Dear Weekend Jolter,
The Odd Man to whom this missive’s title refers is not James Mason but a Brooklyn-born Vermont-based socialist senator. He’s also the subject of Big Jim Geraghty’s recent attempt to answer the question, “Is Bernie a Candidate of Destiny or an Incredibly Lucky Oddball?” From the piece:
Sanders shouldn’t, by rights, even be here. His critics like to point out that he “didn’t collect his first steady paycheck until he was an elected official pushing 40 years old.” In his early 20s, he lived in a “shack-like structure” with a dirt floor and no electricity or running water. At age 32, he was writing bizarre and lurid rants about sex in an alternative newspaper that are shocking even by today’s standards.
He became a candidate for office in late 1971 because he volunteered and no one else did. The far-left Liberty Union party, touting “nonviolent revolutionary socialism,” needed a candidate for the U.S. Senate, and Sanders agreed to do it. (Up in Vermont, the party is a venerable, if never successful, institution.) Sanders’s message in that campaign should sound eerily familiar: He lamented that “some people in this country have billions of dollars when other people have nothing.” He received 1 percent of the vote.
For much of his early political career, Sanders no doubt struck people as a kook. Perhaps no city other than tiny Burlington, Vt., would have given him a chance. In 1980, when he first ran for mayor of the town, in 1980, he won by ten votes over a wildly overconfident five-term incumbent who “hardly bothered to campaign.” Sanders broke almost every traditional rule in politics. He started to go bald early, what’s left of his hair always seemed disheveled, his suits were always wrinkled and rarely fit well, and he wore thick glasses, spoke with an even thicker Brooklyn accent, shouted most of his speeches, and went on at length about dry topics.
Jim, the answer is Lucky Oddball!
Now, to involve the magnificent Carol Reed film, Odd Man Out, in any association with the Lenin-loving POTUS wannabe is downright criminal and horse-whipping-worthy. The offended should accept this establishment’s apologies but know that the Small Brain behind this epistle has been waiting for years to use the poster image shown. And to encourage those who love movies to see this 1947 classic. It is one of the most beautifully shot films, ever. Gorgeous. Exquisite.
Everything Bernie ain’t! OK, let us get on with the Weekend Jolt!
1. We honor the late Roger Scruton. From the editorial:
He found much in Burke and (mild surprise) Hegel to inform his political philosophy, which was downstream of culture, as we say, but that’s not exactly how Scruton said it. “Culture and religion are in the last analysis indissoluble,” he argued, drawing on T. S. Eliot. In traditional religion, with all its serious appeal to manners and morals, Scruton found culture’s “life-blood”:
The future of mankind, for the socialist, is simple: pull down the existing order, and allow the future to emerge. But it will not emerge, as we know. These philosophies of the “new world” are lies and delusions, products of a sentimentality which has veiled the facts of human nature.
We can do nothing unless we first amend ourselves.
“Such is the conservative message for our time,” he maintained. “It is a message beyond politics, a message of liturgical weight and authority. But it is a message which must be received, if humane and moderate politics is to remain a possibility.”
Related: Jay Nordlinger knew Roger Scruton quite well. His remembrance is a thing of beauty. We provide other such below, but here at the WJ get-go we highlight Jay’s. From the reflection:
Norman Podhoretz told me that he judged Anna Karenina the best novel — ever. I mentioned this to Roger — who agreed. “There are competitors,” he said, including Middlemarch. “But there are weaknesses in the Eliot, and there are no weaknesses in the Tolstoy. Every character is absolutely real, and engaged from the depth of his being in the story. All the details are absolutely right.”
He also named The Brothers Karamazov, Emma, Madame Bovary, and Ulysses. “Those are all books that I read again and again.”
Coincidentally, he had just read — or re-read — War and Peace. It is “wonderful,” he said, but not perfect, like Anna Karenina. The problem is, “it’s got a kind of thesis that impedes the forward movement of the drama,” and “a thesis is an artificial thing that the novelist is imposing on the world, not a thing that grows from the world.”
More than once, naturally — how could we not? — Scruton and I talked about conservatism. He said in 2017, “My life’s work, in a way, has been an attempt to define the word ‘conservatism’ and to rescue it from being a term of abuse.” He wanted it instead to describe “a coherent political philosophy and social outlook.”
2. A mixed review of the China trade deal. From the editorial:
There are two major problems with the new Washington–Beijing trade accord announced by the Trump administration: First, it isn’t much of a trade deal; second, the principal problem in the U.S.–China relationship is not trade.
There are some benefits to the deal. These are important and should not be overlooked. For one thing, signing even a partial and preliminary deal (which is what “phase one” means) may relieve some of the uncertainty that currently imposes heavy costs on businesses in the United States and abroad. A higher degree of certainty will encourage investment and long-term economic growth.
And while it has imposed heavy costs on U.S. businesses ranging from soybean farms to steel mills, the trade war has credibly demonstrated to Xi Jinping and his cronies that the United States has the ability to inflict real economic pain on China, and that the subsequent disruption will be borne with far more strength and flexibility by the U.S. economy — which enjoys the dynamism associated with genuinely free enterprise rather than the nationalistic neo-mercantilism practiced by Beijing. The trade war has put the Chinese back on their heels if not quite down on their knees. In that, President Trump has accomplished precisely what he intended.
And, in a sense, that is part of the trouble with the trade deal: Beijing is hurting, and hurting enough that Xi Jinping et al. almost certainly have done here what they have done so many times in the past: assuage Washington by making promises that they have no intention whatsoever of keeping. Among other things, China has promised to increase its imports of U.S. goods by about 50 percent — in only two years. The deal obliges China to increase its imports of U.S. goods by $200 billion over two years from a baseline of about $185 billion a year.
A Pretty Box of 15 Tasty Conservative Nougats and Sweets, All Certain to Provide Intellectual Pep, Awaiting Your Engorging and Enjoyment
1. Cases are things that get tried, says Andy McCarthy. They are not open-ended investigations. He has advice for a Senate being pressured by a politicized House. From the beginning of the piece:
The Democrats’ strategy is coming clear.
The House provided the Senate with two half-baked impeachment articles. House Democrats rushed through the investigation, forgoing salient witnesses and evidence, because of the political calendar. The charges are weak and the inquiry was needlessly short-circuited, so Democrats have continued investigating the premature allegations. Now they are publicly disclosing newly acquired evidence, with the promise of more to come. Transparently, their goal is to pressure the Senate not merely to conduct a trial but to complete the investigation that the House failed to complete — calling witnesses and gathering evidence, as if a trial were nothing more than an extension of an open-ended grand-jury probe.
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans should not let them get away with it. No trial court would allow itself to be whipsawed this way. A federal judge would tell prosecutors to go back to the grand jury, finish the investigation, and come back to the trial court when they have a case ready to be tried, not investigated.
2. Victor Davis Hanson enumerates the new normal. From the commentary:
5) The Washington top echelon of the CIA, FBI, and NSA will be largely immune from oversight. If they wish to spy on a presidential candidate or curtail the options of a sitting president, they will easily use their powers of surveillance, leaking, and spying for political purposes — purposes mostly defined as protecting the status quo of the permanent government. Upon retirement, such intelligence heads will retain their security clearances and use this inside access to obtain lucrative analyst billets on cable news channels deemed hostile to the incumbent administration. No one will care much when an FBI or CIA director lies under oath to Congress. There will be no indictments when high intelligence officials deliberately mislead federal courts, lie to federal investigators and the public, and conspire to derail political campaigns.
6) Reverse targeting of political opponents will be the normal behavior of intelligence agencies working closely with an incumbent lame-duck administration. Political rivals and opponents can be surveilled by warrants that are aimed nominally at third-party targets. The names of surveilled political opponents then can be unmasked when presidential appointees request it — the more unmaskings, and the more extraneous they are, the better. And the ensuing information will be leaked to the popular press with impunity.
3. The curtain rising on the impeachment show means it’s time, says Kevin Williamson, for the liberal media to begin intimidating the Chief Justice. From the piece:
Oddly, but not unexpectedly, that is not made at all clear by Adam Liptak’s report in the Times, which is not exactly a report. Liptak warns the chief justice against making displays of partisanship without ever establishing that Roberts is in need of any such admonition from the august pages of the New York Times. His quotations from Roberts are the definition of anodyne. “We should celebrate our strong and independent judiciary, a key source of national unity and stability,” Roberts said in his annual report on the state of the judiciary. Liptak detects in this a coded message to Trump. Well. What else? “As the new year begins, and we turn to the tasks before us,” Roberts said, “we should each resolve to do our best to maintain the public’s trust that we are faithfully discharging our solemn obligation to equal justice under law.” So much for that.
Liptak quotes law professor Frank Bowman, who is the author of a book about impeachment, warning that even by the standard of presidential impeachments, “This one in particular is so poisonous.” About that very interesting claim, we might charitably note that the data set is very small.
4. Some major Wall Street honchos proclaim that climate change — and not investment returns — is to become the new priority. David Bahnsen calls the hooey . . . hooey. From the piece:
Larry Fink has taken flak in Manhattan charitable-board circles for being a little too much of a CEO and not enough of a social activist. But the time has come for corporate America to stop rank virtue-signaling, transcend marketing messages and feel-good platitudes, and devise some substance behind their bold proclamations. As they fly on their private jets into Davos next week, it may be a good time to think about the positive impact fossil fuels have had in reducing starvation, or in providing either heat or coolant to the world when desperately needed. It is perhaps past the time to consider more thoughtfully the tradeoffs at stake, the quality-of-life ramifications, and the brute facts of some of the more extreme efforts to reduce fossil-fuel usage.
I have no doubt that investors worldwide are concerned with sustainability and earnest about stewardship. I have no doubt that CEOs such as Fink mean well. But until the rhetoric evolves to engage actual policy discussions with transparent admissions about what costs will be incurred, it is impossible not to see such posturing as virtue-signaling. Carbon emissions can come down (they are coming down), but at the cost of decimating lower-income households or causing large parts of the population either to starve or to freeze to death. The binary logic according to which one must either be an environmental villain or support extremist measures such as the Green New Deal must end.
No such “fundamental reshaping of finance” is coming. Capital will continue its relentless pursuit of its most efficient and productive use. Perhaps what we need instead is a fundamental reshaping of how to publicly engage major social issues. We need to change the political climate, which currently underrates substance.
5. Intent on putting the stink on possible POTUS nominees, Slate published a hit piece by Mark Joseph Stern on federal judge Amy Coney Barrett. At Bench Memos, Ed Whelan tore it to shreds. In two parts! From the initial piece:
Let’s start with the cases in which Stern makes glaring errors:
Schmidt v. Foster: Stern complains that Barrett “wrote (again in dissent) that a criminal defendant did not have a right to counsel when a judge grilled him on the details of his crime.” In fact, Barrett never reached the question whether the defendant, Schmidt, had a right to counsel, and expressly left open that, if that question were actually teed up for decision, he might: “Perhaps the right to counsel should extend to a hearing like the one the judge conducted in Schmidt’s case.” (Slip op. at 44.)
What Stern completely misses is that Schmidt’s case involved his application for a writ of habeas corpus—a challenge, that is, to his state-law conviction for murder—not a direct appeal of a federal conviction. The relevant question in addressing Schmidt’s habeas application was whether the judge’s decision to question Schmidt without counsel in a pretrial hearing involved an unreasonable application of clearly established Supreme Court precedent. Barrett explains at length that “[n]o Supreme Court precedent addresses the question presented by this case: whether a defendant has the right to counsel when testifying before a judge in a nonadversarial proceeding.” Schmidt’s habeas petition therefore failed.
6. Says Rich Lowry, what Bernie Sanders ain’t . . . is normal. And what he is . . . is socialist. From the column:
His domestic program, according to Brian Riedl of the Manhattan Institute, would cost nearly $100 trillion over the next decade. It would more than double federal spending and blow past Western European social democracies in government profligacy. What would ordinarily be considered ambitious spending plans — his proposed increased expenditure expansion on Social Security, infrastructure, housing, education, and paid family leave — are dwarfed by his gargantuan commitments to his “Medicare for All” proposal, his federal job guarantee, and his climate plan.
He’d fundamentally transform the relationship of the individual to the state, which, among other things, would ban people from owning their own health insurance.
Sanders pitches his health-care proposal as “what every other major country on Earth is doing,” but no other place is as sweeping or as generous. “There is not a single country in the world,” health-care analyst Chris Pope writes, “that offers comprehensive coverage with an unlimited choice of providers, fully paid for by taxpayers, without insurer gatekeeping, service rationing or out-of-pocket payments.”
7. Kat Timpf pegs Little Mike Bloomberg for being the authoritarian he . . . is. From the article:
While discussing the Texas church shooting last week, Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg said that we “just do not want the average citizen carrying a gun in a crowded place.”
“It may be true — I wasn’t there; I don’t know the facts — that somebody in the congregation had their own gun and killed the person who murdered two other people, but it’s the job of law enforcement to have guns and to decide when to shoot,” Bloomberg said in Montgomery, Ala., on December 30, as reported by Conservative Review. “You just do not want the average citizen carrying a gun in a crowded place.”
Bloomberg is, of course, correct. Although the shooting at the West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement tragically took two lives, it could have been much worse had an armed, trained volunteer security guard not been there to shoot the gunman dead before he could do even greater damage.
This incident was about as clear an example as you could get for how maintaining our Second Amendment rights can save lives — and, therefore, it might seem like a pretty odd thing to reference when you’re arguing against gun rights. The Second Amendment, after all, worked in this case; people are alive because of it, and Bloomberg is going to say that he wished the situation had been different?
8. John Hirschauer has strong doubts about California Governor Gavin Newsome’s desire to seriously address the homelessness plaguing his state. From the analysis:
Major cities in California are awash in familiar pathologies: A sea of used heroin needles, piles of human waste, and a precipitous spike in crime and disorder. The homeless, while more likely to be victimized by one another than to victimize the broader community, have wrought considerable violence on their non-vagrant peers. Anthony Miele Jr., a 35-year-old from Ventura County, was sitting across from his wife at a steakhouse with his five-year-old daughter on his lap when a homeless man with paranoid-schizophrenia wandered in off the street and stabbed him to death in April 2018. Last November, a mentally ill homeless man dumped a bucket of scalding fecal matter on a passerby in Los Angeles. The victim, hauled immediately off to a nearby hospital, later told reporters that she “was soaked,” by the content of the bucket, which “was coming off my eyelashes and into my eyes.” Angeleno Albert Davtyan nearly died in December 2018 after being attacked at random by a homeless man, who pushed him into oncoming traffic. Davtyan was hit by a truck and suffered severe pulmonary and skeletal injuries.
There’s no denying the dire consequences of the status quo for both the unsheltered homeless and society at large. Californians are not only forced to trek through mounds of human waste interspersed with sidewalk-encampments as they walk city streets, but must also live with a reasonable, if remote, fear that the untreated mentally ill living on the street will lash out violently.
9. Sam Sweeney finds the idea of freedom is an elusive one in the Middle East. From the essay:
Early in the 20th century, freedom in the Middle East was primarily thought of as freedom from colonization — e.g. the freedom of the Turkish people from being divided up by Greece, Russia, France, etc., and the freedom of the Arabs from the Turkish Ottoman Empire, and then from European colonialism, and so on and so forth. The success in gaining freedom from colonialism led directly to the nationalist era in Middle Eastern politics, which in many ways has lasted to today, though it is arguably weaker than it has been since its inception, at least in the Arab countries of the region. Nationalism in its modern form is mostly a foreign concept to the Middle East, existing seriously only since the mid-19th century or so. It is an attempt to import a model that worked in Europe — the nation-state — into a region with a fundamentally different national and social history.
More so than Europe, the Middle East is a patchwork of ethnicities (nations) living on top of, rather than next to, one another. While the European nation-state often subjected those at the periphery to adopt the national identity of the center — as the culture and language of Paris and Madrid, for example, were imposed on Basques and Catalans — in the Middle East such various groups often live within the same city and overlap in ways that make it impossible to draw a map separating people along ethnic lines. The creation of the nation-state in the Middle East led to a zero-sum game of winners and losers, with competing groups fighting for absolute control over the same territory. After a successful military campaign against Greece, France, Italy, and the United Kingdom, Turkey won its independence and created a state of, by, and for the Turkish people. Through genocide, they eliminated other populations living in the same geographical space — the Armenian, Greek, Assyrian, Syriac, and Chaldean Christian communities that formed a demographic threat to the Turkishness of Turkey. The Kurdish population, which became demographically dominant over areas once mixed with Christians, has been suffering the same fate as Turkey’s attempt to Turkify every corner of the country continues.
10. It’s a Small Mind After All: Naomi Schaefer explains the realities of conservative philanthropy, against the sanctimonious and malicious views mouthed by a scion made wealthy courtesy of a cartoon mouse, Abigail Disney. From the piece:
I don’t know whether Disney’s description is accurate, but if she believes that conservative people by definition do not care about the poor, she could use a serious lesson in American philanthropy. As The Chronicle of Philanthropy noted in 2012, “the eight states that ranked highest voted for John McCain in the last presidential contest while the seven lowest-ranking states supported Barack Obama.” Disney would no doubt be shocked and horrified to find that Utah’s residents top the list of givers, donating about 6.6 percent of their adjusted gross income, with Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia rounding out the top five.
Which is not surprising, given how closely tied religion is to philanthropic giving. According to the World Economic Forum, “religious Americans volunteer more, give more and give more often, not only to religious but secular causes as well. Among Americans who give to any cause, 55 percent claim religious values as an important motivator for giving.”
Disney doesn’t mention being raised with any kind of faith, but some of the country’s most generous millionaires and billionaires credit their religious beliefs when asked about their giving. Take the late William E. Simon, whose Catholic faith led him to give money not only to Catholic organizations but also to shelters for abused women and children and to athletic facilities for children.
11. Jussie Smollett had a bad year. Kyle Smith says it looks like he is about to have another one. From his piece:
So lots of things Smollett said privately before and after the most notorious fake attack by nonexistent evildoers since The War of the Worlds radio show are about to become public. Smollett’s career appears to be on pause. His income must be minimal after Fox fired him from Empire. His legal bills are piling up. Oh, and Dave Chappelle openly mocked him and rechristened him “Juicy Smollée.” Will the humiliation never end?
Smollett is not the only one on the hook. Foxx, Smollett’s apparent ally who let him skate, seems to be feeling the heat and has retained outside legal counsel. Foxx hired a lawyer to represent her personal interests and also brought in a former chief judge to respond to Webb’s inquiries about the state’s attorney’s office. This latter problem is costing taxpayers a significant amount: the lawyer is being paid (at a rate of $250 to $375 an hour) with public funds. Foxx is running for reelection but faces three Democratic opponents in a March primary.
12. More Kyle: He recommends do not Doolittle. From the review:
The picture is a throwback to the pre–Star Wars era of children’s entertainment. The thinking back in those glum Johnson/Nixon-era days was that kids were like adults, only dumber. Why waste money making the script smart? It would only go over children’s heads. Instead, spend the money dazzling the wee things with famous actors, elaborate sets (today displaced by elaborate CGI), and extravagant scenes of wonder that are splashy but clunky, like a load of bricks dumped in a swimming pool. The original Doctor Dolittle (1967) was all of this, plus terrible songs.
A notorious flop, it’ll go down as more successful than the new one. After the Avengers saga, watching Robert Downey Jr. wade through this claptrap is like watching your favorite bright young college graduate accept a job emptying bedpans.
Or worse. In an especially excruciating scene, Dolittle, the Victorian vet who talks to animals, relieves a dragon of its misery by pulling large objects out of its rectum: thighbones, a suit of armor, bagpipes. The following scenes were a blur. All I could think about was when Dolittle would wash his hands, which turned out to be never. Exiting the theater, I headed straight for the Purel aisle of Walgreens.
13. It’s awards seasons, so the PC agitators are hopped up and hash-tagging. Armond White is having none of it. From the piece:
Fact is: This annual, unnatural occurrence is essentially political manipulation. Awards season’s monitors emulate the combined dictates of authoritarian ministries. For example, the Los Angeles Times published protests from at least four of its in-house pundits on the same day, merely demonstrating collective PC whimsies. It recalls Orwell’s prophetic Ministry of Truth overseeing media, Ministry of Peace controlling war, Ministry of Plenty controlling distribution of resources, and Ministry of Love torturing political dissidents. This predetermined consensus — backing up one another’s middlebrow fantasies about gender and ethnic equality — is what makes mainstream-media workers feel that they’re always, inarguably right.
It’s really another form of social engineering, isn’t it? The leftist media’s love of race and sex quotas prevails over any concern with quality. (I will never stop believing that Julián Hernández’s Tattoo of Revenge is superior to Little Women, or that Clint Eastwood’s Richard Jewell is deeper and truer than The Irishman.)
14. Brian Allen finds himself in a hip Manhattan neighborhood where an exhibit on pastels catches the eye. From the piece:
In the same Chelsea neighborhood, far from Museum Mile, are the FLAG Foundation and museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology. Both are free art spaces, smartly and elegantly programmed, and both promote contemplation and learning. FLAG is a privately funded, experimental art space on 25th Street and Tenth Avenue, amid the high-end contemporary art dealers. It’s open to the public and a welcoming place. The FIT museum belongs to the school. It’s got a great fashion collection — fashion is indeed art — and considers the body as a canvas for the best design and materials from the exotic to the synthetic to the prosaic.
“Nicolas Party: Pastel” is the unassuming title of the new show at FLAG. Party (b. 1981) is Swiss but ubiquitous and endlessly clever. Party curated the show and was given much leeway, but that’s FLAG’s mission. It empowers artists, writers, and offbeat art historians to curate.
The space is copious. The building is modern, but it’s got the spirit of the many old warehouses and factories in the neighborhood. Big spaces and high ceilings make for a dramatic stage. Set in spaces with so sleekly utilitarian a vibe is a celebration of soft pastel, the warmest and fuzziest of media. It’s an exhibition with layers of juxtaposition and surprise.
Pastel is pure, powdered pigment in the form of a crayon or stick, like colored chalk. It looks soft and buttery on the surface — paper with a surface textured enough to hold the powder. “Pastel” might imply a pale palette, but pastel color can be bright or intensely saturated. It’s natural, dried pigment that runs the color gamut.
15. The outcome of Taiwan’s elections, writes Mike Watson, is a blow to the Commies across the Strait of Formosa. From the analysis:
Incumbent Tsai Ing-wen’s lopsided drubbing of challenger Han Kuo-yu in Saturday’s Taiwanese presidential election had been widely expected in recent weeks, but it was not always such a sure thing. At this time last year, Ms. Tsai had resigned as the chairperson of her party after catastrophic electoral losses, and her political future looked bleak.
Riding to the rescue was Chairman Xi, who gave a speech demanding that Taiwan accept the “one country, two systems” framework that governs China’s relations with Hong Kong and warning that “we make no promise to abandon the use of force, and retain the option of taking all necessary measures” to absorb Taiwan into China. For Tsai, whose Democratic Progressive party is skeptical of reunification with China, rejecting Xi’s demands was a layup. China’s subsequent attempt to undermine civil liberties in Hong Kong, and the ensuing protests and violence, made Tsai look prescient and mightily contributed to her reelection, which was in doubt as late as August. Bringing Taiwan under Chinese control, a longstanding goal of the CCP, now looks highly unlikely absent an invasion.
Though Tsai’s victory is a major setback that hurts the CCP’s prestige, its consequences are unlikely to reverberate too far across the region. Hong Kong’s protests and the improved fortunes of China skeptics in Taiwan make China look less effective, but many of China’s neighbors are themselves de facto or de jure one-party states, and their rulers are not the sort to cheer on mass protest movements that demand freedom.
RIP Roger Scruton
We present a selection of worthwhile things to read, watch, and listen to concerning the late conservative thinker, a man of enormous influence.
1. Michael Brendan Dougherty explains the importance of the great scholar and author — and anti-Communist activist. From the essay:
I had the pleasure of meeting Sir Roger Scruton a few times in this life and had a brief correspondence with him. But I’ve had the joy of reading him and learning from him all my adult life. Most formative was his book The Meaning of Conservatism, which tried to preserve the social, cultural, and institutional aspects of conservatism during the period of Margaret Thatcher’s years as prime minister; Scruton understood her limitations long before others appreciated her virtues. I particularly recommend The Uses of Pessimism; The West and the Rest; Fools, Firebrands, and Frauds; Beauty; The Face of God; and The Soul of the World.
From him most of all I took my own idea of what conservatism is, the attempt to preserve or recover a home in this world — a place of consolation, a sanctified somewhere that connects us to the dead, the unborn, and our neighbors through love, memory, and sacrifice. A place that belongs to us and implants in us a longing for the true home that can never be destroyed by storms, war, neglect, or the encroachment of speculative exurban developers who want to replace our homes with parking lots and Panera Bread. We put in our labors to preserve freedom, decency, and culture, so that our children receive this somewhere as a place prepared for me by my father.
Scruton may be the only conservative of this generation whose work will be read 100 years hence. And while we pray for the repose of his soul, and for comfort for his family and close friends, we should also pray that then, unlike now, his work and his courage receive the recognition they deserve. Scruton has labored and sacrificed. He is not becoming “nothing” but the gentle, sweet, and courageous Knight who saved his home from the destroyers.
2. “Professor Roger Scruton was the greatest conservative of our age.” So says Daniel Hannan in his latest Ici Londres video, which you can watch here.
3. Dan was a lifelong friend of the great scholar. He discusses his late friend, for the Quillette Podcast, with Toby Young. Listen here.
4. From May 2019: Douglas Murray had a talk, sponsored by The Spectator, with Roger Scruton. A sterling experience. Watch it here.
5. Rod Dreher visited his friend this past Summer. A lovely reflection.
6. David Burton sings his praises at The Daily Signal. Read it here.
7. A long obituary was published in The Guardian. Read it here.
8. Roger Kimball is publishing a terrific remembrance in the next issue of The New Criterion. He shared the page galleys, and in turn we share a slice (a link will be provided, when available, in a looming WJ):
Sir Roger was also something of an intellectual entrepreneur. For the first eighteen years of its life, he edited The Salisbury Review, a small but potent conservative journal named for the Third Marquess of Salisbury (1830–1903), who had pointedly observed that good government consisted in doing as little as possible.
Sir Roger wrote several times about his political maturation, most fully, perhaps, in “Why I became a conservative,” in The New Criterion in 2003. There were two answers, one negative, one positive. The negative answer was the visceral repudiation of civilization he witnessed in Paris in 1968: slogans defacing walls, shattered shop windows, and spoiled radicals. The positive element was the philosophy of Edmund Burke, that apostle of tradition, authority, and prejudice. Prejudice? How awful that word sounds to enlightened ears. But Sir Roger reminds us that prejudice, far from being synonymous with bigotry, can be a prime resource in freedom’s armory. “Our most necessary beliefs,” he wrote, “may be both unjustified and unjustifiable from our own perspective, and . . . the attempt to justify them will lead merely to their loss.” Burke saw with penetrating insight that freedom was not the antonym of authority or the repudiation of obedience. “Real freedom,” Sir Roger observed, “concrete freedom, the freedom that can actually be defined, claimed, and granted, was not the opposite of obedience but its other side. The abstract, unreal freedom of the liberal intellect was really nothing more than childish disobedience, amplified into anarchy.”
9. The New Criterion republishes Scruton’s 2003 essay on why he became a conservative. From the piece:
To my rescue came Burke. Although not widely read at the time in our universities, he had not been dismissed as stupid, reactionary, or absurd. He was simply irrelevant, of interest largely because he got everything wrong about the French Revolution and therefore could be studied as illustrating an episode in intellectual pathology. Students were still permitted to read him, usually in conjunction with the immeasurably less interesting Tom Paine, and from time to time you heard tell of a “Burkean” philosophy, which was one strand within nineteenth-century British conservatism.
Burke was of additional interest to me on account of the intellectual path that he had trod. His first work, like mine, was in aesthetics. And although I didn’t find much of philosophical significance in his Essay on the Sublime and the Beautiful, I could see that, in the right cultural climate, it would convey a powerful sense of the meaning of aesthetic judgment and of its indispensable place in our lives. I suppose that, in so far as I had received any intimations of my future career as an intellectual pariah, it was through my early reactions to modern architecture, and to the desecration of my childhood landscape by the faceless boxes of suburbia. I learned as a teenager that aesthetic judgment matters, that it is not merely a subjective opinion, unargued because unarguable, and of no significance to anyone besides oneself. I saw—though I did not have the philosophy to justify this—that aesthetic judgment lays a claim upon the world, that it issues from a deep social imperative, and that it matters to us in just the way that other people matter to us, when we strive to live with them in a community. And, so it seemed to me, the aesthetics of modernism, with its denial of the past, its vandalization of the landscape and townscape, and its attempt to purge the world of history, was also a denial of community, home, and settlement. Modernism in architecture was an attempt to remake the world as though it contained nothing save atomic individuals, disinfected of the past, and living like ants within their metallic and functional shells.
Like Burke, therefore, I made the passage from aesthetics to conservative politics with no sense of intellectual incongruity, believing that, in each case, I was in search of a lost experience of home. And I suppose that, underlying that sense of loss is the permanent belief that what has been lost can also be recaptured—not necessarily as it was when it first slipped from our grasp, but as it will be when consciously regained and remodelled, to reward us for all the toil of separation through which we are condemned by our original transgression. That belief is the romantic core of conservatism, as you find it—very differently expressed—in Burke and Hegel, and also in T. S. Eliot, whose poetry was the greatest influence on me during my teenage years.
10. John O’Sullivan shares this wonderful 2016 Budapest lecture on art and the cultural scene. Watch it here.
11. Bradley Birzer explains in The American Conservative why Sir Roger was traditionalism’s most articulate spokesman. From the reflection:
Not surprisingly, Scruton had no love for or faith in the European Union. In dismay, he wrote, “I doubt very much that the ordinary British subject in 1945, having lived through a war in which we had risked everything and suffered much, could have believed that, half a century later, most of our laws would be imposed on us by unelected bureaucrats in Belgium—the country that had done the least to defend itself against Hitler.”
As a critical side note, Scruton explained that conservatives hate the welfare state not because it helps the poor, but because it makes the poor dependent. And once dependent, the population is no longer free. And once no longer free, it cannot readily lead a humane life, governed by decency and habit. In a welfare-oriented society, “responsibilities are drowned by rights.”
One of the greatest dangers of the modern world—beginning with the Enlightenment and exploding with the French Revolution—was the imperialism of the political sphere. For nearly three centuries now, the West has seen the political sphere expand so rapidly that it has subsumed almost every aspect of our lives, and with globalization, uncontrollable forces of consumerism and selfishness have “broken free of the forces—religious, moral and national—which used to limit it,” while decimating “the old local pieties, the old customs, and the local attachments.”
Once we politicize everything, Scruton feared, there will be nothing left but power, the struggle for power, and, consequently, only the nihilism of the abyss. To his consternation, he saw nihilism, widespread by 2007, “as the addictive drumbeats and soundbytes that form the background of popular culture.” Corporations, owing nothing to loyalty and attempting only to satiate the appetites, would never defend the good, the true, or the beautiful. “Nobody in the corporatist society will wish to fight for his neighbor’s rights, to devote his life to a cause, or to lay down his life for his country,” he lamented. “Indeed, he is unlikely to know which country is his.”
12. At The Wall Street Journal, Dominic Green remembers beautifully. From the piece:
He enlivened English empiricism with the grandeur of German idealism and the linguistic intricacies of Wittgenstein. He lived his beliefs, whether working for the anti-Communist “Underground University” behind the Iron Curtain, playing the organ in his local church, flying back to England on weekends while teaching at Boston University to ride in the local hunt, or recording his impressions in the seconds between falling off his horse and hitting the ground.
When I visited his farm in 2017 for the annual Apple Day—a village get-together with philosophical lecture and locavore lamb chops—the attendees included a Syrian refugee, Czech philosophy students and a phalanx of local jam makers. Scruton shambled about in his old tweeds, observer and participant. “Having fun?” he asked. He educated us all and fought for truth without forfeiting humor. He leaves a generous and lasting bounty of honest words and brave deeds.
Cal Thomas is a friend, personal and institutional, joining NR for many a time on our sea-faring voyages, delighting passengers with his wisdom and camaraderie. He has a new book out next week, America’s Expiration Date: The Fall of Empires and Superpowers . . . and The Future of the United States. Have to admit, Your Humble Correspondent has not read it but for flipping through the pages (it arrived yesterday), and can’t say I am eager to dive in, if only because of the troubling premise and the troubling History (yep, capital H) that shows the sell-by date of great powers has proven to be 250 years.
Cal does the sniff test as we approach that anniversary and investigates parallels between historical failed empires and present-day America. The premise of the book, per the statement sent along with the galley copy, is “to reveal the future of our country if we fail to heed the warning signs and course-correct.”
“If America doesn’t learn from history – our own and the world’s – we are likely to suffer the fate of other great nations, rotting from within before either being conquered from without by an invading army or collapsing under the weight of self-indulgence, decadence, debt, a sense of entitlement, greed and envy,” wrote Thomas. “It’s up to those now living and the next and perhaps last American generation . . . to turn things around.”
Drawing from the discoveries of renowned author and scholar Sir John Glubb, Thomas’ book describes the six stages experienced by once-great empires before their eventual decline, which include: The Age of Pioneers, The Age of Conquests, The Age of Commerce, The Age of Affluence, The Age of Intellect and The Age of Decadence.
Thomas’ thorough scrutiny of past nations throughout the book forms a formidable theory that the United States is presently experiencing the final phase most seen before an empire’s ending and could crumble as soon as July 4, 2026.
“Given the history of other empires and great nations, the decadence that is now tightening its grip on America almost guarantees our demise, or at the very least a radical decline that will leave the country devoid of the liberties we now enjoy but are rapidly exchanging for a license to do whatever we wish,” Thomas warned.
This is a book worth reading. No judgments in advance, but whether its conclusions are or are not persuasive, the gut says Cal will raise issues that must be addressed intelligently and directly. So order your copy here.
1. Gatestone Institute’s Burak Bekdil finds Erdogan’s campaign to make Turkey more Islamic is flopping. From the piece:
In 2012, Erdoğan described his political mission as “raising devout generations”, a remark for which Turkey’s main opposition called him “a merchant of religion”. In November 2019, Erdoğan repeated his quest for “devout generations” so that “we will not see alcoholics on the streets”. He boasts that since he came to power in 2002, the number of imam school students has risen from 60,000 to 1.3 million. No doubt, that is an impressive record for an Islamist strongman. But too premature to cheer about.
A survey, part of OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment, has revealed that 54% of imam school students do not feel they belong to their school, compared to 27.5% to 29.1% of students at other types of schools. It seems a greater number of families have forced their children to enroll at imam schools but, at least at the high school level, these students are unhappy.
There are empirical studies that theism is on the rise in Turkey, especially among imam school students. The pollster Optimar found that in 2017, 99% of Turks identified themselves as Muslims, but in 2019, only 89.5% said they were Muslim. An unexpected 4.5% said they were theist, 2.7% agnostic and 1.7% atheist, and 1.6% did not answer.
2. At The American Conservative, Grayson Quay explores the ways in which the splintering United Methodist Church is placing its African members in an organizational ghetto — not the first time a mainline Protestant sect has dealt harshly with its black congregants. It’s “woke white cultural imperialism” at its finest. From the piece:
My anecdotal example is one among many. In 1998, when the African bishops led the charge to defend Christian sexual ethics at the Anglican Communion’s Lambeth Conference, Bishop John Shelby Spong of Newark, New Jersey, who is not in any meaningful sense a Christian or even a theist, made the shockingly racist claim that African Christians had “moved out of animism into a very superstitious kind of Christianity.” Others found even more creative ways to infantilize black people, suggesting that if African Christians oppose gay marriage and clergy, they must have been brainwashed into doing so by American right-wingers. As global Christianity becomes less white and more conservative, progressive Christians will need to choose between listening to people of color and upholding their own woke agenda. So far, they’ve chosen the second option.
Liberal American Christians seem to have adopted the same attitude toward the developing world that American foreign policy czars have. If the United Methodists and the Episcopalians agree that Africans aren’t enlightened enough for true Christianity, then the Trump administration certainly believes that Iraq isn’t enlightened enough for true democracy. There are striking similarities between the African Methodists voting for traditional Christianity and the Iraqi parliament voting to expel U.S. troops. In both cases, non-Westerners attempt to apply a belief system that was imposed upon them by the West only to be told that they were never really worthy of that system, be it Christianity or democratic self-determination.
The same liberals who accuse conservative Christians of denying “the image of God in … people of color and LGBTQ people” have chosen to intentionally sever themselves from a thriving Christian community of color. This is woke white cultural imperialism at its most naked. Dr. Danker sees a silver lining, predicting that “a robust [conservative] evangelical Methodism will arise out of all this.” Hopefully. Still, it’s heartbreaking. In the first heady days of the Methodist movement, John Wesley’s enthusiasm for the gospel inspired William Wilberforce to abolish the Atlantic slave trade. With this decision to split, Wesley’s misguided followers have disgraced his memory by eagerly abandoning their African brothers and sisters.
3. At The Catholic World Herald, Amy Welborn targets the lie of “gender self-identity.” From the piece:
What a moment. What a time, in which simple biology is wildly controversial. How did we get here? Well, one way to answer that question is to look back for a moment, and try to figure out where we were, just a few decades ago.
I consider some old photographs. In 1964, at the age of four, there I was, surrounded by my gifts: a pedal-driven fire truck, a baby doll carriage—and a punching bag. My third birthday, a year before, I’m looking down at the cake, a small stack of books next to it, and then, apparently, my main present: a big, chunky, red-and-yellow Tonka dump truck.
Do you think she might be trans?
Not even thinking such a thing could be, not even worrying about it, we kept on truckin’ through the 70s, pedaling those cars, Barbies in hand; then getting older, eschewing makeup and maybe bras, our jeans’ cuffs trailing on the ground, determined to reject cultural and social stereotypes. And if that’s you, maybe you’re with here with me, wondering how in the world we’ve transitioned from that world in which expressions of “gender” were downplayed or even discouraged as stereotypical and limiting, to a landscape in which “feminine” and “masculine” stereotypical preferences and expressions have become straight-up pathologized.
4. At The College Fix, Alexander Pease finds an interesting way for faculty leftists to conspire to effectively block a conservative campus group. From the story:
A common hurdle for controversial student organizations is finding a faculty advisor, as required for recognition by their universities.
At the University of Maine, the College Republicans chapter has not had trouble finding faculty advisors. Rather, it keeps losing them.
The conservative group is once again shopping around after its latest advisor, a progressive newspaper columnist, quit after less than a week, objecting to the CRs’ views on immigration and arguably inflammatory social media posts.
The possibility that the club may have to keep seeking re-recognition by the student government is an unacceptable restriction on its freedom of expression, a civil liberties group told The College Fix.
In the event that a student organization can’t find a required faculty advisor, “the university must provide them one or waive the requirement,” Adam Steinbaugh of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education wrote in an email Thursday.
5. Law & Liberty’s Michael Munger ponders the question – “Is There a Technology Trap?” From the essay:
The most interesting prediction Keynes made was about the shape of the work life of the future. He combines two insights, neither of which are yet visible, at least not to the extent Keynes expected. The first was the elimination of scarcity on a wide scale; the second is the reaction of workers in seeking to “buy” more leisure with the increased income they receive from working. He did recognize that the process might be slow, slow enough that it might be happening before we fully recognize it.
The key elements of Keynes’ argument must be that either (1) labor displaced by technology in one area, such as agriculture or manufacturing, will find well-paid applications in other sectors, or (2) people will simply work less, and substitute paid work for leisure, or construct communities of meaning around voluntary group activities. And that’s a useful way of briefly summarizing the argument in C. B. Frey’s timely book, The Technology Trap. Frey argues that there is no evidence of effect #2. In fact, the work hours of the most highly paid members of society are going up, not down. And the evidence on effect #1 is even less promising, with wages rapidly declining or jobs simply disappearing in sector after sector. It’s not just that Keynes was wrong, but that we are on the verge of a job crisis, according to Frey.
6. Chris DeMuth’s masterpiece in National Affairs highlights the role the late Michael Uhlmann played in saving the republic by intellectually manhandling — through a Senate Judiciary Committee report known as the “Uhlmann Essay” — the powerful and plentiful forces trying to obliterate the Electoral College. From the piece:
The minority report was signed by Democratic senators James Eastland of Mississippi (the committee chairman), John McClellan of Arkansas, and Sam Ervin, Jr., of North Carolina, along with Republicans Hruska, Hiram Fong of Hawaii, and Strom Thurmond of South Carolina. Formally captioned “Minority Views,” it is better known to history as the Uhlmann Essay on the Electoral College. Legislative staffers are supposed to toil in anonymity and let their bosses take the credit, and Mike heartily supported that custom, but in this case the authorship was widely known and gratefully acknowledged by the senators themselves. It was more than twice the length of the majority report, and in style and substance could not have been more different; it stands apart from all other legislative reports I know of.
First of all, it is a rhetorical masterpiece. It is written in a clear, single voice, with none of the weasel words and internal contradictions that characterize many committee-written documents. It has classical structure: opening with a forthright itemization of arguments against direct election; then developing, extending, and combining those arguments; then diverting to a brief cadenza on “specious arguments” about the Electoral College; then drawing everything together in a ringing conclusion. Meticulous exposition is undergirded by a basso continuo — direct election would be “the most deeply radical amendment which has ever entered the Constitution of the United States.” Eminent advocates of the Electoral College make pointed arguments in their own words — John F. Kennedy, Richard Goodwin, Theodore White, Harry Jaffa (of course), Alexander Bickel, and Charles Black (the source of the “deeply radical” line). The author’s own formulations are frequently deep and aphoristic, as in, “The genius of our present method of election may be said to consist precisely in its ability to reveal what men have in common and to conceal what they do not.”
Boldly — given the minority’s cornered circumstances — the report begins by placing the burden of proof on the proponents of direct election, which immediately highlights the thinness of the majority report. The Electoral College is imperfect, as are all electoral systems, but it has been with us for more than two centuries. It has adapted to changing circumstances, provided legitimacy and stability in tumultuous times, produced many distinguished presidents, and been part and parcel of the most successful and durable structure of government in history. In the face of this long and admirable experience, the majority proposed not to correct any particular defects but rather to throw away the entire apparatus, based on nothing more than abstract mathematical simulations, and to substitute a radically different one, without even pausing to consider what the practical consequences of the new system might be.
BONUS: Also in National Affairs, Nick Eberstadt frets, and with good reason, over the “collapse of work for adult men, and the retreat from the world of work of growing numbers of men of conventional working age.” From the piece:
Second, there is the pronounced and increasing disparity in labor-force participation rates among different sub-regions of the country. Modern America has witnessed increasing dispersion in state-level prime-age male labor-force participation rates since at least 1980. Moreover, major, enduring, and sometimes even widening gaps in prime-age male labor-force participation rates are evident for geographically adjoining states (compare, for example, Maine to New Hampshire, or West Virginia to Virginia or Maryland). If declining participation rates were a consequence of demand shocks to the labor force, economic theory would suggest the national labor market would move toward equilibrium over time, implying, among other things, eventual convergence in participation rates among states. Just the opposite, however, has been taking place in America for most of the period in which the decline in male labor-force participation rates has been underway.
Third, there is America’s curiously poor prime-age male labor-force participation-rate performance in comparison with other affluent never-communist democracies. Between 1965 and 2015, U.S. levels fell faster and sank lower than in any comparable country, with the exception of Italy (where official employment figures notoriously neglect “unofficial” work income). Yet America’s race to the bottom in prime-age male labor-force participation is not readily explained by lackluster economic growth (which could also be called sluggish demand). It is true that the U.S. is believed to have grown more slowly than most of these countries over that half century, but this should be unsurprising given that most of these countries were enjoying “latecomer” or catch-up growth over this period in relation to the longtime U.S. “frontrunner.” Even so, U.S. labor-force participation-rate trends were also distinctly poorer than those of countries whose pace of growth lagged behind America’s over that half century: for example, Denmark and Sweden, to say nothing of Greece.
This is a story about a mediocre career, a final at bat, a lousy team, and an interesting guy. And the Sugar Bowl. The career belongs to Steve Filipowicz, and we will get to the other distinctions shortly, but first — he was the man in the spotlight in one of those rare and unappreciated baseball events, the Negative Pennant.
The date is October 3, 1948, and battling for last place in the National League are the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds. A rainout in Cincinnati the day prior — on which the Cubs got shellacked by the Cardinals, 9–0 — had broken a tie for 7th, and placed Chicago in sole possession of last place by half a game. Come the season’s final day, the Cubs would need to win, and the Reds lose, in order to flip positions. Or else — basement ignominy.
And the Cubs did win, a 4–3 nail-biter in St. Louis, the Cardinals’ three-run 8th-inning rally not enough to undo Chicago’s two-run rally in the top of the frame. Meanwhile, in Cincinnati . . .
The Reds were facing the 83–70 Pirates at home, ace Johnny Vander Meer on the mound, throwing one after another shut-out innings, granting two measly singles; but so was Pittsburgh southpaw Vic Lombardi, who held the Reds scoreless into the Ninth.
The score deadlocked at goose eggs, and with two on and one out, to the plate came Filipowicz. He’d been called up from the minors in late September and had gone an impressive 8 for 22 in seven games, but was hitless in this contest. He would remedy that: His walk-off single to left field drove in the sole and winning run, ending the season for the Reds in 7th place, and ensuring last-place status for the Cubs.
It proved to be Flip’s last MLB appearance. A nice way to exit. The so-long wasn’t known at the time: For the next two seasons he bounced around the minors. What became of him after that seems beyond the knowledge of Google (other than that he died in 1975, age 53).
But what came before that October day was of great interest. Filipowicz attended Fordham University (as did Yours Truly for one academic year in the late 70s) and was a star fullback on its great football team: Forgotten to many and most is the fact that in the 1930s and early 1940s, the Rams were, after Alabama, considered the nation’s premier football team, known for the Seven Blocks of Granite (which included the young Vince Lombardi). Filipowicz played for the 1941 team that went to win the lowest-scoring (non 0–0 tie) major college bowl ever: A 2–0 blowout of the Missouri Tigers in the monsoon-drenched 1942 Sugar Bowl. Flip ran for 58 yards. In the previous year, he scored a touchdown in Fordham’s 13–12 Cotton Bowl loss to Texas A&M (two blocked extra-point attempts nailed the Rams’ fate).
Filipowicz also played for the New York Giants, of both variations. The sixth overall pick of the 1943 College draft(!), he played the 1945 and 46 seasons for the gridiron Giants (he caught a touchdown in the team’s 24–14 championship game loss to the Chicago Bears) and for the baseball Giants in 1944 and 45. The record there was not so impressive: Flip played in 50 games and compiled a weak .203 batting average. But we will end here by noting that he did have one great game in that span: At Ebbets Field on April 27, 1945 he went 4 for 5 with a homer and two doubles and 3 RBIs, leading the Giants to a 5–0 victory.
That alone is dream enough for millions of men old and young who would have given an eye, tooth, and a big toe for the chance to stand at the plate, even to strike out on three pitches, while wearing a Major League uniform.
Announcement: For those of you who enjoy this section, the admission must be made that “Baseballery” is 1. not a word, and 2. has nothing to do with William F. Buckley Jr. journalism. It has been a lark, and a fun one at that. But it will now become occasional, given other demands on Your Humble and Dimwitted Correspondent, whose capacity to multi-task — walking and chewing bubblegum simultaneously — is limited.
The Usual Suspects will be private-jetting to and from Davos. Telling us to live off the grid will be their agenda. Stay tuned.
This Astros scandal is so dispiriting: Videos, garbage can banging, buzzers . . . hard to accept that the National Pastime continues to be sullied, and in ways that far transcend the spitball. Is this the Beginning of the End? Maybe we’re already in the 5th inning.
That said, please pray for good souls — Christians in the Middle East, Jews in France, Uyghurs in Red China, democracy lovers in Hong Kong — who embrace unalienable rights in places where doing such can mean persecution and death.
And that said . . . Iowa, here we come!
With Hopes that the Creator Bestows His Graces on You,
Jack Fowler, who is ready to withstand your contempt and tirades about poor grammar and dumb reflections at firstname.lastname@example.org.