily fit the hope that a short, sharp recession will be followed by an equally rapid “V-shaped” recovery. They suggest instead that we are at best in for a prolonged period of low growth after the contraction. They further suggest that this low growth will be associated less with continuous supply disruptions than with a persistently depressed willingness to consume and invest: with “demand,” in other words. (Hence the long-lasting decline in expected inflation.)

A reduced propensity to spend money on consumption and investment is equivalent to an increased demand for money balances. In a panic, we want to hold on to more of our money. Individual households and businesses can accomplish that goal by spending less. In the aggregate we can’t do it that way: If we all try to spend less we all have less coming in, too. We can, however, attain our goal through a falling price level (or a price level that rises less than it otherwise would); the real value of our money balances thereby increases. Or rather, we could attain it that way if prices were sufficiently flexible. But there are a number of rigidities that prevent this kind of smooth economic adjustment. Mortgage payments, for example, do not drop in response to reductions in spending and prices.

There is also abundant evidence that wages, especially in modern economies, are not flexible downward. Consider two scenarios. In one, the price of everything drops 2 percent and so do everyone’s wages. In the other, the price of everything rises 2 percent and so do wages. In theory, employers and employees ought to be indifferent between these situations: The real wage, the value of a paycheck after adjusting for the price level, stays flat either way. In practice, though, the first scenario of widespread pay cuts doesn’t happen. If the level of spending throughout the economy falls enough that payments to workers must drop too, a lot of those reductions in payments will come from layoffs. That’s what happened during the great recession: The average real wage actually rose.

3. Avik Roy highlights the role pharmaceuticals are playing in combatting the virus. From the piece:

There are two broad categories of ongoing clinical development related to the pandemic. Vaccines, which help people achieve immunity to the virus, are the farthest off. A vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 won’t be ready until late 2021 at the earliest. That’s because vaccines need to be painstakingly tested in clinical trials to ensure that they make patients better, not worse. Flawed vaccines can lead to dangerous overstimulation of the immune system, or can make someone even more sensitive to corona virus exposure. And since you can’t ethically expose someone to coronavirus, you have to give the vaccine to hundreds or even thousands of people and wait to see evidence of whether the vaccine achieves a statistically significant re duction in the number of people who get infected. Furthermore, coronaviruses mutate frequently, meaning that a vaccine developed in one year would likely be less robust, or even completely ineffective, in future years.

The second category of drug development involves testing treatments for people who already have COVID-19. Some of these drugs treat the symptoms of the COVID-19 disease; others directly attack and kill the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This latter category includes the combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, which President Trump has held out as a promising approach. A small French trial of 42 patients with hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin showed potential in reducing virus levels in COVID-19 patients. But another trial conducted in China compared the outcome of 15 patients receiving hydroxychloroquine with that of 15 patients who did not; the results showed that the hydroxychloroquine had no apparent effect. A third study, also conducted in China, suggests that a related drug, chloroquine, may clear a patient’s concentration of viral infection, known as the viral load.

The mixed evidence led to much tut-tutting from those who already dislike the president, but also genuine concern from those who worry that people will rush out to treat themselves with chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine without conclusive evidence from clinical trials. Anthony Fauci, the eminent virologist who has served in six presidential administrations, made the obvious point that while the president was understandably expressing hope that the drug combination might work, we don’t yet have conclusive proof that it does. “I was taking a purely medical, scientific standpoint, and the president was trying to bring hope to the people,” Fauci said on Face the Nation. “There isn’t fundamentally a difference there. He’s coming at it from a [hopeful] layperson standpoint.”

4. Dan McLaughlin explores the impact on American churchgoers. From the article:

Nearly all of those in-person gatherings are suspended right now across all faiths, throughout the country and around much of the world. One of the earliest signs of the gravity and global reach of the pandemic came when the Saudi government announced in early March that it would close Mecca to foreign pilgrims during the annual hajj. In Rome, not far from one of the epicenters of the pandemic, Pope Francis will celebrate Easter from a largely empty St. Peter’s Basilica for a television audience. He will do so without the customary 5 million visitors a year who crowd the Basilica square. Catholic dioceses, ours among them, have issued dispensations from the obligation of Sun day Mass. Less centralized Protestant denominations have made decisions on a church-by-church basis.

Most everything about a Catholic Mass is built around the physical gathering of a community. This is not surprising, coming from a tradition that stretches back almost 2,000 years. The churches themselves are laid out for close-quarters seating and processions, not for television broadcasting. The Mass is full of call-and-response prayers and songs. The sign of peace, once conveyed with a kiss, is today typically a handshake. The handshake has been a frequent victim even of regular flu season and may be headed for permanent extinction after the current pandemic. The centerpiece of the Mass is Communion: the believers’ encounter with the physical presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The liturgy surrounding the Eucharist is a commemoration of the Last Supper, itself a communal breaking of bread.

Now, we gather around a screen. The liturgy is still there, but the community and the physical presence are not. Many faith traditions are going online, often forcing un-tech-savvy clerics into un charted waters. Conservative Jews who need a minyan of ten to conduct a prayer service have been improvising over Zoom. This does not work for everyone, however. The Mormon Church has closed all temples, postponing services, such as some weddings and baptisms, that can take place only in a temple ceremony. Orthodox Jews’ strict no-technology rules for Sabbath observance (drawn from the rule against working on the Sabbath) make it impossible to hold services.

5. This may be one of the best-ever NR essays on the intellectual life: Peter Baehr provides a masterful reflection on the late Rebecca West’s writings on Whittaker Chambers, and the essence of what drove the young man to become a Communist. From the beginning of the piece:

Bolshevism’s appeal to Western intellectuals is a mystery we still struggle to explain. Why did artists who despised patriotism show a larger loyalty to Russian chauvinism? Why did writers defend a regime that repeatedly imprisoned, tortured, and killed writers? In short, why did intelligent people who lived in free countries worship at the altar of despotic states? Few thinkers studied this enigma more carefully than the British critic Rebecca West (1892–1983).

That is not an achievement we associate with her name. Rebecca West is more likely to be recalled for The Return of the Soldier (1918), an innovative psychological novel; or for Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1941), that grand bio-travelogue of Yugoslavia on the cusp of war. Her reports on the Nuremberg trials, and the post-war trials of British fascists, also continue to find readers, especially among students of journalism. West’s writings on Communism, by contrast, lie unread, unsung. Many of them sparked controversy in her own day, and are well worth revisiting in ours.

In articles, book chapters, and book reviews spanning six decades, she returned to the allure of Communism for educated Westerners. (Its attraction for militant members of the industrial working class was no real puzzle, she said, not least because Marxism deified the proletariat.) Reviewing the second volume of Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago for the Sunday Telegraph, West bitterly recalled that “25 years ago a large part of the Western European and American population of intellectuals were, with disgusting single-mindedness, pimping for Stalin.”

Decrypting Communism’s appeal, West believed, required paying close attention to the lives of true believers, people such as Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Klaus Fuchs, and Alan Nunn May, and also to ex-Communist apostates such as Arthur Koestler and Richard Wright. She drew portraits of them all. But no life to her was more fascinating, and perhaps more revealing, than that of Whittaker Chambers (1901–1961), the Communist, later ex-Communist, informer whose testimony sealed the doom of Alger Hiss. It was in the conduct and words of Chambers that West found a source of longing for Communism that transcended Chambers himself. The context of her discovery was a trial and a book that caused a sensation in early Cold War America.

Listen, Will You Please, to Rich Lowry’s Call for Help

National Review’s writers and editors have a lot of extraordinary qualities, and the past few weeks show how an incredible versatility is prominent among them.

The U.S., and much of the world, shifted to an all-coronavirus-news environment almost instantly a couple of weeks ago, and NR was there — providing indispensable insight and arguments for this fraught time in our national life.

The lockdowns have foreclosed some traditional sources of revenue for our enterprise, which is why we’re asking you to chip in and help.

Again, NR has no sugar daddy, and never has. It relies on the support of its loyal friends and readers to keep our publication going, and always has.

So if you are here consuming more content than ever before, and we know that you are, please help us continue to publish what you are reading.

I suggest to you that Jim Geraghty alone is worth your support — heck, his “Comprehensive Timeline of China’s COVID-19 Lies” alone is worth supporting.

We’ve been hell on China throughout the crisis, insisting on its responsibility for the pandemic at its inception, blowing the whistle on its deceptions, warning of the dangers of Chinese globalization, and pushing back against the absurd woke critiques of calling it the Wuhan virus.

We’ve subjected the media’s self-obsession and hysteria during this moment to a withering critique, slamming it for its failures, calling out its eagerness to deem the U.S. response the worst in the world, and ridiculing the growing cult of Yamiche Alcindor.

And that’s David Harsanyi alone.

We’ve written how it’s not the media’s job simply to try to make President Trump look bad and urged against the effort to drive a wedge between Trump and Anthony Fauci.

And we screamed bloody murder over the media’s idiotic stories blaming Trump for a couple who ingested fish tank cleaner, supposedly to protect themselves from the virus via chloroquine.

We’ve scored Democrats for their shameful games over the relief bill and the Left for its continued obsession with promoting Planned Parenthood and abortion at all costs, even during a national crisis.

We’ve demolished the argument that the relief package is socialism and the Bernie Sanders contention that the pharmaceutical industry is run by crooks.

We’ve had differing opinions about how best to address the crisis, how Trump is responding, and the policy implications of it all, but regardless, our analysis has always been based on fact and reason, at a time when — as usual in the Trump era — so many people are inclined to lose their minds.

I, for one, am proud of what our editors and writers have produced over the past couple of weeks. If you have been relying on it, I ask that you consider a donation of any amount, from $5 to $5,000, to help keep our enterprise strong and vital.

These are trying times, and it’s important that right-thinking people hang together. Thanks so much for reading, stay safe, and God bless.

Podcastapalooza

1. Moi and some guy for whom we have named the Victor Davis Hanson Podcast discuss the coronavirus anomaly/mystery of California, how Donald Trump’s reelection hinges on the strategic foresight he will bring to bear in battling the pathogen, Red China’s hegemony plans through its global logistics and infrastructure investments, liberal Rhode Island’s realization that borders do exist (and hoping that virus-fleeing New Yorkers won’t cross them), and the upper hand held by virtue-panic mongers. Listen up, there will be a quiz!

2. On the new episode of For Life, Alexandra discusses her latest article for NR magazine on the little-known groups and leaders of the pro-life movement. Here’s the place to get the lowdown. And on the previous episode, she expounded on Planned Parenthood’s abortion obsession in the midst of a calamity. Hear here.

3. It’s the No End In Sight edition of The Editors, with Rich, Charlie, and MBD discussing the newly extended shutdown, the disgraceful media response to America’s coronavirus plight, and why everyone should be considered professional bakers after this is all over. You got the time, so strap on the headphones. And then in the new episode, Rich, Charlie, and Jim discuss the most recent press conference, consider whether U.S. leaders ignored warning signs or not, and give some well-deserved praise to those coming forward to help in this time of crisis. It happens here.

4. On The Bookmonger, John J. Miller is joined by Nancy Sinkoff to discuss her book, From Left to Right: The New York Intellectuals, Lucy S. Dawidowicz and the Politics of Jewish History. Catch it here.

5. More JJM: On The Great Books, he’s joined by Menachem Wecker to discuss O. E. Rolvaag’s Giants in the Earth. Put down the remote and listen, here.

6. On the new episode of Mad Dogs and Englishmen, Ken and Charlie discuss the chances of a “return to normalcy.” Engage earbuds and listen here.

7. Awaiting every Tommy, Dick, and Harry is a brand new edition of Political Beats, in which “Butter” Scot-ch Bertram and El Jeff-é Blehar are joined by Ben Domenech to discuss The Who. Pinball wizards and all others should listen here.

8. On Radio Free California, Will and David talk the Golden State and Bear Markets. If you’ve got the time, we’ve got the bear, right here.

9. On the new episode of The McCarthy Report, Andy and Rich discuss New Jersey’s increasingly tight travel and assembly restrictions, the continued operation of the courts, and much more. Pull into the Molly Pitcher Service Plaza and listen here.

But Wait, Up Above . . . Didn’t You Say Something Was Free?!

No, we said half free. But now that you mention it, let’s draw attention to a sister publication, and urge you to avail yourself of a free trial copy of The Human Life Review. The new issue includes the transcript of Rich Lowry’s excellent October 2019 talk at HLR’s annual dinner. Sign up here.

The Six

1. At Law & Liberty, we are treated to the great Pierre Manent, who considers the question of Islam in France. Translated by Daniel Mahoney and Paul Seaton. From the essay:

Now, Islam comes to us as a form of life, at once individual and collective, one that has strongly etched features, to be sure with its own internal diversity, but which by embracing in principle all the aspects of life and the entirety of the social body, largely ignores the separations which are so dear to us between the public and the private, the religious and the political. While we oblige ourselves to relativize and present our “identities” (in the plural) with irony, Islam distinguishes itself among us by a compact identity that excludes irony and rejects all criticism. Confronted with this, we have decided that we will be ironists and relativists on their behalf. By boldly bringing Islam into the liberal secular arrangement, we gently, but irresistibly, will induce Muslims to take up toward their way of life and belief the distance that we congratulate ourselves for having taken toward our own way for such a long time now. In so doing, however, at the same time that we extol human equality and similarity, we look at Islam from above, not as a false religion or a less accomplished civilization, to be sure, but as a form of common life whose naive absolutism will soon be decisively moderated under the emancipatory effects of our liberty and our secularism (the much vaunted laicité in the case of France). This is the postulate that guides all of our dealings with Islam.

We thus suppose that the liberal and secular arrangements that we subscribe to are both universal and irresistible. What we think that we must and can do, determines what we believe we see or can see. Therefore, desiring an Islam amenable to our secularism, we refuse to seriously consider Islam itself, to take the measure of the amplitude, profundity, vitality, and perseverance of this great religious, social and political fact. Analyzing it under the twin criteria of the archaic and the modern, criteria which Europeans present as the sole criterion of the true, the good, and the beautiful, from the outset we deprive the great Muslim fact of its specific force and power. We prefer to postulate that secularism, radically separating religion and politics, will guarantee that the presence of Muslims among us will change nothing substantial in our common life. In short, while we hold that Muslims are our fellow citizens and equals, they do not truly exist as social beings and as a political factor in our national life.

Now, an observation that is so elementary that it requires neither a telescope nor a microscope allows one to see that Islam, in the diversity of its versions and expressions, has been animated the past fifty years by powerful movements that have transformed the Muslim world and exercise a rather forceful pressure on certain parts of the non-Muslim world. Whether one takes note of the Iranian revolution, Turkey’s ambitions, the Gulf countries’ ability to influence affairs, or the migratory waves headed toward Europe, everything indicates that Islam is in a period of expansion. Now, people will reproach me for unforgiveable naivété in bringing these different phenomena together and placing them under the common heading of “Islam.” However, the political perspective is indeed “naive,” because it believes what it sees, and what it sees is first of all the strength and direction of human associations. For the one with open eyes, it is impossible not to see that the Muslim world exercises an ever increasing pressure on a Europe that, for its part, is so weak that it makes it a point of honor of defining itself by indefinite openness to what is outside itself.

2. More Law & Liberty, where Gerald Russello wonders if the Right is something that can be patched up. From the reflection:

Roger Scruton in The Meaning of Conservatism discussed the relationship between conservative thinking and conservative practice in this way: “if it is true that conservatism becomes conscious only when it is forced to be so, then it is inevitable that the passage from practice to theory will not be rewarded by any immediate influence from theory back to what is done.” A lot of the history of conservatism since is reflected in that sentence. There has been much conservative theorizing since the 1980s, but its success as translated back into conservative practice is disputable. For reasons Dan McCarthy spells out here, political elites, including conservative ones, have been sleepwalking through the twenty-first century and many had not, until the election of 2016, realized the world had changed. This rupture had been building way before Trump. In 2012, for example, I noted in Perspectives on Political Science that the emergence of the Tea Party may have represented a different type of conservative renascence, because the issues motivating them might cause them to avoid capture by Washington and Beltway conservatism.

So in different ways, conservatives have been trying to patch themselves up again for the better part of three decades. Even in the wake of Trump, traces of the old Reaganism survive.  Some think the answer is to return to Reagan — this time as Democrats (the problem of rightwing pundits equating conservatism with presidential elections is a subject for another time). The 2020 National Conservatism conference, whose inaugural conference last year made such a splash as illustrative of the new conservative turn, invokes both Reagan and Pope St. John Paul II, a headline that could have been used for a DC conservative convention through the 1990s.  Others want conservatives to avoid tribalism, but conclude conservatives are just being mean these days. And you can still find the occasional paean to global capitalism. Indeed, one prominent conservative writer threw up his hands in trying to find out “What Unites The Right?”

But the success of that postwar patchwork was always overstated, and one should be cautious in using that as an example of how conservatism should conduct itself today.  There is perhaps a reasonable argument that government is smaller than it would have been had liberals won in 1980 or 1988, but one cannot argue that government is small as such or that its power has not grown to levels unimaginable to 1950s or 1960s conservatives (or liberals for that matter).  But it is almost impossible to argue that culturally America is a more conservative place, in almost any sense of the term, than it was in 1980, which is simply a crushing blow to large parts of the conservative intellectual project. The progressive left has essentially won the culture war, although that victory was only cemented when corporations began (as Timothy Crimmins wrote recently in American Affairs) to “engage in progressive (rather than transgressive) culture-warring, to distract from rising discontent with rising inequality and dwindling wages.” In other words, as Bruce Frohnen and Ted McAllister state in their recent book, Coming Home, “Cold War conservatism gained the world and lost its soul.” The strains of conservative thought that stressed locality, hostility to militarism, and suspicion of “free markets” were submerged into a narrative that stressed instead global capitalism and democracy export.

3. At the Wall Street Journal, William McGurn finds that the same lefties who disparage the use of “China virus” can’t bring themselves to oppose Ivy League quotas that disparage Asians. From the column:

If someone fuels bigotry by calling a virus a name accurately derived from its geographic origins, what about a mayor who works overtime to reduce the number of Asian-Americans in his city’s most competitive public high schools, not because they haven’t earned their entry but because they aren’t the right race.

Ditto for Harvard. Remember, the chief argument against “the China virus” is that using it stigmatizes both China and people of Chinese descent. But what about the stigmas that come from the subjective “personal ratings” Harvard applies in its admissions process? The Justice Department says these ratings produce “consistently poorer scores for Asian-Americans,” a racial penalty that brings down an Asian-American applicant’s overall score.

According to Students for Fair Admissions, the group suing Harvard over its use of race in admissions, Asian-Americans as a whole score higher “on many objective measures than any other racial/ethnic group including test scores, academic achievement, and extracurricular activities.” But if we are to believe Harvard, Asian-Americans are less likable, less kind and less courageous than those of other races. If that’s not stigmatization, what is?

Or take the World Health Organization, which prides itself on objectivity and professionalism. In 2015, WHO updated its best practices for naming new infectious diseases. The aim is to prevent a name from “stigmatizing” any particular community or country, and thus avoid negative implications for everything from trade and tourism to violence.

Yet WHO refers to the West Bank and Gaza as “Occupied Palestinian territory.” Anyone ever ask the Israelis if they feel stigmatized or endangered when the world’s premier health authority lends its imprimatur to such a politicized name?

4. At The Federalist, Ben Weingarten exposes the deadly grip Red China seems to hold on the World Health Organization. From the analysis:

We pay a real price for such apparent useful idiocy because, while the WHO gives China its imprimatur, evidence continues to mount of China’s malign role in every aspect of this pandemic. While the WHO praises China’s response to the crisis, and China cites dwindling numbers of new coronavirus cases, there are any number of reasons to be incredibly skeptical of this data.

Leave aside China’s obvious incentive to deceive in the face of a public heath disaster, given its desire to be the global hegemon and need to project competence. Set aside China’s lies about just this issue, which contributed to the coronavirus becoming a global pandemic. Leave aside China’s expulsion of the Western journalists most likely to expose ongoing lies and deception, and the disappearing of health officials who might do the same.

In spite of the news that all is well, we have seen evidence that should arouse our suspicions at the least: outsized urn counts, the rates at which cremation equipment has been running, millions of cell phone accounts closed in recent months, shuttered movie theaters, and an outright travel ban after China had pressured other countries not to impose one earlier in the crisis.

Meanwhile, as China is trying to present itself as a savior to the world, when it is most culpable for this public health catastrophe, Chinese entities have been flooding the globe — from the Czech Republic, to Spain and Holland — with defective medical supplies.

5. At Gatestone Institute, Soeren Kern reveals how Spain’s hellbent leftist government took actions that brought about coronavirus chaos. From the article:

The Spanish government, comprised of a coalition of Socialists and Communists, is facing legal action for alleged negligence in its handling of the coronavirus pandemic. The government is accused of putting its narrow ideological interests ahead of the safety and wellbeing of the public, and, in so doing, unnecessarily worsening the humanitarian crisis now gripping Spain, currently the second-worst afflicted country in Europe after Italy.

A class action lawsuit filed on March 19 accuses the Spanish government — highly ideological by any standard, as the Communist coalition partner, Podemos, was founded with seed money from the Venezuelan government — of knowingly endangering public safety by encouraging the public to participate in more than 75 feminist marches, held across Spain on March 8, to mark International Women’s Day. The nationwide rallies were aimed at protesting the government’s perennial bugbear: the alleged patriarchy of Western civilization.

Hundreds of thousands of people participated in those marches, and several high-profile attendees — including Spain’s deputy prime minister, as well as the prime minister’s wife and mother, and also the wife of the leader of Podemos — have since tested positive for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). It is unknown how many people were infected by the coronavirus as a result of the rallies.

The lawsuit, involving more than 5,000 plaintiffs, accuses Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and his representatives in Spain’s 17 autonomous regions of “prevarication” — a Spanish legal term that means lying and deceiving. The government was allegedly so determined to ensure that the feminist marches took place on March 8 that it deliberately downplayed warnings about the pandemic.

6. At Quillette, Joel Kotkin scopes out the coming “Age of Dispersion” and the fading megacity. From the piece:

Once held up as a grand ideal, the megacity is increasingly losing its appeal as a way of life. Chinese science fiction writers—increasingly the last redoubt of independent thought in that increasingly totalitarian country—envision an urban future that is, for most, squalid and divided by class. There are already deep divisions between those who hold urban residence permits, hukou, and those relegated to an inferior, unprotected status. Hao Jingfang’s novella, Folding Beijing, for example, portrays a megacity sharply divided between the elite, the middle ranks, and a vast underclass living mainly by recycling the waste generated from the city. 

During my last visit to Beijing, Communist Party officials shared their concerns about how these divides could undermine social stability. They have already essentially banned new migration into cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, and encourage migrants to move to the less crowded interior or even back to rural villages. Given the dictatorial nature of the regime, it’s not shocking that growth is already shifting to “second tier cities” including some in the interior. In far more chaotic India, the Modi government also supports an ongoing shift to smaller cities, and even a push for revitalization of rural villages. This reflects a growing concern among Indian researchers that the much ballyhooed “shining India,” concentrated in large urban centers, increasingly resembles the orbiting world portrayed in the science fiction movie Elysium—hermetically sealed from the vast majority of the population.

Even without government assistance, and often in the face of opposition from planners, dispersion has continued to characterize Western cities. This pattern is well-established throughout Europe, Canada, and Australia and is particularly evident in the United States where, since 2010, nearly all population growth has occurred in the urban periphery and smaller cities. As a new study from Heartland Forward demonstrates, both immigrants and millennials—the key groups behind urban growth—are increasingly moving to interior cities and even small towns. This is true even in San Francisco where nearly half of millennials described themselves as “likely” to leave the City by the Bay, a dramatic shift from a decade earlier, due in large part to insanely high housing prices and deteriorating conditions on the streets.

Indeed, as Richard Florida has noted, the bulk of the new growth of the “creative class”—the well-educated millennials critical to the urban renaissance—is “shifting away from superstar cities.” The rise in the migration of such prized workers is now two to three times faster in Salt Lake City, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Grand Rapids, MI than in regions around New York, Los Angeles, or Washington, D.C.

BONUS: At The Imaginative Conservative, Carl Rollyson explores William Faulkner’s conservatism. From the beginning of the essay:

Russell Kirk’s Ten Conservative Principles reflect the way William Faulkner wrote, acted, and organized his life. As a property owner with notions of limited government, he brought that orientation to his fiction, to his work in Hollywood, to his commentary on civil rights, and to his everyday relationships with his family and community. His conservatism was not that of a party or movement but rather expressed what Kirk calls “a state of mind, a type of character, a way of looking at the civil social order.”

Faulkner believed in the “enduring moral order,” that Kirk put first in his list of principles, and in Kirk’s tenth tenet: reconciling permanence and change. Faulkner’s famous Nobel Prize speech affirmed that only the “old universal truths” counted: “love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice.” These words about human persistence can be found in his letters as well as in his World War II epic screenplay, the unproduced Battle Cry, and in his Nobel speech as he evoked an image right out of his great novel Absalom, Absalom!, saying that after the “last ding-dong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking.” He could have been thinking of the French architect, escaping his patron, the megalomaniacal Thomas Sutpen, obsessed with establishing himself in a mansion based on notions of a landed aristocracy. The architect, cornered by Sutpen and seemingly defeated, goes on talking, and with a gesture that seems to fling away the failure of his own puny resistance, overcoming his own defeat.

Faulkner revealed his conservative vision in novels like Absalom, Absalom! (1936) and Requiem for a Nun (1951) espousing the eternal verities of civilization. In Requiem, the architect is re-introduced as Sutpen’s “tame Parisian architect—or captive rather.” But the community of Jefferson, Mississippi “had only to see him once to know that he was no dociler than his captor.” The architect speaks to a frontier community’s desire to build an edifice of itself: “ ‘You do not need advice. You are too poor. You have only your hands, and clay to make good brick. You don’t have any money. You don’t even have anything to copy: how can you go wrong?’ ” Jefferson takes its shape from his molds and kilns. Even the destructiveness of the Civil War fails to disturb “one hair even out of the Paris architect’s almost forgotten plumb.” The architect’s imprint remains, more than a hundred years later, “not on just the courthouse and the jail, but on the whole town,” for he has built and made possible the community’s own drive to preserve and perpetuate itself, a drive more narrowly conceived in Absalom, Absalom! in relation to Sutpen’s ambitions. In Requiem, even after the community apparently loses much of its historical identity—“gone now from the fronts of the stores are the old brick made of native clay in Sutpen’s architect’s old molds”—still there is a surviving remnant of memory and of place found in the “thin durable continuity” of the jail itself and what it stands for.

A Dios

In all the madness, what’s most animated Your Humble Correspondent (please feign interest) is the idiotic woodpecker who cannot tell wood from metal. He daily visits the chimney cap at Chez Correspondent and hammers away, unnerving the bejeepers out of one and all. The Red Ryder BB Rifle has been conscripted, and we are happy to report that it has been deployed with success. N.B.: No animals were harmed (just scared) in the production of these remonstrances. N.B. Part Two: No eyes were put out.

All this drama aside, all this true concern about the threat — brewed in the Wuhan Market laboratory — to God’s people by this microscopic beast, here in the Northeast His creation stirs and blooms, His creatures prepare their nests, and the palette of spring little by little captures His Glory. We should be thankful for this. Joyful even.

And even for tin-loving woodpeckers.

To brothers and sisters in Abraham, may Passover, commencing mid-week, remind all of us especially of the first Passover, held too in a time of crisis, by God’s design. Much love to you. And to all those who look forward to celebrating Palm Sunday and Holy Week, take comfort in patience, a virtue, and bet on our churches to figure out some way to make good, when this contagion is beaten. As it will be. Deliver us from evil, God. We pray for such, and for those afflicted (heal them), and for those who care for us (protect them) at risk to themselves till the strife is o’er.

With God’s Mercy Upon You and Your Family and These United States,

Jack Fowler, who will wipe down the keyboard and reply to your missives, whether caustic or pleasant, that are sent to him at jfowler@nationalreview.com.

P.S.: Dear Friend Shraga, my brother from the Old Testament and Matters Corleone, recommends for isolation-viewing pleasure the introduction to readers — which Yours Truly is quite happy to do — of the beloved old “Playhouse 90” tv series, and in particular the very first 1956 episode, which starred Charlton Heston, Tab Hunter, Vincent Price, the great Charles Bickford, and Diana Lynn. John Frankenheimer directed, Rod Sterling penned the script, Jack Palance hosted — mamma mia what a cabal. It’s titled “Forbidden Area.” Watch it here.

U.S.

Do You Xi What I Xi?

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Dear Weekend Jolter,

Whatsoever you do, read Jim Geraghty’s chronicle of Red China’s Coronavirus mendacity. A slice from the calendar:

January 1: The Wuhan Public Security Bureau issued summons to Dr. Li Wenliang, accusing him of “spreading rumors.” Two days later, at a police station, Dr. Li signed a statement acknowledging his “misdemeanor” and promising not to commit further “unlawful acts.” Seven other people are arrested on similar charges and their fate is unknown.

Also that day, “after several batches of genome sequence results had been returned to hospitals and submitted to health authorities, an employee of one genomics company received a phone call from an official at the Hubei Provincial Health Commission, ordering the company to stop testing samples from Wuhan related to the new disease and destroy all existing samples.”

According to a New York Times study of cellphone data from China, 175,000 people leave Wuhan that day. According to global travel data research firm OAG, 21 countries have direct flights to Wuhan. In the first quarter of 2019 for comparison, 13,267 air passengers traveled from Wuhan, China, to destinations in the United States, or about 4,422 per month. The U.S. government would not bar foreign nationals who had traveled to China from entering the country for another month.

January 2: One study of patients in Wuhan can only connect 27 of 41 infected patients to exposure to the Huanan seafood market — indicating human-to-human transmission away from the market. A report written later that month concludes, “evidence so far indicates human transmission for 2019-nCoV. We are concerned that 2019-nCoV could have acquired the ability for efficient human transmission.”

Also on this day, the Wuhan Institute of Virology completed mapped the genome of the virus. The Chinese government would not announce that breakthrough for another week.

Yes, the theme here remains vigilance concerning the worst fiends of the 20th century, and now the 21st — Red China’s brutal billionaire rulers, quarterbacked by the God-supposing Xi Jinping.

There is indeed so much here below about this and related matters, but do consider the abundance is to help and distract some of you through the lonely hours of pathogen-induced isolation and monkishness.

And when you are finished, consider watching Bette Davis in Another Man’s Poison, a middling 1951 film but with a title that fits the theme of these times.

Editorials

1. Sorry, but this is not a “stimulus.” From the editorial:

The provisions to support businesses, small and large, are especially valuable. Businesses cannot be expected to have saved enough money to weather a once-in-a-lifetime pathogen. The public has an interest in their being able to pay ongoing expenses during this crisis and to resume as viable enterprises once it ends. The legislation stipulates that businesses receiving loans cannot pay dividends or engage in stock buybacks for several years. This is faddish thinking, and there are better ways to protect taxpayer interests and keep existing shareholders from making windfall gains.

The legislation is far from perfect. The enormous spending involved would be easier to stomach if legislators and presidents had shown greater restraint before this crisis hit or showed any interest in getting the national debt on a sustainable trajectory. But we will take our own advice. The support for business, the relief for individuals, and the expansion of medical capacity are all urgent matters. They justify a bill that, in a happier time, nobody would consider, and we ourselves would vehemently reject.

Before We Get to the Prime Rib, Do Consider Publisher Garrett Bewkes’ Case for Your Becoming an NRPLUS Member

We are living through an unprecedented moment in history. I want to take this opportunity to thank you for being a loyal reader of National Review, and to share with you what we at NR are doing to keep delivering our world-class reporting and opinion.

Our entire staff spent the last two weeks ensuring that all NR operations can be maintained indefinitely from remote locations across these great United States. Our newsroom is as strong as ever, closely monitoring and reporting on all aspects of the coronavirus crisis (and so much more), and our top opinion writers continue to deliver much-needed insight and perspective, weighing in on all aspects of the crisis — be they medical, social, political, or geopolitical.

Even our podcasts, typically recorded from our New York City headquarters, continue apace.

I am humbled to report that our NRPLUS community continues to grow during these trying times. Members new and old are busy accessing magazine and premium content daily on the website. Our private NRPLUS Facebook group is more active than ever. And our live, members-only conference calls continue to be scheduled and held.

The economic impact of these events will be felt long after the storm has subsided.  That’s why it is all the more important for all of us not to waiver and to press forward with even more fervor than before.

To that end, I cannot recommend more highly that you join the NRPLUS community today. Doing so will ensure that you receive all National Review content (including all premium and magazine stories), with the extra benefit of being able to consume that content in an ad-minimal environment. Access to our live conference calls with top thought leaders, an invitation to our private members-only Facebook group, and website-commenting privileges are all part of the NRPLUS package.

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Golden Corral Doesn’t Have This Many Selections on Its Buffet. And Here the Vittles Are Free and Heaping, so Tuck In!

1. Scooter Libby and Logan A. Rank demand that Red China be held accountable. From the piece:

Having unnecessarily caused and exacerbated a worldwide pandemic, untouchable Chinese officials added their next outrage — blaming America. Beijing shamelessly poses as both victim and savior, seeking disproportionate praise for sharing genome information, casualty data, and, relative to the harm, limited supplies.

In any just and lawful setting, actors who recklessly pursue hazardous activities would be held accountable for foreseeable harm caused to others. It would not matter if the wrongdoers did not intend such harm; it would be enough that they knowingly persisted. Exacerbating harm by concealing it and retarding mitigation only increases such liability.

Prevention and simple justice require that Beijing accept consequences facing any other wrongdoer — including an end to dangerous practices and extending at least partial compensation to those so grievously harmed outside China. International diplomacy, legislation, executive action or legal proceedings here and abroad should seek to ensure Beijing acts responsibly.

2. Just how vile and phony can the media be? Charlie Cooke looks at NBC’s coverage of the Darwin Award couple who ate toxic fish cleaner . . . TRUMP’S FAULT! From the piece:

I’m afraid that this is the stuff of idiocracy — the equivalent of a person seeing a bucket of chlorine next to her swimming pool and drinking it because the letters on the outside are arranged in a similar order to the word “chloroquine.” And the idea that the president is to blame for this is . . . well, it’s simply incomprehensible to me. It is possible, certainly, that Donald Trump (along with Andrew Cuomo) has been too bullish on the prospects for chloroquine as a tool in the fight against coronavirus. But that, if true, is a dramatically different sin. We simply cannot run our country on the assumption that “I have high hopes for this drug currently in clinical trials and hope it will eventually be fast-tracked by the FDA and prescribed by a doctor” will be heard by reasonable people as “go into your pantry right now and eat fish tank cleaner if the ingredients look similar to you to a word you heard on television.” Insofar as there is any advice to be disseminated here, it’s “don’t eat industrial cleaning products,” which one would hope is a lesson that most people have already internalized.

3. The political media are woefully failing America, says David Harsanyi. From the analysis:

Some of that trust has been corroded over years of Obama adulation, echo chambers, conspiracy mongering, and knee-jerk partisanship. Some of that trust has also been corroded by the litany of Trump-slaying “bombshells” that have fizzled over the past years. I don’t know how many times I’ve recently heard people affix “if it turns out to be true” to a breaking news story.

Sorry, it’s difficult to trust a newspaper that allows its headline writing to be controlled by left-wing Twitter mobs or one that sends a senior editor from the Washington Post to write a piece on some Twitter rando with 400 followers to own Trump — and then track down his poor parents for good measure. How do we trust producers who believe Dan Rather — a man who pushed multiple forged documents, which smeared Bush 43, on the American public  — is the perfect guest to lecture Americans about accuracy?

All three of those things happened this week.

Worse than all that — or maybe it’s for the best — everyone can now see the hive mind of political journalism at work on Twitter.

RELATED: As Alexandra DeSanctis reports, the public has no trust in the MSM’s handling of the Coronavirus crisis. Here’s the story.

4. Potter’s buying. It may be a wonderful life, but still, Victor Davis Hanson offers thoughts on panicking. From the piece:

If we can get hard data out and the lethality rates descend to near flu levels, and once Americans see that well over 99 percent of the population survives the virus, then they will have confidence in the return of the economy, buy and sell stocks on the basis of innate worth and return rather than panicked speculation, and again rehire, run, and expand their businesses.

In sum, with the use of new treatment protocols and medicines, wider testing, and the approaching summer, we can get the incidence of infection down to a level that allows most people to work and keep the economy alive. Otherwise, make no mistake, if the present economic somnolence continues, many Americans are going to sicken and die — but from the economic virus in reaction to the coronavirus.

5. Given the crisis at hand, what’s with those people, says Kyle Smith, who are rooting for a Trump failure? From the commentary:

We know that the president is unusually thin-skinned and capricious, that he is keenly and perhaps unhealthily focused on what the media are saying about him at any given nanosecond, that he has a short temper and a quick fuse. He goes through cabinet secretaries like a newborn goes through diapers. And pointing out his errors is the legitimate business of CNN, NBC, ABC, MSNBC, the Washington Post, etc. But the way the media are trying to gin up a feud between Trump and Dr. Anthony Fauci is disgraceful and disgusting.

Folks, and by “folks” I mean you absolute freaking Muppets, are you trying to get Fauci fired? Do we really want to start over with a new specialist in infectious diseases in the White House? Would you be happy if Omarosa were Trump’s chief adviser on epidemiology? Would you be more secure if Jared were the last man standing during the medical briefings?

The incandescently moronic jibber-jabber (I won’t call it “reporting”) about the bizarre case of the Arizona woman whose husband died after taking fish-tank cleaner he and she incorrectly supposed to be the drug Trump touted in the White House is the kind of barnyard waste product that shouldn’t even make it to national news reports, and ordinarily wouldn’t, except that the media seem to be getting a near-erotic thrill out of any scrap of information they think might set off Trump. The dead Arizona man didn’t take chloroquine. He took chloroquine phosphate, in a massive dose. Please run the tape for me where Trump said, “Everybody take a spoonful of fish-tank cleaner to save your lives.” “The difference between the fish tank cleaning additive that the couple took and the drug used to treat malaria is the way they are formulated,” dryly noted CBS News. Oh, you don’t say? Because I was going to put rubbing alcohol in my martini tonight. Or is rubbing alcohol differently formulated than gin?

6. Mike Watson unmasks Red China’s charity. From the piece:

Chinese propagandists also claim that China is leading the way in responding to the crisis internationally, which is patently false. China’s much-publicized gift of 1 million masks to Japan is a grand and magnificent gesture, albeit only one-third as grand as prior Japanese donations of nearly 3 million masks to China.

The most remarkable case, however, is in Italy, where China’s ostentatious delivery of supplies and doctors has caused much consternation among Americans who worry that the United States is losing its global leadership role. Media accounts often omitted that the supplies were bought and paid for by the Italians, when the most newsworthy element to the story is that China actually kept its commitment to deliver what it sold.

Overall, China has returned to Europe about as much medical equipment as it received, taking credit for in effect receiving supplies from northern and central Europe and delivering them later to southern Europe — but unlike the European donors, the Chinese aren’t doing it for free. Chinese Communists are boasting about their magnanimity and are letting Germany and the European Union take the blame for shortages across Europe that are largely due to Chinese hoarding. This is not philanthropy; this is mercantilism.

7. The recovery will be slow, says Andrew Stuttaford. From the beginning of the analysis:

The economic numbers are beginning to come in, and, predictably enough, just about wherever you check, they are appalling. In Pennsylvania alone last week there were more than 350,000 first-time claims for unemployment assistance. That compares with (seasonally adjusted) initial national claims over the last year averaging in the low 200,000s, and the news is only going to get worse in Pennsylvania and, probably, every other state. Brokerage research, usually a reliable source of good cheer until well past the last moment, now makes for bleak reading. On Friday, Goldman Sachs estimated that U.S. GDP would tumble by an annualized 24 percent in the second quarter (against earlier expectations of a 5 percent hit). A pandemic has consequences and so do the measures taken to contain it. This week Morgan Stanley ratcheted up the gloom, forecasting an annualized 30 percent GDP decline in a second quarter when unemployment could hit nearly 14 percent. Tracking the course of these projections shows how rapidly the mood is darkening, and expectations play no small role in driving the economy.

Goldman’s economists are, however, anticipating that GDP will recover by (an again annualized) 12 per cent in the third quarter. But the damage inflicted on the economy is not going to be easily undone: Unemployment was expected to peak at 9 percent. Bad though that unemployment figure may be, my guess (and currently that is all that any forecast can be) is that it, along with hopes of a more or less V-shaped recovery, will turn out to be too optimistic. Even if the parts of the economy that have been braked or switched off were to start up again tomorrow, it would take a while for them to return to any approximation of business as usual.

8. Pandemic or not, free trade is working, says Kevin Williamson. From the piece:

There are risks to relying on overseas suppliers for surgical masks, or for any other good. There also are risks to not tapping overseas suppliers for surgical masks and for other critical goods. An earthquake in Utah can take a factory offline as quickly as a diktat from Beijing. Responsible organizations plan for disruptions in their operations; if they find themselves in the vulnerable position of being reliant upon a single provider for some mission-critical component, they find additional ones. The problem with the medical-mask market is not that U.S. firms buy them from Chinese sources but that they do not also buy them from other sources or have quickly executable plans to acquire them from other sources. International trade is not the problem — it is the solution.

The current shortages are less matters of trade than they are matters of the “just in time” model of inventory management and operations, which works very well — if things actually get done in time. The current shortages of everything from ventilators to toilet paper are forcing a reevaluation of the risks associated with low inventories. That’s a classic problem of mispricing risk: Businesses immediately realize the savings associated with reductions in the costs of building and operating large warehouses, but the tradeoffs are not given their due because the costs imposed by them are not immediate. Many of the people who say “We need to run the government like a business!” would not say that if they knew more about the way many American businesses are run. It is worth keeping in mind that Krispy Kreme went bankrupt selling doughnuts to Americans.

A more narrow and more difficult issue than that of international trade is that of trade with China, which groans under the corrupt misgovernment of a single-party gulag state. Trade with China is the right policy for the United States for both economic and national-security reasons: Trade leaves both countries better off in material terms, and the United States is better off with a middle-income China than with a poor and desperate China. While it is wrong to believe that liberal reform in China will come to pass inevitably as a result of its increasing prosperity and its limited economic reforms, almost none of what the United States wants from the U.S.–China relationship is easier to get from a poorer China. Even real problems in the economic relationship, the theft of intellectual property prominent among them, are more tractable to Washington when China has more to lose. The problem for the United States is that Washington is lazy and reliably reaches for the wrong weapon — tariffs — because our national leadership lacks the intellectual capacity and long-term political commitment to pursue our interests in an intelligent and productive way.

9. Andy McCarthy get investigative and explores the reality of “fatality rate.” From the piece:

Not everyone who contracts the SARS-CoV-2 virus will develop the COVID-19 disease. This is where things get murky in the public debate, and why I say the difference between virus and disease is not necessarily discernible in the statistics washing over us.

When Dr. Fauci wrote that the COVID-19 fatality rate may be well under 1 percent when one factors in “cases” involving asymptomatic or only mildly symptomatic people, I assumed that he was talking about people who get the virus but do not report. But beware of that promiscuous word cases.

A person who does not report is not a case in the familiar sense — a case is a person who reports, is tested, and is treated if necessary. Therefore, while we assume there is a group of non-reporting people out there — perhaps a very large group — who have SARS-CoV-2 (and perhaps even have mild cases of COVID-19), there are also non-reporting people who do not have SARS-CoV-2 — they just have analogous symptoms (the kind common to cold, flu, other viruses, etc.). Adding non-reporting people for purposes of computing the COVID-19 fatality rate could thus unduly inflate the denominator and understate the danger. On the other hand, limiting ourselves to only reported cases in which patients test positive for the virus would miss people — probably a lot of people — who have the virus but do not report and quickly recover (although maybe not before they’ve passed it along to others). This would wrongly inflate the fatality rate higher (by depressing the denominator).

And then there is the matter of how stats are kept. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the test that is being administered “is designed to detect the virus that causes COVID-19” — viz., SARS-CoV-2. Does a positive test indicate that the person has the virus but may not have the disease? Not clear. The CDC elaborates, “If you have a positive test result, it is very likely that you have COVID-19” (emphasis added). Meaning: The CDC (at least in the statistics that are being shared publicly) assumes that if you have the virus, you have the disease.

10. “Biden” you say? Name sounds familiar. Dan McLaughlin whereabouts-wonders about the Forgotten Candidate. From the piece:

Biden is frozen in place, without a lot of modern precedent to fall back on. He can’t use his own office to get in the news or do anything useful, because he has been out of office for four years. He can’t hold campaign rallies, which are unsafe for crowds and particularly hazardous to a 77-year-old candidate. His party’s leaders on Capitol Hill seem uninterested in getting him involved in negotiations, even within their own party. He can’t even formally celebrate wrapping up the nomination, because Sanders stubbornly insists on continuing his campaign. So Biden is reduced to reading embarrassingly halting statements off cue cards in an empty room.

This is a bizarre situation for the man who may well be the next president of the United States. It is too early, and events are too volatile, to reliably predict how the coronavirus outbreak will alter the outcome of the election. Trump could end up benefiting from the rally-around-the-leader effect of crises, or he could be sunk by public discontent with his leadership, a faltering economy, and a generally sour national mood. By any estimation, however, Biden was already at least a tossup chance to win in November before this, and the central theory of Trump’s reelection (a booming economy) is now out the window. There is every reason to take seriously the significant likelihood that Biden will be the leader of the free world ten months from now. And almost nobody cares to hear from him in an hour of peril. It is hard to recall a time when a major-party presumptive nominee has been so invisible and so irrelevant on the national stage.

11. Rich Lowry finds the lack of a spotlight helpful to the Democrat cipher. From the column:

Biden’s candidacy holds interest only to the extent he is gaffe-prone. His misfires aren’t Hillary Clinton–style gaffes, laced with arrogance and an insulting dismissiveness that makes them a rallying cry for the other side (e.g., “deplorables”).

Instead, Biden’s verbal tangles, incomplete sentences, and weird mix-ups are amusing — and concerning. They will be used to argue that he isn’t up to the job, but they don’t make anyone hate Biden. He can’t even generate strong feelings in his partisan opposition.

All that said, Biden deserves credit for his insight that the Democratic Party wasn’t defined by woke Twitter and that Obama-Biden Democrats, as he calls them, still constituted the party’s center of gravity. He correctly believed — or hoped — that African-American voters would see him through.

His victories on Super Tuesday and afterward showed that Democrats were willing to turn out en masse for an uninspired candidacy, and it may be that the same dynamic will hold in November.

If so, Biden could do worse than stay in his basement for the duration.

12. John O’Sullivan, in Budapest, awaits the full force of the virus, and in a wide-ranging piece considers the role of immigration into the impact on certain countries, and response strategies that may not jibe with medical realities. From the essay:

If we could solve the medical flaw in this strategy — and that might be possible: read on — it would still face a more obstructive flaw. Governments have already committed themselves and their prestige to a bold (if mistaken) policy and invested immense amounts of political capital in it. It’s hard enough to change their minds before they’ve made such a commitment; it’s nigh impossible to do the same when they’ve bet the house on a single number in roulette. Okay, events will force a retreat to mitigation or something like it eventually. But it would require a bolt from the blue to get them to change now.

Amazingly enough, two bolts have suddenly appeared from the blue.

The lesser bolt is that, as we noticed earlier, researchers have only lately begun to point out that the Italian statistics may greatly exaggerate those deaths caused by the virus: They amount to only 12 per cent of the total number of those who died with the virus. Most died, in effect, from other causes. And that smaller death rate from COVID-19 is likely to shrink farther as the pandemic runs its course. These doubts about the Italian statistics are important because governments and the media have been treating Italy’s experience with COVID-19 as a guide to what their own countries are likely to suffer after a time lag. What if it isn’t? This question has particular significance to the U.K. The IC scientists chose suppression over mitigation in their urgent advice to the British government because they were alarmed by data they had just received from Italy. Did that data exaggerate the Italian death rates? Or did it take into account the growing doubts about them? Probably the latter, though the U.K. media have begun to follow this story only in recent days.

Even if the Italian data showed no bias, however, a third factor must be taken into account: namely, the annual death rate in the U.K. In 2018, one full year before COVID-19 was heard of, 541,000 people died in England and Wales, most of them older and less healthy people. That’s almost the exact prediction in the IC report of how many people would die if nothing was done. Are the 510,000 deaths in addition to the annual total? Apparently not. They will be part of the total. Naturally, no one now knows how large a part, since the deaths are hypothetical and the deceased still alive. But since those Brits who died in earlier years are similar in relevant respects to the great majority of Italians who died with the coronavirus rather than by it, it’s reasonable to argue that the deaths from the virus in the U.K. will not add all that many to the annual total of the dead of previous years, since many of them would likely die if the virus hadn’t erupted among us.

13. Maybe, Madeleine Kearns wonders, we should have listened to Bill Gates. From the piece:

In 2015, Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, gave a TED talk in which he warned that the greatest risk of global catastrophe in the world today was “not missiles, but microbes” — not nuclear war, in other words, but an influenza virus. “If anything kills more than 10 million people in the next decade it’s most likely to be a highly infectious virus,” he warned. Gates’s concern was that while huge sums had been invested in nuclear deterrents, “we’ve actually invested very little in a system to stop an epidemic.”

These weaknesses had been made obvious during the 2014 Ebola outbreak, during which the Gates Foundation had shipped supplies to help doctors and nurses protect themselves from the virus and prevent its spread. At least 10,000 people died from Ebola. It was only a matter of luck that it wasn’t millions more. Part of this was because the virus became infectious only when people were severely symptomatic and bedbound. Another reason is that it did not make its way into densely populated urban areas. “If there is any good to have come out of the Ebola crisis,” Gates said, “it is that it has acted as an early warning, a wake-up call.” For the weakness it had exposed was not merely “that the system didn’t work well enough” but rather that “we didn’t have a system at all.”

The kind of coordinated response Gates had advocated in 2015 would have made all the difference in the current fight against COVID-19. Many have been invoking war as a metaphor. But in truth, it’s more than that. To have a fighting chance against a pandemic, each country needs an army of health-care workers. In the same way that there are military corps, countries needed to have their own medical reserve corps who, in conjunction with the army, are able to provide an immediate and wide-reaching response in the event of an epidemic. Five years ago, Gates called the absence of such provisions “a global failure,” noting that even the World Health Organization was funded only to monitor these epidemics, not to respond to them. NATO prepares for war with war simulations; why was the U.S. not preparing with more germ stimulations?

14. John Hirschauer dissects Nancy Pelosi’s effort to put the Warren / Sanders stink on the Coronavirus bailout bill. From the piece:

Restructuring Corporate Boards

Aid Recipients Must Allow Labor to Appoint One-Third of Corporate Board Members

All companies that receive federal aid related to COVID-19 would be required, under the House proposal, to appoint at least one-third of their board members through “a one-employee-one-vote election process.” In other words, if companies accept aid from the federal government at a moment when, because of a completely unforeseeable global catastrophe, demand has cratered in response to a lethal pandemic, the House bill would force them to completely upend their boards of directors to no conceivable end other than the fulfillment of a longstanding progressive wish.

Requiring States to Allow Same-Day Voter Registration

 Amending the Help America Vote Act to Require States to Accommodate Same-Day Registrants

The Help America Vote Act was signed by President Bush in 2002. It helped to modernize the nation’s voting infrastructure by calling for the creation of computerized voter-registration rolls at the state level, constructing federal accessibility guidelines to accommodate voters with disabilities, and setting up the Electoral Assistance Commission to certify state voting systems. Pelosi’s coronavirus-relief bill, which ostensibly is intended to provide “relief” to businesses and individuals affected, directly or otherwise, by the coronavirus, inexplicably seeks to amend the Help America Vote Act, and, in so doing, upend state election protocols by requiring states to allow same-day voter registration. Twenty-nine states do not allow such registration. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia do. It is not clear that this divide need be resolved at all, much less that it ought to be resolved at the federal level. And it is completely unclear why such a provision has any place in an emergency economic-stimulus package.

15. Peter Spiliakos makes the case for trade with China — but not dependence. From the beginning of the analysis:

Last July seems like the last millennium, but experts were already warning that American reliance on Chinese-made medicine was a strategic risk to the country. Eight months and one pandemic later, the PRC government was already threatening to cut off drug supplies. Dependence on China for medical-mask production forced the U.S. government to lie about the efficacy of masks so that a shortage (from Chinese government hoarding) did not produce a run on supplies that left nothing for medical professionals. While it is undesirable for the U.S. to withdraw from international trade, we should take steps to limit our dependence on an ambitious and unfriendly rival government.

One suggestion has been offered by Senator Tom Cotton (R., Ark.). His plan would, with phase-ins to take account of the current crisis, prohibit the purchase of pharmaceuticals and pharmaceutical ingredients that are produced in China. That is a good first step.

In future years, it will be seen as an act of madness that we allowed our medicine production to be outsourced to a hostile government. The only holdouts will be ideological fanatics and the bought flacks of a government that uses slave labor at home while deploying the language of freedom and business to explain why we should not remove the knife from our throats. As a heuristic, the more opposed the PRC government is to repatriation of supply chains to America (or at least out of China), the better an idea it is.

Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) has proposed federal loans and tax benefits to encourage domestic production of medical supplies. Another policy might complement these suggestions: For key industries, companies that want access to American markets should move some percentage of their production to America.

16. Michael Sobolick advises a combatative approach to Red China’s efforts to turn the Wuhan Virus into some propaganda advantage. From the piece:

Amid this crisis, the CCP today is hard at work — not to right its wrongs, but to rewrite the past. The party is waging a multi-front propaganda campaign that shifts the blame for coronavirus to the United States, while claiming that China’s response bought time for the rest of the world to prepare. The Chinese government is also presenting itself as a global health provider, shipping face masks and test kits to nations with shortages.

Of course, China is right to give this medical equipment to nations in need. But its government is bundling misinformation with this aid.

These lies serve a higher purpose for the party: turning coronavirus into a net positive for the CCP. Consulting firm Horizon Advocacy published a report last week, based on Chinese government and state media sources, that details China’s plan to position its economy in strategic sectors to box out other industrialized nations still reeling from the virus’s impact. According to China’s State Administration of Science, Technology, and Industry for National Defense, China must jumpstart its economy to “pave the way for international market expansion after the epidemic is over.”

Policymakers in Washington should take this gambit seriously. But they shouldn’t assume that America’s friends and partners do. In recent years, China — working via companies such as Huawei and through its much publicized “Belt and Road Initiative” — has greatly expanded its global economic footprint. Yet far too many of China’s trading partners remain blind to the true nature of China’s political system and the threat it poses.

17. More KDW: Our system includes those who find the weak spots and profit off the risk. And that ain’t necessarily bad. From the essay:

In difficult economic times, the usual self-righteous political types and self-interested market incumbents — including business executives whose financial interests are not identical to those of the shareholders who actually own the firms — lament the vultures and the ghouls, and several predictable lamentations will be heard upon the land. As if on cue, there already are demands for new restrictions on short sellers in the stock market, which is to say, on investors who expect the share price of a given company (or commodity or other investment) to go down rather than up. Of course, prices move both ways — but getting a good read on which and when and how is a difficult thing. As Bryan Corbett of the Managed Funds Association wrote in the Wall Street Journal last weekend, “The ability to deliver returns regardless of whether the market goes up or down is one of the key reasons these investors turn to hedge funds. It’s why they’re called ‘hedge’ funds.”

Short sellers are hated because they are the bearers of bad news: “Your business is overrated, your story is bulls***, your shares are overpriced, your management is too lazy and too comfortable.” The class of investors known as “activists” are hated for much the same reason. But they perform an invaluable service — doubting, testing, scrutinizing, looking for weaknesses. That is how institutions — be they businesses, political parties, or governments — get better. But getting better can be painful.

I like the shorts and the skeptics because of the work they do and because they are eternal underdogs. The powerful people hate the shorts because the ruling class, if you’ll forgive the term, is in effect long . . . everything: stocks, especially those of major corporations, but also market incumbents from Wall Street to Main Street to Silicon Valley, housing, commercial real estate, etc. By that I do not mean that the members of the governing and financial elites are motivated by personal financial interest in these things (though one assumes that they are, at least in part, from time to time) but that the ruling class is heavily invested in the status quo and that it dreads the one thing that the TED talkers and the voguish intellectuals claim to celebrate and admire: disruption.

The ruling class is in the position of Ted Hughes’s hawk: “I am going to keep things like this.”

18. More Kearns: Porn merchants are exploiting the pandemic, which has left millions of home-bound eyeballs in the near occasion of sin. From the beginning of the piece:

In the 1980 movie Airplane!, the air-traffic controller Steve McCroskey struggles to guide a plane whose crew have all been knocked out by food poisoning to safety. “Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit smoking,” he says, sweating profusely. Later, he adds that it was also the wrong week to “quit amphetamines” and then again “the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.”

In an attempt to stop our health-care systems from crashing amid the COVID-19 global pandemic, many are stuck in self-isolation, facing the stress of joblessness and indefinite uncertainty. At such a juncture, many men may well be wondering whether they picked the wrong week to quit pornography.

On March 13, Pornhub, the biggest Internet porn provider, announced that it was providing users in Italy with free access and subscriber privileges. Since then, the company has done the same in France and Spain. The site has seen a steady climb in viewers across Europe, Canada, and the United States.

On the days that free premium memberships were launched in Italy, France, and Spain, traffic in each country increased by 57 percent, 38 percent, and 61 percent respectively. On March 17, its worldwide traffic was up by 26.4 percent. Pornhub administrators declared on its blog that the statistics “clearly illustrate that people all over Europe were happy to have distractions while quarantined at home.”

19. Even more KDW: No time like the present to read George Eliot’s Middlemarch. From the piece:

For years, my great white whale was Middlemarch. I do not know why I found it so difficult to crack open. It has a large cast of characters to keep up with, but it is not as populous as a Dickens novel; there’s a bit of Big Sweeping Historical Background there — the Reform Act of 1832 — but, like Vanity Fair, it is basically a domestic novel into which history occasionally intrudes. I suppose I have some trouble dropping myself into English provincial life in the early 19th century — I barely made it through The Mayor of Casterbridge in spite of having the best Hardy professor you could ask for. I finally got around to starting it on one of those very fun cruises National Review organizes. And I regret having waited so long: It may be the best novel I have ever read.

It is a novel about people who make bad choices, sometimes for good reasons, sometimes for bad reasons, sometimes, especially in cases of romantic attachment, simply because they are young and callow and do not know what they really want, what will really make them happy, or that they are, in the famous phrase from Vanity Fair, “striving for what is not worth the having.” Some of the characters bear up under their mistakes with honor and perseverance, and some do not. There are not any shocking, unexpected twists in the plot — there is a sense of inevitability about how things play out: Character is destiny, as some of us conservatives used to say.

20. Brian Allen shares a take on a special exhibit of Baroque art (from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam), conscious that attendance has been corona’d. From the review:

The show is a thrill, but I have to say I liked the portrait — or vivacity — gallery the most. The heads stay on the torsos, for one thing. Portraiture before 1600 veers toward iconography and status. There’s plenty of personality, to be sure, but it’s subordinated to “Who am I?” and “What am I?” rather than the more complex “I’m thinking this or that” or “I’m baring my soul.” Baroque is the age where the “speaking likeness” is introduced, and Bernini does it best in marble. His subjects have torque, expressions, and open mouths. Domenichino’s (1581–1641) portrait of Giovanni Batista Agucchi, from around 1610, shows a vivacious, engaged figure, his expression concentrated and tense. He’s demanding our attention. It’s small, 24 by 18 inches, but its informality and intensity give him presence.

The gallery on love pushes the point — I saw the Titian show on his Metamorphoses six-footers from 1551, and they’re very sexy. Caravaggio turns up the temperature on carnal feeling, though, and Baroque artists do seem to recruit from LA Fitness. But love is love, and it is ageless and invites all styles. The gallery on jest is ineffective, and I think that’s why the curators made it so small and put it at the end of the show, where people are tired, hungry, powder-room-inclined, or lusting after nude Bacchus tea towels in the shop. It’s a difficult theme in any event. Conveying another era’s sense of humor is almost impossible.

I didn’t like two aspects of the show’s design. The lighting makes the galleries, which are new, look tired. Paintings are displayed against pastel panels placed against white walls. A bad choice, and a candidate for Baroque horror. Pale yellow and pinks make the pictures look like black holes.

The scholarship in the catalogue is superb. The essays are loosely connected to the themes of the show, but meaty. They convey a sense of Rome in 1600, moving through the reigns of four popes and their courts. Artists were practiced, passionate networkers. They had to be, since popes and cardinals were prime patrons as well as competitive, jealous ones. The first chapter of the book calls Rome “the navel of the world” — not flattering, as it suggests an entire culture of narcissism, but I take the overall point. The church avoided what could have been a fatal Reformation fusillade. Rome was an immensely rich city around 1600 and in a building boom. New churches and palaces needed decorating. Each papacy did more than trigger musical chairs. It enriched a new crop of people from the provinces having family ties with whoever was pope. This stimulated patronage, too.

21. Armond White, expounding on Pedro Costa’s Vitalina Varela unleashes another punch-packed take on movies and society and liberal hypocrisy. From the review:

Hollywood hucksters, book hustlers, gallery exhibitionists, and grant applicants all sing the same lament about “seeing themselves represented.” And when indoctrinated young people join the chorus, having been taught that complaint is the beginning of self-assertion, you realize that none of them are aware how much multicultural representation already exists in popular culture. They surely can’t know the work of Portuguese art filmmaker Pedro Costa, whose new film, Vitalina Varela (his ninth in his usual style) once again meets every criterion of race, gender, underclass representation — and pushes them to the extreme.

Costa’s acclaim by film culture’s elite conflates his artistry with obsessive liberal sympathy: Vitalina Varela’s middle-aged African protagonist (a nonprofessional portraying herself) arrives in Lisbon after the death of her estranged husband, who emigrated years earlier. (A group of airport workers advise, “Here in Portugal there is nothing for you. Go back home.”)

Vitalina discovers her ex’s life in the dilapidated immigrant ghetto and begs a debauched immigrant priest, Ventura (another Costa alumni), to perform the funeral mass. But the opening shot itself already suggests a burial procession, anonymous blacks staggering through an empty street at night with cruciform objects towering overhead. Repeating themes of desolation, loneliness, regret, and immiseration from previous films, Costa expresses his sympathy in dirge-like fashion. This highly stylized film, as visually striking as the others, is representation by the Rembrandt of the ghetto.

22. Last but not least: This item, posted just as the WJ was placed into the capable hands of Editor Phil, by Jianli Yang and Aaron Rhodes, states that ChiCom dictator Xi Jinping is big-time myth-making with his “Zero” Wuhan Virus campaign. From the analysis:

For years now, Beijing has tried to position China under the Communist Party as the champion and leader of a new, emerging, post-American global order. At the Davos conclave in 2017, Xi spoke of his government’s determination to play a responsible role in defending and contributing to multilateral efforts to “secure peace and reduce poverty.” He was applauded for opposing protectionism. All states, he intoned, should “view their own interests in a broader context” and “refrain from pursuing their own interests at the expense of others.” China has assiduously asserted influence in global institutions, especially United Nations bodies, where Chinese nationals lead four of 15 specialized agencies. In his speech at the special summit of G20 leaders on March 26, Xi showed his determination to build his own image as a world leader.

For him to succeed in his long march through the international community, he needs to have a reputation for success at addressing challenges such as COVID-19. As two veteran China watchers, Kurt M. Campbell and Rush Doshi, pointed out in a recent article in Foreign Affairs, one’s legitimacy as a global leader depends on domestic governance, the provision of global public goods, and the ability and willingness to muster and coordinate a global response to crises. To lead the world response to the pandemic, China must set an example for the rest of the world to follow.

The long-term plan hit a large speed bump with revelations about the regime’s malfeasance in covering up COVID-19, and the Communist Party’s efforts to turn the story around, making itself heroic, are well documented. But the plan could run aground if a second outbreak, which some experts warn is inevitable, occurs in China. In this situation, the regime is turning reflexively to traditional Communist tactics: propaganda and the control of information.

Podcastapalooza

1. On this special edition of The Editors, Rich sits down with David Bahnsen to discuss the current state of the economy, the effectiveness of the congressional stimulus bill, and much more. Pay heed here.

2. Meanwhile, in the bicentennial edition of The Editors, Rich, Charlie, and Jim discuss the U.S.’s struggle to fight COVID-19, and Charlie and Jim disagree over how to view the Senate’s handling of the current crisis. Ringside seats are available right here.

3. On The McCarthy Report, Andy and Rich dissect the DOJ’s coronavirus response, look at its protection of female athletes, and touch briefly on the Maduro indictment. You have the right to remain attentive, here.

4. What happens after the crisis passes? Asked and answered by Kevin and Charlie on the new episode of Mad Dogs and Englishmen. Listen here.

5. The brilliant historian tells his Sancho of his first-hand experience with the economics of panics, and then fills out the new episode of The Victor Davis Hanson Podcast by opining on Capitol Hill Democrats loading up coronavirus relief legislation with an ideological wish list, and the geographically, socially, and ideologically driven coverage of the Wuhan virus. All of it heard here.

6. On The Bookmonger, John J. Miller is joined by Mara Hvistendahl to discuss her book, The Scientist and the Spy. Listen here.

7. Moving over to The Great Books, JJM is joined by Paul Cantor of the University of Virginia to discuss William Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. Prithee, do lend me thine ear, here.

8. At Constitutionally Speaking, Luke and Jay unveil Parts Two and Three of their “Agenda of Federalism” series. Listen to “The Federalist Agenda: Foreign and Domestic Policy” here. And catch “The Decline, Fall, and Peculiar Afterlife of Federalism” right here.

The Six.

1. In The Hungarian Review, the beloved Daniel J. Mahoney — thoroughly scholarly and intellectual here — provides a historical take of the right-of-center French intellectual movement. From the essay:

The English philosopher and man of letters Roger Scruton has long argued that French intellectual life was taken over by “imposters” in the 1960s. There is much evidence to support this claim. Sartre’s political commitments were perverse and even imbecilic – this talented philosophe and littérateur defended the most vile tyrannies as long as they were left-wing. He saw authenticity and emancipation at work in Stalin’s murderous despotism, Castro’s brutal Caribbean tyranny, and Mao’s terroristic assault on human freedom and the life of the mind. Most perversely of all, in the Critique of Dialectical Reason (1960), he provided a “philosophical” defence of “fraternity-terror” as a means of overcoming inauthenticity and bourgeois individualism. The radical existentialist could only find fleeting moments of hope in the bloodlust of revolutionary terror. Scruton rightly calls Sartre’s political choices and judgements “degraded”, owing as much to Robespierre as Marx. But Sartre was a writer of talent and a keen, if one-sided, observer of the human condition when he was not deformed by ideology. The same cannot be said of “phonies” like Althusser who, Scruton argues, degraded both political judgement and the very possibility of a thoughtful encounter with our humanity. “Structuralist” Marxism, à la Althusser, was not even particularly faithful to the Marxism of Marx. The Paris “nonsense machine”, as Scruton bitingly calls it, was committed to a reckless assault on common sense, moderation and decency. In addition, it displayed fierce hostility to even a residual conception of a (normative) human nature. To be sure, Michel Foucault had his moments of genius. But he shared, and radicalised, his generation’s obsession with sex and power relations, seeing domination everywhere, except in Tehran (in 1979) and in Mao’s China, where he perversely discerned avatars of liberation. As for the rest, Deleuze, Lacan et al., they synthesised Marx, Freud and contemporary nihilism (i.e. “post- structuralism”) in an obscurantist mix that will always remain inaccessible to the uninitiated. In their hands, thought was transformed into an instrument of pure destruction, so-called “deconstruction”, at the service of what Scruton so memorably labelled “the culture of repudiation”. Like the Russian nihilists of old, the representatives of cultural repudiation set out to destroy the remnants of the natural moral law and all authoritative institutions necessary to free and civilised life. Today, Alain Badiou is their self-parodic heir. This French “philosopher” combines secular messianic effusions about “the Event”, an eruption of revolutionary bliss and destruction, with apologies for Stalin and Mao. In the Chinese tyrant’s violent discourses during the murderous Cultural Revolution, Badiou finds the voice of philosophy at the service of the world- transforming Event. For much of the Western intellectual world, these figures are thinking France, the only intellectual France they know. Sophisticated nihilism is lauded by academics and literati throughout the world.

2. At The Martin Center, Jacob Howland profiles the continuing free-fall of Tulsa University, a once-solid institution rendered into a leftist sanctuary by new administrators, and now paying the price. From the report:

Suffering from self-inflicted wounds, the University of Tulsa is sick and getting sicker. This is a case study in how “progressive” academic leadership can wreck a once-excellent university.

Last April 11, the university’s administration rolled out “True Commitment,” a radical restructuring that gutted the liberal arts, raised course loads, dissolved academic departments, and effectively turned the university into a technical and vocational school. I wrote about the turmoil that caused in this article for the Martin Center, but I’ll recap the events below.

A campaign of opposition to the restructuring formed immediately, sparked by the circulation of an article that appeared in City Journal on April 17. Concerned Faculty of TU (CFTU) was born at a meeting attended by four hundred people. Faculty votes in the colleges of Law and Arts and Sciences overwhelmingly rejected True Commitment. Students drafted a petition and held a funeral for the liberal arts. Facebook pages and a website were launched, and roughly 20 academic associations and societies wrote letters condemning True Commitment.

The administration quickly launched a venomous counterattack, attempting to muzzle and intimidate faculty and student critics. One low point was an Astroturf email campaign orchestrated by president Gerard Clancy. In September, four college deans and several other administrators denounced the “selfishness and negativity” of the “faceless faculty members”—or perhaps just the “anonymous message board troll”—known as CFTU. Clancy’s email of September 27 was the coup de grâce: 

Several poignant moments occurred this week with many on our campus taking a stand: a stand in the name of our students; a stand for what is best for our community; and a stand against a nameless group that has attacked not only our university but many within it. To date, we have not engaged with a faceless entity.…I also appreciate and value the leadership I’ve seen this week as so many have denounced those who negate our value and hold us back.

Even as TU’s administrators deliberately poisoned the university community, the trustees erected a steel wall to protect them. Faculty Senate resolutions proposing alternatives to True Commitment, and finding that the administration violated constitutional provisions relating to shared governance, were deemed “inconsistent with the University’s Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws” by the board of trustees.

3. At California Policy Center, the great Ed Ring says that the Golden State is long past the time for government-union pension reform. From the analysis:

It’s been a long time since California’s pension systems were responsibly managed. Back then, they made conservative investments, paid modest but fair benefits to retirees, and did not place an unreasonable financial burden on taxpayers. But a series of decisions and circumstances over the past thirty years put these pension systems on a collision course with financial disaster. And like a progressive, initially asymptomatic disease, it is impossible to say exactly when these pension systems crossed the line from health to sickness.

An excellent history of how California’s public employee pension systems moved inexorably towards the predicament they’re now in can be found in a City Journal article entitled “The Pension Fund That Ate California.” Written in 2013, when California’s pension systems were still coping with the impact of the Great Recession, author Steven Malanga identifies key milestones: The power of public sector unions that began to make itself felt starting in the late 1960s. The pension benefit enhancements that began in the 1970s. The growing power of the union representatives on the pension fund boards. Prop. 21, passed in 1984, which allowed the pension systems to invest in riskier asset classes.

The biggest milestone on the road to sickness, however, began in 1999, as Malanga writes, “when union-backed Gray Davis became governor and union-backed Phil Angelides became state treasurer, and the CalPERS board was wearing a union label.” The state legislation that followed, mimicked by local measures across California, dramatically increased pension benefit formulas. Not only were benefits increased, but they were increased retroactively, meaning that even state and local employees nearing retirement would receive the increased pension as if these higher benefit formulas had been in effect for their entire career. And as the internet bubble blew deliriously bigger, the experts said the cost for all these enhancements would be negligible.

4. At City Journal, John Tierney exposes the dirty facts about plastic-bag bans. You’ll find the piece . . . infectious. From the piece:

After the shoppers bought groceries and checked out, the researchers found sufficiently high traces of the surrogate to risk transmission on the hands of the shoppers and checkout clerks, as well as on many surfaces touched by the shoppers, including packaged food, unpackaged produce, shopping carts, checkout counters, and the touch screens used to pay for groceries. The researchers said that the results warranted the adaptation of “in-store hand hygiene” and “surface disinfection” by merchants, and they also recommended educating shoppers to wash their bags.

An earlier study of supermarkets in Arizona and California found large numbers of bacteria in almost all the reusable bags—and no contamination in any of the new single-use plastic bags. When a bag with meat juice on the interior was stored in the trunk of a car, within two hours the number of bacteria multiplied tenfold.

The researchers also found that the vast majority of shoppers never followed the advice to wash their bags. One of the researchers, Charles Gerba of the University of Arizona, said that the findings “suggest a serious threat to public health,” particularly from fecal coliform bacteria, which was found in half the bags. These bacteria and other pathogens can be transferred from raw meat in the bag and also from other sources. An outbreak of viral gastroenteritis among a girls’ soccer team in Oregon was traced to a resuable grocery bag that had sat on the floor of a hotel bathroom.

In a 2012 study, researchers analyzed the effects of San Francisco’s ban on single-use plastic grocery bags by comparing emergency-room admissions in the city against those of nearby counties without the bag ban. The researchers, Jonathan Klick of the University of Pennsylvania and Joshua Wright of George Mason University, reported a 25 percent increase in bacteria-related illnesses and deaths in San Francisco relative to the other counties. The city’s Department of Public Health disputed the findings and methodology but acknowledged that “the idea that widespread use of reusable bags may cause gastrointenstinal infections if they are not regularly cleaned is plausible.”

5. At The Imaginative Conservative, Nathaniel Urban and Jonathan Pidluzny explain higher-education’s identity crisis. From the essay:

Many factors have conspired to fuel the crises roiling higher education today. Perhaps the most important, and the reason so few institutions react appropriately when they arise, is that colleges and universities are facing a crisis of purpose and identity, one that diverts focus from improving the quality of students’ educations in favor of the distraction du jour. Over time, this will only hamper institutions’ efforts to compete for a shrinking number of college-ready students.

The mission statements that purport to guide colleges and universities illustrate an identity crisis in higher education. Not long ago, most institutions conceived of their purpose in clear and simple terms. As the Honorable Judge José Cabranes pointed out, until recently Yale embraced the commonsense purposes of a university: “to create, preserve, and disseminate knowledge.” The best way to advance those goals is beguilingly simple: hire the best faculty, establish strong curricula, reward teaching and research excellence, and foster a free and open marketplace of ideas.

Maybe the problem with such a simple and sensible statement of purpose is that it limits the role of campus administrators to supporting the academic functions of the university. Or maybe it is just not cosmopolitan enough for contemporary sensibilities. Glance at a university’s mission statement today and you will likely find a rambling paragraph expressing a cornucopia of vague and often incoherent aspirations. Most reference some combination of cultivating citizenship (not Yale’s revision), critical thinking, leadership, and (especially) appreciation for diversity and global perspectives. But apart from that last example, few institutions build a curriculum that advances the goals they articulate.

6. At Gatestone Institute, Soeren Kern spotlights Red China’s to spin Europe on its Wuhan Virus High Jinx. From the beginning of the piece:

The Chinese government has been fast-tracking shipments of medical aid to Europe, which has become the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic that first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan. The largesse appears to be part of a public relations effort by Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Communist Party to deflect criticism over their responsibility for the deadly outbreak.

Beijing’s campaign as a global benefactor may deliver results in Europe, where pandering political leaders have long been notoriously fearful of antagonizing the European Union’s second-largest trading partner. What remains unclear is if European publics, which are bearing the brunt of the suffering caused by the epidemic, will be as easily willing to overlook the malfeasance of Chinese officials.

In what can only be described as a geopolitical humiliation, Ursula Von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, the administrative arm of the European Union, which touts itself as the “largest economy in the world,” heaped praise on Communist China for donating an inconsequential amount of medical equipment to the bloc. On March 18, she tweeted:

“Spoke with Chinese PM Li Keqiang who announced that China will provide 2 mil surgical masks, 200,000 N95 masks & 50,000 testing kits. In January, the European Union helped China by donating 50 tons of equipment. Today, we’re grateful for China’s support. We need each other’s support in times of need.”

The European Union has been incapable of providing meaningful assistance to Italy, the bloc’s third-largest member, which has been especially hard hit by the virus. After Germany, the EU’s most powerful member, banned the export of medical protection gear to avoid its own supply shortages of masks, gloves and suits, China stepped in.

BONUS: Lefty college administrators have been flipping the bird at due-process rights. And now a federal court has ruled — reports Connor Ellington at The College Fix — that the apparatchiks might be personally liable for violating the rights of the accused. This could be big. From the story:

The University of Michigan’s refusal to recognize an accused student’s “clearly established due process rights” led a federal judge to deny its administrators “qualified immunity” in the student’s lawsuit.

Senior U.S. District Judge Arthur Tarnow went much further, declaring the school’s 2018 Title IX policy unconstitutional and an element of the “interim” policy that replaced it unconstitutional. . . .

“John Doe” sued the taxpayer-funded institution in 2018 because it placed an “indefinite hold” on his transcript and degree after a female student accused him of sexual misconduct. It also withheld “any form of hearing or cross examination,” per its policy that year.

His denial of qualified immunity leaves eight officials potentially liable as individuals, including Pamela Heatlie, who was quietly removed as senior director of the Office for Institutional Equity after the Baum ruling, and Robert Sellers, the very well paid chief diversity officer.

Also affected: Provost Martin Philbert, named in a similar lawsuit by an accused professor; Office of Student Conflict Resolution Director Erik Wessel; Dean of Students Laura Blake Jones; now-retired Vice President of Student Life E. Royster Harper; OIE investigator Suzanne McFadden; and Registrar Paul Robinson.

The university declined to respond to the judge’s conclusion that the 2018 policy was unconstitutional and it did not follow circuit precedent. “All we can say at this point is that the university will carefully review the judge’s order,” Director of Public Affairs Rick Fitzgerald told The College Fix.

BONUS BONUS: At The American Mind, James Poulus argues that the Wuhan Virus has sparked the need for a “Green Zone Plan.” From the piece:

Consider the following example. Before coronavirus, the programming to “live in the pod, eat the bugs,” order the weed, binge the porn, etc. was interpreted ideologically, as the upshot of a system of ideals toward which people were being pushed through various forms of power to conform. This system basically boiled down to the premise that podlife was the terminus of natural human life lived according to the correct ethical regime. It was how we harmonized autonomy and equality—a political response to the predicaments of our given condition.

After coronavirus, the podlife programming is more clearly driven by a more than ideological force. Rather than a politics meant to manage our nature in accordance with our ideals, podlife is taking shape as a technology meant to secure our life by severing it from nature. The virus provides overwhelming evidence that nature is not our home.

Radical environmentalists have long warned that humans are not fit for the preservation of nature. The ascendant idea is that nature is not fit for the preservation of human life. Even if we manage to beat the virus, the argument goes, our destiny demands that we beat nature, breaking loose from its constraints. To truly live, we must live “off-world,” not in nature but in “space”—outer space or cyberspace, and preferably both.

This is not an ideological claim about how persons and peoples should live, but rather a claim concerning ostensible knowledge about how we must live, in order to live. In this capacity, podlife in the coronavirus era retrieves an ancient concept of knowledge: gnosticism.

BONUS BONUS BONUS: At the Wall Street Journal, Dan Lipinski — the pro-life Illinois Democrat who lost his primary — says he does not regret for a second his stand on behalf of unborn children. From the beginning of his piece:

The morning after I narrowly lost my congressional seat in last week’s Illinois Democratic Primary, I decided to make a public statement and answer questions from the press. With the current wretched state of political discourse, I felt it important to be gracious in defeat.

One adviser said that I should focus on what our team accomplished for my constituents on transportation, the environment, jobs and quality of life. That was tempting; I am proud of our legacy. But a friend told me to be prepared for one question: “Looking back, would you have done anything different?” Abortion advocacy groups poured millions into my opponent’s campaign. If I had simply changed my position on abortion, there probably wouldn’t have been a contest. Abortion proponents wanted to hear me express regret about sticking with my pro-life beliefs.

So rather than wait for the question, I faced it head-on in my statement. I defended my pro-life position, which is rooted in both my Catholic faith and science. “I could never give up protecting the most vulnerable human beings in the world, simply to win an election,” I said. “My faith teaches, and the Democratic Party preaches, that we should serve everyone, especially the most vulnerable. To stand in solidarity with the vulnerable is to become vulnerable. But there is no higher calling for anyone.”

Baseballery

Taking a break from continuum stuff, the Boston Braves did not know it was to be the team’s last game — a late-September Sunday afternoon matchup in Brooklyn against the World Series–bound Dodgers — as Beantown denizens. (The news of the franchise’s move to Milwaukee in 1953 didn’t come until the following March.)

Despite being in seventh place, they would not go quietly. Down to their last out, trailing the Dodgers 5–4, Braves shortstop Johnny Logan drew a walk, went to second on rookie reliever Jim Hughes’ wild pitch, and scored the tying run when rookie third baseman and future Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews slapped a 3–2 pitch for a double. Knotted went the game for four more innings, with Hughes and Braves reliever Lew Burdette pitching scoreless baseball.

Come the 12th: In a bit of baseball irony, the last Dodger out — and the last play ever by the Boston Braves — was registered by Tommy Holmes, the former Braves star who had helped lead them to the 1948 NL pennant. Now ending his eleven-year career (with a .302 batting average) in Brooklyn, where he was used mainly as a pinch hitter, he grounded out.

No rain was falling, no calamity occurred, and no one took the field for the 13th. The game, having taken 2 hours and 53 minutes, was scored a 5–5 tie. Retrosheet, which translates every baseball box score from the 1940s on, notes two matters of great interest in this game’s box score. The first is that the extra-innings continuance led to some rejiggering after the 10th:

HP umpire Al Barlick left the game to catch a train home to Illinois; 1B umpire Tom Gorman moved to HP and 2B umpire Augie Donatelli moved to 1B; Gorman imitated Barlick’s ‘stee-rike’ call and gesture, entertaining the fans.

And then came this note in the bottom of the 12th:

Game called due to lack of interest not Rain.

Say what? That might have been close to the truth, but the next-day account from the Associated Press reported the official fig-leaf:

The Brooklyn Dodgers and Boston Braves played to a 5-5 tie today in a game called at the end of the 12th inning because of darkness.

Umpires explained they feared someone might get hurt in the meaningless game. Most of the field was in shadow but the setting sun shone directly in the eyes of the batters.

In other words, game called on account of . . . sunshine!

Follow, follow, follow

Try to remember, when life was so tender, that dreams were kept beside your pillow . . .

Jennifer Kabbany and Christian Schneider from The College Fix, big-brained host of that other VDH podcast (The Classicist) Troy Senik, vintage-time baseball fan Tom’s Old Days, Ilhan Omar scourge Ben Weingarten, NR writing phenoms Daniel Tenreiro and John Hirschauer, economic wise man Andrew Stuttaford, brilliant movie critic Armond White, Wall Street Journal columnist William McGurn, sainted son and Knights of Columbus writer Andy Fowler, editorial bossman of the heralded Babalublog Alberto de la Cruz, Great American Northwest radio All Stars Kirby Wilbur and Lars Larson, and Quixote to this Sancho, the unrivaled Victor Davis Hanson.

A Dios

Dear amiga Betsy complained — factual, not whining — that since this sequestering commenced, she awakes at 3AM, widely, the mind fraught with concerns and fears. The same was true for Your Humble Correspondent, nightly awake and anxious in the darkest hours . . . until the bat hit the fan. Motivated by The Good Lord to begin praying repeatedly throughout the day (facilitated, for papists, by the rosary, the beads which Mr. Biden sometimes threatens to use in violence) he has found that — by coincidence? (negatory!) — the sleep comes and prevails. It shall be appreciated while it lasts. All that said, if you got what Betsy’s got . . . maybe up the prayer game bigtime whilst shines the sun.

Alas, if you find yourself awake this eve, the early hours of Sunday on the 29th of March, do consider that on TCM Fiddler on the Roof will be playing (the inclusion of this fact in this missive suggested by Jason of the Many Books) and its spirit might bring you some joy and its length some somnolence.

God’s Plentiful Graces and Succor to You and All Those You Hold Dear,

Jack Fowler, who in this valley of tears can receive your communications via jfowler@nationalreview.com.

P.S.: We remain people of hope, remembering always Bill Buckley’s reminder that despair is a sin. So if you can stand a truly dystopian movie that might put an otherwise anxious soul in a funk, watch Stanley Kramer’s powerful 1959 flick On the Beach.

National Review

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Dear Weekend Jolter,

Your Correspondent hasn’t liked these buggers since he first saw Pork Chop Hill. Nor has he liked the Establishment’s incredible, decades-worth inattention to the monstrous practices of Red China’s leaders, starting with the sociopath Mao, history’s most bloodthirsty (insatiable!) madman. There wasn’t a depravity he couldn’t slap a title onto — Great Leap Forward, Cultural Revolution, Hundred Flower Campaign, Three-anti Campaign — as long as it counted its victims in seven figures.

Time to deep-six the inattention. Time also to defeat Communism, once and for all.

So, let’s apply the old question: New bosses, same as the old bosses? Xi whiz, ya think? The old ones never fretted over the corpses of dead Chinese peasants — should we really be surprised that there is even less concern over how the Wuhan bat-brewed biological bogey ravages gweilo foreign devils?

But there is concern. Beijing’s Foreign Ministry mouthpieces are warning us (“insensible”) that we should not try to restore vital industries — such as pharmaceuticals and medical supplies — to production on our shores. Jim Geraghty mocks it here. These are the same commie finks whose medical bossmen in December gagged researchers who were about to declare the epic danger of the coronavirus. Tobias Hoonhout reports it here.

More Geraghty, short and sweet: We Are in This Crisis Because of the Decisions of the Chinese Government.

The day they will rue approaches. Not fast enough, and likely not rue-y enough, if you ask this Hater of Marxism. But it cometh.

More on that below, in addition to the plethora of wisdom-directing links await your attentive and anticipating eyes and sanity.

But First . . .

The updated and expanded edition of Victor Davis Hanson’s 2019 bestseller, The Case for Trump, is now out on quality paperback. Learn more here.

And you’ll find an excerpt here.

Editorials

1. Ka-PLOW! NR body slams the ChiComs. From the editorial:

Beijing’s vanity — and its insecurity — gave the coronavirus “a critical monthlong head start,” as James Palmer put it in Foreign Policy. The Communist Party machine that rules 1.4 billion people in China may look like an immovable monolith, but it has weaknesses and fissures. The Chinese people at large may not feel much sympathy for the despised Uighur minority, but they know that if the Uighurs can be rounded up and put in concentration camps, then so can they. They have watched as the government of Xi Jinping has violated the terms of the settlement under which, in theory, Hong Kong is supposed to enjoy a high degree of autonomy and self-rule. They have seen the brutal suppression of dissidents at home and Beijing’s attempts, too often successful, to bully its neighbors and trading partners. They know firsthand the bottomless corruption of the Chinese ruling elite. And they have, for a generation, accepted that corruption and repression in exchange for security and a rising standard of material life. The rulers in Beijing know that they are always one serious recession away from being turned out — and worse — and they so feared economic disruption and damage to their own institutional prestige that they placed a losing bet that the heavy hand of their police state would be heavy enough to quash the coronavirus outbreak.

We are all now paying a price for that corruption and stupidity.

A new disease can crop up anywhere. We do not blame Beijing for that. We blame Beijing for the other Chinese virus: the repression it practices at home and seeks to export, and its criminal negligence in this epidemic.

You Wanted a Dozen Links? Well, We’re Giving You That . . . and More! Belly Up to the NR Buffet.

1. Victor Davis Hanson says that there will indeed be a China boomerang. From his essay:

Sometime in late November the Chinese Communist Party apparat was aware that the ingredients of some sort of an epidemic were brewing in Wuhan. Soon after, it was also clear to them that a new type of coronavirus was on the loose, a threat they might have taken more seriously given the similar Chinese origins of the prior toxic SARS coronavirus and the resources of a Level 4 virology lab nearby.

Yet the government initially hid all that knowledge from its own people in particular and in general from the world at large. Translated into American terms, that disingenuousness ensured that over 10,000 Chinese nationals and foreigners living in China flew every day on direct flights into the United States (Washington and California especially) from late November to the beginning of February, until the Trump travel ban of January 31.

All this laxity was also known to the Communist apparat in Beijing, which must have been amused when Trump was roundly damned by his liberal critics as a xenophobe and racist for finally daring to stop the influx on January 31 — the first major leader to enact such a total ban.

Yet, no thanks to the Chinese, America, so far, has been comparatively lucky — despite the grave risks of damaging a multi-trillion-dollar economy with the strictest quarantining, isolation policies, and social distancing in its history. Half the country lives in the interior away from ports of entry on the coasts. Medical care, sanitation, hygiene, and meat markets operate on different premises than in China, the supposed fated global hegemon. Transparency in a consensual society together with a free-market economy is encouraging tens of millions of citizens to work in tandem and independently to figure out creative ways to ameliorate the epidemic, politically, medically, socially, and economically. The result is that as of mid-March, the U.S., the world’s foremost immigration destination and among the most visited of nations, had suffered fewer virus fatalities than some European countries a fifth or sixth of its population size.

2. China needs to own this curse it has unleashed upon the world, says David Harsanyi. From the commentary:

There are many traditional naming conventions that don’t really make that much sense. Somewhat weirdly, for example, we often name diseases after the people who “discover” them — Hodgkin’s disease after Thomas Hodgkin, Parkinson’s disease after James Parkinson, and so on.

But naming viral diseases after places — Guinea Worm, West Nile Virus, Ebola, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, etc. — is probably just intuitive. Viruses “come” from someplace, after all, and thus people gravitate to those names. I doubt we came up with “Lyme disease” because of some deep enmity towards Connecticut.

Anyway, “COVID-19” or “H1N1” don’t exactly roll off the tongue.

The latter was, until very recently, widely referred to as the “Spanish flu,” a virus that killed around 675,000 Americans and tens of millions of others around the world in the early 1900s. “Spanish flu” has now retroactively fallen into disfavor as well. And to be fair, there is some historical evidence that the virus may actually have originated in China or France, so if we must call it the French flu moving forward, so be it.

But while the Spanish have a good case to be annoyed, the Chinese government does not. As Jim Geraghty notes, the Communist Chinese have been far more effective in stopping the spread of information about the coronavirus than in stopping the spread of the coronavirus itself. Today, for example, China expelled most American journalist from the country.

3. Truth isn’t racist, ChiComs (and their U.S. media water carriers). Kyle Smith explains. From the piece:

As is often the case, there is an element of trolling to the president’s word choice when he refers to the novel coronavirus as the “Chinese virus” or the “China virus.” But as far as we know, the virus did indeed originate in Wuhan. The truth is an absolute defense to a charge of racism, and reporters who waste everyone’s time grilling the president on this matter as though this is the time when they will finally get him to admit to racism are also guilty of trolling.

It never seems to occur to the press corps overall just how much damage they are doing to their collective reputation when its members (continue to) behave in such an obviously petty manner, as some did at a White House briefing today. We’ve all seen the surveys that tell us that pretty much no one except Democrats trusts the mainstream media anymore. Only 36 percent of independents trust the media. Only 13 percent of respondents trust the media “a great deal,” according to Gallup. It’s been 15 years since trust in the media reached even 50 percent. Why continue to alienate so many potential customers?

4. Obvious but necessary: Therese Shaheen calls for an end to China’s disease-breeding wild / weird animal farming. From the piece:

Wet markets are found the world over, typically open-air sites selling fresh meat, seafood, and produce. The meats often are butchered and trimmed on-site. Markets in China have come in for justifiable condemnation because of the way they’ve evolved, commingling traditional livestock with a wide variety of wild animals, including exotic and endangered species. Many are quite unsanitary, with blood, entrails, excrement, and other waste creating the conditions for disease that migrates from animals to people through virus, bacteria, and other forms of transmission. Such “zoonotic diseases” that have emerged from China and other regions of the world include Ebola, HIV, bird flu, swine flu, and SARS.

The wild animals that mix with more common livestock — poultry, swine, and seafood — form a deadly combination. And, as has been well reported by Vox and others, wild-animal farming has a long history in China, emerging after disastrous decades of state control of rural production under Mao Zedong. By the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976, tens of millions of Chinese citizens had died of starvation under a system that could not produce enough food for China’s population.

Mao’s successor, Deng Xiaoping, in the late 1970s lifted state controls on rural farming to allow peasant farmers to provide for their own sustenance. Rats, bats, civet cats, pangolins, and other wild animals became staples of rural farming. To acknowledge and even encourage this, the government enacted laws that protected “the lawful rights of those engaged in the development or utilization of wildlife resources.”

Over time, this led to the breeding and distribution of these animals, and small rural outposts developed into larger-scale operations. Add to this the use of wild animals not only for consumption but as the supposedly magic ingredients in tonics and alternative medicines, and it is obvious that what began as subsistence farming for the rural poor has developed into a substantial industry. Wuhan, a city most Americans had never heard of before this year, is larger than New York City.

5. Those evil pharmaceutical companies! The liberal idiocies come under attack from Rich Lowry, as America’s drug companies move heaven and earth to fight this virus. From the column:

Op-eds have sprung up warning: “Drug Companies Will Make a Killing From Coronavirus” (The New York Times) and “How Big Pharma Will Profit From the Coronavirus” (The Intercept).

This would seem the least of our problems right now, but the pharmaceutical industry is such a boogeyman that it gets roundly attacked even while racing to provide a boon to public health.

Bernie’s view that drug-company executives are “crooks” betrays his Marxoid belief that profit is a form of theft. Of course, even people who aren’t socialists are scourges of the industry. Pharma brought much of this on itself with the opioid debacle. Yet these companies routinely create medical miracles.

Yes, they make money doing it, but the profit motive is the reason they exist in the first place. There’s a reason we introduce more new therapies than any country in the world.

When faced with what’s been called a once-in-a-generation pathogen, would we rather have a robust commercial drug industry or not? Brilliant, creative people scattered throughout companies and universities working to be the first to a solution or not? Investors looking to back promising research or not?

6. Daniel Tenreiro and economist Russell Roberts have an engaging Q&A about Coronavirus and the free market. A slice from the interview:

DT: Is there any economic response to this that makes sense?

RR: It would be a bad thing for the banks to go broke. That woould not be good for the economy. There will be tremendous pressure both private and public for bailouts — private meaning bankers will try to argue why it’s necessary. I think there’s a chance we’ll have another round of bailouts.

DT: What about on the consumer side?

RR: The Keynesians — and I’m not one — are arguing for some kind of “stimulus” — paid sick leave, payroll-tax cuts, or a check to every American. Those may be justifiable under certain situations for hardship, just to mitigate pain, but I don’t think we should be under any illusion that this is going to “stimulate” the economy through some Keynesian multiplier. If people aren’t producing things, it’s not going to help that people want to buy more. That increase in so-called aggregate demand is going to be irrelevant. It’ll flow into Netflix, it’ll flow into things that don’t create jobs.

The main thing to look at is employment, not unemployment. How many Americans are earning a paycheck? Many service providers can work from home. Many cannot. The ones who cannot, who don’t keep their job because of the worries about the virus, they’re not going to be producing anything. So the so-called stimulus is likely to flow into areas that are fairly healthy. Netflix is going to be fine. My podcast is going to keep on going. For people who can’t telecommute, all the stimulus spending in the world isn’t going to help. If we run out of toilet paper, having more money in your pocket is not going to help you get toilet paper, it’s going to bid up the price of the existing toilet paper.

7. There’s a downside to mega-urbanization, and the Coronavirus epidemic reveals it, writes Dan McLaughlin. From the essay:

Crises have a way of shocking us out of complacency to consider how fragile and vulnerable civilization still is, and always will be. In the short run, that means retreating to humanity’s basic survival impulses and taking a triage approach to our priorities. In the long run, however, COVID-19 should prompt some reflection on our vulnerabilities and how to limit them in the future. One in particular bears rethinking: our ever-growing urban concentration and dependence on high-density, centrally managed mass transit.

The relentless march of urbanization, in the United States and around the world, has been coming for a long time. Using the Census Bureau’s expansive definition of an “urban area” as 2,500 or more people, America went from 8.8 percent urban in 1830 to 25.7 percent in 1870, then to a majority in 1920, and up to about two-thirds by the mid-1950s. We were 80 percent urban by 2010. North America has the most urban population in the world. But it is not alone in seeing an accelerating trend. The U.N. estimated that, in 2009, half the world’s population lived in urban areas for the first time in human history. Over 4 billion people live in cities today, six times as many as did in 1950. In 2000, there were 371 cities of a million or more people in the world; by 2018, that number was 548. The global and American trends go beyond what you would expect simply as the natural outcome of population growth.

There are undoubted advantages to urban life. Concentrating large numbers of people in small areas means larger workforces with more diverse skills, easier access to mass transit, and economies of scale in everything from public services to cultural institutions, such as museums and sports teams. Even the things that let us stay at home — from internet service to grocery and take-out delivery — are easier to get in cities. Those dynamics explain much of why this is a longstanding global phenomenon.

But the dark side of urbanization has always included infectious disease. Humans did not evolve to live in such close proximity. Close physical contact spreads germs, which is why medieval and early-modern cities were so pestilential. London became the first city to break two million people in the early 1800s, and it suffered terrible outbreaks of cholera (then a brand-new disease) in the following decades. While sanitation has solved many of the old problems of disease, apartment buildings and mass transit still force people together in much closer quarters than houses and cars.  And today, the most densely packed Western cities face the greatest risk, with Paris and San Francisco taking the extreme step of “shelter-in-place” orders, and New York’s mayor openly pondering the same thing.

8. Our godfather, Morning Jolter Jim Geraghty, ruminates on our current trials, and what might await us on the other end of it. From the piece:

Maybe this is what we’re in for: something terrible that, once we’ve endured it, leaves us better able to appreciate what is good. Right now, it looks as though we’re going to witness frightening reports of increasing numbers of sick people around the globe. We hope that number of victims rises only slowly and then finally stops. Already, we know we are not going to forget this — the bizarre runs on toilet paper, the 2,000-point swings in the stock market, the obsession with Purell and hand-washing — and the sneaking suspicion that before this, most people just didn’t wash their hands nearly as often as they should.

Normal life in America suddenly screeched nearly to a halt last week. And even though normal life pre-coronavirus was far from perfect, we will soon miss it, if we don’t already.

The “good life” as defined by much of modern America isn’t always that exciting. Jobs can turn into drudgery. The ones we love the most in our family can get on our nerves, and we can bicker and fight. We dream of taking that big trip, and then end up dealing with all kinds of snafus as we gallivant across the country. We go to a party and find ourselves meeting that guy who just won’t shut up. The pre-coronavirus rules of social interaction meant dealing with a lot of people we would prefer to avoid.

The coronavirus is here, and it has sentenced most of us to anywhere from a few weeks to several months of a situation we’d much prefer to avoid. No classes, no hanging around with coworkers, no PTA meetings, no Little League or youth soccer, no going out with buddies to the ball game or concert, never or rarely going to the movies. Visits to Grandma and Grandpa’s house are becoming calculated risks. Few of us will be experiencing the joys and inconveniences of air travel. No family reunions, no in-person conferences . . . Perhaps we’ll once again go to the beach as summer approaches, but maybe we’ll still be keeping our distance.

9. Soccer star and lefty bigmouth Meghan Rapinoe finds herself to be a victim, unfairly paid compared to dudes. John Hirschauer says she ain’t. From the analysis:

To remove biological factors — speed and strength — from the equation a priori and proceed to claim that men’s and women’s teams are equally “skilled” is to reduce “skill” to a relative category, one unmoored from the physical traits that manifestly affect performance on the soccer field. As the plaintiffs themselves concede, there are “biological differences” between the two sexes in speed and strength, differences that are part of the sport of soccer and that separate good players from bad. Are the men’s and the women’s teams “the same” if you control for differences in speed and strength? Maybe. If you ignore our relative heights and jumping abilities, maybe LeBron James and I are equally talented basketball players.

But even if we were to suspend disbelief and pretend that men’s soccer and women’s soccer involve the same level of “skill,” it is not clear that the collective-bargaining agreement of the women’s team systematically disadvantages the team relative to their male counterparts. In fact, the reverse might be true.

The WNT’s CBA includes a guaranteed $100,000 base salary and pays players a discounted rate when they’re sick, injured, or pregnant. The MNT’s CBA includes no guaranteed salary but a higher “per game fee” than members of the WNT receive. These disparate arrangements are the natural result of volitional collective-bargaining processes between the federation and two teams with different material interests, risk tolerances, and — yes — potential revenues.

Their claims to the contrary notwithstanding, it seems that the women’s team had a superior CBA to that of their male counterparts. The WNT played an average of 16 “friendlies,” or exhibition matches, each year from 2017 through 2019. In that same span, the men’s team played an average of eight friendlies. Both teams have complex revenue streams, which include variable items like endorsements, ticket sales, and merchandise. If we compare the reimbursement rates for friendlies, however, it allows us to compare like with like.

10. While you were distracted, writes Andy McCarthy, the DOJ has dismissed Team Mueller’s lame-o case against Russian businesses. From the analysis:

As detailed here many times, one of the biggest problems confronting those weaving the collusion tale was the inability to prove that Russia hacked the Democratic email accounts. As Ball of Collusion outlines, that’s not the only fundamental problem. There is also the fact that the Democratic emails, in which Hillary Clinton was not an active correspondent, did not actually hurt her campaign at all — certainly not the way her own email scandal did (a scandal for which there was no way to blame Moscow). There is also the dearth of evidence that the Trump campaign was even aware of, much less complicit in, Kremlin intelligence operations. Still, very basically, it would be impossible to prove that Trump had conspired in Russia’s hacking unless prosecutors could first establish that Russia had done the hacking.

Let me repeat something else I said several times: This is not to say that Russia is innocent. Again, I accept the intelligence agencies’ conclusion on this point (though a number of others, including some former U.S. intelligence officials, do not). But the point is that Mueller could never have proved it beyond a reasonable doubt under courtroom due-process standards. Any competent defense lawyer would have had a field day with the Obama Justice Department’s failure to have the FBI take possession and conduct its own forensic examination of the servers that were hacked. And what fun defense counsel would have had with DOJ’s delegation of that rudimentary investigative task to a DNC contractor with close ties to the Clinton campaign. (Yes, the forensic conclusions blaming Russia were paid for by the same folks who brought you the famously dodgy Steele dossier.)

Speaking of dodgy, recall that Team Mueller and the Justice Department dodged every case that would have called for proving Russia’s cyber theft. Even when they indicted WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange, the very Ground Zero of “collusion,” they resisted charging him with the Russian hacking scheme. Given that prosecutors and the FBI spent years investigating the president of the United States for this crime of the century, it should seem astonishing that they passed on charging the guy they’ve told us is the central conspirator with this crime. But you weren’t astonished if you were reading National Review . . . because you knew they were not going to charge any crime that called for proving Russia’s culpability in court. Their evidence is shaky and, if there were ever an acquittal, the Trump-Russia political narrative would be kaput, while the Putin regime celebrated a huge propaganda coup.

11. Long-time Catholic warrior Fran Maier reflects on oft-visited Rome, and finds that under the reign of Pope Francis is has devolved into “a museum surrounded by the hostile and indifferent, curated by the mediocre and confused.” From the piece:

I returned for Church-related work in 1985, ’87, ’89, ’97, ’99, 2001, ’14, and ’15, always with roughly the same mix of feelings. In all those visits, the living Catholic soul of the city — if one cared to look for it — redeemed the vulgarity and offered clean oxygen to inhale along with the narcotic scent of memory and ruins. Throughout the tenures of Karol Wojtyla and Joseph Ratzinger, but also well before that in the Pacelli, Roncalli, and Montini pontificates, serious pastoral concerns and serious intellect coincided. They reinforced each other. Exacting Catholic thought mattered; it wasn’t sufficient for faith, but it was seen and respected as necessary. It provided the fertile soil for Christian action. This seemed to continue, or at least not to be stymied, in the first years of the Bergoglio pontificate.

I visited Rome twice in 2018, again for Church-related work. The spirit of the place today is different. Some of my unease doubtless comes from my own age, not the city’s. Skepticism can grow along with one’s years. But the change is too tangible to miss. There are days now when (Catholic) Rome, in the words of a longtime friend who lives there, really does feel like Constantinople must have felt in the last years of the Palaiologoi: a museum surrounded by the hostile and indifferent, curated by the mediocre and confused. The sense of endings is oppressive — a sclerosis of thought and small, crabbed personalities, made more painful by the memory of past excellence, and compounded by a coronavirus that has highlighted the “aging out” of the whole country. For the believer who looks too closely and reflects too long, Rome can be as much a worry as a refreshment. This isn’t new, in a sense. Martin Luther had the same reaction. That didn’t end well.

12. The corruption-enmeshed, wildly accusatory, Lefty-favorite Southern Poverty Law Center promised an internal review a year ago. Tyler O’Neil says it’s fake. From the piece:

Almost exactly one year ago, the Southern Poverty Law Center fired its co-founder and promised an internal review to examine allegations of racial discrimination and sexual harassment at the civil-rights organization. Yet nearly a year later, this review has released no results.

Allegations of racial discrimination and sexual harassment at the SPLC date back decades, as I documented in my book Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Yet the firing of Dees brought former SPLC staffers out of the woodwork. Bob Moser came forward with a devastating exposé in The New Yorker, confessing to his own complicity in “the con” of exaggerating “hate” in order to bilk donors into signing big checks. “It was hard, for many of us, not to feel like we’d become pawns in what was, in many respects, a highly profitable scam.”

“‘The S.P.L.C.—making hate pay,’ we’d say,” Moser recalled. The SPLC has an endowment of roughly half a billion dollars, and millions in bank accounts in the Cayman Islands.

The SPLC is most widely known for its list of “hate groups,” a list that captures “everything wrong with liberalism,” according to Current Affairs editor Nathan Robinson. He noted how the SPLC list includes “hate groups” that consist of one person with a blog, one person with a Confederate memorabilia shop, and an organization supposedly led by a cult leader who died in prison in 2017.

13. Fred Bauer considers how the Coronavirus epidemic could reshape American politics. From the piece:

High neoliberalism already had a preexisting health condition, and this global pandemic may be fatal for it. World trade as a percentage of global GDP peaked in 2008, after which the financial crisis made it plummet. It has climbed closer to that historic high, but the coronavirus outbreak seems likely to send that number downward again. Harder borders are springing up around the world, with even free-movement havens such as the Schengen Area being divided. For the moment, at least, coronavirus has severely curtailed the free movement of goods and people that is at the heart of many neoliberal dreams.

In recent years, defenders of the neoliberal order have taken to venting their anger at the political factions that have sprung up in response to neoliberal dislocations — “populists,” “nationalists,” Brexiteers, and, of course, Donald Trump. Yet these political actors have gained a foothold precisely because of the tensions that neoliberalism heightened: the economic frustrations of a financializing economy, the disruptions of mass migration, the polarization between the professional classes and blue-collar workers, and so forth.

14. Free speech comes under attack by the former mayor of Charlottesville, the quite lefty/liberal Michael Signer. David Harsanyi calls out the stupidity. From the beginning of the piece:

‘Two things form the bedrock of any open society,” Salman Rushdie once noted, “freedom of expression and rule of law. If you don’t have those things, you don’t have a free country.”

Well, in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, “How Free Speech Dogma Failed Us in Charlottesville,” Michael Signer, the former mayor of Charlottesville, makes the argument that restricting speech is necessary for the rule of law.

The first problem with Signer’s case is the premise itself. Sorry, but we have no uniquely pressing need to “keep pace” with violent or threatening “political disruptions.” Americans live in era of relatively little political violence. A person doesn’t even have to go back to the brutality of  the1860s and 1870s to understand this; they can just look back at the 1960s and 1970s, or maybe even the 1990s.

When a few hundred Nazis, in a nation of 350 million, get together and march down Main Street, that isn’t a particularly compelling reason to rethink our rights. In 1939, well after Hitler’s tyrannical intentions were known, 20,000 Nazi sympathizers filled up Madison Square Garden. There will always be extremists in America. Which is one reason why we must always do our best to safeguard natural rights.

Signer, though, seems to feel differently.

15. “Social distancing” comes in for the Armond White treatment. He compares last year’s Uncut Gems with the mid-70s Mikey and Nicky. From the review:

This week’s home-video release of Uncut Gems matches Criterion’s recent Blu-Ray release of Mikey and Nicky, illustrating that “social distancing” existed in film culture even before it became a “thing.”

Some form of social distancing was always perpetuated by the idea of escapism — entertainment that keeps reality, the troubles of the world, at arm’s length. Hollywood’s concentration on comic-book movies this millennium is irrefutable evidence of the tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities through an emphasis on fantasy. This tendency even keeps art a remote idea for moviegoers bred on the disposable, meaningless trash that’s a preoccupation of the adolescent sensibility (thus, the basis of the wars between the Marvel and D.C. universes).

And this is how Uncut Gems has achieved its cult popularity, centered around transforming the now-disgraced Boomer comic Adam Sandler into a figure of Millennial petulance and pity. As Howard Ratner, New York City diamond dealer and inveterate gambler, Sandler trades his former comic generosity for the self-centered egomania of the autism generation. Ratner cannot see past his own immediate satisfaction; his blinkered view of a tiny, dishonest, criminal world simulates the condition of social alienation that defines the political apathy of youth who accept socialism without studying or examining it.

From the April 6, 2020, Issue of National Review, a Sampling of Five Exceptional Pieces

1. Ramesh Ponnuru explains how Biden reemerged, and takes on comparisons to Donald Trump’s 2016 GOP bid. From the piece:

The most common explanation from pundits for Biden’s rapid change of fortune paid tribute to the health of the Democratic Party. The Republican establishment, the story went, had been unable to beat back Donald Trump’s insurgency in 2016. While only a minority of Republican voters wanted him, several candidates stayed in the race and split the non-Trump vote. Democratic candidates this year, the story continues, acted in the interests of the party rather than in their narrow self-interest. After performing poorly in the South Carolina primary, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar promptly exited the race and endorsed Biden. Michael Bloomberg did the same a few days later, following the Super Tuesday primaries.

The comparison obscures more than it reveals. It is true that most Democratic politicians and strategists fear that nominating Sanders would throw away the party’s chance of winning the general election, just as Republicans feared about Trump in 2016. But many Republican officials nonetheless preferred Trump over his last real rival, Ted Cruz. The fear that nominating Trump would doom Republicans to defeat also proved incorrect: a point one would not think needs to be made, but the prevalence of this comparison suggests otherwise. Trump won the election, Republicans still have the Senate, and many Republican Party priorities, including reduced corporate tax rates and a more conservative judiciary, have been advanced as a result.

Nor have Democratic politicians acted with great farsightedness and altruism. As John McCormack observed in National Review Online after the South Carolina primary, the voters left them with little choice but to support Biden.

2. Alexandra DeSanctis reveals that the pro-life movement consists of a strong African-American contingent. From her essay:

In November, the Church of God in Christ unveiled its “Resolution on the Sanctity of Human Life.” It is the largest Pentecostal denomination in the United States, with more than 5 million members, overwhelmingly African-American and Democratic.

“Abortion is genocide. Abortion must end to protect the life of the unborn. The Church of God in Christ opposes elective abortions,” the resolution reads. “This issue of personhood has haunted America since the Dred Scott, Plessy v. Ferguson and Roe v. Wade decisions. Just as slavery was overturned in America, Jim Crow was defeated, and Nazi Germany was overthrown, it is our prayer that the heinous industry of abortion will become morally reprehensible worldwide.”

Reverend Dean Nelson, executive director of the pro-life Human Coalition, tells me that the resolution is “historic and phenomenal.” Nelson is one of a number of African-American leaders who work with the National Black Pro-Life Coalition, a network of groups seeking to “restore life, family and hope in the Black community,” according to its website.

3. As the Coronavirus reaction strengthens its societal chokehold, Michael Brendan Dougherty sees fear and revelry up close. From the article:

As schools and offices eventually shut and rumors of forthcoming “shelter in place” orders or a cordon sanitaire circulated in social media, the local wine bar made a small killing. My younger, far-flung relatives went out in Brooklyn, Dublin, and Melbourne for a “final night.” These scenes have been repeated in the nights before every rumored war and plague. What Athens then and Brooklyn in March of 2020 share is a lack of widespread testing and a rational regime of isolation and quarantine of the sick.

It is easy to get angry with the revelers, who may have spread the disease unknowingly. But it will prove impossible to hold them to account. With widespread testing, South Korea has identified a single member of a church as creating three separate clusters of the disease in that country. This poor woman, if identified by name, will bear a heavy cost for life. Wide spread testing allowed normal life to return to Singapore and will soon allow normal life to return to South Korea, because it restores the senses of accountability and fairness that are necessary in a law-governed society.

The fear and lawless extravagance are two understandable reactions to the un known. A state of ignorance liberates some and confines others. A widespread test for the virus would put an end to both simultaneously. We instinctively know that both responses are wrong. One threatens public health, and the other threatens the functioning of the economy.

COVID-19 is devilish because so many of those who contract it are without symptoms, or with symptoms that are indistinguishable from the common cold. These days, in Seattle, Los Angeles, and New York, if you have a cough or a low-grade fever but no access to a test, you have no idea whether your actions are putting others in danger. You cannot know whether delivering canned goods to elderly neighbors is saving them some trouble or exposing them to fatal danger.

4. Yuval Levin scores Washington’s response to the epidemic, and finds that leadership does not only emanate from above. From the end of the piece:

Our system really is good at mobilizing in a crisis and learning quickly how to manage unfamiliar terrain. But learning to manage a crisis without the full participation of the White House will call upon some muscles that have not been stretched in quite some time.

We have seen some of this around the early steps toward “social distancing” in different places. It may be odd to suggest that aggressively shutting things down is an example of our prowess for mobilization. But given our way of life, the willingness and the ability to radically constrain our activities and choices is actually a show of strength. In a free society, austerity is a form of mobilization. And it has taken shape largely from the bottom up, in school districts, in the business world, and then increasingly with prods from state and local leaders. The president largely resisted the trend at first, and as late as mid March had still not spoken in ways that might prepare the country for what’s coming and thereby explain the drastic measures being taken everywhere. But those measures have come regardless. And in similar ways, resources up and down our government and across our society may be deployed to help the health system gird itself a little better for the awful effort to come.

We are still very much in the thick of this crisis, and real perspective on our government’s performance is impossible. But at this stage, at least, it seems that many key officials are doing many important things right yet also that they have to work around some serious decisional dysfunction at the top. That, more than any particular misjudgment and more than the sheer fact of disruption in our lives, is what appears to require attention, criticism, and correction.

Until that improves, the response we mount will not be as well organized or clearly articulated as it could be. But we can be grateful that in our society not everything has to be coordinated from above. And we can be grateful for the countless men and women, in every corner of our country and in every facet of its life, who are rising to this grave and sudden challenge with compassion, creativity, and courage.

5. In his always wonderful “Athwart” column, James Lileks shares some epidemic lessons and observations. From the column:

The second lesson is that no one, in a pinch, wants the all-natural cleaning ingredients. At the store all the stuff with BLEACH is gone. The products that promise THE SLAUGHTER POWER OF CHLORINE are gone. The all-natural stuff that promises to use lavender oils to disinfect your countertops and hands? No one wants it. That was all a pose. The extra-special-virtue keister-cleaner from recycled paper was the last to sell out. Push comes to grunt, people will buy toilet paper made from old-growth redwoods.

The third lesson: Maaaaybe it was a bad idea to let China make everything? Just a thought.

The fourth lesson: Maaaaybe the CDC could have put on a better show in the early stages of the outbreak? We’ve all seen movies about pandemics. Someone smart and attractive gets a phone call, and they promptly type something into a computer while looking concerned. Next scene, helicopters are airborne. Next scene, our hero scientist is showing a PowerPoint to some people, and then everyone leaves the room to order more helicopters and get the National Guard to seal off a small town.

You wonder if the people in the CDC saw those movies and thought, We got that stuff? We have that power? Cool! No worries, mon. Then the bleep impacts the fan.

Reform School

In the previous issue of National Review, Ramesh Ponnuru and Yuval Levin jointly penned an essay, titled “The Next Coalition of the Right,” in which they discussed lessons of “reform conservatism” and its future. You can, and should, read it here. Here’s a chunk of it:

It may seem counterintuitive, given how intense and action-packed the last few years have felt to political junkies, but if the Trump era ends next year, it will have changed next to nothing in domestic policy. Its lasting accomplishments would then mainly be the indirect consequences of Trump’s judicial appointments—important, to be sure, but hardly on the scale of what a party in power in both elected branches might expect.

This inaction on policy may actually help explain some of the intellectual ferment. In some respects, the Right’s internal debates have felt like those that might happen when Republicans are out of power: Nothing seems plausibly achievable in the near term, so policy entrepreneurs try to formulate what they would do in the future if they could. Yet these scenarios are getting debated without the living specter of a Democratic president exercising the powers of the executive, so the Right’s arguments lack the humility that comes with losing and the caution that comes with a vivid sense of the harm that government power can do in the wrong hands. Lacking both the responsibility to enact and implement policy and the burden of resisting an assertive progressivism in Washington, the Right’s policy thinking has been short on discipline and mooring, and the relationship between theory and practice has become confused.

This lack of disciplining pressures has been particularly evident as a loss of interest in coalition-building among conservatives. The Right’s internal arguments have naturally come to be focused, as they often have been over the past half century, on a conflict between libertarian economic thought and conservative social thought. Recurring (and unavoidable) tensions between the two have shaped the story of American conservatism since the middle of the last century. But the Right has tended to succeed when it has treated those tensions as an impetus for balance and for concrete policy innovation and has tended to fail when it has let them become a source of polarizing discord and blinding abstraction.

This spawned a symposium, in which Matt Continetti, Daniel McCarthy, Robert VerBruggen, and Luke Thompson reflect on the essay. Catch the symposium here.

This in turn prompted an — well, if you will — attack on the initial Ponnuru / Levin essay by Tanner Green. It begs for its own rebuttal. But until then, here is slice:

In the year 2020, debates over ideas matter more to the Right than they have for decades. At first glance this seems a silly thing to say. The sitting president has all the intellectual coherence of a rock. But that rock crashed through Washington, opening up holes in the conservative coalition that conservatives long pretended did not exist. Now a half-dozen factions war among the ruins, desperately trying to stake their claim to define the ways and means of the future American Right.

The reformocons are not among the warring tribes. This is odd. This should be the reformocon moment. Their diagnosis of American society has aged well. Their warnings that a society of distrustful, atomized individuals would lead either to political radicalism or to dangerous nihilism has proven entirely correct. GOP voters have proven less attached to Reaganite ideology than even they imagined; Their argument for reorienting the GOP around working-class interests is now the starting point for every one of the factions grasping for the crown. In “The Next Coalition of the Right,” Levin and Ponnuru lay out their preferred explanation for why the reformocons are not among these factions: the presidency of Donald Trump.

As Levin and Ponnuru see it, the Trump presidency has posed two problems for the wonks and intellectuals of the Right. The first is practical and personal: The thinkers of the Right, including the reformocons themselves, are divided between those inexorably opposed to cooperating with the president and those who view Trump’s term as an opportunity that must be seized. This divide has fractured movements and friendships. But Levin and Ponnuru’s second point is more subtle. “Because Trumpism has for the most part not been embodied in particular policy proposals,” they write, “different factions on the right have tried to claim its power for their own and to insist that Trump’s success in 2016 is proof of principle for a new direction.” But the Trump’s administration’s inability to enact or even endorse a coherent policy platform means that these debates over the “new direction” of conservatism can never end. “Lacking both the responsibility to enact and implement policy and the burden of resisting an assertive progressivism in Washington, the Right’s policy thinking has been short on discipline and mooring.” Policymaking has been replaced by posturing. This is a death knell for a movement as wonkish and policy-focused as reform conservatism. Implied here is that if a more competent, policy-savvy administration had been elected or a Democratic administration threatened the nation with policies of their own, then the reformocons would still be around and the intellectual civil war that now pits one bitter conservative against another would have ceased long ago.

Podcastapalooza

1. On the new episode of The Editors, Rich, Charlie, and Michael discuss the increasing panic over the coronavirus around the world, plus the half-forgotten Democratic primary debate. Listen here.

2. On the new episode of Radio Free California, Will talks to the only CPA in the state capitol, state Senator John Moorlach (R., Costa Mesa), who’s been warning Californians about the return of a bear market and its impact on state finances. They discuss the relationship between the pandemic, the stock market, public finance — and the real threat facing California. Lend your ears, here.

3. On the new Mad Dogs and Englishmen episode, Kevin and Charlie discuss the state of the country during the coronavirus crisis. Gather round the Victrola and listen here.

4. On Episode 7 of The Victor Davis Hanson Podcast, VDH, along with his mumble-mouthed co-host, predicts that China’s Communists rue what they begat; talks about the new (paperback) updated and expanded edition of The Case for Trump; scopes out the reelection chances of POTUS; and heralds the American men and women who sweat, strain, and keep us alive. Listen here.

5. On the new episode of The Great Books, John J. Miller is joined by Karen Swallow Prior of Liberty University to discuss Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Tune in right here.

6. Meanwhile at The Bookmonger, JJM is joined by Eric Gibson to discuss his book, The Necessity of Sculpture. Hear ye, here.

7. Scot “Ernieand” Bertram and Jeff “Y-Pop” Blehar discuss The Pogues with Alfred Schulz on the new episode of Political Beats. Dig the groovy beat here.

8. At Constitutionally Speaking, Jay and Luke commence Part One of a three-episode miniseries on Federalism. They deep dive into America’s first political party, which governed for the first twelve years under the Constitution, then collapsed entirely. Listen up here.

The Six

1. At City Journal, Victor Davis Hanson counsels Coronavirus humility. From the essay:

With new draconian measures of containment, we are entering the realm of cost-benefit analyses, given that for every drastic action there is an equally radical reaction—calibrated by everything from physical and mental health issues to economic, financial, security, legal, and political upheavals. Whether we like it or not, the current sweeping measures to curb the virus come at a huge cost—and the tab isn’t just financial or economic, as is sometimes alleged, by both advocates and critics of quarantines, cancellations, and radical social distancing. It involves health issues as well.

If the country goes into a serious recession or even depression; if trillions of dollars more of investment and liquidity continue to be wiped out while businesses crash and jobs are lost; if millions of unemployed cut back on their scheduled health care; if they increase their use of drugs, alcohol, or tobacco, and get less exercise and suffer depression holed up in their homes or must borrow or scramble to find daycare for their school-age children; if they even contemplate suicide—then the human toll spikes in concrete terms of life and death. In the long term, arming ourselves against the virus could be as serious as the virus itself, though to suggest that in these dark days of plague is heresy.

It’s easy to criticize decisions, speeches, news conferences, or commentaries of our policymakers. Mistakes abound and are evident; wise choices are rarely recognized and appreciated. But every tough decision made about the pandemic hinges on finding some perfect, but largely unknown, mean to limit impoverishment, illness, and death. We have relatively recent examples both of failures of doing too much and of too little.

2. At The New Criterion, Heather MacDonald laments the out-of-proportion response to the Coronavirus. From the critique:

Compared to what? That should be the question that every fear-mongering news story on the coronavirus has to start with. So far, the United States has seen forty-one deaths from the infection. Twenty-two of those deaths occurred in one poorly run nursing home outside of Seattle, the Life Care Center. Another nine deaths occurred in the rest of Washington state, leaving ten deaths (four in California, two in Florida, and one in each of Georgia, Kansas, New Jersey, and South Dakota) spread throughout the rest of the approximately 329 million residents of the United States. This represents roughly .000012 percent of the U.S. population.

Much has been made of the “exponential” rate of infection in European and Asian countries—as if the spread of all transmittable diseases did not develop along geometric, as opposed to arithmetic, growth patterns. What actually matters is whether or not the growing “pandemic” overwhelms our ability to ensure the well-being of U.S. residents with efficiency and precision. But fear of the disease, and not the disease itself, has already spoiled that for us. Even if my odds of dying from coronavirus should suddenly jump ten-thousand-fold, from the current rate of .000012 percent across the U.S. population all the way up to .12 percent, I’d happily take those odds over the destruction being wrought on the U.S. and global economy from this unbridled panic.

By comparison, there were 38,800 traffic fatalities in the United States in 2019, the National Safety Council estimates. That represents an average of over one hundred traffic deaths every day; if the press catalogued these in as much painstaking detail as they have deaths from coronavirus, highways nationwide would be as empty as New York subways are now. Even assuming that coronavirus deaths in the United States increase by a factor of one thousand over the year, the resulting deaths would only outnumber annual traffic deaths by 2,200. Shutting down highways would have a much more positive effect on the U.S. mortality rate than shutting down the U.S. economy to try to prevent the spread of the virus.

3. At Commentary, Rob Long crosses the intersection of Hollywood and Virus. From the piece:

Hollywood still operates on what we might call the Leni Riefenstahl model: If you want to project power, better be prepared to put on a show. From the icy and theatrical lobbies of the major talent agencies to the endless series of Long Marches down the awards-show red carpet, the various power centers of the entertainment business spend considerable time and money marshaling crowds. Oscar hopefuls throw lavish dinners and parties to woo Academy voters. Television networks stage theatrical extravaganzas—the “Upfronts”—every spring to introduce advertisers to their fall season premieres. Movie premieres still require worldwide press junkets—flights to Paris and Rome and Singapore and Dubai—each with a party and paparazzi and deluxe gift bags for the press. There are still major film markets at Cannes and Berlin and Toronto. Amazon and Netflix—two enterprises you’d assume would be immune to this kind of excess—are enthusiastic and visible presences at film festivals like TriBeCa and Sundance.

People in the entertainment business aren’t stupid. Let me rephrase that: People in the entertainment business aren’t stupid about money. They are perfectly capable of noticing that the old, expensive ways of doing business no longer suit a streaming, on-demand world. No television network, for instance, wants to forgo the annual, pointless Upfront pageant—a holdover from the era of three broadcasting networks and fall television premieres that coincided with the introduction of Detroit’s new models. It’s not that they don’t realize it’s all a waste of time. They just don’t want to go first.

And now they don’t have to. COVID-19 is doing it for them.

4. At Gatestone Institute, Gordon Chang says China’s real disease is . . . communism. From the piece:

President Donald J. Trump, in his Rose Garden press conference the next day, March 13, downplayed the overtly hostile messages. He first noted his conversations with Chinese ruler Xi Jinping and then said, referring to Chinese leaders, “they know where it came from.”

Actually, it is worse if Chinese officials in fact knew where the coronavirus originated. In this case, these officials, by going out of their way to blame the U.S., were demonstrating once again the inherent hostility of their system to America.

Unfortunately, Beijing cannot be deterred. The U.S. State Department on March 13 summoned Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai to protest the foreign ministry’s disinformation campaign. Despite the warning, the Chinese ambassador to South Africa, Lin Songtian, on March 16 continued to promote the coronavirus-not-originated-in-China theory, with a tweet.

From here, it looks as if relations are only going to deteriorate. For one thing, Beijing’s official Xinhua News Agency has been threatening to cut off “medical supplies,” “plunging” America into a “mighty sea of coronavirus.”

Beijing has, according to Trump’s trade advisor Peter Navarro, already nationalized one American factory making medical masks. Moreover, Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo on air repeatedly said the Chinese forced at least one ship carrying masks, gloves, and other protective gear to the United States to return to China.

5. At The American Conservative, Bill Gertz profiles the rat finks who constitute Germany’s hard Left. From the article:

Germany remains a political barometer for Europe. Following the happenings in Berlin and the 16 German state governments can give you a good idea of where the continent will be heading. During the sovereign debt crisis, German criticism of the euro as a common currency opened the floodgates for mainstream opposition (that ultimately did not substantiate). Chancellor Angela Merkel’s “Wir schaffen das!” (“we can do this!”) approach to the refugee crisis came to define the political division between those EU member states that were permissive and those—mostly in Central and Eastern Europe—that were not.

A few weeks ago, the German liberal democrats (FDP) took a lot of flack for accepting a local state presidency election win in Thüringen, which was made possible through the votes of the far-right “AFD Alternative für Deutschland” (Alternative for Germany). In an article for TAC in April 2017, I laid out how disconcerting the AFD really is and how far-right figures were able to take what was initially a project of fiscal and monetary policy reform and transform it into a pack of reactionary and bigoted trolls. Amid sinking poll numbers and intraparty criticism, the FDP backed down, dismissing all AFD support. Temporarily, the far-left “Die Linke” now holds the presidency in Thüringen.

However, Die Linke’s legitimization is a strange and historic occurrence in Germany. The party is the successor to the East German communist party SED, which tortured political opponents and bankrupted the country. Over 200 East German refugees were killed by border guards in efforts to get to the West.

The East German regime was equally known for its discrimination against the LGBT community. Homosexuality was considered a result of “the decadence of the bourgeoisie” and became a target of the regime. One 1990s study commissioned by the Berlin Senate found that the East German Ministry of State for Security (MfS) used the so-called Rosa Listen (“pink lists”) to keep records of over 4,000 homosexual men and women. The same lists had been used by the Nazis’ secret police in order to arrest and intern homosexuals. On the basis of these lists, gays in East Germany were systematically harassed, criminalized, and declared ill.

On this alone, you’d think that Die Linke would have distanced itself from the East German dictatorship. That is not the case.

6. At The College Fix, Christian Schneider contemplates whether the Coronavirus will pop the higher-ed bubble. From the commentary:

Of course, “distance learning” is nothing new. According to data collected by the National Center for Education Statistics, 34.7 percent of all American college students took at least one online class in fall of 2018, up from 33.1 percent the year before. Nearly 40 percent of graduate students currently take at least some of their classes online.

But when large universities shift their course offerings online during a global pandemic, it might get students wondering – why would they continue to pay exorbitant fees for dorms, meal plans, and parking, when they can get the same instruction sitting at home in front of their computers?

Once a large university proves it can provide a reasonable facsimile of its course offerings without the enormous expense, students may start to demand they do so.

College affordability and student debt are two of the most pressing issues to young Americans today – they would no doubt look favorably at any arrangement that allows them a way to finish a college degree without significantly hamstringing their economic futures.

Naturally, for many students, the true benefit of college isn’t what they learn in classrooms, but the experience they have being crammed into a campus with people with whom they wouldn’t normally cross paths. In a strictly online environment, socialization would be fractured – the friendships students gain would vanish, as would all the memories of parties, all-night study sessions, and dorm life.

BONUS ONE: At Real Clear Investigations, Richard Bernstein finds Walmart has become infused with wokeness. From the beginning of the piece:

The gender identity movement has spread from elite bastions of higher learning such as Harvard and Wesleyan to the Walmart nearest you. The giant retailer announced this month that it will allow employees to wear buttons that declare their preferred pronouns. The choices are He/Him/His, She/Her/Hers, and They/Them/Their. Those who prefer Ze/Zir, Mx, or some other variant can wear the “Ask me my pronoun” button, presumably aimed at customers who feel the need to know their salesperson’s or cashier’s gender identity.

Walmart’s move is the latest sign of how “preferred pronouns” have taken root the United States, Canada, Britain, and some non-English speaking countries. In France, for example, some people are proposing using “iel” or “ille” ‒ a combination of the masculine “il” and the feminine “elle,” to refer to non-binary people. In the United States, it’s becoming normal practice for schools and colleges, hospitals, media, and government and corporate offices to use the singular “they” or other recently coined pronouns.

IBM is among the companies that allow employees to specify their preferred pronoun in their human resource files. Forbes magazine reports on a move to encourage everybody to use them in email signatures ‒ a good thing, as one advocate of the practice said, because, “it normalizes discussions about gender.”

Establishment institutions, from the Associated Press and The New York Times to the American Psychological Association and the New York City Commission on Human Rights, are endorsing the use of “they” in the singular to refer to individuals who may be transgender or just do not identify as either male or female. The Merriam-Webster dictionary named “they” the Word of the Year for 2019, meaning that it was the most looked-up word on the organization’s website (“quid pro quo” and “impeach” were in second and third places).

“The singular they and its many supporters have won, and it’s here to stay,” Jen Manion, an associate professor of history at Amherst College, wrote approvingly in a recent op-ed in The Los Angeles Times.

BONUS TWO: At Fox News, Barnini Chakraborty shines the spotlight on Red China’s efforts to smear Uncle Sam. From the article:

The Chinese government has already published a book in English — with translations in the works in French, Spanish, Russian and Arabic — touting its handling of the deadly disease.

A Battle Against Epidemic: China Combatting COVID-19 in 2020” is a mishmash of glowing state media reports on the accomplishments of President Xi Jinping, the Communist Party and the dominance of the Chinese system in fighting the crisis.

At best, China’s aggressive new campaign can be chalked up to ambitious propaganda.  At its worst, it’s a reckless display from a country that has actively misled the world while working overtime to save its own skin, foreign affairs expert Gordon G. Chang told Fox News.

Chang believes Beijing has been laying the groundwork for a PR attack against the United States for more than a month, first by throwing doubt on the origin of COVID-19 and second, by slamming America’s handling of previous diseases like the swine flu, which decimated China’s pork industry.

Baseballery

It’s good to resort to one of baseball’s most colorful figures, Bobo Newsom, for any reason in these precincts, and with this section’s temporary interest in two-player continuums, a guy whose career spanned 24 seasons — Bobo threw his first pitch in 1929 for the Brooklyn Robins and his last in 1953 for the Philadelphia Athletics — is an excellent candidate for one of the duo slots. And Bobo was. His very first MLB appearance came on September 11, 1929, at Cincinnati’s Redland Field, against the 7th-place Reds.

Behind 3–1 in the top of the 7th, Bobo was pulled for a pinch hitter — Rube Bresler, a one-time pitcher who converted to the outfield (he had a .301 career average over 19 seasons). Rube smacked a single, and long-time Brooklyn manager Wilbert Robinson yanked him for a pinch-runner, the aging but fleet Max Carey, who had led the NL in stolen bases 10 times over his 20-year career (he held the NL career record until 1974), with 1929 being his last rodeo. The future Hall of Famer (inducted in 1961) would play in just three more games before retiring the spikes.

We designate him the initial part of the Bobo tag team. Carey’s very first game came 19 years earlier, on an October afternoon in St. Louis, the 20-year-old kid from Terre Haute starting in left field for the third-place Pirates (the defending 1909 World Series champs), playing in the same lineup as the great Honus Wagner. It must have been a thrill. Carey garnered a single, a triple, and a walk in four plate appearances, not a shabby start for anyone.

Between the former Robins teammates’ alpha and omega — Carey’s 1910 debut and Bobo’s 1953 sayonara — were 43 years of baseball’s golden era. And then there is this continuum quirk: In Bobo’s final game — a one-inning relief appearance on September 17 against the Cleveland Indians — the man backing him up at first base for the Athletics was Eddie Robinson, who as this is typed remains the game’s oldest living former player. He turns 100 on December 15, 2020.

A Dios

Maybe it is fitting that the anxieties that have so grabbed and shaken our country and world come at this season of Lent, when prayerful thoughts of suffering receive greater attention for many. We papists have a Friday-night seasonal tradition of the Stations of the Cross, and the loneliness of the Second Station, in which Jesus is forced to carry His cross, is made vivid in the prayer of the congregation, who repeat verses from Isaiah 53:

Who would believe what we have heard? To whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up like a sapling before him, like a shoot from the parched earth; there was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him, no appearance that would attract us to him. He was rejected and avoided by men, a man of suffering accustomed to infirmity, one of those from whom men turned away, and we held him in no esteem.

It is tough to embrace this, all while knowing that worse things are to come, for the Nazarean — still to be hung on the cross — and maybe for our society, as we await some medical peak, as we risk economic mayhem. But then comes this too: the spiritual assurance that things much better will follow. Even the guy next to him on the cross got a ticket to Paradise.

We must be people of hope. After all, despair, as Bill Buckley always taught and cautioned, is a sin.

My old pal Marty, the boxing trainer, counsels his pugilist tribe, and anyone who might hear his blue-language bromides, to stand together and to remember always this: “The worst punch you will ever get hit with is the one you think you’ll get hit with and never comes.” So let us all put up dukes and take punches, maybe even throw a few, and later join those same dukes in prayer, asking the Ancient of Days for strength, wisdom, and fortitude.

May God’s Graces Shower You and Those You Love, Providing Strength,

Jack Fowler, who can abide your slings and arrows and right hooks at jfowler@nationalreview.com.

P.S.: All this done, methinks me’ll pop The Manchurian Candidate into the DVD player. Here’s the opening scene.

National Review

Whack for My Daddio There’s Hand Sanitizer in the Jar

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Dear Weekend Jolter,

No calamity of the elements ever kyboshed New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, which for the first time in 258 years has been cancelled: Next week’s promenade, like so many other gatherings, conferences, galas, semesters, and basketball and hockey games (even seasons), is a victim of Coronoavirus.

There was almost a precedent: The historic parade was nearly deep-sixed in 1917, when a monsoonish nor’easter swamped the city. Still, its hardy organizers ruled that a parade was to be had: Grand Marshall Patrick J. Collins, an expert horseman, led 50 mounted aides through a tempest, from 42nd Street to 50th Street and Madison Avenue, at the rear of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where, from behind the windows in his dry and warm residence, Cardinal John Farley and various churchmen blessed the soaked riders who comprised the measliest, smallest, shortest Paddy’s Day Parade ever.

What a distinction for poor P.J. Collins. What would he have thought of a great grandson who boasted of this 103 years later in some conservative missive? Well Great Gramps, little or big, drenched or dry, you were a parade Grand Marshall, and they can’t take that away from you. So let’s have a drink to that!

That blathered, there is plenty below about the biological badarse that has laid low unlucky victims and economies and traditions. What to do? Well, one thing — which would require an edit of some preceding verbiage — is to consider dubbing it the “Wuhan Virus,” if only to remind the world permanently 1. of its geographical origins, and 2. that it was China’s commie-fink leaders who abetted its spread. If only the sentiments of this institution’s leader, Rich Lowry, prevail. From his column:

There is no doubt that a raging virus that got its start in China and has shut all of Italy and caused disruption and fear around the world may create negative ­associations around China. This would happen regardless of the name, though.

Chinese officials still want to squelch the use of “Wuhan virus,” whereas Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is perfectly content to refer to the virus that way.

Such international contention over the name of a virus or disease isn’t new. Syphilis was the Neapolitan disease, the French disease, or the Polish disease, depending on who was naming it. The 1918 influenza came to be known as “the Spanish flu,” ­although Spaniards called it “the French flu.”

There was actually no good reason for naming the flu after the Spanish. The case of China is different. Its government tried to suppress warnings about the new coronavirus and looked the other way, giving it the room to become a national and then a global crisis.

China deserves to be connected to the virus it did more than its share to loose on the world, no matter what its foreign ministry or the sensitivity police say.

OK, now before we get on with the Weekend Jolt, recommended viewing — keeping with the theme of these days — might be Panic In The Streets, which is one of Elia Kazan’s lesser-known films, but so what: as for seeing it, you just gotta. Starring Richard Widmark (one of his best performances), Paul Douglas, Barbara Bel Geddes, Jack Palance, and Zero Mostel, it’s set in New Orleans’ stultifying grit, oozing film noir stink and sweat, and tells the story of the race to prevent a pneumonic plague outbreak, sparked by some petty hoods and lowlifes.

Yep, keeping with the theme of these days. Okey dokey, dive into the WJ, which may be best read while you sip from a Jug of Punch.

Editorials

1. Too late to get into the last WJ, we tomahawked Elizabeth Warren for excusing her failed presidential bid on dudes and their patriarchal prejudice. From the editorial:

Elizabeth Warren cannot believe that she was defeated by the campaigns of Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders — she insists, instead, that she was defeated by their testes.

We sympathize, truly. It is difficult to believe, and must be tough to accept, that any barely competent political operation could be defeated by the steadiness and freshness of Joe Biden or by the suavity and wide-ranging appeal of Bernie Sanders. And Senator Warren likes to think of herself as more than barely competent but omnicompetent, competence personified — “competence incarnate,” as Megan Garber calls her in The Atlantic. Those who have watched Senator Warren campaign (awkwardly) or try to triangulate a health-care program (beseechingly) or explain away that weird Cherokee-princess stuff (cringe-inducingly) might be forgiven for doubting this particular incarnation.

Of course, the explanation must be sexism. It can’t be Russian trolls on Facebook — this is the Democratic primary we are talking about here! Senator Warren says it is sexism, her amen corner in the media says it is sexism, all right-thinking people say it is sexism — and what this says about Democratic-primary voters is of some interest.

2. We take issue with the President’s handling of the Coronavirus outbreak, and encourage some actions. From the editorial:

The virus looks likely to be the most serious acute public-health crisis Americans have had to face at home in decades. It is still spreading at exponential rates. Fatality rates are much higher than the flu and other familiar bugs, particularly for older people. There is no vaccine for the time being. The character of its spread and symptoms threatens to gradually overwhelm the capacity of health systems in affected areas, leaving them short of hospital beds and respirators to treat the most seriously afflicted patients and so dramatically increasing the risks to them. The most effective ways to mitigate this danger involve forms of social distancing that require everyone (not just those at greatest risk) to engage in measures like canceling events, limiting travel, and avoiding public places — measures that cannot help but seem extreme in our free society. That these expedients are necessary and appropriate is increasingly clear and yet difficult to explain to the public.

All of this means that the administration faces an enormous challenge, that its successes are likely to be largely invisible, and that its failures cannot help but be magnified. Therefore, we should go out of our way to acknowledge some of the capable people throughout the chain of command doing their best in very difficult circumstances. They have failed in some respects and have succeeded in others. They will do more of both, but there is reason to think they will learn from their errors and step up to the challenge.

At the same time, however, it is important that the president’s defenders not be blinded by partisanship of their own into excusing failures of leadership and diminishing the danger of the epidemic itself. This can be particularly difficult because some of the most significant inadequacies of the administration have been the president’s own. So far in this crisis, Donald Trump himself has obviously failed to rise to the challenge of leadership, and it does no one any favors to pretend otherwise.

A Myriad of Suggestions, 18 in Fact, Each One Better than the Next, of NRO Reports and Commentaries to Nourish Your Mind and Soul

1. More from Rich Lowry: A powerful column on how Trump’s political supporters and nationalists have botched a n obvious moment. From the piece:

Relatedly, it is globalization and increased interconnectedness that have been a key vector for the spread of the virus.

It is the so-called Deep State, the vast apparatus that runs the federal bureaucracy, that played a big role in botching the initial testing here.

The New York Times ran a maddening account of a Seattle-area research project that wanted to test for the coronavirus early. But it got told “no” repeatedly by federal agencies that had a pettifogging commitment to senseless rules — the project was using the wrong kind of labs, the test didn’t have FDA approval, patient privacy could be violated, etc.

It is global supply chains that have increased the vulnerability of the U.S. if the virus runs out of control, with China manufacturing a large share of medicines for the U.S., and other countries beginning to hold on to the masks and protective gear that they make.

Finally, it is the government that will have to organize the U.S. response, not the free market that populist nationalists argue is overemphasized by conservatives and libertarians.

Nonetheless, Trump supporters on talk radio, on cable TV, and on Twitter have gone down rabbit holes of denial rather than reacting to a threat that should be in their wheelhouse with tools congenial to them.

There are honorable exceptions. Senator Tom Cotton, the Arkansas Republican, is a China hawk attuned to the full spectrum of foreign threats who was warning of the coronavirus when the country — or at least the media — was still obsessed with impeachment. Tucker Carlson, too, has been full-throated about the potential dangers from the beginning.

2. The Old Gray Mare she ain’t what she used to be. Indeed, she — and in the case of Joe Biden, a he — never really was. Dan McLaughlin looks at the history of candidates who are coated in Old Warhorse No. 5. They stink. From the analysis:

By contrast, parties looking to unseat an incumbent have settled before on Biden-style “old warhorse” candidates, and lost. John Kerry in 2004, Bob Dole in 1996, and Walter Mondale in 1984 are the classic examples of this type of campaign. Adlai Stevenson in 1956 and Tom Dewey in 1948 were rerun candidates who lost to an incumbent, as was Bryan in 1900. John McCain in 2008 and Hubert Humphrey in 1968 were both old warhorses who failed to hold the White House a third time for their parties. The most encouraging parallels for Biden in modern elections would be the two former vice presidents to win the big job: George H. W. Bush in 1988 and Richard Nixon in 1968. The 1988 election, however, was a choice for continuity.

Nixon is the one example of a familiar face campaigning on an end to chaos. He urged a “Silent Majority” to trust him to handle Vietnam, race riots, campus protests, and assassinations. But even Nixon won in a three-way race (with a Democratic governor splitting his party’s vote) against a party trying to hold the White House for a third time after the incumbent, Lyndon Johnson, withdrew in defeat from his own party primaries. Like Clinton, Nixon still got only 43 percent of the popular vote.

Can Biden be the national unifying force that no prior candidate of his type was? Will that be enough to offset the continuing disaffection of the Sanders wing and the obvious lack of enthusiasm that a Biden campaign generates among younger voters and activists? In the age of Donald Trump, nothing is impossible, but in their search for electability, Democrats appear to be casting their lot with a type of candidate that has no real precedent for actually getting elected.

3. Similar: Victor Davis Hanson sees months of Biden blow-ups. From the piece:

Joe is not just folksy affable Joe, but rather a thin-skinned bully, as we know from his lies about the tragic circumstances of his first wife’s death, as well as the idea that his 77 is any way analogous to other septuagenarians in the race. Biden’s problem, then, is not that he is 77 per se, but that he is a different sort of 7o-something than Sanders at 78 or Trump at 73.

Many are perplexed over why the Democrats, after trashing Joe Biden for a year and often quite cruelly questioning his mental clarity, have now rallied around him. Aside from the obvious answer that their erstwhile liberator from a Sanders disaster, multibillionaire Michael Bloomberg, proved to be as unpalatable in person as he had seemed persuasive in the monied abstract, they now have no other alternative.

The party apparently just needs to get Joe somehow across the election finish line, by curtailing the number and length of his appearances, and adding novelty to the ticket by picking in advance some of his cabinet members who could fan out and act as surrogate campaigners.

Conspiracy theorists have added that Joe Biden will soon announce his VP choice, and it will be either a minority or female selection or both, and likely from the field of failed presidential candidates, thereby solving two problems at once: If Biden wins, his young energetic running mate will presumably be fast-tracked into the presidency in a manner that would not have been likely given that this person would never have been nominated much less elected; if Biden selects a “diversity candidate,” it’s apt to allay fears of a rudderless centrist administration. The Democratic vice-presidential selection this year is a way to square the circle of two old white finalists railing about the need for diversity and the tyranny of white privilege; it’s also a de facto nominee for president.

4. Senator Tom Cotton says that Joe Biden is the man China wants to see in the White House. From the piece:

Now Biden’s back on the campaign trail, and no one could be more thrilled than the Chinese Communist Party. (A Forbes headline last year summed up the situation well: “Joe Biden Is the Only Man Who Can Save China in 2020.”) Biden’s announcement of his campaign alone was enough to encourage Beijing suddenly to take a harder line on trade negotiations with the Trump administration. As Biden’s star seemed to fade, China suddenly got easier to deal with, striking a “Phase 1” deal with us in January. It’s a safe prediction that they are about to take a tougher line again. Meanwhile, Biden offers gems like these on the campaign trail. From May: “China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man. They’re not bad folks, folks. But guess what? They’re not competition for us.” And just the next month: “Our workers are literally three times as productive as workers . . . in Asia. So what are we worried about?”

I’ve worked extensively with Democrats on China — with Chuck Schumer on cracking down on Chinese fentanyl trafficking, with Chris Van Hollen and numerous others on Huawei’s threat to the world’s telecommunications infrastructure. I don’t exactly hear Biden hammering on these important issues on the campaign trail. And when a few weeks ago President Trump acted to impose travel restrictions on China as a consequence of its abysmal handling of the Wuhan coronavirus, Biden was right there and ready to act as Beijing’s lawyer, slamming the policy as “hysterical xenophobia.” Now, even the New York Times concedes that these measures bought the United States valuable time to prepare for an epidemic.

5. Wesley Smith reports on the ghoul — Ezekiel Emanuel — who Joe Biden has tapped to be his Coronavirus guru. From the piece:

Joe Biden has announced the creation of a “Public Health Advisory Committee,” consisting of Democratic experts to advise him about how to best grapple with the coronavirus during the campaign. Okay. Good public-health practices are worthy goals for any candidate.

But I don’t think receiving such information requires the naming of a big-name board and a major press announcement. Rather, it seems to me that the committee’s true purpose is to be a “shadow” task force that will second guess the Trump administration’s actions to the media and strive to make Biden appear presidential in the face of the threat. If so, this is politics at its most cynical and could inhibit effective public response to the ongoing panic by creating a competing center of information and communication. The unnecessary speech Biden made about not shaking hands or hugging anymore — and the press response thereto — backs up my suspicion.

The bioethicist Ezekiel Emanuel — a prime architect of Obamacare — is the most famous person on the committee. Why is that important? Emanuel made headlines a few years ago by writing in The Atlantic that he wants to die at age 75 — younger than Joe Biden is today — and he thinks we should want that too.

6. Joe Biden’s Second Amendment outburst should not dissuade you, says David Harsanyi, from believing that the prospective Dem nominee wants to take away your guns. From the analysis:

Biden, after all, has repeatedly demonstrated that he has zero comprehension of either the purpose or importance of the Second Amendment. Whether your sons are “hunters” or not is completely irrelevant in this conversation. And just as “yelling fire” is protected by the Constitution, so is owning an “AR-14.”

(Let’s also take a moment to note that Biden is such a champion of the Second Amendment that not only can’t he get rudimentary gun facts right, almost everything he says on the matter is fatuous. A few week ago he was telling a cheering crowd that 150 million Americans had been murdered on the streets of the United States by firearms since 2007. This was about week after his silly rant noting that revolutionary AK-47-wielding Americans would be slaughtered by F-15s.)

The man in the video — whose name I wish I knew — is right. Biden supports every single serious national effort to restrict gun rights, all of them part of a concerted effort to incrementally terminate civilian gun ownership in the United States. It’s all right there on his campaign issues page. When CNN asked Biden what he had to say to gun owners who claimed that “a Biden Administration means they’re going to come for my guns,” he answered, “Bingo, you’re right if you have an assault weapon.”

7. Charlie Cooke watches the Biden outburst and cautions, beware. From the piece:

If I were a Democrat, this would alarm me. Biden’s behavior here is extraordinary, especially given that he is currently previewing the “return to normalcy” theme that he intends to run on in November. One might think that telling a voter that he is “full of s***” and that you will “slap them” matters less than it usually would given that Donald Trump is in the White House. But, arguably, the opposite is true. Elections are about contrasts. If he is as belligerent and ill-disciplined as the incumbent, what is Biden’s case for replacing him?

In this instance, the answer seems to be that, unlike Trump, Biden will usher in stricter gun control. But that, too, should alarm Democrats. If Biden now has a reputation as a champion of gun confiscation — and if construction workers in Michigan are asking him about it, it suggests he does — he is going to have a hard time winning back the voters that Trump peeled away from the Obama coalition. Barack Obama didn’t say much about guns at all until his second term had begun, and, once he did, he presided over the loss of the Senate, the loss of the White House, and a record-breaking period of civilian firearms sales. Judging by their rhetoric, Democrats seem to believe that the center of gravity has changed on this question since then. But the evidence for this is scant. The State of Virginia is run solely by Democrats — Democrats who were bankrolled by Michael Bloomberg and who promised to pass restrictive gun control as their first priority. They failed, and sparked a massive backlash in the process. Do we think the playing field looks different in Michigan?

8. The Coronavirus, says globe-trotting Bruno Maçães, exposes a clash of civilizations. From the piece:

The outbreak has exposed other divides. As I traveled in increasingly empty planes, one thought kept returning: How notable that we are all together in this, and yet every society seems to deal with the epidemic in its own distinctive way. One of the main divides was between the developed and the developing world. It explained the seriousness in Asia. If poverty and disease are a daily presence or at most two or three generations behind you, you are predisposed to accept that your world can suddenly collapse. The question that Americans and Europeans ask themselves — How was this allowed to happen? — makes less sense than the question of how to survive and how to protect your loved ones.

The subtle changes of political climate and mores that political thinkers used to write about are suddenly very relevant. I wondered if social mores explained why some countries and not others became hotspots of the infection. As the news from Wuhan started to arrive, I thought of my previous visits to the city: the crowded restaurants serving crayfish, the long meals around the hotpot, the communal living, and the chaos of the wholesale seafood market. But it was not just China. Southern Europeans greet themselves with one or two kisses. Iranians spend time crowded together during daily prayer. Perhaps these were factors, but then the response was no less colored by cultural differences.

At present the most hopeful news about our ability to defeat the epidemic comes from what could roughly be called the Confucian cosmopolis. Singapore flirted with disaster at the beginning but quickly recovered. Vietnam has shown a remarkable ability to contain the spread, and South Korea has proven capable of conducting as many as 10,000 tests per day and has built testing clinics that can detect the coronavirus cases in just ten minutes. Do these facts illustrate the benefits of a moral system that emphasizes duties before rights and places high value on the propriety of customs, measures, and rules as defined by the larger community?

Just yesterday I received an email from a Chinese university informing me that a conference planned for May will still go ahead. The author of the message took the opportunity to make the point that, by the time the conference takes place, China will be much safer than Europe or America. He then concluded with the pronouncement that the coronavirus has shown the Chinese model to be superior to the Western one. Chinese authorities complain that the epidemic has been politicized by those wanting to score points against the regime in China, but they are doing exactly the same. Coming at a time of great-power rivalry, the epidemic has provided the perfect backdrop for a renewed clash of civilizations.

9. Victor Davis Hanson sees the dangerous bug in terms of an armed enemy. From his column:

To a popular culture that laps up creepy zombie movies, the virus certainly knows how to use its greatest weapons: fright and panic. As of early this week, the relatively lightweight bug had killed fewer than 30 Americans. But we seem to be acting as if it has already killed 200,000 of us.

If COVID-19 can create fear that we will end up like the grotesque monsters on television, perhaps we, its enemy, will go on hoarding binges that result in shortages of masks, gloves, and supplies for the health providers who need them most.

Or, if the virus can scare us enough that we cease working and interacting, our canceled-out economy will grind to a halt.

Or maybe the coronavirus can cleverly keep hopping on jets between countries and states, sowing dissension as nations blame one other for its creation and contagion, and politicians seek to destroy each other rather than band together to kill the virus.

COVID-19 counts on globalization as it sneaks onto jets and ships. In a few hours, it can find a new home and new hosts to terrify — even thousands of miles away.

It is a vengeful enemy. It knows we have killed off or rendered impotent most of its fellow viruses. Its cousin, the flu, has not since 1918 translated its annual tactical wins into a strategic pandemic victory.

10. Great question Marion Smith: Why do global medical institutions trust the organ-harvesting madmen in China? From the analysis:

The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation highlights this in a new report on China’s organ-harvesting system, released Tuesday. Drawing from internal and public Chinese archives and sources — many unearthed and translated for the first time — as well as undercover investigations, the report shows that none of Beijing’s explanations about where it obtains organs are credible. The report is authored by Matthew P. Robertson, a published scholar who has studied this issue both inside and outside China for nearly a decade and whose work using statistical forensics has previously demonstrated the falsification of Chinese organ-donor-registry data by the Chinese Communist Party.

Beijing has claimed since 2015 that all organs come from voluntary deceased donors. But the growth of the voluntary figures is highly questionable — rising from 34 in 2010 to 6,316 in 2016 — and follows a quadratic equation to the 99.9 percent level. Nor does it make sense that China can provide organs on demand, often within hours or days, from such a small population. Only forced organ harvesting of blood-typed prisoners can meet that timeline.

The report also shows that China transplants far more organs than authorities admit. Some 173 Chinese hospitals are currently authorized to do transplants, yet just ten hospitals account for nearly 14,000 annual procedures. The total number of transplants is likely at least several times larger. Beijing is falsifying both the number and the source of the organs it sells for profit.

11. Cory Booker, writes John Hirschauer, was the coulda nominee. From the analysis:

In one sense, the contrast between Booker and Biden could not be clearer. Booker, for all of his insipid theatrics as a senator — from the “I am Spartacus” gambit to the “tears of rage” performance — is a young, capable politician in control of his faculties. He is also a black man in a party eager to project diversity. Biden, by contrast, is an old white man who can hardly finish a paragraph without slurring his speech or succumbing to some cringe-inducing gaffe that betrays his cognitive decline.

In another sense, though, both Booker and Biden are ostensible “moderates” at a moment in which — if recent electoral results are to be believed — a significant faction of Democratic voters are hankering for a centrist figurehead.

Why did Booker fail where Biden succeeded? The Occam’s-razor explanation is probably the right one: Biden was Barack Obama’s vice president, while Booker has been an unremarkable senator with few legislative achievements.

But even with his inherent advantages, the former vice president’s vulnerabilities would be insurmountable in a normal primary cycle. His mental lapses — mistakenly declaring his candidacy for the Senate, calling the most popular rifle in America the “AR-14,” failing to remember the preamble to the Declaration of Independence — are less anomalous mistakes than a window into a receding mind, one that is poorly equipped to lead the free world, the current president’s relative fitness (or lack thereof) notwithstanding.

If Biden was eminently beatable, could Booker have beaten him? On paper, the New Jersey senator figured to be well primed to challenge Biden for the “moderate” vote. His heterodox views on school choice and relatively pro-business Senate record could have enamored him to centrist Democrats, who were resigned to a choice between an enfeebled septuagenarian, a small-time mayor, and a lamp-throwing senator with narrow appeal. But Booker, no doubt wary of being attacked as a moderate, Wall Street–friendly candidate in a field whose progressive wing included class warriors such as Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, chose to tack left, taking positions that made him appear unelectable to lunch-bucket Democrats more interested in lowering health-care costs than in upending the patriarchy.

12. How did Bernie Sanders lose the white working-class vote? Dan McLaughlin explains. From the beginning of the analysis:

Bernie Sanders’s 16-point loss to Joe Biden in the Michigan primary came almost four years to the day after Sanders’s stunning upset of Hillary Clinton in Michigan on March 8, 2016, which became the most important moment of Sanders’s 2016 campaign. Michigan was the first really large state to Feel the Bern. Hillary’s weakness with white working-class voters in Michigan, which took pollsters by complete surprise, would take them by complete surprise again on Election Day in November.

White working-class voters were the essential element in transforming the youthful-activist “Bernie Bro” base into a coalition strong enough in 2016 to win not only Michigan but Wisconsin, Indiana, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Maine, West Virginia, Rhode Island, and a bushel of Western states, and run a very close second in Illinois, Missouri, Massachusetts, Kentucky, Connecticut, Iowa, and South Dakota. Most, but not all, of Bernie’s 2016 wins were by lopsided margins: his only 2016 victories by less than double digits were Michigan (49.8 percent to 48.3 percent), Indiana (52.5 percent to 47.5 percent), and Montana (51 percent to 44.6 percent).

Last night, Sanders proved unable to reprise that victory against Biden. Biden’s easy wins in Michigan and Missouri, his upset win in Idaho, and a too-close-to-call result at this writing in Washington spell the end of any realistic prospect that Sanders can win the nomination. This is not simply a matter of Biden’s headline strength with African-American voters. It also shows a wider weakness with the white working-class voters who carried Bernie to so many 2016 wins. Sanders has now lost five states to Biden that he won last time: Michigan, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Maine, and Idaho. What happened?

13. Madeleine Kearns, reporting from the front lines, sees the Trans Police are determined to criminalize “Conversion Therapy.” From the piece:

But what is conversion therapy?

As is often the case, politics is making us dumber, and there is a crucial distinction being lost here. Whether it is ethical, in a therapeutic context, to try to change the erotic preferences of an adult patient — a homosexual who desires to be heterosexual — is a debate, and one that many would probably prefer to avoid. Whether it is ethical, in therapy, or indeed in medicine, to try to change the material sex of a child or an adolescent who believes himself to be of the opposite sex — that’s another debate, and one that we must have.

The first debate appears to be settled. Ever since it was coined in the early 1990s, the term “conversion therapy” or “reparative therapy” has been used to discredit politically conservative and religiously motivated therapists offering treatment to unhappy adult homosexuals. At the time, clinicians expressed concerns about the ethics and effectiveness of such treatment; soon it was viewed, by consensus, as well outside the mainstream of therapeutic practice. The thinking behind this was that sexual orientation was an immutable trait (though a recent large-scale genetics study is less certain in its conclusions). Trying to change a person’s sexual orientation, even if it was a source of angst, would be not only futile but potentially harmful. In considering religiously and ideologically motivated therapies, especially given how homosexuals have been treated by health professionals historically, one can easily understand these concerns.

14. Stephen Moore and Phil Kerpen lament about the new Wall Street-preferring SEC regulations on ETFs. From the beginning of the analysis:

Deregulation has been one of the great Trump-administration success stories. So why does the Securities and Exchange Commission want more cumbersome rules that will restrict investor choices? A new 456-page SEC rule restricts the availability of a subset of Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs), specifically those that offer returns that are the inverse or a multiple — double or triple — of a reference index. Inverse funds go up when the market goes down — which has been handy lately. Leveraged funds track their indexes with a multiple of two or three.

These ETFs are popular because they are low-cost, transparent, and well-regulated funds that can be used to reduce risk in a portfolio or to gain exposure to an index with less cash. They are generally straightforward in their names and descriptions, and hardly mislead investors.

Yet Trump-appointed SEC chairman Jay Clayton — along with the two commissioners who are Democrats has proposed requiring brokers and advisers to “exercise due diligence” before allowing a customer to buy one of these ETFs. At a minimum, the SEC would require the broker or adviser to determine the customer’s investment objectives, time horizon, employment status, estimated income, estimated total net worth, estimated liquid net worth, percent of liquid net worth intended to be invested, and investment experience and knowledge — which the SEC suggests would include years, size, frequency, and types of transactions involving stocks, bonds, commodities, options, and other financial instruments.

15. This Jay Nordlinger tribute to NR friend and philanthropist Martha Apgar is an unrivaled remembrance. From the piece:

She and her siblings, Bob and Louise, grew up in the Hotel Putnam, which their parents owned and operated. It “catered to the carriage trade,” as Martha would say. I teased her that the staff would stoop over to lace her shoes every morning. Alternatively, I teased her that she was a savage out of the orange groves, shoeless.

Either line would do.

One December, Martha sent me a tin, saying, “Merry Christmas. Enjoy Jill’s shortbread.” Jill? She was a lady from Britain. During the war, Martha’s mother, Sarah, scooped up the leftover soap at the hotel and sent it to our British cousins. She did this through the Red Cross. The Brits were experiencing a severe soap shortage. Sarah’s contact, on the other side, was Jill.

After the war, they became fast friends, visiting each other. Jill made shortbread, which wowed one and all. She shared the recipe.

About ten years ago, on a National Review cruise, I met a lady from Lakeland, Fla. “I know Lakeland!” I said. The lady asked, “How?” “Because I’m from Michigan,” I said, “and that’s where the Detroit Tigers hold spring training.” She then told me that, when she was a little girl, her parents worked in a hotel. One year, Hank Greenberg — the great Tiger star of the 1930s — presented them with a pair of roller skates, to give to their daughter. His reasoning: “Every little girl ought to have a pair of roller skates.”

With excitement, I related this story to Martha, who was also on the cruise. She then dropped a bombshell on me: Lou Boudreau, the great shortstop of the Cleveland Indians, taught her to play ping-pong when he was staying at the Hotel Putnam.

I got the impression that all Florida ladies of a certain age had been benefited by baseball Hall of Famers.

16. Armond White takes a scalpel to Never Rarely Sometimes Always. From the review:

At the screening I attended of Never Rarely Sometimes Always, the scene where the matron at a local Pennsylvania health clinic presented a sonogram to pregnant teenager Autumn Callahan (Sidney Flanigan) and then kindly added, “Here’s your beautiful baby,” caused a female critic in the front row to blurt out “Bitch!”

That’s what we’re up against. Even a pro-abortion movie like this one, that indicates a minor character’s pro-life enthusiasm, risks a hostile reaction from an agent of our pro-abortion media (which predictably extols the film). Abortion zealots aren’t satisfied that director-writer Eliza Hittman portrays Autumn as a tormented innocent, unable to think through her situation. Autumn’s susceptibility to progressive culture’s influence, rather than nature, propels the film’s narrative. Hittman inducts Autumn into one side of the women’s-rights industry.

From the first scene, in which Autumn at her high-school talent show performs Ellie Greenwich’s song “He’s Got the Power,” she is presented as a victim of romanticized patriarchy. Rude schoolboys mock Autumn’s singing; plus, her father’s callousness is suspicious, as if suggesting incestuous envy or molester’s guilt. Only Autumn’s dreamy-eyed cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder) is sympathetic, displaying girlish truculence learned from working as a grocery-store clerk — crime comes easily to Skylar, who pilfers money from her cashier drawer to finance Autumn’s trip to a New York City abortionist. (What, no Planned Parenthood in Pennsylvania?)

17. Kyle Smith finds The Hunt has enough going for it to be hated by just about everyone. From the review:

As the trailer promised, The Hunt mocks the caviar-scarfing, NPR-listening, private jet-owning progs who run a nefarious ring that goes around the country kidnapping and drugging their perceived ideological enemies, who read as “Trump supporters” though Trump goes unmentioned. The prey wake up gagged and clueless in the countryside while the hunters lurk in the woods attacking them with booby traps, grenades, rifles, even bow and arrow. Sportingly, the Deplorables are provided with assault rifles and other good stuff with which to fight back, which is probably the least plausible detail of the opus and is provided solely because of the cinematic imperative that a turkey shoot is not very interesting to watch.

What the trailer didn’t tell us: In addition to being a (lame) satiric attack on bicoastal liberal plutocrats, The Hunt is also a (really lame) satiric attack on the Deplorables themselves, who are idiots and do things like attend rallies holding up signs reading, “Don’t Be Gay.” Har, har. Dialogue suggests the two screenwriters — Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof, who worked together on HBO’s Watchmen and The Leftovers — logged about three minutes on Breitbart and ten minutes on InfoWars picking up jargon they didn’t quite understand, then shoved all of this into the mouths of their red-state caricatures. The Deplorables spit fire at “Globalist elite liberal cucks” — er, fellas? That isn’t what “cuck” means. You can almost hear Lindelof and Cuse giggling offscreen as they trundle out one social-media cliche after another — “trigger warning,” “snowflake,” etc. Maybe Deplorables and Davosians should join forces and hunt down hack screenwriters trying to sell us the hottest buzzwords of four years ago.

By taking on both the woke Left and the Trumpist right, the movie winds up emphatically planting its flag in the . . . center-left. Ideologically speaking, that’s about as exciting as saying, “You know what I am? I’m a Bidenist.” The release date, the same week Joe wraps up the Democratic Party nomination, turns out to be auspicious. Meta-joke number one: This movie that was supposed to be about Trump wound up being about Biden.

18. More Kyle. He finds The Candidate and Bulworth to be two movies that define today’s Democrats. From the essay:

Both films are stories of Democrats running for the Senate in California, a state that holds a special place in Democratic dreams. The state on the far left of the continent was and is a progressive policy leader, a sunlit upland where liberal dreams come true, but it’s also the shadowy vista where the sun sets on unmet promises, where Robert Kennedy’s life ended and Ronald Reagan’s rise began. It’s a land of big dreams that die big deaths. It’s the ideal setting for the clash of ideal and compromise.

For many years, The Candidate (1972), which was directed in cinéma-réalité style by Michael Ritchie, was the preferred political parable of horse-race hacks, who thrilled to its once-novel sausage-factory cynicism. Today, cynicism about politics is so deeply entrenched that the film’s every “Aha!” became a “So what?” Robert Redford, also a producer of the film, is Bill McKay, a crusading young public-interest lawyer who has a frosty relationship with his father, John McKay (Melvyn Douglas), a former governor who represents staid Democratic-machine politics rather than the urgent new brand that flowered in 1968. Young McKay has no interest in political life (he has never even registered to vote), but a slick political operator (Peter Boyle) looking to make a buck coaxes him into running as a sacrificial lamb against the popular incumbent Republican, Crocker Jarmon. “Here’s your guarantee,” says Boyle’s Marvin Lucas, handing McKay a note saying, “YOU LOSE.” “You don’t have a chance, so say what you want.”

McKay sounds like Bernie Sanders as he hits the campaign trail. “The economy throws everything on the backs of the working man,” he says. He busts Big Oil, pollution, and racism. He unabashedly supports busing, which puts him on the far left of race politics in 1972, as well as abortion. Asked about welfare, which Crocker opposes on principle, McKay says, “We subsidize planes. We subsidize trains. Why not subsidize people?” This rhetoric wins him the Democratic nomination, but when polling suggests that McKay will lose to Jarmon by 36 points, the operatives fear their reputations will suffer in a blowout and teach McKay about how to win votes by pandering and obfuscation.

Stand Deliver You Say? Well, Here Are Five Begorrah Tunes to Help You Imbibe on Tuesday

1. Let us hope that there will still be some Whiskey in the Jar.

2. Unless you’re one to declare Whiskey You’re the Devil.

3. Then again, you may be the type to sing praises for The Juice of the Barley.

4. Glenn Miller turns the orchestra loose (gently!) on Danny Boy.

5. Work up an appetite listening to Johnny McEldoo.

The Six

1. At The Wall Street Journal, amigo Bill McGurn weighs into the fight by some conservatives — now rallying around Oren Cass at American Compass — to deride “market capitalism,” and who need a lesson in the meaning of laissez-faire. From the column:

But there’s a difference between tweaking programs to address their shortcomings and redesigning an economy from central command. Here’s the irony: Mr. Cass’s movement insists (rightly) that purely economic and material measures are limited. But whenever they move beyond rhetoric to specifics, their preferred solutions almost always turn out to be economic interventions, from child tax credits to industrial policy.

Assume—as I do—that they are right: An America wishing its citizens to prosper, and its workers to know the dignity that comes from providing for themselves, can’t be indifferent to marriage or other traditional institutions that inculcate the virtues a free market depends upon but cannot itself create. Is the issue really that skeptics don’t care about any of these things? Or that they just don’t believe the proposed fixes pushed by Mr. Cass & Co. will work as advertised?

Already there exists ample evidence that the most significant divide today between America’s haves and have-nots is whether they grow up in intact, stable families. Certainly policy wonks will have no shortage of solutions. But if we are to look past the purely economic, what if the real answer is not a package of tax credits but a new Great Awakening?

2. At The Catholic Thing, the great Hadley Arkes, the originator of the idea for the Born-Alive Protection Act, profiles a day in the life of the bill, in a U.S. Senate where a large number have lost their sense. From the piece:

And now, with the bill in the Senate, every Republican voted for it, along with three Democrats, while every vote in opposition came from Democrats, holding the line. The bill garnered 56 votes, but short of the 60 needed to overcome the Democratic filibuster.

The Democrats had arrived at the most radical position yet on the matter of abortion – so radical that the Republican managers of the bill, along with President Trump, still haven’t quite figured out how to express it.

The matter was blurted out, almost in passing, by Sen. Patty Murray from Washington. She remarked that “Republicans are peddling a ban that is blatantly unconstitutional.” That is, this move to protect children born alive is incompatible with that “right” proclaimed in Roe v. Wade. For virtually all Democrats now in Congress and national politics, that right to abortion is a right that extends beyond pregnancy itself and entails nothing less than the right to kill a child born alive.

That is the ground now on which the question should be called and fought out in the presidential election. But President Trump hasn’t apparently grasped this gift that has been given to him.

And yet, neither has the sponsor of the bill, Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, who persistently failed to draw out the meaning of what his colleagues on the other side were revealing. Twenty years ago Sen. Rick Santorum asked Sen. Barbara Boxer to offer the earliest moment when a newborn child could be protected by the law, and she said “when you bring your baby home.”

That answer became a source of embarrassment, as Boxer could never explain her way out of the problem. At every turn Sen. Sasse has passed up the chance to draw his colleagues into colloquies of this kind. That would not affect the vote, but the confrontation could draw the attention of a wider public.

3. At The Imaginative Conservative, Bradley Birzer aims the BB gun at Socialism and its revival. From the essay:

The evidence is more than clear. Communism, socialism, and progressivism have each made huge comebacks, re-entering political discourse blatantly and, just as importantly, very quietly, over the past decades. Even the very words “socialism,” “communism,” and, especially, “progressivism,” have reacquired respect and a semblance of dignity in many circles of public thought and discourse.

For those of us who spent our lives witnessing the horrors of each—in the Soviet gulags, the holocaust camps, and the Cambodian killing fields—and celebrating the demise of each in Eastern Europe and Russia between 1989 and 1991, we can only scratch our heads in wonder and search our souls in guilt. After all, we have and had very clearly failed to convince the world that such terms and such ideas should be remembered as a means of what never to do.

Indeed, a large percentage of young people, especially, have come to think, wrongly, of socialism as humane, of socialism as distinct from fascism (and National Socialism), and of capitalism as purely exploitative. When reminded that all forms of socialism have historically led to the mass grave, its new exponents claim, somewhat stereotypically, that “real socialism has never been tried.”

Again, I (and others like me) must ask. What happened? We won in 1989, didn’t we? The commies lost, and their fellow travelers and allies went with them. Ideas, it seems, have strange and varied lives, often counter to fact and reality as well as counter to dream and desire.

In his magisterial and pathbreaking 1953 book, The Quest for Community, sociologist, historian of ideas, and man of letters Robert A. Nisbet considered what drew so many people to the evils of totalitarianism, despite the evidence so clearly demonstrating its necessary bloodlust and its attendant evils.

4. At Gatestone Institute, Majid Rafizadeh exposes the Iranian mullahs’ Coronavirus lies. From the article:

The Iranian authorities at first claimed that the country was not experiencing a crisis regarding the coronavirus: that no one in Iran had contracted the disease. Soon, however, leaked information disclosed that top Iranian officials were aware of the coronavirus in Iran but had decided to conceal the truth.

When a few Iranian authorities were pressured to provide information, they stated that they are not allowed to report the actual number of people who have been infected or died. The head of the Medical Sciences University in Qom, Mohammad Reza Ghadir, for instance, said on Iran’s state television that the Ministry of Health had issued a ban on disclosing statistics on the coronavirus outbreak in the country.

The question is: Are the ruling mullahs attempting purposefully to spread the coronavirus to other countries as a form of global jihad? Otherwise, why would Iran’s top Ayatollah call coronavirus a “blessing”?

Now, not only is the Iranian regime refusing to give the public or the international community a full and accurate picture of the coronavirus outbreak; it is also not taking any necessary steps and precautions to prevent the crisis from spreading.

While the city of Qom has become the epicenter through which the coronavirus is being transmitted to other part of the world, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani pointed out that the government has no plans to quarantine the city or, for that matter, any other town.

In addition, although Iran’s leaders were aware of the high number of its people infected with the coronavirus, they did not halt their flights to other countries.

5. At The College Fix, Christian Schneider checks out the public records and finds that the heavy political moneybags who comprise Yale University’s trustees adore Democrats, who haul in 99 percent of their campaign donations. From the report:

Since 1990, the 16 current Yale Board of Trustees members have contributed $11.3 million to federal political candidates, according to Federal Election Commission data collected by OpenSecrets.org. Of this amount, only $102,000 — or 0.9 percent — was donated to Republicans or Republican-affiliated causes.

Conversely, current Yale trustees have contributed $10.8 million to Democrats or Democratic-affiliated causes during the same time.

Of the $11.3 million in total donations by all trustees, $9.9 million was donated by Bain Capital executive Joshua Bekenstein. Since 1992, Bekenstein has made at least 437 donations to federal candidates, only $18,500 of which has gone to Republicans.

Of that amount, $6,000 was contributed before the year 2000, when Bekenstein donated $2,000 apiece to Massachusetts Republican U.S. Senate candidates Mitt Romney (1994) and Bill Weld (1996), and 2000 presidential candidate George W. Bush.

6. At Quillette, Samuel Kronen takes on the unhelpful concept of “systemic racism.” From the beginning of the essay:

Is racism an individual or systemic problem? Traditionally, racism was broadly recognized as an interpersonal phenomenon: reflexive antipathy towards an identifiable “other,” supported by the negative cultural tropes and stereotypes used to inflame resentment and justify discrimination. This was the definition used by history’s most prominent anti-racist figures, from Frederick Douglass through W.E.B. Du Bois to James Baldwin, in their scathing critiques of slavery and Jim Crow. In this telling, racism is a disposition informing the beliefs and behavior of the people who operate society’s structures and institutions. It is a bottom-up process and ultimately exacts untold harms on both oppressor and oppressed.

Yet this definition has undergone a phase transition in modern progressive discourse. Rather than an emergent psycho-social phenomenon, racism today is usually understood by theorists, analysts, and activists in structural and institutional terms that don’t require the prevalence of individual racist attitudes to explain recurrent disparities between racial groups. Bestselling author Ibram X Kendi is one of a number of contemporary writers who exemplifies this outlook: “‘Racist policy’ says exactly what the problem is and where the problem is. ‘Institutional racism’ and ‘structural racism’ and ‘systemic racism’ are redundant. Racism itself is institutional, structural, and systemic.” This account is characteristically imprecise, but it suggests that racism is a top-down structural force transmitted from social and political institutions to people, who are somehow beyond the scope of individual agency or intent.

Podcastapalooza

1. On The Victor Davis Hanson Podcast, VDH and his inept cohost discuss the forthcoming updated edition of The Case for Trump, Joe Biden’s potty-mouth voter-threatening march to the nomination, the fear behind Coronavirus reactions, Iran’s descent in pariah-state status courtesy of the administration’s “maximum pressure,” Elizabeth Warren’s descent into victim-mongering ex-candidacy, and papal kow-towing to Chinese Communists. Hear here.

2. Episode 194 of The Editors features Rich, Charlie, Michael, and Jim discussing the coronavirus’s continued escalation and Biden’s skyrocketing prospects. It’s all sunshine and lollipops, heard here.

3. On The Bookmonger, John J. Miller is joined by C. J. Box to discuss his book, Long Range. As ever, great stuff, heard here.

4. More JJM: Donning his The Great Books cap, he’s joined by Carlos Eire of Yale University to discuss The Life of Saint Teresa of Avila. A great listen is to be had here.

5. On For Life, Alexandra DeSanctis talks up pro-life Democratic congressman Dan Lipinski, who faces a primary threat from a progressive challenger who favors abortion rights. Catch it here.

6. On the new Mad Dogs & Englishmen, Kevin and Charlie discuss the stock-market panic and the Democratic primaries. Tune in here.

7. At Radio Free California, David and Will assess California’s Dem voters going for Bernie Sanders (while conversely appearing to have killed a teachers-union-backed $15 billion bond), and Sacramento lawmakers who are attempting to tackle the state’s decline with proposals to end gender segregation in toy stores, eliminate price disparities between men’s and women’s products, and replace the phrase “at-risk” with “at-promise.” Oy vey! Engaging wisdom is dispensed here.

8. At Constitutionally Speaking, Luke Thompson and Jay Cost delve into Alexander Hamilton’s thoughts on impeachment. Do listen here.

Baseballery

When last here we met, mention was made of the appearance — in the historic May 18, 1912 24–2 drubbing of the Detroit Tigers (sporting a gang of amateur fill-ins to replace the on-strike professionals) by the Philadelphia Athletics — of the great Herb Pennock, in what was the future Hall of Famer’s second MLB game. He was credited with a save. The first of his 241 career wins (not including five World Series triumphs) would come a month later, his last 22 years off, performed in a Boston Red Sox uniform. It came June 1, 1934, in a 13–1 victory over the defending American League champion Washington Senators.

Earlier in the 1934 season, Pennock found himself in the same box score with Philadelphia Athletics rookie Al Benton. It was only Benton’s second career start: He faced four batters, walking one and serving up hits to the other three, but earned no decision: The As won, 12–11. You can sorta blame Pennock for that: In relief in the ninth, he gave up three runs to the As, while a last-licks three-run rally by the Red Sox fell short a run.

As for Benton, he was still pitching some 18 years later, like Pennock closing out his 98–88 career with the Red Sox, the 6’4” righthander’s final performance coming on Sunday, September 21, 1952, when he picked up his 66th career save in a 7–3 win over the Senators.

It’s interesting to look at the continuum of baseball via the intersection of young and old careers. Pennock and Benton comprised four decades of the National Pastime, from the squirrely Tigers’ strike game in 1912 to a late-summer Sunday contest while Eisenhower and Stevenson were battling for a presidency in 1952.

And next week, there’s an even longer continuum over which we will gush (Yours truly will, anyway).

A Dios

Saint Sebastian has the plague portfolio. Ask for his prayerful intercession if that floats your spiritual boat.

In this time of consternation and confusion, or for that matter, in any time, good or bad, do remember — those of you who are believers of the Christian persuasion — that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that who so believeth in Him would not perish but have everlasting life. It ain’t Mitch Miller, but sing along and find comfort.

Yours in the Prayerful Expectation that The Ancient of Days Will Bring You and Yours True Peace,

Jack Fowler, who types this missive with fingers washed frequently, and who is happy to receive similar from you, regardless of your sanitary protocols, at jfowler@nationalreview.com.

National Review

Joe Who? Joe Mamma . . . Mia!

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Dear Weekend Jolter,

You gotta admit it, at the Palmetto Square Garden, the Mouth from Scranton got off the canvas a second time — dazed and blathering jibberish about the Declaration, the blood and botox flowing from heavy cuts sustained in Iowa Round One and New Hampshire Round Two — with the crowd on its feet, screaming themselves hoarse, convinced the next punch was going to send Joe Biden back to Delaware and retirement. But with support from some new folks in his corner (Petey, Raging Amy, and some faux Latino Texan), he swung a not-so-Left hook and landed a blow that staggered the Burlington Brawler, followed by a flurry of haymakers on Super Tuesday, and . . . wouldn’tcha know it – now it’s Bernie who’s on the ropes.

(Public Service Announcement: Feel free to insert rope-a-dope joke here.)

Yep, it was a great night for Biden, said Michael Brendan Dougherty (who explains some reasons why, including the lack of a debate in the days prior to the voting). And now the howling crowd is placing side bets that Scranton Joe (some compare his invigoration to one of his idols after he heard Pop Goes the Weasel) can put the Vermont Socialist down for good in Michigan on March 10.

Mamma mia, what a difference a week makes. Welp, related political analysis and more are to be found in the vast array of linkage awaiting you below.

But before descending into the depths of WJ, a point of personal privilege is claimed. This epistle will soon enough offer you tempting fare at Podcastapalooza; but one program Your Tongue-Tied Author (the co-host) hopes you might check out is “The Victor Davis Hanson Podcast,” and if you need to know who the star is, well, you may have taken one too many upside the coconut. VDH is so darned good. Give it a listen why don’t you. You’ll find the first five episodes here.

There’s the bell! And here comes the Weekend Jolt!

Editorials

1. Biden Won. Bigly. An amazing comeback, true — but it may have been about who Biden isn’t. From the editorial:

After the South Carolina primary and Super Tuesday, it is looking much less likely that the Democrats will pin their presidential chances on a self-declared socialist. Enough Democrats were alarmed by that possibility to consolidate with stunning rapidity behind the candidacy of former vice president Joe Biden. They have compelling, albeit mostly negative, reasons for doing so: He hasn’t praised Castro’s Cuba, he isn’t calling for outlawing most Americans’ health insurance, he doesn’t want to ban fracking. Democratic voters forced Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, and Michael Bloomberg out of the race. All have now endorsed Biden.

Yet Biden, notwithstanding his impressive turnaround, is not obviously a stronger general-election candidate than Bernie Sanders. He is old, and he wears his age poorly. No sober observer will ever call either Biden or President Trump a great orator, but the latter is much better at getting his point across. Then there are Biden’s decades as a Washington insider.

2. America needs to be sober-minded about the Coronavirus threat. From the editorial:

American officials got off to an inauspicious start in addressing the crisis, with diagnostic tests initially limited to some 100 public-health labs. After the Food and Drug Administration expanded testing to other qualified labs, many reported inconclusive results from official diagnostic kits. A University of California–Berkeley lab was barred from testing a patient who did not meet the Centers for Disease Control criteria, which allowed testing only on patients who had traveled to China within two weeks of developing symptoms. That patient later tested positive. The FDA finally expanded diagnostic capabilities on February 29, but not before more than 70 cases had been confirmed in the U.S.

While federal agencies grappled with byzantine testing regulations, the White House delivered overly optimistic assurances to try to assuage panicked investors. The president himself said we had it “totally under control,” even as the CDC warned Americans to brace for domestic outbreaks.

The White House’s messaging did not fool investors. Stocks plummeted more than ten percent into “correction” territory, and banks slashed their U.S. economic-growth projections to zero for the second quarter. The sell-off receded slightly Monday after the Federal Reserve indicated it would cut interest rates — a welcome move — yet uncertainty persists as the number of cases in the U.S. grows.

3. We have a deal with the Taliban. Too bad it’s bad. From the editorial:

It’s not encouraging that the Taliban wasn’t willing to negotiate with the Afghan government prior to getting the U.S. commitment to a withdrawal, or to implement a cease-fire during the talks. Bending over backwards, the U.S. cut the Afghan government out of the negotiation, and asked only for a “reduction of violence” over the course of a week as a sign of good faith. Incredibly enough, the agreement calls for the release of up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners at the outset of the intra-Afghan negotiations and the release of all prisoners of both sides in three months. The Afghan government is balking at this provision for good reason.

It’s understandable that we want to find a way out of the Afghan war after 18 years of heartache and toil. But we shouldn’t want the entire effort, and the Afghan government, to collapse. We could have minimized our troop commitment by dropping down to 8,600 troops unilaterally. Making the promise of a total withdrawal only reduces our leverage and that of the Afghan government. In theory, we can always stop a withdrawal based on Taliban non-compliance, even though there are no verification provisions in the public agreement. But the worry has to be that President Trump wants the deal as a justification for a withdrawal he is determined to undertake one way or the other.

Enough Links to Last You a Fortnight: 15 Tender and Juicy Morsels that Will Satisfy Your Each and Every Conservative Taste Bud

1. Joe may not be a Marxist. But, says Kevin Williamson, he is a scoundrel. From the piece:

So, he is not a socialist.

What is he?

He is a vicious self-serving political hack, for one thing, one whose ambition leads him from time to time into shocking indecency. You may have heard that Biden lost his wife and daughter in a horrifying drunk-driving wreck, the fault of a monster of a man who irresponsibly “drank his lunch,” as Biden puts it.

Never happened.

Biden’s wife and daughter did, in fact, die in a car wreck. That is true. It is not true that the driver of the other car was drunk, that he had been drinking, or that there was any reason to believe he was drunk or had been drinking — or even that he was at fault. The late Mrs. Biden “drove into the path of [the] tractor-trailer,” the police report says. But Biden, like every other third-rate ward-heeler of his ilk, thinks and speaks only in terms of good guys and bad guys, white hats and black hats — and if something bad happens to good people, then it must be because somebody in a black hat did something nefarious. The driver of that truck went to his grave haunted by Biden’s lies, to the point where his children were forced to beg the vice president to stop defaming their late father. The casual cruelty with which Biden is willing to subordinate the lives of ordinary people to his political ambitions — for the sake of a petty tear-jerker line in one of his occasionally plagiarized stump speeches — is remarkable.

2. So how’d it happen? Rich Lowry says Joe Biden has the Democratic Establishment to thank. From the column:

As Peter Beinart points out in The Atlantic, Bush and his signature initiative, the Iraq War, weren’t popular with Republicans, whereas Barack Obama and his signature initiative, Obamacare, are popular with Democrats.

This made it possible for Biden to run on restoration rather than revolution and find an audience, especially in South Carolina, where many voters told exit pollsters they wanted a return to Obama policies.

It also meant that, as a general matter, pillars of the party establishment hadn’t been discredited. The biggest moment in Biden’s comeback was the endorsement of a 14-term congressman and member of the congressional leadership named Jim Clyburn.

After Biden’s smashing South Carolina victory, the party fell in line quickly, with candidates exiting and endorsing Biden. It was a collective action of the sort that Republicans couldn’t manage in 2016.

3. Ignorance abut basic math . . . the relief that the wealthy can pay for our free lunch . . . it’s all here in Charlie Cooke’s takedown of two babbling MSNBCers who are in desperate need of flash cards and clear thinking. From the Corner post:

Obviously, the math here is spectacularly off. If Michael Bloomberg had divided the money he spent on his presidential run evenly among Americans, we would each have got $1.53, not $1 million. For Bloomberg to give $1 million to each American, he would have to be worth $327 trillion (in cash), which, for context, is around 17 times American GDP and about five-and-a-half thousand times what he’s actually worth. The scale of the error here is galactic.

It’s also extremely telling. This, right here, is why so many left-leaning Americans think that “the billionaires” can pay for everything. It’s why Elizabeth Warren was enthusiastically boosted by the media despite her ridiculous pretense that she could pay for a series of gargantuan initiatives without raising taxes on anyone but the extremely rich. It’s why Democrat after Democrat promises not to raise “middle class taxes” while promising programs that require the raising of middle class taxes. How did this bad tweet make it onto TV to be endorsed? Why did Mara Gay agree with it? Why didn’t Brian Williams notice? Because the people involved in this clip thought it was true. This is how they see the world.

4. Andy McCarthy weighs in on Chuck Schumer’s SCOTUS-directed thug talk. From the piece:

With Roe, the High Court decisively transformed itself into a political institution. The worst kind of political institution, in fact: One that pretends to be something quite different — an apolitical arbiter of what the law says, an oracle of justice shorn of passion. One that is politically unaccountable to the people whose lives it deeply affects — and affects not as a court deciding the private disputes of litigants, but as a ruler imposing national policy on a heretofore self-determining republic.

The mob is in front of the courthouse because we are inured to the unspoken reality that the Court is innately political. Political entities can be moved by mobs, such as the one that gleefully cheered Senator Schumer on.

There is no mob outside a medical lab. When specimens are submitted, the techs do their tests, and the patients either have whatever condition is suspected or they don’t. No one, however, believes any longer that jurists work with such professional detachment and rigor. No one believes they check their political, ideological, and emotional baggage at the door, applying law to facts without fear or favor.

When President Obama nominated Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Court, it was not for her legal acumen. The salient argument made in her favor, as if there were nothing remarkable about advocating such an attribute as a credential, was that she is a model of “empathy” — a “wise Latina” who would bring a “perspective” outside the ken of your average staid old white guy.

5. Globalization has its price, warns Victor Davis Hanson. From the essay:

One, globalization was not the end of history. It is a recurrent, cyclical, and at best morally neutral phenomenon that has always, at least in relative terms, waxed and waned over the past 2,500 years of civilization — although recent transcontinentalism carries greater consequences in the era of electronic interconnectedness.

By a.d. 200, there was a globalized Roman world of 2 million square miles, stretching from Hadrian’s Wall to the Persian Gulf, and from the Rhine to the Atlas Mountains. Like frogs around the pond of Mare Nostrum, all official business was conducted in Latin or, increasingly in the East, Greek. A Roman citizen could enjoy habeas corpus from Bithynia to the Atlantic. Thousands of small towns were marked by fora and agorae, colonnades, and basilicas. While multiracial and non-Italian, otherwise uniformly equipped and trained legions secured the vast borders. It was quite an achievement of providing aqueducts, security, and property rights to 70 million disparate peoples, but it was no longer really the earlier Roman Republic of the Scipios, either.

Yet by a.d. 500, the vast sameness was eroding. Most of the Empire in the West and the old borders in East had been picked apart by Vandals, Visigoths, Osogoths, Huns, Sasanians, and a host of other tribes and migrant and aggressive peoples.

History’s succession of subsequent would-be imperial globalists — the Byzantines, the Caliphates, the Ottomans, Napoleon, Stalin and Hitler — for a while collapsed national borders and spread uniform language, architecture, customs, and culture until their dreams eventually imploded, usually from overreach, military defeat, corruption, bankrupt ideology, demographic calcification, rampant inflation, or sheer inefficiency and bloated bureaucracy.

6. What goes up must come down: John McCormack reveals that the laws of physics apply to politics and Elizabeth Warren, the ex-candidate. From the piece:

At the first debate in June, Warren proudly declared: “I’m with Bernie on Medicare for All.” She rose rapidly thereafter as the candidate of “big, structural change.” By the time the October debate rolled around, she was in first place in national polls. But then Mayor Pete Buttigieg hit her with what proved a devastating punch.

“Your signature, senator, is to have a plan for everything. Except this,” Buttigieg said at the debate, after Warren refused to explain how she would fund Medicare for All.

In the days that followed, she released a plan to fund her single-payer health-care proposal. Many critics pointed out that, even with drastic tax hikes, the numbers still didn’t add up. This put her in a bind: She didn’t want to bleed any more of her relatively moderate supporters to Buttigieg, and she realized she couldn’t get to the left of the avowedly socialist Sanders. In mid-November, she retreated on Medicare for All, pledging that she wouldn’t push the matter during her first two years in office, the time when a president typically has the most political capital to spend. By the end of the month, half of her supporters nationwide had abandoned her.

7. Mayor Pete heads for the exit, and Alexandra DeSanctis, who knows a thing or two about South Bend and its former spit-polished kahuna, uses the departure to share some wise analysis. From the article:

Dropping out was the smart thing to do for the sake of preventing Vermont socialist Bernie Sanders from running away with the nomination; his exit means there’s one fewer non-Sanders option dividing the field and splitting the vote.

But it was likely an easier decision for him to make than it would’ve been for Elizabeth Warren, who’s still in the race and several decades older than Buttigieg, who only just turned 38. He’s saying goodbye to 2020, perhaps, but evidently has his eye on 2024 and beyond.

Buttigieg undoubtedly will be back, and perhaps for good reason. It was a stunning feat to go from being the barely known mayor of a mid-sized, Rust Belt city — a place whose prospects he did markedly little to improve during his tenure — to winning Iowa and finishing a close second in New Hampshire. A large part of that success owes to his ability to come across as highly articulate, though close listening revealed that he’s less eloquent than glib. He seemed to model his campaign as the second coming of Barack Obama, but he lacks the charisma of the former president and substituted an impressive ability to memorize so many talking points so thoroughly that he was able to emote as if his comments came from the heart.

As a gay man, he could play the identity-politics card with vigor, arguing that support for his campaign would be a step forward for America. In what turned out to be one of his final campaign events, Buttigieg welcomed a nine-year-old boy on stage to come out as gay and discussed the bravery it has required of him to blaze a trail as a gay politician.

8. Dan Crenshaw (yeah, him) thinks it’s high time conservatives owned the climate-change issue. From the article:

I recently joined House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy in unveiling a proposal that takes existing innovative technologies — ones that have proven to reduce emissions here in the United States — that the U.S. can then market and export to the world. After all, climate change is a global issue, and with global energy demand expected to increase by 25 percent over the next 20 years, there is a distinct need for the U.S. to export cleaner energy sources to the developing world, as well as to the biggest CO2 emitters, such as China and India. Crushing our own economy, as the Green New Deal would have us do, will not stop worldwide growth in emissions or decrease worldwide energy demand.

My portion of the plan — called the New Energy Frontier — focuses specifically on carbon capture, a field in which there is already promising innovation. For instance, the company NET Power, located near my district in Houston, has developed a natural-gas electricity plant that has the capacity to power 5,000 homes, while capturing and recirculating CO2 back through the plant via an innovative thermodynamic cycle. As a result, the system produces zero net emissions.

9. Dan McLaughlin lowers the boom-er on the politics of “Middle Age” (not the Middle Ages). From the essay:

Our natural instinct as young people is to see the world as fixed and unchanging, and to rebel against that. The hard part is accepting that the world doesn’t stay changed. Consider the political world of the Baby Boom generation (born between 1946 and 1964). The Boomers, being such a large and self-conscious age cohort, grew up in the age of the creation of American suburbia and the shift from urban, rural, and small-town extended families to the atomized nuclear family in which Dad came home each night to Mom and the kids. To the oldest Boomers in particular (born in the late ‘40s and early ‘50s), the world of the 1950s and early 1960s was How It Had Always Been. That meant an age of domestic tranquility in white America, which contrasted sharply with the stark injustice of Jim Crow as it edged into the consciousness of the rest of the nation. It meant an age of mostly bipartisan consensus on self-confident hawkish internationalism. It meant an institutionalized military draft, which brought with it a social expectation that every American man would serve — a reality that would have shocked any American between 1776 and 1941. It meant a political scene that combined big-government liberalism with cultural complacency, marginalizing both the Right and the Left. It meant the swaggering certainty that Americans could do anything — a national self-image that had been very much in question in the 1930s, but seemed like it had always been there.

Then the world changed. Jim Crow started cracking open in 1954, and the whole legal edifice shattered between 1963 and 1968. The Vietnam antiwar movement, between 1965 and 1973, killed both the draft and the bipartisan consensus on foreign policy. The feminist movement and the Sexual Revolution toppled the family model of the 1950s. Nixon, once the young avatar of the ascendant Eisenhower-Kennedy era, self-destructed spectacularly in 1973–74. The “youth vote” had been rebel outsiders against the monolith in 1968 (with “Clean for Gene” McCarthy) and 1972. In the 1976 election, the Boomers for the first time elected a president: Until Barack Obama in 2012, Jimmy Carter would be the only candidate in the history of exit polling to win election while losing voters age 30 or over. The Left came back into the political mainstream, and even the Right returned after Goldwater. All of that had happened by the time the oldest Boomers hit their early 30s, and the youngest were in their mid-teens. How It Had Always Been was gone; things had changed.

10. Looks like the politically resurrected “Beto” O’Rourke will lead Candidate Biden’s Second Amendment escapades, which has John Lott arguing that November will be the setting for the “gun-control election.” From the analysis:

Tuesday night, former Vice President Joe Biden announced that Beto O’Rourke “will be the one who leads“ his gun-control effort. “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15,” O’Rourke, a former Texas congressman and Democratic presidential candidate himself, famously promised in a debate in September. They are “weapons of war, designed to kill people efficiently on a battlefield,” he warned.

O’Rourke vowed to “buy back every single assault weapon” but said that he would use force if people didn’t voluntarily agree to selling their guns. The former candidate also appears to support all the currently discussed gun-control proposals.

Last year, many Democrats worried that O’Rourke’s aggressive position would alienate moderate voters and give credence to conservative assertions that Democrats really do want to take away people’s guns. Some prominent Democrats felt it necessary to distance themselves from those comments. “I don’t know of any other Democrat who agrees with Beto O’Rourke,” Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said. Others blamed O’Rourke for creating distrust about gun-control advocates’ motives. A CNN headline last fall posed the question, “Is Beto O’Rourke single-handedly dooming a gun control bill?”

After O’Rourke’s comments, President Donald Trump tweeted that O’Rourke had “convinced many that Dems just want to take your guns away.” Biden has now locked himself into that position.

11. John Hirschauer interviews mental-health expert E. Fuller Torrey about Trump Administration efforts to undo laws that have played a central role in creating America’s homeless crisis. From the piece:

John Hirschauer: I’m sure you’re familiar with the Penrose hypothesis — the British psychiatrist Lionel Penrose’s theory that there is an inverse relationship between the rate of incarceration, and the size of “asylums” and psychiatric hospitals. In 2013, Steven Raphael and Michael Stoll released a study in the Journal of Legal Studies, which is often cited by civil libertarians and other deinstitutionalization proponents. The study estimates that the large decline in state-hospital populations over the past 70 years has accounted for only 4–7 percent of the concomitant increase in incarceration. Do you dispute that estimate?

Dr. E. Fuller Torrey: I’m not familiar with that particular paper. But the increase of the number of mentally ill people in jails and prisons, by all measures that I’ve seen, has been much, much higher and has pretty much paralleled the deinstitutionalization movement. I started following this in the early 1980s, when I first wrote on the subject. During the 1980s, about 5 percent of people in jails and prisons — especially jails, at that time — were mentally ill. A decade later it was 10 percent, a decade later it was 15 percent, and today it’s not unusual for 20 to 25 percent of prisoners in a correctional facility to have a mental illness. So there’s been a very close parallel between the numbers of patients who have been emptied out of the hospitals and the increase in the number of mentally ill estimated to be in jails and prisons. In two or three of my books, I mentioned the first person who was looking at this phenomenon in early 1980s. He looked at the number of mentally ill in the — I think it was in San Jose, Santa Clara, or San Mateo jail. I forgot which one. In any case, he had been a resident with me at Stanford, just a year ahead of me. He was the first one I could find who actually said, “Hey, look what’s going on. You just emptied these folks out of the state hospital, and now they’re all appearing in jail.”

Locally, I have volunteered at the shelters for many years and have followed the situation in D.C. A couple of my nursing staff who had been working on the ward at St. Elizabeth’s [Hospital] with me, I later saw them, and they told me that they had gone to work for the jail system. They said, “You know, it’s not very hard, because we’re seeing the same patients.”

12. Kyle Smith catches Onward. He finds a transcendent masterpiece. From the review:

A lot of movies can make you cry at the end, but a movie that can make you cry in the first 20 minutes? Ah, the Pixar touch. Onward is such a movie, one of the very best Pixar has made, full of comedy with a purpose and pointedly metaphorical action. As with other Pixar offerings, its best feature is in its world-building rather than its characteristically frantic climax, but its foundation of ideas is sublime. Onward gazes into the deepest sources of our collective psyche in anno domini 2020 and cries out movingly against the decadence of our age.

I refer to the somewhat obscure, Jacques Barzun definition of decadence: an era when “the forms of art as of life seem exhausted; the stages of development have been run through. Institutions function painfully. Repetition and frustration are the intolerable result. Boredom and fatigue are great historical forces. . . . When people accept futility and the absurd as normal, the culture is decadent.” Oh, and intermingled with the Barzun is a lot of Seth MacFarlane. Recall that Ted imagined a world in which a magical talking teddy bear had become so ordinary over time that he wound up working in a grocery store and smoking weed all day.

Onward takes place in a less profane but more comprehensively enervated iteration of the Ted world, an imaginatively null post-magic society that makes for a nifty metaphorical overlay on our post-religious society. Dragons are just yappy little housepets, and a tavern like the one from The Fellowship of the Ring has become a Chuck E. Cheese. Fabulous creatures — centaurs, manticores — do prosaic jobs: waiting tables, driving police cars. One young fellow, Barley Lightfoot (voiced by Chris Pratt), stands athwart all of this, demanding a return to mystical ways, epic trials, enchantment, meaning, transcendence.

13. Armond White finds the Jean Seberg biopic was far less about art and much more about politics. From the review:

That knee-jerk media appellation “actor and activist” takes on severe meaning in the new film Seberg, a biopic about American actress Jean Seberg who became an international sensation in Jean-Luc Godard’s debut film Breathless (1960) and who died ignominiously a couple of decades later, after her involvement in anti-U.S. political activity and being under FBI surveillance.

Director Benedict Andrews, screenwriters Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse, and actress Kristen Stewart (who plays Seberg) use the “actor and activist” label to indulge an idea of martyrdom that comes too easily to them. It’s an extravagance of privileged Millennial media to combine self-righteous ideology with romanticism. Godard always saw through it (detailed below).

The movie follows Seberg’s career decline, presenting it as the summation of her doom and a consequence of American political subterfuge. (“Speaking out against the perceived flaws of the government is a type of persecution,” she protests.) That means the artistic part of Seberg’s legacy gets short shrift, in favor of making a shady political critique: White, blond Seberg was investigated as part of the FBI’s COINTELPRO project for her support of the Black Panther Party. Seberg helped fund the Panthers and also had an affair with black activist Hakim Jamal (played by Anthony Mackie), by whom she got pregnant.

14. More Armond: He watches The Way Back get lost in nihilism. From the review:

Now, in the mediocre new film The Way Back, Affleck drops superhero status to play Jack Cunningham, an ailing, alcoholic construction worker who drinks to excess after a life-changing setback. Bloated and sad-eyed, Affleck embodies working-man distress, hiding the lost smile of a frightened kid. He’s a “deplorable” who looks like a pro athlete gone to seed, and that’s key to his misery. Jack’s youth as a promising high-school basketball star stings when the local priest asks him to coach the multiethnic team of b-ball Millennials.

This premise, spotlighting society’s left-behinds — the blue-collar, drug-addicted underclass seeking physical and emotional relief — should offer promise, as Dawn of Justice does. But despite being set in a Catholic-school environment, the storytelling ignores aspects of faith that would give Jack’s circumstance mythic resonance. Director Gavin O’Connor and screenwriter Brad Ingelsby choose to emphasize mundane, faithless immiseration. It takes them a full hour to reveal the tragedy that drove Jack to despair. The film sluggishly builds to that moment by emphasizing Jack’s sad, self-torturing routine. (O’Connor constructs a ludicrous montage of Jack repeatedly opening a refrigerator door to gradually drain a stockpile of brew.)

Jack’s enervating recovery in The Way Back is full of drab, predictable pathos instead of the stylized drama in Dawn of Justice. O’Connor and Ingelsby seem to be following the grim narrative familiar from Joker, last year’s Nolan-indebted Batman spin-off. This commercial ploy ruins any potential for empathy in The Way Back. Somebody at Warner Brothers seems to believe that cynicism outweighs promise and that Joker’s billion-plus box-office gross proves that audiences will buy self-pitying victimhood.

15. Brian Allen visits the Houston Museum of Fine Arts to see the “blockbuster” show by the late Irish artist Francis Bacon. From the review:

Born in Dublin in 1909, Bacon had a career that spanned 60 years. His crucifixions, deformed self-portraits, triptychs of gnarled figures, and demented popes are instantly recognizable as Bacon’s, but familiarity doesn’t mean I can ever look at them and shrug. His figures are studies in contrasts. He deforms the human figure, twisting torsos and amputating limbs, but his figures spin like dancers or tops. Convulsion is controlled. His palette isn’t neon, garish, or scary, however often he paints blood. He uses lilacs, grays, soft yellows, and browns. He takes us to this weird point where the lyrical and the brutal are in equipoise. It’s a strange beauty.

Bacon was untrained and self-educated and a gutter prodigy, making him a folk artist on steroids. He’s a brand, too, as instantly recognizable as Pollock, Warhol, Picasso, and a few others. And he was a brand who made good copy. He was a celebrity. A brawling Irishman, once a call-boy, always a drunk and a hot gay mess when homosexuality was scandalous, Bacon was a poster boy for complexity and his era’s favorite dark genius. He was also immersed in Aeschylus, Shakespeare, Nietzsche, T. S. Eliot, and Joseph Conrad, to drop a few names.

I’m skeptical of brands, which can become shtick, or a high-dollar routine. Artists sometimes problematize as a marketing tool. Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, and the Wyeths come to mind as the schlockiest of self-promoters. I’m not necessarily hanging their baggage on Bacon, though he was a cunning, coy interview subject. The show left me asking question after question. First, it’s called “Francis Bacon: Late Paintings” while the catalogue is called “Francis Bacon: Books and Painting,” which puzzles me. Why? Literature and art demand very different things from us, and the writers that the catalogue links with Bacon are themselves big, complex beasts

I loved the show, but I’m unsure whether or not my take on Bacon is anything like the curator’s.

The New March 23, 2020 Issue of National Review Is So Hot They Had to Close the Printing Plant to Cool Down the Presses

Mike Bloomberg — just in time to commit candidatus interruptus — is the new issue’s cover boy, and Roman Genn’s caricature of the Napoleon Complexed billionaire is wonderful. As is every piece in the issue. Now, as is our way around here, we sample four selections for your dining and intellectual pleasure.

1. Kyle Smith, in his latest brilliant assessment of a Democrat who thinks he (or she, see Ms. Warren) has What It Takes to be POTUS, profiles the former NYC mayor, America’s Numero Uno Nanny Stater. From the profile:

“Anti-charisma” is a phrase that keeps popping up in Bloomberg stories. Here is a guy who has a knack for not having the knack. As mayor he used to zip off on a private plane to Bermuda for the weekend without informing anyone in city government. Did New Yorkers have a right to know roughly where their mayor was?, reporters asked. Nah, said Bloomberg. Bloomberg has the emotional I.Q. of one of his eponymous data machines. “Don’t ever take a lunch break or go to the bathroom, you keep working,” Bloomberg said in 2011, as if all outputs could be controlled with a keystroke. In 1999, he said that if he let women have flexibility in their schedules to allow for family commitments, he’d have to give men time off to play golf. Even his employees, staffers, and supporters can barely muster a kind word for him. “The thing about Mike is he actually isn’t that interesting,” an ex-employee told New York. “The first time I met him, he started complaining about some soup he got that didn’t taste right. I just met the guy, and he was, like, complaining about his sweet-and-sour soup.” He’s old, Jewish, immensely rich, and running a campaign about nothing—Larry David is not just a perfect Bernie Sanders, he could be Bloomberg too.

In TV commercials, Bloomberg was Master of the Universe. Behind the electronic curtain, though, he’s a dull, hapless little man—the Wizard of Blahs. He has some of the Trump attributes that turn people away but none of the ones that make them feel like pumping their fists in the air and putting political hats on their heads. Periodically in American politics a businessman comes along promising to sort out the mess and run things like a blue-chip corporation. It almost never works. Wendell Willkie tried it, and Ross Perot, and Steve Forbes, and remember Herman Cain? Mitt “I like to fire people and also let Detroit go bankrupt” Romney tried it, in his fashion. The businessman shtick worked for Donald Trump because he’s the nation’s blue-collar billionaire, a talk-radio caller (“Don from Queens”), a guy who eats McDonald’s food on his private plane and never sounds like he’s imitating the speech patterns of regular folks. The hotshots with the silver Teslas and the gynecologist wives loathe Trump, just as most of the country loathes them.

2. Some say technological advances have . . . stopped advancing. The new issue includes a trio of pieces under a special TECHNOLOGY SECTION. Charlie Cooke leads it off, and in his excellent essay, he thinks that dead-end claim is thickly sliced baloney. From the beginning of the article:

I put on a record today.

Well, I didn’t put on a record, so much as I put on a . . . well, a what? It wasn’t a vinyl plate or a spool of tape or even a piece of shiny circular plastic. Indeed, whatever physical medium was being used to store the music I was listening to wasn’t available to me at all. It simply came in through the air—like lightning. From the comfort of my chair, I picked up my iPhone, chose the album I wanted from the million-strong list that loaded instantly before my eyes, and directed the sound to the speakers in my vicinity, all of which started to play my choice within a few milliseconds. And then, when I tired of it, I shushed it with my voice.

I think about this sometimes when I hear people complain that the bright technological future we were all promised has steadfastly failed to appear. How, I wonder, would I even begin to explain Spotify and Sonos to my grandfather, who died in 1994? A compact disc could be comprehended by the elderly as a better vinyl record, much as the Space Shuttle could be comprehended as a faster airplane. But streaming? If my grandfather came back today, where would I start?

“Okay, so I’m using my telephone, which isn’t really a telephone so much as a supercomputer-cum-Library-of-Alexandria-cum-high-definition-movie studio, to send a wireless signal to the magical speakers in my home, which, upon my request, will contact a set of servers 3,000 miles away in San Francisco, and request instant access to the closest digital copy of—” “Wait, what’s a server?

“—hold on—to the closest digital copy of one of millions of high-quality songs to which I have full and unlimited access, but neither own nor have to store, and—”

It boggles the mind.

3. Victor Davis Hanson knows a thing or two about plagues, ancient and modern, and their consequences. From the piece:

Most preindustrial mass plagues were bacterial, caused by urban overcrowding and poor-to-nonexistent garbage and sewage disposal. In the disruptive aftermath of pandemics, fundamental social and political change sometimes followed—wars lost, governments ended, wealth and power reversed. Of course, cheap antibiotics, modern medical care, and sophisticated sewage treatment and refuse collection have mostly ended the epidemic threat of typhus, typhoid, and bubonic plague. Apparently, our trust in modern drugs is such that we arrogantly do not even consider the chance of pandemic danger posed by 500,000 or so homeless Americans, who live outside in harsh weather, amid vermin, excrement, and rodents on our major urban-center sidewalks.

Instead, in the modern age, viruses have mostly replaced bacteria in posing theoretical threats of mass infection, illness, and death. While modern Western medicine, given enough time, can sometimes prevent many pandemic viral infections through mass vaccinations, they are, unlike many bacterial illnesses, often impossible, or at least difficult, to treat.

If bacterial plagues are far more unlikely in our postmodern society, globalization has still made the specter of an epidemic of a viral disease— Ebola, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and, most recently, COVID-19—not impossible. The A and B influenzas, despite mass inoculations, infect about 20–30 million Americans per year. Depending on the particular annual mutating strain, anywhere between 10,000 and 80,000 die from seasonal influenzas, mostly the elderly or chronically sick. In addition, given the easy ability to weaponize diseases in labs, and especially given the recent spread abroad of the sophisticated Western sciences of bacteriology and virology to first-generation high-technological and authoritarian societies—China in particular—the idea of a historic pandemic is not always fanciful.

4. Andy McCarthy explains why the time has come to shutter the FISA Court. From the piece:

The “necessity of procuring good intelligence is apparent and need not be further urged,” remarked General George Washington while commanding the Continental Army. “Upon Secrecy, Success depends in Most Enterprises . . . and for want of it, they are generally defeated.” The acquisition of intelligence is and has always been a security imperative. It is also a textbook political responsibility, in the sense of being committed to the political branches of government.

That is an observation worth pausing over. While the FISC’s creation was controversial, it is rare nowadays to hear proposals for scrapping it. The inevitable rejoinder to any such suggestion is that the proponent seeks an imperial, uncheckable executive. Nothing could be further from the truth. While the conducting of intelligence operations is left to the executive branch (and has been since the inception of constitutional governance), a political responsibility is one assigned to both political branches: the presidential administration in carrying it out and the Congress in underwriting, regulating, and overseeing it.

The contention here is not that the president should get carte blanche. Intrusive government actions taken under the guise of safeguarding the nation against foreign perils have a high chance of suppressing our liberties. The Trump–Russia fiasco launched by the Obama-era intelligence services reaffirms that executive intelligence operations must be subjected to searching scrutiny. Politicized excesses dating back to the John Adams–era Alien and Sedition Acts demonstrate that our own government, under the pretext of protecting us, can do more damage to republican democracy than anything Russia or a similarly treacherous foe can do.

No, my argument for abolishing the FISC is twofold. First, intelligence is not fit for judicial management. As the Supreme Court expressly recognized (in its 1948 Chicago & Southern Air Lines ruling), intelligence is an innately political function. The most significant decisions a body politic makes are the ones about its security. If a society is to be free and self-determining, those decisions must be made not by politically unaccountable judges but by the elected officials—the president and Congress—answerable to the Americans whose lives are at stake.

BONUS: Donald Trump’s attention to India is a big deal. Daniel Tenreiro explains. From the beginning of the article:

Just ten days after Chinese Communist Party (CCP) chairman Mao Zedong inaugurated the People’s Republic of China in 1949, Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru landed in Washington for a three-week tour of the United States. Time magazine called it “one of the century’s most important visits of state”—a statement that would have been inconceivable a few years earlier, when India was still a British colony of limited geopolitical consequence for the U.S. But after the loss of Beijing to Communist rule, the newly independent India suddenly became, as the New York Times put it, “potentially a great counterweight to China.” Though American leaders made overtures to Nehru, India’s policy of neutrality during the Cold War, as well as its recognition of Mao’s government, precluded a full-fledged alliance between the two countries.

Seventy years later, India has once again emerged as a possible bulwark against a rising China. Beijing loomed large as Indian prime minister Narendra Modi received President Trump at Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport in Ahmedabad on February 24. Trump neglected to call out China by name during his stay, but his references to countries that “seek to claim power through coercion, intimidation, and aggression” left no doubt as to China’s influence on the U.S.–India relationship. Though marred by ongoing religious violence in the streets of Delhi, the visit exhibited the mutual affinity between Trump and Modi that may finally turn intermittent alignment into lasting alliance.

Get Some Culture!

What’s upstream of politics? Our friends at National Review Institute have made its biennial, multi-city tour — bringing NRI fellows face-to-face with readers, friends, and supporters of the Buckley Legacy — one that focuses on politics’ upstream wellspring. It’s titled “Perspectives on America Today and the Importance of Culture,” and if you are nearby any of the eight cities where these special Regional Seminars, which showcase the wisdom of Rich Lowry, Charlie Cooke, John O’Sullivan, Madeleine Kearns, Daniel Mahoney, Ramesh Ponnuru, Kevin D. Williamson, Jay Nordlnger, and Kyle Smith, are taking place, do come.

Here’s the schedule, which is still being shored up in some locations. Click away!

Newport Beach, CA (March 24)

Chicago, IL (April 2)

Dallas, TX (April 14)

Houston, TX (April 15)

New York, NY (May 11)

Philadelphia, PA (May 12)

A New Boss, and Molly Coming to Ashland

Sharing some news from our friends at the Ashbrook Center: Molly Hemingway — author (with Carrie Severino) of Justice on Trial: The Kavanaugh Confirmation and the Future of the Supreme Court — will be speaking there on Wednesday, March 18 at a noon luncheon. The specifics: Ashland University, Myers Convocation Center, 638 Jefferson Street (of course, in beautiful Ashland, Ohio). If you want to attend (tickets are just $20) click here.

And then there’s the huzzah about Ashbrook’s new Big Kahuna. This week, board chairman Marvin Krinsky (a dear NR amigo) announced the good news that Professor Jeffrey Sikkenga was taking over as the institution’s new Executive Director. It’s an absolutely terrific choice.

The Six

1. At The American Conservative, Amy Wax urges donors to abandon Ivy League colleges. From the piece:

Why should private donors stop giving to higher education? University benefactors should be made more aware of the one-sided ideological profile of faculty and administrators and the relentless growth of the university bureaucracy and infrastructure that is driving up costs. They need to realize that the present volume of private money helps make universities impervious to pressure to reform some of their troubling practices, including their political tilt, their intolerance of dissent, and their burgeoning administrative apparatus.

Yet even for alumni and donors who are untroubled by these trends, there are still compelling reasons to redirect their generosity. What should benefactors do with the money that they would ordinarily devote to academic higher education generally? A strong case can be made for spending their money on projects and initiatives that improve the lives of ordinary, unspecial people, and especially those without a college degree. This group, which still comprises the majority of the country’s population, tends to be overlooked by philanthropists and foundations even as it fails to qualify for many types of assistance to the poor. Such people are in far more need of help today than the elite individuals who directly benefit from the billions spent on selective colleges and universities.

Perhaps the most effective way to persuade alumni and donors to “defund the Ivies” in favor of other projects directed at the non-college population is to highlight how few people actually attend and receive degrees from four-year academic universities. Although about 50 percent of high school graduates eventually enroll in four-year college programs, only about half of those graduate within 6 years. An additional 15 percent or so of high school graduates attend community college, but a majority of those fail to ever obtain even a 2-year degree.

2. At The Imaginative Conservative, Gregory Wolfe draws attention to Gerhart Niemeyer and his focus shifts from communism to culture. From the essay:

Beginning in the 1970s, a noticeable shift in focus and subject matter in Gerhart Niemeyer’s writings took place. It was in that decade that he began to concentrate less on the intellectual and geopolitical threat of communism and more on the cultural and spiritual condition of the West. Of course, there are no clear demarcations here: Niemeyer continued to write about communism through its demise in the Soviet Union, and matters of culture and spirit had been central to his thought for decades. But the shift was unmistakable.

It should be remembered that Niemeyer had produced an extensive body of work about the totalitarian ideologies of the modern era, especially communism, by the 1970s, by which time it was becoming clear to most observers that the struggle with communism around the globe would be a protracted conflict rather than one likely to lead to apocalyptic violence. The ultimate battleground, Niemeyer concluded, would be in the hearts and minds of those in both the East and West who could bring about renewal through an openness to transcendent truth and the wisdom of the past. In particular, Niemeyer’s deepening faith impelled him to find concrete ways to embody the Christian vision in the public square. And so the essays of his last two decades turn increasingly to matters of culture, literature, the arts, and education in the West.

3. At Gatestone Institute, Judith Bergman tracks the increasing crackdown on religion by the Commie bosses in Red China. From the beginning of the article:

China is increasing its already extremely severe suppression of religious freedom. More than a year ago, at a November 2018 hearing of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, the President of the Religious Freedom Institute, Thomas F. Farr, described China’s religious suppression as “the most systematic and brutal attempt to control Chinese religious communities since the Cultural Revolution.”

On December 30, 2019, China’s Communist Party (CCP) announced new “Administrative Measures for Religious Groups“. The measures — which came into force on February 1, 2020 — stipulate that religious organizations exist to promote the CCP and its ideology, according to Bitter Winter, a magazine on religious liberty and human rights in China.

According to article 17 of the new measures:

“Religious organizations shall spread the principles and policies of the Chinese Communist Party, as well as national laws, regulations, and rules, to religious staff and religious citizens, and educate and guide religious staff and religious citizens to support the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, support the socialist system, and adhere to the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics. . .”

“In practice, your religion no longer matters, if you are Buddhist, or Taoist, or Muslim or Christian: the only religion allowed is faith in the Chinese Communist Party,” a Catholic priest said.

The Communist ideology, it seems, does not tolerate competing narratives.

4. Greg Piper, at The College Fix, reports on the University of Virginia’s one-upping a Constitutional no-no by mandating triple jeopardy. From the article:

When it comes to campus sexual misconduct proceedings, though, the federal government actually orders double jeopardy when schools already have an appeals process (allowing accusers to appeal not-guilty findings).

But have you ever heard of triple jeopardy in a college proceeding?

The University of Virginia is giving accusers yet another bite at the guilt apple under a new bylaw adopted by its Honor Committee, the student-run and student-elected body that enforces code violations.

The committee was responding to a gap in its enforcement authority, which until recently did not cover Title IX cases. Lying during a Title IX proceeding, for example, would not be functionally punishable under the old honor code.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education analyzes the new bylaw, which it says was devised in good faith but went horribly wrong in practice.

5. At Law & Liberty, Helen Dale takes in the post-Brexit lunacy coalescing behind “Trans” rights. From the beginning of the essay:

Brexit occluded every other political issue and debate in the United Kingdom, and now Brexit is “done,” all the things left to fester in darkness—unloved and alone—for three-and-a-half years are crawling out into unaccustomed sunshine.

One of those festering things is what I’ve come to call the Great Trans Rights Post-Brexit Looniness. And I’m not talking about Douglas Murray’s Madness of Crowds (which came out before the election and so enjoyed a somewhat muted critical response; the country was still consumed by Brexit). I’m talking national psychosis that takes in everything from what Labour is currently doing to itself to the Miller v. College of Policing & Anor judgement and a great deal else besides.

I do not use the word “psychosis” lightly, either, but it’s become clear—since January 31—the madness that characterised the UK’s Brexit paralysis has decamped to other, entirely unrelated issues: everything from the HS2 rail project to Heathrow’s third runway to No 10’s hiring practices to the slow motion train-wreck that is UK Labour’s leadership contest. The Miller case, however, is remarkable for its Kafkaesque weirdness and wild hilarity mingled with pseudoscientific nonsense.

6. At City Journal, Howard Husock finds Michael Bloomberg’s repudiation of his mayoral comments on redlining to be foolish. From the piece:

The tempest over “redlining” began earlier this month, when Bloomberg’s lecture at Georgetown University in September 2008—at the height of the economic crisis—surfaced online. “It probably all started back when there was a lot of pressure on banks to make loans to everyone,” he noted then. Congress, he continued, had overreacted to the wholesale denial of mortgage loans to low-income, often black, neighborhoods—so-called redlining. In response, banks started issuing loans to less-than-creditworthy borrowers. The CRA, a federal law enacted in 1977, encouraged financial institutions to meet these credit demands.

In the debates, Bloomberg has been attacked by Senator Elizabeth Warren and other candidates as a defender of racist lending practices. Under pressure, Bloomberg wilted, blaming the crisis solely on Wall Street’s mortgage-securitization practices. But he was right the first time: government-directed lending, including by the CRA, did play a significant role in the crisis. As a 2015 Federal Reserve Board of Governors paper observed: “The CRA provides an incentive structure that could plausibly have motivated banks to originate or purchase loans they would have otherwise considered too risky.” Another Federal Reserve paper, published in 2012, estimated that, before the crisis, Fannie Mae purchased up to 5 percent more high-risk loans than it should have. The subsequent meltdown of Fannie Mae, along with Freddie Mac, led to a $200 billion infusion of federal funds—the biggest bailout of the financial collapse.

Debating the origins of the financial crisis, however, is distinct from a critical question that Democrats aren’t raising: whether government-mandated bank lending improves the financial fortunes of poor neighborhoods and their residents. As the Federal Reserve concluded in its 2015 report on the CRA: “We do not have a good estimate of the net costs or benefits of the act.” Nor is it possible to know the extent to which the government example encouraged risky private lending.

More Friend Events

The good folks at the William F. Buckley Jr. Program at Yale will be hosting their Sixth Annual “Disinvitation Dinner,” schedule for Thursday, April 16 in New York City. The featured speaker, who has a lot to say about being disinvited, and worse, is Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The WFBJP diner is always a fun and informative event. Think about going, and if you’re tempted, click here for more details.

Podcastapalooza

1. At Mad Dogs and Englishmen, Charlie and Kevin discuss the American citizen in all his charming unruliness. Cut off the mattress tags and listen up, here.

2. On The McCarthy Report, the show’s namesake discusses the Taliban Treaty with Rich Lowry. The expert is in session, here.

3. The shocking outcome of Super Tuesday had Rich, Charlie, Jim, and MBD in figure-it-out mode on The Editors. Crank up the hearing aids and listen here.

4. Abortion is back before SCOTUS, and Alexandra DeSanctis is analyzing the case in the new episode of For Life. Hear here.

5. On the new episode of The Great Books, John J. Miller is joined by Daniel Kennelly of The American Interest to discuss Walter M. Miller Jr.’s A Canticle for Leibowitz. Listen here.

6. On The Bookmonger, JJM is joined by Andrew Klavan to discuss his new novel, The Nightmare Feast. Catch it here.

Baseballery

One of the suits here, knowing of the author’s religious proclivities (papist) and having shared fascinations (for old-time baseball), over a wonderful lunch asked: Do you know the only priest to have ever played Major League Baseball?

Having learned long ago not to deny the obvious — defined as my ignorance on so many matters — Yours Truly had to admit, somewhat shamefully, not knowing. But the circumstances, yes. Let’s explain.

In 1912, Detroit Tigers star Ty Cobb was heckled mercilessly by a Highlanders fan, one Claude Lueker, who fishmongered that Cobb’s mother was of mixed race. That did not go over well with the “Georgia Peach,” who jumped into the stands and beat the bejeepers out of Lueker, who was missing one hand and three fingers on the remaining mitt, a victim of an industrial accident. No mercy was shown, and a century later baseball historians still wrote stories headlined “Ty Cobb Beats Up a Cripple.”

There was an uproar. American League president Ban Johnson moved swiftly to suspend Cobb, whose teammates reacted by threatening to strike if the suspension was not lifted. Johnson did not concede. And so they struck, to a man. The Tigers’ next stop was Philadelphia, and with no squad of regulars, Manager Hughie Jennings had to rustle up a team of amateurs to take on the Athletics or forfeit.

So came the historic game, played before 15,000 fans at Shibe Park, on May 18, 1912, with the Tigers fielding a team with a dozen locals, Major Leaguers for a day (but for one — Billy Maharg, who would play in one more game in 1916 for the Phillies; a few years later, he would gain additional notoriety for involvement in the 1920 Black Sox scandal). They would find themselves on the losing end of a 24–2 bloodbath.

The Tigers’ pitcher that day threw a complete game: over eight innings he served up 26 hits (future Hall of Famers Eddie Collins, Home Run Baker, and Herb Pennock — in only his second MLB game, for which he earned a save — had some of them), 7 walks, 24 runs (an MLB record, and they were all earned), and struck out just once (A’s pitcher Boardwalk Brown).

Aloysius Joseph “Allen” Travers had just turned 20 and had never pitched a game before. But asked to round up a squad, and offered $50 to toss (all the other one-day Tigers were paid $25), he opted for the mound. It wasn’t until later in life that he ever talked about the Day of Infamy (which only took an hour and 45 minutes, God showing some temporal mercy).

He would never play again. Threatened with lifetime bans from baseball if they prolonged the strike, and encouraged by Cobb to concede, the real Tigers returned. Travers et al didn’t head to Washington, where Detroit was scheduled next to play the Senators. On May 21, the Tigers’ aging ace, George Mullins (he had led the AL in wins in 1909 with 29), threw a 2–0 two-hit shutout, besting Senators ace Walter Johnson, (who also gave up but a measly two hits). Cobb returned to the Tigers on May 26, with a single and an RBI in a 6–2 win over the White Sox.

As for Travers: A few years later he opted for the Society of Jesus, and in 1926 he was ordained a Catholic priest. For most of his priesthood, Fr. Travers taught in Jesuit high schools in New York and Philadelphia, where he died in 1968. RIP.

A Dios

One of NR’s dearest amigas, Martha Apgar, cruiser and the loveliest of souls, beloved by our founder, went to make Heaven an even better place. We assume that but still pray nevertheless for her peaceful, eternal repose with the God she loved. A decade ago, Martha took her wealth and used it in part to counter campus insanities — she was front and center in our culture war. In the new issue of NR, we published this short tribute, which Your Humble Correspondent believes is worth sharing:

Martha B. Apgar was a Florida lady and a woman of the world. She loved God, freedom, and America. Once, she was sitting in a restaurant, next to a festive, somewhat rowdy table. She remarked, “I love the sound of Americans having a good time.” She also loved music, nature, and WFB. Virtually everyone who knew her, loved her. She was kind, smart, lively, moral, and beautiful. She was a generous donor to National Review, and a bright presence on our cruises—for many years, in the company of her elegant sister, Louise Garmy. Mrs. Apgar wanted to perpetuate free enterprise and liberal-democratic values. To that end, she created the Apgar Foundation in 2009. Born in 1928, she has died at her home on the Gulf of Mexico, outside Tampa. She leaves her family and friends, and the many whom she benefited through her philanthropy, full of gratitude. R.I.P.

May God’s Abundant Graces Nourish the Souls of You and All Those for Whom You Care,

Jack Fowler, who is quite willing to accept questions that listeners would like posed to VDH on The Victor Davis Hanson Podcast, is reachable at jfowler@natinalreview.com.

P.S.: Getting in above the fat head God bestowed hereabouts, Your Humble Scribbler did try to defend — against the snarks at the New York Times — those who fought for some justice to be given to Michael Milken. It can be found here.

National Review

Hate to Ruin Your Day, But . . .

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Dear Weekend Jolter,

The publication date of this missive falls on that rarest of days, which reminds one, leapin’ lizards, of Little Orphan Annie. Which has me wondering: Who is the Daddy Greenbucks behind Michael Mann’s lawsuit against NR? Didja know he has intended from the get-go to “ruin” this institution?

More on that below, along with more links than you could display at the annual Sausage Convention.

Leaping lizards and leaping logic: That’s found in so much published on NRO this week past, from Democratic “rationales” on allowing abortion-surviving infants to die, to more Democratic rationale — that Bernie Sanders could be elected president.

Well, by next week’s edition — the South Carolina and Super Tuesday primaries having been held — the political landscape might be quite different. So, let us pray, might be the Dow Jones Average. And the reality and angst of the coronavirus.

On with the Jolt!

Editorial

1. Big Surprise. Michael Mann, false Nobel Peace Prize awardee, admits the point of his lawsuit against National Review is to ruin it. We have a thing or three to say about that. From the editorial:

A few days before launching his lawsuit against what he called “this filthy organization,” Michael Mann wrote that there “is a possibility that I can ruin National Review.” Nearly a decade later, we are still fighting his attempt to do precisely that.

From the beginning of this affair, National Review has maintained that the case that Mann filed is frivolous, malicious, corrupt, and lacking entirely in legal justification. We maintain that still. The Supreme Court has ruled that the First Amendment is predicated upon “a profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open,” and that matters of political dispute are in consequence exempt from superintendence. By attempting to litigate against his critics, Michael Mann has chosen to stand firmly on the other side of that national commitment. Were he to prevail, he would set a host of terrible precedents against free inquiry and open argument, and in favor of censorship.

That this case has been open-and-shut from the start was obvious not only to National Review, but to all who believe in the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press — which is why the amicus briefs that have been filed in our behalf range so widely across the political spectrum. . . .

So far, the courts have, to quote Churchill, elected to “go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all-powerful to be impotent.” They brushed past the anti-SLAPP statute that was designed to prevent this from happening. Our hope is that the same won’t happen with Section 230, which is also meant to protect the free-speech rights of online publishers.

It is a matter of considerable irony that the only “malice” that the discovery process has uncovered is that exhibited by Michael Mann. When planning his suit, Mann described National Review as a “threat to our children,” beholden to “greedy fat cat corporate masters.” His stated intention was to bring us “down for good.” Needless to say, this is not how a country with a First Amendment or a culture of free speech is supposed to work. It’s past time that this suit is dismissed as incompatible with both, and a failure on the facts and the law.

Get Some Culture!

What’s upstream of politics? Our friends at National Review Institute have made its biennial, multi-city tour — bringing NRI fellows face to face with readers, friends, and supporters of the Buckley Legacy — one that focuses on politics’ upstream wellspring. It’s titled “Perspectives on America Today and the Importance of Culture,” and if you are nearby any of the eight cities where these special Regional Seminars are taking place (the first one was earlier this week in Palm Beach, Florida), showcasing the wisdom of Rich Lowry, Charlie Cooke, John O’Sullivan, Madeleine Kearns, Daniel Mahoney, Ramesh Ponnuru, Kevin D. Williamson, Jay Nordlnger, and Kyle Smith, do come.

Here’s the schedule, which is still being shored up in some locations:

Newport Beach, CA (March 24)

San Francisco, CA (March 25)

Chicago, IL (April 2)

Dallas, TX (April 14) – information coming soon, but do mark your calendar!

Houston, TX (April 15)

New York, NY, May 11 – stay tuned

Philadelphia, PA (May 12) – stay tuned

Of the available links, click away if you want to sign up. This missive will keep you updated when Dallas, NYC, and Philly event info is finalized.

Fasting Rules Do Not Apply: Fill Your Plate with These Tasty NR Links and Enjoy the Delicious Wisdom from This Score of Servings of Brilliance

1. The attempt to “normalize” socialism by shading the essence of Bernie Sanders cuts no mustard with David Harsanyi. From the piece:

For that matter, many Americans — including Bernie — lived through Stalin and Pol Pot and Mao and they still champion the idea of socialism. It’s completely unsurprising that Bernie once defended the Viet Cong. Because many of us over 40 immediately recognize who Bernie is. I grew up with people like him. In those days, though, adults generally didn’t take their crazy disheveled Commie uncles who taught economics at the local commuter college very seriously. Maybe that’s the problem.

It’s true that Bernie’s fans aren’t acquainted with socialism (and, incidentally, this is true only if we ignore the existence of Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, China, etc.), but the fact is that most Bernie supporters don’t seem to have a rudimentary grasp of basic economics much less the “socialism” they think exists in Scandinavian nations. What they do have are lots of feelings. And, like millions of other saps over the past century-plus, they’ve been enticed by the collectivist “ethic” — its revolutionary appeal, its religiosity, and its quixotic promises.

“Fascism is remembered as a crime,” John Hayward correctly points out. “Communism is treated like a mistake.” I’d add that capitalism is judged by its few failures and socialism by its few success. Sanders will never praise the “literary literacy programs” of any non-tyranny. But if I’ve learned anything from Twitter — or perhaps, more accurately, if Twitter has solidified any of my existing suspicions— it’s that academia is teeming with hard-left apologists. There are plenty of fantastic historians out there, of course, but many of loudest academics, the ones media often relies on, are either apologists for socialism or socialists themselves.

2. Mona Charen nails Sanders as a cold Communist sympathizer. From the column:

Why make a fuss about Bernie’s past praise of Communist dictatorships? After all, the Cold War ended three decades ago, and a would-be President Sanders cannot exactly surrender to the Soviet Union.

It’s a moral issue. Sanders was not a liberal during the Cold War, i.e. someone who favored arms control, peace talks, and opposed support for anti-Communist movements. He was an outright Communist sympathizer, meaning he was always willing to overlook or excuse the crimes of regimes like Cuba and Nicaragua; always ready to suggest that only American hostility forced them to, among other things, arrest their opposition, expel priests, and dispense with elections.

Good ol’ consistent Bernie reprised one of the greatest hits of the pro-Castro Left last week on 60 Minutes. When Anderson Cooper pressed the senator by noting that Castro imprisoned a lot of dissidents, Sanders said he condemned such things. But even that grudging acknowledgment rankled the old socialist, who then rushed to add, “When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing?”

Actually, the first thing Castro did upon seizing power (note Sanders’s whitewashing term “came into office”) was to march 600 of Fulgencio Batista’s supporters into two of the island’s largest prisons, La Cabana and Santa Clara. Over the next five months, after rigged trials, they were shot. Some “trials” amounted to public spectacles. A crowd of 18,000 gathered in the Palace of Sports to give a thumbs-down gesture for Jesus Sosa Blanco. Before he was shot, Sosa Blanco noted that ancient Rome couldn’t have done it better.

3. Jim Geraghty does his “20 Things” thing, giving folks the 411 about a score of things they probably don’t know about Mike Bloomberg. We share the first two numbers. From the piece:

Bloomberg got his start on the path to corporate titanhood when he was paid $10 million and let go by Salomon Brothers as part of Phibro Corporation’s purchase of the venerable Wall Street firm. In his autobiography, Bloomberg on Bloomberg, he writes that he couldn’t understand why some of his colleagues insisted upon telling their spouses about the deal immediately. “Strict instructions to the contrary notwithstanding, some partners did telephone their wives that Friday night. I thought it was nonsensical to make your spouse a possible leak suspect. What difference would it make if she didn’t know for an extra day?”

In the same book, Bloomberg describes himself as “a member of the ‘never apologize, never explain’ school of management.” But he appears to have softened his stance on apologies since then. Just in the past few months, he has apologized for the stop-and-frisk policy he oversaw as New York City mayor, using disrespectful language about women, using prison workers for telemarketing, and calling Cory Booker “well-spoken.”

4. Bernie hates America because, writes Kevin Williamson, that’s what Lefties do. From the essay:

It is not true that the American Left has no interest in “our traditions and our Constitution.” The Left is very interested in our traditions and our Constitution — it hates these and wishes to see them destroyed. The Left’s war on the Constitution goes back to the foundation of American progressivism under Woodrow Wilson, who considered the Constitution outmoded and a hindrance to intelligent administration. The line of thinking extends straight into modern progressivism: Harry Reid’s attempt to gut the First Amendment in order to put political speech under government control, a proposal endorsed by every Democrat in the Senate; other related progressive attempts to destroy the Bill of Rights, beginning with the First and Second Amendments but by no means limited to these; the contention by progressives, typified by Ryan Cooper, that “the American Constitution is an outdated, malfunctioning piece of junk”; Senator Sanders’s call for “revolution”; etc.

The Democrats may shed a few crocodile tears over President Donald Trump’s supposed assault on the Constitution (Trump’s assault mainly has been on American manners, the importance of which is generally overlooked and misunderstood), but assaulting the Constitution is the foundation of their politics and their jurisprudence: Assaulting the Constitution — reshaping it to better fit progressive political preferences — is what Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan were put on the Supreme Court to do. The intellectual and constitutional position that this is impermissible — that the Constitution must be treated as though it says what it actually says rather than as though it said what people invested with transient political power wish it said, which is all the “textualism” of Clarence Thomas et al. actually amounts to — is denounced as dangerous “extremism.” Whatever it is the American Left is on about, it is not the Constitution — not the actual one that has been written down, in any case.

5. El Jefe Rich Lowry says Bernie as POTUS 46 would be akin to President Noam Chomsky. From the column:

Bernie’s perspective on Cuba isn’t an outlier. It is characteristic of his worldview that has a sympathy for America’s enemies, at least if they are Communist or Islamist; that assumes the worst of the United States; and that opposes nearly all U.S. military interventions as misbegotten or malign. (Sanders voted for the Afghanistan War after September 11 and now regrets even that vote.)

Electing Bernie Sanders would be almost indistinguishable from putting the late radical historian Howard Zinn, or the America-loathing linguist Noam Chomsky, or the tendentious left-wing filmmaker Michael Moore in charge of American foreign policy. The country would be in the hands of an opponent of its power with no faith in its goodness. Bernie would make Barack Obama’s overly solicitous attitude toward our enemies and Donald Trump’s bizarrely warm statements about foreign dictators look like American foreign-policy orthodoxy by comparison.

There is almost no enemy of the United States that wouldn’t be heartened by a Sanders victory and see it as an opportunity to make gains at the expense of the United States and its allies. If his decades-long track record is any indication, Sanders would be inclined to make excuses for our adversaries and look on the bright side of their repression and rapine.

He’s doing it with the Cuban dictatorship to this day.

6. Victor Davis Hanson takes on Bloomberg’s “gray matter” boast and delves deeper into the elites’ disdain for the working class. From the essay:

Why do so many liberal journalists, politicians, and celebrities harbor such contempt for, and show such snobbery about, the white working, and often rural, classes of the American heartland?

The most obvious answers are that the media, elite politicians, and government hierarchy are liberal or left-wing, and the objects of their hatred are mostly conservative. Just look at any election map, color-coded by either congressional districts or Electoral College states, and the nation, geographically, is a sea of red, bookended by two long blue corridors on the coasts, the home of the nation’s tony universities, network news, media hubs, the bureaucratic borg, Silicon Valley, Hollywood, and Wall Street.

Second, there is no cultural, career, or political downside in stereotyping millions of Americans as stupid, crude, and culturally repugnant. Had Don Lemon’s two guests mimicked the dialect of inner-city youths and suggested they were uneducated and thus gullible supporters of Barack Obama, they would have been banned from CNN for life. Or had Peter Strzok suggested that he could smell Obama supporters at Walmart, federal attorneys would probably have found a way to have him indicted by now.

Third, politics, academia, the media, and entertainment don’t necessarily draw in particularly wise people, especially if knowledge is broadly defined as social skills, empirical education, common sense, and pragmatic experience. According to the rules of the elementary playground, one becomes exalted by ridiculing others. High-school dropouts such as Robert De Niro and Cher seem to appear sophisticated by ranting about Trump and his supposedly ignorant supporters. Don Lemon’s skills seem mostly limited to reading a teleprompter — when he ventures into commentary and analysis, he usually sounds either banal or adolescent. Howling at stupid jokes about the supposed ignorance of the red-state drawler apparently lend the insipid Lemon an air of cosmopolitan sophistication. Michael Bloomberg, for all his billions and cunning, cannot fathom in a debate that, by joking about TurboTax, he only further alienates millions who use it because they cannot hire his legions of attorneys to reduce their tax exposure.

7. Andrew McCarthy reviews the Roger Stone sentencing as an ending (really?) of the Russia Collusion Farce. From the analysis:

Stone was sentenced to 40 months’ imprisonment. This was smack in the middle of the federal sentencing guidelines’ range — 37 to 46 months — that Attorney General Bill Barr’s Justice Department argued would be a reasonable term. The AG’s position was a second-guess of the Stone trial’s prosecutors. That team, dominated by Mueller fabulists who portrayed the Stone case as Watergate revisited, had recommended something closer to a nine-year sentence.

The severity of the trial team’s recommendation was objectively absurd. It was, more to the point, merely a recommendation — as was Barr’s milder but still stiff counter. It had no legally binding effect whatsoever on the judge. In federal law, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, the judge decides the sentence. Not only is the sentencing court free to ignore any recommendation from prosecutors, which judges do with frequency; the court is free to ignore the guidelines — the regime Congress introduced in the 1980s in a (moderately successful) effort to end obscene disparities in sentences imposed on similarly situated defendants.

Nevertheless, Barr’s entirely reasonable position was castigated by Democrats, their media notetakers, and progressive lawyers who have transformed the organized bar into just another left-wing hack. These last included a couple thousand former federal prosecutors and Justice Department officials, who took a break from writing donation checks for their favorite Democratic demagogues to sign a petition demanding Barr’s resignation — strangely silent, though they were, when Obama AG Eric Holder was being held in contempt for misleading and obstructing Congress’s investigation of the Fast & Furious scandal, in which the murder of a U.S. Border Patrol officer was just part of the lethal fallout from the Obama Justice Department’s reckless gun-walking scheme.

8. More Andy: The Harvey Weinstein verdict, and legal aftermath, explained. From the piece:

The main appellate issues arising out of the trial will likely involve the similar-act evidence and the court’s refusal to excuse one juror for cause. Ironically, the three acquittals should be of great help to the state on appeal.

As noted above, similar-act evidence always creates thorny legal issues. Here, the court permitted testimony from victims of four similar acts to bolster proof of just two indicted acts. It is unusual for proof of uncharged crimes to be more extensive than that of charged crimes. Clearly, the defense will claim on appeal that the similar-act evidence inflamed the jury into convicting because Weinstein is a sociopath, rather than on the strength of the proof of the two sex acts actually charged. Moreover, Weinstein’s lawyers will contend that Sciorra’s testimony and the two PSA counts were a pretext for making an end run around the statute of limitations.

The verdict will help the state rebut such claims. The fact that a jury of seven men and five women did not convict on the most serious charges, and that it convicted only on third-degree rather than first-degree rape (in the Mann incident), indicates that it was sober and discriminating in doing its job — it was not so distracted or prejudiced by the similar-act evidence that it could not carefully weigh the evidence in the Mann and Haley cases. (Indeed, it appears that jurors largely discounted Sciorra’s accusation of rape.)

The judge also made a decision, hotly disputed by the defense, to permit a novelist to sit on the jury. The author revealed that she had written a novel about three women who had sexual relationships with older men. During the voir dire examination, she denied that the book was about predatory older men. The defense claims that this was a lie, reporting that the juror’s website described her book as being about young women and “predatory older men.” Weinstein’s lawyers had run out of peremptory challenges (i.e., jurors who are stricken at the discretion of the two legal teams, rather than for cause) by the time the juror in question was examined. The trial judge denied the defense’s motion to remove her for cause (i.e., for implicitly being too biased to decide the case fairly and impartially).

9. Michael Brendan Dougherty finds Michael Bloomberg’s Red China kowtowing to be disqualifying. From the analysis:

Perhaps worst of all, it turned out that American businesses with significant interests in China, including the NBA, were willing to protect those interest even if doing so meant deploying the Communist political tools of censorship, false propaganda, and public struggle sessions — all of which followed after the relatively mild pro-Hong Kong comments of Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey.

Now Bloomberg has entered the presidential race, and his view of China runs in the exact opposite direction of conventional wisdom. “Xi Jinping is not a dictator. He has to satisfy his constituents or he’s not going to survive,” Bloomberg told Firing Line’s Margaret Hoover last year. It’s a comment he has repeated elsewhere. “The Chinese government is no less impacted by what their constituents — i.e. citizens, voters — want than anyplace else,” he said at one conference.

Bloomberg’s comments on China are distressing for two reasons. First, they deny the reality that China is a Communist dictatorship, run without the consent of its people, and that what popular legitimacy it does have comes partly as a product of how it has degraded said people. Secondly, they seem to deny the existence of tyranny as a category, to be an assertion that there are no captive peoples.

10. John Hirschauer reports that some establishment types charge Pete Buttigieg as insufficiently intersectional. From the piece:

The protester’s objection to Buttigieg’s melanin count and intact genitalia — “Why aren’t you a trans black woman, Mr. Mayor? highlights an ongoing debate on the left about the former mayor’s sexuality, and whether he is, in the words of Masha Gessen of The New Yorker, “gay enough” to represent the LGBT community.

One would think Buttigieg’s gay bona fides are obvious. He is “married” to another man, and frequently drones on about how Mike Pence “hates” him for his sexual preferences. Buttigieg is nevertheless accused of lacking a metaphysical “gayness,” one that obtains not by participation in certain sex acts but instead through the approval of the identity eunuchs in the commentariat and American sociology departments. The operative question, then, is not whether Pete Buttigieg is a homosexual — that much is beyond dispute — but instead whether he is gay, or “gay enough.”

Gessen attempted to explain the contempt “some queer people” hold for Mayor Pete, who they doubt “is gay enough” to represent their political interests. What the mayor’s relative “gayness” has to do with his aptitude as a political vessel for the interests of “queer people” is unclear, as is her operative definition of “gay.” Gessen nevertheless proceeds with an empiricist’s certainty, picking apart moments in Buttigieg’s life and asserting that “the notion that some of us think that Buttigieg is not gay enough has an identifiable relationship to the facts.”

11. More Hirschauer: Hard to believe some conservative Catholics find Pope Francis . . . conservative. That’s even after reading Dan Mahoney’s recent powerful cover story on the Pontiff. John has something to say in response to the fawning. From the piece:

It is difficult to square the suggestion that Pope Francis is “a man of Tradition” with his first apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium. While some assert that Pope Benedict XVI was primarily responsible for the document, nearly every inside source we have confirms that Gaudium is much more of a ‘Francis document’” than a Benedictine one, and it “regularly emphasizes the distinctive thought and themes of” the current Pope.

Indeed, Gaudium is full of Francis’s trademark calls for innovation — it asks the Church to embrace “new narratives and paradigms,” “new forms of cultural synthesis,” and, “new signs and new symbols” to better commune with “today’s world.” None of these vague “novelties” can be classified as right-wing or deferential to the Church’s patrimony. Francis calls the very power structure of the Church into question when he suggests, in Gaudium, that the Church “examine” the possibility of imputing “genuine doctrinal authority” to “episcopal conferences,” a divestiture of papal authority that would grant bishops’ conferences the power to enact new doctrines under the guise of “synodality” and the fleeting dictates of the popular will.

This exhortation is awash in the pluralistic ecumenism that has dominated post-conciliar thinking. Elsewhere in Gaudium, Francis goes out of his way to heap abundant praise upon non-Christian religions, assuring readers that “authentic” practitioners of Islam “are opposed to every form of violence” and instructing Christians to heed the “practical wisdom” contained in other faiths. Apprehending these bits of “practical wisdom” will, he writes, allow Christians to better “accept” the “different ways of living, thinking and speaking” among those schismatics and dissenters who would, in a faraway time of moral clarity, have been prompted to “return to the one true Church of Christ” for the sake of their eternal souls.

The document’s ebullient praise for dissidents and “acceptance” of divergent “ways of . . . thinking,” however, is mysteriously denied to some Catholic believers, whom the Pope deems to possess “an ostentatious preoccupation for the liturgy, for doctrine, and for the Church’s prestige” and “a nostalgia for structures and customs which are no longer life-giving in today’s world.” Never mind the consolation offered by the unchanging majesty of those “structures and customs” to the poor and dispossessed; while some of those “customs may be beautiful,” Francis writes, they must be abandoned for improperly “communicating the Gospel” to the spiritual paupers of modernity.

12. Conrad Black provides an excellent rundown of the career of Bernie Sanders, plus a couple of ways to handle him, plus a prediction about the November elections should the Democrats nominate the Socialist to challenge Donald Trump. From the piece:

The key to repulsing Sanders lies in three responses: First, publicization, as has already begun, of the many colossal indiscretions in his lengthy public record, including his exaggerated claim that the U.S. is “systemically racist” and reflections published in an “alternative” newspaper on the alleged propensity of women to fantasize about rape. Second is fanning the well-entrenched negative American response to the idea of socialism as coercive and anti-individualistic, amounting to Communism with less severity, at least initially. Finally, Sanders’s opponent, Bloomberg (and if he can’t do it, Trump), starts with the 49.9 percent who are losers in the Sanders transformation and then scoops up at least a third of Sanders’s targeted voters by pitching to their not unreasonable faith in their ability to get into the upper half without having to float upwards because of exorbitant government extractions and reallocations.

Obviously, Sanders must lose, if not at the convention, then in November. If Sanders is nominated, Trump will take about 65 percent of the vote, the highest percentage for a candidate in a contested U.S. presidential election in 200 years, and will win every state (including Vermont), and roll up a margin of about twice Richard Nixon’s outstanding record of 18 million votes over George McGovern in 1972 (with only about 55 percent of the number of voters anticipated this year). In such a tidal wave, Trump’s coattails would be long and would install a heavy Republican majority in both houses of Congress. This is why the Democratic elders are frazzled by the prospect of a Sanders candidacy. Michael Bloomberg, who is not otherwise any more beloved a candidate to them than Trump was to the Bush-Romney-McCain Republicans four years ago, is now the anointed savior of some post-electoral standing for the Democrats. Never in American history has a political leader achieved so swift a transition from a side-splitting joke to his opponents, as Trump was a little over three years ago, to the subject of their cold, gripping terror, of such enormity as only the impending loss of control of a vast apparatus of government and media influence can induce.

13. What’s harming scientific research, writes Daniel Tenreiro, is the politics of science-research papers and the triumph of citations over exploration. From the piece:

Despite Silicon Valley’s public-relations efforts, which tout the transformative potential of new software, more and more thinkers argue that we are experiencing technological stagnation. Citing disappointing productivity numbers and the comparatively low impact of recent information-technology innovations, Peter Thiel, Tyler Cowen, Larry Summers, and others have made this case in recent years, but theories abound as to why it is happening. On one popular view, expressed most comprehensively by Robert Gordon of Northwestern University, Western researchers have picked all the technological “low-hanging fruit,” such as indoor plumbing, automobiles, and air travel. According to this theory, there are diminishing returns to science; once you’ve discovered fire and electricity, all future innovations will pale in comparison.

Economists Jay Bhattacharya and Mikko Packalen push back on this view in a new paper. “New ideas no longer fuel economic growth the way they once did,” they acknowledge, but rather than resulting from the laws of physics, the dearth of new ideas is a consequence of the incentives faced by scientists.

Because academic papers are evaluated by how many citations they receive, scientists choose low-risk projects that are certain to get attention rather than novel experiments that may fail. Academics cluster into crowded fields because papers in such fields are guaranteed to be read by a high number of researchers.

This is a relatively new phenomenon, as citation analysis of scientific research was introduced only in the 1950s and did not become common until the 1970s. Eugene Garfield, who developed the idea of using citation quantity to evaluate the impact of journals, came to regret its use as a performance indicator for individual researchers.

RELATED: Caleb Watney writes that there is a global run on scientific minds.

14. Kevin Williamson checks out the modern fear to call something evil . . . “evil.” From the essay:

As the pop-fiction psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter puts it, we have “given up good and evil for behaviorism.” We cannot stand to call evil evil, and so resort to the sterile language of psychiatry.

I am sure that I am guilty of using that kind of language myself, though I repent of it.

But what would we do without pseudo-medical language to replace the moral language we have abandoned? For a half a century or more, all the best people nodded sagely when some imbecile would say, “You can’t legislate morality!” as though legislation had any other basis, as though we outlaw murder because it is bad for the GDP. We are still saying that even as college students are given twenty-page contracts to fill out before a kiss goodnight. Of course you need a contract—What if he’s a sociopath? A psychopath? A narcissist? It is a myth that Victorians draped the legs of pianos so as not to encourage impure thoughts about legs not attached to keyboard instruments, but it certainly is the case that earlier generations had more evolved and demanding etiquettes relating to interactions between the sexes. We are, in the halting and stupid way of our times, creating a new version of that etiquette, one that is generally silly but is nonetheless attuned, if imperfectly, to the same social needs and concerns as the other, older etiquette. Megan McArdle touches on this when she observes that ‘we no longer have any moral language for talking about sex except consent.”

Moral language makes us uncomfortable, because we abandoned the notion of judgment when we abandoned responsible adulthood and began to insist that hierarchical social relations were necessarily unjust and oppressive — Who are you to tell me what’s right and what’s wrong? Who are you to judge? Moral language forces us to face our moral illiteracy, to admit that we have not engaged in the necessary moral education to cultivate ourselves and our children for some generations now. This surrender was very much abetted by the schools and the churches and other institutions, but the abandonment was, by and large, organic and self-organizing. What we rejected was authority.

15. Kyle Smith’s views about Balloon are up, up, and away. From the review:

The German film Balloon explores the Iron Curtain from an unusual angle: above. Two ordinary families living a routine existence in Poessneck, a small East German town in 1979, yearn to escape by making their own hot-air balloon and soaring south over the border into West Germany. Some 75,000 East Germans were imprisoned for trying to make their way into the West, and about 800 were outright murdered by their own security forces in such attempts. The peril level is set at maximum, then, for these average citizens, and layered atop that is the massive danger of sailing thousands of feet up in a rickety jury-rigged contraption built by amateurs. Balloon revels in exploring the details of every possible kind of danger these people face, so it’s a nerve-wincher, a cracking good escape thriller, but that’s not all it is.

As breathtakingly plotted as the film is, it is nevertheless based on the true story of Peter Strelzyk (Friedrich Mücke) and Günter Wetzel (David Kross), who together with their wives Doris (Karoline Schuch) and Petra (Alicia von Rittberg) schemed to become the first people ever to escape East Germany in a hot-air balloon. The story was previously filmed at Disney, in Night Crossing (1982), but that retelling was much less faithful to the facts.

Balloon takes care not to exaggerate the suffering of Peter and Günter and their families. Even in a police state, it’s possible to muddle through. If they just keep their heads down, say nothing controversial and salute the Party on cue, they’ll survive, even enjoy something in the ballpark of a recognizable standard of living to Westerners. Still, there are glimpses of how a centralized economy makes everything an endless gray trudge, in which glum women line up patiently for groceries but worry that the coffee will be gone by the time they get in the store. An ideal vacation, available to the well-connected only, is a visit to Berlin. The most desirable rooms are the ones on high floors in hotels near West Berlin, so you can see all the way over to the West.

16. Armond White finds Elisabeth Moss’s performance in The Invisible Man to be repugnant. From the beginning of the review:

‘He is not the victim here!” screams Elisabeth Moss, heroine of The Invisible Man, the latest in the series that reboots Universal Studios’ classic 1930s scary movies for the gullible Millennial market. The film’s title now refers to the hidden threat of an unseen, yet lethal, patriarchy. But this movie doesn’t fight against under-recognized male hegemony; it is very much part of contemporary Hollywood hegemony, imposing social-justice trends on our culture.

Moss plays Cecilia Kass, the frantic girlfriend of Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), an “optics engineer” who dominates and abuses her physically and psychologically. She’s imprisoned in his high-tech Bay Area cliffside mansion — a sort of #MeToo Rapunzel, unfurling a long list of grievances. In short, this new The Invisible Man is no fun.

How could it be when we’re subjected to more whining and whimpering from Moss? First seen making her preplanned escape (borrowed from Julia Roberts’s Sleeping with the Enemy), Moss negates the film’s fairy-tale, bad-romance aspects through her usual impertinence. She has made a career out of seeming to have never had a happy day in her life. This miserable outlook defines every Moss role from TV’s Mad Men to The Handmaid’s Tale. As the standard-bearers for anti-entertainment, Moss and director Leigh Whannell promote the perverse trend in which silly actresses think that “empowerment” justifies everything. They corrupt what was originally H. G. Wells’s study of egotism-turned-to-madness. It’s now a lesson in misandry, a women’s-justice broadside (with a particular topical target to be named later).

17. Madeleine Kearns focuses on the UK’s political-identity crisis, which continues to expose Labour’s meltdown. From the piece:

The British Labour Party recently celebrated its 120th birthday. Lately, that’s all it has had to celebrate. December’s general election shrunk the party’s number of MPs to 202, its lowest level since 1935. And with four more years of Tory rule to come, the candidates fighting to replace the disastrous Jeremy Corbyn as party leader appear unable to initiate a comeback.

In the general-election campaign, Corbyn proposed dramatically increasing the health budget and minimum wage, introducing free personal care for the elderly, reaching net-zero carbon emissions by the 2030s, nationalizing water, the railways, and the postal service, and abolishing private schools — at a combined cost of $97 billion. It was a demonstrably unpopular platform, yet the front-runner to take over as Labour leader, Keir Starmer, has made clear that he intends to run on it. Rebecca Long Bailey, another contender for the job, has said that she would “love” to have Corbyn in her shadow cabinet.

All of which suggests that Labour has not learned the lessons of history. Even before Corbyn’s spectacular defeat, the party had ample empirical evidence to suggest that left-wing economic policies are a path to failure at the polls. Its mishandling of inflation led to union strikes during the 1978–79 Winter of Discontent, which in turn prompted nearly 20 years of Tory rule. By the mid 1980s, Old Labour’s hard-line socialist policies were so unpopular that MP Gerald Kaufman famously described his party’s 1983 general-election manifesto as “the longest suicide note in history.”

18. Europe’s Death March: The Final Solution had its actual roots in euthanasia of the mentally challenged (influenced by Margaret Sanger). Wesley Smith reports on a new generation of Germans, courtesy of its High Court, who have established the suicide right. From the Corner post:

It cannot be denied any longer. The long-predicted (here’s a 2007 warning from me) lethal logical end of accepting the values that underlie the assisted suicide/euthanasia movement — death for virtually anyone who wants to die for any reason — has officially been reached. This would seem to include at least mature children, since childhood is a stage of a person’s existence. Right?

So no more telling us that assisted suicide is only for the terminally ill! No more telling us that rigid guidelines will protect against abuse! Basta! Germany is now officially a suicide culture. If we keep hearkening to the siren song of death emanating from assisted/suicide euthanasia advocates here, sooner or later, we will be too.

19. America’s Death March: Alexandra DeSanctis covers the Democrat-led filibuster of a bill that would have protected infants who survived abortion. From the article:

Earlier this week, 41 Democratic senators successfully filibustered the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which would require doctors to provide standard medical care to infants who survive attempted abortion procedures.

Contrary to Democratic claims, the bill is neither unnecessary nor redundant. Abortion survivors are not a fiction invented by the pro-life movement. No law currently protects such infants. And the bill neither regulates nor limits abortion or women’s health-care options. All it requires is that doctors give “the same degree” of care to newborns who survive abortion that “any other child born alive at the same gestational age” would receive.

In more than a dozen states, it is not currently illegal for a doctor to allow a newborn who survives an abortion to die of neglect. Had Democrats not blocked it, this bill would have changed that.

Republicans hope that the outcome of this vote will sway some voters later this year, exposing Democrats’ radical commitment to the logic of abortion, which turns a blind eye to infants being allowed to die simply because they were meant to have been aborted.

One survey from March 2019 found that nearly three-quarters of Americans believe doctors should be required to care for infants who survive abortion. Another survey found even higher support: 82 percent said they oppose removing medical care from viable infants.

20. Steve Hanke ranks nations by misery. We here share the bottom dwellers. From the analysis:

Venezuela holds the inglorious title of the most miserable country in the world in 2019, as it did in 2018, 2017, 2016, and 2015. The failures of president Nicolás Maduro’s corrupt, socialist petroleum state have been well documented over the past year. However, behind the shroud of secrecy that covers Venezuela, a great deal of change occurred in the components of HAMI in 2019. Inflation, while still the world’s highest, came down. On the other hand, the unemployment rate surged to 24 percent from 14.9 percent in 2018, while GDP per capita took a dive from  -16.5 percent per year to -32.2 percent per year.

Argentina held down the second-most miserable spot after yet another peso crisis. Since its founding, Argentina has endured numerous economic crises. Most can be laid at the feet of domestic mismanagement and currency problems (read: currency collapses). Such crises have occurred in 1876, 1890, 1914, 1930, 1952, 1958, 1967, 1975, 1985, 1989, 2001, 2018, and 2019, to name but a few. Until Argentina dumps the beleaguered peso and replaces it with the U.S. dollar, it will be, well . . . miserable.

American Ingrate

Our pal Ben Weingarten, who hangs his hat at The Federalist, has written a book, out this week, that I can’t wait to get my hands on: American Ingrate: Ilhan Omar and the Progressive Islamist Takeover of the Democratic Party. Two serious conservatives have great things to say about it.

From Victor Davis Hanson: “Benjamin Weingarten professionally and thoroughly dissects the strange case of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and demonstrates that much about the congresswoman is an enigma at best and a fraud at worst…Weingarten suggests that if Omar had not existed, she would have had to be invented, given that she is a metaphor for a larger American pathology of progressive virtue-signaling, and, ultimately, self-loathing.”

And Dennis Prager weighs in: “American Ingrate is a serious, deeply researched work that makes the compelling case Rep. Ilhan Omar is the new face of the Democratic Party, and delves deeply into her background and beliefs. It compellingly sets forth the argument that she not only personifies but leads a Progressive-Islamist alliance held together by the glue of hatred of America, of Judeo-Christian values, of Western civilization, and of Israel. Read it and weep. Or better, read it and fight back. This is a manual in that fight.”

You can order a copy here.

The Six

1. At The Imaginative Conservative, George Washington received excellent and deserved attention on his birthday, leading off with Bradley Birzer’s piece making the case for considering POTUS ONE as an American Aurelius. From the reflection:

In his own day and age, George Washington was the greatest and best-known man in all of Western Civilization. Washington (1732-1799), indeed, served as a pillar of Atlantis, recognized not only for his willingness to sacrifice his life for the great Republic, but also as the founder of the first serious Republic a weary world had witnessed since the martyrdom of Cicero. A true genius when it came to geometry, trigonometry, and surveying, he also read deeply in military history, biography, agricultural science. His loves, though, were hunting, adventure (as in traveling), and farming. Surveying, especially, allowed him to combine many of these loves into one. Ironically, given the status he attained as a living hero or demigod in his own lifetime, Washington suffered from a lack of liberal education, strange by the standards of his day. Much of what he knew of the classical world came not from a study of Greek and Latin (as with many of the founding fathers), but from his reading of biography and, especially, from his love of the Joseph Addison play, Cato: A Tragedy. Despite this, he earned innumerable classical titles during his lifetime, including: the American Achilles, the American Cicero, the American Aeneas, and the American Cincinnatus.

He deserves another title: the American Marcus Aurelius. Aurelius was, of course, one of the so-called “Five Good Emperors,” ruling Rome from 161 to 180. While Washington would never have been emperor, the two shared a common Stoic view of the world. In his always profound Meditations, Aurelius defined the philosophy of many ages before him and many to come.

2. In City Journal, Christopher Rufo finds the addiction epidemic in Los Angeles has created a permanent, cut-off underclass. From the article:

The scale of the crisis is astonishing: 40,000 homeless men and women in Los Angeles County suffer from addiction, mental illness, or both. More than 1,000 will die on the streets this year. As I survey the human wreckage along Skid Row, my fear is that the city government is creating a new class of “untouchables,” permanently disconnected from the institutions of society. For the past decade, political leaders have relied on two major policies to address the crisis—“harm reduction” and “housing first”—but despite $619 million in spending in 2018, more people are on the streets than ever. The reality is that Los Angeles has adopted a policy of containment: construct enough “supportive housing” to placate the appetites of the social-services bureaucracy, distribute enough needles to prevent an outbreak of plague, and herd enough men and women into places like Skid Row, where they will not disrupt the political fiction that everything is okay.

The LAPD’s Central Police Station is a windowless fortress, surrounded by a narrow strip of dirt and a sagging chain-link fence. Last year, after rats established a system of tunnels underneath the station, the department made plans to pave over the remaining landscape with concrete, but the project is on hold. I’m here to see Sergeant Pete Kouvelis, an LAPD veteran with a detailed, street-level understanding of life on Skid Row. I wait in line behind a polite and neatly dressed man filing a battery complaint against another resident in his SRO apartment complex, and then give my name to the tired-looking officer behind the glass.

3. At Gatestone Institute, Giulio Meotti nails the academic Left’s continued march through European universities. From the outset of the article:

Western universities have become places of personal fear and intellectual terror. Formerly sanctuaries for open inquiry, instead fierce ideological minorities have been setting red lines of orthodoxy in the face of a silent or, worse, compliant academy. Education — from ex ducere, to lead out — has been increasingly eroded by ideological fundamentalism and an attempt to determine not only what actions are acceptable, but even words and thoughts.

Social media has helped by officially reviving the lynch mob. We must now all sing the praises of multiculturalism, Islam, immigration, post-colonial guilt and racializing just about everything. In this new Inquisition, not even the slightest doubt or dissent can be tolerated — it must be punished!

Freedom of expression is increasingly at risk in France by effectively creating new crimes of opinion. If your personal opinion coincides with the official one, you have nothing to fear. If your ideas conflict with the official ones, you risk becoming ostracized and your mere existence in the public sphere scandalous.

The new academic fascism,” is how Natacha Polony, a television host and editor of the French weekly Marianne, has described it. If you dissent, educators, political leaders, the media and the mob will try to destroy you, just as they destroyed Giordano Bruno in 1600 for saying that the universe could have many stars.

“Small radical groups create a climate of terror to impose opinions and silence their opponents,” Polony wrote. “They enjoy infinite mercy from some political and media circles insofar as they claim to embody the Good. Who would dare to challenge them?”

4. At Law & Liberty, John McGinnis offers a refresher on the lessons of the French Revolution. From the essay:

Other than the American Revolution, the French Revolution is the political event of modernity with the longest-lasting influence. Both revolutions created new regimes (although only America’s lasted) and advanced political ideals that still resonate around the world. It is not a surprise that famous politicians of recent times still assess an upheaval that occurred 200 years ago in a different nation than their own: “It resulted in a lot of headless corpses and a tyrant” was Margaret Thatcher’s verdict on its 200th birthday. Zhou Enlai was less certain, suggesting that even after 175 years, it was “too soon to tell” about the revolution’s ultimate significance.

Thus, it is always worth learning more about the French Revolution, and Jeremy Popkin’s The New World Begins is the most important English language history of this epochal event since Simon Schama’s Citizens appeared 30 years ago. Its fair-minded and fast-paced recounting of the events allows for a reassessment of the Revolution’s causes and of its value. Popkin provides a brilliant frame for understanding what sparked and sustained the revolt by contrasting the life of Louis XVI, the French King who lost his head, with one of his subjects, Jacques Menetra, a skilled glazier who left a full memoir of his own life in the turbulent times.

Louis XVI was not unintelligent, but his entire education and routine left him unfit to understand his nation, let alone deal shrewdly with a political cataclysm. His lessons as a youngster focused on the glorious past of his ancestors, and his routine as an adult confined his experience, giving him few opportunities to meet with people outside fawning courtiers. It is thus not surprising that Bourbons like Louis “learned nothing and forgot nothing” in Talleyrand’s well-known jibe. Incredibly, Louis XVI journeyed outside the environs of Paris only once before his failed attempt to escape abroad in 1791.

In contrast, Menetra traveled around much of France. While he was not well-educated, he was literate and skilled in creating social (not to mention sexual) networks wherever he went. The country, Popkin implies, was full of Menetras. Their collective power and intelligence overmatched a monarchy that had few reliable sources of information and a self-understanding that was at least a century out of date.

5. Your Humble Correspondent is a sucker for anything Helen Andrews writes, such as her review, in Claremont Review of Books, of Chris Caldwell’s new book, The Age of Entitlement. From the review:

Of course, the law—and its 1968 successor—did do all that, and more. One of Caldwell’s most provocative arguments is his rejection of the belief, common among conservatives, that there is a “good” civil rights law buried beneath the quotas and diktats and that “[o]nce the country came to its senses and rejected this optional, radical regime, it could have the good civil rights regime back.” Even in its original incarnation, civil rights law required employers to collect extensive demographic data on their workers, institute grievance procedures and performance reviews, hire human resources directors to enforce the new rules (Caldwell aptly compares them to “twentieth-century commissars”), and—most far-reaching of all—impose strict censorship on what their employees were allowed to say.

“Political correctness,” says Caldwell, is simply “the cultural effect of the basic enforcement powers of civil rights law.” He cites Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Al Campanis, who was fired in 1987 by the team he had worked for since 1943 after an interview in which Ted Koppel asked him about the lack of black executives in major league baseball. Campanis gave a thoughtful answer pointing out that team managers don’t get paid very much and well-known black players might prefer other opportunities. He then got flustered when Koppel called his answer “baloney” and “garbage,” and offered a rambling second answer that ended with him speculating that maybe black men are poor swimmers because “they don’t have the buoyancy.”

Today we attribute outrage storms to social media, but, as Caldwell points out, organizations like the Dodgers don’t cave just because they are afraid of bad publicity. They do it because they’re afraid of lawsuits. Comments like Campanis’s, not actionable in themselves, can serve in an anti-discrimination case as evidence of a hostile work environment or covert bias. The comments need not even be made in the workplace. In a 1987 suit brought by a female English professor, claiming Boston University had wrongly denied her tenure because of her sex, her case partly rested on a speech given years earlier by the university president in which he made standard socially conservative points about working women and child-rearing. The district court ruled that B.U. had indeed acted out of sexism and ordered the school to give the woman tenure, plus $215,000.

6. At The American Conservative, James Matthew Wilson reviews a new collection of Flannery O’Connor’s letters and the impact of Twentieth Century Catholic literature. From the piece:

Good Things Out of Nazareth—a volume of Flannery O’Connor’s previously uncollected letters to friends—tells us an important American literary tale, interesting in itself, that also sets the record straight on Catholicism’s influence on modern American literature.

The Catholic Church underwent a great, international renaissance in the early 20th century—stimulated by the revival of Scholastic philosophy and, later, by the rumblings of a new theology seeking a return to the patristic writings of the early Church. At the same time, Catholic writers in England and France were doing some of their best work. Paul Claudel published The Satin Slipper in 1931 and was elected to the Académie française in 1946. Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory won Hawthornden Prize in 1941, and Evelyn Waugh published Brideshead Revisited in 1945, followed by his Sword of Honor trilogy.

Catholic colleges and universities in America enthusiastically endorsed an “apostolate of the pen” by assigning modern Catholic writers in their classrooms, and by mid-century, American literature itself found a genuinely Catholic expression, mostly in the work of intellectuals who had been converted to the faith—such as Thomas Merton, Allen Tate, Caroline Gordon, Dorothy Day, and Robert Lowell. Between 1945 and 1965, Dana Gioia observes in The Catholic Writer Today and Other Essays, “Catholic novelists and poets received 11 Pulitzer Prizes and 5 National Book Awards.” In retrospect, this seems almost the inevitable outcome of a program that had been both consciously and patiently undertaken.

This volume’s letters and the commentary that accompany them add a fascinating twist to the story: what may seem to us inevitable at first appeared totally improbable. When the Southern novelist Gordon, herself a recent convert to the faith, reads two unpublished novels in manuscript, she is totally taken aback. Most American Catholic literature of the age was more notable for its piety than its technique. The American literary landscape, as Gordon saw it, seemed securely dominated by a desiccated, sterile Protestantism that had found classic expression in Henry James, but had now lapsed into what she and Senator Eugene McCarthy denounced as a largely “homosexual” culture of decadence.

BONUS: At The College Fix, Jeremiah Poff reports on Wake Forest’s effort to white-out the school’s classics program. From the beginning of the piece:

A North Carolina university that recently made headlines for apologizing for slavery is in the midst of a program that offers a new take on the discipline of classics to make up for its history of “abusive and exclusionary” curriculum.

Launched in September at Wake Forest University, “Classics Beyond Whiteness” is an effort to assist the discipline to “come to terms with its participation in abusive and exclusionary practices that have caused real and lasting harm to communities and students of color,” according to the program’s description on the university website.

The program was inspired by a previous one, last year’s “Classics Beyond Europe,” and is a “multidisciplinary and multimedia program including lectures, workshops, film screenings, art projects, a reading group, and a museum exhibit.”

The program’s most recent event was a film screening of “Chi-Raq,” a film directed by controversial filmmaker Spike Lee, but early in the program it featured a series of book group meetings on “Not All Dead White Men.”

Baseballery

The Philadelphia Athletics had, prior to their eventual move (first stop, Kansas City) to Oakland, two periods of greatness. The second was 1927 to 1932, when they captured three AL pennants, two World Championships, and finished second in the standings three times. The first great period was from 1910–1914, when the As appeared in four World Series and won three of them.

The one lost was a classic — a four-game sweep by Boston’s Miracle Braves. When the final out was registered (Athletic first baseman Stuffy McInnis grounded out to secure Braves starter Dick Rudolph his second Series victory), Philadelphia began a doldrums (owner / manager Connie Mack refused to pay wages that competed with the new Federal League), which found the As in last place for the next seven seasons.

The worst of them was 1916, when the team registered one of baseball’s worst-ever records: 36–117. They trailed the AL Champion Boston Red Sox by 54 ½ games. The aging future Hall-of-Famer Napolean Lajoie played his final year for this dismal squad. The As never won more than two consecutive games, and in mid July commenced a 1–29 journey into baseball’s doggiest-ever days of Summer.

Starters Elmer Myers (14–23) and Bullet Joe Bush (15–24) gobbled up most of the As’ measly wins, and left a load of losses for the squad’s other less-than-aces. One was Tom Sheehan, the 22-year-old right-hander who went 1–16, albeit with a not-so-awful 3.69 ERA. His sole win came June 26 against the Red Sox at Fenway Park, in relief of Weldon Wyckoff (he’d led the AL in losses the previous season, when the As went a mere 43–109). Rube Foster — who had won two games in the 1915 World Series — took the loss.

If you thought Sheehan had it bad, well, you need to know about his teammate, Jack Nabors. In 1915, he racked up an 0–5 record for the As. In 1916, Mack had him as the Opening Day pitcher, and facing the Red Sox and Babe Ruth, he gave up a mere two hits and no runs over four innings. The next time he faced the Sox, on April 22 at home, he pitched a complete-game victory, prevailing 6–2 and scattering eight hits. The loser, again, was Rube Foster.

It would prove to be Nabors’ only win of 1916. Or of his career. By the time the torment ended, with the A’s sweeping an October 3rd doubleheader against the Red Sox, in Boston (Babe Ruth took the loss, ending the season 23-12, he was relieved by the aforementioned Weldon Wyckoff, who midseason was sold to Boston; meanwhile Nabors earned a save, the only one of his career), Nabors held a 1-20 record, surely marred by the As’ inability to score runs (on average scoring 2.1 runs fewer per game than their opponent). Like Sheehan, his ERA was a not-too-bad 3.47 (the league average was 2.82).

Nabors appeared in only two games for the As in 1917, in relief, with no decisions, and that was it for him for the big leagues. His career record stood at 1–25, one of the game’s worst, and there it would remain for all time.

That said, Nabors served his country in World War One, became ill courtesy of the Spanish Influenza epidemic, and spent his few remaining years in and out of bed, passing away in 1923 at the young age of 35. His one career MLB win is one more than that had by this missive’s author.

Podcastapalooza

1. On the new episode of The Editors, Rich and the Gang discuss the Democrats’ dreadful South Carolina debate, the increasing dangers of the coronavirus, and the disappointing (but not unexpected) defeat of the born-alive bill in the Senate. Hear here.

2. On the new episode of For Life, Alexandra discusses recent Senate votes on pro-life bills and details the inaccurate media coverage. Listen here.

3. On the new episode of The Great Books, host John J. Miller is joined by Lorraine Murphy of Hillsdale College to discuss Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping. You can catch it here.

4. More JJM: On the new episode of The Bookmonger, he is joined by Donald Alexander Downs to discuss his book, Free Speech and Liberal Education.

5. Sean Hackbarth graces Political Beats, jawing about the band Tears for Fears with Scot “Free” Bertram and “Muttand” Jeff Blehar. Get yourself a musical education here. And hang around to catch the previous episode, spent with the great Brad “Double B” Birzer, discussing Rush. The band, not the Limbaugh. It all happens here.

6. Excellent discussion about the unjust treatment of Michael Milken between David and Will made for an especially good episode of Radio Free California. You can listen here. And for the most recent episode, in which the Dynamic Duo discuss efforts by California legislators to require training for porn actors, listen here.

7. Episode Four of The Victor Davis Hanson Podcast checks out liberal insecurity, Orwellian China, Bernie’s Commie loving, and Europe’s anti-Semitism kick. Catch it here.

A Dios

For many of us practitioners, it is Lent, a time for reflection, contemplation, denial, the Christian remembrance (weak but worldly) of Jesus’s 40 days and 40 nights, fasting in the wild, as the old hymn goes, tempted and yet undefiled (Matthew 4: 1 Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil), with echoes of the Great Flood and Noah (Genesis 7). We pray that those who desire to take this time seriously indeed receive the graces sufficient to do so, and emerge on Easter purged and better in body and soul. If you don’t buy into this, well, we’ll still not deny you jellybeans and marshmallow Peeps.

Prayer too for those suffering from and impacted by this dreadful virus, and those working to prevent its spread. Oremus.

God’s Graces on All So that His Will Be Done,

Jack Fowler, who stands ready to take theological counterpunches if thrown via jfowler@nationalreview.com.

National Review

Let Mikey Try It!

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Dear Weekend Jolter,

First . . . in this missive, and in the hearts of countrymen . . . we wish George Washington, POTUS One, a happy 288th birthday (this assumes your calendar waxes Gregorian).

The special day noted, let’s now also note the amazing scene in Nevada on Wednesday night past, when the other Democrat prexy contenders stopped and frisked usedta-Republican / usedta-Independent / fellow Democrat Mike Bloomberg. It wasn’t pretty. He wanted in (despite Michael Brendan Dougherty having counseled him to keep waiting) and even paid for the privilege of getting a podium on the debate stage. There he stood for hardly a minute when, like her or not, Elizabeth Warren made everyone forget about DNA and launched the pile-on about office jokester Mikey’s NDA problems. What theater! Whatever your take, to Your Humble Correspondent, this was the best entertainment broadcast on the boob tube since Bully Beatdown.

Our Jim Geraghty had an excellent night-of summary of the shebang:

The upshot of this two-hour brawl was that the front-runner, Sanders, didn’t take too much damage. The quickly rising Bloomberg took it on the chin, but he can probably erase most of the damage with another $400 million or so in television ads. Bloomberg isn’t leaving the race any time soon, and Sanders is, at least right now, on track to get to Milwaukee with the most delegates. These two guys really disdain each other, and tonight suggested that the next few months will be an epic slugfest between two septuagenarians who vehemently oppose everything the other man represents.

The gargantuan winner of the night was the Trump campaign. Tonight’s debate shone a bright spotlight on the weaknesses of the candidates most likely to be the nominee, and it provided a ton of fodder for Trump ads in the general election.

Did Mikey like it? (The experience, not Jim’s piece.) I don’t think so. But hey, don’t sweat it little guy: Go have a cigarette, spend a few tens of millions, supersize and guzzle a Jolt Cola (which we are particular to here at Weekend Jolt), spend a few tens of millions, and then regroup, and spend a few tens of millions, because South Carolina and Super Tuesday are coming up quick.

See you at the debate on February 25, Bloomy. Oh yeah: Even though it’s Walmart, where we deplorables sometimes shop, you may want to stock up on some of these before you take the stage.

By the way . . .

Warren’s debate performance was noteworthy for more than her Kill Bill treatment of Bloomberg. Kevin Williamson, who’s long had a black belt on the Massachusetts lefty, couldn’t help but see her thrilling to unforeseen opportunities to tax and regulate. From his debate watching:

The great highlight for me was watching Senator Warren. I am reminded of the Republican 2016 primary contender I saw a few days after Donald Trump’s victory in the general election. “I’m not sure about the guy who won,” he said, “but it was so . . . satisfying . . . watching her lose.” (No, these debates do not bring out the best in me. But, then, they don’t bring out the best in the contestants, either.) Senator Warren is a terrible campaigner, and her tribune-of-the-plebs shtick is awkward, because she so obviously and clearly detests people — take my advice, from one misanthrope to another, senator: This ain’t your game.

Warren’s leaps of imagination were amusing, though. Pressed by Jon Ralston (if there was a winner of the debate, it was he) about the assumptions behind her climate policy — assumptions that might charitably be described as wishful thinking — she said that the way forward on alternative energy and the like would be to develop new products that hadn’t been invented yet. What kind of new products that haven’t been invented yet? Well, that’s the thing about things that haven’t been invented yet. But irrespective of what those products are or when . . . somebody . . . gets around to inventing them, Warren said she’d insist that they be built here in the United States of America, in order to offset those mining jobs in Nevada and drilling jobs in Pennsylvania she plans to destroy.

That is classic Warren: She is already dreaming up heavy-handed regulations for things that do not yet exist — regulations that are politically unworkable and very possibly unconstitutional at that. (The president has no obvious constitutional power to tell hypothetical inventors of hypothetical products where they may locate their hypothetical factories.) But none of that really matters, of course. Not to Senator Warren, anyway, who is as cynical a grifter as American politics has to offer in 2020.

Now, on with the Weekend Jolt.

Editorials

1. There is madness behind those fighting to block the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. We encourage its passing in the Senate. From the editorial:

The Democrats have presented flimsy rationales for their opposition.

They claim, first, that “born-alive” infants don’t exist, that attempted abortions never produce living infants. This is not the case, as we know from the woeful tale of abortionist Kermit Gosnell, whose murderous crimes against newborns were not illegal under federal law. Though data on born-alive infants are spotty, there is both anecdotal and reported evidence that infants do survive late-term abortion procedures with some regularity.

When proven wrong on this first point, Democrats pivot to the assertion that laws already exist to prevent infanticide. In the context of abortion, that is false. There is no federal law requiring doctors to provide life-saving care to infants who survive abortions. Only 33 states, at last count, have such laws in place. New York’s legislature last year repealed the state’s born-alive protections.

2. We side with young Connecticut women trying to make sure that high-school girls’ sports are for high-school girls, and not wanna-chicks with dude chromosomes. From the editorial:

Transgender sports policies make a mockery of women’s competition. Just look at the state of Connecticut.

At the 2018 state open for women’s track and field, two young men identifying as transgender took first and second place in the 100m race. Their participation not only deprived young women of their rightful claim to victory, but also prevented others from even qualifying in the New England Championships. Now three of these displaced female high-school athletes are, along with their parents, seeking federal redress in a lawsuit against the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC).

Last June, the same athletes had filed a complaint to the Education Department. But now that two of them are nearing graduation — and transgender activists are strengthening their influence nationwide — they have sought a speedier judicial intervention. Filed on behalf of Selina Soule, a senior at Glastonbury High School, Chelsea Mitchell, a senior at Canton High School, and Alanna Smith, a sophomore at Danbury High School, the suit argues, correctly, that the CIAC policy is in violation of Title IX.

Enacted in 1972, Title IX was designed to ensure that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” For sports, this meant that women were to receive equal opportunities to men. (Overeager implementation of the provision has, regrettably, caused many universities to scuttle men’s sports teams.) Between 1972 and 2011, female participation in high-school athletics increased from around 250,000 to 3.25 million students, with similar increases at the collegiate level.

Now Here Are Fourteen Yummy NR Delights to Go Along with Your GW Birthday Cherry Pie. If You’re Good, Mom Will Give You a Second Slice!

1. One More Mike Bloomberg Thing: Victor Davis Hanson, a real farmer, sized up the Manhattan Asphalt Expert’s video spiel on how corn is made, uttered amidst a wide-ranging display of monumental arrogance. From the commentary:

But he did not leave it there. First, he switched back into the present tense. (“I could teach anybody, even people in this room, no offense intended, to be a farmer.”) Did he mean the Manhattan whizz kid could teach sophisticated Oxonians to be modern farming simpletons, or that he, the student of history, could teach them to be preindustrial simpletons? And then he added that the present information age emphasized skill sets of thinking and analyzing, as apparently does not occur in contemporary farming or manufacturing work.

In truth, Bloomberg could not teach anyone in that Oxford hall or any other room how to farm, in either ancient times or modern. If he really thinks that farming is, or was, a mere “process” of digging holes, dropping in seeds, covering them with dirt, adding water, and, presto!, up comes the corn, then he is as dense as is he is arrogant.

The preindustrial history of farming was a nonstop life-and-death struggle to survive one more day, in constant war against nature (weather, insects, disease, soil chemistry, species variations) and man (labor, markets, government, war, security, etc.) to produce food. And it took a great deal of science, skill, patience, and physical courage to pull it off. Read the classical empirical and scientific treatises on farming and agronomy by Theophrastus, Columella, or Varro, and you’ll find that the degree of their contemporaries’ ancient farming expertise and science is extraordinary. No one would conclude from these that ancient agriculture was anything like Bloomberg’s caricatures.

2. OK, one last Bloomberg item: Robert VerBruggen lists the many ways the Billionaire Know-It-All wants to micromanage your life. From the piece:

And while he’s something of a known quantity from his years as mayor of New York (crime control, gun control, cigarette control, french-fry control), he’s selectively tweaked his approach to policy for this race, for example by apologizing for his administration’s overuse of stop-and-frisk policing — and by putting out a steady stream of policy proposals meant to appeal to the Democratic base. Indeed, while Elizabeth Warren may be known as the candidate with a “plan for that,” Bloomberg’s website has a 32-item alphabetical grid of the damn things, from “All-In Economy” to “Wildfire Resilience” (not joking).

I read them so you don’t have to. Here’s an unavoidably surface-level look at some of the highlights of his interminable agenda, which he began debuting late last year and continues to expand. In total, these ideas would drastically expand the role of the federal government in countless areas — if Congress indeed passed and funded them under a President Bloomberg.

Cut incarceration in half by 2030: Most prisoners are held in state, not federal, facilities, so this is not something the federal government even has the power to do. As a result, Bloomberg’s plan relies on a “Department of Justice reform hub to evaluate and fund state-level criminal justice reform efforts.” For good measure, he vows that we can reduce incarceration this much and cut crime.

Expand Obamacare and have the government offer a “public option”: He’d boost the Affordable Care Act’s subsidies and provide a government-run plan that could pave the way for something like Medicare for All in the future.

3. Really and Truly, the Last Bloomberg Item: Rich Lowry finds a technocrat who think little of the Constitution. From the column:

Bloomberg’s reaction after the Boston Marathon bombing was characteristic. “We live in a complex world,” he said, “where you’re going to have to have a level of security greater than you did back in the olden days, if you will. And our laws and our interpretation of the Constitution, I think, have to change.”

What he so dismissively calls “the olden days” was the time of the American Founding, and the idea that the Founders didn’t understand complexity, or have any sense of trade-offs, is ahistorical nonsense.

It is important that Trump, whatever his personal and institutional failings, is backstopped by a conservative legal movement that has worked with him to pump originalist judges through the Senate. These judges will remain a bulwark of conservative constitutionalism long after Trump has departed the scene.

Bloomberg’s technocratic instincts, in contrast, run with the grain of contemporary progressivism. There will be no checks on his natural tendency toward unilateral rule through the administrative state. As it happens, support for this mode of government is shared by his fiercest Democratic critics, such as Elizabeth Warren, who may scorn Bloomberg but has openly embraced government by presidential decree.

4. Jim Geraghty spots four overlooked weaknesses of Bernie Sanders. Here’s one:

He’s got one big theme and isn’t that interested in what doesn’t fit that theme. James Pethokoukis contends, “Literally every Bernie explanation for every problem is corporate greed. Makes it easy to do economic policy because you don’t have to know anything about economic policy. Or costs and benefits. Or trade-offs. Or unintended consequences.” When Sanders is taken far afield of U.S. economic inequality, his answers either start to get nonsensical or he steers back to the same themes in different contexts.

He sees the Sunni-Shia divide as akin to bickering neighbors. “We’ve got to bring Iran and Saudi Arabia together in a room, under American leadership, and say, ‘we are sick and tired of us spending huge amounts of money and human resources because of your conflicts.’” He contends that we’ve been fighting a war on terror through three administrations to distract the public: “Endless wars help the powerful to draw attention away from economic corruption.” Sanders’ plan to deal with rising authoritarian powers like Russia, China is to form “an international progressive movement that mobilizes behind a vision of shared prosperity, security and dignity for all people, and that addresses the massive global inequality that exists, not only in wealth but in political power.” I’m sure an argument that amounts to “only the international socialist movement can stop Russia and China” sounded better in his head.

5. So, why the heck wasn’t McCabe charged? Andrew McCarthy explains. From the piece:

Why not indict McCabe on felony false-statements charges? That is the question being pressed by incensed Trump supporters. After all, the constitutional guarantee of equal justice under the law is supposed to mean that McCabe gets the same quality of justice afforded to the sad sacks pursued with unseemly zeal by McCabe’s FBI and Robert Mueller’s prosecutors. George Papadopoulos was convicted of making a trivial false statement about the date of a meeting. Roger Stone was convicted of obstruction long after the special counsel knew there was no Trump–Russia conspiracy, even though his meanderings did not impede the investigation in any meaningful way. And in the case of Michael Flynn’s false-statements conviction, as McCabe himself acknowledged to the House Intelligence Committee, even the agents who interviewed him did not believe he intentionally misled them.

I emphasize Flynn’s intent because purported lack of intent is McCabe’s principal defense, too. Even McCabe himself, to say nothing of his lawyers and his apologists in the anti-Trump network of bureaucrats-turned-pundits, cannot deny that he made false statements to FBI agents and the IG. Rather, they argue that the 21-year senior law-enforcement official did not mean to lie, that he was too distracted by his high-level responsibilities to focus on anything as mundane as a leak — even though he seemed pretty damned focused on the leak while he was orchestrating it.

The “he did not believe he intentionally misled them” defense is not just implausible; it proved unavailing on McCabe’s watch, at least in General Flynn’s case. Hence, McCabe has a back-up plan: To argue that it would be extraordinary — and thus unconstitutionally selective and retaliatory — for the Justice Department to prosecute a former official for false statements in a “mere” administrative inquiry (which the leak probe was), as opposed to a criminal investigation. Again, tell that to Flynn, with whom the FBI conducted a brace-style interview — at the White House, without his counsel present, and in blithe disregard of procedures for FBI interviews of the president’s staff — despite the absence of a sound investigative basis for doing so, and whom Mueller’s maulers squeezed into a guilty plea anyway.

It will be a while before we learn the whole story of why the Justice Department walked away from the McCabe case, if we ever do. I have some supposition to offer on that score. First, however, it is worth revisiting the case against McCabe as outlined by the meticulous and highly regarded IG, Michael Horowitz. If you want to know why people are so angry, and why they are increasingly convinced that, for all President Trump’s “drain the swamp” rhetoric, a two-tiered justice system that rewards the well-connected is alive and well, consider the following.

6. There’s lots of trade and security upside, write Thomas Duesterberg and Eric Brown, that could come from President Trump’s upcoming trip to India. From the piece:

At almost 14 percent, average applied tariffs in India are the highest of any major economy. Tariffs on manufactured goods such as medical products, motorcycles, and agricultural products, and limits on many services imports, are prohibitive. The expected trade deal would reduce some of the most damaging of these impediments to U.S. exporters. Total trade between the U.S. and India is only $145 billion, less than half of the total for the U.S. and the ten countries of ASEAN, and barely 20 percent of total U.S. trade with China.

Against this backdrop, one important factor in the calculus of Trump and Modi to improving bilateral relations, including in the economic sphere, is clearly India’s longstanding fear of being subordinated in an Asia dominated by the PRC. The PRC aims to establish itself as the controlling power in the Western Pacific and the Strait of Malacca, as well as in the Indian Ocean and the Sea of Bengal, through which India connects to Southeast Asia. India already has seen its traditional trade sea lanes threatened by the creation of PRC ports or bases in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Southeast Asia, and East Africa. Throughout South Asia, PRC is an aggressive presence challenging the autonomy and economies in what Modi and his party consider integral parts of India’s rightful civilizational sphere of influence.

Meanwhile, PRC companies such as Huawei and ZTE are striving to dominate the future of global telecommunications, including 5G. India and the ASEAN countries have been looking to 5G to jump-start economic growth, including via future artificial intelligence (AI) applications. Human-centric AI that is democratically deployed has the potential to help South and Southeast Asian countries to address their creaky governing systems, which are being stressed by rising populations and other dynamics. But Chinese Communist Party dominance over the infrastructure through which data flows could have adverse implications for overall economic growth and competitiveness, while PRC’s surveillance and espionage via 5G could also impinge on the political sovereignty of India as well as other Asian nations.

President Trump and Prime Minister Modi will certainly discuss these challenges posed by the PRC. Over time, the U.S. would like to enlist India as a more active diplomatic and military contributor to the free and open order in the Indo-Pacific. If India is going to play this role, and check the growth of PRC power in South Asia, it will require a larger and faster-growing economy.

7. More Victor Davis Hanson: The scholar offers some proposals that just might help save higher education. From the essay:

A college education is far too expensive. Nearly 45 million young Americans owe $1.5 trillion in student loans — a staggering sum unmatched in American history. Millions have either defaulted on their loans or are able to pay only the interest and are making no progress on the principle.

Universities have for decades upped their tuition and services higher than the rate of annual inflation. Yet they deny they have any responsibility for the staggering student debt, even though the encumbrances have altered the U.S. economy, culture, and demography. One of many reasons youth are marrying later, delaying child-rearing, and unable to buy a home is that so many of them are burdened well into their late twenties and early thirties with student-loan debt, on average over $30,000 per student. Again, the university more or less shrugs, insisting it has no responsibility for this collective national disaster that it helped create

The student-loan crisis could be alleviated if universities, not the federal government, were the co-signers of the loans, which would make them share with students the moral hazard of loan repayment. Instead of spending superfluously on “diversity and inclusion” czars and entire castes of non-teaching facilitators, universities would have incentives to lower non-teaching costs. It would be in their own financial interest to ensure that students could minimize debt by graduating within four years, and also to invest in job placement for their graduates, so they could move into the full-time workforce months after finishing school.

8. David Harsanyi zaps Connecticut senator Chris Murphy for being a massive hypocrite on Iran. From the piece:

The Federalist reported yesterday that Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut and other Democratic senators secretly met with foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif during the Munich Security Conference last month. Today, Murphy acknowledged that the meeting took place, arguing that “Congress is a co-equal branch to the executive” and, well, Donald Trump is bad.

It’s quite a volte-face for Murphy. In March of 2015, when President Obama was involved in negotiations with the mullahs, Senator Tom Cotton and 46 of his colleagues released an open letter to the Islamic Republic of Iran, offering some basic lessons on the American constitutional system — namely, an explainer on binding treaties.

At the time, Murphy called the letter “unprecedented” and claimed it was “undermining the authority of the president.” Then-Secretary of State John Kerry claimed to be in “utter disbelief” when asked about the letter. Kerry, no stranger to negotiating with America’s enemies, would a few years later meet Zarif a number of times to try and ‘salvage’ Obama’s Iran deal, in direct conflict with the position of the American government in Trump’s administration.

When Dianne Feinstein, then the Democrats’ ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, heard about Cotton’s letter, she was “appalled” at the “highly inappropriate and unprecedented incursion into the president’s prerogative to conduct foreign affairs.” Only a few years later, Feinstein would host the Iranian Foreign Minister for dinner.

9. Stanley Kurtz calls out the Trump Administration for failing to undo an Obama reg that allows Big Brother to run roughshod over every neighborhood. From the analysis:

The Obama administration’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule was arguably its most radical attempt to “fundamentally transform” the United States. As I wrote at the time, Obama’s AFFH gives the federal government “a lever to re-engineer nearly every American neighborhood — imposing a preferred racial and ethnic composition, densifying housing, transportation, and business development in suburb and city alike, and weakening or casting aside the authority of local governments over core responsibilities, from zoning to transportation to education.” Another way of looking at Obama’s AFFH is to see it as a way of allowing big cities to effectively annex their surrounding suburbs — siphoning off suburban tax revenue and controlling suburban planning as well.

While Ben Carson’s HUD is now proposing a revision of Obama’s AFFH that peels back some of the rule’s most egregious overreach, the core of Obama’s AFFH remains intact. Although it is disguised by vague bureaucratic language, Carson’s version of AFFH still gives the feds the power to control local zoning decisions.

As policy, this is folly. As politics, it is flat-out malpractice. Carson’s version of AFFH will alienate the suburbs, now the crucial swing vote in federal elections. If a Republican administration entrenches “AFFH lite”, it will only legitimate the next Democratic administration’s attempts to restore an Obama-style AFFH. Once Republicans accept the principle that it is the business of the feds to tell local governments how to zone and plan, the next Democratic president will push federal control to the max. With Carson’s AFFH lite, Republicans will have abandoned not only the principle of local control and the correct interpretation of the original Fair Housing Act, they will have lost a political issue that could turn suburban swing voters their way.

10. Alexandra DeSanctis counters Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson’s precious case absolving pro-life Republicans who want to support and vote for a Democrat abortion fanatic. From the analysis:

But while a few of the points in his column are sensible, Gerson makes an utterly baffling logical leap in his conclusion: “It would be difficult for a pro-life citizen to be an enthusiastic and loyal Democrat, even if my case is correct,” he writes. “But it is possible to imagine circumstances in which voting for a Democrat would be preferable to endorsing immediate harm to the country by a Republican. And we are in exactly such a circumstance.”

Despite spending his entire article presenting reasons (some more compelling than others) as to why a pro-lifer might not always need to — and in fact sometimes ought not — vote for an anti-abortion candidate, he concludes the piece as if he had somehow illustrated that pro-life voters are required to support the eventual Democratic nominee. The column’s headline, too, makes this assertion: “It is difficult for pro-lifers to vote Democrat. But it’s better than Trump.”

Even if Gerson had attempted to make this argument, it likely wouldn’t have been terribly convincing. It’s hard to imagine a compelling way to convince voters who choose their candidate based on whether they oppose abortion to support a politician who favors unlimited abortion, for any reason, at any stage of pregnancy, funded by the U.S. taxpayers — the position of every leading Democrat competing for the nomination.

11. Oren Cass announces the formation of a new organization to break conservatism from what he calls its “market fundamentalism.” From the piece:

Today we are announcing the formation of American Compass, an organization dedicated to helping American conservatism recover from its chronic case of market fundamentalism. In preparation, we have been perusing the mission statements of many of our nation’s think tanks. Nearly every group has one. Oddly, the right-of-center’s preeminent public-policy institutions all have the same one: to advance the principles of “limited government, free enterprise, and individual liberty” or “free markets and limited, effective government” or “free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom” or “individual liberty, limited government, free markets” or “economic choice and individual responsibility” or “individual, economic, and political freedom; private enterprise; and representative government.”

Without question, those principles are vital. But an emphasis so monotonal is neither supportive of effective deliberation nor genuinely conservative. “Why don’t we look at a policy and just ask, does it expand economic freedom?” suggests Heritage Foundation vice president Jack Spencer. Because there is more to life than economic freedom. Also, there is more to economic freedom than economic freedom. A society that attempts to maximize everyone’s freedom at every moment will fail miserably in preserving individual liberty and limiting government over time.

What is missing from our public debates is a distinctively conservative approach to economics. The modern right-of-center coalition is the product of the “fusionism” that joined economic libertarians with social conservatives and Cold War hawks in an era when the defeat of Communism was of preeminent importance to all three. Having for decades outsourced their economic thinking to libertarians, conservatives now watch from the sidelines as classical liberals (i.e., libertarians) and modern liberals (i.e., progressives) debate how best to pursue their shared and unquestioned priorities of personal consumption and aggregate economic growth.

12. Jack Butler rejoinders (new verb!) the Cass Case. From the piece:

The notion that libertarians have largely controlled the Right probably comes as a surprise to libertarians, who have watched helplessly over the past few decades as government has grown, debt and deficits have expanded, and the Federal Register accrues more pages (even as one of the consistent priorities of what Cass calls the inchoate “earthquake” of the Trump administration has been a concerted effort to fight this last trend).

“Market fundamentalism,” then, is a curious choice of villain. Few could survey the actual policy achievements of elected Republicans over the past few decades and claim they reflect that wholesale. Republicans during George W. Bush’s presidency may have cut taxes, but they also increased spending (as have Trump-era Republicans), added a new federal agency, expanded an existing federal entitlement, and increased federal involvement in education. Bush himself proclaimed that “we have a responsibility that when somebody hurts, government has got to move,” imposed unilateral tariffs (as President Trump has done), and spearheaded the TARP bailout of the financial industry, sacrificing “free-market principles to save the free-market system,” in his words.

President George H. W. Bush famously raised taxes and was never fully on board with what he had called President Reagan’s “voodoo economics.” The degree to which Reagan himself was on board with what became known as “Reaganomics” is the subject of some debate, largely due to his utility as a totem for both sides of this argument. But he did intervene in the economy specifically in behalf of Harley-Davidson. And libertarian economics had very little sway in the actual policy of the Republican Party before Reagan. If Cass’s dispute is instead with conservative rhetoric irrespective of its purported practitioners’ actions, then he ought to make that clear. (Few would contest that many elected Republicans have been hypocrites in this regard.)

13. The Oscars may be over, but Armond White is making the case for the Polish film, Corpus Christi. From the outset of the review:

The new Polish import Corpus Christi was nominated for the Best International Film Oscar but lost to South Korea’s Parasite, a choice that reflects the Hollywood Left’s current fascination with Communism and the forced redistribution of wealth and property. That film regarded moral depravity as farce, which Corpus Christi does not.

Yet Corpus Christi’s depiction of our modern moral quandary also proves uniquely — peculiarly — of this time. Daniel (Bartosz Bielenia) is a rascal in a Polish reformatory whose misbehavior and rebellious predisposition test his Catholic upbringing. He’s first seen standing lookout while a gang brutalizes another youth. At Mass, Daniel’s treachery comes into focus during the priest’s homily: “I am a murderer. Yes, you heard me right. I have killed. I killed in my thoughts. I killed in what I failed to do. I killed in what I did.”

Director Jan Komasa avoids putting too fine a point on his ironic thesis in Corpus Christi by complicating it. The priest reveals his subject to be forgiveness: “Forgive means love. Love someone despite their guilt.” Komasa similarly challenges the audience by contrasting piety with impudence.

14. Kyle Smith jumps into the time machine (well, he went to Amazon Prime) to watch Paddy Chayefsky’s 1971 movie, The Hospital. He finds it prophetic. From the review / essay:

A glance beneath the surface of what the medical profession is up to reveals a staggering array of incompetence, intransigence, and disregard for life. It was just in the past 20 years or so that doctors started to consider maybe washing their hands once in a while; before that, hand-washing was at less than 50 percent, and surgeons and anesthesiologists were ruled the leading offenders. As recently as 2009, after years of retraining by the medical establishment, hand hygiene stood at an estimated 74 percent. A one-in-four chance your doctor didn’t wash his hands before he started examining you, in some of the world’s best hospitals, in 2009! Some of the world’s most expensively trained doctors have no more concern about hygiene than your four-year-old. Dr. Filthyhands is a big reason that 1.7 million patients pick up infections in hospitals annually, which contributes to an estimated 90,000 deaths each year, according to a 2009 survey by the World Health Organization.

Trainee doctors are saddled with absurdly long hours as their punishment for being rookies — 28-hour shifts were common until that was dialed down to 16 hours. In 2017, the panel that decides these things declared that 28-hour shifts, twice a week, were okay after all. How do you feel about having a doctor examine you while crazed by sleep deprivation?  Are you surprised that a 2008 study in Oregon showed there is no significant health difference between being on Medicaid and having no insurance plan whatsoever? Imagine the immense expense of Medicaid being worth nothing in life outcomes. The top three killers in the U.S. are heart disease, cancer, and medical errors.

Saying all of this out loud won’t win you a lot of friends among the doctors who could hold your life in their hands, which is why criticism of medical professionals (as opposed to those nasty insurance companies) tends to be whispered rather than shouted out the window à la Howard Beale. Yet Beale’s creator, Paddy Chayefsky, wrote a perfectly devastating satiric indictment of technologically sophisticated, bureaucratically sclerotic modern medicine. Of his two mighty satires, the one that remains spot-on is, naturally, the one that was forgotten. Chayefsky’s Network (1976) has aged poorly, what with its fretting about Arab petro-states taking over U.S. media, its soothsayers, its Maoist terror groups. The Hospital (1971), on the other hand, is timeless. Both films won Chayefsky Academy Awards, though only one of them really made him nervous. When he checked into a hospital for cancer treatment in 1981, he told friends that doctors “are going to get ahold of me and cut me up because of that movie I wrote about them.” He died soon after that, at age 58.

The New March 9, 2020 Issue of National Review Huffs, Puffs, and Blows Down Misconceptions about the Crazed State of Housing in America

As is our custom, we use this vehicle to turn you on to the immense wisdom contained between the covers of every issue of National Review, and the new number is chock full of such. So here are four selections for whistle-wetting.

1. John McCormack, from the now-abandoned campaign trail in New Hampshire, profiles the Bernie juggernaut, and why it may prove to be a jugger-not. From the report:

The agenda. The final words spoken by Bernie Sanders at his election-eve rally in New Hampshire were: “Let’s win this thing! Let’s transform America!”

It’s hard to think of a sharper contrast in political slogans than the one between “Let’s transform America!” and “Make America great again.” The latter is broadly within the American tradition (it was in fact copied from Ronald Reagan’s 1980 slogan “Let’s make America great again”). For all the controversy that Trump stirred up in 2016—for all the criticism of his character and temperament—he was not promising a radical transformation of the American economy. He broke with his party on entitlement reform, for example, by abandoning a controversial but sound plan to reform Medicare for Americans under the age of 55. Sanders, by contrast, is the only remaining Democrat in the race firmly committed to Medicare for All and its politically toxic plan to eliminate private insurance for more than 180 million Americans. Sanders wants to gut spending on the military while increasing funding for domestic programs by some $97 trillion over the next decade.

Sanders’s pledge to “transform America” with a radical economic agenda may win him a plurality of Democrats, but it is causing a lot of angst among those in the party who are concerned most with beating Trump in 2020. If Democrats opposed to Sanders don’t unite around one alternative early enough, they are going to fail, and the socialist from Vermont will be the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential nominee.

2. A mending Kat Timpf loves South Park. From the reflection:

These critics are correct about one thing: South Park is consistently offensive, and it absolutely has gone after every sacred subject under the sun. Where the critics are wrong, though, is in their contention that this is a bad thing, that this approach has led only to nihilism and cruelty. In fact, I can confidently say that South Park’s penchant for unbridled derision has been directly responsible for my own joy in some times of terrible sadness.

Make no mistake . . . South Park is brutal. It takes subjects that aren’t supposed to be touched at all and handles them roughly. It’s true that it’s crude and rude and disgusting, even in its treatment of subjects that are supposed to be solemn—spoken of only in polite whispers and polished platitudes if they’re ever spoken of at all.

The thing is, though, that’s precisely why I think it’s so great—because it’s taught me that I can laugh, even at life’s most horrific atrocities, disarming its toughest challenges by demonstrating that even they are not untouchable by the powerful healing forces of humor.

One time in particular comes to mind: I was in college and had just found out that my mom had breast cancer. I was young; I was away from home; I was scared, and I was lost. It was, perhaps, the first time I felt that terrifying feeling that nothing truly is unshakable; that the things we consider to be the “foundations” in our lives are truly too unreliable to be thought of in that way at all.

That week, as I was relaxing and watching episodes of South Park with my friends, an episode came up that was centered on jokes about breast cancer. I will never forget what happened to everyone’s eyes in that room, darting around between nervous looks at one another and nervous looks at me, trying to make sure I was “okay” without having to take the risk of saying the wrong thing.

Of course, I wasn’t okay. How could I be? But here’s the thing: I hadn’t been okay before the episode came on. It’s not like, because of that episode, I had just remembered that my mom had cancer, or that it had somehow gotten worse because Cartman was making fun of it. I had already been thinking about it, because I was thinking about it nonstop. When I saw the episode, though, I did something that I hadn’t done in a while:

I laughed . . . and laughing felt amazing.

3. Michael Gibson has a birds-eye view of the Bay Area’s housing madness. From the piece:

What is unique about this situation is how the tech companies have utterly failed to transform the wealth generated in this boom into any political power at the local or regional level. Tech companies appear to influence national elections and foment revolutions abroad, yet they can do little to change the land-use ordinances around their home offices. So powerful are these giants that candidates for the presidency are calling for them to be broken up, but they are also prohibited from building so much as one new home for one employee in a leafy suburb.

I reached out to Alain Bertaud, the renowned urban economist at New York University and author of Order without Design: How Markets Shape Cities. “When I read [that] Google says it’s going to give $1 billion to housing,” he told me, “I think it’s completely misplaced. Now, of course, we have to address homelessness in a non-market way, through social welfare, to help people out of their misery and bad luck. But what disturbs me is when I read some large percent of the housing should be affordable, which means below market-rate through subsidies. That only means waitlists and lotteries. As soon as the system doesn’t allow firefighters, cops, and schoolteachers to afford a house, you know that it is a broken system and no amount of subsidy will solve the problem.”

According to Bertaud, Google’s, Facebook’s, and Apple’s billions might be better spent lobbying city and suburban governments to relax their restrictions and free up the housing market.

Good luck.

4. Ramesh Ponnuru watches progressives give political mouth-to-mouth to the corpse of the long dead ERA. From the article:

The debate over the 1970s debate over the ERA is comprehensible only in the context of the federal judiciary’s growing power during the decades preceding it. It had become widely accepted that the Constitution was full of “majestic generalities” (“both luminous and obscure,” Justice William Brennan would add in 1985) and that it fell to the justices to fill in the details. Pro visions of the Constitution such as the 14th Amendment’s due process clause thus became a license for judges to make law. The ERA was an attempt to give the federal courts additional leeway by adding one more majestic generality to the constitutional text.

The opponents understood the strategy, and it was that understanding that motivated them. There was no good reason for Americans, and especially for traditionalists, to give a liberal-dominated federal judiciary a blank check. The growing power of the courts has probably reduced the demand for formal constitutional amendments in general: Why go to the trouble if the courts will do all the work? It stoked opposition to this amendment in particular.

There is some dissent on the left about the ERA, at least on tactics. Advocates of a balanced-budget amendment have gotten many state legislatures to call for a constitutional convention to consider the proposal. Progressives’ main weapon in fighting back against this proposal has been getting legislatures to undo their requests. So anti-BBA progressives need rescissions to count, even as pro-ERA progressives swear that rescissions are void.

Another dissenter is Justice Ginsburg, the most prominent feminist lawyer in U.S. history. She has repeatedly and recently said that advocates of the ERA have to start the amendment process again if they are to get their way. A strong argument can be made that the justices should be silent about such matters, especially given the lawsuits mentioned above, but Ginsburg has made a practice of disregarding such niceties. In this case, though, the justice is right. Article V is still alive, and the ERA is a zombie that cannot be reanimated.

This Deserves Its Own Section

At USA Today, Brett Decker urges President Trump to award James L. Buckley with the Medal of Freedom. From the column:

One of the few in history to hold senior positions in all three branches of the federal government, Buckley has been a U.S. senator, undersecretary of State and ambassador, and retired as a judge on the influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He served in the Navy in the Pacific Theater in World War II.

During the Cold War, Buckley played a key part in President Ronald Reagan’s successful two-pronged strategy to defeat the Soviet Union by bankrupting Moscow through a costly arms race that the inefficient socialist economy could not afford, and by undermining the legitimacy of the regime by publicly attacking the evils of the communist system. As president of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, Buckley led America’s operations to broadcast hopeful messages about freedom, democracy and capitalism to millions suffering behind the Iron Curtain. . . .

Bestowing Judge Buckley with the nation’s highest civilian honor would celebrate the man for his role in government, champion the value of public service in general, and mark the contemporary coming together of the establishment and populist wings of an ascendant conservatism.

The Six

1. Writing in Quillette, our old pal Chris DeMuth, along with Yoram Hazony, hit the U.K. Conservative Party for attacking an MP who attended a conference run by . . . conservatives. From the outset of the piece:

Two weeks ago, the Edmund Burke Foundation convened a conference on national conservatism in Rome. The conference committee, of which both of us were members, brought together hundreds of academics, politicians, students, and journalists from across Europe and the US to discuss the most important political development of our time—the revival of the idea of the independent national state.

In the two weeks since the conference, the organizers and certain participants have been subjected to a torrent of smears from UK media and political sources. It’s no surprise that the Guardian and Buzzfeed took the lead in condemning a conference of conservatives as an anti-Semitic event “packed full of racists, homophobes, and Islamophobes.” These have become familiar tropes of the anti-intellectual Left.

But one aspect of the attacks should trouble anyone who regards himself or herself as a conservative: The reaction of the UK Conservative Party to criticism of one of its own MPs, Daniel Kawczynski, who attended the conference to give a talk on Brexit. Not only did the Tories fail to come to Kawczynski’s defence when the media mob descended on him and his party. They joined the mob and threw him under the bus. A party spokesman announced that Kawczynski had been “formally warned that his attendance at this event was not acceptable, particularly in light of the views of some of those in attendance, which we utterly condemn, and that he is expected to hold himself to higher standards.”

Read those words carefully: The Conservative Party has “formally warned” an elected Member of Parliament for attending a public conference, and “utterly condemned” the views of some others in attendance—without even deigning to say whose views or which views it deems worthy of condemnation. This about a conference of elected officials and respected public intellectuals from across Europe.

RELATED: Alexis Carré attended and filed this report for National Review Online.

2. At The New Criterion, Daniel J. Mahoney pens a wonderful, personal tribute to the late Roger Scruton. From the piece:

I met Roger again in the spring of 2015 at a conference at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, sponsored by his good friend, exegete, and admirer—and my friend, too—the political theorist Dan Cullen. By that time, I had reviewed half a dozen of Roger’s works, seeing in them a wellspring of impressive conservative and philosophical wisdom. Given my work on Solzhenitsyn (and to a lesser extent Václav Havel), I immediately took to his profound and lyrical novel Notes from Underground, published by Beaufort Books in 2014. Here was a book that got to the heart of totalitarian mendacity while depicting the efforts of a small minority of self-respecting Czechs to “live not by lies,” in Solzhenitsyn’s inestimable phrase. At the conference, I presented on the book, one that continues to preoccupy me. Better than any recent book I knew, I argued, Scruton’s novel illustrated the profound truth that human beings are above all persons to be respected and not playthings to be endlessly manipulated by ideologists, technocrats, and soulless bureaucrats. His unforgettable characters—Jan Reichl, Betka Palková, Father Pavel—were less sainted “dissidents” than imperfect human beings who attempted to maintain their personal integrity and moral dignity in a phantasmagorical world marked by the loss of personal responsibility and moral agency. Scruton wrote with passionate sympathy for these men and women who refused to succumb to the ideological Lie even as he avoided anything resembling hagiography. The Czech philosopher Jan Patočka’s “solidarity of the shattered” became palpable in Scruton’s artful and moving book. Scruton was pleased by my engagement with his book and encouraged me to develop it into a full-blown essay. I did so in the summer of 2019, writing a twenty-six-page engagement with Notes from Underground that appeared in VoegelinView in the fall of 2019, and that will appear in essay form in a book on Roger Scruton’s thought being prepared by Cullen. I was touched and pleased when Roger recommended my essay to his readers and admirers in his fall newsletter from “Scrutopia,” his farm and intellectual enclave in Wiltshire, England, which brings together, as Dooley has so deftly put it, “farmers and philosophers, Wagner and wine, Aristotle and animals.” It doesn’t get better than this—a conservative utopia that could be someplace precisely because it respects persons as such.

Cullen and I also plotted to bring Roger and the contemporary French political philosopher Pierre Manent together. We almost succeeded when I was president of the New England Political Science Association in 2016, but poor Roger was too injured to travel after he fell off a horse on his Sunday Hill Farm. Scruton and Manent were the most thoughtful and persuasive defenders of humane national loyalty and national self-government writing at the time. They thought deeply about human nature, practical reason, and the natural moral law, themes superseded by the regnant relativism and nihilism. They both had contempt for the post-political nihilism and antinomianism arising out of the May events in Paris in 1968. Both defended the secular state while doing full justice to the “Christian mark” of Europe, to cite Manent’s suggestive phrase.

3. The crime busters have now become the criminal enablers, writes Andrew McCarthy in the cover essay of the new issue of Commentary. From the beginning of the article:

A newly minted district attorney for a major American city vows to establish an immigration unit. At first blush, that would seem entirely normal for a prosecutor’s office. Immigration laws require enforcement, and prosecutors are in the law-enforcement business.

But no—the new San Francisco DA actually has in mind an immigration defense unit. He wants to assign a staff of prosecutors to protect undocumented aliens—those who are either illegal and thus deportable to begin with, or for whom a criminal conviction could result in loss of lawful status and thus eventual deportation. The unit’s enforcement target would be not the law violators but the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents who enforce federal laws, along with any local police and corrections officials who have the temerity to assist ICE in that endeavor. The prosecutors’ mission, in the words of their new boss, would be to “stand up to Trump on immigration”—the president having made signature issues of border security and the stepped-up deportation of aliens who flout the laws.

That kind of immigration unit is not something you’d expect to find in a district attorney’s office. But of course, neither would you expect, upon this new DA’s election, a victory party marked by ear-splitting chants of “F*ck POA!” The POA is the Police Officers Association.

May I introduce to you, then, a new and uniquely destructive actor on the 21st-century scene: the progressive prosecutor.

For such law “enforcers,” the obstruction of immigration-law enforcement barely scratches the surface. The agenda here is to obstruct prosecution itself. It is, to quote Chesa Boudin, the newly elected progressive prosecutor described above, “a movement…rejecting the notion that, to be free, we must cage others.”

4. The Vatican has struck an unholy deal with Red China. In The Wall Street Journal, William McGurn is not letting them off the hook. From the column:

The 2018 Vatican concordat with Beijing was not the work of Chinese Catholics. It was an almost exclusively European affair, led primarily by Pope Francis, Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli. Instead of fostering a “reconciliation of hearts” between the patriotic and underground wings of the church, Cardinal Zen says, the agreement is attempting to impose a false and destructive institutional unity.

On Capitol Hill last week, Cardinal Zen likened it to the 1933 concordat Germany negotiated with the Vatican soon after Hitler became chancellor. Like the Nazis, who violated the concordat almost as soon as it was signed, China under Xi Jinping has only stepped up persecution since the deal was struck. Meanwhile, the price extracted has been high: the pope’s silence.

This silence comes at a particularly terrible moment, when Mr. Xi is busy persecuting everyone from Tibetan Buddhists and Muslim Uighurs to house church Christians and Falun Gong practitioners. Nor is Beijing making any effort to hide its intentions: The same day Cardinal Zen was in Washington to collect his award, China named Xia Baolong as its new point man in Hong Kong. Mr. Xia is best known for tearing crosses off Chinese churches.

Yet the leader of the world’s largest religious denomination—a pope who rails against everything from air conditioning to Donald Trump —utters not a peep of protest against what is arguably the world’s largest persecutor of religion.

5. More WSJ: Our former colleague Ericka Andersen has an important take on the spiritual creative destruction happening across the fruited plains. From the piece:

As thousands of churches close across the U.S., many fret about the inevitable decline of faith in American life. Congregational demise is troubling, but underreported data suggest that fear of a secularizing America may be overwrought. A religious renewal could be on the horizon.

It’s true that denomination-based churches—Methodist, Baptist, Episcopal, Catholic—have been on a downward slope for years. But nondenominational evangelical churches are growing in number, from 54,000 in 1998 to 84,000 in 2012, according to the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. Pew Research data show a similar trend continuing to the present, with steep declines among mainline churches as evangelical ones keep popping up. And 42% of these new congregations report growing attendance, data from Lifeway Research shows.

One reason for the success of the new evangelical congregations is their aggressive pursuit of growth, which they call “church multiplication”: A new church will commit to start several smaller churches in a short time. Dave Ferguson, president of the church leadership organization Exponential, tells me that church multiplication numbers are on the rise. In 2015 only 4% of churches were multiplying, according to research conducted for Exponential by Lifeway. Last year 7% were doing so. Each percentage point upward represents some 3,000 churches. Mr. Ferguson says that if this growth is maintained, “it will change the spiritual landscape.”

6. At The Federalist, Dana Loesch ponders Pete Buttigieg’s homilies, applicable to all but Pete Buttigieg. From the piece:

Buttigieg believes everyone else’s sin is up for discussion — except his own. He cites Trump’s behavior, but what of Pete’s? Scripture is explicitly clear on the topic of sin and that everyone sins — and thank goodness for grace and forgiveness. Buttigieg likes to say, “God doesn’t have a political party,” which is correct. But God did give commandments to uphold, commandments which conflict with policies such as late-term, post-birth, and partial-birth abortion, policies Buttigieg and his party are trying to normalize as mainstream Christian doctrine while passing judgment on the manner in which Trump tweets. If Buttigieg’s “positions are informed by his faith,” as he so often says, you wouldn’t know it.

Buttigieg can cite Scripture, but does he follow it? He forgets that “It is not those who hear the law who are righteous but those who obey the law that will be declared righteous.”

At the town hall, Buttigieg said “the interpretation” of Trump’s conduct deserves a voice by way of his office and this presidential race — but then so does Buttigieg’s, and if Scripture is the litmus test he chooses, then logic and fairness dictate that he too must be judged by these same standards. No one, not Trump nor Buttigieg, is free of sin. I don’t apply this to Buttigieg alone. As I said, everyone falls short of God’s glory, but — and I say this in a spirit of Christian love — it is difficult to lecture on sin while trying to make sin mainstream.

Department of Self-Promotion

Episode 3 of The Victor Davis Hanson Podcast, hosted by Your Mumbling Servant, is available. It’s titled, “Old Mike Bloomberg Had a Farm . . .” And if you thought there was a follow-up line that went something like Ee Eye Ee Eye Ohh . . . Ee-Vey, well, you’d be right. Listen here.

A Dios

Mickey and Miss E have the cancer thing going. Not good — as if it ever could be. Would you mind taking a moment and saying a prayer for them and for their families? Always God’s Will be done, but who’s to say God’s Will doesn’t change because it gives Him pleasure, as part of His boundless love? The mind of the Dimwit typing now will acknowledge he is not tall enough for the Theological Roller Coaster Ride.

Have a delightful Mardi Gras. And then, let the fasting begin!

God’s Blessings on You and Yours,

Jack Fowler, who waits by a bloated email inbox, hoping even for communications of outrage and cantankerousness, that receives messages sent to jfowler@nationalreview.com.

P.S.: Baseballery will return next week. And maybe even Podcastapalooza will rise from the dead.

National Review

Pete and RePete Were Sitting on a Fence . . .

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Dear Weekend Jolter,

The sawed-off résumé from South Bend is giving the Vermont Socialist a run for his rubles. More on the race below.

Now before this gig enters the on-ramp, you have to know something: National Review has a new show, titled The Victor Davis Hanson Podcast, which counts two episodes under its straining belt. You will find its happy home right here. Recorded and uploaded into (or is it onto?) the interwebs every Tuesday (set your Google Calendars appropriately), it’s nothing less than 40 minutes of bountiful VDH wisdom, on four or so carefully selected topics, with Yours Truly, the co-host offering interspersed bumptious mumblings.

That’s got to be the most ridiculous use of “co-” in the history of the English language. Anyway, do listen, and do rate it on iTunes if you are so inclined.

If It’s Tuesday, It Must Be . . . Williamson

Wait! The week’s often-underlooked third day will now also boast a new weekly email newsletter dubbed “The Tuesday.” Well, if the titling ain’t that inspired, surely the content will be. What awaits? Explains KDW:

In it you will find a weekly column exclusive to the newsletter along with some commentary on language, culture, and other subjects of interest. I will also include links to my non-NR work from around the web, advance looks at my forthcoming books, correspondence with readers, and more. I hope you enjoy it.

You want it? Sure you do. Sign up here.

Editorials

1. Bill Barr is right: Trump tweeting on criminal cases undermines the AG. It should cease (fat chance). From the editorial:

Attorney General Bill Barr rightly and understandably rebuked government by presidential tweet in a notable ABC News interview on Thursday.

The attorney general said that President Trump was making his job “impossible” by constantly commenting on an ongoing criminal case, and one involving Trump’s longtime associate Roger Stone.

The latest Trump melodrama involves the DOJ’s sentencing recommendation in the Stone case. On Monday, prosecutors recommended a harsh seven-to-nine-year sentence after Stone’s conviction for lying to Congress and obstructing justice.

There is often an equity issue in who gets caught up in special-counsel probes — and nailed to the wall for offenses that others get away with — and who does not. In the case of Stone, Robert Mueller had a particular interest in the gadfly as a possible instrument of collusion with the Russians and, though that obviously didn’t pan out, threw the book at him for his dishonesty and shady maneuverings. There is no doubt that Stone is guilty of what he’s accused of — indeed, since he committed some of the offenses in writing, it is simply a matter of the record.

2. The Sandernistas have taken over the Democratic Party. Talk about Socialization. From the editorial:

Sanders has for decades praised left-wing authoritarian dictators, especially in Latin America, so much so that it is fair to question the importance of the adjective in his label of “democratic socialism.” His agenda involves federal spending increases of a fantastic $100 trillion, according to a critic who, unlike the senator, has thought it worthwhile to add it all up. And he has the ideologue’s habit of wishing away aspects of reality that are inconvenient for him. Thus our economy, with falling poverty rates and rising wages, is in his mind failing; and the country will save money by giving more lavish health benefits to a larger number of people.

The Sanders phenomenon thus raises two urgent questions: Will the Democratic Party decide to walk off a cliff? And will it manage to get Americans to come along for the trip?

About Bernie and His Ideology . . .

National Review has launched a mini-webathon, seeking to raise $25,000 to combat the menace of Socialism that has invaded the American bodies politic and culture. Kindly donate here. Charlie Cooke has this to say about the reality of Communism’s kid brother:

Death, taxes, false prophets selling socialism as a panacea — these are the inevitabilities of human life. No matter the scale of its most recent failure, or the number of people who, chastened, insist that the End of History is nigh, socialism always seems to return for more. There is no such thing on earth as a lesson permanently learned, or an argument perennially won. As night follows day, so the past’s most disastrous ideas come back to seduce and insinuate. Our era is not exempt from these rules. No era is. Once again, we are charged with fighting off the menace.

This time, the wolf has shown up in wolf’s clothing. As I write, the Democratic Party’s primary season is being dominated by a man who, far from rejecting the socialist label, has proudly embraced it. And why wouldn’t he? In poll after poll, the members of his adoptive Democratic Party have expressed more-positive views toward socialism than toward capitalism. Those who object to Bernie Sanders’s rise have proposed that he is staging a hostile takeover of the party. But that, alas, is not quite right. Bernie has made his arguments, and his arguments have been well received. Americans are forgetting what they had learned.

As part of our effort to focus on the combat, we’ve gone back into the NR archives to republish just some of the thousands of pieces we have run attacking socialism since NR commenced standing athwart history and yelling STOP in 1955. Here are three:

1. Who better than Whittaker Chambers to convey, as he did in this 1957 NR article, the mindset of the socialist Left. From the end of the piece:

We live and learn, especially if we have been to Mrs. Khrushchev’s. After his Russian visit, Mr. Bevan reversed his field to such effect that a motion putting the Labor Party on record against thermonuclear development was voted down 5 to 1 at the Party’s latest Congress, with Mr. Bevan himself steering the steamroller amidst shouts of: “Turncoat,” “Traitor,” from that plangent minority which never learns that to gain power is what political parties first of all exist for. Why this turnabout? Well, you can scarcely expect an average Briton to vote for you as Socialist if, by doing so, he must also vote against his own thermonuclear self-defense. We are also told that, in Russia, Khrushchev gave Britain’s presumptive foreign minister some specific Socialist advice: “Don’t give up your Bomb and leave a vacuum,” A vacuum? That is to say: Don’t leave the United States, the one great power uncommitted to socialism, as the one thermonuclear power in the West.

Beyond that, what does this mean? I can only tell you what I think it means. Around 1951, one of the British Socialist leaders — Mr. Hugh Dalton, if I remember rightly — was urging on a Labor Party gathering a more conciliatory line toward the Soviet Union. In clinching his plea, he said: “The Left understands the Left.” Yes, that is the crux of the matter. It is to say that, in the showdown, despite all brotherly invective and despite all brotherly arm-twisting, socialism still has more in common with Communism than either of these two has with conservatism. “Do not give up your Bomb and leave a vacuum.” How that might work out with Mr. Bevan as foreign minister, in some tearing crisis of the East–West conflict, none of us knows. Neither is it at all difficult to imagine how it might work in terms of a Britain disposed by a justifiable self-interest to neutrality, and disposed by a Socialist government to conciliate Communism. The Left understands the Left.

2. Even if sugar-coated with Christian lingo, a la Jimmy Carter, as the great Clare Booth Luce warned at the cusp of the 1976 elections, Socialism is anything but holy. From her classic NR essay:

What if Carter proves to be not only a man of the political Left — a believer in the economic nostrums of socialism under unlimited government — but also a religious reformer who — in his own words — sees political and social programs “as an extension of the Gospel — problem solving combined with Christian charity?”

What happens then is the coming of Christian Socialism to America.

The fusing of Christian doctrine with political power in the name of morality and social justice is not a new phenomenon in our century. The Christian Socialists and religious activists in Italy and Germany were the earliest supporters of Mussolini’s and Hitler’s National Socialism. In the 1920s, German and Italian Protestants and Catholics wanted to believe that one man, given enough political power, could restore both morality and prosperity to their unhappy countries. What they got, in the end, was something horrendously different.

I do not for a moment suggest that Mr. Carter is even a potential dictator, much less a dictator of the monstrous stripe of Hitler or Mussolini. What I do say is that a religious leader should be a religious leader, and a political leader should be a political leader, and that whoever has attempted to combine these roles has — throughout history — failed badly at one or the other, and usually both.

3. The great Frank Meyer made this critical 1958 call to arms to conservatives. From his acclaimed Principles and Heresies column:

What is not true is that, given the historical conditions of the abundance made possible by capitalism, welfarism is certain to collapse in the short or medium run. Welfarism, or any form of socialism not dependent on terror, can survive as long as the fat inherited from capitalism lasts. But even this is not the end. When the fat rims out and the incentives to productivity have been drowned beneath the sea of leveling social policy, the methods of Communism still remain: Coercion and the threat of coercion can be substituted for the lost incentives of a free society. In the long, long run, the human spirit will indeed rebel against the lowering of the skies. But this is a far cry from depending upon immediate collapse of a welfarist economy as the decisive argument against welfarism.

No, the only ground on which conservatives have to stand is a moral and spiritual criticism of the essential inhumanity of socialism and welfarism: the leveling that, by reducing the person to a statistical number, degrades all men, whatever their capacity or position; the ignominious removal of responsibility for his future and his family from the hands of individual man into the hands of an all-probing bureaucracy; the steady attrition of all separate and rooted centers of power and the massive growth of a single bureaucratic center of state power which from day to day gains more and more control over all the avenues of thought and life.

Upon a platform of opposition to these, the true evils of welfarism, conservatives can firmly stand. To such a platform men of spirit will rally. And if men of spirit do not outnumber those to whom the ballot is a weapon for self-aggrandizement, they overweigh them in will, in intellect and in influence. Once united, they would have the capacity to save the Republic.

In Your St. Valentine’s Day Afterglow, Enjoy 16 Arrows of Sharp Conservative Wisdom – They Won’t Hurt! But They Will Leave an Intellectual Mark.

1. Can you stand more about Bernie’s ascendency? El Jefe Rich Lowry hears the international echoes. From the new column:

Sound familiar? Sanders bears the closest resemblance to his equally aged and disheveled ideological cousin from the United Kingdom, Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn crashed the gates of the Labour Party as, essentially, an outsider. He rose on the strength of a left-wing grassroots movement and won Labour’s leadership contest in 2015, thanks to newcomers who could vote in such a contest for the first time. An unlikely icon for younger voters, he drew enormous crowds and, unavoidably himself, had a distinctive charm for his supporters.

Like Sanders, he also had a history of sympathy for left-wing thugs, hostility toward Western power, a motley collection of kooky allies, and an utterly fantastical domestic program.

After losing two elections, Corbyn is back in the dustbin of history, while Brother Sanders may be tracing his ascent on a larger scale.

A major commonality with the European experience is young voters who are disenchanted with the institutions of Western capitalism, worried about affording a house and paying off student debt. They have no experience with or attachment to old party loyalties and are drawn to exhilaratingly radical and simple ideas.

2. With the impeachment nonsense in the rear-view mirror, Andrew McCarthy takes a moment to note the affair’s backdrop of amnesia. From the analysis:

Do Democrats really think the president and his supporters, or any fair-minded Americans for that matter, are not going to notice that the “how dare you invite foreign interference in our elections” storyline has been concocted by the party that recruited a foreign spy to dig up high-level Russian-government dirt on Trump? Dirt that was often absurd on its face? Dirt that could easily have been discredited if the Obama-era FBI had chosen to investigate it, and yet was mendaciously supplied under oath to the FISA court again and again?

Did Democrats figure we’d all quietly abide their puling about “foreign interference in our elections” after the Obama administration collaborated with foreign intelligence services to run informants at Trump campaign officials . . . and then withheld from the FISA court the exculpatory evidence those contacts generated? Did Democrats think we’d forget that even the now-sainted Fiona Hill acknowledges that Ukrainian officials labored to wound Trump’s campaign? And that they did so while Democrats were collaborating with Kyiv to target Paul Manafort? Do Democrats suppose it has slipped our minds that they wove a collusion fairy tale against Trump out of unverifiable foreign-intelligence streams, and demanded the appointment of a special counsel to pursue the fairy tale even as it was palpably collapsing — seven months after the Obama administration began seeking FISA court warrants under false pretenses?

And obstruction? We’re going to be lectured to about obstruction by the people who defended to the hilt Hillary Clinton’s private email server? You remember: The destruction of tens of thousands of emails despite congressional preservation demands, the hammers and Bleach Bit, the serial lying about not hoarding classified information and not withholding official-business emails from the State Department. The sealing and burial of the Clinton–Obama emails, and the studious purging of any reference to President Obama in the description of Clinton’s misconduct.

3. Victor Davis Hanson recounts a disastrous week for Democrats, and the abyss ahead. From the column:

When the impeachment inquiry started in September based on a “whistleblower” complaint, Trump’s approval rating was about eight points lower than it is now. The efforts of the impeachment triad of Representatives Pelosi (D., Calif.), Jerrold Nadler (D., N.Y.), and Adam Schiff (D., Calif.) proved an unmitigated political disaster for their party. It’s no wonder, given that the partisan impeachment effort never won bipartisan or public support.

The Democrats did not offer a special-counsel report or draw on an independent investigation. By the time the partisan spectacle was over, a terrible precedent had been set of turning impeachment into just another crass political tool. From now on, if sitting presidents lose their House majorities after their first midterm elections, will they inevitably be impeached by the opposition?

Finally, the Democratic debate on February 7 confirmed opinions that the party is heading over the cliff. All seven candidates — six of them white — pilloried the United States as an inherently racist society. If so, then why didn’t the debaters invite on stage the Democratic candidates of color who dropped out of the race earlier?

4. Michael Brendan Dougherty looks at Pete Buttigieg and sees something . . . creepy. From the piece:

This is a man from nowhere who seems to have spent a great deal of time in the last few years managing his own Wikipedia page. His popularity is widely attributed to the work of a single media genius, Lis Smith. And as he was declaring himself the winner, a flurry of reports were being filed that there were some questionable financial connections between the developer of the Iowa vote-counting app and the Pete Buttigieg campaign.

Doesn’t that fact pattern make your skin crawl? Just a little? But it wasn’t just that a man no one had heard of a few months ago was now a self-authenticating leader of the Democratic field. It was the way he became that leader. “Tonight, an improbable hope became an undeniable reality,” he said, introducing himself.

What could he mean by that? In fact, with zero tabulated results, the improbable hope was quite deniable. Now with 100 percent of results in, it looks like Bernie Sanders won the most votes, but somehow Pete Buttigieg obtained more delegates owing to the Iowa Caucus terms of service — which seems to run hundreds of pages long in describing how tiebreaks and rounding works, and happens to have worked almost entirely in Pete Buttigieg’s favor.

5. More MBD: He is a lock for a nostalgia show, or maybe being president of Antenna TV, but Joe Biden is unfit to be the Democratic Party’s prexy nominee. From the piece:

But if they do win the White House, I highly doubt it will be behind Biden. All he’s shown so far in this race is his age. There is a revealing pattern in which he comes out of the gate looking sharp in debates, but then within 30 minutes his speech patterns degrade. He leaves half his thoughts unfinished, and his sentences become messier until he starts shouting at the end of them, as if that constitutes a recovery. He’s rambling and uncontrolled in his town-hall appearances. He’s irritable and not infrequently makes headlines for yelling at audience members.

What’s more, Biden is an even worse fit for the Democratic-primary electorate of 2020 than we thought. What are younger Democrats supposed to think of a man who called a woman a “lying dog-faced pony soldier” when she said at a New Hampshire event that she has participated in a caucus? Why in his right mind would any presidential candidate do something so weird? Anyone living in New Hampshire now who lived in Maine previously might have participated in a caucus. (Biden claims the insult is a reference to a John Wayne movie, but this has been disputed. And either way, it is very difficult to parse for anyone below the age of 60, which is to say, most Democratic primary voters.)

Now, you might think to yourself, Trump is no great shakes in the anger department himself, and you wouldn’t exactly be wrong. But Trump’s supporters and many reporters think that he is in control of his anger, or at least makes good use of it. Since at least the era of George H. W. Bush’s reelection, Democrats have sought the mantle of youth, energy, preparedness, and coolness under pressure. They portrayed Bush as baffled at bar-code scanners and themselves as burning the midnight oil to craft policy proposals over boxes of takeout. Biden has instead been making the kind of experience-centric pitch we’ve traditionally seen from Republican presidential candidates. It’s Bob Dole’s case from 1996, and it isn’t appealing to Democrats so far.

6. WARNING: Prepare the Fainting Couches. Andrew Walker explains why many Christian conservatives vote for Trump. From the piece:

But an event on October 10, 2019 explains the odd-couple relationship of religious conservatives and Donald Trump. That evening, during a CNN townhall on LGBTQ issues, the now-former Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke proclaimed that churches failing to toe the line on gay and transgender rights would lose their tax-exempt status in his administration. O’Rourke’s comments represented a high-water mark of a culture that has jettisoned anything resembling a Christian moral ecology. Never mind that O’Rourke’s candidacy is over. It was an Overton Window–shifting moment.

O’Rourke’s comments reminded religious conservatives why so many of them voted for Trump in 2016, even if doing so felt hypocritical and seemed like a betrayal of their principles — and why they will likely do so again in 2020, despite their realism about his character. O’Rourke’s promise to remove tax exemptions only reinforced the embattled mentality of most religious conservatives, which mobilizes them as voters. The problem was not only with O’Rourke’s tax policy, however. It’s also that the rhetoric of progressives around sexual orientation and gender identity logically leads to the conclusion that O’Rourke simply dared to state honestly: It is illogical to say that Christianity is “harmful” to gay and transgender persons and then not to want it somehow punished. For years, religious conservatives predicted that the sexual revolution would eventually affect government policy and directly threaten churches. They can now point to O’Rourke and other examples as evidence of a massive cultural shift that has realized their predictions. Even the most convinced progressive should sympathize with religious conservatives who are concerned about federal law possibly turning against them.

While Christians must cast off both unwarranted fear and moral panic, rejecting both does not remove the real concerns that persist among religious conservatives. Most criticisms of how religious conservatives understand the world miss the mark. They fail to capture fully the moral landscape and moral contrasts that are formed by believing in a world richly enchanted with divine order. Christians who refract cultural disputes through sexuality and gender do so not because they are obsessed with either, but because the two reflect larger debates about morality, human nature, authority, the role of government, and the nature of justice. Our moral debates are not ephemeral; they are, rather, metaphysical and cosmological. Thus, when religious conservatives of the Reluctant Trump variety vote, they are not thinking merely about one man, even if he has reconfigured the relationship between character and electability and defined both the presidency and elections as character tests downward. They are thinking about the larger moral worldview to which the party is committed.

7. Matthew Continetti says we have been living in the Limbaugh Era of conservatism. May it not pass. From the column:

Limbaugh did not mock Trump when the businessman announced his presidential campaign in June 2015. “This is going to resonate with a lot of people, I guarantee you, and the Drive-Bys are going to pooh-pooh it,” he said. He spent the primary reminding listeners of the importance of defeating Hillary Clinton. Trump was not an ideological candidate, he said. Trump was a missile aimed at the establishment. If ideology matters, then you should vote for Ted Cruz. “If conservatism is your bag, if conservatism is the dominating factor in how you vote,” Limbaugh said in February 2016, “there is no other choice for you in this campaign than Ted Cruz, because you are exactly right: This is the closest in our lifetimes we have ever been to Ronald Reagan.” But, Limbaugh added, the feeling in the country might be so anti-establishment that Trump’s unusual coalition could win the presidency. It did.

To say that Limbaugh supports the president would be an understatement. Last December he introduced the president at a Turning Point USA summit. He mentioned a recent encounter on a golf course. Someone told him it is hard to defend President Trump. “I said, ‘What? Hard to defend the president? It’s one of the easiest things in the world to do.’ President Trump does not need to be defended.” The crowd cheered. A few seconds later Limbaugh said, “How do you defend Donald Trump? You attack the people who are attempting to destroy him. They’re trying to destroy you. They’re trying to transform this country into something that it was not founded to be.”

Bold, brash, divisive, funny, and amped up, President Trump’s style is similar to a shock jockey’s. His presidency is another reminder of Limbaugh’s staying power. The American right has been molded in his anti-elitist, grassroots, demotic, irreverent, patriotic, hard-charging image. Rush Limbaugh is not just a talk show host. He defines an era.

8. Samuel James lambasts the “party of science” canard, and jabs at the parishioners of scientism. From the piece:

The inconvenient truth is that there is no “party of science,” just as there is no “right side of history.” All ideological tribes use scientific research when the result supports their priors and downplay it when it doesn’t.

There is a meaningful difference, though, between cultural conservatives and progressives. Conservatives, at least historically, have been willing to take their ideas above the rim of materialism, to argue against scientism and emphasize the transcendent and spiritual. For almost a century, arguably dating back to the Scopes trial, progressives have taken the opposite approach, forming an unwritten alliance with irreligious partisans of higher ed and instinctively deferring to science when it collides with faith or tradition. It’s not that one party believes in science and one party disbelieves it. It’s that only one party claims that’s the case.

In asserting themselves as people of rationality and objective facts (as opposed to people of “blind” faith), secular progressives intend to seal away their ideological opponents. That strategy arguably peaked with the so-called New Atheism movement, which now feels every bit as distant and irrelevant as the mid-20th-century fundamentalism it so often mimicked. Once a darling of the anti-Bush Left, Sam Harris now finds himself a lead character in the “intellectual dark web,” a vaguely libertarian, right-leaning coalition of free-speech advocates and critics of political correctness. It turns out that when you make a lot of money from telling people that Christianity is a plague on civilization, they might come to agree with you and then reach for as strong an anti-Christian repellant as they can find (namely, authoritarianism).

9. As Kevin Williamson makes clear, Socialism that calls itself Democratic Socialism is still . . . Socialism. From the essay:

The problems of socialism are problems of socialism — problems related to the absence of markets, innovation, and free enterprise and, principally, problems related to the epistemic impossibility of the socialist promise: rational central planning of economic activity. The problems of socialism are not the problems of authoritarianism and will not be cured by democracy. Socialism and authoritarianism often go hand in hand (almost always, in fact), but socialism on its own, even when it is the result of democratic elections and genuinely democratic processes, is a bottomless well of misery. The Soviet gulags and hunger-genocide, the Chinese prison camps, and the psychosis of Pyongyang are not the only exhibits in the case against socialism, and the case against socialism is also the case against democratic socialism, as the experience of the United Kingdom attests.

Murray, talking about his forthcoming book The Socialist Temptation at a CEI event in New Orleans, describes the inherent tension within democratic socialism. “The tyranny of the majority means you have no rights,” he says. “Early democratic societies realized that you had to have rights; how extensive those rights are is normally determined by how powerful the democracy is — one reason why the United States had such an extensive bill of rights so early is because the democracy was quite powerful. Socialists coopt the language of rights by introducing positive rights rather than negative rights — they will speak of the right to a job or the right to housing — but not the right to be left alone, which inherently contradicts democratic socialism.”

The destructive nature of socialism comes not from its tendency to trample on democracy (though socialism often does trample on democracy) but from its total disregard for rights — rights that are, in the context of the United States and other liberal-democratic systems, beyond the reach of mere majorities. We have the Bill of Rights to protect freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the free exercise of religion, etc., not because we expect that majorities will reliably support and protect these rights but because we expect that majorities will be hostile to them.

10. This trans madness, reports Madeleine Kearns, has exposed some big-time GOP gutlessness. From the report:

For proof that Republicans can be just as lazy, self-serving, and cowardly as Democrats, look no farther than the South Dakota Senate.

As reported by my colleague Tobias Hoonhout, this week Republican senators Duhamel, Rusch, Steinhauer, and Soholt of the Health and Human Services Committee all joined the 5–2 majority that effectively killed a bill designed to make it easier for gender-confused minors to attain financial compensation later in life — should they realize, before age 38, that the doctors who stunted their puberty, destroyed their fertility, and permanently impaired their sexual function had failed to meet the acceptable standards of (what are we calling it these days?) health care.

Listening to the two-and-a-half-hour hearing, as those pathetically useless Republicans did (and as you, too, can do here), it is impossible to come to any other conclusion: When faced with one of the greatest scandals in modern medicine, Republican officials stuck their fat heads between their legs and — well, you know what.

Lest you think I’m being overly harsh, allow me to summarize.

The Vulnerable Child Protection Act, introduced in the South Dakota House of Representatives by Republican Fred Deutsch, would deter doctors from experimenting on gender-confused minors with hormones and surgeries by forcing them to consider the long-term consequences — if not for their patients, then for themselves. It passed the House of Representatives by a 46–23 vote last month and was later amended to remove criminal penalties for doctors, inserting a civil cause of action instead. It was a significant bill, not only in the context of South Dakota but nationwide, as part of the coordinated resistance to medical experiments on gender-confused children.

11. Kyle Smith watched the Oscars, which continue their annual decline, heading toward Twitter hissy-fitness. From the piece:

To sing “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” associated with the extremely white man Fred Rogers, the Oscars rolled out Janelle Monáe, who paused in mid-song to say, “We celebrate all the women who directed phenomenal films,” as the broadcast cut accusingly to Little Women director Greta Gerwig, who didn’t get nominated because Little Women is not a phenomenal film. (She was nominated for two Oscars just two years ago by the same group of people for the far better Lady Bird, which tends to undermine any suggestion that the Academy is insufficiently respectful to her). Monáe added, “I’m proud to be standing here as a black, queer artist,” and shared the number with Billy Porter, another gay black performer, who was on hand to do a song by the very white Elton John.

The Academy torches its mystique and glamour when it comes across, as it did last night, as more like a haunted associate professor in Dockers who is desperate to stave off student ire by assuring the glowering undergraduates that he thinks everything they think, only more so. The Oscars’ theme was Please don’t think we’re racist, please don’t think we’re racist, interrupted by moments of Please don’t think we’re sexist, please don’t think we’re sexist.

Steve Martin sarcastically noted that, the first year the Oscars were given out, there were no black acting nominees, and this year there was only one—“Amazing growth,” he said. So what? One in 20 is 5 percent. Last year there were two (10 percent). The year before, four (20 percent). So, over the past three years, the percentage of black nominees (11.7 percent) is almost exactly the black proportion of the population is (12.6 percent). Three years ago there were six black acting nominees, or 30 percent, meaning blacks are overrepresented among acting Oscar nominees over the past four years. Over those past several years, by the way, the Academy has been rushing to offer membership to black film professionals, and as a result, the voting membership has a much larger proportion of voters of color than it did five years ago. If a much more diverse membership didn’t award lots of acting nominations to black performers this year, maybe there . . . just weren’t a lot of great black performances this year.

12. So did Armond White. He found anti-Americanism exalted. From the piece:

Conservatives should learn that the Academy Awards cannot be taken seriously, despite the nagging desire to participate in the cool-kids’-fun aspect of popular culture even when it goes against good taste and particularly offends everything they claim to believe in. This year’s big winner, Parasite, confirms that the Academy’s basic history of film-industry acclamation has always been a matter of celebrityhood, mitigated by the memory of real glamour, and combined with airhead simple-mindedness.

But Hollywood’s historic liberal tendencies lean even more to the left now. This became especially apparent in the Academy’s recent reorganization of its membership rolls and categories around race and gender equity, a purge that resulted in new political-correctness statutes such as the one that renamed its former Best Foreign Language Film category as Best International Film. That decision obliges Academy voters to march to the faint melody of the Communist Party anthem “The Internationale.” It contradicted itself embarrassingly when Parasite, a South Korean import, took that specialized category as well as the overall Best Picture prize.

I’m reminded of the year the New York Film Critics Circle initiated its Best First Film prize with Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V and then went on to the give its Best Film prize to My Left Foot, which was Jim Sheridan’s first film. These inconsistencies are the quirks of democratic participation when it replaces scholarly discrimination. Reason has little to do with the Oscars; they are essentially a popularity contest under the guise of artistic consideration. Anyone who cares about cinematic art knows that Oscar judgments are officially unofficial and to be trusted only as a bellwether of the industry’s liberal sentiment, a confirmation of group consensus — the 99 percent assuming the authority of the 1 percent.

13. More Armond: He catches Downhill and sees an artistic white-out. From the beginning of the review:

Television comedians Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Farrell have remade the Swedish art film Force Majeure as Downhill. It twists Ruben Östlund’s 2014 existential domestic drama into a horror-comedy about an already broken marriage that falls apart during a family vacation in the Swiss Alps. The couple’s fraught tensions illustrate problems in the no-hope marital institution. Look closely and there’s the deep spiritual collapse of American relations.

But if you are accustomed to callow TV sitcoms, the irresolvable discord in Downhill might seem smart, funny, and hip. (I observed a curly-haired Millennial dude laughing at the shenanigans from beginning to end.) The film’s hipness reduces Östlund’s tragedy to a psychological Punch & Judy show: Farrell’s Pete is a dissatisfied, cowardly husband and father of two sons, while Louis-Dreyfus’s Billie is a smart, strong-willed, protective, underserved mother and wife. Toxic masculinity vs. female superiority.

Downhill epitomizes how television has usurped cinema’s influence — particularly the mainstreaming of social attitudes and emotional perspectives. Östlund’s film was distinguished by cinematic methods; meaning came from crafty visual presentation. In Force Majeure’s signature scene of an avalanche approaching the inhabitants of a ski lodge, Östlund used space and momentum to create cosmic apprehension and suspense. That terror lingered throughout the movie. But Downhill’s TV-trained American directors, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, present the avalanche as merely the setup to the film’s running joke. They have no visual skill other than sitcom closeups and medium shots. They settle on a give-and-take emotional battle that goes back to TV’s All in the Family (as well as the 1940s radio show The Bickersons), but with contemporary sarcasm.

14. Helen Raleigh considers whether the coverup-crazed ChiCom handling of the Coronavirus outbreak is damaging Xi’s dictatorial sway and the Commie Party’s standing with the country’s beleaguered billions. From the piece:

Then came the news of the coronavirus outbreak. There was no lack of effort on the Chinese government’s part to cover it up from the beginning. Chinese authorities waited a full month before informing the World Health Organization and waited until late January to notify the Chinese public. In the meantime, the authorities arrested whistleblowers, warned doctors and nurses to keep their mouth shut, kept the infected number artificially low, and sent an army of censors to scrub the internet clean from coronavirus related images, discussions and messages. Still, the outbreak is not something the Chinese government can easily censor away. It took place right in the heartland of the country, at a time when the majority of the 1.4 billion Chinese were on a long break and supposed to celebrate the nation’s most important holiday with their families and relatives.

The virus has claimed over 720 lives and infected over 35,000 people worldwide, with the vast majority in China. Even though the Chinese government took draconian steps to lock down 60 million people — including Wuhan, a city of 11 million residents and the epicenter of the outbreak —the virus has spread to all corners of China. Unlike the imprisonment of the Uyghurs or Christians, this outbreak hits close to home. Everyone is impacted in one way or another. China is known as the factory of the world, but it is now struggling to provide a sufficient number of face masks. China’s biotech industry has had double-digit growth in the last two decades, yet there is a shortage of coronavirus testing kits. The government-run healthcare system is overwhelmed by patients and people who want to get tested. It often ends up turning away sick patients who should be treated and quarantined. Social media now is full of images of desperate Chinese people asking for outside help, such as this. Here is a heartbreaking video of a mother who was begging guards to let her and her leukemia-stricken daughter pass so they could go to a different hospital for her daughter’s treatment.

15. Brian Allen is in Paris catching the El Greco show. He advises you to do the same if you’re in town. From the review:

I liked the fine section on El Greco’s portraits. The portrait of Fray Hortensio Félix Paravicino from 1609, owned by Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, is worth walking barefoot on molten glass to see. That’s in the show. Paravicino looks ascetic enough, with his pale, thin face and basic black and white Trinitarian habit, but he carries it all off snappily. He came from a rich family and served as Philip III’s private preacher, hence the élan, but it’s élan with nerves. He’s poised but can’t seem to wait before jumping out of his seat and turning Billy Graham.

It was good to learn that El Greco, as frustrated and disappointed as he was in Rome, did manage to develop a good portrait business. He saw it as hack work, though, and wanted to paint grand religious scenes. As a measure of his knack for irritating people, he told everyone who would listen to him in Rome that he thought Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel work was tacky and flashy. He’d happily paint it over, he said, and do something better. Get Dale Carnegie on speed dial.

The show ends on a high note: four of El Greco’s six renditions of Christ Driving the Money Changers from the Temple, displayed together. They date from 1568, 1570, 1600, and between 1610 and 1614. It’s a joy to see them. Each is a fine picture, and they’re the best way to see his evolution from his days in Venice to his career in Rome to his late work. It’s here that the exhibition finally lands on a theme. The Gospel story of Jesus tossing merchants — money grubbing, moneylending, trade -0 from the Temple was a Counter-Reformation favorite.

With vigor, El Greco proclaims, “Toss the bums out” or “A new broom sweeps clean” or “There’s a new sheriff in town.” Keeping God’s house unsullied is a universal must. Reforming bad practices was a must after the bad old days of indulgences, randy cardinals, and flaccid, rotely mumbled liturgy. There’s a personal message, too. The exhibition speculates at the end that El Greco fundamentally, all his life, saw himself as an outsider and renegade. He was a Cretan prodigy, then an Italian interloper, and then a big-fish-in-a-middling-sea Spaniard, expelled from the royal court. His style was flamboyant, mystical, other-worldly, and, above all, unique. Others might have seen him as disputatious and rude, but he saw himself as one man against the world. He knew he was right.

16. David Harsanyi ain’t surprised: The UN remains anti-Semitic. From the commentary:

The depraved totalitarians, nefarious barbarians, two-bit gangsters, odious scoundrels, and bigoted scum who run the United Nations recently set up a new “database” to help anti-Semites around the world target Jewish businesses in the disputed territories of Judaea and Samaria — businesses that offer economic opportunities for Palestinians that pay higher than most other jobs in the West Bank.

In no other international dispute — and there are hundreds of them — does the United Nations target peaceful civilians or institutions. Certainly in no place do they work to destroy the businesses of noncombatants based on their ethnicity or religion. The 112 companies on the U.N.’s list are run and staffed, no doubt, by people with diverse viewpoints, at least some of whom likely support the creation of a Palestinian state. All of them create jobs, products, and services that foster cooperation.

None of this matters to the U.N. The “boycott, divestment, and sanctions” (BDS) campaign, now supported by the U.N., is a coordinated international effort committed to the elimination of the Jewish state, bringing together dictators, theocrats, terrorist organizations, Communists, the “international community,” and at least one of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’s top surrogates. The movement targets Jews under the guise of anti-Zionism, which remains the predominant justification for violence, murder, and hatred against Jews in Europe and the Middle East.

The First Rule of Fight House Is You Have to Buy a Copy

Our beloved amigo Tevi Troy, who has penned a number of White House-related popular books in the last few years, has a new one, formally out this week: Fight House: Rivalries in the White House from Truman to Trump. Use that link to buy a copy. Now, imagine if some massive brain, say, Yuval Levin, of all people, praised this book. Well — he did! The deserved lauding was sung on The Corner, and began thusly:

In the Trump era, everything somehow feels unprecedented. Various kinds of presidential misbehavior, bureaucratic machinations, congressional dereliction, political hysterias, and White House dissension all seem singularly bizarre.

Some of what we’re seeing really is very unusual, of course. But some just isn’t, and a little historical perspective can help us better understand it. Intense White House in-fighting surely falls into that category. To appreciate that, I very highly recommend a new book by the great presidential historian Tevi Troy. Fight House: Rivalries in the White House from Truman to Trump, which is just out this week, is packed with fascinating tales of mind-boggling bickering in the highest reaches of the executive branch.

Troy is more than a historian, he’s also a former senior White House official himself (in the George W. Bush years), so he brings to bear a particularly informed and subtle sense of how the White House works and fails.

As Yuval concluded: “This book really helps put the Trump era in perspective, which is one thing we badly need now. And if you like politics, it’s just great fun to read. Well worth your while.” Amen!

The Six

1. At The Spectator / USA, Daniel McCarthy says good riddance to Democrat prexy wannabes Andrew Yang and Joseph Biden. From the commentary:

My August 2019 prediction that Biden won’t win the nomination, let alone the presidency, is looking pretty good. Like everyone else, though, I was taken in for a time by the meaningless national polls that showed Biden continually leading the field. Well, of course he was: he was the only candidate with national name recognition, perhaps with Sanders. This is a dark night for Bernie as well, as his record-breaking win over Hillary Clinton in the Granite State four years ago turns into a slender victory over his 2020 rivals.

The Democratic Party is indeed more the party of Biden than the party of Sanders. But Biden is a lousy, uninspiring, backward-looking leader for a party that mostly thinks as he does. So the party is looking for a younger, more charismatic centrist—Mayor Pete, plain but young, cynically centrist yet not yet pruney and withered; or Amy Klobuchar, who always seems like she’s having fun on the campaign trail despite her reputation for throwing temper-tantrums at her Senate staff.

Waiting in the wings, of course, is a centrist—i.e., establishment— authoritarian billionaire ready to buy the nomination outright. Will Mayor Bloomberg, Mayor Pete, and Amiable-or-Angry Amy commit middle-of-the-road fratricide, clearing the way for Bernie Sanders to win the nomination after all? I’m not quite betting on it: in fact, there could be a rebellion against Bernie at the convention in Milwaukee of the sort that commentators imagined would happen against Trump at the GOP convention in Cleveland four years ago. The old and exhausted neoliberal center of the Democratic Party doesn’t want to go any more quietly into that good night than the neoconservatives of the Republican Party did. But they’re already functionally extinct—the last members of a species that, Buttigieg notwithstanding, has failed to reproduce. The big number for the night is not Bernie’s slim margin of victory overall, but his titanic margin of victory among young Democrats. The Democratic future is already written. Democrats have long enjoyed gloating that Republicans would be eradicated by demographic change, but you better be careful what curses you draw down on your enemy lest they bounce back on you. American demographics are changing, but American ideologies are changing faster, and the youth are not multi-hued neoliberals, a rainbow in which every color is really a Clinton. They are hungry for hope (and change), which they tried to find in Obama’s person and now they find in Sanders’s radical politics. The young Sanders supporter is never going to be a Buttigieg or Klobuchar voter, no more than African-American were going to turn out for Hillary Clinton in the numbers they showed up for Obama.

2. A most interesting piece in Quillette by Gerfried Ambrosch, former radical, as to why he was a radical. From the piece:

From the Bolsheviks’ Red Terror to Germany’s murderous Red Army Faction (RAF), the radical Left has a long and bloody history of justifying violence and inhumanity. Even today, many radical leftists and anarchists condone violence as a political tool. They consider themselves to be at war with the capitalist system and, as Saul Alinsky wrote in Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals, “in war the end justifies almost any means.” This dangerous mindset makes radicals prone to another pernicious fallacy—that their enemy’s enemy is their friend.

Initially, the September 11th attacks, which killed 2977 people, elicited in me a feeling not of horror but of excitement. After all, a devastating blow had been dealt to American hegemony. My moral compass was completely thrown off by the notion that the terrorists’ jihad was best understood as a liberation movement against Western capitalist imperialism—the chickens had come home to roost. This view was quite common among radicals. A friend of mine even got a tattoo of the burning World Trade Center captioned “FWT”: Fuck World Trade. At the time, this didn’t strike me as particularly obscene.

When it finally dawned on me that the jihadists’ goal was diametrically opposed to my own idealistic vision, I briefly endorsed the then-fashionable conspiracy theory that 9/11 was an “inside job” executed to provide a pretext for the suspension of civil liberties and the waging of wars. This sentiment was captured in slogans like “Bush is a Nazi,” which implied that American democracy under George W. Bush was tantamount to fascism. False equivalencies of this kind allow radical leftists and anarchists to hide behind the guise of antifascism. I participated in a number of “antifascist” protests myself, some of which escalated into riots and violent confrontations with law enforcement. Often, however, the targets of these protests weren’t fascists as commonly defined, but political adversaries who had simply been branded as fascists. This meant that they were fair game. As Mark Twain said, “To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

3. At The College Fix, Isaac Cross zeros in on Bucknell University Marxist Michael Drexler, tweeting his wish for the death of Rush Limbaugh. It’s not his first extremist rodeo. From the report

Last year, Drexler invited Miko Peled to speak at Bucknell University. The decision was deemed “controversial,” as the Bucknellian reported at the time, noting “Peled’s arrival sparked controversy among the student body. Peled is an outspoken critic of the Israeli government and has been accused of characterizing Israel through anti-Semitic tropes and rhetoric.”

Drexler himself is a member of the Academic Advisory Council for the Jewish Voice for Peace, or JVP, which is described by the Anti-Defamation League as “a radical anti-Israel activist group.”

In contrast to the Peled controversy, Drexler was openly critical when the Bucknell Program for American Leadership and Citizenship hosted conservative speaker Heather Mac Donald for a guest lecture in November 2019.

He told the Bucknellian: “I don’t see how her presence here makes campus better. But if there are people who wish to give her a platform, let them take responsibility for paying for it themselves. And don’t expect the campus not to react negatively.”

4. Is the Coronavirus destabilizing the ChiCom politburo? At Gatestone Institute, Gordon Chang sees signs. From the analysis:

Some say that as memory of the disease wilts in the heat of the upcoming summer, the Chinese political system will be able to resist change. On the contrary, the disease ravaging the country could be, as is now said, China’s “Chernobyl,” the cover up of a disaster eventually leading to the downfall of the regime.

Firmly in the no-Chernobyl camp is former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. “Xi wields near-absolute political power over China’s Marxist-Leninist state,” he wrote in a February 8 column. It is “certain,” he assures us, “that the crisis, once resolved, will not change how China is governed in the future.”

Rudd’s argument is that Xi’s priorities, which he calls “ten sets of concentric circles emanating from the party center,” will remain the same. Foremost among those priorities is maintaining the country’s political system. As Rudd, now president of the Asia Society Policy Institute, notes, “Since coming to power in 2012, Xi has strengthened the Communist Party’s hold on power and developed a comprehensive national agenda from which all else — including domestic crisis management — must follow.”

Is Xi that strong? He has defied expectations and accumulated power not seen since the days of Deng Xiaoping, Mao’s crafty successor. Some analysts compare his position to that of Mao himself. Politically, Xi seems to have “nine lives.”

He is almost certainly laying the groundwork for having his adversary, Premier Li Keqiang, take the blame when things go wrong. Li, most notably, has been put in charge of coordinating Beijing’s response to the disease.

5. The Pope has responded to the recent nutty “Amazon Synod,” affirming the Church’s traditional stand against married priests — or did he? At National Catholic Register, Fr. Raymond D’Souza sees a lot of papal muddling in a pronouncement that merited clarity. The trouble-makers will see opportunities and have a field day. From the article:

What, then, is the answer to the question? Has the Holy Father decide to permit the ordination of married deacons as priests for the Amazon? The synod recommended it. Does the Holy Father approve?

The answer is ambiguous. Pope Francis hinted in both directions without offering a clear answer.

“The way of shaping priestly life and ministry is not monolithic; it develops distinctive traits in different parts of the world,” he wrote, seemingly in support of an exception to the rules for the Amazon (87).

“In the specific circumstances of the Amazon region, particularly in its forests and more remote places, a way must be found to ensure this priestly ministry,” he added (89). “Every effort should be made to ensure that the Amazonian peoples do not lack this food of new life and the sacrament of forgiveness.”

On the other hand, Pope Francis seemed to suggest that the solution to a lack of priests in the Amazon was not the ordination of married men, but a renewed missionary zeal.

“This urgent need leads me to urge all bishops, especially those in Latin America, not only to promote prayer for priestly vocations, but also to be more generous in encouraging those who display a missionary vocation to opt for the Amazon region,” he wrote (90).

The Holy Father then added this stinging rebuke to Latin American clergy in this footnote:

“It is noteworthy that, in some countries of the Amazon Basin, more missionaries go to Europe or the United States than remain to assist their own Vicariates in the Amazon region” (132).

Comfort abroad is apparently preferred to the difficulties of pastoral care at home.

The Holy Father left it at that, not offering a clear endorsement of the synod proposal.

6. UPenn’s embattled Amy Wax takes to Law & Liberty to decry “woke lawyering.” From the beginning of the essay:

What is a cult? It is a religion without god, or with false gods. To borrow Molly McGrath’s formulation, it is a “fake religion.” On that criterion, today’s brand of progressive politics, known as “wokeness,” is the most influential cult of our age, favored by powerful and well-heeled elites.

Molly McGrath provides an insightful indictment of this pernicious simulacrum of real religion, which has marched through our opinion-making institutions with relentless ferocity. At its center, suggests McGrath, is the concept of the sacred, designating that which possesses “a qualitatively, incomparably higher mode of being.” Sacredness is attained by suffering, sacrifice, and victimhood – in short, by oppression. In assigning this vaunted status, the cult of progressivism focuses on groups, not individuals, and confers incomparable power and authority on favored groups. In McGrath’s words, oppression is “taken to be identity-shaping, authority-bestowing, and sacred-making for members of oppressed categories.”

As with any religious movement, the orthodoxy of progressivism McGrath describes settles moral fundamentals and determines the landscape of good and evil. Consequently, key questions of social order and belief, including those relating to the identity and status of victims and oppressors, of who suffers and who causes them to suffer, are placed at the center of the dogmatic creed. They are thereby elevated beyond legitimate debate and removed from the realm of ordinary politics. Violating the imperatives of that dogma and its elevation has consequences, and they are dire. According to McGrath, those who dare to question or contradict the basic moral tenets of the cult must be harshly punished. They are the scapegoats and sacrificial lambs, made to stand for our sins against the sacred. They are “our blasphemers,” who are “publicly shamed, deplatformed, ostracized, slandered, and (if possible) fired.” There is no mercy, “no rites of forgiveness. . . no statute of limitations” for sins against the creed. Blasphemers must be ejected from polite society, canceled, or destroyed.

That this ideology is destructive to a democratic system of governance should be obvious. But there is one aspect of our democracy to which it poses a particularly powerful threat. That is our system of laws. “No one is above the law” is an oft-repeated principle in the Anglo-American legal world, but universal submission to that precept depends on the law’s fairness, integrity, legitimacy, and proper functioning within a democratic system of government.

Baseballery

Well, the author of this epistle said some weeks back that this feature would become intermittent. It has yet to take a sabbatical. Today’s edition is a bit of a respite though. Pinch-hitting, John Hirschauer writes that MLB commissioner and innovation junkie Rob Manfred is ruining the National Pastime. (Moi: It can’t be ruined any more than was done when the Yankees threw Kate Smith under the bus last year!) From the end of the piece:

He changed the rules about hard slides into second-base to break up potential double-plays, effectively removing one the sport’s precious few contact plays. He recently signed a deal with the umpire’s union that lays the foundation for the dawn of “robot umpires,” a change that would neuter the human element of the game. He pressured the Cleveland Indians to get rid of their beloved Chief Wahoo logo, and looks askance at the Atlanta Braves’s “Tomahawk Chop.” In the name of improving the pace of play, he nixed the traditional four-pitch intentional walk — which sometimes produced unforgettable moments — and replaced it with a simple hand signal from the dugout. An impending rule change will force relief pitchers to face a minimum of three batters or finish a half-inning before teams make a pitching change, removing key strategic decisions from the game.

In short, from the moment Manfred assumed the commissionership, he has time and again imposed novelty upon a fan base that did not, and does not, want it.

Aggregate ticket sales and television ratings have seen minor declines over the past few seasons, sure. But MLB’s 162-game regular season means it still sells more tickets than the other three major sports leagues, and it enjoys the devotion of local markets across the country. Manfred thinks he’s the captain of a sinking ship, free to do whatever he deems necessary to rescue the vessel from its ultimate demise. In fact, he stands on the shoulders of giants, men who built the sport of baseball into America’s pastime over the last 150 years. He ought to be more careful about changing it.

Listener Comments

The iTunes reviews for The Victor Davis Hanson Podcast are starting to come in, and they are all five stars. Maybe that’s to be expected. Anyway, here’s one:

VDH is one of the greatest minds among American discourse. I always look forward to his Classicist Podcast from Hoover, but at 20 minutes usually, the new VDH Podcast from National Review is a long-awaited addition their ever-improving offering of shows. Thanks for investing in Victor, particularly as we enter the brunt of election season and beyond.

Many thanks! Keep listening and tell your friends. I would . . . if only I had some.

A Dios

As bemoaned before, please do not drive in the left lane unless you are passing. “I’ll show them whippersnappers what the speed limit is!” cannot be your mission in life. Or can it? I will pray for you if that is the case. Meanwhile, do consider helping out by donating to NR’s Battle Bernie’s Socialism webathon.

Wishing that God’s Copious Graces and Blessings Will Wash Over You and Those You Love,

Jack Fowler

Who can be admonished for not getting his wife better Valentine’s Day presents at jfowler@nationalreview.com.

National Review

Honest, Abe Looks Good for 211

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Dear Weekend Jolter,

It was Lincoln’s Birthday in 1970 or thereabouts and just enough snow had melted to reveal parts of the infield, so some of the neighborhood knuckleheads grabbed their mitts and headed to Indian Field (where Chief Nimham and 17 Stockbridge tribe members, friends of the Revolution, had been cut down by the Brits in 1778) and tried to simulate a game in the cold and mud. My gosh did we love baseball.

And Abe. We loved him, instinctively. Well, maybe in part because school was closed on his birthday (and Washington’s a couple of days later), sure. But we read books about him, recited poems about him, memorized his speeches. Do kids today? Do adults? My beloved Turner Classic Movies will broadcast no Lincoln flicks — not Henry Fonda’s Young Mr. Lincoln nor Abe Lincoln in Illinois (for which future NR subscriber Raymond Massey would earn an Oscar nomination) — on his 211th birthday this February 12.

Let us lament, but take note of this too: On POTUS 16’s birthday next week, TCM will be showing Kings Row. It starred a guy named Ronald Reagan. That is a happy happenstance. If you’ve never seen the movie, do.

And let this be mentioned before we move on to the Big Enchilada that is this weekend’s Jolt: Two colleagues have written books on Abe. Both deserve a spot on your bookshelf. One is Rick Brookhiser’s Founders’ Son: A Life of Abraham Lincoln. The other is Rich Lowry’s Lincoln Unbound: How an Ambitious Young Railsplitter Saved the American Dream—And How We Can Do It Again. They both come highly recommended.

As Does This Deal . . .

There is one more stateroom to be resold (a couple canceling) on the National Review 2020 Rhine River Charter Cruise, all information about which can be found at nrcruise.com. No pussy-footing here: It’s yours for $6,000. Email the bloke who authors this missive at jfowler@nationalreview.com to claim it. Take inspiration from the famous Latin saying, Snoozitas, ergo Loseitas.

Editorials

1. Prior to the impeachment voting, we argued that Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander had it right. It caused a run on fainting couches. From the editorial:

The Tennessee Republican said that it has been amply established that Donald Trump used a hold on defense aid to pressure the Ukrainians to undertake the investigations that he wanted, and that this was, as he mildly put it, inappropriate. But this misconduct, he argued, doesn’t rise to the level of the high crimes and misdemeanors required to remove a president from office. If the Senate were to do so anyway, it would further envenom the nation’s partisan divide. Besides, there is a national election looming where the public itself can decide whether Trump should stay in office or not.

Since we already know the core of what happened, Alexander explained, there was no need to hear from additional witnesses in the Senate trial. (On this theory of the case, the Senate is in effect acting like an appellate court, rendering a judgment on a threshold question of law, rather than a trial court sifting through the facts.)

In the wake of Alexander’s statement, other Senate Republicans endorsed his line of analysis, which, it must be noted, is superior to the defense mounted by the White House legal team over the last two weeks.

Because the president refused to acknowledge what he did, his team implausibly denied there was a quid pro quo and argued that one hadn’t been proven since there were no first-hand witnesses. Obviously, this position was at odds with the defense team’s insistence that no further witnesses be called. It also raised the natural question why, if people with firsthand knowledge had exculpatory information, the White House wasn’t eager to let them come forward.

Uno Momento . . .

David Bahnsen’s crackling new takedown of the cost of a President Warren really needs to be in your hands and on your bookshelf. Get your copy of his book, Elizabeth Warren: How Her Presidency Would Destroy the Middle Class and the American Dream. And treat yourself to some of the great interviews David has had about the book — lend an ear at ElizabethWarrenThreat.com.

With Charity for All, Here Are 16 Invigorating and Emancipating NRO Pieces that Will Fill Your Stovepipe Hat and Then Some

1. Andy McCarthy reacts to the grim news told by his friend (and ours) Rush Limbaugh. From his Corner post:

Rush is an American original. It is said of some originals that, if you didn’t have them, you’d have to invent them. (Voltaire was talking about God when he said it; Don King, of course, about himself.) Yet no one could ever have invented Rush, because he was inconceivable.

When he burst upon the national scene over three decades ago, popular political media was the preserve of the political left. The thought of anyone, much less an unabashed conservative, carrying a three-hour daily broadcast through monologues teeming with conviction and good cheer — with the occasional phone call but virtually no guests — was not just unheard of. It was not in the realm of perceived possibility.

It took talent on loan from God, for sure. But it mainly took a guy with supreme belief in himself. Belief that was well-founded because it sprang from a unique combination of life-experience, of getting off the floor when life knocks you down, and of a sense of destiny about doing what you’re born to do. Add to that Rush’s abiding faith in the innate goodness of America — of her traditions, love of liberty, willingness to sacrifice, and grasp that human flourishing means learning from our mistakes.

2. Michael Brendan Dougherty tries to figure out Mitt Romney, who has always been an enigma (to MBD). From the piece:

But the inconsistency carries through again. Even though in 2016 he said he would have rejected Trump’s endorsement for president had Trump said what he did about Muslims then, Romney happily accepted Trump’s endorsement for Senate in 2018, and then, when he arrived in Washington, returned the favor with a Washington Post op-ed criticizing the president. All these gyrations can be explained in isolation, as attempts at conciliation and provocation come in their turns. But the movement taken as a whole is surprisingly snakelike.

And so I come to his speech explaining his vote to convict and remove President Trump. My own view is that what Trump did was wrong, but much less serious a violation of his duties than many things done under all the presidents of my lifetime. And so I think the proposed remedy of impeachment and removal is excessive, unless we intend to dramatically raise the standards of public conduct. Perhaps we ought to raise them in a way that would disallow vice presidents’ sons from sitting on the boards of state-linked corporations in a country where his father’s administration had just backed a change of government without an election. Perhaps a top adviser to the Romney campaign shouldn’t have been on that same board either, given the appearance of corruption it gives to Ukrainians.

Romney waited for his moment until after all his Senate colleagues had committed to their course of action. Romney framed his decision in the most elevated terms possible. “I swore an oath, before God, to exercise ‘impartial justice.’” He said, “I am a profoundly religious person. I take an oath before God as enormously consequential.” I’m happy for him to finally acknowledge his faith in this way. Though, I wish as governor of Massachusetts he had fought to allow Catholic adoption agencies to take their oaths before God as seriously as he does.

Related: Ramesh Ponnuru strongly disagrees.

3. Rich Lowry finds the little candidate with the big wallet to be offensive. From the column:

Without more than $50 billion to his name, Bloomberg would almost certainly be running a campaign like another late entrant, former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, who hasn’t been heard from.

Bloomberg’s political strategy has always been built on the belief that nothing succeeds like excess. If he wants it, he can buy it, and money is no object.

It’s a free country, and Bloomberg can spend as much money as he likes on whatever suits his fancy. But Bloomberg 2020 is still an affront to small-d democratic sensibilities, a tribute not to his superior political skills or messaging compared with the other candidates, but his access to an enormous personal bank account.

The level of his spending is truly astonishing — Croesus goes all in on Super Tuesday. He’s spent more than $300 million on various forms of advertising. By the end, he’s going to make the profligate self-funder Tom Steyer — who managed to pointlessly buy himself onto the Democratic debate stage — look miserly.

4. In New Hampshire, Corky Messner doesn’t care that he’s a political neophyte — he still thinks he can knock off incumbent Democrat senator Jeanne Shaheen. A slice:

As a veteran, Corky has a lot to say about the Department of Veteran Affairs and its shortcomings. He supports President Trump’s reforms. He also thinks the opioid crisis is the biggest problem facing New Hampshire currently.

Corky has handed off all his business responsibilities in order to focus on his campaign. “I don’t sleep much,” he says. “I will outwork anybody.” However, “one thing I need to do more is work out,” he adds. “I need to drop some LBs.” He smiles as people laugh. He’s tall and broad-shouldered, and you can see how he was a Ranger in his younger years, despite his gut.

“I’m not a career politician. When you own a large firm, that’s a lot of power. I’m not going to Washington to gain power. I don’t need to go to Washington to enrich my family members.” Later in the evening, he spends a good ten minutes talking about what he believes to have been the corrupt dealings of Joe Biden and his son Hunter. “Read the New Yorker article on Hunter. And The New Yorker is friendly to the Left. But there are a lot of facts in there that will astonish you.”

The campaign tracker videotaping from the back is a sign that the New Hampshire Democratic party takes Corky seriously enough to try to catch him in a campaign-ending gaffe. The Democrats have also made an issue of the fact that Corky is not from New Hampshire originally (he was born in Altoona, Pa.) and owns property in other states.

5. John O’Sullivan, who has spent over half a century euro-scepticizing, marks Brexit and tells tales. From the reflection:

On June 4, 1975, therefore, I sat down at my clattering typewriter in the Telegraph offices and embarked on a melancholy task. As one of the minority of editorial writers opposed to EEC membership, I had been asked by editor Bill Deedes to write a light account of the referendum campaign that would appear on the morning of the vote. Bill said he wanted my squib to offset the solemnity of the editorial, but my suspicion was that he was a secret No voter who wanted it to offset the Telegraph’s stern admonition to vote Yes. And he may have been right. In its small way that squib was the modest beginning of the Telegraph’s Euroscepticism, which has since played a big part in achieving Brexit — the full story of which is told in the Telegraph itself.

In principle Bill could have ordered a No editorial, but pressure from the establishment for an endorsement of Britain’s EU membership was so overwhelming in 1975 that it would have seemed eccentric, unpatriotic, even treasonable. So I read through “the files” of the previous month’s campaigning and started bashing out the piece:

From the Establishment and the respectable anti-Establishment, from the Economist and the New Statesman, from Lord Feather [of the Trades Union Congress] and Mr. Campbell Adamson [of the Confederation of British Industry], from Prime Ministers Wilson (Labour) and Heath (Tory), from the Royal Commission Volunteers to ‘Actors and Actresses for Europe’, from the farthest reaches of the civilized West End, the same advice, the same dire predictions of life outside the Market (‘God, it was hell out there in 1972’), the same comforting assurances of a bright future inside, less ecstatic admittedly than similar forecasts before we had entered (‘Come in, come in, the water’s lukewarm’ was their newer message) have been proclaimed with an almost religious fervor.

Religion itself had been conscripted for the European cause. The bishop of London, preaching in St Paul’s, had said that those concerned about sovereignty were guilty of the heresy “My country, right or wrong,” which was “essentially selfish and inward-looking.” Big Business spoke with one voice: The CBI’s Ralph Bateman declared that it would be “madness” to leave the EEC, and Mr. Barrie Heath told the workers at the engineering company, Guest, Keen and Nettlefolds, that membership in the EEC was not a political issue at all. It was a simple matter of economic and industrial efficiency.

“Is he Sir Barrie?” asked Enoch Powell, the leading Tory campaigner for a No vote. “No? Well, he soon will be.” He was, too — given a knighthood three years later “for services to exporting.”

6. The Vatican shows once again how it is gutless to take on Commies, with Ryan Berg and Frances Tilley reporting on the papal silence in the face of attacks on the Church in Nicaragua by the detestable ideologue Daniel Ortega. From the piece:

The Church is at the tip of the spear in the fight for the restoration of democracy in Nicaragua. Nicaragua’s bishops, working tirelessly to find a solution to the crisis, have brokered dialogue between the opposition and the regime on multiple occasions. Rectories have morphed into informal clinics for the thousands wounded in the protests, many of whom are denied access to state-run medical care due to their participation. The Ortega-Murillo regime responded to the Church’s activism by surgically targeting members of the clergy, slandering them as “coup-plotters.”

Yet, with the Church under siege in Nicaragua, the silence from Rome is deafening.

The Catholic Church’s support for the country’s democratic movement has been met with regime attempts to infiltrate and entrap priests under an enlarged definition of “terrorism.” When these tactics fail, the Ortega-Murillo regime resorts to strong-arming and intimidating members of the clergy. Security forces manhandle priests at the cathedral in Managua and surround churches during Mass. Recently, mothers and wives of political prisoners went on a hunger strike in a church in Masaya to protest the illegal detention of their loved ones. The government responded by cutting water and electricity and surrounding the church with police and paramilitaries. The Reverend Edwin Román, who permitted the hunger strike and subsequently became imprisoned inside without food for over a week, said of the Ortega strongmen, “They left us like rats in a hole.”

7. Elizabeth Warren’s attack on Bernie Sanders backfired, reports John McCormack. From the analysis:

When the January Democratic debate rolled around, Warren tried out a new closing line of attack against Bernie Sanders: identity politics. She suggested he had committed a sexist sin by privately telling her a woman couldn’t win the White House — an allegation he denied, noting that he’d recruited her to run in the 2015 Democratic presidential primary against Hillary Clinton. Her hot-mic moment after the debate drew national coverage. “I think you called me a liar on national TV,” she told Sanders. Then the race was drowned out by impeachment.

How did the attack on Sanders work out for Warren? While we don’t have final results from Iowa, partial results show she finished behind Sanders and Buttigieg. With 62 percent of precincts reporting, Buttigieg and Sanders are battling for first place, while Warren is a distant third at 18.3 percent, just a bit ahead of Biden at 15.6 percent. Elsewhere, the polls show that Sanders’s lead over Warren has only grown since the January 14 debate: He entered that clash running five points ahead of her in the RealClearPolitics average of New Hampshire polls; by Monday, February 3, that lead had been stretched to twelve points. In the same time period, his advantage over her in the RCP average of national polls increased by six points.

8. Kevin Williamson finds the Democrats, basking in the Iowa afterglow, to be a political party of great ineptitude. From the piece:

What the parties are not there to do — when they are functioning properly — is to act as mere aggregators. Unhappily, that is largely what the two major parties currently do.

They have gone from being organizations with standards, procedures, and interests of their own to being “a vehicle that anyone can drive,” as Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report puts it. In the case of the goat rodeo in Iowa, she notes, “these changes were driven by representatives of a candidate who does not define himself as a Democrat.” Senator Sanders, a professing socialist, is formally an independent. “This isn’t unlike Donald Trump’s ability to completely hijack the GOP,” she adds. “The party does not have an identity outside the president.”

Max Weber, the great political theorist, worried about a habit he called “caesarism.” Mass democracy, in his view, was no bulwark against authoritarian and dictatorial strongman rule — it is closer to being a guarantor of such rule. Caesarism, in Weber’s formulation, is the result of power shifting from a parliament to a supreme leader who acts, in theory, as a tribune of the people. Gerhard Casper in his 2007 lecture on Weber and caesarism identifies the major tenets of the creed as: “plebiscitary elections, disdain for parliament, relying on the legitimacy of the monarchy for cover, preference for governing with the help of emergency legislation, nontoleration of any autonomous power within the government, [and] failure to attract or suffer independent political minds.” For “monarchy” we may substitute “presidency” and find ourselves with an excellent characterization of presidential politics in 2020.

9. More Kevin: He mocks the whining of Kansas Democrats who declare an approaching Dark Ages over abortion-reform legislation. From the critique:

Abortion opponents in Kansas have tried to restrict the practice through statute, only to be blocked by naked judicial activism from a state supreme court intent on magicking a right to abortion into a document that contains no such thing or anything that might plausibly be construed as such a thing. Faced with might-makes-right politics from a lawless court, abortion opponents have stuck by the rule of law and are now advancing a constitutional amendment that would make it abundantly and redundantly clear that the state constitution does not remove the power of the state’s lawmaking body to make laws touching abortion. Governor Laura Kelly, a Democrat, declared that this threatens to return Kansas “to the Dark Ages.”

Funny kind of dark age, this.

There are a few genuine advocates of a dark-ages mode of life. In the Western world, for example, there are a few extremist environmentalists (by no means representing the main stream of the environmental movement) who advocate a return to a pre-industrial way of life, though they rarely speak very openly about what that would imply for political rights — if you believe that you can enjoy 21st-century liberty and democracy under a 15th-century standard of material and technological life, you have not thought through that carefully enough. In the Islamic world, likewise, there are a few extremist groups and sects that have pronounced dark-ages tendencies when it comes to culture. Some of our pro-abortion friends have been known to describe abortion opponents as “Taliban Christians” and the like — meaning anti-modernists and reactionaries. But being American progressives and therefore predictably parochial, they remain blissfully ignorant of the fact that Islamic law takes a considerably more liberal view of abortion relative to Catholic teaching or to the positions typical of anti-abortion American evangelicals. (As among Christians, there is considerable sect-by-sect variation.) And so it is worth keeping in mind that both the Western proponents of anti-modern primitivism and the would-be fathers of a revived Islamic caliphate both typically take a view of abortion that is closer to that of Governor Kelly, Planned Parenthood, and the rest of the butchers’ guild.

10. Polly Doesn’t Want To Be a Cracker: John Hirschauer reports on the new craze of white women assembling to dine while being chastised for their complicit/inherent pigmental racism. Take a bite here:

In a society that has lost its sense of sin, Rao and Jackson offer attendees a coherent, almost biblical story of their depravity: White people are necessarily “privileged,” inexorably stained by their “whiteness” like the blot of original sin. The dinners offer an opportunity for baptismal rebirth and conversion, to shed their attachments to white hegemony and achieve a sense of meaning and purpose in a nihilistic age. Frankl said that the “mass neurosis of the present time can be described as a private and personal form of nihilism.” For Saira Rao and Regina Jackson, mass neurosis is a business model.

Rao and Jackson’s website “Race to Dinner” describes the dinner events as a chance for “white women” to partake in a “conversation about how the white women at the table are complicit in the continued injustices of our white supremacist society.” Rao explained her rationale to The Guardian: “I spent years trying to get through to white women with coffees and teas — massaging them, dealing with their tears, and I got nowhere.” Since coddling didn’t work, Rao resolved to “shake them awake.” How? By entering the proverbial lions’ den: “Wealthy white women,” Rao said, “have been taught never to leave the dinner table.” If she and Jackson were able to meet “them” in “their” element — white women have been “taught never to leave the dinner table,” after all — the activists might have more success.

They’ve been quite successful, in a certain sense. Since the program began in the spring of 2019, 15 groups have hired Rao and Jackson to deconstruct their “whiteness” and inherited “white privilege.” Those sessions, combined with the annualized payout from the tandem’s Patreon account, amounts to well over $40,000 in revenue. If “oppression” is the operative enemy the duo intends to fight, one wonders if and when Rao and Jackson will raise sufficient funds to put themselves out of business.

11. Switch to Tea! Starbucks is selling coffee by trans-proselytizing. No one knows this beat better than Madeleine Kearns. From her piece:

And now Starbucks has decided to throw their corporate weight behind the child sex-change agenda: “We’re proud to partner with the UK charity Mermaids with a limited-edition Mermaids Cookie. With every cookie sold, 50p will go to the charity to support their helpline, providing support for transgender and gender diverse young people and their families.”

In their campaign video, Starbucks show a young woman called Gemma being called Gemma by others and looking sad (at no point does she ask not to be called Gemma). However, when she orders a coffee at Starbucks, a barista asks her name, she answers “James” and smiles.

Aiming to raise $130,000 for Mermaids, the company explains: “Starbucks #whatsyourname campaign celebrates this signature act and the significance I can have for some transgender and gender diverse people as they use their new name in public.”

In actual fact, this campaign furthers an agenda that violates basic safeguarding, fosters secrecy, and sets children down the path to irreversible harm. The word “evil” is overused nowadays. But using corporate power to persuade vulnerable youngsters to reject their own bodies is exactly that.

12. The housing California needs, California is not getting, says Michael Tanner. Take a bow, Nanny State political hacks. From the piece:

The lack of affordable housing has led to an explosion of homelessness. There are an estimated 130,000 homeless people in the state, including around 28,000 in the San Francisco Bay Area and 60,000 in Los Angeles County alone. But even often overlooked cities such as San Diego have homeless populations in excess of 8,000. By some calculations, more than 47 percent of all unhoused homeless people in America reside in California.

While many of California’s homeless suffer from drug, alcohol, and mental-health problems, many more are driven to the streets by the cost of housing. By some estimates, as much as two-thirds of the state’s homeless problem can be traced to housing costs.

Last week California lawmakers had the opportunity to take the tiniest of baby steps toward dealing with the crisis. The Housing Accountability Act, SB50, would have allowed the construction of multi-family housing in some neighborhoods near mass transit that were previously zoned exclusively for single-family housing. They failed.

13. The Trump Administration’s deregulatory efforts in labor are having a great impact, says Patrick Pizzella. From the analysis:

Under President Trump’s leadership, the Department of Labor has taken a hard look at our regulatory approach. We’ve ramped up enforcement of beneficial regulations and have set about targeting lawless employers who cheat or endanger their workers. Meanwhile, we’re reducing and reforming regulations that do little more than thwart job creation and prosperity.

In fiscal year (FY) 2017, the Department published seven deregulatory actions and zero significant regulatory actions, saving the American economy $112 million. Having gotten warmed up, we published 12 deregulatory actions in FY 2018 — and, again, zero significant regulatory actions, saving American businesses $3.28 billion. In FY 2019, our eleven deregulatory actions more than doubled the previous year’s economic impact, providing an additional $7.96 billion boost to an economy that’s enjoying the lowest unemployment rate since 1969 and that has created 6.7 million new jobs since President Trump took office.

For example, in 2019, we issued a rule that expands access to retirement savings options for America’s small businesses and their employees. With Association Retirement Plans (ARP), small businesses, including self-employed workers, can band together by geography or industry to provide employees with retirement savings plans like a single large employer, creating greater economies of scale. Among our many other accomplishments, we lawfully updated overtime regulations for the first time in over 15 years and enabled more Americans to access portable health reimbursement arrangements.

14. Armond White dissects Joaquin Phoenix’s BAFTA scolding, it being Black History Month, him being . . . a sanctimonious lefty. From the beginning of his piece:

Joaquin Phoenix kicked off Black History Month at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts ceremony by lecturing the London audience on racial discrimination. His acceptance speech for the Best Actor prize was a more interesting performance than the hebephrenia Phoenix displayed in Joker. Rather than hide behind a clown’s mask of madness and social victimization, Phoenix mixed empathy with self-importance.

Perhaps he meant this attempt at commiseration to be better than the usual moral intimidation, yet it revealed the actor’s deep naïveté. What used to be called bleeding-heart liberalism is now conflated with self-righteousness. While under the sway of political fashion, Phoenix, in his sincerity, clarified the oafish middle ground.

Taking his sentimentality beyond the generic hashtag protest, Phoenix displayed a personal, simple-minded credulousness: “I feel very honored and privileged. . . . But I have to say I also feel conflicted because so many of my fellow actors don’t have that same privilege. I think we send a very clear message to people of color that you are not welcome here.”

From that point, Phoenix’s good intentions veered into rogue opportunism. If he understood that the awards were meant to be premised on pointing out excellence, not race, there’d be no need to signal — through mawkish, hands-in-pockets, aw-shucks pity and verbal fumbling — that he was one with progressive dissenters.

15. The Louvre’s Leonardo exhibition wins the praise of Brian Allen. From the review:

Only 15 paintings are attributed to Leonardo. He lived off and on in Florence but for long periods was cosseted by potentates such as the Duke of Milan and the French King Francis I who considered him their pet genius. He took forever to finish paintings, if he finished them at all. He was born out of wedlock, his father a small-town lawyer and his mother a peasant. He had little formal education. When he tried to steal papal work from the young Raphael and Michelangelo, he failed. By 1510 in Rome, however esteemed Leonardo was, they were more fashionable, and reliable. Why, then, is Leonardo the genius for all seasons, the original Renaissance man?

The exhibition explains Leonardo’s fame with impressive clarity and precision. He mastered movement, which conveys the reality of life on figures represented on a flat surface. He developed an atmosphere for his figures, settings where they convincingly breathe. An understanding of light, especially shade, molds form like putty. Leonardo believed that understanding the material world was essential in representing it. To him, mathematics, geology, anatomy, engineering, aeronautics, and botany weren’t always detours or diversions, though they sometimes were, hence, only 15 paintings in a 50-year career. He felt he couldn’t represent life, its physical and intellectual aspects, without knowing how life ticks.

It’s mostly a drawings show, along with eight of his paintings and the massive 1507–08 copy of The Last Supper done on canvas by Marco d’Oggiono. His story begins in Florence in the shop of Andrea del Verrocchio (1435–1488) where the savant Leonardo worked as a teenage apprentice. About a dozen large drapery studies by either Verrocchio or Leonardo are somber experiments in achieving form and weight through subtle undulations of lights and darks. These studies feel abstract and modern. Saint-Morys Study, by Leonardo, from the late 1470s, is the most impressive. The subject is a close-up, intense passage of drapery. The colors are an austere brown and gray. Light not only makes the folds and creases but gives what’s underneath presence and credibility.

16. Kyle Smith is troubled by what he sees in the Netflix documentary American Factory. From the review:

Such a portrayal is American Factory, a heartbreaking Netflix documentary about the gritty truths of capitalism. You may have heard the film, which has been nominated for an Oscar, described as “Obama’s movie.” It isn’t. It’s directed by veteran documentarians Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert. Barack and Michelle’s company, Higher Ground Productions, put their imprimatur on the film after the fact, when it was sold to the Obamas’ partners at Netflix. Nevertheless, you can see the affinity, as I’ll explain.

In Moraine, outside Dayton, Ohio, a unionized GM assembly plant shut down in 2008 as demand for the SUVs it produced waned with high fuel prices. The huge property sat there, empty and forlorn, until a Chinese behemoth that makes windows for automobiles, Fuyao Glass, decided to take a chance on it and reopen the facility. Workers who had once gotten $29 an hour and generous union benefits were offered less than half of that. Another way of looking at it: Laid-off workers who were getting $0 an hour were given a chance to come back to work for $13 an hour. Not the least of the film’s ironies is that after an all-American union (the IUE-CWA ran the shop) helped destroy jobs, an American state dangled $10 million in tax credits to lure China in to reopen the place, with non-union jobs.

Yet as soon as the plant gets up and running, what happens? Yep, union organizers start sniffing around. At a ribbon-cutting speech, the fatuous Senator Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) goes off-piste and starts calling for unionization, after which an (American) factory executive is seen cordially wondering whether the scissors used to cut the ribbon could also be used to separate Brown’s head from his shoulders.

The February 24, 2020 Issue of National Review Isn’t Sheepish about Answering the Old Rhetorical Question: “Is the Pope Catholic?”

As is our custom, we entice you with four suggestions from the bountiful fare contained in the new edition of National Review On Dead Tree. It went to press days after the Iowa Caucuses, which means: We still didn’t know the outcome.

1. The cover essay belongs to the great Daniel J. Mahoney, one of America’s premier conservative scholars, and also one of the great commentators on the state of the Catholic church, whose spiritual leader, Pope Francis, he casts as a wayward shepherd leading his flock down an erroneous path. From the essay:

On matters of war and peace, and immigration and the integrity of borders, Francis has been guided by the same humanitarian moralism that has informed his “frenzied activism” on other fronts. In a 2018 book of interviews with the left-wing French sociologist Dominique Wolton, Francis lightly dismisses the rich Catholic tradition of ethical and prudential reflection on matters of war and peace. In the tone of a person with no political responsibilities, and no sense of what they might be, he declares that there is no such thing as a just war. If he means that no war is simply or absolutely just, he is reiterating age-old Christian wisdom about the impact of original sin even on decent political communities attempting to defend the civilized patrimony of humankind. But this pope, abandoning equitable or balanced judgment, declares that only with peace do you “win everything.” He overlooks the fact that “peace” can also be a vehicle of mendacity, oppression, injustice, violence, and genocide, as that proffered by totalitarian regimes. As Vladimir Solovyov argued in his “Short Tale of the Anti-Christ” (1900), there can be such a thing as an “evil peace” and a good or legitimate war (and vice versa, of course). Francis’s conception in no way resembles the “tranquility of order” so richly articulated in Book 19 of St. Augustine’s City of God. If only he would display more deference to the rich theological and philosophical wisdom of the past.

Francis seems to believe, like the Leninists of old, that wars are caused only by rapacious capitalists, discounting quests for power, influence, glory, or fame, and never by totalitarian ideologues. Only the most naïve progressive or humanitarian could see “money”—“Satan’s dung,” as Francis rather colorfully calls it in his conversations with Wolton—as “the greatest threat to peace in the world today.” Alas, such musings sound more like the pronouncements of a secular progressive than the considered reflections of a man of a Church “which knows the truth about man,” to cite the great Pascal.

The silence of most of the bishops in the Catholic Church on this embarrassing but destructive mixture of progressivism, reflexive activism, and casual dismissal of the deepest wisdom of the Church is disconcerting. There are exceptions. As Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the former head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has repeatedly pointed out, the Church must recover the clarity of true theology and the natural moral law. “Spiritual and moral renewal in Christ and not the de-Christianization of the Church or her transformation into an NGO” will point the way forward. If the Church is nothing but a humanitarian NGO, she is nothing holy or enduring and will be blown to and fro by various ideological winds. In his pre-Christmas address at the end of 2019, Francis railed against “rigid” traditionalists who will not accept “change.” He also quoted the late Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini of Milan, who claimed shortly before his death in 2012 that the Catholic Church was “200 years behind the times.” One must ask: When did the morally and intellectually empty ideological standard of progress and reaction replace the enduring distinctions between truth and falsehood and good and evil? Doesn’t the Church aim to see and uphold the “timeless in time,” as T. S. Eliot so eloquently put it?

2. Kevin Williamson checks out the homeless situation in Austin. He finds quite the situation. From the article:

‘I’m a weekend mom, now,” says T-Boog. She’s building a firepit in front of her tent for cooking and warmth, assembling stray bricks and fragments of cinderblock. Her daughter, who is listening to music on the stereo of a car parked nearby, turns the music down and turns her face away. T-Boog has been living here at Camp R.A.T.T.—“Responsible Adult Transition Town”—for a few weeks. It is a new facility, though “facility” is probably not quite the right word. As the political volleys between Governor Abbott and Mayor Adler went back and forth, with the city resolving and then unresolving to enforce its “urban camping” ordinance—as though this were about camping—the inevitable question came up: If Austin clears out the homeless camps, then where do the homeless go? The answer the state came up with is five acres of blasted dusty state-owned land near Montopolis Drive, walled and gated and concertina-wired and overseen by two smiling and friendly agents from the state’s Division of Emergency Management who normally are tasked with managing the aftereffects of hurricanes and tornadoes rather than the slow-motion man-made disaster whose effects are being funneled here into Camp R.A.T.T., which the residents originally had called “Camp Abbott” before settling on the more aspirational name they’ve given their community.

This is not T-Boog’s first experience with tent life. Before, she lived in an encampment “in the woods,” she says. A couple of large settlements have been discovered over the years in Austin’s greenbelt. Camp R.A.T.T. gives its residents some respite that they do not enjoy elsewhere. They are living here with the state’s begrudging consent, so they do not have to worry about being chased away from whatever semi-permanent arrangements they can make, and there are daily deliveries of water and food in the form of MREs. Like all of the Camp R.A.T.T. residents I speak to, T-Boog is not an Austin native. She comes most recently from Orlando but prefers the less swampy climate here. One of her neighbors comes from San Diego but has in recent years traveled all over the country, from California to the Carolinas. T-Boog says she has a hard time keeping a job because she always wants to try new things. She applied for an online degree program in “entrepreneurship” but was unable to enroll because she doesn’t have regular access to an Internet connection. Things went bad for her after a divorce. Her daughter comes to visit her on the weekends, but she doesn’t let her stay overnight. “It’s not safe,” she says.

T-Boog is a classic kind of American delusional. “Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires,” Ronald Wright wrote in his History of Progress. T-Boog is living in a tent but imagines reinventing herself as a serial entrepreneur. Another resident speaks of his plans to do something “with media.”

3. Alexandra DeSanctis profiles former Veep and wanna-POTUS Joe Biden’s race to the Left. From the report:

Biden spends most of his campaign events talking about the sitting president. “We have to beat Donald Trump,” he says again and again on the trail. In Waukee, Biden emphasized the theme with which he kicked off his campaign, saying that another term for Trump would “fundamentally change the nature” of the U.S., while his own presidency would “restore the character of the nation.”

“I really do believe this year that the character of the nation is on the ballot”—that’s how he put it in Waterloo, before repeating his campaign-video description of the Charlottesville violence. “To state the obvious, the next president is going to inherit a country divided and a world in disarray, and there is no time for on-the-job training,” he added.

But Iowa’s voters appear not to have agreed with Biden’s assessment that he is the candidate best equipped to be that president. He’s been banking on appealing to Democratic voters who can’t stand Trump and are wary of the progressive direction in which other politicians want to take their party. In a state such as Iowa, those types of voters likely exist in droves, but Biden’s efforts to win them over fell flat.

“Everything I say, I’ve done, and everything I talk about is authentic,” Biden told an undecided voter in Cedar Rapids on the Saturday before the caucuses. “Now, if you don’t like what I’m talking about, I understand. You can be for somebody else. But ask yourself, who is going to be able to unite the country? How can Pete do that? How can Bernie do that?”

That undecided voter later told the New York Times, “He 100 percent could have swayed me, and I was hoping that he would, and he did not.”

4. Richard Tempest assesses the latest volume release (the first time March 1917 has been published in English) of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s majestic history (The Red Wheel) of the Soviet Revolution. From the review:

The book traces the clash between two new centers of power, the democratically minded provisional government, established by the elected parliament, or Duma, and the Petrograd Soviet of Deputies, a revolutionary talking-shop-cum-gangsters’-den. They compete against each other in the name of liberty and fraternity as they dismantle every institution of state, including the army fighting on the Eastern Front, and thereby ensure the nation’s doom. Most of the action takes place in St. Petersburg (Petrograd) and its environs, though there are historical vignettes set in Moscow, in the southern city of Rostovon-Don, at Nicholas’s General Headquarters (GHQ) at Mogilev, and on the ships of the Imperial Russian Navy.

Like the rest of the saga, March 1917 features reliable and unreliable character voices, graphic descriptions, and hallucinatory reveries, as well as an elaborate hierarchy of metaphors at the apex of which stand the (Christian) Cross and the (satanic) Wheel. Refracted across the epic’s many narrative layers, each glyph generates sometimes explicit and sometimes coded meanings. Thus, the boutonnières worn by the revolutionaries become imaginatively transformed into “large, torn red scrap[s], . . .  as shaggy as fire, . . . revolving around the pinning point in angles, tears, and wisps.” The passage occurs in one of the “screens,” or mock film scripts, the saga’s most conspicuously experimental element, which intertwines its historiographical, symbolic, and surreal strands. Also present in Book 2 are documentary interpolations, mostly extracts from the newspapers of the period, as well as popular proverbs, set in caps and centered at the end of several of the chapters, as punchy commentary on the events described. “A hero’s beard, a conscience of clay,” for example, serves as a folksy assessment of the imperial authorities’ lack of moral courage. In Solzhenitsyn’s book, with its dozens of hirsute generals, politicians, and conspirators, the revolution is a festival of beards.

Marian Schwartz’s translation hews faithfully to the original. It renders archaisms, dialecticisms, grammatical complexities, and syntactical inversions into careful English prose, while retaining the idiosyncratic authorial diction and conveying the wicked delight he takes in lampooning the historically clueless, irresponsible, and immoral.

The Six.

1. At The New Criterion, John Steele Gordon reminisces about Harry Flashman and the beloved novel series written by the late George MacDonald Fraser. From the reflection:

Flashman was the brilliant conception of the British author George MacDonald Fraser. Flashman had been a minor character in Thomas Hughes’s Victorian classic Tom Brown’s School Days—so minor he didn’t even have a first name in that book. As the school bully at Rugby, Flashman had made Tom Brown’s life hell until he had been expelled for drunkenness.

But Fraser took this thinly fleshed-out character and brought him to life by means of a masterly literary conceit. Had he simply written these books as third-person novels, it is unlikely they would have caught on, because Flashman was apparently devoid of the redeeming qualities that the heroes of picaresque tales always have. Consider Tom Jones, for instance, or, for that matter, Robin Hood.

Instead, Fraser wrote them in the first person, explaining that they were actually the memoirs of Harry Flashman. “The great mass of manuscript known as the Flashman Papers,” he wrote, “was discovered during a sale of household furniture at Ashy, Leicestershire, in 1965. . . . The papers, which had apparently lain untouched for fifty years, in a tea chest . . . were carefully wrapped in oilskin covers.” All Fraser had to do, he explained, was edit them very lightly and supply footnotes and endnotes. As far as I know, the Flashman Papers are the only novels in the English language, perhaps besides Tolkien’s, with extensive back matter, at least back matter written by the author and not an English professor determined, as they always are, to make a good book boring.

These endnotes, the product of meticulous and extensive historical research, are the source of the extraordinary verisimilitude of the Flashman Papers. Indeed they had such a feeling of verisimilitude that no fewer than ten of the twenty-eight American reviewers treated the first one as a genuine autobiography.

And the endnotes reveal another of Fraser’s literary conceits. For while Harry Flashman is completely fictional, the world he lived in for so long (his dates are 1822–1915) was very real, as were many of the characters and events in the Flashman Papers. Fraser sticks to history as much as possible. Flashman wrote that he met Florence Nightingale, for instance, at Balmoral, Queen Victoria’s Scottish estate, on the night of September 22, 1856, and, indeed, Nightingale was there that day, as recorded in Queen Victoria’s letters.

2. In Commentary, Wilfred C. Reilly advises that there is no coming race war. From the article:

Looking at today’s dueling headlines, it is tempting to ask: “So, do we have an epidemic of horrifically racist white-on-black crimes or an epidemic of brutish black-on-white crimes?” The answer is “neither.” Moreover, the statistics so thoroughly refute popular fear-mongering that Americans of all colors should take the media to task for the divisive false version of reality they so often present. In September of this year, the Trump administration’s Department of Justice released the 2019 Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) report, entitled “U.S. Criminal Victimization 2018,” a comprehensive breakdown of U.S. crime data for the year in question. The reality of interracial crime revealed within the pages of this thorough report is far indeed from the “race war” fantasies of extremists on either side.

According to the report, only 15.3 percent of the 3,581,360 violent crimes against whites in 2018 were committed by blacks, who make up 12 to 13 percent of the U.S. population. These percentages are, needless to say, almost directly proportional. And whites were even less likely to commit racist crimes: Only about 11 percent of the 563,940 violent crimes against blacks were committed by whites. Significantly, no third group—say, Latinos—made up for these positive findings. During the study year, persons of Hispanic or Latino descent made up only 7.9 percent of all those who attacked blacks and just 10.2 percent of all those who attacked whites. The massive majority of crime in 2018 was intra-racial, with 62.1 percent of all attacks on white people coming from other whites (non-Hispanic whites make up 61 percent of the U.S. population) and 70.3 percent of all attacks on black people coming from other blacks. For good measure, nearly 50 percent of all attackers of Hispanics were themselves Hispanic. All told, only about 2,000,000 crimes, out of 5,061,940 violent crimes and roughly 12,000,000 total crimes, involved any interracial use of force whatsoever.

It is true that, as alt-righters are fond of pointing out, there are more black attacks on whites than white attacks on blacks in a typical year: Generally about 500,000 of the first and 100,000 or fewer of the latter (59,777 in 2018). However, this fact taken alone is, in debater’s parlance, “true but meaningless.” The honest math around the topic gets more complicated than this, but it’s worth noting as a starting point that there are five times as many white people as black people in the United States. Even an utterly anti-racist black criminal would thus find himself confronted with 500 to 600 percent more white targets than black ones. It is also true that, on average, whites have more money than blacks do, making the former more tempting targets for such crimes as robbery. And the black violent-crime rate overall, as per the BJS, is roughly 2.4 times the white rate, making blacks statistically more likely to be involved in crime against members of all groups.

3. At Gatestone Institute, Denis MacEoin deep-dives into the flawed programs to “deradicalize” Islamofascist terrorists. From the article:

On Friday November 29, 2019, an Islamist terror attack took place in London. Two young people, both recent Cambridge University graduates, Jack Merritt (25) and Saskia Jones (23), were stabbed and killed by a single attacker. It was a terrible and unnecessary loss of life.

The special irony about Jack and Saskia’s deaths is that they (and a colleague) had been involved with Cambridge University’s Learning Together prison-rehabilitation program, similar to the US version known as Inside-Out, both of which bring prison inmates together with students to learn together. The British programme is run by Cambridge University’s Institute of Criminology, from which both Merritt and Jones had received M.Phils in criminology.

On that Friday, the fifth anniversary of the program, they were attending a conference on offender rehabilitation. The event, dedicated to work on reintegrating prisoners after their release, took place in the stately Fishmongers’ Hall at the north end of London Bridge. It was attended by a mix of academics, students, graduates and former prisoners, some with tags.

Just after lunch, at 12.58 p.m., the conference erupted into chaos when one of the participants threatened to blow it up. A man, later identified as Usman Khan, revealed that he was wearing what appeared to be a suicide vest. It is not clear what he planned to do, given that the vest was a fake and could not have served in any attack. However, he did have two knives taped to his wrists. When he left the Hall and went down to the bridge, it was indeed with these weapons that he killed Merritt and Jones and injured several others, some badly.

Remarkably, instead of running for their lives, many of the conference participants, including some prisoners, tackled Khan. One was a convicted murderer on day release. Two of these heroes were Merritt and Jones, who paid for their bravery with their own lives.

4. The Golden State has embraced corporate socialism. At California Policy Center, Ed Ring explains how and why. From the study:

Corporate socialism in California today is a marriage of convenience between, on one hand, monopolistic corporations and the oligarchy they’ve spawned, and on the other, a seething coalition of progressive socialists with an agenda that is best described as a self-contradictory mixture of nihilism and idealism. What California’s corporate socialists have done is concoct a profitable interpretation of this agenda, implementing those elements that will aggrandize them, and paying lip service to the rest. There are ample examples of this practice.

To ensure “diversity,” an amazingly lucrative profession has emerged, embodied in “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” departments inside every institution of higher education, as well as embedded in the human resources departments of every major corporation.

To protect wilderness, sound principles of land management such as controlled burns, maintenance of firebreaks and access roads, selective logging and salvage logging have been either banned altogether or mired in prohibitive levels of bureaucratic delays, leading to catastrophic fires that were blamed on the “climate.”

To protect the “climate,” land development outside of existing cities has been all but frozen, restricting the supply of new homes and driving prices to unaffordable levels. For similar reasons relating to “climate,” clean conventional energy from natural gas and nuclear power are being systematically reduced in favor of heavily subsidized “renewable” energy providers.

To ensure housing “affordability,” the Homeless Industrial Complex has arisen, with budgets so padded that the average cost to build “permanent supportive housing” in California now exceeds a half million per unit.

To respect the rights of the homeless, as well as “alternative lifestyles,” hundreds of thousands of vagrants, most of them either insane, substance abusers, predators, or all three, have been permitted to camp on the sidewalks and in the parks of every major California city. To assist them, tens of billions are being spent on public employees and nonprofit personnel, and the problems just get worse.

5. At The College Fix, Daniel Payne asks and answers — why do liberal students never seem to endure the same offenses that happen to conservatives? From the beginning of the piece:

A snapshot of a few of the things conservative student groups have endured on campus in recent months: At George Mason University, Young America’s Foundation was told by campus authorities that they weren’t allowed to post flyers; at the College of Lake County, a campus employee distributed material claiming that Young Americans for Freedom was a “hate group;” the student government at the University of Scranton blocked a conservative student group from forming; the same thing happened at Hobart and William Smith Colleges; last year conservative students endured numerous violent attacks on their college campuses; an anarchist group at the University of Texas threatened to dox any student if they joined a campus conservative club; the list goes on.

It’s worth asking: How come we never hear about liberal students suffering the same indignities?

Spoiler alert: Because it doesn’t really happen. Liberal students enjoy the benefit of the doubt on virtually every college campus in the country; conservative students are generally seen as outliers at best and enemies at worst. What that means in practice is twofold: One, conservatives are much more likely to face the kinds of sustained and sometimes violent harassment as detailed above, and two, nobody cares all that much when it does happen.

6. If we could all only write like Mark Helprin! At Claremont Review of Books, the great author reflects on his mid-60s time at Harvard as an undergrad. This is a story of love and heartbreak. From the essay:

My first brush with the deluge was anecdotal but potently symbolic. In 1965, I witnessed what I think of as the Ur-protest at Harvard, in the form of a single demonstrator carrying a sign in front of Lowell House. He was against parietals, the rules that not only dictated the limited hours in which girls could visit your room, but assigned proctors to inspect periodically for sexual activity. I didn’t like parietals, but in that era when we dressed in jacket and tie all day, as I had since 4th grade, I appreciated their value in elevating desire by means of the heavy cultivation of forbidden fruit, and in steadying, so to speak, the morals of state. Even if the heart of the game was to circumvent them, that they were there was civilizing. So, undecided, I heard him out.

He was not, however, merely protesting parietals, he was protesting America—past, present, and, were it not to transform according to his lights, future. I loved America and was profoundly grateful for its principles and its reality, so I asked him why he was so angry. His father, he said, one of the Hollywood Ten, was unjustly accused of being a Communist, and had had to move to France. I replied that being a Communist in America was not illegal, and it was a pity that he had had to move to France—though I myself would have loved to have moved to France if only for the food—but that his father was indeed a Communist, and either his father had lied to him or he was lying to me. He reacted in amazed disbelief. I couldn’t possibly back up what I said. But, no, I told him, his father had been in the same Hollywood Communist cell as my mother, who had known him quite well. Ahem.

It is remarkable how such true believers can leverage a community that lacks awareness, conviction, and fighting courage. A well-known Communist tactic is to place a small group of agents both at the four corners and scattered near the center of a large meeting. Reacting simultaneously either to propose or oppose, they can carry the more passive participants with them by creating the illusion of consensus. As the Vietnam War and urban unrest destabilized the ’60s, posing urgent questions one after another and, like the sea beyond a dyke, exerting constant pressure against the figurative walls of the university, leftist true believers took control of Harvard’s soft, privileged center. Pacific by nature, academics are ill-suited to Leninist political combat, and though they cannot be blamed for shying from it, they should be held to account for becoming its converts and agents.

Baseballery

Connie Mack was a tightwad, and with the economy heading ever further south as the Great Depression intensified, he decided to cut costs for the defending AL Champ Philadelphia As’ trip to Cleveland for a one-game make-up on Sunday, July 11, 1932, by bringing along only two pitchers. One was 20-year-old righthander Lew Krausse (he would start only one more game in his brief MLB career), and the other was 34-year-old righty Eddie Rommel, who had twice led the AL in wins (in 1922 and 1925), and also losses (in 1921 and 1923), and had carved out a role as the As’ chief reliver in his final seasons.

If there was ever a baseball box score to look at, it belongs to this game. The visiting As quickly got on the scoreboard with two runs in the top of the first against the Indians’ Clint Brown (he’d register a 15–12 record that season, with a 4.08 ERA), but in the bottom half of the frame, Cleveland tagged Krausse for three runs on Earl Averill’s homer. It would be one of five hits that day by the future Hall of Famer. Indeed, it would be one of 33 hits by the Indians — compared to a measly 25 by the As — in an 18-inning slugfest that ended with the Athletics triumphing, 18–17.

But who knew all that was looming when Rommel came in to relieve Krausse in the bottom of the second. And with no one else to throw, the veteran knuckleballer found himself hurling 17 frames before striking out Indians first baseman Ed Morgan (he also had five hits) to end the game in the 18th. Over the dual blowout, Rommel gave up 29 hits and 9 walks, allowing 14 runs (13 earned). Of those hits, 8 were had by Indians shortstop Johnny Burnett. He also singled off Krausse in the first — Burnett’s nine total hits is an MLB one-game record.

There were relief theatrics for the Indians too. Behind 8–7 in the 7th Inning, manager Roger Peckinpaugh brought in ace Wes Ferrell (he’d lead Cleveland with 23 wins that season) to get the Tribe out of a two-out, bases-loaded jam. He didn’t: A bases-clearing double by Jimmy Dykes, followed by an Al Simmons RBI single and a Jimmie Foxx home run (he had three on a day of six hits with eight RBIs) almost broke open the game — except for the fact that in the bottom of the 7th, Rommel allowed eight Indian runs.

And so it went — the Athletics go ahead in the 9th, 15–14, but with two out the Indians knot it in the bottom of the inning. Another Foxx dinger in the 16th puts the As ahead by two, but the Indians grab them back in the bottom of the frame. Still on the mound all this time for Cleveland is Ferrell: He hurled 11 1/3 innings, allowing eight runs on a dozen hits and four walks. He took a blown save and the loss. Rommel (who had three hits and an RBI) proved the winner. It would be the final of his career, which boasted a strong 171–119 record over 13 seasons, all spent with Mr. Mack. Later, he would become an AL umpire, calling balls and strikes for 22 seasons till he hung up his specs (Rommel was the first MLB umpire to wear glasses while working a game).

A Dios

They can’t count votes, but they can run this nation? Not happening folks. Pray that it doesn’t.

And while you’re praying, say a few for Rush.

The Almighty’s Blessings and Graces for You and Yours, for Your Happiness and Good Health,

Jack Fowler

(who can be reached on his Mississippi River flatboat with your caustic bromides and heartfelt condemnations if communicated electronically at jfowler@nationalreview.com)