National Review

I Say Potato, You Say Pangender

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Dear Joltarian,

This enterprise goes live on Friday, one day before it is slung around America and the world via email ether. The Mindful Author wishes he had a link for a piece that, alas, is not published prior to press time. Such linkage is impossible. Still, you are counseled thusly: Saturday, February 27, will be the 13th anniversary of the death of our great founder, William F. Buckley Jr. Somewhere on NRO will be a remembrance of him by Yours Truly. Please be on the lookout.

In these final moments of typing and preparation, the mystic chords of toy memory are filled with the tunes of various Mr. Potato Head commercials. Momma mia, what were these Hasbro jabronis thinking? Were they even thinking, a lost art in the Age of Emoting and Posturing? Maddie Kearns did a swell little peeling and mashing of the idiocy on NRO when the story broke, which she updated given the ensuing and quick corporate-backpedaling.

It’s a retreat though. It’s not a declaration of defeat. Be prepared, for who among you will be shocked if Hasbro gets re-woke and declares that henceforth “G.I. Joe” will be “G.I. Pat.”

Imagine the dog tags!

OK, the weekly fare of tasty conservative meat and (Mr.) Potato(es) is a head!

But First, that Backlash May Make You Think that It Just Might Be the Case that Everything Will Be Okay

Which just happens to be the title of the new book by paisana Dana Perino, and if you need her bio then you gotta fix the remote! It’s subtitle — Life Lessons for Young Women (from a Former Young Woman) . . . neither term which, for the record is applicable to Your Humble Male Author — explains the project at hand.

And it is that, a project: God bless Dana, because she is trying mightily to pull the trigger against triggering, hoping to instill can-do moxie and confidence in younger women so that they might reframe their thinking, believe in themselves, take risks, harness their inner power, and find serenity in all of life’s chaos (can Old Dudes get some of that?). While others encourage women to find their inner wimp and to see and contrive safe spaces, Dana is refreshingly pep-talking about empowerment.

Now, let’s be honest: It’s Dana’s own fault that she had to write this book. You see, her last one, And the Good News Is . . . Lessons and Advice from the Bright Side, kicked off a very personal mentoring passion, as she communicated with countless young women in their early 20s who reached out about the almost-overwhelming distress caused by our modern times.

Here’s the pitch: If you have a daughter or granddaughter who is this book’s sweet spot, consider getting Everything Will Be Okay (it’s not formally published until March 9th, but you can pre-order it here). Waddleyaget? A ton of common sense and wisdom: Dana delivers with guidance on topics as managing relationships (colleagues, family, love) . . . being your best self on the job . . . gauging if the chosen career path is the right one . . . how to transition from junior staffer to Da Boss . . . solving problems and finding that oh-so-needed serenity . . . and maybe even figuring how to make your worries the stuff that actually fuels solutions.

You know a job-seeker fresh out of college? An ambitious career woman looking to make her next big jump up the ladder? Get her Dana Perino’s Everything Will Be Okay: Life Lessons for Young Women (from a Former Young Woman).

NAME, RANK, LINKS

EDITORIALS

Democrats’ “Equality Act” Is an Unjust Civil Rights Proposal

Xavier Becerra Is Biden’s Most Divisive Nominee

Biden Stimulus Package: Wasteful and Unnecessary

Florida Leads on Voting Reform

Amazon Kneel to the Mob

Biden’s Policy of Weakness Toward Iran

ARTICLES

David Harsanyi: Anthony Fauci Is Not Our Parent, or God

Madeleine Kearns: Andrew Cuomo, an Unfunny Caricature of Himself

Maria McFadden Maffucci: Don’t Forget Andrew Cuomo’s Other Coronavirus Victims

Zachary Evans: Andrew Cuomo & Coronavirus: New York Failures Exposed

Alexandra DeSanctis: Xavier Becerra & Nuns: Fact-Checking the Washington Post Fact-Checkers

William J. Watkins Jr.: Robert A. Taft: The Forgotten Ohio Senator Is Needed Now

Dan McLaughlin: Originalism Does Not Need a Makeover

Frederick Hess and R.J. Martin: Hostility to Free Thought Is Rampant in Higher Education

Isaac Schorr: Syracuse University Women’s Lacrosse ‘OK’ Sign Controversy: School Shamefully Bows to Woke Mob

Steven Watts: ‘Whiteness’ Studies Started in Academy, Corrupted Political Discourse

Brian Allen: Racism and Sexism Accusations Torpedo the Indianapolis Museum of Art

Jack Fowler: Stanford Lefties Must Swallow Their Hoover Hate — For Now

Steve Hanke: China Rattles Its Rare-Earth-Minerals Sabre Again

Cameron Hilditch: In the Second Cold War, Religious Americans Must Lead the Way

Itxu Díaz: The Spiritual Heart of Old Europe Aches

CAPITAL MATTERS

Kevin Hassett counsels no to the GOP tat: A Compromise on Senate Confirmations

Travis Nix suggests a stitch in time: Biden’s Stimulus Hurts Businesses. One Tax Tweak Can Change That

Mike Hunter pipes up: Keystone Pipeline Is Good for America

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW!

Kyle Smith applauds Hopkins: The Father Explores Struggles of Old Age

Armond White concludes it’s from Russia, with squirm: Dear Comrades! and Sin Challenge Narratives of Biden-Harris Era

Back to Kyle: It’s not woke being green: The Muppet Show Trigger Warning Attacks a Nonproblem

Even More Kyle: Enjoy getting wiiggy: Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar Is Splendidly Silly

More Armond, who knows e pluribus pluribus when he sees it: Mr. Soul! Is the Newest Divide-America Documentary

AND NOW, MOUNDS OF SMOOTH AND FILLING WISDOM (NO LUMPS!)

Editorials

1. The Equality Act is a stinker. From the editorial:

The Equality Act would redefine sex to include “gender identity,” thus forcing every federally funded entity — most notably schools and colleges — to treat males who declare transgender status as if they were females. It would stamp out religious exemptions by regulating religious nonprofits and even goes so far as to prevent the Religious Freedom Restoration Act exemption. And it would, as National Review’s John McCormack has explained, greatly expand “the number of businesses that count as ‘public accommodations’ under the Civil Rights Act.”

It is neither proportionate nor desirable to use the full weight of the federal government against every injustice, real or imagined. But the bill’s drafters are transparently exploiting the association with a historic bill fighting racial discrimination in order to smuggle in false equivalences and unsupportable claims.

For instance, the bill states that “transgender people have half the homeownership rate of non-transgender people and about 1 in 5 transgender people experience homelessness.” This is alarming, certainly, but what proof is there that the predominant cause for this is discrimination? Psychiatrists and psychologists in the field of gender dysphoria have long observed that, even in instances of social acceptance, mental health co-morbidities are high among this population.

Moral platitudes are similarly deployed to smooth over the bill’s shortcomings. President Biden — whose administration endorsed the Equality Act, and who promised during his campaign to sign it into law within 100 days of office — says that “every person should be treated with dignity and respect.” And who could object? Actually, many people could when “dignity and respect” are hijacked to include a legal requirement to treat men as though they are women in various contexts that would grossly disadvantage females.

2. The Biden political-payola-crammed “stimulus” bill is unnecessary. From the editorial:

Yet even if the economic outlook were as negative as the Democrats claim, Biden’s proposal would do little to improve it. More than one third of the so-called stimulus won’t be spent until 2022 or later. Public-education grants are expected to last until 2028, even as teachers’ unions refuse to reopen schools. That’s partially because $113 billion in education aid from the last relief bill remains unspent.

So too with $370 billion in state and local assistance, the lion’s share of which would sit unused until 2023. With some exceptions, state and local budgets are in good shape. The Committee for a Responsible Budget finds that state and local tax receipts grew by 10 percent in 2020. What the Democrats position as emergency relief is in fact a bailout of profligate public-pension plans and mismanaged blue states.

The money that will be spent this year — on checks to households and unemployment top-ups — is wasteful at best and contractionary at worst. Thanks to last year’s CARES Act, personal incomes are higher now than they were before the pandemic. Most Americans used the first round of checks to pad out their savings accounts and pay down debt. The second round, delivered in December, contributed to the highest bump in retail spending since 2009.

A deficit-funded subsidy to consumers might be a boon to economic growth if Americans went back to work, but the Biden administration is committed to making unemployment as attractive as possible. The proposed $400 unemployment top-ups, extended until September, would leave 60 percent of benefit recipients making more off-the-job than on-the-job. Not to mention Biden’s proposed federal minimum wage of $15, which would kill 1.4 million jobs according to the Congressional Budget Office.

3. In nominating Xavier Becerra to run HHS, Joe Biden has chosen an unmitigated and foul disaster. From the editorial:

As California attorney general, Becerra has been an exceptionally ruthless aggressor in the culture wars. He has attempted to use the power of the state to crush a wide array of average Americans — from religious dissenters to pro-life pregnancy counselors and independent journalists.

In 2017, Becerra filed felony charges against the pro-life activists and citizen-journalists who had gone undercover to expose Planned Parenthood’s gruesome practice of selling the body parts of aborted babies to biotech companies. Becerra had not gone after animal-rights activists for similar investigative tactics. In response to Becerra’s actions, one writer at the left-wing magazine Mother Jones called the Planned Parenthood videos “a legitimate investigation, and no level of government should be in the business of chilling it.” Becerra was rebuked by the liberal editorial page of the Los Angeles Times for his “disturbing overreach.”

In 2018, Becerra and the State of California were smacked down by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case NIFLA v. Becerra over a state law forcing pro-life pregnancy centers to advertise abortion.

In 2019, Becerra aggressively opposed the merger of two religiously affiliated hospital chains in California because the resulting consolidated chain could reduce access to both abortion and gender-reassignment surgeries.

4. Amazon has banned the sale of Ryan Anderson’s important 2018 book on transgender policy. The Woke Gods must be obeyed. From the editorial:

As a narrow legal question, Amazon is of course within its rights to exclude books from its marketplace, whether those be works of conservative criticism, Lolita, or the Quran. But powerful institutions such as Amazon should stand up for principles, including the principle of free speech and open discourse. Jeff Bezos of all people knows that: When the National Enquirer attempted to blackmail him, he went public at the risk of some personal embarrassment, asking a pertinent question: “If in my position I can’t stand up to this kind of extortion, how many people can?”

If in his position, and in Amazon’s position, one of the wealthiest men on Earth cannot afford to stand up to the mob demanding virtual book-burnings in order to suppress the communication of ideas and positions with which they are at odds, who can?

But, of course, Bezos could stand up to that mob, if he chose to. Instead, Bezos and his team apparently are content to go along with the mob, if not exactly leading it then providing it with the keys to the library, a can of gasoline, and a box of matches.

5. For sane election reform, look to Florida. From the editorial:

In a season of recriminations over election procedures, Florida stood out as an exemplar. More than 99 percent of its 11 million votes were counted by midnight on Election Day with little controversy. Meanwhile, 71.7 percent of all eligible Florida voters participated in the 2020 election, up from 65.6 percent in 2016, 63.3 percent in 2012, and 57.5 percent in 2000.

This is yet another example of the good governance of the Republicans who have run the Sunshine State for two decades. It also illustrates how the state has learned its lessons from the infamous 2000 recount. And it proves that Republicans have nothing to fear from well-run, high-turnout elections. Florida should be a model for Republicans around the country looking at their own voting systems.

Florida governor Ron DeSantis, however, is not content to rest on his laurels. He’s proposing a series of reforms to head off problems that have cropped up in other states. DeSantis would ban ballot harvesting by prohibiting anyone but a voter’s family from handling his or her absentee ballot — protecting the ballot secrecy that we take for granted in the voting booth. He would prohibit mass-mailing of unrequested mail-in ballots, tighten signature requirements, keep ballot drop-boxes under the supervision of polling places, and limit no-excuses mail-in voting to prioritize in-person voting, where Florida law already requires voter ID.

6. President Biden’s Iran policy is a testament to weakness, and the antithesis of peacemaking. From the editorial:

Thankfully, no U.S. service members were killed, but one was injured. What will the administration do if the worst comes to pass in another attack?

Instead of signaling to the Iranians, as President Trump did, that the U.S. will hold them directly accountable for the actions of the militias under their control, the new team appears to have let it slide without a direct warning to Iran.

And as Yemen’s Houthi rebels continued their assault on civilian areas, Biden lifted the Foreign Terrorist Organization designation of the Iran-backed group.

Worst of all, though, the Biden administration has extended this olive branch to Tehran following a report this month revealing that the International Atomic Energy Agency found new Iranian uranium-metal production in excess of JCPOA limits. Meanwhile, Iran is threatening to curtail IAEA inspections following a February 23 deadline set by parliament if the U.S. doesn’t cave.

Contrary to what some Iran appeasers argue, this bad behavior is not the result of the Trump-era maximum-pressure campaign. Tehran is escalating now because it sees an opportunity to strong-arm Biden into lifting sanctions first.

We’re Determined to Get These Numerous Articles Circulated Before Cuomo Sends Them to Some Death Facility

1. David Harsanyi refuses to genuflect before America’s favorite bureaucrat, quasi-divinity Anthony Fauci. From the piece:

Countries such as Britain, Belgium, Italy, and Portugal have somewhat higher fatality rates, and others such as Spain, Sweden, and France have a somewhat lower rate, but there’s no evidence that a more centralized plan would have saved American lives during the pandemic. The British, for instance, employ centralized control, with not only a single-payer health-insurance model but also a state that owns all medical facilities and employs all the medical personnel. Yet, to this point, Britain has fared worse during COVID than the United States by every quantifiable measure.

The problems with a centralized approach in a massive and free nation such as the United States, on the other hand, are quite evident. A “unified approach” in this country means the Fauci approach. And the Fauci approach would mean an Andrew Cuomo approach.

“We know that, when you do it properly, you bring down those cases. We have done it. We have done it in New York,” Fauci explained on PBS NewsHour back in July 2020. He would keep celebrating Cuomo’s model for the next six months.

New York has a higher coronavirus fatality rate than any country in the Western world. It is a place low in civil liberties and high in death toll. A Faucian centralized plan would have entailed strict lockdowns of the economy and the implementation of policies that compelled nursing homes in states such as Florida, with a high number of vulnerable elderly, to accept thousands of infected people. As it stands now, Florida’s fatality rate is nearly half of that in New Jersey or in Fauci’s exemplar, New York.

2. More Divinity: Madeleine Kearns mocks a Cuomosexual. From the piece:

Though his deadly mistakes aren’t amusing, the contrast between how he has acted and how he sees himself is certainly laugh-worthy.

What comedy skit of Cuomo could be more ridiculous than the sight of his own book on the window display at my local bookstore, American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic, with a picture of him on the front, hands clasped and looking regal? What could be more embarrassing for him than his appearance on Ellen last year in which he grinned at the term, “Cuomosexual,” as his host called him “charming and adorable” and said, straight-faced, that “people are in love with you.” He believed it. SNL presented Cuomo as “a man,” with at least a semblance of self-awareness. But Cuomo presents Cuomo as a god.

It’s not only conservatives who are furious with him. Last week, a news conference and rally were held outside the Department of Justice offices at which family members of elderly patients demanded a federal investigation. They will get their wish. The FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office have subsequently opened an investigation. State assembly Republicans are moving to form an impeachment commission “to gather facts and evidence” surrounding Cuomo’s “handling and the subsequent cover-up of the COVID-19 crisis in nursing homes.” Even state Democrats are moving to strip Cuomo of his unilateral emergency pandemic powers.

Writing in Sunday’s Wall Street Journal, John Daukas, former acting attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, argued that Cuomo’s cover-up could merit federal criminal charges. And National Review’s Andy McCarthy has explained that “besides potential civil-rights liability, the Cuomo administration could face problems because the nursing homes that the state oversees receive lots of federal money through Medicare and Medicaid.”

3. More Cuomo: While no one was looking, the Ghoulvenor doubled down on what he did to nursing homes, and did it even worse for group homes. Maria McFaddenn Maffucci has the maddening story. From the article:

This dangerous directive ignored the realities of typical group-home setups — small homes with shared facilities and no place to isolate. And, adding insult to injury, such “congregate settings” for the disabled were not designated as “priority recipients” of desperately needed PPE. Under New York State’s Emergency Management Policies, “hospitals, EMS, nursing facilities, and dialysis centers” were eligible for aid with PPE, but not residences for the disabled. A watchdog group, Disability Rights New York, filed a complaint on April 9 with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, stating that “New Yorkers with ID/DD living in New York State licensed or certified group homes and other congregate settings are at serious risk of contracting and succumbing to COVID-19. Direct Service Providers who provide essential care for individuals in congregate care settings do not have access to PPE to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to the individuals residing in these settings and many individuals residing in these settings are unable to protect themselves from contracting the disease.”

Meanwhile, families of the disabled had heart-rending choices to make at the start of the pandemic: take their family member out of a residential setting and lose their spot there permanently, or leave them there with no chance of visiting or bringing them home for a visit.  For those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, for whom any change in routine can be traumatic, this sudden isolation was terrifying. Many of them were not able to understand the sudden absence of those dearest to them, and many started to regress.

And then, once the rate of infection started to slow and New York began its “un-pause” in phases, the special-needs community was once again ignored. Families desperate to reunite with their loved ones were told that there was as yet no plan for them and were given the runaround by both OPWDD and the governor’s office as to when they could reunite with their loved ones.

4. Even More Cuomo: Zachary Evans recounts how the Empire Center finally convinced people that the Emperor was buck naked. From the piece:

New York governor Andrew Cuomo’s March 25, 2020, executive order mandating that nursing homes accept coronavirus patients returning from hospitals has been the subject of controversy for months. Bill Hammond, senior fellow for health policy at the Albany-based think tank Empire Center, initiated a crucial Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request for data on coronavirus in nursing homes that would eventually shed light on the consequences of that order.

It was not until February 2021, after the state finally released accurate information, that Hammond and fellow Empire Center researcher Dr. Ian Kingsbury could analyze data on nursing-home deaths in New York. What they found is that, while the order was not the sole or even primary cause of coronavirus deaths in nursing homes, it exacerbated an already-bad situation, likely resulting in “several hundred and possibly more than 1,000 resident deaths” in upstate nursing homes. (In New York City and its environs, coronavirus was so widespread that Hammond and Kingsbury concluded the March 25 order did not have a significant impact on nursing-home deaths in that area.)

Even more remarkable than the nursing-home data are the efforts to which the New York state government went to conceal them. In an interview with National Review, Hammond explained how he became interested in the data on nursing-home deaths and how the Empire Center sued the New York State Department of Health for those records.

5. Alexandra DeSanctis will not let the Washington Post’s jesuitical “fact checkers” get away with the attempt to whitewash nominee Xavier Becerra’s nun-hate. From the piece:

During a confirmation hearing on Wednesday, responding to a question from Senator John Thune, Biden’s HHS pick Xavier Becerra uttered the lines, “I have never sued any nuns. I have taken on the federal government, but I have never sued any affiliation of nuns.”

When I heard this remark, I thought to myself, “It’s just barely true enough that fact-checkers will run with it and claim he’s correct.”

Sure enough, they rose to the challenge. In the Washington Post, Salvador Rizzo — whose fact-checking efforts I’ve rebutted for NRO in the past — insists that Becerra “sued the Trump administration, not a group of nuns.”

According to Rizzo, “It’s misleading to say Becerra sued the nuns” because “the California attorney general has not filed lawsuits or brought enforcement actions against the Little Sisters of the Poor, a charity run by Catholic nuns.”

But Becerra’s assertion is true only in the narrowest sense: He has never initiated any direct legal action against a group of nuns. Though Rizzo doesn’t seem to notice it, the actual facts of the case expose how disingenuous Becerra’s response really was.

6. William Watkins goes back to the post-War era, when an Ohio Republican, Robert Taft, proved a consequential champion of sensibility and freedom, and suggests we reclaim him as a model. From the piece:

Taft disdained Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s penchant for creating new federal agencies, but he also worried about New Dealers’ inclination to intervene in international conflicts. In the words of Russell Kirk and James McClellan, Taft’s foreign policy was influenced “by two prejudices (using that word in its neutral sense): his prejudice in favor of peace, and his prejudice against empire.” The benefit of hindsight has placed a moral blemish on those who had been skeptical of entering the Second World War. But Taft was no thoughtless isolationist. His reasons are worth understanding. Kirk and McClellan describe his mindset: “For the United States, then, war was preferable to conquest or to economic ruin; but if these calamities were not in prospect, America should remain aloof.” He was, moreover, willing to change his mind as circumstances did. Indeed, in the days after Pearl Harbor, Taft voted to declare war against Japan, Germany, and Italy. But after the victory, Taft saw that too many Americans relished a perpetual involvement in matters disconnected from the national interest. He rightly worried about the future of American foreign policy.

Taft sought the Republican presidential nomination on three occasions. Each time, the liberal wing of the party, led by Thomas E. Dewey, preferred a candidate who would present himself as a better administrator of the New Deal machinery rather than as a dismantler of its would-be Soviet bureaucracy. It appeared Taft would finally get his chance in 1952. But Dewey and the East Coast establishment recruited General Dwight D. Eisenhower as their nominee. Even a man widely known as “Mr. Republican” had little chance to defeat the popular war hero, who won the party’s nomination and then crushed Democrat Adlai Stevenson in the general election.

7. Dan McLaughlin says pfooey to new liberal arguments that originalism must somehow reinvent itself with a “common good” moniker. From the beginning of the essay:

Newsweek opinion editor Josh Hammer argues at Public Discourse that conservatives should replace originalism with a new, refined judicial philosophy named “common-good originalism.” Hammer is a sharp guy, and one assumes that his is the best argument that could be made for this proposal. His argument is, however, unspecific in its critiques, vague in its proposals, unmoored from constitutional legitimacy, and unsound as strategy. That suggests that the problem is not the messenger, but the message.

Briefly defined, originalism is the idea that when a law is passed, it means what it is understood to mean at the time it receives the people’s approval, and it stays that way until it is changed. When the law is a statute rather than part of the Constitution, the same concept is called textualism. The words matter, including the meaning of those words when written down. Fixing the meaning of a rule is the whole point of writing it down and getting the people or their representatives to approve it as written, rather than just electing good people and telling them, “Do what you think is best.” (In P.J. O’Rourke’s phrase, this is the difference between having a Congress and having a mom.) Written rules may become obsolete, of course, but in a democracy, it is the job of the people rather than unelected judges to decide that.

Why complain about originalism? No other conservative idea has penetrated so far into both elite institutions and popular opinion in the past three decades than originalism has. Among all the elements of the post-Cold War conservative coalition, only gun-rights advocates have been arguably more successful in pressing their public-policy vision than originalists have, and the cause of gun rights has itself relied heavily on an originalist reading of the Constitution. Almost alone among conservative ideas in recent decades, originalism has compelled even its enemies in the liberal academy to contend on its turf, and has succeeded in staffing the power centers of the federal government with many of its adherents. Textualism has, if anything, been even more resoundingly successful, even among liberals.

8. The one place you are not likely to find free thought is American campuses, write Frederick Hess and R.J. Martin. From the analysis:

Today, billions in federal research funds flow to universities that don’t even make a pretense of protecting free inquiry. Of the ten institutions that FIRE just flagged as being egregiously hostile to free inquiry, seven secured taxpayer-funded research dollars with a combined value of more than $1 billion.

Taxpayers fund university research because universities are supposed to be places where scholars can pursue hard truths — forums in which responsible researchers can pursue the kind of rigorous, open-minded inquiry that is fundamental to scientific progress and the public good. Serious scholarship cannot thrive where researchers fear that the wrong topic, point of view, terminology, or conclusion will run afoul of university strictures or prevailing sentiments. That’s a recipe for politicized, unreliable research.

Safeguarding free inquiry is especially important given the lack of intellectual diversity that exists today on so many campuses. As a team of social psychologists led by José Duarte explained in 2015, political uniformity “can undermine the validity of social psychological science” by, for example, embedding “liberal values into research questions” and “steering researchers away from important but politically unpalatable research topics.” Such phenomena raise questions about the reliability of federally funded research produced at institutions that fail to safeguard free expression for those on both sides of the political aisle.

Given these stakes, public officials should insist that taxpayer funds should only support scholarship at universities that can demonstrate a steadfast commitment to free inquiry. This wouldn’t create a sweeping new expanse of federal power — it would simply ensure that colleges abide by the compact they have developed with Uncle Sam. Indeed, universities that collect federal research funds already provide a host of assurances, on everything from campus safety to hiring practices. Asking for an assurance that research funds will be used to fund independent, credible research seems like a pretty reasonable addition.

9. The academic insanity of seeing racism in the shadows of white pigmentation has now corrupted out politics, says Steven Watts. From the essay:

The notion of whiteness emerged from debates among academic leftists near the end of the Reagan/Bush era. They were wrestling with the old American political anomaly: why working-class whites supposedly voted against their own interests by failing to embrace socialism. The recent appearance of Reagan Democrats and growing working-class support for the Republican Party had been a particularly galling development. Alexander Saxton’s The Rise and Fall of the White Republic: Class Politics and Mass Culture in Nineteenth-Century America (1990), followed closely by David R. Roediger’s The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class (1991), attempted to tackle this “problem” with a new perspective. “Whiteness,” each book claimed in its own way, explained all.

Saxton’s White Republic examined the dynamic development of the United States in the 19th century and reached a striking conclusion: White racism was its driving force. In his “ideological interpretation,” Saxton posited that a white man’s nation had emerged from the intersecting efforts of Southern slaveholders, Jacksonian Democrats and Whigs who pursued racist social and economic policies, frontier novelists and blackface minstrel performers, Republican ideologues who joined opportunity and egalitarianism with the glue of white racism, scientists who advocated Social Darwinism, and trade unionists who marginalized black workers to achieve white, working-class solidarity. In Saxton’s rendering, the story of America is one of creating a “white republic” by using racism to strengthen and legitimate industrial capitalism.

Roediger’s Wages of Whiteness took the racial analysis a step further. Also focusing on the United States in the 1800s, he contended that not just racism but also a deeply cynical notion of “whiteness” had been foisted onto the working class. Beginning with the modern scientific conclusion that race is not biological but socially constructed, Roediger claimed that “it has become possible to ask bedrock questions such as, ‘What makes some people think they are white?’ and “When did white people become white?’” He drew upon W. E. B. Du Bois, the notable African-American Marxist intellectual, who had asserted in his Black Reconstruction in America (1935) that shrewd capitalists had bought off industrial workers with a “psychological wage” of “whiteness” — something like, “No matter how oppressive the work discipline or class oppression you face, at least you are superior to blacks.” This was the foundation for Roediger’s argument that the “wages of whiteness” fueled the development of American capitalism, only now the old Marxist process of class formation was accompanied, and perhaps superseded, by a process of race formation. A racial manipulation of language provided one means of shaping a cross-class white identity, as when the traditional republican word “freeman,” indicating an independent voter and worker, took on a racial coloration to denote a contrast with “unfree” black slaves. The gradual whitening of immigrants, such as the Irish, as they poured into the United States in the mid 1800s, provided another. Ultimately, complicit industrial laborers joined greedy capitalists to embrace the notion that they were white, and hence superior to a “degraded” black race. In Roediger’s grand reformulation, the consolidation of modern industrial capitalism depended on a sordid series of race-mongering maneuvers that sullied notions of equality and justice, hamstrung efforts at working-class solidarity, and guaranteed the ongoing oppression of African Americans.

10. The “OK” gesture obviously isn’t. So say the Woke Police at Syracuse University, where some female athletes can be found under the bus where they’ve been thrown. Isaac Schorr has the story. From the piece:

Even this goes much too far. Was all of the offense and anger really justified? Was there any supporting evidence to suggest that the student who made the post even knew that the OK symbol was sometimes appropriated by hate groups, much less that she was using it with similarly bigoted intentions? No, but sadly, the statement gets much, much worse. It goes on to call the post “an unacceptable lapse in judgment and lack of awareness on the part of our entire team,” apologize for being “negligent and hurt[ing] people in the community we love so much,” and insist that the team is “grateful that the lacrosse community has held us accountable.”

Is it the responsibility of every American citizen over the age of 18 to monitor white-supremacist sites and understand their intricacies? How, exactly, is the rest of the team complicit in this supposed atrocity? Was anyone really hurt?

Most disturbing is the “thank you, sir, may I have another”–ism on display in the bit about being held “accountable.” What is it that they’re being held accountable for, and by whom? I, for one, do not appreciate the team’s inviting the mob to hold the rest of us accountable to its nebulous, ever-evolving standards by subjecting us to an endless torrent of online harassment.

To be clear, I don’t blame the students on the team for bowing so quickly and so low to the mob at their doorstep. I doubt very much that they wrote the statement released on their behalf, and would venture to guess that at least some of them are not happy with its contents. The culpability lies with the adults who threw these young women under the bus without a second thought to make their own lives just a little bit easier. Head coach Gary Gait, for example, is one of the sport’s most revered figures. Yet he did nothing to stand up for the team, instead calling the post a “mistake” and consenting to the tarnishing of the players he’s paid to mentor and protect. This is part of a larger trend of powerful adults and institutions failing in their obligation to shield the powerless from unfair criticism and unjustifiable consequences.

11. The Indianapolis Museum of Art is in crisis over a spew of racism and sexism and the usual charges, reports Brian Allen. From the piece:

What have we come to? Yes, a dumb thing to say, shortsighted and wrongheaded. How did we get to the sad, ugly point where museum directors are parsing audiences by race?

A museum-director friend told me a few years ago that the pursuit of diversity, equity, inclusivity, and accessibility — now an acronym called DEIA — took most of her time. She moaned and groaned — DEIA is agnostic on things such as art and scholarship — but she sees herself as a good liberal. She doesn’t realize what a minefield and a racket this will become.

Her museum website denounces systemic racism, the amorphous bugaboo these days. And her museum is still closed because of the COVID scare, even though no case of the Chinese coronavirus has been traced to a museum, anywhere. “A” is for accessibility, and, sorry to state the obvious, but a museum is not “accessible” if it’s shut. It’s a sublimely perfect and perverse case of “E” for “equity,” since everyone is barred.

12. The Woke Mafia at Stanford didn’t sharpen the cancel knives sharp enough when they went after the Hoover Institution and its more prominent conservative fellows, writes a Poorly Known Author. From the beginning of the article:

It gnaws away at Stanford University’s woke faculty: Harbored in their midst is that nominally conservative outfit, the Hoover Institution, which more than a few professors hold as an infestation of the liberal citadel. It is, after all, named after a Republican president — never mind being home to the likes of Thomas Sowell and Victor Davis Hanson and H. R. McMaster (and yes, plenty of establishment GOP types, and even a lefty or two). And there’s this: The campus is visually dominated by the striking eleven-story Hoover Tower, which scrapes the Palo Alto sky like some right-hand middle finger. Housing vast and important archives (much of the contents are about the evils of Marxist-Leninism), the tower is crowned by a 48-bell carillon that no doubt triggers faculty and students with the occasional auditory reminder of Hoover’s confounding and unwelcome presence.

Who will rid us of this troublesome think tank and its more Trumpy fellows?

There is no paucity of willing hitmen amongst Stanford’s more fevered and Hoover-obsessed faculty, who of late have mounted a campaign to diminish Hoover’s standing and to bully the institution’s more important and controversial (meaning, from their perspective, notorious) fellows. Of particular focus are the aforementioned Professor Hanson, known well in NR’s precincts and the author of The Case for Trump (word is he also has a weekly podcast); Scott Atlas, a prominent member of former President Trump’s COVID task force (his nondoctrinaire, wrong-partisan stands prompted a hundred-plus of his former colleagues to publish an open letter last September that berated him as a threat to public health); and historian Niall Ferguson, who was accused (projection warning) of suppressing the free-speech rights of students in 2018.

13. Red China holds hostage rare-earth minerals, and Steve Hanke says the Biden Administration must push back. From the article:

To underline the importance and potential potency of the rare-earths weapon, President Xi Jinping has a habit of visiting rare-earths mining sites and plants that produce the precision magnets that rely on rare earths.

But rare earths are not just vital for many weapons systems. Far from it. They are also used in a wide range of consumer products from iPhones to DVD players to rechargeable batteries. They are also critical for many “green” products, such as LED lights. Many key products, such as motors in electric cars and the generators in wind turbines, contain specialized magnets that require rare earths, and China produces 90 percent of those magnets.

The reserves of rare earths are scattered around the globe in countries such as Australia, the United States, and Myanmar, with China holding down the top spot with about 40 percent of the world’s reserves. When it comes to mining rare earths, China’s lead becomes dominant. Indeed, over 70 percent of rare earths are mined in China. Further downstream is processing. At that stage, China is even more dominant, processing nearly 90 percent of the world’s rare earths.

How did China attain such dominance across the board in rare earths? As someone who landed his first faculty position and cut his eye teeth on mineral economics in the late 1960s at the Colorado School of Mines, I have long suspected that China must have invested heavily in the Three Ms.

14. Red China’s godless dictators wants to own local Roman Catholicism as yet another means of social control. Americans, says Cameron Hilditch, need to understand and oppose this new version of the Evil Empire. From the essay:

The tactical approach that the CCP has taken toward the Roman Catholic Church is particularly instructive of how party policy on religion differs from that of Communist regimes past (and even present if one considers the Kims in North Korea). Instead of trying to drive the Catholic Church out of China altogether, the CCP seeks to increase its own influence over the Vatican. (They’ve taken exactly the same approach toward many other things like American sports leagues, international institutions, and even capitalism itself.)

On September 22, 2018, the CCP signed an agreement with the Vatican — the text of which is still secret — according to which the two parties agreed to “cooperate” in the selection of Chinese bishops. In practice, this has basically meant that the Chinese have presented their approved candidates to the pope, who then officially approves them, almost as a formality. The whole affair reflects very poorly on Pope Francis and the Vatican hierarchy. The hope was to allow Chinese Catholics worshipping underground to come out of hiding and live out their faith in public; but this “liberation” has been purchased at the price of ceding all control over Chinese Catholicism to a militantly atheist cabal of genocidal communists.

The naïveté of the Vatican in agreeing to such an arrangement has been exposed to the fullest extent by these new “administrative measures”: Article 16 says that bishops in China will be democratically elected through the state-controlled Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association and consecrated by the Chinese Catholic Bishops Conference. No reference at all is made to the pope or the Vatican, who’ve been completely excised from the process. The CCP has cemented its sole control over Chinese Catholicism with the formal backing of the Catholic Church itself (the 2018 deal was renewed last year), leaving Chinese Catholic dissenters from the Party without even the formal backing of their own church.

In other words, this isn’t your grandfather’s evil empire. The CCP are smarter, defter, and more economically dominant than the Bolsheviks ever were. And right now, they’re succeeding at drafting Catholicism, along with the other major religions of the world, into the service of Marxism, something that even Marx himself didn’t think was possible.

15. Itxu Díaz finds a traditional religious celebration knocked around by COVID. Santiago de Compostela is nearly empty — where have all the pilgrims gone? From the essay:

In the cathedral, gloom and Gregorian. A couple of ladies pray in the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, some priests wait in the confessional to attend, in a multitude of languages, the pilgrims who do not arrive, and a madman crosses the main nave talking to himself and gesticulating wildly. Suddenly, he stops in silence in front of the image of the Apostle, where he prays in silence for a few minutes and seems to regain his sanity.

This strange and solitary climate has allowed me to spend more than 20 minutes in the small crypt, with no other company than the silver urn that houses the remains of the Apostle, without the usual hustle and bustle of visitors. Normally it would be impossible to pray on your knees here without feeling a burst of light hitting the back of your head every other second. (This light, it should be noted, does not often come from the Holy Spirit, but from the cameras of Japanese tourists.)

The whole cathedral is awe-inspiring. Contemplation of the Portico de la Gloria, a Romanesque masterpiece, enlightens the pilgrim on the mysteries of faith: the original sin, the Redemption, and the Last Judgment. But none of it carries the same significance if we ignore the origin of this pilgrimage center, raised in a remote and rainy place of rural Galicia.

According to tradition, Santiago preached Christianity in Hispania (present-day Spain and Portugal), after Pentecost. However, the Spaniards did not receive the Apostle with the solemnity he deserved, and we even failed to comply with the most elementary rules of courtesy: In all honesty, we stoned him (though not fatally).

Capital Matters

1. Kevin Hassett knows a thing or two about being nominated, and wouldn’t blame Republicans for doing the turnabout thing on Biden choices. But he suggests a compromise. From the piece:

In my own case, after being chosen for the job of chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers in January 2017, I was not confirmed until September of that year, despite the fact that, as the vote eventually indicated, I had the support of the majority of Senate Democrats. I did start in the White House as a consultant long before then and remember discussing the long delays in the Roosevelt Room in the summer of 2017 with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who mentioned that she couldn’t get any of her deputies through. If the majority leader’s wife is having trouble, the obstructions are real.

Ultimately, Republicans reduced the number of hours of debate required before cloture to two, but the Senate minority availed itself of other tactics, such as delaying nomination hearings. Countless low-level nominees were forced to withdraw because they saw no reasonable path to confirmation. Those who stuck it out just waited and waited. As of December 1 of last year, there were 209 Trump nominees still pending in the Senate.

When I left the council in the summer of 2019, with a year and a half left for the team to govern, the White House didn’t even bother trying to get my replacement, Tomas Philipson, a confirmation. Eighteen months was apparently not enough time to get him through. If you looked around the government, a large majority of jobs were held by people who were simply “acting,” a temporary status allowed for vacant positions.

2. Mike Hunter, Oklahoma’s Attorney General, urges President Biden to reverse course on his terrible decision to block the Keystone Pipeline. From the piece:

Keystone has led to thousands of good-paying jobs, now snuffed out with the stroke of a pen. Again, the impact will be felt not just in Oklahoma: The pipeline here increases the transport of oil to Cushing, one of the largest transshipment and oil-storage locations in the world.

In response to the president’s decision, lawmakers have introduced legislation to mandate continuation of the project, estimating that the pipeline’s expansion would create 11,000 “direct high-paying jobs” and “up to 60,000 indirect and direct jobs.”

Indeed, by revoking Keystone’s permit, President Biden is relegating these workers to the unemployment line, when our country can ill afford to strain our already overstressed unemployment system.

But these economic realities are just some of the reasons why ending the Keystone XL pipeline is a bad policy for America.

The president justified revoking the pipeline’s permit on the grounds that the status quo undermined U.S. climate leadership. Yet in addition to the cancellation’s adverse economic consequences, it also negatively affects health and human safety. (A pipeline is a far better and safer way to transport crude oil than freight is.) It also ignores the painstaking measures that the Keystone developers have taken to enforce environmental-safety rules.

3. One little change, suggest Travis Nix, might make Joe Biden’s stimulus proposal a lot less horrid. From the piece:

Joe Biden could help thousands of small businesses survive the pandemic by allowing them to accelerate their Net Operating Loss (NOLs) deductions, using it now rather than having to wait and carry them forward to future tax years. This policy would allow businesses to monetize the losses they incur and receive a tax rebate based on their tax rate. For example, a corporation that incurs $100,000 in losses gets a rebate of $21,000 since the corporate tax rate is 21 percent. To provide the maximum benefit to pass-through firms — that is, business owners that choose to pay their business taxes on their individual taxes — the tax refund should be set at the top individual tax rate of 37 percent. This change would provide a desperately needed cash cushion to thousands of businesses that cannot take advantage of the NOL deduction this year

The NOL deduction is critical to helping firms survive economic downturns by smoothing out their tax expenses. It allows businesses to carry forward their losses to future tax years and deduct them from their future profits, or, thanks to the CARES Act, to temporarily carry them back to previous tax years and get a tax refund on previously paid taxes.

But it’s not designed to its maximum potential. Currently, it does nothing for the over 800,000 new businesses that opened in 2020 that have no previous tax years to carry back their losses. The only benefit they get from the NOL deduction is the ability to carry losses forward to future tax years. That’s less helpful for a couple of reasons. For one, carryforwards are not as valuable to businesses because of inflation. More importantly, however, tax benefits today, when businesses are struggling, are more valuable than deductions years from now when they’re turning a profit.

Lights. Camera. Review!

1. Anthony Hopkins in the brutal film, The Father, is brilliant, says Kyle Smith. From the beginning of the review:

Anthony is a retired engineer who has trouble with his watch. Maybe he can’t remember where he put it. Maybe his caregiver stole it from him. He’s disoriented when he’s in the former frame of mind, angry in the latter.

The watch is time, and as played with great sensitivity by Anthony Hopkins, the old man is alternately confused, frustrated, and rageful about his inability to keep track of it. He’s slipping around various stages of his life, unable to distinguish present from past. The devastating trick played by the French playwright Florian Zeller, who has brought his own 2012 play The Father to the screen in his debut as a film director, is to place the audience in the situation Anthony is in. We’re both observing and experiencing what the father is going through. I won’t spoil for you how Zeller pulls this off, but he accomplishes his purpose and then some. Cruel? The Father is absolutely brutal, particularly for those who have cared for a loved one enduring dementia. I could barely stomach the movie. An entertaining night out it is not. But we do look to art for truths, even ones we’d rather not confront.

2. More Kyle, who finds an enjoyable and laugh-inducing throw-back experience in the silliness of Barb & Star Go to Vista del Mar. From the review:

Will Ferrell is one of the producers of the movie and there’s a delightfully innocent, Ferrell-ish quality to the two lead idiots and their equally moronic antagonist, just as Bridesmaids bore the stamp of its producer Judd Apatow. The two leading ladies sleep in matching twin beds, fantasize about Mr. Peanut and get really excited about Christmas way too early in the year. They’re supportive: “Star, if I said it once, I said it a million times. You could model for effing Chico’s, and I’m not just saying that.” They’re reflective: “Every time I think of frog legs I think of Kermit riding his bicycle, and how much he used his legs. He really needed them.” They’re honest: “My stomach it’s like just a bunch of rolled up sacks in there. All in line trying to get out, it’s like a traffic jam.” If I’m quoting the movie a lot, it’s because it’s really effin’ quotable. We’re talking early-2000s Ferrell-level quotable here. And the innocence is such that even though there are a lot of sex jokes in the movie, they’re just vague enough to keep the movie PG-13.

3. Armond White wants to have it out with Martin Scorsese, and uses two new Russian films, Dear Comrades! And Sin, as a handy cudgel. From the piece:

Dear Comrades! uncannily complements Biden-Harris-era panic by re-creating the massacre and clampdown of striking locomotive workers in Novocherkassk in 1962. In Sin, which anatomizes Michelangelo Buonarroti’s creative struggle during the Renaissance, we see the specter of political pressure on the artistic spirit.

Unlike Scorsese, Konchalovsky flouts the Netflixing of film culture; these are real movies, visually keen aesthetic expressions, not mere “content.” Old-school cineaste Konchalovsky, whose best film remains his 1972 version of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, dramatizes characters and dilemmas that connect the present to our Western heritage. (If he cast Daniel Kaluuya as Alexander Pushkin, he’d be filmmaker of the month for Antifa and Black Lives Matter.)

Sin’s Michelangelo (Alberto Testone) carries the weight of personal, national, soulful obligations; Konchalovksy’s exalted visual style recalls Franco Zeffirelli’s classical imagery in the underrated film about Saint Francis of Assisi, Brother Sun and Sister Moon; so does the spiritual, homoerotic tension between the genius artist’s creative struggle and his practical career maneuvers — the best drama of its kind since Peter Greenaway’s Eisenstein in Guanajuato.

4. When the Muppets can trigger, you know peak insanity is being reached. Kyle (yet again!) ridicules the madness. From the piece:

It’s now “offensive content,” didn’t you know this? “Negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people and cultures.” Disney, fanning itself and calling for a glass of water, requests a moment to “acknowledge . . . harmful impact, learn from it and spark conversation to create a more inclusive future together.” Johnny Cash once performed near a Confederate flag; Joan Baez once did a fake Indian accent. Sorry, I should have told you to position yourself by the nearest fainting couch before I told you. I hope you didn’t injure yourself when you collapsed in shock.

The inclusivity game sure has changed. At the time it aired, The Muppet Show (like its parent Sesame Street) was noted for making an effort to nudge young viewers away from thinking only in terms of white Americans, taking pains to include a wide variety of ethnic types in the zany fun. As Deadline suggests, “The Muppets [sic] was once celebrated for its depictions [of] Native American, Middle Eastern, and Asian people.” Today, if you portray any member of any of those groups, you’d better be sure nobody gets made fun of. How dare anyone be silly on a comedy show? In order to counteract the effects of noxious stereotypes, the Muppets clearly should have substituted different noxious stereotypes, the stereotypes progressives love about minorities being perpetual victims. Sam the Eagle could have been shown exploiting Asian Muppets as they built a railroad or something.

5. Armond Encore: He finds Mr. Soul! to be just the latest Tinseltown effort to divide America. From the beginning of the review:

We are experiencing the most propagandized period of American filmmaking since World War II. But the goal isn’t cultural unity as it was then. Proof of this dire circumstance is found in the new documentary Mr. Soul! about the relatively obscure media personality Ellis Haizlip.

Haizlip, a bon-vivant colleague of James Baldwin, Alvin Ailey, and other race-conscious sophisticates of the late 20th century, gets his own biography in Mr. Soul! That title references Soul! — the television series Haizlip hosted from 1968 to 1971, which showcased the period’s burgeoning black popular culture and political stirrings. His guests ranged from Al Green to Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte to Nikki Giovanni, Amiri Baraka to Stevie Wonder, the Spinners, and Louis Farrakhan.

But Haizlip himself gets sacrificed to “the movement” — specifically to co-directors Melissa Haizlip and Sam Pollard’s trendy notion that black American politics and culture have not changed. Through Haizlip’s mostly forgotten semi-celebrity, they use the past to promote the Millennial ideal that activism is all, that culture and self-expression in the cause of politics are everything.

It’s a proposition worth arguing over, but nobody does. Most current docs and dramatic features are angled toward politicization. Mr. Soul! commemorates Haizlip as a figurehead of cultural segregation. An outrageous closing montage of contemporary black celebrities who represent national, cultural division supposedly fulfills the entrepreneurial dreams of impresario Haizlip.

Elsewhere in the Conservative Solar System

1. At The Catholic Thing, beloved Hadley Arkes contemplates the moral alchemy of the political party. From the piece:

The new Administration is also determined to promote transgenderism as a doctrine to be taught in public schools, and promoted in any organization that benefits from public funds and regulations. At the same time, the Administration stands fully behind the teaching of the 1619 Project: that this American regime was founded for the preservation of slavery, and marked enduringly as corrupt. Which is to say, one of our major parties has now incorporated a contempt for the American Founding and the institutions it put in place.

In the recent presidential election, we were faced with two candidates unappealing in different ways. The mystery is why so many educated people became so fixated on Donald Trump that they could not understand how some of us saw a choice between two Administrations, reflecting differences that promised to be systematic, as morally momentous.

During the Civil War, Catholics did not fit comfortably in an anti-slavery movement that was powered by a militant Protestantism. One young Irish immigrant joined the Union army, and his decision was met with incredulity by his family. But in a note to his family, he showed a grasp that well exceeds that of the party of “1619” in our own time. “This is my country,” he wrote, “as much as the man who was born on the soil. . . . This is the first test of a modern free government in the act of sustaining itself against internal enemies . . . if it fails, then the hopes of millions fail and the designs and wishes of all tyrants will succeed . . . Irishmen and their descendants have . . . a stake in [this] nation.”

2. At Commentary, Noah Rothman makes sure we are aware of Joe Biden’s favorite lie (after all, there are so many from which to choose!). From the article:

We can only assume by invoking “Pinocchios” the president is accusing the CBO of being less than truthful. That is, if we assume that he’s referring to the Washington Post’s fact-checking team, which uses Pinocchios as a metric to evaluate relative truthfulness. It’s unclear what Biden is specifically referring to, but the Post did evaluate the president’s claim earlier this month that “all the economics show” that if you raise the minimum wage, “the whole economy rises.” Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler determined that Biden’s assertion that there is near “universal consensus” among economists in favor of his economic preferences deserved “Two Pinocchios.” Perhaps the president is confused.

The president’s claim that economists agree that there are almost downsides to passing the largest single spending bill in American history is similarly mendacious.

Larry Summers, for example, is a serious guy. As the former Clinton administration Treasury Department official and the President of Development Economics and Chief Economist at the World Bank, he should be. Summers has warned that the risk of such a dramatic influx of capital into the economy would be to invite runaway inflation — a sobering prospect given the profound political instability that follows when the money in your wallet doesn’t have the same value that it did yesterday. Olivier Blanchard, a former chair of the economics department at MIT, agrees with Summers. “This would not be overheating,” he said of the proposed COVID relief package, “it would be starting a fire.” Some, including former members of Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, have recommended legislative triggers in the relief bill that would close off additional spending if the economic recovery beings to pick up steam.

3. More Commentary, as Christine Rosen looks for Socialism’s soul, and finds nothing there. From the piece:

Is dignity to be found in paying people for the tasks they perform in their private lives? Or paying them for raising their children (as even Republican Senator Mitt Romney has suggested with his recent child allowance proposal?) Or can dignity only occur when the government pays everyone an income regardless of whether or not they work at all?

One need not idealize the Sisyphean tasks of daily life — the cleaning, cooking, and caring for others — to understand that doing them has a worth not measurable in dollars. But context matters. Socialists like Federici would prefer that the context always be political. In their view, no private act is without political significance. Therefore, nothing one chooses to do in one’s home should be free from government intervention (and ideally, payment).

In practice, Federici’s approach suffers from the same totalizing worldview as the capitalists she excoriates.

For socialists like Federici (and for an increasing number of progressive activists who embrace such ideas), private acts can be made meaningful only if they are put to political purpose, namely, the destruction of capitalism. As Federici argued in a 1975 essay, “Wages Against Housework”: “To say that we want wages for housework is to expose the fact that housework is already money for capital, that capital has made and makes money out of our cooking, smiling, [expletive that describes sexual intercourse].”

4. At Gatestone Institute, Richard Kemp finds a generation that has been duped by the bigotry of BDS. From the beginning of the piece:

Yet again we approach the depths of the annual Jew Hate Week around the world. Its organizers know better than to call it what it is. They brand their hatefest “Israel Apartheid Week”, but their true meaning and purpose is blindingly obvious. Since its early festerings in Toronto in 2005, Jew Hate Week has inflicted itself on the world, polluting universities from America to Australia and from South Africa to Northern Ireland.

Held on campuses at around this time each year, Jew Hate Week is the racist Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement’s flagship event for subverting university students to their malevolent cause. Palestinian-led, at the forefront of BDS are Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace in the US, and Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and War on Want in the UK. Democrat Squad members Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib are among its main cheerleaders in America. In Britain, disgraced former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is a staunch supporter as are many of his party including members of parliament.

BDS trumpet their claim to support “freedom, justice and equality” for the Palestinian people. They are less open about their desire to eradicate the Jewish state for fear they would lose backing from individuals and organizations that have a genuine desire to improve the lives of Palestinians but do not want to eliminate a whole country and its Jewish citizens.

Qatar-born Omar Barghouti, founder of BDS, has repeatedly rejected a two-state solution, instead advocating one state: “Definitely, most definitely, we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine”. He makes clear that his definition of “Palestine” includes the entirety of the State of Israel.

5. At The American Conservative, Rod Dreher is rightly alarmed by a new Gallup survey that finds America has been queering the young. From the article:

This is a staggering finding, whether you think the news is positive, negative, or neutral. This kind of change in something as fundamental as sexual orientation, in such a short period of time, is mind-blowing.

The trans part is the most shocking: between Gen X and the Millennials, the number of self-identified trans people has increased by 600 percent. Between Gen X and their children’s generation, Gen Z, the number of self-identified trans people has increased by 900 percent.

This is the effect of the collapse of cultural standards, and the propaganda campaign waged in the media and in schools. Today I had a private Zoom conference with senior clergy of a conservative American denomination. They said that the trans thing is exploding among their youth — kids who were raised in this conservative church — and pastors are struggling to know how to talk about it. One cleric said other pastors tell him that they don’t want to “lead” with preaching on transgenderism, for fear of alienating seekers. He said he tells them that you have to take that risk, because families and congregations are being hammered by propaganda all the time.

I agreed, and told him that pastors have to find the courage to tell the truth, no matter what it costs. The dominant culture knows what it believes about transgenderism, and does not hesitate to teach it, constantly. In my experience, parents don’t know what to say or do. If they don’t learn about it from the church, where will they learn it?

One cleric said that in his church’s youth group, some kids stood up and walked out when they begin to present the Church’s teachings on the body, sex, and gender. “They have been told in school that whenever you hear somebody criticize trans, that you are to stand up and walk out,” the cleric said.

I pointed out that this is what Solzhenitsyn told his followers in the Soviet Union to do when confronted with lies: stand up and walk out. Amazing that the other side is using the same tactics against the church!

6. At Law & Liberty, David Schaeffer attacks the infantilizing of minority students. From the essay:

The Ebonics controversy is now passé. Instead, the cutting edge in education theory is led by a scholar who argues that grading students on the basis of the quality of their work, rather than their perceived “effort” or the sheer quantity of their submissions, is inherently racist and a major contributor to inferior academic performance by black students. The leading proponent of this position is Asao Inoue, Professor and Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, Equity, and Inclusion for the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts at Arizona State University. He is the 2019 Chair of the Conference on College Composition and Communication, a past member of the CCCC Executive Committee, and the Executive Board of the Council of Writing Program Administrators. The CCCC has itself awarded Inoue two “Outstanding Book” awards for publications over the past half-dozen years.

As is to be expected of a scholar of such repute, Professor Inoue supplements his base salary and royalties by periodically making the rounds of the college lecture circuit. On January 21 Inoue offered a Zoom lecture, sponsored by several departments at the College of the Holy Cross (where I teach), and attended by a sizable number of faculty and administrators from Holy Cross and other academic institutions, devoted to explaining how to use what he calls “Labor-Based Grading Contracts for Socially Just Teaching.”

Inoue began his presentation by calling for the audience to engage in a ten-minute pause to engage in “mindfulness” (an unusual step for a lecturer, for sure). He then offered a talk, the character of which can be illustrated by some of the PowerPoint slides on which he relied. Following an initial slide that carried the simple legend “Short Argument about White Language Supremacy and Standards for Grading,” the next one offered a unidirectional flow chart (under the heading “Language Travels with People”), illustrated by balloons reading (from left to right) “Language,” “People,” “Language Standards,” “Good Writing,” (the latter phrase in scare quotes), and “White Supremacy.” I’ll cite just one more here: “Bottom Line: in courses that use and teach writing, if you use a single standard to grade student writing, then you reproduce white language supremacy.” (Inoue, it might be noted here, is not himself black — his parents were of Japanese and European ancestry — but he considers himself a sort of honorary black person, since as a young child he lived in a poor black neighborhood.)

7. At The College Fix, the great Jennifer Kabbany reports on a Harvard alumni club cancelling an event because it featured an expert on . . . cancelling. From the beginning of the piece:

Harvard Business School Club of New York has cancelled an event set to feature James Lindsay  —  an expert on cancel culture.

Lindsay is co-author of the 2020 book “Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity — and Why This Harms Everybody,” and founder of New Discourses, a website that takes on trending educational, cultural and social justice issues with a critical eye.

Lindsay, who holds a PhD in mathematics, is also a member of the “grievance studies“ publishing project. He was slated to discuss “Cynical Theories” at the Harvard Business School Club event, set for March 11. But on Tuesday night, he tweeted it had been cancelled.

“Lmao! I had been invited to speak for the Harvard Business School Club of New York about Cynical Theories, and because someone was upset that I exist, they changed the moderator to their chief equity officer, Hemali Dassani, and then, when I didn’t back down, cancelled the event,” he tweeted.

8. At The Imaginative Conservative, Bradley J. Birzer, is on a Robert Nisbet kick, and discusses the importance of his 1939 dissertation. From the essay:

Though not awarded the degree of Ph.D. until February 1940, Nisbet had actually written and completed his dissertation, “The Social Group in French Thought,” rather speedily, beginning it in January 1939 and finishing it a mere six months later, in July 1939, thus allowing Nisbet to become a full-time instructor at Berkeley in the autumn of 1939. “Would it be a better dissertation had I had the two or so years which normally go into dissertation writing?” Nisbet asked in 1980. “Possibly. But who ever knows for sure?” he answered himself, noting that “I might very well have become entangled in ramifications, byways, complexities and subtleties to such a degree that the work would never have been completed.” Further, Nisbet stressed, there existed nothing original in the dissertation. “All that I will lay claim to (and I am borrowing from Pasteur’s celebrated remark) is a mind that had somehow become sufficiently prepared by the end of 1937 to be favored by chance: in this instance the sheer chance of one day coming upon the writings of French conservatives in the Berkeley library,” he claimed. “All else has flowed from this chance encounter.” As such, Nisbet knew that he had gained as much from his library work with Teggart as he had from his courses. “I really think I learned more from Teggart by book-running, with its inevitable and cherished moments of conversation, than by taking seminars from him.” Again and again, Nisbet proclaimed the brilliance of Teggart. “He was the most erudite man I have ever known, and exhibition of this particular strength came as naturally to him as breathing.”

Contrary to Nisbet’s customary humility, the dissertation is a tour de force, a well-researched and complex, interlocking series of intellectual biographical sketches, tracing Western thought from the high Middle Ages through the thought of Jean Bodin, Thomas Hobbes, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Louis de Bonald, Félicité Robert de Lamennais, Auguste Comte, Frederic LePlay, and Emile Durkheim, with sidenotes on other vital figures such as Joseph de Maistre. The thinkers from Bonald through de Maistre constituted as a sort of “Reactionary Enlightenment.” Though Nisbet would publish his most famous work, The Quest for Community, fourteen years later, that book would not have been possible had it not been for the dissertation. And yet the two works are unlike enough to consider the dissertation on its own fine merits. It should be remembered, Robert Alexander Nisbet was only twenty-six when he wrote the dissertation, and he did so at the end of only three years of graduate work. It was, he admitted years later, a sort of “Hail Mary.”

9. Double Dose of Double-B: Professor Birzer follows with another Nisbet essay for TIC, diving deeper into the dissertation. From the beginning of the essay:

Robert Nisbet’s dissertation began by lamenting that the history of freedom has been written from the standpoint of the individual person rather than from the standpoint of the group — that is, the intermediary institutions of family, church, community, club, union, and voluntary association. Yet, noted Nisbet, rarely do we find in actual reality the individual abstracted from a myriad of groups to which he belongs. Though he did not self-identify this way, Nisbet was writing as a humanist and as a personalist. After all, he wrote, “it was not the individual, asserting his rights and freedom, that constituted a threat to state omnipotence; it was the assemblage of feudal groups, the gilds, corporations, the Church, and even the powerful families, which constituted the real menace.” Taking his cue from the French philosophers whom he so admired, Nisbet took his analysis even further, proclaiming: “Only by his membership in the group does he become a social reality.”

Nisbet, much like his contemporary, Christopher Dawson, argued that medieval Western society was not merely pluralistic, but so much so that one might correctly dismiss the power of large political entities as essentially non-existent. Yet, in a society and era that was, for all intents and purposes, stateless, the individual did not roam freely. Rather, each individual belonged not merely to a plethora of intermediary institutions, but he was also essentially corporate by his very nature of belonging. Thus, “personality identity was expressed in terms of what a man belonged to, not what he was” with medieval life being “nothing so much as a complex of fellowships.” From the Roman republican inheritance of family, the medieval accepted patriarchy and the supremacy — in political and legal matters — of the man. Additionally, it related almost all things in society to kinship, whether that kinship be biological or fictive. “Most of the associations, like the feudal fief, were contractual in origin,” Nisbet argued, “nevertheless in structure and function, as well as aim, they were high suggestive of kinship organization.” Members of the various organizations pledged loyalty to one another, thus binding them to the new as well as to the eternal. Consequently, law was based on customs, norms, mores, and habits. Indeed, “the idea of an absolute monarch as the source of law and as superior to law was wholly alien to medieval civilization,” and, therefore, “law arose out of the social life of the people, out of customs, and especially from the inner order of the associations and groups.” Law represented not sovereignty but responsibility. And, so contrary to our present world, “law was private.” Because authority and society were so pluralistic, the medieval concept of the world rejected both statism and individualism.

Baseballery

Down one rabbit hole (not Maranville) after another Your Humble Author went, stumbling into the 1918 World Series, awondering — was there a goat for the Chicago Cubs, defeated in six close games by Babe Ruth and his Red Sox?

It seems so, and he went by the name of Max Flack, who may be better known by Baseball Nerds because he once played for two different teams on the same day. About that first: On May 30, 1922, the Cubs’ outfielder was traded, straight up, to the St. Louis Cardinals for Cliff Heathcote. It so happened the transaction came while the Cards were in Chicago for a doubleheader. In the first game, which the Cubs won, 4-1, Flack went 0-for-4 with an RBI (grounded out with the bases loaded), while Heathcote went hitless in three at bats.

How such numbers motivated the franchises to seek the others’ outfielders is a mystery, but between the games the deal was made, and Flack and Heathcote swapped clubhouses and uniforms. The new duds provided a speck of spark: Flack went 1-for-4, while Heathcote went 2-for-4. The Cubs took the second game too, prevailing 3-1.

About that 1918 World Series . . . in which a smart play here, an avoided play there, might very well have turned the affair into something for the Windy City to celebrate.

In Game 4, played in Beantown, the Sox — having won two of the first three contests — would add their third win: a single, a passed ball, and a throwing error in the bottom of the 8th Inning gave the home team its go-ahead and winning run. 3-2 was the final score. A most interesting thing happened during the game though: For the first and only time in World Series history, a man was picked off twice in one game. That man was Max Flack. In a close game, every screw-up matters.

Chicago won the next day, but with the Series on the line for Game 6, Flack — who was the considered the NL’s best defensive right fielder — had another miscue. It was a biggie: In the bottom of the 3rd Inning, he dropped George Whiteman’s line drive, allowing two Red Sox runs. They were the only runs Boston would get, or need, that day, as they clinched the World Championship, prevailing 2-1, courtesy of Carl Mays’ complete-game three-hitter.

Some ne’er-do-wells from the infamous Black Sox — the other Chicago team — claimed it was Flacks’ play in 1918 that served as an inspiration for their throwing the 1919 World Series. An intriguing claim — but one never proven.

A Dios

A sweet woman, a family member of a colleague, has passed away. Would you in your prayers remember her, so that she made indeed rest in God’s eternal and beloved peace? Also the same, on his anniversary, for WFB? Many thanks for this.

May The Ancient of Days Watch Over You,

Jack Fowler, who is reachable until the day comes when he is not, at jfowler@nationalreview.com.

National Review

Rush to Rush Judgment

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Rush Limbaugh alongside William F. Buckley Jr. celebrating National Review’s Golden Anniversary in 2005

Dear Weekend Jolter,

As the attending image shows, at NR’s 50th Anniversary gala in 2005 (a sensational celebration held at the National Building Museum in Washington), it mattered very much to Bill Buckley that Rush Limbaugh was at his immediate side that triumphant night. The two were close: mutual admirers and supporters who fought the same enemies by different and complementing means. And now they were reveling in Bill’s accomplishments, accumulated over a half century by relentless advocacy and hard work and a healthy dose of wit.

Both happy warriors are now gone. Resting in peace, oremus.

Well, not all are oremusing. Down here, the news of Rush’s demise sparked an outbreak of grave-dancing glee, and its harsher cemeterial-urological variations. An example: Yale Law School’s Scott J. Shapiro tweeted “I wouldn’t say I was happy Rush Limbaugh died. It’s more like euphoria.” Feeling better now, professor?

Our Brittany Bernstein rounded up the usual suspects to provide a rundown of liberal-celebrity castigating of the departed conservative icon. Do read it: You’ll find the freak flags flying high and snapping in the gales.

Meanwhile, Jim Geraghty, good man, pushes the rock up a hill, calling attention to the practice that should remain in place: We should not speak ill of the dead. A most commendable practice. It should come as no surprise that Big Jim’s essay was vilified by social-media snarks.

Amidst the week’s melancholy (amplified by the onset of the Lenten season) there is much to share. Since you are here, buck up, slap on a smile, and forward march thyself to the WJ.

NAME, RANK, AND LINK

Editorials

Rush Limbaugh: Conservative Talk Radio Icon, RIP

Student Loan Forgiveness: Biden’s New Plan Is Still Bad Policy

Trump, McConnell & Senate Republicans Fight over Future of the Party

It’s Time to Get the National Guard Off Capitol Hill

Rush Reflections

Dan McLaughlin: Rush Limbaugh: A Voice for His Time

Jim Geraghty: Rush Limbaugh vs Howard Stern: Remembering the Media’s Comparison

Scot Bertram: Rush Limbaugh Had Unbreakable Bond with His Listeners

Jack Fowler: Farewell, Rush Limbaugh: A Voice Like No Other

Articles

Rich Lowry: Media Failures on Andrew Cuomo the Lincoln Project — Why No One Believes Anything

Andrew C. McCarthy: The Times Corrects the Record on Officer Sicknick’s Death, Sort Of

Nick Murray: Coronavirus Emergency Powers for Governors Need to Be Restrained

Alexandra DeSanctis: Jen Psaki and the Identity Defense

Howard Husock: Biden’s Executive Order on Housing Won’t Help Minority Groups

Isaac Schoor: The Dishonesty of Biden’s COVID Messaging

Jimmy Quinn: Biden’s Confusion on How to Talk about Genocide

Tim Morrison: Will Biden’s Nominees Confront Red China

Dan McLaughlin: Trump’s Political Movement: The Twelve Flavors

Mario Loyola: Will Trump Voters Lose Trust in Democracy

More Rich: It’s a Blacklist, Pure and Simple

Andrew Micha: America’s Cultural Revolution Will Leave Scars

Elliott Abrams: The Deterrent Message Iran Needs to Hear

David Harsanyi: Bill Gates’ Climate Hysteria

Capital Matters

Brian Riedl on the “T” word: Trillion-Dollar Budget Deficits Are the Largest in Modern History

Daniel Tenreiro finds conservative investing: 2ndVote Funds is a New Counterweight to Stakeholder Capitalism

Timothy Fitzgerald appeals, with tariffs towards none: Oil Tariffs Are Bad for Consumers

From the New Issue of National Review

Kevin Williamson captures the descent: Minnesota Nasty

Sarah Ruden hits a Homer: In Defense of the Classics

Bing West calls Strike Three: Three Wars, No Victory – Why?

Robert VerBruggen is not a minimalist: Minimum-Wage Complexities

Lights. Camera. Review.

Kyle Smith is fine with blacklists. The good ones. Hollywood Double Standards Are the Problem

More Gina: Madeleine Kearns is sure she’s not going away. Gina Carano Won’t Be Canceled

More Kyle, who praises a painter.  Sin Explores Michelangelo’s Unbounded Genius

Armond White weaves on Webb. Jack Webb and Anti-Communist TV Were Better than Today’s Woke Fare

AN EXCERPT ABUNDANZA

Editorials

1. Our formal remembrance of El Rushbo. From the editorial:

He had an outsize role in conservative politics for 30 years and could instantly elevate a cause or argument. He was especially influential when Republicans were out of power, at the beginning of the Clinton years (the new Republican House majority made him an honorary freshman in 1994) and in the Obama years.

His three-hour program, listened to by 20 million people at its height, represented a crack in the dominance of the liberal mass media and foreshadowed the rise of a broader alternative conservative media.

He loved Bill Buckley — the feeling was mutual — and was friends with many people at this institution. A humble man in person, who performed countless acts of personal generosity that no one will ever hear about, he fought his lung cancer at the end with the heart of a lion. R.I.P.

2. Even a diminished debt-cancellation scheme is a bad idea. From the editorial:

The good news is that President Biden has scaled back the Left’s ambitions on both fronts. Where some have called for $50,000 in debt cancellation, Biden seems more comfortable with $10,000, perhaps allowing higher amounts in special circumstances. Biden has also been skeptical of his ability to make this change unilaterally and is asking the Department of Justice to review the law.

The bad news is that even $10,000 of blanket forgiveness is a bad idea, for the same reasons we laid out previously.

Student debt is not a “crisis”; most students graduate with manageable levels of debt, and those with extremely high debt burdens tend to be the folks who got postgraduate degrees or chose to attend expensive private schools. Moreover, if someone has a high debt burden and a low income, he can already, under current law, choose an “income-based” repayment option that forgives the debt after he makes affordable payments for a period. There are certainly sympathetic cases where students were suckered in by colleges’ fraudulent claims, or where students attended school but didn’t graduate, gaining some debt with no degree — but blanket forgiveness, even limited to $10,000, does not target such cases, much less prevent them from continuing.

3. In this corner, Donald Trump. In that corner, Mitch McConnell. We find some of 45’s blows below the belt. From the editorial:

Regardless, the more compelling explanation for the Georgia losses is that Trump divided the party with his outlandish attacks on Georgia officials who wouldn’t endorse his conspiracy theories about the election and discouraged Republican turnout in contests where they didn’t have any votes to spare.

For good measure, Trump included the smear that McConnell is weak on the CCP because of nonexistent business holdings in China.

It is certainly true, as Trump stated in the abusive terms, that McConnell isn’t charismatic; firebrands don’t typically rise to leadership in the Senate. McConnell is, to his credit, an institutionalist. He is also canny, tough-minded, and willing to play the long game in advancing the interests of the Republican Party and of conservatism. This doesn’t mean that his judgment is flawless. He’s made some wrong calls in GOP primary fights over the years, and surely will again.

But he’s genuinely interested in building up his party, rather than tearing it down if he doesn’t get his way. The same can’t be said of his antagonist.

4. That Capitol Hill has become an armed camp is absurd. From the editorial:

To be sure, there are fewer troops: On Inauguration Day, there were some 25,000. Now it’s around 6,000. But already there have been worrying changes to initial assurances, as well as public statements that suggest a more permanent military-style footprint for the Capitol.

Even the original plans called for a continued troop presence in the thousands into March. But according to a D.C. Fox affiliate, assistant secretary for homeland defense and global security Robert Salesses is considering plans to maintain some level of National Guard presence on the Capitol “at least through fall 2021.” And in late January, acting Capitol Hill Police chief Yogananda Pittman suggested that at least some of the current security measures be made permanent. It’s worth remembering, in this context, that the perimeter fencing erected the day after the riot was supposed to be up only for 30 days. We’re past that benchmark, and there is no sign of its coming down anytime soon.

The idea of extending the current extreme security measures on the Hill indefinitely has done the seemingly impossible — achieved bipartisan condemnation. D.C. congressional delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat, and Michigan representative Lisa McClain, a Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, have both spoken out against this prospect. Neither so far has been able to get any answers about what’s coming next.

A Dozen and Then Some Articles of Splendor and Wisdom

1. Researching how the MSM “covered” the Lincoln Project and Andrew Cuomo scandals, Rich Lowry is not surprised that no one believes anything. From the piece:

The Lincoln Project, the great conquering super PAC of the 2020 election, hailed as the work of geniuses and lavished with attention on cable news, has imploded upon revelations that it is a sleazy scam.

And the widely circulated story of the death of Officer Brian Sicknick, a key element of Trump’s second impeachment, is at the very least murky and more complicated than first reported.

It’s one thing to get a story wrong under deadline pressure; it’s quite another to get it wrong despite copious, readily available evidence to the contrary over the course of months, which is the case with the Cuomo and Lincoln Project stories.

All it took to realize that the heroic Cuomo narrative didn’t add up was to look, almost from the very beginning, at any of the COVID trackers that showed New York had one of the worst records in the country in terms of total deaths and deaths per capita.

Amazingly enough, the myth of Cuomo continued unabated even when the governor rescinded his nursing-home policy last May and it was already obvious it had been a profound policy error.

2. Andrew C. McCarthy corrects the record thoroughly. If only the New York Times honestly admitted how it murdered the truth about the death of Officer Brian Sicknick. From the article:

Second, and more significantly, the death of Officer Sicknick became a building block for the House’s impeachment of former President Trump and of the allegations posited by the Democratic House impeachment managers that were publicly filed in their pretrial brief on February 2. By then, there was already substantial reason to question the fire-extinguisher allegation.

Prosecutors have an obligation, rooted in due process and professional ethics, to reveal exculpatory evidence. That includes evidence that is inconsistent with the theory of guilt they have posited. Even if Sicknick’s death was causally connected to the rioting, prosecutors would be obligated to correct the record if it did not happen the way they expressly represented that it happened. The House impeachment managers had not done that last week when NR published my column raising that issue, and to this day, although the impeachment trial is now over, we are still in the dark about the circumstances surrounding the officer’s tragic death at age 42.

Which brings us back to the original Times report. The “updated” version is, to put it mildly, confusing. At first, it attributes to unidentified “authorities” the claim that Sicknick “died from injuries sustained ‘while physically engaging’ with pro-Trump rioters.” The Times then describes Sicknick as “only the fourth member of the force to be killed in the line of duty since its founding two centuries ago.” That assertion is published as if it were an established fact, with no source.

But has it been established that Sicknick was “killed”? Has it been established that he died from injuries sustained while physically engaging with pro-Trump rioters? To my knowledge, it has not. And even the Times implicitly admits that it is unsure of what it is saying.

3. Nick Murray has had enough, and who hasn’t: It’s time to curtail governors’ COVID dictatorships. From the analysis:

In nearly one-quarter of the states, only the governor has the power to issue or terminate an emergency. The legislature is not required to concur with the declaration. This gives the chief executive sole discretion over where and when an emergency exists, and when it ceases to exist. This is true in Vermont, Washington, Ohio, and Hawaii, all of which are among the worst-ranking states when it comes to the potential to abuse emergency power. And Vermont is the worst of the bunch: It allows some emergency orders to remain in effect up to 180 days — yes, six months — after the emergency is terminated.

If the people can’t contact their elected officials to end an emergency, and thus end the use of emergency power, what stops a chief executive from continuously renewing the declaration and using this power in perpetuity? This accurately describes what many Americans have witnessed over the last year. This is an untenable situation that threatens the very idea of representative government.

At the time most of these state laws were constructed, few could have predicted they would be used to micromanage every interaction within society in the face of a pandemic. Indeed, most of these laws were established to help states respond to a natural disaster or terrorist attack, not a public-health matter like COVID-19.

4. Alexandra DeSanctis says one of the many reasons Jen Psaki performs poorly is her fixation with the “identity politics” go-to. From the piece:

We’re less than a month into the Biden administration, and it’s already become readily apparent that White House press secretary Jen Psaki is not very good at her job. Her most obvious tic thus far during evasive briefing-room performances is to dodge questions with the help of identity-politics non sequiturs.

Her very first day on the job, Psaki received a query about President Biden’s imminent plans to undo the Mexico City policy and the Hyde amendment, both of which prevent direct federal funding of abortion.

“I will just take the opportunity to remind all of you that he is a devout Catholic and somebody who attends church regularly,” Psaki replied. “He started his day attending church with his family this morning. But I don’t have anything more for you on that.”

The press corps never received a response about the Mexico City policy, which was revoked the subsequent week. The implication of her non-reply was that the White House did not owe the public an explanation about Biden’s policy stance on abortion; his identity as a Catholic was defense enough.

As it turns out, this reflex is Psaki’s primary means of dispensing with questions to which she has no answers. When the GameStop story was dominating the news cycle, a reporter asked whether the White House was concerned about the stock-market activity and whether there had been conversations with the Securities and Exchange Commission on the subject.

5. When it comes to housing policy, Howard Husock finds the Biden administration swapping out old sins for new one. From the article:

It is incontrovertible, as President Biden stated in his executive order, that “during the 20th century, Federal, State, and local governments systematically implemented racially discriminatory housing policies that contributed to segregated neighborhoods and inhibited equal opportunity and the chance to build wealth for Black, Latino, Asian American and Pacific Islander, and Native American families, and other underserved communities.” Most significantly, the Federal Housing Authority would not insure mortgages for blacks in white neighborhoods, and racial covenants — deed restrictions against blacks (and Jews, by the way) — were the norm into the 1950s. Urban freeways ploughed through low-income, often (though not exclusively) minority, neighborhoods, displacing thousands. Today, we are left with the Cross Bronx Expressway and the Chrysler Freeway.

Even this apology is, however, selective. African Americans, particularly, suffered the tragedy of a (still) favorite progressive program: public housing. A key history here is underappreciated. Historically black neighborhoods — Central Harlem, Detroit’s Black Bottom, Chicago’s Bronzeville, Desoto-Carr in St. Louis — were denigrated as slums, even though they were home to large numbers of residential property owners and hundreds of black-owned businesses. When they were cleared to make way for public housing, they were replaced by high-rise hells in which ownership — asset accumulation — was by definition impossible. The social fabric of self-help, civil society, and upward mobility was ripped apart. Blacks have always been, and remain, disproportionately represented in public and otherwise subsidized housing, often trapped into long-term dependency by counterproductive policies: When their income rises, so does rent.

6. Biden’s COVID messaging is utterly dishonest, says Isaac Schoor. From the analysis:

The Biden administration has been similarly lackadaisical in its approach to school reopenings. White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced last week that its goal was to have 51 percent of schools open “at least one day a week.” This target suffers from the same problem as the vaccination target: It’s already been met, and exceeded. Around 64 percent of school districts were already offering some kind of in-person instruction when Psaki spoke. The objective, given the enormous costs of virtual instruction on students, should be to open up the remaining 36 percent and turn partial reopenings back into full-time ones. To some extent, Biden walked Psaki’s stunningly slothful goal back during a CNN town-hall event on Tuesday, saying “I think many of them [will be open] five days a week. The goal will be five days a week,” and calling Psaki’s statement a “mistake.” Questions remain, though: If it was only a mistake, why did it take a week for it to be corrected? And why is the correction so vague as to leave room for fudging? How many, exactly, constitutes “many” to the Biden administration?

Biden’s expectations game is a symptom of a greater problem: He never had the plan for handling the pandemic that he said he did. His campaign-season contention that he did was always a smoke-and-mirrors act that had more to do with tone and messaging than it did policy. To cover up the absence of tangible changes that it’s brought to the table, the new administration has tried to flood the zone with already achieved objectives and then tout their achievement as accomplishments.

Dishonesty has many forms, and the Biden administration has proven itself no more forthright than its predecessors, even if its deceptions are sometimes more artful.

7. Jimmy Quinn puts the spotlight on President Biden’s confusion on how to take on Red China’s Uyghur genocide. From the piece:

This human-rights-oriented approach has also guided its engagement with China. Both Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken raised Beijing’s severe human-rights abuses during their calls with their Chinese counterparts, and both consistently raise these concerns in their public speeches. On several occasions, Blinken has confirmed that he agrees with his predecessor’s finding that Beijing is carrying out crimes against humanity and genocide against the Uyghurs. The administration has also been clear that the U.S. is in competition with China, even “extreme competition,” as Biden recently put it.

But these officials apparently have trouble answering the question that logically flows from their condemnations: Can the United States seek any form of engagement with a regime carrying out forced sterilizations, systematic rape, and other unspeakable horrors?

Blinken thinks that the U.S. can deal with such a regime, even as it carries out an extermination of one of the ethnic minority groups under its control. He told NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly yesterday, “This has been a challenge for American administrations going back decades and decades, and we have to be able to find ways to do both.” Kelly then asked if the U.S. should boycott the 2022 Beijing Olympics. Blinken emphasized the need to prevent the importation of goods produced by the Xinjiang forced-labor system. “But we have to be able to do multiple things at the same time,” he said, pointing to Russia to show that Washington can cut deals with the regime it simultaneously condemns, and apparently echoing Biden’s recent pledge to “work with Beijing, when it’s in America’s interest to do so.”

8. Tim Morrison asks: Will Biden’s nominess face questions about the administration’s Red China policies? From the essay:

While national security has traditionally been treated as the domain of just a few federal departments and agencies — the Pentagon, the State Department, the intelligence community, and the National Nuclear Security Administration (a semi-autonomous component of the Department of Energy) — it’s now clear that this siloed way of thinking uniquely exposes us to the malign activities of the Chinese Communist Party.

As just one example, consider CCP activities that have placed the Department of Education at the center of national security for the first time. The Thousand Talents Program, a CCP venture, identifies academics who facilitate American innovation and brings them into contact and friendship with Beijing. And then there are the dozens of Confucius Institutes operating on college campuses across the United States, supposedly for innocuous cross-cultural contact but in reality serving as bases for CCP operations and propaganda. The fact that the Biden administration has withdrawn a rule requiring educational institutions to report any relationships with Confucius Institutes raises serious concerns about their appreciation of the role of these initiatives in the CCP’s malign influence campaign.

Similarly, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has always had a role in biodefense — especially during the pandemic. However, with scandals at the world famous M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and the Moffat Cancer Center related to China’s attempts to steal American medical breakthroughs, HHS, too, now has a national-security role. The Department of Justice, the Department of Commerce, NASA . . . the examples go on and on.

9. It ain’t as plentiful as Baskin Robbins, but Dan McLaughlin discerns 12 flavors of Trumpism. From the beginning of the piece:

How much of “Trumpism” will survive in the Republican Party now that Donald Trump is gone from the White House? That is the hot question of the day on the right. Much depends, of course, on whether Trump himself is able to stage a comeback in 2024, but there are still years of political battles and midterm elections between now and then. We can’t answer what Trumpism will look like without Trump in office or running for office until we decide what “Trumpism” is in the first place.

Despite vigorous efforts to refashion “Trumpism” into a single, coherent set of ideas, the fact is that there were multiple new things that Trump brought to Republican politics. Not all of those things necessarily go together. Some were more helpful to Trump and the party, some harmful. Some are likelier to endure in the party than others. Predicting the future of Trumpism will be easier if we try to untangle its different strains. Let us consider the twelve major flavors of Trumpism, ranging from the good to the very ugly.

Kitchen-Table Trumpism: The most appealing and persuasive argument for Trump’s reorientation of Republican thinking goes like this: The party had lost its way by embracing a “Zombie Reaganism” that prioritized professions of fealty to conservative ideals, veneration of the name of Saint Ronnie, and efforts to proclaim oneself “severely conservative” (in Mitt Romney’s words). The party’s leaders made too many promises they couldn’t deliver or had no intention of trying to deliver.

In this telling, Republican policy proposals lost their tether to Earth. Leaders such as Paul Ryan talked about budget deficits and entitlement and spending cuts that were fiscally responsible at the macro level, but were of no interest to ordinary voters. Republicans pledged to repeal Obamacare, eliminate cabinet departments, and turn the tax code into a postcard, but never made a serious effort to make any of this happen. The mismatch between the promises and the realities left them to explain to the folks back home that, “Hey, at least we reduced the rate of growth of spending below what the other side wanted,” a claim that the average voter had no means to assess.

Meanwhile, leading Republicans threw red meat to the party’s populist wing that they themselves did not believe in or intend to pursue. George W. Bush ran on a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. John McCain pledged to “complete the danged fence” along the border. They never really tried.

10. Mario Loyola wonders if Trump voters will remain convinced of the benefits of Democracy. From the article:

How did we get here? One hundred years of progressivism have left us with a constitutional system that elevates special interests over the public interest. The swamp of progressive government is sapping the vitality of our democracy. But Trump and too many of his supporters increasingly confuse the swamp of progressive government with democracy itself.

History suggests that America, like other great powers before it, may one day enter into a prolonged decline and fall. At some point, it may be impossible to deny that our democratic government has become irredeemably corrupt and is exploiting Americans for the benefit of capitalists and foreign enemies. It will be more and more tempting to conclude that institutions and procedures can no longer be defended, that we must fall back to a stronger line of defense — identity and community — and fight back however we can, whatever the collateral damage to our institutions.

That apocalyptic vision is increasingly common on both left and right. It is the weirdly common ingredient in both the Trump diehards’ worldview and that of Antifa. But democracy cannot be defended by abandoning compromise, just as equity cannot be secured by abandoning equal protection of the laws. Our democratic institutions may be rife with dysfunction, but they are still a beacon of freedom, they still allow hundreds of millions of Americans to live as they were meant to live, and they are still worth defending with our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.

11. Rich Lowry says “Cancel Culture” is just a new way of saying “Blacklist.” From the beginning of the piece:

Cancellations had a precursor in the Hollywood Blacklist.

Why should anyone get upset about the ongoing wave of cancellations across the culture, when the government isn’t involved?

This isn’t a First Amendment issue, we are told, rather private entities making their own decisions to disassociate themselves from people who have said or done controversial things.

This line of argument, often made by cancellation apologists, is lacking in a number of respects, including that there is no reason it wouldn’t also justify the Hollywood Blacklist that the Left considers one of the darkest moments in American history.

12. Andrew Micha believes America’s cultural revolution will leave wounds and scars. From the article:

The religion of wokeness taught in our schools and preached in most realms of American life rests on a mutated strand of Marxism, only this time it is not the oppressed proletariat that is to be freed by the party elite and given the “correct” consciousness. Today the victim groups are those races deemed historically oppressed along with sexual minorities. Unlike the Stalinist chimera of a “classless society” that was to be birthed by communism, the woke acolytes of today are working toward a brave new world of racial justice, and of absolute equality for all genders and sexual orientations, understood in terms of equal outcomes and proportional representation. The social-media milieu that they have grown up in — Instagram, Twitter and Tik-Tok — has nurtured a culture of sound bites and moral preening. Such preening leaves little room for nuance, and gradually sharpens group cleavages. It also strengthens the conviction among millennials and Gen Z of the virtue of their cause and the moral bankruptcy of those who either oppose it or simply fail to display the requisite zeal. With political difference cast as an ethical contest between right and wrong, compromise becomes a source of shame, fueling the Leninist politics of kto-kogo (“Who gets whom.”) The result? Arguably the greatest fracturing of our national fabric since the Civil War, one that has made it nearly impossible for many Gen Z and American millennials to concede that their opponents — which is to say the rest of society — even deserve to participate in our democracy. The other side is not merely misguided but increasingly illegitimate.

Today’s American wokeness is the “Radicalism Olympics” — by definition it has an ever-receding telos, with no break of any kind, and few limitations. And like every collectivist totalitarian impulse, radicalism breeds the fear, particularly among its devotees, that one may be decreed insufficiently radical. Such evaluation necessarily leads to expulsion from the Church of Wokeness and consignation to the realm of the “other” — much as the young Stalinists denounced older communists who did not worship enough the party and the boss.

The values gap that is increasingly on display between Gen Z and millennials on the one hand, and the rest of America on the other, goes beyond the traditional left-right or liberal-conservative disconnect of decades past. The religion of wokeness professed by our credentialed class, especially those just coming into adulthood, is fueled by an unquestioned moral superiority over much of America. It is full of disdain animated by an unshakeable sense of purpose to reeducate the country and save it from the stain of injustice, past and present. This young generation of Americans — aided by their adult enablers in academia, the media, politics, and the corporate world — appeal heavily to emotion, repeating with an almost religious-like fervor the mantra of eliminating “privilege,” an amorphous and ill-defined term used to besmirch one’s opponents. Throughout, they fail to see the biting irony of their own station in life, which is among the most privileged and pampered groups in this nation’s history. It is this moral certitude that carries with it the seeds of a totalitarian impulse unlike anything this country experienced in the past, for it carries with it the categorical imperative to stamp out what it deems to be evil.

13. Elliott Abrams describes how the Biden administration must respond to Iran’s aggression. From the article:

On February 15, Iran-backed Shia militia groups in Iraq fired a barrage of missiles — a minimum of 14 — at an American base in Erbil, Iraq. One contractor was killed and five were wounded; one American soldier was wounded.

That no American was killed was a matter of luck, it seems.

The U.S. reaction has so far been verbal only. Secretary of State Antony Blinken released a statement, saying “We are outraged by today’s rocket attack in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region. . . . I have reached out to Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Masrour Barzani to discuss the incident and to pledge our support for all efforts to investigate and hold accountable those responsible.”

“Those accountable” are sitting in Tehran, and this is a key test of the Biden administration: If the United States reacts with words alone, the Biden administration will show the Iranians that such attacks are cost-free. The only lesson that Iran’s leaders will learn from such a response is that the Biden administration’s desire to return to nuclear diplomacy will permit Iran to put American lives at risk whenever it wishes. If the U.S. reaction is to strike at the Iraqi Shia group that claimed the attack, it will once again play Tehran’s game. Iran is pleased to allow those proxies to absorb American strikes while it acts with impunity.

14. David Harsanyi cranks up the Hysteri-O-Meter and finds Bill Gates’ climate-change madness has overloaded the circuits. From the analysis:

Gates, for instance, told Cooper that “the Syrian War was a twentieth of what climate migration will look like.” (Is “a twentieth of the Syrian War” a scientific calculation?) In his book, he claims that in “the worst drought ever recorded in Syria — which lasted from 2007 to 2010 — some 1.5 million people left farming areas for the cities” and set the stage “for the armed conflict that started in 2011.”

The climate crisis has been ongoing for decades, we’re told, yet Gates is reduced to talking about Syria — whose conflict environmentalists blame on climate change, and others of us blame on sectarian violence, ISIS, and Baathist strongmen — because so few wars are fought over resources anymore. While Gates has been warning about the climate crisis, millions of people worldwide have secured regular access to food and water for the first time. Whereas the natural elements once regularly killed many Americans, since 1980, all death caused by natural disasters and heat and cold is well under 0.5 percent of the total. Deaths due to climate events have plummeted. Extreme global poverty has plummeted. State-based conflicts have plummeted. Air pollution has plummeted and deaths from air pollution have plummeted. When the state of the earth is improving in almost every quantifiable way, alarmists are compelled to rely on prophecies that have not only been notoriously wrong but rarely take into account human adaptability.

“How might climate change affect you and your family?” Gates rhetorically asks in his book. Every situation he offers as a reason for concern would almost surely be worse without affordable energy. Gates, for example, argues that rainfall has become less predictable for farmers. Some years they have 22 inches. Other years, 29. In the past, rainfall was apparently the same every year. Gates cobbles together a few stories about farmers struggling with this problem. Our very food is at risk, he warns. “It may sound as if I’m cherry-picking the most extreme example, but things like this are already happening,” Gates concedes, “especially to poor farmers, and in a few decades they could be happening to far more people.”

Yes, Gates cherry-picks throughout the book. American farming yields have dramatically increased because of technological efficiencies. Farmers have adapted to recent climate variations, as they’ve been doing for thousands of years. Food is now far more affordable, “especially” for the poor. Gates’s ideas would threaten this reality far more than climate change would.

Rest in Peace, Rush, the Strife Is O’er

1. He was a consequential voice, for decades. Dan McLaughlin explains the talents shared daily by El Rushbo. From the article:

Five towering figures, all of them fairly fresh to the fight in the mid to late 1980s, led the way on different fronts. All of them were converts to Reaganism, but each had come of age in the darker Nixon years. Newt Gingrich led the populist-conservative revolt that wrested the House back from the Democrats in 1994 for the first time in 40 years. Rudy Giuliani, elected mayor of New York in 1993 after a narrow defeat in 1989, led the battle against urban crime and decay, taking conservative policy onto the most hostile domestic turf and winning. Antonin Scalia led the intellectual movement to restore legitimacy and rigor to the interpretation of the Constitution, beating the academy at its own game. Former Bush consultant Roger Ailes started Fox News in 1996, creating a television platform for ideas and perspectives that had previously been limited to radio and print.

The fifth, and as important as any of the other four, was Rush Limbaugh.

American conservatism, like any other political movement or tendency, is a mix of the light and the dark; of hope and fear, optimism and pessimism, altruism and self-interest. These are the stuff of humanity, all of it legitimately the subject of politics, but too much darkness can poison a movement. Reagan had his own share of the darkness — witness his battles with Hollywood communists in the Fifties and campus radicals in the Sixties — but he had made an art of elevating the light in conservatism: economic opportunity, the bedrock importance of family, the blessings of liberty, the stirrings of patriotism, the sacredness of human life, the shining city on the hill as a beacon of hope for the world’s oppressed.

Rush always understood, at an instinctive level, how to tap into both light and darkness. If you are not a conservative, or if you listened to Rush only in his last years, it may surprise you today to see quite what a variety of people on the right were fans of his at one point or another in their careers. I was an active Rush listener mainly in the early 1990s, after one of my college roommates turned me on to him. He was at his peak then, and a great evangelist for Reaganite optimism at a time when Reaganism and populism were allies, not enemies.

2. Something was very amiss, writes Jim Geraghty, about the MSM’s once-upon-a-time go-to comparison of Rush and crudemaster Howard Stern. From the Corner post:

Lumping Limbaugh and Stern together reflects the limited thinking of the mainstream media of that era. But perhaps there was a common thread that the article missed. The two radio giants had a staff, but no editors, other than the FCC’s efforts to rein in Stern. No large institutions held authority over them; they didn’t answer to a board of directors or investors. They quickly made fortunes and didn’t need the money; they could walk away from their careers at any point if it became too much of a hassle. They became one-man institutions — eventually followed by the likes of Matt Drudge and Joe Rogan.

Their paths since that article illuminate that the two men defined success differently. Stern certainly wasn’t apolitical, and did run for governor in 1994 as a Libertarian, but withdrew from the race after refusing to fill out financial disclosure forms, contending he had already revealed enough about his life on air. He endorsed George Pataki, and his interest in politics waned. As Bruce Bawer laid out in City Journal last year, Stern gradually morphed into part of the Hollywood establishment. He’s now the kind of dangerous, outrageous, shameless provocateur NBC can trust to safely sit as a judge on America’s Got Talent.

Limbaugh intermittently stepped into the larger media establishment — his short-lived television show, a very brief run as a commentator on ESPN, some funny vocal cameos on Family Guy. But in the end, Rush Limbaugh had created his own world through radio and didn’t need to branch out. He didn’t need any newer listeners or broader appeal, or greater approval, and never sought it.

3. Mutual Affection Society: The profound affection that Rush and his listeners had for each other is given justice by Scot Bertram. From the beginning of the piece:

Early in 2020, a caller to The Rush Limbaugh Show made an unusual request.

Following a conversation with the host, he asked to speak off-air to the program’s call screener, Bo Snerdley. Limbaugh, perplexed, agreed to make that happen. He later admitted a suspicion the caller was trying to “grease the wheels” to return to the show at a later date.

Instead, as Limbaugh found out during a commercial break, the caller made an unsolicited offer to donate one of his lungs to the iconic radio host, if it were to aid in his recovery. Snerdley then told Limbaugh he had been receiving similar calls from other listeners. Multiple offers, every day.

Back on-air, a clearly emotional Limbaugh was taken aback by the revelation. Perhaps even he had underestimated the power and strength of the relationship he had built with his audience over more than 30 years on the radio.

Radio is, by nature, an intimate medium. Many listeners tune in while they’re alone — driving, walking or exercising, working around the house. On headphones or earbuds, the phenomenon is even more pronounced. The host, your friend, is talking directly into your ear, perhaps even whispering at times for effect.

4. The Author of This Missive penned a remembrance that seems to have had some resonance. From the piece:

There were happier times. Nearly 30 years ago, Rush Limbaugh first graced the cover of National Review. The headline about the radio pundit who had transformed the AM band by connecting with millions of far-flung Americans was direct: “Leader of the Opposition.” It was a statement, not a question. And for those many millions, and others who were yet born, who would come one day to the same conclusion as their parents, it bore up despite controversies (an addiction, a bizarre Monday Night Football uproar that served as an early indication of the approaching cancel culture) and normal realities. There is a natural propensity for things (even, and maybe especially, Republican politics) to become stale, boring, and even irritating, a function of time passing, as the familiar becomes repetitive becomes oh-so-yesterday. But the curse of an enduring sameness never touched Rush Limbaugh. Every day there was something to be said, some guidance to be imparted, spoken to an audience that very much wanted his take, and treated it as Gospel. Boring? Not a chance: Rush Limbaugh leaves this stage with the immense popularity he seemed to have gained, overnight, as Bill Buckley described (in a 1992 Firing Line interview) with a short, sweet historical reference: “Veni, vidi, vici.”

Rush may have conquered the airwaves, and conservatism, but he was in turn conquered by the founder of this enterprise. Rush Limbaugh’s principal hero was his father. But after dad came William F. Buckley Jr. He was, simply, an idol. And soon enough, a close friend. Impressed by the radio populist’s impact, Bill sought out Rush, a dream come true of sorts. They hit it off, at once, and thrilled to each other’s company. But beyond the enduring friendship, if Bill Buckley imagined the conservative movement he toiled to create was going to expand and prosper courtesy of the unique talents carried over the ether every Monday through Friday at noon, Eastern time, packaged in this eloquent and entertaining college dropout from Cape Girardeau, he would have been right.

Capital Matters

1. That’s “trillion,” with a “T” — Brian Riedel looks at the rise in budget-debt insanity. From the article:

Like trillion-dollar deficits, trillion-dollar legislation is a relatively new phenomenon. From the mid-1980s through the 1990s, many of the largest bills were crafted as short-term deficit-reduction packages, typically saving around 1.2 percent of GDP annually (the equivalent of $250 billion in today’s economy). The budget moved into surplus in 1998, and by January 2001 the Congressional Budget Office had (quite questionably) forecast a $5.6 trillion budget surplus over the decade. At that point, President George W. Bush broke the trillion-dollar barrier by signing into law a tax cut estimated to reduce that projected surplus by $1.3 trillion over the decade. But even in that era, figures remained smaller. State-budget shortfalls in 2003 led to a Congressional fight over an eventual $20 billion in additional state Medicaid aid, and the following year Congress seemingly broke the bank by creating a Medicare drug entitlement with a then-stratospheric cost of $400 billion over the decade. During this period, the response to the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were funded typically (but not always) in increments between $40 billion and $120 billion. President Bush vetoed the 2008 farm bill over its unjustified $20 billion spending increase.

Inflationary growth does not negate these comparisons. With the exception of the 2001 tax cuts, adjusting these figures for the 38 percent cumulative inflation (or even 75 percent increase in GDP) since the early 2000s does not make them comparable to today’s proposals that begin in the trillions of dollars.

During policy debates, figures like millions, billions, and trillions are used interchangeably. So here is a useful distinction: A $1 million program costs just under a penny per household. A $1 billion program costs $8 per household, while a $1 trillion program costs $8,000 per household. And yet social media is filled with Mathematical illiteracy is expensive.

2. “Stakeholder capitalism” has competition, reports Daniel Tenreiro. From the piece:

A former U.S. representative has teamed up with financial professionals to offer an alternative. 2ndVote Funds — founded by former Congresswoman Diane Black (R., Tenn.), along with David L. Black and Daniel Grant — will provide investment products, such as ETFs and actively managed funds, that use a conservative or libertarian framework to allocate capital.

The company, which launches today, is an offshoot of 2ndVote Inc., a research provider that scores companies on a socially conservative scale. 2ndVote Funds has started off with two products: the Life Neutral Plus ETF, which invests in pro-life businesses, and the Society Defended ETF, which invests in businesses that defend the Second Amendment.

“There are no asset managers, ETFs, or mutual funds countering the trend” of stakeholder capitalism, says CEO Daniel Grant. He sees the company as a much-needed alternative to the rise of progressive corporate governance.

Grant cites recent examples as evidence of corporations’ attempting to effect social change: “Amazon dumped Parler, Twitter dumped Trump, banks exclude the gun industry from corporate credit.” Americans investing in their retirement accounts may unwittingly be funding these activities.

2ndVote Funds has enlisted a roster of industry veterans from both Wall Street and Washington. Kevin A. Hassett, a senior adviser to National Review Capital Matters, is serving on 2ndVote’s advisory board, as is Andy Puzder, the former CEO of CKE Restaurants. 2ndVote will also work alongside Laffer Tengler, the investment firm headed by Art Laffer Jr.

3. Oil tariffs will kybosh consumers, warns Timothy Fitzgerald. From the analysis:

The oil-tariff idea has deeper roots, going back to the Suez Crisis during the Eisenhower administration. While those may seem like halcyon days for the U.S. oil industry, tariffs did not change the trajectory of long-term decline in domestic production. All the more ironic to revive this policy now, with the U.S. a net energy exporter for the first time in 75 years. Nonetheless, some producers are preparing to mount an effort to impose a tariff on oil imports under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, the same authority that the Trump administration used to put tariffs on imported steel and aluminum.

Tariffs create problems. One is that the costs largely fall on our own consumers. The second is that, to the extent they affect foreign interests, they often hit friends and allies. In the case of oil, that means Canada, Mexico, and other neighbors. Since the beginning of 2020, over 85 percent of U.S. oil imports came from the Western Hemisphere, overwhelmingly from Canada and Mexico. What about Saudi Arabia and Venezuela? What about Russia? What about the other member states in OPEC? Actually, we really don’t import much oil from any of those places — the average over the past year is about 12 percent of total oil imports from all OPEC members. That might seem like a lot of oil to a single producer, but the global oil market is large and complex. The option to buy and sell on the global market provides American firms flexibility and is likely to help domestic prices on balance.

It has been a rough year for the oil industry, but things are looking slightly better, even as clouds remain on the policy and economic horizons. The path to recovery does not wend through protectionism, certainly not when the United States is producing more energy than it can consume. Oil producers petitioning the new administration for tariffs are among the most desperate in the country, and they should prepare for disappointment.

The March 8, 2021 Issue of NR Awaits

As is our custom, we share a sampling of articles, essays, and reviews from the new issue. Here’s a quartet for your consideration.

1. Kevin Williamson profiles the hellhole better known as Minneapolis. From the cover story:

If there is one thing Minnesota Democrats can count on, it’s this: You ain’t never woke enough. Somebody can always outwoke you. Running for reelection, Hodges finished third in a field of five in 2017 and was replaced by Jacob Frey, the doorknob currently serving as mayor, a white-shoe radical lawyer who was buffaloed into letting rioters run amok and burn down his city. He tried to finesse his way to a third-way solution in the face of demands to defund the police but in the end signed a budget imposing millions of dollars of cuts on the police department in order to appease the Left.

The department now has hundreds fewer officers than it says it needs to do its job. With violent crime soaring, the city council unanimously voted to approve funding to hire more officers — but three of its members are working on a plan to abolish the police department entirely, replacing it with a new “public safety” agency that would provide social services in addition to law enforcement with progressive characteristics. A left-wing coalition comprising groups ranging from the Sex-Workers Outreach Project of Minneapolis to the Minnesota Youth Collective (“founded by young, queer, female-identifying people who practice intersectionality in organizing”) is working on a ballot initiative to the same end.

So where does that leave Minneapolis?

A great deal is going to depend on the upcoming trial of Derek Chauvin. In February, the New York Times reported that Chauvin had offered to plead guilty to third-degree murder in the death of George Floyd but Attorney General William Barr had scuttled the deal, believing that that agreement was too lenient. (Federal sign-off was required because the deal would have included an assurance that Chauvin would not be brought up on civil-rights or other federal charges in the future.) The trial is imminent, and the outcome is uncertain.

Thirty-Eighth and Chicago, the intersection at which Chauvin pinned down Floyd with his knee, remains closed to traffic. It won’t reopen until after the trial, if it ever does. Office workers downtown already are being told not to come to work during the trial. The state already has budgeted millions of dollars for security and anti-riot measures, and the National Guard will be called out to protect the courthouse precincts.

2. Cicero is holding on Line One: Sarah Ruden defends the classics. From the essay:

The hardest lesson of “empowerment” is finally being presented with the evidence that you, you yourself, are not interesting after all. For me the crisis came when I started to teach. Language teaching is in fact the crucible of objectivity as well as of power in classics — social objectivity along with cognitive objectivity. Teaching Latin or Greek entails a lot of plodding work that the students, who in elite institutions are all celebrities, see no reason to do; as they view it, the best the work could achieve for them would be to make them into you, the teacher, with whom they are not impressed in the slightest.

The extra difficulty for me was that I thought I was the only celebrity there. After that first course of mine, I had a climactic breakdown and sulked off mainstream classics forever, though I did finish my degree and put in three years as a lecturer in post-apartheid South Africa. Ironically, I’ve had a better time pouting in exile from the American classics academy than many of my classmates have who stuck around. Typical teaching loads are three or more courses a semester, and the committee work is no joke. To the exile, the classics tools, lying idle on the floor, whisper (for instance), “Hey, kid, look: Those medical researchers can’t even spell — they need us for editing and rewriting. We can make money while we keep looking for something more fun.”

All this is not to say that I didn’t have valid complaints about the field. The Harvard Department of the Classics in the Eighties and early Nineties, before a harassment scandal that made it into the national press and instigated reforms, was brutally sexist. (Racism could be daintily avoided; none of us had ever heard of “minorities” except on TV.) I remember staring at a luscious graduate student from overseas, the mistress of a senior professor; another professor, sensing her embarrassment — everyone at this gathering was staring — soothed her by kindly inquiring about her travels. My mind squirmed through six or seven makeover possibilities for myself, but I knew it was hopeless: I could never have that personal pull, could never trade my desirability for a chance to publish my translations, for a good job . . . I then felt, quite straightforwardly, that I needed to die. In later years, the feeling became the purest rage. I wanted Boylston Hall burned to the ground and the whole classics faculty driven across the river to Roxbury and reduced to sweating over Burger King fryers.

Idiotic, to let them distract me from all the solid power that classics had given me. Most useful to me as a cultural journalist has been classical literature’s sheer duration. Writing systems of the eastern Mediterranean are the oldest in the world (and their literatures begin by subsuming long oral traditions); Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, because of those reviled hegemonic privileges supporting them, form remarkably continuous traditions, allowing concentrated and reiterative contemplation. The collective contemplation is a massive, history-spanning version of the individual classics career; both properly invite self-reflection and growth, and in time naturally crumble layers of rage and arrogance that form in the usual imbecilic human way.

3. America has fumbled three wars, in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and Bing West contemplates – why? From the beginning of the piece:

America is the most powerful country in the history of the world, yet it has not won any of the three major wars it has fought over the past half century. This has not been due to a lack of effort and persistence. Our troops fought in Vietnam for nine years and in Iraq for a dozen. We’re still fighting after 20 years in Afghanistan, where our generals are asking the Taliban to stop attacking. That’s not a sign of success; the victor does not make such requests. The fact is that in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, America has failed in its mission to develop and sustain democracies.

What accounts for this trifecta of failure? Through luck and poor shooting by our enemies, in all three wars I was able to witness both the actual fighting on the ground and the creation of the high-level policies that shaped the wars. In this article, I lay out what I believe were the root causes of the failures. Oscar Wilde once remarked, “Two kinds of people are fascinating: people who know absolutely everything, and people who know absolutely nothing.” I’m rendering one man’s opinion, while hoping to fall into neither category.

Broadly speaking, leadership in war comes from three hubs. The first consists of the military commanders who design strategy and decide how our troops will fight. The second hub is the policy-makers, including the president as commander in chief and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs as his military adviser, plus the theater commander, the CIA, the State Department, and the secretary of defense, who all give input. The third hub is the culture and popular mood of our country, as reflected by congressional votes and the slant of the mainstream press. The press does not report “just the facts”; rather, it presents a point of view by selecting which facts to focus upon. The popular mood is the ultimate fulcrum of political power, because the policy hub can’t fight a war without resources from Congress

4. Robert VerBruggen explains the complexities and nasty consequences of the Biden administration’s call for major hikes in the minimum wage. From the analysis:

Then there’s the matter of how much of a wage hike the beneficiaries would actually get to keep. Minimum-wage supporters often treat it as a selling point that low-wage workers can qualify for government benefits such as food stamps, cash welfare, housing subsidies, and the like, and that they’d rely on these benefits less if they were paid more. No conservative should celebrate reliance on government aid either, of course, but it must be said that these programs can be downright punitive toward workers who get raises.

In 2019, the Department of Health and Human Services estimated that households with children just above the poverty line tend to lose about half of any additional income to benefit cuts and taxes. More generally, those who make at least 75 percent of the poverty line normally lose at least a fifth of any new income, though people poorer than that can face lower or even negative tax rates thanks to the safety net’s work incentives. (As a benchmark, a 40-hour-a-week minimum-wage job will lift an individual over the poverty line this year and even keep a two-person household above the 75 percent mark.) This, too, complicates the question of whose money is being transferred to whom: The government is playing the game as well.

What happens when you put all these effects together? Well, these phenomena are all controversial individually, so it’s something of a fool’s errand to try. Nonetheless, Thomas MaCurdy ran some simulations in a 2015 study, calculating what would happen if businesses didn’t reduce employment but did pass the costs of a minimum-wage hike through to their customers. He found that this arrangement was basically a regressive tax that “allocates benefits as higher earnings nearly evenly across the income distribution” (because low-wage workers so often come from higher-income households), and that the government would take back about a quarter of the wage increases.

Lights. Camera. Review.

1. Kyle Smith paints a pretty fresco of the new film about Michelangelo, Sin. From the beginning of the review:

Michelangelo looks up at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and decides it’s . . . a disaster. The perspective is all wrong. It looks completely different from the floor than it does from on top of the scaffolding where he painted it. He must start painting over the frescoes immediately. When visitors arrive, he pleads with them not to come in. A year! Just one more year to complete the project! The pope must not be allowed to see the travesty he’s created! He gets drunk, runs away, and hides in shame.

Others see the work somewhat differently: as the masterpiece of all masterpieces. The pope calls Michelangelo “the Divine.” And still Michelangelo grouses. The only true divine artist is Dante, he believes; he has memorized Inferno. (Whenever anyone mentions Leonardo or Raphael, however, he makes it clear that he thinks his supposed rivals are hacks.)

Sin, a richly immersive study in genius told in Italian by the 83-year-old Russian director Andrei Konchalovsky (whose equally vivid and penetrating film on a Soviet debacle, Dear Comrades!, has just been released on Hulu), situates the audience both in Michelangelo’s cruel and soiled world and in his self-lacerating, perfervid mind. Genius may not be the spouse of neuroticism, but they certainly seem to go on a lot of dates together. Muttering and fretting and dressed like a peasant, Michelangelo (fiercely portrayed by Alberto Testone) is forever tortured by visions (angels, demons), wracked by money worries, and unsettled by feuds with family and colleagues. Also, he thinks someone is going to poison him.

2. More Kyle: He whitewashes blacklists when they’re red. Well, not really . . . but shares right and wrong grounds for cinema shunnery. From the piece:

In short, blacklists themselves aren’t the problem. The problem is that in Hollywood, straying one inch right of the center gets you labeled extreme and canceled, while if your progressive dues are paid up, you can say whatever you want without consequence. Anti-Semitism, for instance, is associated with both extremes of the political spectrum, but it’s only held against Hollywood conservatives. Two years ago, known Democrat John Cusack shared a sickening anti-Semitic image, lied about it, and remained employed (on an Amazon Prime TV series called Utopia that failed when it debuted last fall). He’ll be back.

Carano, on the other hand, was fired for making an overwrought metaphorical comparison between her ideological opponents and Nazis, which is a rhetorical move so common on the left that you’d be hard-pressed to find an outspoken progressive or mainstream media outlet that hasn’t employed it. (Her own co-star, Pedro Pascal, for instance, used a Nazi analogy to criticize the Trump administration’s child-separation policy.) She also made a very mild joke about pronouns (“beep/bop/boop)” that only a rage-aholic activist could possibly be offended by, expressed the same annoyance lots of Americans feel about mask mandates, and indicated she was worried about election fraud, which Democrats up to and including Hillary Clinton routinely do whenever they lose elections. All of this was deliberately exaggerated by progressives to paint a picture of Carano as an anti-Semitic transphobe who claimed the election was stolen. After she was fired, someone noticed that she’d also shared a cartoon image depicting a cabal of greedy bankers controlling the world, but this is fairly routine populist stuff. Carano said she didn’t know about a previous version of the image (in which the bankers had huge noses) and there was nothing in the picture she shared to indicate Jewishness. (More on that here.)

3. More Carano: Madeleine Kearns argues she will transcend the ruckus. From the article:

Flannery O’Connor once explained how it is that “righteous” art can be indistinguishable from propaganda (she was talking of Catholicism and novelists, but the point is applicable to politics as well):

The sorry religious novel comes about when the writer supposes that because of his belief, he is somehow dispensed from the obligation to penetrate concrete reality. He will think that the eyes of the Church or of the Bible or of his particular theology have already done the seeing for him, and that his business is to rearrange this essential vision into satisfying patterns, getting himself as little dirty in the process as possible.

Conservative artists ought to fight against the Hollywood culture-war machine without resorting to the same cynical tactics. If art convinces, it does so indirectly, on account of its likeness to life. The true test of whether art has succeeded on these grounds is whether (like life) its meaning is multilayered and/or open to interpretation. One movie that recently broke the Hollywood mold was A Quiet Place, a horror film written by Bryan Woods, Scott Beck, and John Krasinski — Krasinski also directed and starred in the movie. An interviewer for Deadline asked Krasinski to comment on the controversy surrounding the film, about whether it was pro-life. “I’ve never heard the pro-choice and pro-life thing, but it is awesome that people are thinking about it,” he said, adding that “the greatest compliment you can have on any piece of work that you do is that it starts a conversation.”

4. Armond White gets retrospective about Jack Webb and a time when Hollywood was unafraid to combat the Red menace. From the piece:

Compared with the straightforward dramaturgy of Webb’s 1954 theatrical film Dragnet (just released on Blu-Ray from KINO), the Dragnet series doesn’t look like Millennial TV but resembles the modernist style of cineastes Sam Fuller, Robert Bresson, and Jean-Marie Straub. And like Fuller, Webb was a military vet turned Hollywood professional who sustained his patriotism through pop-art aesthetics. Webb brought probing Americanism to television; the best example is his 1962 drama Red Nightmare, a prediction of 21st-century progressivism that exposes what we now take for granted in Fake News TV.

In Red Nightmare, originally titled “Freedom and You,” Webb focused on Communist encroachment. It’s a Cold War parallel to today’s PC war. Webb imagined a national takeover in which citizens are told, “In America you have too many freedoms. One day it will be your mission to destroy those bourgeois capitalist freedoms.” Webb himself steps in as narrator and sets the scene:

From the looks of it, it could be Iowa, California, Tennessee. You might call this a college town, Communist-style, as part of a long-range plan to destroy our free way of life.

Webb’s intro pinpoints academia’s role in social revolution: “The strangest of all schools: espionage as a science, propaganda as an art, sabotage as a business — long-range Communist conspiracy.”

BONUS: You can watch Red Nightmare here.

Elsewhere in the Conservative Solar System

1. In Modern Age, Professor Daniel J. Mahoney,  the great public intellectual and our esteemed friend, reflects on the nexus of statesmanship and human excellence. From the essay:

The founding fathers of modern republicanism had no qualms about appealing to the crucial role of the “founder” or “legislator” in establishing and sustaining free and lawful political communities. The American Founders, for example, read their Cicero and Plutarch and were no doubt inspired by the accounts of political nobility found in the pages of both immensely influential thinkers and writers. Their own noble deeds partake of classical greatness of soul as much as the purported “realism” of distinctively modern political thought. But it is undoubtedly the case that they aimed to establish political institutions where “power checked power,” institutions that would make political greatness less necessary, if not superfluous. Is this one reason why the study of statesmanship has fallen on hard times? Were they too successful?

Perhaps statesmanship of the noblest and truest kind has always been associated with crises of one sort or another: Solon addressing civil strife and class conflict in Athens in the sixth century BC; Pericles steering a middle path between imperial grandeur and prudent restraint in resisting the expansion of the Athenian Empire at the beginning of the Peloponnesian War; Cicero using all the arts of rhetoric and statesmanship in an ultimately failed attempt to save the remnants of Roman republicanism from the threat of Caesarian despotism; Burke eloquently warning defenders of ordered liberty against the proto-totalitarianism of Jacobin France; Washington leading the American people to their rightful station among the peoples of the earth and governing the new republic with an austere republican dignity; Lincoln preserving the Union and putting an end to the evil of chattel slavery at the same time; Churchill eloquently and firmly defending liberty and law, and all the achievements of the “English-speaking peoples,” against the dreadful barbarism of Nazism. Such statesmanship is, always and everywhere, a rare political achievement and an equally infrequent if admirable manifestation of the highest possibilities of the human soul.

Classical authors were right to understand such statesmanship as an elevated standard against which all political action can be judged. The thoughtful or reflective statesman exercises what the contemporary French political philosopher Pierre Manent calls “commanding practical reason,” not arbitrary power or a plan to satisfy the lowest impulses of his soul. Every political community needs such commanding practical reason, an authoritative exercise of judgment and foresight at the service of the common good. But the doctrinaire egalitarianism and relativism that many today confuse with democracy do not readily allow for such qualitative differences to be acknowledged and affirmed.

Elementary distinctions “natural” to political life — the distinctions between authority and authoritarianism, reason and will, nobility and baseness, domination and the mutual accountability inherent in free political life — are effaced in the name of a terrible simplification. Arguments about “the advantageous and the just,” as Aristotle so memorably put it in the opening chapters of his Politics, are summarily reduced to mere struggles for “power.” This effacement of politics as a moral science goes hand in hand with a toxic egalitarian moralism that feels free to repudiate our civilized inheritance and to judge all thought and action in the light of the overlapping determinisms of “race, class, and gender.” In truth, there can be no authentic political sphere, no veritable “public space,” when thought and action are reduced to cruel and inexpiable struggles for power and domination. And whatever the antinomian left claims, the messianic struggle for “justice” will lead only to mayhem, violence, and tyranny if the goods of life are said to have no foundation in the human soul or the natural order of things. One cannot promote justice on the “willful” premises of Machiavellian (and Nietzschean) modernity. If one begins with nihilistic premises, if one reduces every argument to a pretense for domination and exploitation, one necessarily ends with the self-enslavement of man. A barely concealed nihilism cannot provide a foundation for common humanity, the civic common good, or mutual respect and accountability. In the end, it can only negate our civilized inheritance despite the perfectionist or utopian veneer that invariably accompanies it.

2. At Substack, Glenn Greenwald looks at the Capitol riots, exaggerated claims, and false reporting. From the piece:

It took on such importance for a clear reason: Sicknick’s death was the only example the media had of the pro-Trump mob deliberately killing anyone. In a January 11 article detailing the five people who died on the day of the Capitol protest, the New York Times again told the Sicknick story: “Law enforcement officials said he had been ‘physically engaging with protesters’ and was struck in the head with a fire extinguisher.”

But none of the other four deaths were at the hands of the protesters: the only other person killed with deliberate violence was a pro-Trump protester, Ashli Babbitt, unarmed when shot in the neck by a police officer at close range. The other three deaths were all pro-Trump protesters: Kevin Greeson, who died of a heart attack outside the Capitol; Benjamin Philips, 50, “the founder of a pro-Trump website called Trumparoo,” who died of a stroke that day; and Rosanne Boyland, a fanatical Trump supporter whom the Times says was inadvertently “killed in a crush of fellow rioters during their attempt to fight through a police line.”

This is why the fire extinguisher story became so vital to those intent on depicting these events in the most violent and menacing light possible. Without Sicknick having his skull bashed in with a fire extinguisher, there were no deaths that day that could be attributed to deliberate violence by pro-Trump protesters. Three weeks later, The Washington Post said dozens of officers (a total of 140) had various degrees of injuries, but none reported as life-threatening, and at least two police officers committed suicide after the riot. So Sicknick was the only person killed who was not a pro-Trump protester, and the only one deliberately killed by the mob itself.

3. At Claremont Review of Books, paisano Charles Kesler scopes out the future of Trump and Trumpism. From the piece:

Will he come back from this defeat? Assuming he isn’t disqualified from holding office again, Trump could pull a Grover Cleveland and run for the presidency in 2024. He would be much older than Cleveland (the 22nd and 24th president) when he ran the second time (78 versus 55), but also much richer. It may be that the pleasures of being a billionaire are more entrancing than Trump remembers, and he might decide just to enjoy life in Florida. Or his health might dictate it. But the appetite for high office, once indulged, is not easily renounced. Plus the awful, ignominious way his term ended will add the spur of honor (and vengeance) to his pursuit of approval. He wants to belong especially to any club that won’t have him as a member. Failing that, he will build his own bigger and better club, as he did with Mar-a-Lago.

He’s already let it be known he intends to primary, beginning in 2022, all the weak Republicans who deserted or betrayed him in the impeachment fight. He’s prepared for a civil war within the Republican ranks, thinks the other guy started it, but plans to finish it on his terms. It didn’t come to this in 2016 because the panjandrums of the GOP didn’t expect him to win, and he was a novice. Then, for years, they were intimidated by his popularity with the party’s base. Now that he is out of the White House, their sighs of relief and disdain are obvious. In grateful return, he would like to throw a lavish Red Wedding at Mar-a-Lago and invite all his erstwhile allies.

But the second impeachment, and a fortiori the tragedy at the Capitol, will weigh on Trump’s support. From his re-election triumph in 1972 (49 states, 520 electoral votes, almost 61% of the popular vote), Nixon fell hard. He left office with about 24% popular approval, and it never recovered from those levels. Trump hasn’t experienced a similar collapse, but an erosion has begun. Almost every poll shows his approval ratings, measured before and after January 6, tumbling: Pew Research shows him down from 38% to 29%, Quinnipiac from 44% to 34%, ABC News/Washington Post from 44% to 38%. In most polls, a majority of Americans say he deserves a great deal of blame for the events of January 6. CNN/SSRS reports that 77% nationally want the GOP to move on from Trump. Among Republicans, 43% say they want the party to continue to treat him as its leader; 55% prefer someone else, though no one knows who.

Although not catastrophic, those declines don’t augur well for a political comeback. The trends will probably worsen, at least temporarily, as the second impeachment plays out and as various state and federal prosecutors come after the ex-president. Even at the peak of his popularity and power, Trump’s approval ratings, as Busch points out, were stuck in the mid-40s.

4. At Law & Liberty, David Schaeffer shows the disconcerting parallels between Russia 1917 and America 2021. From the essay:

First of all, the past nine months have witnessed a growing disrespect and disregard for the rule of law at both extremes of the political spectrum: on the Left, in response to the George Floyd killing, widespread urban violence, often spurred by semi-organized groups like Antifa and the Marxist Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement; on the Right, fanatics like those who invaded the Capitol to interfere with the counting of the electoral vote (including QAnon believers, who think that the government is run by a secret conspiracy of pedophiles and possibly cannibals). In some parts of the country, most notably Portland, we have witnessed something like a microcosm of the chaotic situation that existed in Russia in 1917 from the March “revolution” to the October one.

A second parallel between America’s present situation and that of Russia in 1917 is a pre-existing national crisis that had no direct connection with the political causes that inspired lawlessness. In 1917, the setting was prepared for a political uprising by bitter cold and food shortages, and by Russia’s increasingly unpopular participation in World War I. For its part, well before the George Floyd killing, America, like the rest of the world, experienced the COVID pandemic, generating not only many deaths among vulnerable populations, but also lockdowns of restaurants, hotels, gyms, and other facilities that interfered with people’s customary habits, caused widespread business shutdowns and unemployment, and often appeared, despite their medical justifications, to be imposed arbitrarily by governments in states like New York, California, and Michigan.

The third parallel is a reluctance of governmental authorities, confronted with a sudden spike of violent crime and sometimes anarchy, to control and deter it through arrest and punishment. In each instance, that reluctance reflected an uncertainty on the part of the authorities about whether enforcing the law was the right thing to do. Hence in 1917, when Russian mobs were allowed to empty the jails (as depicted in Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s recently translated The Red Wheel: March 1917), just as when French mobs stormed the Bastille in 1789, those jails actually housed none of the rumored “political prisoners.” Meanwhile, Kerensky and his associates, themselves liberals and socialists who saw “no enemies on the Left,” refused to take the steps necessary to restore order. Even the commander of Russia’s Baltic Fleet expressed his sympathies for the incipient Red revolution to his sailors, only to be murdered by them later on.

5. More Law & Liberty, this time from Richard Reinsch, who looks at America and sees a closing society. From the beginning of the piece:

We are receiving almost a daily understanding of what a closed society is and what it does to dissenters. The latest revelation came from — where else — The New York Times, a publication that flatters the egos and tastes of our elites and firmly demonstrates the attitudes and postures the new regime demands. They mean to rule us in this regard. Donald McNeil, a nearly four-decade writer for the Times, and a highly regarded science correspondent, was forced out because he committed the new thought crime of merely mentioning a racial slur in the context of trying to understand and analyze a previous racist use of the term by a high school student. He was on a trip with high school students who had inquired of him if he thought it correct that a classmate of theirs who was suspended for using a racist slur should, in fact, have been suspended. McNeil was asking questions and thinking about the incident, trying to gather what had occurred. You might say, he was seeking understanding. But such inquiry is no longer permitted, apparently.

As Theodore Dalrymple recently observed in this space, there is no defense that one can use against the allegation of objective racism, that is, intent and context no longer matter in the determination of a racist allegation. If one is deemed to cause racist offense by a hearer, then perforce, one is a racist. Andrew Sullivan remarked that McNeil’s apology appeared to have been compelled by the Khmer Rouge. I found McNeil’s apology to his fellow writers to be abject and demeaning — to himself — and to any reasonable criteria of fairness and justice.

His personal declaration of sin committed against identity politics is worthy of Rubashov’s final apology in Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon, a 1941 novel widely regarded as one of the truly definitive literary investigations of communist totalitarianism. Rubashov was imprisoned for counterrevolutionary political crimes he allegedly committed against the communist regime. Although we are never told it’s the Soviet Union, the similarities of Rubashov’s interrogation and trial replicate the Stalinist era. However, this old Bolshevik isn’t actually guilty of what he has been accused of. His famous last confession is completely false, and yet it is not simply a lie. He has convinced himself that he owes such an apology to the regime to which he has dedicated his life. In the end, Rubashov cannot disbelieve in the communist regime because of its moral hold on his soul, even though it will execute him for crimes he has not committed against it.

6. At City Journal, Karl Zinmeister finds that identity politics is at odds with the core principles of a free society. From the essay:

At the root of our current crisis lies the dogma of identity politics. Created on university campuses and incubated among the young for more than a generation, this ideology now surges through the media, commerce, the nonprofit sector, and government. Identity politics asserts that civilization is a battle among groups, with dominant forces ruling by oppressing and manipulating the disempowered. It “atomizes society into different interest groups according to sex, race, sexual preference,” as author Douglas Murray summarizes in The Madness of Crowds, and “presumes that such characteristics are the main, or only, relevant attributes of their holders.” Once they have adopted a worldview defined by color, sexuality, and economic grievance and have built up levels of offense and outrage sufficient to justify a radical reorganizing of American society, proponents of identity politics are said to be “woke.”

Thanks to years of hectoring during college and strong pressures toward groupthink within urban culture, identity politics has become fashionable even among people with little experience of dispossession — like the couple I know who decorated one of their two yachts in support of this summer’s street protests. The identity-politics division of society into oppressors and oppressed now suffuses news stories, entertainment, school lessons, corporate policies, religious proclamations, and municipal rules. The movement demands redistribution of resources and power by group membership, using the language of “diversity, equity, and inclusion,” enforced by a “cancel culture” that attacks those who resist the woke agenda.

The diversity demanded by identity politics, though, is a strangely limited one. It is built on crude biological criteria like skin color or sexual practice. There is no tolerance for philosophical diversity, alternative principles, or heterodox beliefs. The stark categorization of people into “the privileged” and “the subjugated” must not be questioned. Resist a remaking of society that elevates certain identities and pulls down others, and you will be attacked as a bigot.

Identity politics is thus an aggressive marshaling of human divisions. It’s not interested in things we all share. It has no place for universal experiences, national harmony, or gratitude. Nor does it care for the wondrous idiosyncrasies and distinct variations of individuals. It draws its energy from factional resentments and fractures. The speed at which this radical, impersonal mode of thinking has been mainstreamed is astonishing.

7. More City Journal: Joel Zinberg profiles the pandemic’s false hero, one Andrew Cuomo, governor and crypto-mortician. From the article:

Finally, the most damaging disclosure was a leaked recording from February 10, in which a top Cuomo aide admitted to Democratic lawmakers that the administration hid the true numbers of nursing-home deaths for political reasons. The administration had worried that federal investigators would use these numbers against the governor. A February 11 addendum to the original DOH report now acknowledges that nursing-home deaths account for 35 percent of New York’s Covid-19 deaths.

Yet Cuomo’s policy failures are not confined to nursing homes. His capricious policies on business and restaurant closures, unmoored from public-health data, have destroyed small businesses statewide and wiped out New York City restaurants. The December restaurant reclosure was made at the same time that New York officials released data indicating that during the September–November period in which restaurants were open, restaurants and bars accounted for only 1.43 percent of Covid-19 cases. Transmission in homes and at social events account for nearly 74 percent of cases. And the New York Times noted that the metrics Cuomo had said would guide his decisions on business reopening were worse when he announced New York City restaurants could reopen for indoor dining on February 14 than when he closed them in December. Even New York Democrats are now calling for curbing Cuomo’s emergency powers.

Cuomo has eagerly criticized other state governors’ pandemic responses. “You played politics with this virus and you lost,” he chided. “Look at the numbers.” He had particular censure for Florida governor Ron DeSantis. In fact, New York has the nation’s second-most Covid-19 deaths per million population, just behind New Jersey — and nearly twice as much as Florida. It turns out that it was Cuomo who was playing politics.

8. At Gatestone Institute, Raymond Ibrahim catalogues the ongoing persecution of Christians by peace-religionists. From the report:

Iran: On Jan. 18, the Islamic Republic’s “morality police” arrested Fatemeh (Mary) Mohammadi, a 22-year-old convert to Christianity and human rights activist, on the accusation that “her trousers were too tight, her headscarf was not correctly adjusted, and [that] she should not be wearing an unbuttoned coat.” This is the third time officials arrested Mary. She served six months in prison after her first arrest for being a member of a house church — which the regime recently labeled as “enemy groups” belonging to a “Zionist” cult. She also spent a brief time in jail after joining a peaceful protest in April 2020. Officials have also pressured her employer, with whom she always had a good relationship, to prevent her from returning to work as a gymnastics instructor. She was expelled from her university on the eve of her exams. Reflecting on what had come to pass, Mary wrote:

“Everything is affected . . . Your work, income, social status, identity, mental health, satisfaction with yourself, your life, your place in society, your independence. . . . And as a woman it’s even harder to remain patient and endure, in a society so opposed to women and femininity, though crying out for them both.”

9. Oregon bureaucrats, reports Jennifer Kabbany at The College Fix, are demanding “math equity” as part of their effort to combat racism. Something’s not adding up. From the article:

The effort is outlined in an 82-page training manual distributed to educators and titled “A Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction: Dismantling Racism in Mathematics Instruction.”

One section argues that “white supremacy culture shows up in math classrooms” when students are required to “show their work.”

“Math teachers ask students to show work so that teachers know what students are thinking, but that centers the teacher’s need to understand rather than student learning. It becomes a crutch for teachers seeking to understand what students are thinking and less of a tool for students in learning how to process,” the training manual states.

“Thus, requiring students to show their work reinforces worship of the written word as well as paternalism,” it adds.

Instead, teachers are instructed to offer different ways for students to show their math knowledge. Among them?

“Have students create TikTok videos, silent films, or cartoons about mathematical concepts or procedures,” the manual states.

A Dios

Lent is upon us — some of us anyway. May it’s graces benefit all, regardless. A little tip: On Friday, try the fish.

Another tip, unrelated: The left lane is for passing, not vacationing.

For the repose of the soul of Rush Limbaugh, that he requiescat in pace, please do offer up a prayer.

May the Almighty’s Graces Prove Sustaining These 40 Days,

Jack Fowler, who is eager for penitential tips if sent to jfowler@nationalreview.com.

National Review

Happy Birthday Abie Baby

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Dear Weekend Jolter,

Honest Abe would have turned 212 today (Friday the 12th, the day this missive was rendered). That even a smidge of his talent — of articulating principle while guided by prudence, of mastering the art of shrewd balancing — would rub off on current political and pontificating classes, where instant demagoguery is the S.O.P.: One can dream.

We mark his natal day with the doo-wop tribute from Hair, Happy Birthday Abie Baby. It’s a departure from the more deserved and quasi-religious fare about Father Abraham. Still, it is a testament to the Rail Splitter’s enduring cultural relevance (defiled of late by the inanities of San Francisco school board members, and of the gross profiteering hacks at the “Lincoln Project”).

Now, aside from Mr. Lowry’s excellent book (the acclaimed Lincoln Unbound) Your Humble Correspondent would like to recommend you consider John Cribb’s new novel, Old Abe. This is a beautiful and vivid telling of our 16th president’s last five years, marked by unimaginable crises and desperate personal tragedies and spousal burdens, none of which, even en masse, were able to crush Lincoln’s wisdom, humor, and compassion. Or political successes. Cribb presents a Lincoln that many yearn for, the man pictured, unfinished, in our imaginations, more a concept, but one begging to be completed. Cribb provides the flesh and bone and attitude and dialogue. The book races. His portrayal in ink might surpass the cinematic depictions, much enjoyed, by Raymond Massey (Abe Lincoln in Illinois), Henry Fonda (Young Mr. Lincoln), and Daniel Day Lewis (Lincoln). Well, that last one might be a coin toss. But do read the book.

Enough! With charity to all, let us get on with the Weekend Jolt!

NAME, RANK, AND LINK

Articles

Joel Zinberg: Scott Atlas, Mugged

Nikki Haley: We Must Protect Women’s Sports

Madeleine Kearns: Progressive Cracks Appear on the Trans Sports Issue

Rich Lowry: The Humiliating Art of Woke Confessions

Rory Cooper: Joe Biden Is Keeping Schools Closed

Robert Rector and Marie Fishpaw: Biden Child Tax Credit Plan Ignores Real Welfare Problems

Zhonette Brown: Biden’s Activist Recruits Raise Risk of ‘Sue and Settle’ Collusion

Erin Hawley: The Biden Administration’s New Regulatory Superweapon

John C. Goodman: Conservatism’s Identity Crisis

Andrew Micha: Collectivism Is Antithetical to a Free Society

Douglas Carswell: Reviving the Conservative Cause: States Play Pivotal Role

Dan McLaughlin: Alexis de Tocqueville’s Humbling Lesson in Office

David Harsanyi: Tom Friedman’s Warped Love Affair with Communist China

Josh Jones: Time to Show Some Backbone with Mexico

Cameron Hilditch: France’s Coronavirus Vaccine Failures

Jimmy Quinn: Joe Biden’s Iran Strategy Is Bound to Fail

A.J. Caschetta: Scientists Join Anti-Israel BDS Movement

Jim McKelvey: Silicon Valley’s Focus on ‘Disruption’ Is Misguided

Mario Loyola: Big Tech’s Deadly Challenge to Democracy

Michael Brendan Dougherty: European Union Elites Show their Authoritarian Side

Editorials

Biden’s U.N. Human Rights Council Return Is a Flawed Foreign Policy Strategy

Supreme Court Stands Up for Religious Worship by Suspending California’s Ban on Indoor Services

The $15 Minimum Wage: Democrat’s COVID Proposal Is Bad Policy at a Bad Time

George Shultz, R.I.P.

Marjorie Taylor Greene: Democrats’ Precedent Will Be Regretted

Capital Matters

John Constable: U.S. Offshore Wind Energy: Overblown Promises and Blown-Up Costs

Jordan McGillis hears the knock: Democrat States Are Blocking America’s Energy-Export Opportunity

Andy Pudzer and John Hartly see what’s hiding: Biden’s Minimum-Wage Increase Proposal Carries Budgetary Costs

Jessica Melugin says check the record: Antitrust Litigation Usually Causes More Harm Than Good — Big Tech Is No Different

Andrew Stuttaford has the 411 on NASDAQ: The Woke Exchange

Lights. Camera. Review.

Kyle Smith applauds the genial redux: In The Crew, Kevin James Brings Accessible Comedy to Netflix

Armond White smells baloney: Minari Fakes the Immigrant Issue

More Armond, who rewatches a prophetic film: The Tree, the Mayor and the Mediatheque, Eric Rohmer’s Masterpiece

Isaac Schorr digs the documentary: A Picture of Thomas Sowell

John Fund anticipates a Gipper flick: Reagan The Movie — Finally

More Kyle, with more applauding: Judas and the Black Messiah Is a Potent Black Panther Movie

Sarah Schuette says neigh: Disney’s Disappointing Black Beauty Remake

YOU’RE GONNA NEED A BIG BOWL: LOTS OF LINKS, AND SOUPED-UP

Articles Galore, Indeed, a Score

1. Scott Atlas has checked off enough boxes on the Left’s bugaboo list. Joel Zinberg reports on his political mugging. From the essay:

From early on, some commentators, including Atlas, pointed out that COVID-19-mitigation measures such as lockdowns have economic and health costs that must be balanced against their benefits. These costs include massive unemployment, which can lead to increased mortality, decreased academic achievement, and excess deaths resulting from delayed or foregone medical care and increased mental-health and substance-abuse problems, often resulting in suicide. Four Stanford health-policy experts — none of whom signed the Stanford letter from September — found no evidence that the most restrictive COVID-19-mitigation measures, stay-at-home orders and business closures, had significantly reduced COVID-19-case growth. In fact, there was a statistically insignificant increase in the growth rate of cases, suggesting that these restrictive mitigation measures may have increased person-to-person contact and disease transmission. A less restrictive measure, school closures, had a small but insignificant negative impact on case growth in most countries studied.

One of these four Stanford authors was a co-author of the Great Barrington Declaration, signed by over 50,000 medical and public-health practitioners worldwide. Like Atlas (and others, including this author), the Declaration expresses concerns about the damaging physical- and mental-health impacts of COVID-19 policies. It suggests that the best way to minimize the risks of death and social harm on the way to reaching herd immunity is to allow those at minimal risk of death — the young and healthy — to resume normal life, which will lead to increased natural infection and immunity, while focusing protection on those most at risk, the elderly and infirm. The Declaration’s proposal is closer to the one condemned in the JAMA article than anything Atlas has said. The large number of Declaration signers gives the lie to the JAMA authors’ claim that “nearly all public health experts were concerned that [Atlas’s] recommendations could lead to tens of thousands (or more) of unnecessary deaths in the US alone.”

Not content to write articles, Dr. Spiegel asked an October Stanford Faculty Senate meeting to censure Atlas and questioned the university’s relationship with the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank at Stanford where Atlas is a fellow. A month later, the faculty Senate condemned Atlas for “promot[ing] a view of COVID-19 that contradicts medical science” but stopped short of recommending sanctions after concerns emerged that such steps would chill freedom of speech, academic freedom, and the willingness of academics to enter government service.

It is reassuring that Stanford faculty were willing to preserve whatever vestiges of academic freedom remain in our elite institutions. But their failure to critically examine the evidence against Dr. Atlas before censuring him suggests a mob mentality. It is doubtful that the Stanford Senate, which largely consists of non-medical faculty, reviewed the relevant scientific literature.

2. Nikki Haley contends America must defend women’s sports. From the article:

Generations of women fought hard to ensure that their daughters and granddaughters had a level playing field, because girls deserve the same chance as boys to play sports. Thanks to the efforts of countless feminists, the number of women’s teams in schools has taken off over the past 50 years. Before then, less than 4 percent of girls played a sport. Now 40 percent do.

My generation was one of the first to benefit from these victories. My daughter’s generation has reaped the rewards, too. But Biden’s actions will roll back those victories and put women at a disadvantage. Now, when a girl steps up to compete, she’ll have to ask herself: Who am I really competing against?

Transgender kids deserve support and respect. The fact remains, however, that biological boys and girls are built differently. The best male athletes have a natural advantage over the best female athletes. You have to ignore science not to see it. The world’s fastest female sprinter has nine Olympics medals, but nearly 300 high-school boys are still faster than her. In states where biological boys compete against girls, the girls almost always lose — not just the match, but also possible college scholarships and a lifetime of success in their favorite sport. Their chance to shine is being stolen.

I approach this issue as a woman and as a mom. When my daughter ran track, I’d go to the meets. I can’t imagine how hard it would’ve been to watch her lose to someone with an unfair advantage. And I hate to think how my daughter would have reacted. She ran because she always felt she had a shot. If she lost that feeling, would she have kept running? Why compete when your best can’t possibly be good enough? Girls across America could be asking themselves these very questions before too long. Some surely already are. On this critical issue, women’s rights are moving in the wrong direction.

3. More Trans Sports: Madeleine Kearns spots progressive cracks opening up. From the article:

Under Trump, the Education Department and Justice Department worked hard to clean up this mess. Initially, this was done by rescinding the Obama-era guidance. Later, after a lengthy investigation, they ruled in favor of female high-school athletes in Connecticut who, having been displaced by a policy allowing male athletes claiming transgender status to compete against them, had filed a Title IX complaint with the Office for Civil Rights.

Biden’s executive order, by contrast — which is predicated on an expanded interpretation of the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County — reverses this defense of women and girls’ rights with a snap of a finger.

Though it is convenient for transgender activists to pretend otherwise, the protection of women’s sports is not necessarily a conservative issue. This fact was most recently evidenced in the launching of the Women’s Sports Policy Working Group (WSPWG), composed of women’s sports leaders such as tennis legend Martina Navratilova, law professor and NCAA champion Doriane Coleman, and Olympic swimmers Donna de Varona and Nancy Hogshead-Makar. Their motto is “Preserving girls’ and women’s sport while accommodating transgender athletes.”

Hogshead-Makar, a Title IX attorney, told USA TODAY Sports that even by its own standards, Biden’s transgender sports policy “does the cause of transgender inclusion no favors,” as it engenders a “justifiable resentment.” She has explained that while the group members “fully support the Biden executive order, ending LGBT discrimination throughout society,” they also recognize that “competitive sports” is an area that requires a “science-based approach to trans inclusion.”

4. Rich Lowry analyses the woke apology. It’s become an art. From the piece:

It’s never a handful of people who are offended but entire institutions and categories of people, evidently always rocked to their cores.

Donald McNeil, whose work on the coronavirus has gained renown during the pandemic, made it sound as though science coverage at the Times, and perhaps the paper itself, would be hard-pressed to recover from his innocent use of the n-word:

“My lapse of judgment has hurt my colleagues in Science, the hundreds of people who trusted me to work with them closely during this pandemic, the team at ‘The Daily’ that turned to me during this frightening year, and the whole institution, which put its confidence in me and expected better.

“So for offending my colleagues — and for anything I’ve done to hurt The Times, which is an institution I love and whose mission I believe in and try to serve — I am sorry. I let you all down.”

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees criticized kneeling last year, then quickly buckled under the resulting criticism. “I would like to apologize to my friends, teammates, the City of New Orleans, the black community, NFL community and anyone I hurt with my comments yesterday,” he said, leaving no one out. “In speaking with some of you, it breaks my heart to know the pain I have caused.”

5. Here We Go, Joe: Biden’s union-kowtowing is why our schools have been kept closed. Rory Cooper explains. From the piece:

President Biden’s ambitious rhetoric around schools was always going to have a collision course with his teachers’-union benefactors, who simply do not want schools to fully reopen any time soon. Not even after teachers got priority in vaccinations, and K–12 schools received over $68 billion in 2020 to mitigate COVID issues. I just didn’t expect that he would be breaking a core campaign promise so early in his presidency.

So what’s holding Biden back from keeping his word? The White House would argue it’s funding, ventilation, and class sizes. Let’s look at each in turn.

As mentioned, Congress allocated over $68 billion in 2020 for COVID mitigation in K–12 schools. So far, most of this money has not been spent. That hasn’t stopped the Biden administration from demanding another $130 billion. But let’s ignore the currently unspent billions of dollars for a moment and ask the essential question: Will more funding help?

In fact, the schools that are currently open five days a week in America are parochial schools, which generally have less per-pupil funding than their public counterparts, and public schools that don’t compete with the per-pupil wealth of closed but well-funded districts such as Chicago, Fairfax County, San Francisco, and others. The issue is will, not resources.

6. More Joe: Biden’s child tax-credit plan is detached from reality, and would constitute a massive welfare-state expansion, report Robert Rector and Marie Fishpaw. From the analysis:

Biden would increase the refundable credit from $2,000 per child under 17 to $3,000 per child age six to 17, and $3,600 for children under six. Two-thirds of the new benefits provided ($79 billion per year) would be cash grants to families who owe no income tax. The proposal would also remove existing work requirements from the child cash grants, thereby providing extensive new welfare benefits primarily to non-working single parents.

While the administration suggests that these changes would be limited to a single year to help families suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic, the plan itself is modeled after legislation that would create new, permanent entitlements. Indeed, according to off-the-record sources, establishing a permanent expansion of the welfare state appears to be the real goal.

Advocates claim that this proposal will reduce child poverty — an idea linked to the notion that the U.S. welfare system does not spend enough to protect children from poverty. Yet recall that in 2018, well before the COVID-19 recession, the U.S. spent nearly $500 billion on means-tested cash, food, housing, and medical care for poor and low-income families with children. This is seven times the amount needed to eliminate all child poverty in the U.S., according to Census figures.

How can Americans spend so much and still have a problem of deep and widespread child poverty? The answer is that the government counts almost none of the $500 billion in spending as personal income in its widely publicized measures of poverty and economic inequality.

7. Even More Biden: If you’re curious about the meaning of “sue and settle,” a tactic of the revolving door between leftist groups and Biden-filled bureaucracies, Zhonette Brown is here to explain. From the beginning of the piece:

President Biden early on is touting his insistence on “ethics” from cabinet nominees and professional staff, and who can argue with that? But it will take more than a signed piece of paper to guard against the conflicts of interest and invitations to collusion that arise when professional activists from the outside suddenly find themselves on the inside, with the levers of federal power within easy reach.

The risk that we could be returning to the “sue and settle” mischief of the Obama era becomes more glaring with each new political appointment, as Biden stacks his team with professional environmental activists who bring conflicts of interest with them when they pass through the revolving doors at key regulatory agencies.

For example, Biden’s pick to advise the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is leaving her post as an Earthjustice attorney. Just last year, Earthjustice initiated a lawsuit to halt offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico under the guise of the Endangered Species Act. Who did Earthjustice sue? The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, of course. If Earthjustice is at all successful in its lawsuit, it will likely be paid by the agency. Indeed, in 2020 alone, Earthjustice received over $5.8 million in court-awarded attorneys’ fees.

8. Yet Even More Joe: Erin Hawley sounds the alarm on the Biden Administration’s plan to supersize the regulatory power of the federal government. From the beginning of the analysis:

Tucked away in the avalanche of President Biden’s early executive actions is the little-noticed but momentous creation of a new regulatory super-agency. Under the guise of “Modernizing Regulatory Review,” the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) has just been given, through executive fiat, the charge of using federal regulatory authority to achieve administration goals. OIRA’s transformation from a check on agency excess to a pro-regulatory arm of the federal bureaucracy has significant implications for the power of the administrative state, and ultimately, for how Americans are governed.

OIRA began as a check on agency authority and is best known for ensuring that agencies consider the costs of any proposed regulation. As part of the Paperwork Reduction Act, President Carter created OIRA within the Office of Management and Budget to review agency reporting requirements in order to reduce government-imposed paperwork. Later, in an attempt to rein in governance by agency rule, President Reagan assigned to OIRA the additional task of reviewing draft and final regulations to ensure that projected benefits exceeded projected costs.

The past few administrations have all affirmed OIRA’s mandate to ensure responsible regulation. The Clinton administration retained the net-benefit approach to regulation, requiring OIRA to review regulations to ensure that benefits exceed costs and that regulations are supported by a “compelling public need.” President Obama similarly required the office to minimize regulatory burdens and ensure that “benefits justify . . . costs.” President Trump went even further by invoking a two-for-one policy whereby any proposed regulation would be offset by two revoked regulations and a regulatory cost-ceiling policy whereby any proposed regulatory cost would be offset by deregulation.

9. John Goodman analyzes conservatism’s identity crisis, and calls for an activist agenda. From the reflection:

In every large city in the country, large numbers of low-income minority families are forced to live in substandard housing and send their children to failing schools. They benefit the least from almost every public service, from transportation to health care to public safety. They are also denied job opportunities by medieval-style occupational-licensing laws. These cities are almost always run by Democrats, usually liberal Democrats. A reformist conservative agenda would advocate school choice, the liberation of the housing and job markets, and private alternatives to essential city services.

Likewise, too many American seniors are trapped in antiquated social-insurance schemes that should be an embarrassment to a civilized society such as ours. They are misled on a daily basis by Social Security bureaucrats who encourage them to take early retirement, giving up benefits that are growing at a 3 percent, no-risk, real rate of return every year. Then when they do take a part-time job, they face the highest marginal-tax rates in the nation — as high as 95 percent in some cases. Seniors on Medicare are the only people in the country who cannot have a health-savings account or direct, 24/7 access to a primary-care physician as an alternative to the emergency room. As I argue in my book New Way to Care, we desperately need to reform Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the disability system, and other forms of social insurance that were designed in a different century to meet different needs.

These are only a few of the ways in which an activist conservative agenda could liberate people and markets, reform institutions, and make the world better for the most vulnerable among us. But for that to happen, the conservative movement will first have to decide whether it wants to embrace its Enlightenment roots or reject them.

10. Andrew Micha explains why progressive collectivism is antithetical to a free society. From the piece:

The oligarchization of American elites and the parallel pauperization of the citizenry is the real but uniformly suppressed story behind the country’s ongoing Balkanization, while the preferred narrative has been that alleged racial and gender injustice must be overcome by executive fiat. The relative impoverishment of the American middle class has degraded the power of the citizenry to self-govern and has emboldened an increasingly detached elite to indulge in group-based political experiments, with the reengineering of the nation in accordance with ever-shifting notions of “equity and social justice” the ultimate goal.

Just before the COVID pandemic hit, almost one third of all Americans lived in lower-class households, with the median income of just over $25,000 a year, less than two-thirds the national median. In 2015 the number of middle-class households dipped below 50 percent. With the lockdowns destroying small businesses, it continues to spiral downward. In contrast, in the 1950s, two thirds of American households were comfortably middle-class. Most importantly, while barely half of all households today belong to the middle class, according to Pew, already in 2014 the gap between the earnings of middle-income and upper-income families was the widest ever recorded in American history.

The fading of the middle class has been the predictable byproduct of the corporate off-shoring of our industry and has diminished its influence, a trend accelerated by the persistent disavowal of its values and lifestyles by our nation’s opinion-makers. In a nation where 80 percent of the population has seen its relative economic position decline and, with it, its ability to influence the country’s politics increasingly marginalized, the ruling oligarchy’s continued disregard for their concerns, values, and preferences is a prescription for deepening polarization, political instability, and further unrest.

11. Douglas Carswell reminds conservatives that the solutions for many of Americans problems are to be found in states, not Washington. From the article:

Rather than wait for the midterm elections in the hope that the political pendulum swings back automatically, conservatives ought to leverage the countless, practical policies that are burgeoning at the state level.

Utah, for example, has done something very smart regarding tech regulation, thanks to an idea from the Libertas Institute. Recognizing that technology can advance faster than policy-makers’ ability to understand its implications, Utah state law now allows residents to temporarily test an innovative product or service on a limited basis without otherwise needing an official license or authorization.

This gives Utah a competitive advantage and explains why the state is seeing a surge of interest from investors in innovation. Other states — including my own adopted state of Mississippi — need to follow.

Take another example in Texas. The Lone Star State boasts a competitive energy market that puts the customer, not the producer, first. The effect has been to significantly push down energy prices — just one of the reasons why businesses are moving there. If Texas can offer businesses and customers an energy advantage, why don’t conservatives give it a go in other states?

12. Dan McLaughlin investigates an unhappy chapter in the life of Alexis de Tocqueville. From the beginning of the piece:

Edmund Burke wrote that “the politician . . . is the philosopher in action.” A number of the great political philosophers, Burke among them, have had careers of their own in politics. Not all were as effective as Burke was. One who learned a painful lesson about principled men serving an unprincipled master was Alexis de Tocqueville.

The year was 1849. The revolutions that had convulsed Europe the previous year were entering their final, failed act. Tocqueville was 43, a decade into his career as a legislator, but making his first foray into practical political leadership when Louis-Napoléon named him the French foreign minister.

Tocqueville was a slender, inquisitive 25-year-old in 1831 when he wheedled the new French government into sending him across the ocean to study the American prison system. France in 1830 threw off the restored Bourbon monarchy for the last time, and the new king, Louis-Philippe, was initially eager to be perceived as liberal, tolerant, and forward-thinking. Louis-Philippe ruled with an elected legislature, albeit one of very limited powers elected through a very limited suffrage. Tocqueville returned with an enduring, magisterial two-volume portrait of the world’s first major liberal, republican, constitutional democracy in its adolescence. “Democracy in America” had no significant influence on the French system, but it established Tocqueville’s reputation as a liberal democrat. He entered the Assembly in 1839.

13. David Harsanyi tries to figure out why Tom Friedman gets all hot and bothered over Red China. From the piece:

Like many left-wingers fixated on the “climate crisis,” Friedman suffers from an acute case of authoritarian envy. Friedman’s focus of adoration is Xi Jinping and the People’s Republic of China, the world’s largest one-party state tyranny. On Chris Cuomo’s CNN show this week, the Pulitzer Prize–winner “was thinking, like, what are they doing in China today?”

Friedman imagines that 1.3 billion Chinese are contemplating serious environmental matters rather than wasting their time with a “knucklehead” like CNN fixation Marjorie Taylor Greene:

“They were probably thinking about some bad stuff with the Uyghurs and all of that, oh, for sure, but I guarantee you they weren’t wasting their time on this nonsense.”

I doubt the Chinese are “thinking about” the Uyghurs, since there’s no critical press allowed in China. But yes, Americans should be thankful that they don’t have to think about the sadistic state-sanctioned torture of women with electric batons, or the gang rape of 20-year-olds in front of hundreds of detainees, or genocide — at least, not in America.

14. Mexico’s brash behavior deserves a smackdown from the US, argues Josh Jones. From the article:

Safe to say that the saga of General Salvador Cienfuegos has not been a high-water mark in the counter-narcotics efforts of the U.S. government. A renowned figure in Mexican military circles and minister of defense from 2012 to 2018, Cienfuegos boarded a flight last October, accompanied by his family, from Mexico City to Los Angeles. When the plane landed, he was met by U.S. federal agents carrying an arrest warrant charging him with drug-trafficking conspiracy. The next day, Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador, popularly known as AMLO, acknowledged that the U.S. had notified him of the Cienfuegos investigation prior to the arrest and lamented the systemic corruption of prior Mexican presidential administrations.

Then, as if suddenly realizing that his own rapidly failing security strategy relied on the same military that so revered Cienfuegos, AMLO did an about-face, remonstrating in his daily press briefings on the audacity of American drug agents in America investigating violations of American drug laws without first notifying the Mexican government. A month later, in a move that shocked the Cienfuegos prosecution team in New York, the U.S. government released the general, along with the wiretap evidence against him, to Mexico under the pretense that the Mexican government would conduct its own investigation. On January 14, after the shortest criminal investigation in Mexican history, the same government declared Cienfuegos innocent. The Mexican president characterized the U.S. evidence as “fabricated.”

In the midst of the Cienfuegos saga, the Mexican legislature, at AMLO’s urging, passed a law in December stripping DEA agents of diplomatic immunity and requiring that all evidence obtained by American agents in Mexico be turned over to the Mexican government. If followed, the new law would all but shut down DEA operations in Mexico. As each passing blow goes unanswered by the U.S., the Mexican political establishment grows bolder and the threat posed by Mexican organized crime grows more potent.

15. An envious Emmanuel Macron, flubbing the vaccine rollout, gives the USA the hairy eyeballs, reports Cameron Hilditch, who draws some conclusions. From the analysis:

Three conclusions should be drawn from France’s failures and from the subsequent reflections of her statesmen upon them.

Firstly, it would be insane for the United States to pursue a policy of immigration restrictionism. It may be a great source of sorrow for Mr. Bayrou that France’s “best researchers, the most brilliant of our researchers, are sucked up by the American system,” but it is fantastic for America. The best and brightest of planet Earth have been pressing their faces up against the windows of American life for centuries, yearning to be let in through the front door. Turning them away in a fit of nativist pique to appease the restrictionist sentiments of some voters would be a supreme act of national self-harm. Indeed, the work of Stéphane Bancel is case-in-point of what makes America great.

Secondly, European statesmen, especially Macron, ought to be careful about their pursuit of “strategic autonomy” — the burgeoning desire among European elites to further centralize European power through the institutions of the EU. The stated purpose of this centralization is to make Europe less dependent on the United States in areas such as health care and industry, and, more importantly, to eventually allow the EU to project military power in its own interests, independent of the United States. Macron reportedly underscored these themes in a recent call with President Biden.

16. Jimmy Quinn considers Joe Biden’s Iran policy, and finds folly. From the beginning of the article:

The United States and Iran each wants to reenter the nuclear deal they struck in 2015 — also called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — but neither wants to go first.

During an interview with CBS on Sunday morning, Biden said that Tehran would have to stop enriching uranium before the U.S. lifts Trump-era sanctions targeting Iranian entities. That same morning, Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif told CNN that he’s sticking with his country’s demands that Washington lift sanctions first.

Although the dispute matters insofar as it is a test of Biden’s resolve, recent events show that the administration’s strategy misses the forest for the trees, giving short shrift to the need to constrain Iran’s missile program, which scored a major success with the launch of the Zuljanah rocket on February 1 and is continuing to progress.

“The launch of the Zuljanah SLV [satellite-launch vehicle] will complicate the new Biden administration’s efforts at incorporating missiles into nuclear talks,” said Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “Iran has a diverse missile arsenal that must be accounted for in any diplomatic effort.”

17. The Israel boycotters are making inroads in the science community. A.J. Cashetta says we should be concerned. From the analysis:

Humanities academics were the vanguard of the movement against Israel, led by Edward Said, the English professor whose book Orientalism (1978) inspired many followers and imitators. Another milestone came in 2001, when the United Nations World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, in Durban, South Africa, gave rise to the trope that Israel is like apartheid South Africa. This inapt analogy of Israel’s self-defense and South Africa’s apartheid regime has become the chief rhetorical weapon in the academic offensive against Israel. Nearly every other hyperbole levied against Israel also originated through the conference’s NGO–academic alliance, which eventually evolved into the BDS movement.

Enthusiasm for that movement spread like a contagion among social scientists, with support for academic boycotts of Israel coming from the Association for Asian American Studies, the American Studies Association, the American Anthropological Association, and the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association.

In 1996, NYU physicist Alan Sokal proved that science is not immune to the excesses of postmodernism when he duped Duke University’s peer-reviewed journal Social Text into publishing an absurd deconstruction of reality, confirming that pseudo-scientific nonsense could be passed off as wisdom. But it was the humanities and social-science professors who popularized the anti-Israel boycott movement: Judith Butler, Gil Anidjar, Hatem Bazian, Joel Beinin, Lisa Duggan, Richard Falk, Stephen Walt, and others. Still, by the end of the 20th century, the STEM fields remained untouched by the politics that had colonized much of academia.

That changed in 2004 when physicist Peter Higgs (of Higgs boson fame) refused to travel to Israel to accept the prestigious Wolf Prize in physics. According to several reports, Higgs was angry that Israel had killed Hamas leader Ahmad Yassin, but he didn’t sign any BDS statements or lend his name to the cause. As Lazar Berman puts it, he “allegedly pushes BDS, but the evidence is nearly as elusive as the particle that bears his name.” Even Higgs’s harshest critics claim somewhat vaguely that he “effectively calls for academic boycott of Israel.”

18. Jim McKelvey argues that Silicon Valley’s “disruption” focus is misguided. From the analysis:

Disruption has become nearly as threadbare a concept as en­trepreneurship. The two words could be roommates at rehab. When Clayton Christensen first popularized the disruption concept back in 1997, the idea was novel and interesting. But what Christensen originally called disruptive innovation has now been shortened to just disruption and the oversimplifi­cation is profound.

Two decades later, disruption has become the high-fructose corn syrup of business, an overused ingredient sprayed on pitches and injected into keynotes in the hope of disguising the familiar taste of conformity. Silicon Valley now has an annual conference called simply “Disrupt.” I hear pitches every month from start-ups wishing to destroy the economics of some exist­ing industry. Hidden — frequently well hidden — inside these pitches is the implication that the invisible hand of the econ­omy will reallocate resources so that we will all be better off and enjoy a more efficient world after the carnage. It doesn’t always happen that way.

Craigslist certainly disrupted classified advertising, one of the main revenue sources for newspapers. The papers re­sponded by reducing their news-gathering operations — firing reporters who collectively watched all our backs. How many more scandals would have been exposed if those now-unemployed reporters were still on the beat? We can never know. Disruption is not always positive.

But a more dangerous aspect of disruption is its retro­grade focus. Just as having the lowest price means focusing on competitors instead of customers, venerating disruption means focusing on old systems that somehow need to be dis­mantled or destroyed. Indeed, some existing systems deserve the wrecking ball, but making destruction of the incumbents the focus of entrepreneurship distracts attention from the creative potential of innovation. There is another path.

19. Mario Loyola finds that Big Tech presents a deadly challenge to democracy. From the article:

Big Tech has adjusted to its global market by developing a global business model. It has discovered how to operate — to the extent it is allowed — in both China and the United States simultaneously. And in both countries it has bought into what amounts to a protection racket.

To win the favor of Chinese authorities, Big Tech companies happily censor themselves — and the rest of us — even in the United States. They routinely remove or suppress content that the Chinese Communist Party deems offensive anywhere in the world.

Meanwhile, in the United States, the most likely and serious threat to Big Tech’s bottom line are the Democrats, the party of taxation, regulation, and routine spasms of anti-corporate outrage (directed only at American corporations). But Big Tech has managed to prove particularly useful to them, censoring damaging news and suppressing critical commentary (even by individuals sharing content only within their own families), such as the New York Post’s still-unrefuted Hunter Biden story. They do so on the basis that such content misinforms or incites, but they systematically allow and even amplify the most imbecilic conspiracy theories about Republicans (such as the Russia-Trump collusion hoax, or any Michael Moore theory picked at random) without regard to truth or the potential for violence.

Alas, here at home the similarities with Big Tech’s role in China run deeper still. The evolution of America’s political institutions toward a one-party state has been underway for a long time, particularly since the New Deal. Most progressives start with noble intentions — fighting inequality and racism, giving effect to the impulses of the democratic majority, protecting “rights” of every description. Alas, the progressive program necessarily entails government powers that are far beyond those that were actually enumerated in the original Constitution.

20. Michael Brendan Dougherty checks out the authoritarian M.O. of the EU, and concludes this is not going to end well for the continent. From the article:

Meanwhile the heart of the European Union is dying. The bloc has spent years moaning about democratic backsliding in Visegrad countries Poland and Hungary — namely what they disliked was that the two populist conservative governments of those nations were so assertive with their limited powers in the EU itself.

But now, for the second time in little over a decade, Italy, the third largest power of the Union, will be led by a prime minister that not a single Italian voted into any office. Mario Draghi, famous for his handling of the Euro crisis at the European Central Bank, has been “invited” to lead a unity government after the fragile coalition government started to break down. Draghi was not even a member of Parliament. The reason for this is that the Italian political establishment cannot come up with a functioning government, and the polls say that if they turned to the voters, Matteo Salvini’s Lega party would almost certainly have the whip hand.

There is not a word about this from the people who style themselves as defenders of democracy and the liberal world order. An unelected technocratic prime minister is fine, so long as he’s on the side of the status quo.

What we are seeing in Europe is the authoritarian populism of incumbent elites. It’s not going to end well for them, or for Europe.

Editorials

1. We condemn President Biden’s decision to return the U.S. to the U.N.’s hypocritical Human Rights Council. From the editorial:

Which leads to another fallacy espoused by the Biden administration’s narrative — European diplomats and NGO staffers, rather than the 2018 withdrawal, have posed one of the most persistent obstacles to meaningful reform of the council.

When the Trump administration took office in 2017, a formal reform process was already slated to begin in 2021, but officials refused to accept four more years of the status quo. And thus the administration — hoping that it could succeed where the Obama administration failed — began an aggressive campaign to change the council spanning some 200 meetings with diplomats and human-rights advocates throughout 2017 and the start of 2018. Diplomats first sought fundamental changes to the council’s anti-Israel agenda and its lax membership criteria, but when it became clear that these were politically unfeasible, they expressed their willingness to accept less-ambitious measures that would have changed its day-to-day operations.

Still, at every turn, U.S. diplomats were blocked. The European delegations killed a modest package that would have streamlined the council’s agenda and diluted debate about its numerous anti-Israel resolutions. The NGOs fought off a reform proposal that would have transformed their annual Human Rights Council candidates’ forum into an event run directly by the U.N. (The groups objected, of course, out of a selfish desire to continue holding these events themselves.)

2. SCOTUS delivers California’s lockdown-mad Governor, Gavin Newsom, a legal blow. From the editorial:

We share Justice Neil Gorsuch’s concern that “it is too late . . . to defend extreme measures with claims of temporary exigency” where states have been “playing favorites” and “moving the goalposts on pandemic-related sacrifices for months, adopting new benchmarks that always seem to put restoration of liberty just around the corner.” Revisiting those measures as more of the public is vaccinated should mostly be the job of the political branches, but there is a role for the courts where the Constitution’s fundamental guarantees are at issue.

The Court may not be done protecting worshippers from Newsom. Justice Gorsuch, who would have overturned the singing ban as well, observed, “Even if a full congregation singing hymns is too risky, California does not explain why even a single masked cantor cannot lead worship behind a mask and a plexiglass shield. Or why even a lone muezzin may not sing the call to prayer from a remote location inside a mosque as worshippers file in.” Four other justices signaled interest in revisiting the singing ban, with Justices Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh asking for more evidence of whether the ban discriminated against religious singing: “If a chorister can sing in a Hollywood studio but not in her church, California’s regulations cannot be viewed as neutral.”

It is heartening, in a climate of elite skepticism of religious liberty, to see the Court not only reach the right results but demonstrate a vigorous commitment to revisiting the question as many times as is necessary to get the point across. We hope Governor Newsom and other California policy-makers are paying attention.

3. The Democrats’ call for a $15 minimum wage, part of their COVID-relief plan, calls for a bad policy, at a bad time too. From the editorial:

The minimum wage is a simple policy with very complicated effects, some of which are hotly disputed and some of which have hardly been studied. But if one thing is clear, it’s that a government-mandated wage hike isn’t just free money for workers. More than doubling the minimum wage when the economy is barely pulling out of a year-long slump amounts to gambling with the livelihoods of millions of American workers, consumers, and business owners.

Lastly, a note on process. There are not 60 votes in the Senate for such a dramatic policy change at such an awful time, so Democrats are considering passing their bill through the filibuster-proof “reconciliation” process, which requires a more plausible 50 votes.

This process is reserved for matters that directly, and not merely incidentally, affect the federal budget. Republicans stuck to this rule even when it made their Obamacare-repeal efforts incredibly difficult. The minimum wage instructs businesses to pay their workers more; that is the main goal and the main effect, and any impact on federal coffers is incidental to it. (For instance, the federal government itself will have to pay workers more, more workers will take unemployment, etc.) It doesn’t qualify, and the Democrats will probably have to either override the Senate parliamentarian or disguise the wage hike in budgeting gimmicks to pull it off.

4. We remember the late George Shultz, sidekick to RWR in besting the USSR. From the editorial:

Thereafter, it was business. Shultz held executive positions at Bechtel, the engineering and construction firm. In the summer of 1982, President Reagan asked him to succeed Alexander Haig as secretary of state.

In that same year, Henry Kissinger came out with the second volume of his memoirs: “I met no one in public life for whom I developed greater respect and affection.” He was talking about Shultz. “Highly analytical, calm, and unselfish,” he continued, “Shultz made up in integrity and judgment for his lack of the flamboyance by which some of his more insecure colleagues attempted to make their mark.”

Finally, “if I could choose one American to whom I would entrust the nation’s fate in a crisis, it would be George Shultz.”

With steady competence, Shultz helped Reagan navigate the foreign-policy challenges of the 1980s — in particular, what turned out to be the final chapters of the Cold War. In a 2008 interview, Shultz put it this way:

“Détente said, ‘We’re here, you’re here, that’s life, the name of the game is peaceful coexistence.’ Reagan said, ‘No, they have a very unstable system, and it’s not going to last. It’s going to change.’”

Reagan and his team helped precipitate that change.

5. Democrats will regret their actions against Marjorie Taylor-Greene. Precedent has a funny way of sucker-punching. From the beginning of the editorial:

At least Marjorie Taylor Greene won’t have to spend time sitting at the end of the dais during long committee hearings.

House Democrats voted to boot her from her committee assignments in an act that they will surely come to regret, perhaps as soon as January 2023.

If the majority can keep members of the opposition party off of committees based on incendiary comments, it’s not clear why the GOP ever let, say, Maxine Waters serve on any committees when it had control of the chamber, or why it ever will again.

Kicking off Greene will come to be remembered as another inflection point in the steady unraveling of institutional norms on Capitol Hill.

Capital Matters

1. John Constable finds the panacea claims of off-shore wind energy to be bogus, never mind costly. From the piece:

But what is the reality of renewable energy? In one of his first actions as president, Mr. Biden has expressed the wish to “double” offshore wind in the U.S. by 2030, an ambiguous phrase that probably means he and his advisers wish to see twice the current development portfolio of offshore wind capacity to be operational within a decade, or 18,000 MW rather than the present 9,000 MW in an advanced stage of preparation. The attraction is easily explained. The U.S. already has a great deal of onshore wind power, 112,000 MW, subsidized through Production Tax Credits and mostly located on and around a line running from North Dakota to Texas, a broad belt characterized by strong winds, cheapish land, and low construction costs. Unfortunately, it is also distant from the main corridors of demand on the East and West coasts. Offshore wind along the coasts therefore seems like a tempting option for expansion, but is it wise?

The U.S. has almost no experience with offshore wind, with only two small projects completed, totaling 42 MW, about 0.2 percent of Mr. Biden’s apparent aspirational 2030 target for this technology. However, this need not be a leap in the dark. In pursuit of relevant data, the U.S. can look to Europe, and particularly to the United Kingdom, which already has 10,000 MW of wind deployed in the British seas, some dating back to the early 2000s. Nearly everything the U.S. might wish to know is there. Extracting that information, however, will not be straightforward since the British government and the wind industry are colluding in an obfuscation of the truth. Both sides claim that costs are falling, the government because it is reluctant to admit failure after many tens of billions of dollars of subsidy, the industry because its participants hope to survive long enough to be rescued out by a future government so desperate that it provides new (and probably covert) subsidies.

Fortunately, one can obtain the economic facts of the offshore and indeed the onshore wind story, which is also discouraging, from the public filings of audited accounts. Professor Gordon Hughes of the Department of Economics at the University of Edinburgh has undertaken this analysis for over 350 companies that own and operate wind farms, covering a period of over 15 years. The work is published by the charity, Renewable Energy Foundation, which I direct, and is freely available from the REF website: Wind Power Economics: Rhetoric and Reality.

2. Jordan McGillis castigates the West Coast, Democrat-run, natural-gas-hating states that are blocking America’s energy-export opportunity. From the article:

What the opponents of Jordan Cove misunderstand is that LNG shipped to Asia would largely serve their cause. Shipping gas across the Pacific increases the likelihood that China and Japan will reduce their reliance on coal. China, despite its pledge to be carbon neutral by 2060, burns a quarter of all the coal used globally, despite making up less than 20 percent of the world’s population. Japan, wary of nuclear energy after the fiasco at Fukushima Daiichi, now uses more coal than it did 20 years ago. The U.S., on the other hand, has reduced coal consumption by 45 percent since 2008 thanks to domestic production of natural gas. But to Oregon’s activists and those taking control of U.S. policy this month, no analysis beyond “hydrocarbons bad” is admissible.

Even accepting the premises of climate activists, exporting natural gas to Asia is a positive. That’s why Canada — which has a carbon tax — is building 13 LNG terminals in British Columbia alone. Market conditions, such as they are, provide an opportunity for North Americans to export an in-demand commodity. Remove Pompeiian references to “molecules of freedom” and the economics remain.

But whereas the Canadian government has seized the opportunity, the blue wall of legislatures and governors that control California, Oregon, and Washington State have left North American infrastructure developers scrambling. The result is convoluted arrangements such as the deal between San Diego-based Sempra Energy and Mexico to export LNG from a terminal in Baja California. The terminal will be Mexico’s first for LNG export; it will receive American natural gas by pipeline and ship it to Asia from just 40 miles south of the U.S. border.

3. Andy Pudzer and John Hartly see the hard-hitting costs hidden in Joe Biden’s minimum-wage increase proposal: From the piece:

In his attempt to overcome the Byrd rule, Sanders has cited new studies from two sources with a history of highly partisan research in support of minimum-wage hikes. Authored by the Economic Policy Institute and Berkeley economist Michael Reich these studies claim that a $15 federal minimum wage would positively impact the federal budget by tens of billions of dollars per year through increased tax revenue and reduced costs for public-assistance programs. Reich claims hiking the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 would positively impact the federal budget to the tune of $65.4 billion a year.

But would that really happen? Clearly not.

On Monday, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office issued a report stating that, should Sanders’ $15 minimum-wage bill become law, “the cumulative budget deficit over the 2021–2031 period would increase by $54 billion.” That sure doesn’t sound like a budget windfall.

In addition, the CBO’s average estimate was that, in the year the minimum wage hit $15, “the effects on workers and their families would include” a reduction of 1.4 million jobs. That’s a lot of jobs for an administration that claims it will focus on “getting back to full employment, as quickly as possible” because it “will make a major difference in the lives of tens of millions of people, particularly those most at risk of being left behind,” according to a White House blog post by Council of Economic Advisers members Jared Bernstein and Heather Boushey.

4. Jessica Melugin says we can expect more harm than good from antitrust litigation, and it will be no different as relates to Big Tech. From the analysis:

U.S. v. International Business Machines Corp holds a valuable lesson about the harmful, unintended consequences of antitrust action. The looming case against IBM inadvertently created incentives for the company to raise its prices to consumers. IBM worried about what market share and profits it would be allowed to enjoy in the future if it lost the case, so it raised prices in the short-term to reduce market share to a level that would not concern regulators. Ironically, in its efforts to protect consumers from higher prices, the Department of Justice created incentives for IBM to raise prices. The DOJ has taken a similar risk in its suit against Google, which targets the company’s agreements with smart-phone manufacturers to preinstall its search tools. Search-engine competitors don’t like these arrangements, but consumers benefit by paying less for phones. If the interests of competitors are put before those of consumers, the lower prices and innovations that the latter enjoy will be sacrificed to protect inferior firms.

Perhaps it is easiest to see the dangers of today’s antirust actions against Big Tech in U.S. v. Microsoft. Microsoft raised the ire of regulators by including its Explorer browser free of charge with its Windows operating system, which brought the cost of a browser from $39 for Netscape Navigator to zero, the same price consumers pay for many of the services of today’s tech leaders. That was bad news for Netscape, but good news for consumers.

Real-world market developments during the course of the Microsoft trial also called the wisdom of the case into question. The computing world was shifting online, but the browser’s relative importance was no longer what prosecutors had made it out to be. Data and advertising were quickly becoming far more important to profits than including a free browser with an operating system. The move to mobile devices, the rise of search, monetized advertising, the Internet of things, voice-controlled technology, social media, widespread wireless Internet access, and online commerce all make the desktop “browser wars” look antiquated. Market forces acted faster than litigation proceeded, and it’s hard to imagine how that won’t also be the case for antitrust litigation against firms such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google.

5. At Capital Note, Andrew Stuttaford delves into the rhetoric of NASDAQ boss Adena Friedman: From the piece:

Friedman: The question for us is always, how do we preserve the best of capitalism and still recognize that we have a role to play in the communities around us, and not just a role to play for shareholders?

For someone heading a major stock exchange to use a phrase that includes a reference to preserving the “best” of capitalism, suggests that that she is, at best, playing defense. Yes, capitalism does a decent job, but . . .

In reality, most advocates of capitalism or, in particular, of free markets (the two are not the same), concede that capitalism may not be perfect, far from it (not least because trial and error lies at the heart of a market economy). However, the fact remains that, taken as a whole, capitalism has delivered more prosperity to more people, by a very long way, than any other system.

As for the seeming subordination (that “just”) of shareholders (again, a strange qualifier from someone heading a stock exchange), that is consistent with the view of those who have embraced the ideology of stakeholder capitalism, and with it, the view that shareholders, mere owners of the company, are just one stakeholder among many.

Lights. Camera. Review.

1. Kevin James comes to Netflix with a new series, and this has the approval of Kyle Smith. From the piece:

James is here to take care of that. His broad, middle-of-the-road style is on display in The Crew, in which he plays the canny chief of a NASCAR team built around a hotshot but brainless young driver (Freddie Stroma) amid squabbles with another team member, the James character’s daughter (Jillian Mueller). James is after comedy that “inspires and uplifts,” he says on a Zoom call with journalists to promote the series, which debuts Monday (on the racing calendar, that’s the first weekday after the Daytona 500).

In the new show, James is sticking to his brand of genial, harmless comedy (the first scene sets the pace when fighting crew members drop everything to participate in the one undertaking everybody can agree on — saluting the flag for the National Anthem). But he notes that The Crew is something of a change of pace for him because it’s a workplace comedy as opposed to a domestic one like his earlier efforts The King of Queens and Kevin Can Wait (whose showrunner was our National Review colleague Rob Long).

Under showrunner Jeff Lowell, The Crew is being made with the enthusiastic participation of NASCAR, and promises to be drenched with insider detail. James says he’s learned a lot of fascinating stuff about the racing game, which he has been following since he was a kid and his favorite driver was Richard Petty. As a kid, James even dressed up like Petty once for Halloween: “with the cowboy hat and the mustache and the glasses.” Still, other sports were more important to him growing up. A decade ago, however, he was asked to be grand marshal at a NASCAR event and was gobsmacked by the energy level, which can only be hinted at by the televised coverage: “It’s insane when you go there,” he says. “You don’t know how much goes into this sport. And I recommend it for anybody who hasn’t done it. A live event is . . . a whole different world, from the RVs that move in, it’s the tailgating in the center . . . the athletes, the sponsors, the pit crew, the teams, the competitiveness, the fans . . . it’s a crazy event.”

2. Armond White spikes Brad Pitt’s Minari. From the beginning of the review:

Most reviews of Minari, the Korean-American film about a family settling in 1980s Reagan-era Arkansas, describe the two-parent, two-child-plus-grandmother characters as “immigrants.” This is not accidental. Reviewers interpret the film as confirming their sentiments about the immigration crisis, even if it means overlooking that the characters actually are U.S. citizens. Fact is, Minari is a nostalgic, semi-autobiographical film, written and directed by Lee Isaac Chung, a Yale graduate who was born in Denver, Colo.

When reviewers condescend to Minari’s ethnic exoticism, it illustrates how political fashion continues to warp contemporary film culture. Reviewers (they’re not really critics) refuse to acknowledge that Chung’s tale is about all-American striving. Because reviewers prefer to see ethnicity first, they don’t recognize Minari’s stock narrative, its derivativeness, and the predictability that make it dull.

In fact, Minari is not foreign but distinctly Hollywood. The disagreement among young parents Jacob and Monica (Steven Yeun, Yeri Han) about relocating from Los Angeles to Arkansas turns the husband–wife tension into city–country banality. Jacob buys a farm to specialize in selling Korean vegetables and escape the drudgery of a California ranch where they both worked at determining the usefulness of chickens by checking their sex — discarding unproductive males. (Elite reviewers are so distracted from the world of work, they see no significance — or humor — in Monica’s preferring this form of peonage.) Meanwhile, the children (Noel Cho, Alan S. Kim) are too cute; and, worst of all, Soonja (Youn Yuh-jung), the non-English-speaking grandmother, wins reviewers’ affection for her Old World strangeness, since she is the most foreign and unregenerate — which is to say, least assimilated — character. It’s Soonja who plants minari (Asian celery) in a nearby stream.

3. Isaac Schorr has high praise for the new documentary on Thomas Sowell. From the piece:

The documentary also explores Sowell’s work on late-talking children and the research he did on geography’s effects on societal development.

While the film gives viewers an accurate understanding of Sowell’s worldview and core principles, it may seem a superficial treatment to those who are familiar with his work. For example, in a clip of an interview with Dave Rubin, Rubin asks why Sowell turned away from Marxism, and Sowell responds with a laugh and a one-word answer: “Facts.” The documentary treats this as a revelation, and it makes a fine soundbite, but it doesn’t really do justice to Sowell’s core belief in rigorous empiricism. The documentary also suffers from a few moments of repetition, when an anecdote told by one person, for instance, is retold by another voice.

But these problems are far outweighed by its virtues, the first of which is its narrator, whose knowledge of Sowell’s work and admiration for the man jump through the screen. Clearly, Riley takes an interest in the subject, and his enthusiasm invites the same out of viewers. Another is the array of charming anecdotes about Sowell that showcase his wit, crankiness, and kindness — I won’t spoil any of them here. In sum, the documentary really does a wonderful job of ensuring that its viewers grasp the essence of Sowell — the most important parts of his personality, career, and philosophy. Riley hopes that the film will “whet the appetite” of those who might then delve deeper into Sowell’s work.

4. More Armond, who watches an old film, The Tree, the Mayor and the Mediatheque, which gets him to pondering. From the piece:

More than a politicized sex farce, these characters actually talk — not the specious “conversation” urged by pundits, but honest, personal communication. Issues dissolve in the face of egoistic, often romantic, conflict and connection. Rohmer’s mastery (best known from My Night at Maud’s, Claire’s Knee, and Chloe in the Afternoon) reveals characters speaking in the language of their times, then honestly confronting their own moral imperatives. The revelation is beautiful, beyond Hollywood’s self-satisfied groupthink that passes for thoughtfulness.

Rohmer avoids the brainwashed pretenses of characters who parrot our current state-media; his dramatic, verbal strategy uses haphazard personal encounters. The film’s subtitle, “The Seven Chances,” nods to the social slapstick of Buster Keaton’s 1925 Seven Chances, while acknowledging the accident of political preferences and the reality of citizens making personal choices. (Seeing the mayor and the schoolteacher’s daughters’ playtime détente — an innocent ideal — is pure elation.) Hollywood–New York narcissistic filmmaking partisans simply don’t go there.

Right now, we’re suffocating under enforced political correctness in which moviemakers lecture on proper social stances — while denying their own political biases. Nomadland; The Trial of the Chicago 7; Promising Young Woman; Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Always; Minari; and most other new releases — all tell us what to think rather than entertain us. Unmoved, bored? Then you must be a “domestic terrorist” wasting your Netflix privilege.

5. John Fund reports from California on the final tinkerings of a forthcoming movie on Ronald Reagan. From the article:

The movie will tell the story of Reagan’s life from age 11 to age 83, as seen through the eyes of Viktor Petrovich, a KGB agent who is assigned to observe Reagan’s career from the 1940s through the 1980s. Petrovich constantly warns Moscow that Reagan is “a Crusader” who could do grave damage to the Soviet Empire. But he is largely ignored — until it is too late.

“The story of Reagan is a fascinating one whatever one’s politics,” the film’s producer, Mark Joseph, told me. “We came at it from the angle of wondering what his enemies thought of him and how they followed him and ultimately lost to him. Nobody knew him like his enemies did — and it’s through that lens that we tell the story. It’s impossible to understand the last century without understanding who Ronald Reagan was.”

Joseph has been an executive on more than 45 films, including The Passion of the Christ, The Chronicles of Narnia, and the successful free-speech documentary No Safe Spaces (with Adam Carolla, Dennis Prager, and Jordan Peterson).

6. More Kyle, who digs Judas and the Black Messiah. From the review:

LaKeith Stanfield, a versatile young actor who never fails to impress (and also appeared in Get Out), turns in a brilliant performance as the rat, Bill, who in his meetings with the FBI looks haunted and guilt-torn, just as when he’s among Black Panthers he shifts between fright and bravado. We meet him in an expertly crafted scene at a barroom in which the director creates a long, fluid extended take to create breathless anticipation (which is the correct use of the tool, more often trotted out these days merely as a showy gimmick).

Plemons is nearly as good as Stanfield in playing nuance: His Roy Mitchell, Bill’s pudgy FBI handler, can’t quite be classified as either a careless racist or a decent man grappling with his conscience. Plemons plays the internal struggle of this man brilliantly when he learns the reality behind a story Bill brought him about a Black Panther who tortured and murdered an informant: The truth is that the Panther was himself an FBI mole, and the “informant” was a scapegoat. Roy asks for clarification from his boss: We have a murderer working for us, and we’re not going to arrest him? No, he is told, the man is much more useful when allowed to visit various Black Panther sites, where his status as a “fugitive” can be used to obtain search warrants. The twisted logic of the spy game here is like John Le Carré goes to Chicago. To Bill, Roy asserts that the Panthers are the equivalent of the KKK: “The Panthers and the Klan are one and the same. Their aim is to sow hatred and inspire terror. . . . You can’t cheat your way to equality and you certainly can’t shoot your way to it.”

7. Horses couldn’t drag a compliment out of Sarah Schuette when it comes to the Black Beauty remake. From the review:

Resetting the story in America, rather than the Victorian England of the novel, is an interesting twist, but the creativity ends there. In this film, Beauty is not the stallion of the original but a mare, voiced by Kate Winslet, an excellent actress who ought to have been offended by the poorly written lines she was given in the role. If the director had a discernible reason for making the horse female, that would be one thing. But to do so simply to fit in with the all-female-remakes trend is shallow and disingenuous. The original Black Beauty was a vehicle for promoting animal welfare and ending bad practices engaged in by upper-crust or ignorant owners. Avis seems aware of the serious problem of managing wild-horse populations in the American West and of the mistreatment of carriage horses in New York City, but the screenplay jumps around so much that these real issues are lost.

This leads to the main problem with Avis’s movie: its overabundance of plotlines. Viewers are led in too many directions to get a good grasp on any given thread. In the novel, Beauty does indeed end up in numerous locations, but it happens over the course of many years. Here, however, we are taken from Utah to upstate New York in the first nine minutes of the film, left upstate for an hour, then tossed back to the West for about twelve minutes, and then suddenly find ourselves with Beauty back in New York — this time in the Big Apple — for the last 18 minutes. As in the book, each move places Beauty with different masters and performing various jobs (racehorse, mountain rescue horse, carriage horse, etc.), but here the uneven spacing of events is awkward and choppy.

Beauty’s human counterpart is Jo Green, played by the lovely Mackenzie Foy, yet another female character who in the original story was male. In the book, Joe Green is a young groom who learns much by caring for Beauty and, after many years apart, eventually rediscovers him. Movie Jo is an angry teenager who has tragically lost her parents. Sent to live with her horse-trainer uncle (who rescued Beauty from Utah), she gradually comes out of her shell and forms a bond with the horse.

Elsewhere in the Conservative Solar System

1. Our friends at Law & Liberty publish a five-part essay series on “Vindicating a Prudent Politics within the GOP. We know that “prudence” is a curse word to some, but nevertheless we commend this series, and share copiously, starting with Charles C.W. Cooke’s piece, “The Character That Brings Change.” From the essay:

Were Trump’s two showings especially impressive? Not really, no. In 2016, Trump managed to beat Hillary Clinton, but he did not gain more votes than she did, and over the four years of his presidency his party bled support at all levels of government except for the U.S. Senate. In 2020, Trump expanded the number of votes he received, but still got seven million fewer than his opponent, the 78-year-old, barely coherent Joe Biden, and then, having lost, set about losing the party its control of the Senate. If one were looking for advice on how to win elections, wouldn’t one rather look to the much-reviled George W. Bush, who won both of his elections, rather than to Trump? Or, if not, wouldn’t one look to Ronald Reagan, who bestrode the scene like a colossus?

To ask these questions in earnest is to accept the premise that conservatives have a problem winning elections or advancing their ideas. But they don’t — not really. Conservatism will always be a harder sell than its alternatives because it involves telling people hard truths, because it does not pretend to have all the answers at hand, and because it is fundamentally anti-utopian. And yet its political vehicle, the Republican Party, often prevails at the polls. Since 1994, when it finally broke the Democrats’ long monopoly on legislative power, Republicans have controlled the House for all but six years and controlled the Senate for all but nine. Since 2006, meanwhile, only five states have failed to elect a Republican governor for at least one term. Texas and Florida, the second and third most populous states in the union, have not elected a Democratic governor or state legislature since the mid-1990s, while both California and New York — the first and fourth more populous states, respectively — have had a mixture. If there is something truly wrong with the Republican Party’s priorities, one might expect this to show up more clearly in the data.

So, yes, you can put me firmly in the dinosaur camp. Or, to borrow a fashionable pejorative, you can serve me the “dead consensus” until I’m full up. Why? Well, because I don’t think that it’s dead. In my estimation, the future of conservatism should not be too different than the past of the conservatism, because most of what conservatives have historically stood for is still true. It is true that the Constitution is the best government system we can expect to live under, that we should amend it carefully and explicitly, and that we should demand that our politicians and judges interpret it according to its original public meaning rather than whatever linguistic fads are currently being taught at the universities. It is true that a free and open market yields opportunity and prosperity and that while it may not be a good idea to cut taxes infinitely, it is most definitely a good idea to keep them low. It is true that we cannot spend what we do not have forever without going broke. It is true that government programs, however well-intentioned, tend to collapse into inefficiency, inertia, self-dealing, and dependency. It is true that the Bill of Rights contains timeless and unalienable liberties, rather than contingent preferences that can be whittled away at the whim of the state. It is true that war comes to the weak and unprepared, and that a robust national defense is the best way to avert disaster. It is true that one cannot limit religious liberty without limiting conscience, and that governments that limit conscience find it hard to turn back before it is too late. And it is true that character matters — yes, even if those of poor character are capable of bringing about positive change.

2. Then comes fan favorite Daniel J. Mahoney, whose piece “No Escape from Politics — Or Patriotism” is a must-read. From the essay:

In contrast, many ordinary people are still proud to be patriots, and some remain stalwart people of faith. But the culture of repudiation and the above-mentioned fashionable ideological “theories” are reshaping the culture, and the education of young people from kindergarten through graduate school. In response, populism needs to be informed by statesmanship and a more attentive regard to the constitution of 1787. As Aristotle, Burke, the Founders, Tocqueville, and Lincoln have all taught us in their different ways, the human will, whether of the one, the few, or the many, is an insufficient foundation for justice, the rule of law and self-government. A prudent, constitutional populism, defending the country against those who define democracy as the repudiation of our civic and civilizational inheritance, is the only way forward.

But that will demand not only thoughtful intellectual venues like Law and Liberty, the sponsor of this symposium, but new universities open to liberal learning and resistant to the destruction of what T.S. Eliot famously called the “Permanent Things.” Without cultural and spiritual renewal, there cannot be a revival of true statesmanship, constitutionalism, and the self-command central to the arts of republican self-government. But that renewal is also impossible without a decent and reasonably free political order. For example, there cannot be a reasonable chance for a “Benedict Option” to succeed unless our political order remains open to authentic religious liberty and non-relativistic understandings of human freedom. There is no escape from politics, and the imperatives of political reason. There is no running for the sacred hills.

The late Roger Scruton is extremely helpful in showing prudent and principled conservatives (and old-fashioned liberal constitutionalists) all the obstacles that we confront. We on the conservative-liberal side understand that every civic order is also a moral order, one that inculcates and defends “existing norms and customs.” In one of his last books, Conservatism: An Invitation to the Great Tradition, Scruton argued that on the Left “it is the negative that inspires.” Left-liberals no longer believe in discursive reason but reduce every argument and action to the unholy trinity of race, class, and gender (however, class is on the wane at the present moment, it seems). The Left has ready-made “isms” and “phobias” (racism, xenophobia, homophobia, sexism, and now transphobia) to conveniently target conservatives — or people of good sense more broadly — and “to dismiss every aspect of our cultural capital.” The Left increasingly identifies freedom with permissive egalitarianism, and cultural and moral relativism. They are unforgiving and see oppression and domination in decent if imperfect traditions, institutions, and cultural practices.

Democratic patriotism is thus never reducible to an abstract attachment to rights or to some universalist liberal political philosophy. Men and women fight and die, or risk their lives for free countries, not for a universalism or cosmopolitanism that is far too abstract to be concrete or real.

3. Joseph Postell weighs in with “A More Perfect Conservatism.” From the essay:

Adjusting the policies of American conservatism to the new environment is a task less daunting than it may seem. While it would require setting aside ideologically rigid commitments on trade and debt, it is important to remember that Trump embraced most of what defined traditional American conservatism. The real challenges concern style and tactics, not substance.

Regarding style, Trump’s personality defined conservatism for the past four years, for better and for worse. His Twitter feed rallied millions to support him, and alienated millions who may have supported his policies but could not stomach his character. It’s hard to measure the cost and benefit of Trump’s personality with confidence. Trump won in 2016, of course, but he lost the popular vote, and he faced a historically poor opponent. He lost in 2020, of course, but he seemed a likely winner at the beginning of the year, before the bizarre events of 2020 turned the nation upside-down. Could a political party and its leaders connect to Trump’s base, integrating it into the coalition, without embracing his buffoonish style?

In addition to the concerns about style, conservatism must grapple with questions about tactics. Perhaps the central charge that Trump’s intellectual supporters levied against conservatism was that it was not sufficiently aggressive. Conservatives, in this view’s famous metaphor, are “the Washington Generals of American politics. [Their] job is to show up and lose.” They “self-handicap and self-censor to an absurd degree.” Instead of fighting, they cede ground voluntarily, just to get a seat at the table.

Like the claims about style, these criticisms about conservatism’s tactics are impossible to evaluate objectively. To illustrate: Left-wing faculty at my previous university routinely lamented that conservatives dominated national politics during the Obama presidency. (I once attended a faculty dinner party where the main topic was President Obama’s astonishing refusal to fight harder for progressive causes. Alas, they concluded, he was just another conservative in disguise.)

The complaint that American conservatism has been tactically ineffectual is, in my view, overblown. Conservatism has transformed American politics since it emerged in the middle of the 20th century. It has reshaped the federal courts, defeated the Soviet Union, and dramatically altered the nation’s fiscal policy. It has also resisted repeated attempts to transform the nation into a much more radically progressive regime. America is not Canada, France, or Spain, and American conservatism is at least partially responsible for that.

4. Carson Holloway’s symposium contribution, “In Search of Virtù,” brings Machiavelli into the conversation. From the essay:

The proper response to this challenge is that anyone who wants to understand politics — as well as anyone who wants to succeed in politics — has to be able to think like Machiavelli. His account of the often harsh realities of political life is too accurate to be safely ignored. This is not to say that conservatives should simply become Machiavellians — amoral seekers of political power for its own sake. It is to say that any effort to guide political life by sound moral principles will fail if it does not also take into account the reality of power politics.

Our greatest statesmen have understood this well. Contemporary conservatives tend to revere Abraham Lincoln. If they would attend closely to his career, they would see that he never made any important decision without considering both the principled basis for his actions as well as the implications for his own power, that of his party, and that of his country. Lincoln was not a political prophet (unlike, say Frederick Douglass) but a practical statesman who knew that he would need to succeed in winning and holding power if he were to do any good for his country as a politician.

What, then, are the Machiavellian virtues that permitted Trump to succeed to the extent that he did? Machiavelli teaches that humans are primarily self-interested beings. Where many conservative candidates had failed by offering appeals to abstract principles that are of little interest to ordinary voters, Trump succeeded by offering a straightforward and unashamed appeal to the self-interest of Americans.  While Trump’s universally-known slogan issued a call to “Make America Great Again,” his build-up to that slogan in his stump speech always included a promise to “make America wealthy again.”  Trump followed through on this pledge by cutting taxes, cutting regulations, and reconfiguring American trade policy with a view to promoting American manufacturing.  The economic result: better GDP growth and rising wages for the working class.  The political result: Trump won many millions more votes in 2020 than he had in 2016.

Trump also understood or intuited Machiavelli’s observation that in every political community human nature expresses itself in two “humors”: the people and the great. Trump the populist grasped that, as Machiavelli admonished, it is better to found one’s power on the people than on the great, because the former are more numerous and less demanding than the latter. The people mainly want to be left alone and have their essential interests respected, where the great cause trouble because they are ambitious to rule and want to impose their wills on the people. By understanding this Trump was able, with not much difficulty, to take over the Republican Party over the strenuous objections of its wealthy donors and their preferred leaders.

5. James Hankins’ contribution, “Prudence Demands We Resist Arbitrary Government,” considers the leftist enemy, now exposed for what it truly is. From the essay:

At the beginning of Men at Arms, Evelyn Waugh’s great novel of the Second World War, his protagonist Guy Crouchback sees a headline in the morning newspaper announcing the Hitler-Stalin Pact of August 1939. While news of the pact causes heartache to intellectuals on the left — how could the leader of world socialism agree to a non-aggression pact with that monster Hitler? — it “brought deep peace to one English heart.” Crouchback had been suffering an anguish of his own thanks to the estrangement between the country of his ancestors, England, and the country of his heart, Italy. Though he despised Nazis, he had not been able to regard the Fascist regime of Italy in quite the same black-and-white terms as his fellow Englishmen. “But now, splendidly, everything had become clear. The enemy was at last in plain view, huge and hateful, all disguise cast off. It was the Modern Age in arms. Whatever the outcome there was a place for him in that battle.” Now he could return and fight for his country with full commitment against the twin evils of Nazism and Communism.

Many conservatives over the last year have had, I think, a similar moment of clarification. Such moments are rare for us. The conservative temperament in politics ordinarily aims to make prudent choices between the least unsatisfactory alternatives. We conservatives expect politics to be morally murky, up to a point. It’s not our way to proclaim utopian futures or swear fealty to politicians urging ethical perfection upon the citizenry.

So as a conservative it was hard for me to muster much enthusiasm as we entered the election year. President Trump was not my cup of tea and I saw little to admire in his behavior, but the behavior of his opponents was no better. Both sides marked new lows in verbal incontinence and mendacity. I didn’t like all the president’s policies, either, but those of his opponents, where they could be discovered, seemed worse. In politics one also has to consider the kinds of people supporting either side, and the persons likely to hold office under a successful candidate. Though there were some competent, even admirable figures on both sides, the thought of having to join either tribe was painful.

But at a certain point this year the enemy came at last into plain view, huge and hateful. The disguises of history were cast off. It became clear that we were being governed by a corrupt oligarchy out of tune with traditional American political norms. All government, as Pareto noted, is in the end oligarchical; it’s in the nature of government for the few to rule over the many. But it matters what kind of oligarchy governs. And the new oligarchy that has revealed itself this year looks suddenly very different from any that has governed us before.

6. At Gatestone Institute, Guy Millière wonders if Trump’s Middle-East achievements will survive. From the article:

As anticipated by Trump in May 2017, the Abraham Accords have both an economic and a strategic dimension. They not only offer economic opportunities to all the signatories but also reinforce their military strength. As the plan includes the Palestinian Arabs, the Arab signatories can say that by signing the agreement, they did not forget the Palestinian population.

The Abraham Accords — between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain — will lead to billions of dollars of investment and trade between Israel and its partners in peace. The Accords will also allow the Emirates and Bahrain to benefit from Israeli technology, and see their defense strengthened against Iran.

The Abraham Accords have also led, more broadly, to a cultural and religious opening of the Emirates and Bahrain to Judaism: the Crossroads of Civilization Museum in Dubai is now the first museum accessible in the Hebrew language in the Arab world. The museum displays old maps of Jerusalem, a sword from the Yemenite Jewish community, a pre-Holocaust Jewish marriage contract and original letters by Theodor Herzl. Restaurants in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Manama are increasingly serving kosher food. A giant Hanukkah candelabra, a menorah, was lit up in front of Dubai’s Burj al-Khalifa, the word tallest skyscraper, to celebrate the Jewish holiday. Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, has been working for years to spread a non-political vision of Islam and has entrusted the management of the country’s religious issues to a Sufi scholar, Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah, now in charge of disseminating this vision.

The Trump administration’s agreement with Sudan has an even more striking dimension. Sudan was on the list of terrorist states and, until its dictator, Omar al Bashir, fell in April 2019, it had contributed to the war against Israel. The current Prime Minister, Abdalla Hamdok, shares a similar vision of Islam to that of Sheikh Abdallah bin Bayyah, and has appointed a Christian Coptic woman to the Sovereign Council, a body that will rule the country until late 2022 when free elections are planned. Israel now has peaceful relations with a country that had long been an enemy. Sudan, freshly removed from the list of terrorist states, now has help from Israel, one of the world-leaders in agricultural technologies, and will be able to improve its food production.

7. Clara Barton on Line One: At The College Fix, Matt Lamb reports on the race-lunacy at the University of Washington. From the beginning of the piece:

The University of Washington has launched a new “Center for Antiracism in Nursing.”

“Systemic racism has for generations undermined the health of individuals and communities across America, a public health crisis that has made the pandemic even more deadly and destructive for people of color,” the public university in Seattle said in a news release on February 5.

The nursing school dean said “nurses are in the ideal position” to combat racism. “There is much work to do to become antiracist, not just as a society, but as a school, a university, a profession and a community,” Azita Emami said in the media statement.

A nurse practitioner said she hopes the center will help confront “white privilege” and “anti-blackness.”

“I believe the process of creating the Center for Antiracism in Nursing will provide a way for the school to reconcile and find resolve within its own walls that have promoted anti-blackness and white privilege,” Joycelyn Thomas said in the news release.

The center, which plans to hold a series of listening sessions as it formulates the center, has a number of goals.

The goals include “Cultivating antiracist teaching practices, academic curriculum and professional development,” “Supporting students from underrepresented and historically excluded groups” and “Applying antiracist principles to clinical practice, organizational operations and health-related policy.”

University President Ana Marie Cauce said that the public university “recognize(s) the need to combat the systemic racism that results in poorer healthcare and worse outcomes for Black, Indigenous, Latinx and other communities of color.”

A Dios

Saint Valentine — bishop, martyr and patron of beekeepers (in addition to love), whose feast we celebrate this Sunday — is, by tradition, the go-to intercessor for petitions elating to fainting, epilepsy, and the plague. Consult him if needed. Forty years ago on his feast day, Not-Yet-Mrs. Yours Truly and Yours Truly had their initial get-together. It was a lowfalutin dinner, which followed the watching of Fort Apache, The Bronx. Talk about a romantic date. Nevertheless, to the day, five years later, they wed. She deserves battlefield pay for the trials and tribulations she tolerated in the 35 ensuing years. That shared, please pray for those who are affianced, so their marriages may be happy and enduring.

May You Abide in God’s Love,

Jack Fowler, who remains at your service, and accepts all inquiries and requests sent via jfowler@nationalreview.com.

National Review

20 Million Leaks Under the Vaccine

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Dear Weekend Jolter,

We thank the Creator for the innate and undeniable efficiency of government! As this missive is typed some 35 million vaccines have been administered in the U.S; and per our Jim Geraghty — please do read his important piece of reporting — only 20 million doses are missing. That’s all. Not a bad percentage for screwing up!

What else? Again per Jim: Tens of millions of doses are just sitting there in a warehouse. Don’t rush Uncle Sam — in lockdown we’re keeping busy reading reports about new mutant strains. And of course reading the obituaries (lots to read there).

What else? The new Capital Record podcast has only chalked up its third episode, but Your Humble Correspondent suggests you give a listen, as David Bahnsen and author Jerry Bowyer discuss Jesus-is-a-Socialist malarkey. It’s quite good.

What else else? The deadline for National Review Institute’s acclaimed “Burke-to-Buckley” Program spring sessions (in Philly and NYC) is February 10th, so chop chop with the applications. If you’re geographically challenged, you may know a son, daughter, grandchild, whatever, who would find this the WFBees knees, so make with the PDQ recommendations. Here’s where Your Aggravating Pitchman explained the whole kit and kaboodle last week. Or cut out the middleman and head straight to the appropriate NRI webpage, right here.

And then, before the meat and potatoes are served, there is this fat and tasty appetizer, courtesy of Armond White, he of the always brilliant pen, who here reflects on the reflecting-on the death of the great actress, Cicely Tyson. His point: Her death and her legacy have been exploited by many with a superimposing agenda, many ignorant of her artistry and true accomplishments. It’s such a great bit of cultural analysis that this missive’s author, claiming a point of personal privilege, seeks to draw your attention to it from the near-outset. From the beginning of Armond’s piece:

The late Cicely Tyson is getting the Chadwick Boseman treatment. Mainstream media bow to her memory with overstated obits and one piddling night of two films on Turner Classic Movies. All this, pretending to respect the artistry of her 60-year-plus career, simply in order to make Tyson an exemplar of Black Lives Matter significance.

Dark, lovely, and clearly intelligent, Tyson was certainly an extraordinary figure during the late 20th century, but like other black American performers who personified the social advances of that time, her reach into the millennium saw her achievements used as political fodder by media, politicians, and a new generation that was unaware of the qualities that defined Tyson’s exceptionalism. Tyson’s ageless beauty (she was nearly 50 when she made her breakthrough in Sounder) recalls how Celia Johnson portrayed average women with extraordinary forthrightness.

Racial esteem recently has degraded into political necromancy. Once a black cultural figure passes, they get more love dead than when alive. (The ultimate example is the 2018 Aretha Franklin funeral that became a Democratic Party platform.) Black artists who’ve enriched the culture are fitted with the same death masks as lawbreakers Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, and George Floyd — a form of honor peculiar to our suspiciously politicized era. When we no longer learn from artistry, its value gets twisted into outlawry.

Please do read the entire piece. And now, as promised (maybe even as feared) is another Weekend Jolt.

NAME, RANK, AND LINK

Articles

Pradheep J. Shanker: Andrew Cuomo Was a Villain All Along

Rich Lowry: Don’t Quit on the GOP

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Populism Driven by Errors, Arrogance and Corruption

John Yoo and Robert Delahunty: The Impeachment Trial’s Stacked Deck

Therese Shaheen: Don’t Trust Beijing, Because You Can’t Verify

Doug Bandow: China’s Terrifying Returns to Maoism

Fred Fleitz: How Joe Biden Could Truly ‘Fix’ the Iran Nuclear Deal

Madeleine Kearns: Scotland’s Government Slashes Away at Liberty

Itxu Díaz: The Davos ‘Great Reset’: Globalist Civilization Is Bound to Fall

Jimmy Quinn: Pakistan Threatens American Ahmadi Muslims in Digital-Censorship Effort

Dalibor Rohac and Ivana Stradner: Germany’s Armin Laschet Is Bad News for Biden Administration

Cameron Hilditch: European Union Disgraced, Brexit Vindicated in Vaccine Blockade Dispute

More Cameron: Honest Abe Canceled by Dishonest School Board

More Lowry: Biden Administration and Democratic Party Progressives Are in Lockstep

Zaid Jilani: Defund the Police: Study Shows Policy Can Have Deadly Consequences

Alexandra DeSanctis: What the Media Won’t Tell Us about Abortion

More MBD: Sunday Dinner: COVID Threatens a Fading Tradition

Kaj Relwof: Dark-Money — Democrats’ Self-Defeating Crusade

Editorials

Andrew Cuomo’s Shame

The BBC’s Horrifying Uyghur-Torture Story

Liz Cheney and House Republicans Hand Matt Gaetz a Defeat

Capitol Hill Fence: Security Concerns Must Not Result in the Fortification

How to Deal with Marjorie Taylor Greene

GameStop Stock Rally Foolishness

Capital Matters

Andy Pudzer finds an old motive that works: COVID-19 Vaccines: Profit-Seeking Businesses Developed and Delivered

Tate Williams explores the POTUS’s fantasies: Biden Administration Regulations Undermine Wind Energy

Alexander William Salter reviews advances beyond the stratosphere: Space Policy & Private Sector: Trump Administration Made Real Progress

Jarrett Skorup on those who cut off the ladder’s first rung: Minimum-Wage Hikes Will Mean Fewer Entry-Level Jobs

Veronique de Rugy sees little return: Coronavirus Stimulus Overkill

From the February 22, 2021 Issue of National Review

David Harsanyi takes on a ghoulish governor: COVID Cuomo’s Deadly Nursing Home Mistake

Charles C.W. Cooke records the consequence of our virtue dearth: Our Illiberal Moment

Joseph Epstein writes an obituary: What Killed Humor?

Brian Streeter explains the urban fed-ups: Looking at Trump’s Electoral Performance in Big Cities

LINKS BUFFED UP WITH EXCEPTIONAL EXCERPTS

Articles, and Plenty of Them

1. It may be news to most of the MSM, but as Pradheep J. Shanker explains, Governor Andrew Cuomo has been a pandemic-politicizing villain from nearly the outset. From the article:

This was likely the worst possible decision Cuomo could have made. First, although many feared the hospitals would be overwhelmed, field hospitals and military-hospital ships quickly became available, but were underutilized. As for COVID itself, we now know that patients needed around ten days to be totally free of the virus. Furthermore, some patients who were never symptomatic were nonetheless infectious, and they were still returned to nursing-home facilities. There, they could quietly infect other patients and staff. We may never know the true number of people who were infected, or even died, from the governor’s orders.

This too, could have been excused, if Andrew Cuomo had simply been forthcoming and admitted it was a mistake. But if he had done that, he wouldn’t be Andrew Cuomo. In July, his own New York State Health Department report denied any wrongdoing relating to its March 25 order that homes be forced to accept COVID-positive patients — though 323 facilities had no reported infections until they took in such patients from hospitals. Even worse, this report still didn’t provide statewide data on the matter. The report was a clear attempt to hide data and whitewash the repercussions of Cuomo’s ill-considered order. This has led to outside groups, such as the Empire Center for Public Policy, to file lawsuits demanding the Health Department release these data.

The simple reality is that the governor’s orders led to more deaths. How many can be argued, and likely will be an area of vigorous debate in public-health-policy academic circles for decades to come. But Cuomo then compounded his mistake by purposefully lying and deceiving the public about it, all the while having the machinery of the New York state government cover for him as well.

2. In the face of claims of its death and certain demise, Our Esteemed Editor, Mr. Lowry, makes the case for the Grand Old Party’s future. From the piece:

There will inevitably be an overwhelming controversy in the Biden administration or a crisis that moves us beyond the politics of the Trump presidency and the immediate aftermath.

New issues will emerge, and there are plenty of talented, ambitious Republican politicians who think they are better suited to win a presidential election and serve as president than Donald Trump 2.0. The incentives are for them to slipstream behind Trump for now, but that won’t always be true.

The temptation to splinter from the GOP might be alluring to elements of both the populists and the Republican traditionalists, but this is a dead end.

The Republican Party is the only plausible electoral vehicle for any sort of right-of-center politics in America. It is worth fighting over, and it will be.

That struggle is sure to be toxic and unpredictable — except for the fact that at the end of the day the Grand Old Party will still be standing.

3. Populism is not exiting the room, writes Michael Brendan Dougherty. From the article:

If the virus is stomped out by summer, though, populist energy could ebb substantially and normal life might return in a giddy rush as we all race back to entertainments and head toward full employment once again. The Fed’s book may be a mess, but stocks are high, and household balance sheets tell us that spending and splurging are on the way.

But I doubt that populism is going away for long.

First, because there is always a populist streak in American life. We are a people who routinely cook up new religions, quack cures, and strange theories. Our modern media just make these more visible. But what’s mainly driving populist energy today are the errors, arrogance, corruption, and intransigence of our leaders.

The continued breakup of traditional institutions and the segmentation of news media into enterprises that focus on serving a dedicated customer base rather than “the public” have driven trust in the media to an all-time low. Not a surprise when all media are seen as a commercial scam, led by a cliquish, self-protecting bevy of insiders. Journalists are becoming the new lawyers — despised by the public for serving themselves even before their customers.

4. John Yoo and Robert Delahunty find that the setup for Donald Trump’s second Impeachment is missing a fair chance. From the analysis:

As the Senate launches its second impeachment trial of Donald Trump next week, its members must confront the deep unfairness of the proceedings.

The Senate rashly claimed jurisdiction over a former president, fumbled on the selection of a presiding judge, and ignored the constitutional — not political — standards that should prevail. Further, it has given Trump’s depleted legal team little time or means to present a full defense — the only guarantee that the American people will accept the verdict as fair. Trump’s lawyers will have to accept these unfair conditions, though might conceivably be able to appeal directly to the federal courts to stop a show trial (more on that later).

In part, of course, Trump has only himself to blame. He presented challenges to the 2020 election beyond all reason, he stoked an angry mob on the day that Congress gathered to count the electoral votes, and he did not call on law enforcement and the military to protect the Capitol until too late. He has compounded the problems by parting ways with his first defense team less than a week ago and allegedly insisting that his lawyers focus on election fraud, rather than the unconstitutionality of trying an ex-officer. Such chaos might make good fodder for the Mar-a-Lago reboot of The Apprentice, but it only makes his defense all the more difficult.

Nevertheless, the Senate has ignored the constitutional limits on its powers and refused to follow principles of fairness in the trial. As we have argued earlier, the constitutional text — read in light of the understanding held by the Framers — does not appear to permit the trial of executive officers after their terms have ended. If the Framers had wanted to provide for the Senate trial of an impeached former president, they could have said so explicitly, as did several state constitutions of the Founding period. Days ago, 45 senators supported proceeding with a losing motion by Senator Rand Paul (R., Ky.) to dismiss the impeachment on this constitutional ground alone.

5. Therese Shaheen explains that bipartisan China hands are admitting that decades of Ameircan daydreaming policy has been a flop. From the article:

The hope that China, as it developed economically, would glide into democratic-capitalist norms guided the policy of every U.S. administration since President Carter granted U.S. diplomatic recognition to the PRC in 1979. The approach was based on the belief that Deng Xiaoping, who had consolidated his power by 1978, at heart was a market-driven reformer and that political liberalization would follow market liberalization.

That has not happened. That this approach was erroneous is now accepted by Democrats and Republicans, by elected officials on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, and by U.S. allies across Asia and Europe.

Even more remarkable than the acknowledgement that the policy was wrong — something policy-makers and politicians don’t like to admit, even in hindsight — is the increasingly popular view that not only were assumptions about Communist China and regime intent wrong, but also that there was enough evidence for successive administrations after Carter’s to have known at the time that they were on the wrong track.

There were certainly American analysts and policy-makers whose service in earlier administrations reflected a more accurate assessment of Beijing’s true intentions. But the typical reaction to that minority view tended to be derision at the “failure” of those analysts to understand the more nuanced, artful statecraft of the people executing the broader policy.

6. Doug Bandow repeats what’s worth repeating: Red China’s return to Maoism is terrifying. From the article:

The economy remains a socialist-market hybrid, while the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has made little effort to limit personal autonomy except where politics intrudes. However, just a hint of ideological disobedience now brings down the full weight of a vast domestic-security regime that spends more money than the People’s Liberation Army.

There are no easy policy answers for Washington. Repression is an essential part of today’s Chinese political system. It’s how current officials, starting at the top with Xi Jinping, retain their power, perquisites, wealth, status, and everything else that sets them apart from normal people. If there is an existential interest for the Chinese state, it is maintaining repression. The regime isn’t going to yield, irrespective of sanction, since its elites prefer power to anything else.

Violations of human rights are the norm in the PRC. In practice, civil liberties, free speech, and political freedom simply don’t exist there. China has essentially returned to the era of Mao Zedong, one of the CCP’s founders, who emerged atop the party after unceasingly brutal power struggles that shaped the party’s evolution.

The rungs on the CCP ladder were slippery indeed, as many once-dominant figures missed a step, plunging into the political netherworld below. Even Mao’s rise was sometimes interrupted. But he mixed determination, skill, and ruthlessness and ultimately outshone his rivals. He famously announced the creation of the People’s Republic of China in Tiananmen Square on October 1, 1949, and was responsible for virtually every brutal step taken by the CCP in its early years.

7. Fred Fleitz recommends how the Biden Administration needs to fix the Iran nuke deal. From the analysis:

First, Iran has never been in compliance with the JCPOA. Israel proved massive Iranian violations of the agreement in 2018, when it revealed documents stolen from Iran’s “nuclear archive.”

Second, even if Iran had been complying with the JCPOA, the deal would still be fatally flawed, since it allowed Iran to continue nuclear-weapons-related work — including uranium enrichment — for as long as it remained in effect. We know from plentiful past experience that Iran will often use holes in such agreements to advance parts of its nuclear-weapons-program that they don’t cover, such as warhead-design work. And we know from both previous IAEA reports and the Israeli-retrieved archives that such warhead-design work has been done since the JCPOA was signed, and never fully accounted for as the deal requires.

Finally, Iranian officials have made clear that they will never agree to negotiate the kind of follow-up, improved nuclear agreement Biden seeks.

8. Scotland considers draconian “hate crime” legislation. Madeleine Kearns considers the endgame for liberty. From the article:

As the Scottish Police Federation neatly summed up last year: “The bill would move even further from policing and criminalizing of deeds and acts to the potential policing of what people think or feel, as well as the criminalization of what is said in private.” Free to Disagree — a Scottish free-speech campaign representing writers and academics, atheists and Christians, liberals and conservatives alike — warned that their concerns are “wholly unresolved” after the government’s latest intervention.

Given that Scotland (and, indeed, the governing Scottish National Party) is in the midst of a heated debate about whether to rewrite sex-based rights and protections for women to include men who present as women, it is not reassuring that one side might be breaking the law merely for articulating its argument in strong and uncompromising terms. Just days before the committee met and decided to abandon the free speech amendments, the first minister posted a video on Twitter lamenting the rise of “transphobia” within the party, and an outspoken critic of transgender activism, Joanna Cherry, was sacked from the SNP’s Westminster front bench.

9. Globaloney, Cut Thick: Itxu Díaz finds the elites’ preening at Davos exposes a “vast disconnect between people’s desperate needs and their leaders’ preposterous prescriptions.” From the essay:

Here’s what he finds out, at a glance, are the priorities of the Davos divas, according to the information provided by TV news: combating carbon emissions (he tells me that the closest thing he has to carbon emissions in the bar right now is the tonic water); war against a cyber pandemic (he shrugs); elimination of borders and total globalization (thanks to which, EU countries don’t have vaccines and the U.K. does, he comments); and a CEOs’ alliance on climate change (this doesn’t look like it will make his rent any cheaper); along with the fight against systemic racism and more. The icing on the cake: In Davos, they present and applaud a study that claims compulsory confinement and enclosures have generated positive changes in about 80 percent of people. I imagine they are referring to 80 percent of the survivors.

Hardly a word about the terrible economic and psychological situation in which millions of people find themselves. Or about the reduction of individual freedoms because of the pandemic. Or about the massive bankruptcies. Or on how to accelerate vaccination worldwide. And certainly not a word condemning China for having concealed the disease or the World Health Organization for its complicity with the Chinese regime in the deceptions that led to the pandemic. Nothing. All that the world’s leaders are going to offer my friend and all of us who, in one way or another, are suffering the terrible consequences of the pandemic beyond the purely health-related are: green energy, all the -isms, more taxes, and a lot of “resilience,” whatever that means. The title of the meeting doesn’t leave much doubt about the intentions of world leaders either: “The Great Reset.” The problem with this ruling elite is that they have let Big Tech convince them that we work the same as one of Bill Gates’ damn blue screens — that we are mere machines which can be shut down and then rebooted with a simple Ctrl-Alt-Delete.

10. Jimmy Quinn reports on how Pakistan is exporting its religious-bigotry policy to the U.S. From the beginning of the piece:

For decades, the government of Pakistan has relentlessly persecuted the members of the messianic Muslim Ahmadiyya sect within Pakistani borders. Although Pakistan is a Muslim-majority country, its constitution states that Ahmadi Muslims are non-Muslims, and blasphemy laws that criminalize public displays of worship of the Ahmadi faith empower courts to hand down the death penalty. U.S. officials have long spoken out against such laws, and since 2018 the State Department has added the country to its “countries of particular concern” list, comprising the world’s worst opponents of human rights.

“Despite repeated calls from the international community for Pakistan to abolish their antiquated blasphemy laws, peaceful groups like the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community continue to be subjected to them,” said Representative Michael McCaul, the co-chair of the Congressional Ahmadiyya Caucus and the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, in a statement. “No individual should ever be targeted, penalized, or attacked because of their religious beliefs — Pakistan must take meaningful steps to protect the rights of religious minorities.”

Instead, in recent months, Pakistan has stepped up its campaign of repression against the Ahmadis, attempting for the first time to enforce its notoriously draconian blasphemy laws on U.S. soil.

11. Dalibor Rohac and Ivana Stradner warn Biden: He’s got a Putin-pandering problem in Berlin. From the piece:

Following nearly two decades of Angela Merkel’s leadership, Armin Laschet, premier of Germany’s most populous state, Nordrhein-Westfalen, was elected on January 16 as the new leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). Barring large swings in polls before the parliamentary election in September, Laschet is on track to become Germany’s next chancellor.

That is bad news for efforts to repair the U.S.–EU relationship. The presence of Laschet at the helm of Europe’s largest economy would give a boost for those in Europe who are reluctant to take their obligations within NATO seriously and would risk tethering the EU closer to both China and Russia.

Much as Biden and Laschet are likely to see eye-to-eye on climate change and other “multilateral” issues, the presumptive German chancellor is a man of little patience with those who see the promotion of democratic values as integral to foreign policy. As such, he is likely to frustrate U.S.-led efforts to hold Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, and other dictators accountable for their domestic and international practices.

For one, Laschet has a long record of pandering to Putin, or “Putin-Verstehen” as the German neologism goes. Unlike Merkel and other European figures, Laschet hesitated to condemn the recent arrest of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. More broadly, he believes that “while drawing attention to violations of human rights or developments in democracy that we regard as undesirable, we should refrain from itemizing what is going on in Russia and passing didactic judgment on each individual item.” The reason? “We need Russia for many issues in the world” — not least climate change since a Paris Accord without Russia would be only “worth half as much.”

12. The EU bureaucrats (such management and logistics experts, no?) bigly bungle COVID vaccinations, reports Cameron Hilditch. From the piece:

The whole case for the EU was that the pallid globalized benevolence of a senescent Bonapartist technocracy would be a greater boon to the human race than the liberal democratic nation-state. But the nimble regulatory freedom of a post-Brexit U.K. and the contrasting sclerosis of the emergent European superstate has brought about a state of affairs wherein thousands of vulnerable people are alive in Great Britain who would be dead if they lived on the Continent. The EU’s “founding fathers” — men like Altiero Spinelli and Jean Monnet, who sought to rescue the world from democracy — would have been appalled.

The Commission has tried to shift the blame for Europe’s vaccination failures onto the drug companies themselves. Von der Leyen pointed her finger last week at the technical problems AstraZeneca has had with the vaccine yields in their European production facilities. “The companies must deliver,” she said. When asked about Von der Leyen’s complaints during an interview with the Italian newspaper La Republica, AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot was somewhat bemused. He noted that the U.K., the U.S., and Australia had all faced similar issues with yield. But “the U.K. contract was signed three months before the EU contract,” he said, “so with the UK we have had an extra three months to fix all the glitches we have experienced.” In other words, the European Union has no one to blame but itself. Von der Leyen’s decision to pause Europe’s COVID response for three whole months so as to turn it into a cosmetic staging post on the road to a United States of Europe is what is daily costing Europeans their lives.

The EU’s disastrous response to COVID and its ill-advised but short-lived flirtation with a medical blockade should, perhaps, be taken as a providential warning to those of us who’ve recoiled in horror at the populist turn in American politics. The European Union is an experiment in anti-populism. Its institutions were conceived and constructed to insulate those who wield political power from the will of popular majorities to the greatest extent possible in the modern world. If populism were the source of our present discontents, we should expect the EU to look like a shining city on a hill. But it’s clear that these people haven’t the faintest, foggiest clue what on earth they’re doing. In the last analysis, there’s simply no important political question in today’s world to which the European Union is the answer.

13. More Cameron: He weighs in on the San Francisco school board’s decision to cancel Abe Lincoln. From the essay:

When we cast our minds back to the 1850s and examine the emerging anti-slavery coalition in the United States, we discover that this coalition was extremely fragile. Millions of low-wage subsistence workers who had immigrated during that decade from Europe, and others who preceded them, made up the bulk of popular opposition to slavery.

Their motives for doing so, however, were practical rather than altruistic. In fact, most of these agricultural workers hated slaves just as much as they hated slavery. They opposed the institution in the South because the existence of slavery undercut their own job prospects. Why would southern landowners pay them wages to work in the fields when they had free labor available? However, these voters were also horrified at the idea of unilateral emancipation. They feared that freed slaves would begin migrating to the North and West and undercut white laborers by agreeing to work for lower wages.

Leading this coalition was, as one might imagine, a bit of a nightmare. The only anti-slavery policy that could garner any broad-based electoral support was one that restricted slavery to the states in which it already existed without abolishing it outright. This was the policy that Abraham Lincoln pursued during the 1850s and for most of his presidency. His idea was to put a cordon around slavery and to keep adding free states to the Union until a constitutional amendment could be ratified that would enforce abolition across the entirety of the nation.

Those who criticize Lincoln for failing to publicly pursue abolition from his earliest days in public life prove nothing but their own ignorance of the political context in which he was operating. He took the only course of public action that had any chance of marrying principle and prudence in such a way that would bring liberty to birth as the fruit of their union.

14. Rich Lowry reflects on Joe Biden’s very left-wing start. From the piece:

Biden’s obsession with fighting climate change speaks of an overwhelming hostility to fossil fuels that is something new. He has proposed a sweeping enforcement-never amnesty for more than 10 million illegal immigrants that makes past failed “comprehensive immigration bills” look modest by comparison. And his culture-war executive orders extend not just to abortion, where other Democratic presidents have signed executive orders quickly as well, but to transgender causes.

There will also be a continual focus on what Biden’s chief-of-staff calls “a racial equity crisis,” which will be a warrant for new, more aggressive identity politics.

The lesson is that the most important thing that any movement can do is influence the direction of a political party. If the center of gravity of a party moves, the entire establishment moves with it. So it is that Joe Biden, who has never been woke himself, is attempting to deliver victories to the left wing of his party that would have been almost unimaginable eight or twelve years ago — and do it quickly.

15. Zaid Jilani reports on how reducing the size in police forces results in more crime. Seems kind of obvious, if you’re not a leftist. From the article:

The role of policing in the United States is being hotly debated, with many liberal activists calling for reductions in police funding. Although advocates of defunding the police have failed to win over the general public, the political climate in certain Democratic-leaning cities, combined with the budget constraints imposed by COVID-19, has already succeeded in thinning the ranks of police departments in some parts of the country.

In Minneapolis, the epicenter of last year’s protests and riots, over 100 officers left the ranks of the city’s police, “more than double the number in a typical year.” In Seattle, another hub of protests last year, the level of police attrition is “unprecedented.”

The long-term impact of police reductions in these specific cities is at this point unclear. However, a study published in December in Justice Evaluation Journal offers some evidence that rapidly depleting the ranks of a city’s police force can in some circumstances have deadly consequences.

16. There’s plenty the MSM won’t tell Americans about the reality of abortion-on-demand. Alexander DeSanctis provides a glimpse. From the beginning of her article:

In the fall of 2019, the family of deceased abortionist Ulrich George Klopfer made a ghastly discovery. Cleaning out his Illinois home after his death, they found the medically preserved remains of more than 2,200 unborn children — evidently victims of his decades-long career performing tens of thousands of abortions, which had earned him a reputation as the most prolific abortionist in Indiana.

Later, they uncovered a stash of 165 fetal body parts hidden away in the trunk of one of Klopfer’s cars. Despite a subsequent law-enforcement investigation, we still don’t know the abortionist’s motivation for having kept these grisly trophies; whatever disturbed reasons he may have had for collecting them went with him to his grave.

Perhaps even more striking than the lack of clarity about this horrific discovery was the relative lack of public curiosity about it. Klopfer’s stockpile of corpses received relatively little national attention immediately after local news broke the story, and the entire event passed in and out of the mainstream news cycle in less than a week.

Aside from an opinion article by columnist Ross Douthat, the New York Times published just one brief report the day the news became public. Over the following week, a few major news outlets offered one or two brief articles outlining the basic facts of what had happened, but the bulk of ongoing interest and coverage came from local journalists. Hardly any reporters asked for comment on the matter from politicians, least of all Democrats who support unlimited legal abortion.

17. More MBD: The decline of the Family Sunday Dinner is bemoaned. From the reflection:

About a year ago, I began thinking about establishing a more regular Sunday dinner in our home. For us and for company. At the time it was probably asking for too much. The kids are still so young that any and every mealtime can be demanding. Still, the thought was on my mind because it was a year ago that we were finally settling into a place with a proper dining room.

One month after the dinner table made its way from storage into the dining room, the whole world shut down in a panic. It sounds so stupid now, but for a time we weren’t even letting cardboard boxes into our house without bleach-wiping them. It took almost a month before we had two friends over for socially distanced drinks in our front yard.

Though I already knew it by instinct, I learned the hard way this year that the home doesn’t function well as an island in which one nuclear family is marooned. The relationships in a nuclear family are given rest and revivified by our neighbors and extended family. Cousins, aunts, godparents, church friends, and old friends are all irreducibly unique humans themselves. And each tend to bring out something unique in us when they are present, which causes the people in our own households to see us in a different light. In essence, they help us to escape our own narrowness.

Company is also so good for our children. COVID life has been fully one half of my youngest son’s time on earth. And one quarter of his older brother’s. And all I want to do is to show them that life is not like this. We don’t surround them with fear or anxiety. But there’s nothing we can do to end the closures on all the indoor spaces where they would play, or to make them unsee the masks that are out there in public. This uninviting world is the only one they’ve known.

18. Kaj Relwof finds the Democrats’ election-reform legislation conflicting with the party’s massive dark-money junkie habit. From the beginning of the piece:

There’s more projection in Washington than in a chain of movie theaters. An excellent example of this is the Left’s relentless attack on “dark money,” cast as a distinctly conservative poison polluting American politics. So goes the hooey.

Just what it is, how much of it there is, who gets the bulk of the dark dough, and whether there is an approaching day of ruing for Democrats and their cash-flush “philanthropy” sidekicks, such as Arabella Advisors and the Tides Foundation — the Left’s superlative hypocrisy on the issue is matched by that of a supportive, echo-chamber media — are questions prompted by the legislation deemed so important, so vital and urgent, it gets the distinction of being numbered H.R. 1. The bill’s formal title is the “For the People Act of 2021” (we might suggest the “For the People Who Are Not Conservatives Act”), and it is sponsored by John Sarbanes (D., Md.). The Senate version’s sponsor is Jeff Merkley, the Oregon Democrat to the left of whom is the Pacific Ocean.

The legislation states that its mission is “to expand Americans’ access to the ballot box, reduce the influence of big money in politics, strengthen ethics rules for public servants, and implement other anti-corruption measures for the purpose of fortifying our democracy, and for other purposes.”

Yes, and unicorns are real.

Editorials

1. As if we needed another confirmation of why the ChiComs are fiends. From the editorial:

The BBC has published some of the most horrifying evidence yet of the Chinese Communist Party’s mass atrocities against the Uyghurs, detailing a disgusting campaign of systematic rape and torture.

An estimated 1 million Uyghurs — and other Turkic peoples in the Xinjiang region — are detained in the CCP’s concentration camps. The brave work of the victims of this modern gulag, as well as that of the reporters and researchers who have fought to bring their stories to light, has added granular detail to the world’s understanding of an ongoing crime against humanity. The BBC story is the latest emergency call for the world to speak the truth about what’s happening in Xinjiang, and do what it can to combat it.

The BBC story features the testimony of Tursunay Ziawudun, a Uyghur woman imprisoned for nine months in the camps. Weaving together the testimony of Ziawudun and other Uyghur detainees, interviews with teachers and police in Xinjiang, in addition to satellite and primary-source analysis corroborating their accounts, the BBC reporters show that the abuses go far beyond the regime’s aggressive program of political brainwashing.

The torture endured by these Uyghur women included rape and torture with electric batons, in addition to other unspeakable acts of sexual violence. At one point, a teacher forced to work in the camps recounts witnessing the gang rape of a 20- or 21-year-old girl perpetrated before an audience of 100 detainees; the authorities subsequently punished anyone with visibly distressed reaction. Such atrocities aren’t the work of individual sadists, but are deliberate and systematic, as dictated by China’s foul totalitarian regime and Communist Party general secretary Xi Jinping.

2. The New York Governor needs to be knocked off his pedestal for nursing-home incompetence and cover-ups about COVID deaths. From the editorial:

As New York City mayor Bill de Blasio put it with uncharacteristic eloquence, “These are our loved ones we lost, you know, it’s someone’s grandma, someone’s mother or father, aunts or uncles, this is families missing someone dear to them.”

The coronavirus has represented a once-in-a-hundred-years public-health crisis that has not discriminated between red and blue states. Everyone should have some humility about criticizing anyone in authority during the pandemic, when many decisions were made with imperfect information and when most choices had agonizing trade-offs. Yet Cuomo’s Department of Health’s March 25 order directing nursing homes to accept incoming residents known to have the coronavirus, an order he did not rescind until May 10, stands out as foolish and disastrous — especially because New York was warned of the danger. Cuomo still refuses to say whose idea the order was.

So more than 12 percent of New York nursing-home residents have succumbed to the virus. In New Jersey, where a policy similar to Cuomo’s was enacted, the death toll was similar: 12 percent of nursing-home residents felled by the virus. In Florida, where nursing homes were forbidden to accept people with coronavirus, that figure is 1.6 percent.

3. Matt Gaetz tried to oust Liz Cheney from the House GOP leadership. He failed, bigly. She won. From the editorial:

The vote is heartening, in that it shows that most Republicans realize it’s a mistake to let loyalty to one man in Mar-a-Lago dictate how they conduct their affairs. It’s depressing, in that it shows many Republicans are still much more willing to air this sentiment in private — it was a secret vote — than in public.

In repulsing the leadership challenge, Cheney has passed her first political test, but she still has much repair work to do in Wyoming, where voters overwhelmingly disagree with her impeachment vote and she already has primary challengers.

She will continue to be pursued by her critics until 2022. It will be better for the party if the ultimate outcome is the same as last night.

4. We say the Capitol cannot be turned into a fort. From the editorial:

Also, we should punish those responsible for January 6 appropriately. That means both those who failed to prevent what happened, including heads of security personnel (some of whom have already resigned), and those who carried out the violence and who unlawfully entered the Capitol. Our political and judicial systems making absolutely clear that such behavior represents an intolerable transgression are a way to deter future attempts.

It’s hard to see, though, why extra security, including perimeter fencing as necessary, can’t be added for high-profile events and when threats are high without making it a permanent feature. Whatever enhanced precautions take root in the Capitol Hill area after all of this has concluded should strive, as best as possible, to maintain the historically accessible nature of America’s seat of government. The Capitol Hill riots ought to be condemned as an un-American spectacle, and we should act to prevent anything like them from happening again. But it would also be un-American, and a change with worrying symbolic power, if the locus of popular government were forever visibly separated from the people themselves.

5. Marjorie Taylor Greene should be denied committee assignments. From the editorial:

It’d be a mistake to kick her out of Congress. Republicans in her district duly nominated her and then the voters elected her. This is a sign of very bad judgment, but the democratic will shouldn’t be overturned lightly, especially when the voters will have a chance to reconsider in two short years (assuming the Georgia GOP doesn’t redistrict Greene out of her seat).

House Democrats are pushing for a vote to deny Greene committee assignments. This will only raise the hackles of Republicans, who aren’t in a mood to be lectured by the Democratic party of Maxine Waters and Ilhan Omar about how to police members of Congress who make incendiary comments. Also, it’s a bad precedent for the majority to deny committee assignments to members of the minority it finds objectionable.

That said, the GOP should act under its own power, just as it did with former representative Steve King. Greene’s conspiracy-laden malevolence is poison to the electoral prospects and moral standing of the GOP. There’s no reason that the party needs to give her committee assignments, and she’s unlikely to have much useful to contribute to the House Education and Labor Committee and the Budget Committee anyway.

6. What is not needed in response to the GameStop stock rally is more government regulation and interference. From the editorial:

For all the complaints of lawmakers, though, it was the retail brokerages that took away the punch bowl, not the regulators. For a few days, it looked like the market had broken. The rally in GameStop, AMC, Blackberry, and other stocks handpicked by Reddit was based on nothing more than sentiment. In a functioning market, smart money should correct overvaluation driven by dumb money.

Although it took a few days, that’s exactly what’s happening. Robinhood and other brokerages halted trading not due to some shady desire to help Wall Street, but because they could not afford to shoulder the risks their customers were taking. A sizable portion of retail traders’ speculative investments in “meme stocks” were made with money borrowed from brokerages on margin. In response to increased volatility, Robinhood twice issued “margin calls,” decreasing the amount of borrowed money customers were allowed to invest in GameStop — first to 20 percent, then to zero.

In the meantime, the brokerages had to wait for customers to put up cash while their trades were settled by central clearinghouses. Like the brokerages, the clearinghouses did not want to take the risk of lending to speculators, so they increased the amount of collateral required to settle transactions in high-risk stocks. But Robinhood and other brokerages wouldn’t have that cash until their many millions of customers met margin calls. They faced the choice of either putting up their own cash, and exposing themselves to the risk of a meme-stock meltdown, or pulling the plug. Though the Reddit rally is far from over, it began to unravel in a matter of days thanks to the rational decisions of market participants.

Capital Matters

1. Andy Pudzer says it was the profit motive that instigated the historic delivery of COVID-19 vaccines. From the article:

That Pfizer and Moderna were able to develop, produce, test, and begin administering such effective vaccines in less than a year is a testament to what profit-driven corporations can accomplish when government cooperates.

The capitalist Cinderella story here is Moderna, a small biotech corporation listed on the NASDAQ exchange. While Moderna received U.S. government support of about $2.5 billion for development and purchases of vaccines, Moderna exists because of investors who expected it to make a profit.  There may well be executives and employees at Moderna who worked altruistically to find a cure for COVID-19. But they had jobs enabling them to do so because of Moderna’s profit-oriented investors.

Moderna developed and shipped the first batches of its vaccine to the National Institutes of Health for human testing on February 24, 2020, an incredible 42 days after China released the coronavirus DNA sequence. Its stock spiked from $18.59 to $21.57 on the announcement and closed at $131.02 on the day I received my shot.

That’s a good thing. The potential of businesses to produce those kinds of results is why people invest. It’s also what motivates the kind of research that results in cutting-edge advances such as the Moderna vaccine, which relies on “a novel mechanism that is not used in any existing vaccine,” according to the staff of Harvard’s Petrie-Flom Center.

Of course, to survive, Moderna had to cover the costs of researching, developing, and producing its products. It also has to turn a profit. Fortunately, the Trump administration understood this.

2. Tate Williams reports on the lame-o offshore-wind fantasies of the Biden Administration. From the beginning of the piece:

Last week, President Biden signed an executive order that set the goal of “doubling offshore wind by 2030,” as a part of his administration’s aim to boost renewable-energy production. Environmental reporter Timothy Cama nicely summed up the audacity of that goal, writing: “So from seven turbines to fourteen?”

Doubling offshore wind production would mean advancing our current capacity of powering 0.0143 percent of 140 million American homes to a new capacity of powering 0.0286 percent of them. There are currently no utility-scale wind farms in operation in the U.S. The five turbines of the pilot project Block Island Wind Farm, actually in state waters off Rhode Island, came online in 2016 and generate 30 megawatts, enough energy to power 17,000 homes. The two-turbine Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project, with 12 megawatts of capacity, was completed last year and can power up to 3,000 homes.

Nearly a full decade should be plenty of time to double the current 42 megawatts, but given regulatory and logistical barriers, setting such a low bar was likely purposeful. The new administration’s offshore wind approach highlights how it’s pushing a few policies that may be good politics but make little economic sense — and at times conflict with each other.

3. There were out-of-this world law and economics policy advances — in space — engineered by the Trump administration, reports Alexander William Salter. From the piece:

Few have been as optimistic about the prospects for private enterprise in space as I have. But even I must admit that this is a long-term goal. The global space economy currently totals only about $366 billion. For comparison, global GDP is over $80 trillion. Furthermore, 76 percent of the space economy comes from satellites and satellite services. The remainder is almost entirely government spending. In other words, the space economy is still barely a drop in the sea of the global economy, and the public sector is still the biggest player.

But there are signs things are changing. Superstar launch-provider SpaceX, a private company, is now the go-to source for rides to low-earth orbit. And SpaceX’s CEO, Elon Musk, has ambitions to travel much deeper into space: Initial tests of his Starship super-heavy rocket have been far more promising than the over-budget, underperforming NASA equivalent.

In addition, NASA announced that it’s paying for moon rocks, establishing a precedent for harvesting and transferring ownership of space resources. And the Artemis Accords explicitly allow for “the extraction and utilization of space resources,” an important step for securing international buy-in to a property rights regime.

4. Jarrett Skorup contemplates the minimum-wage hikers and there drive to cut off the employment ladder’s first rung: From the beginning of the piece:

The first paying job I ever had was at age seven — I picked up trash at a construction site where my dad was working. I recall making $2 per hour. It wasn’t much. From there, I went to deck construction, asparagus picking, being a camp counselor, and then to roofing. Those jobs were too difficult, so I went to college and now work in public policy.

My first jobs were entry-level and low-paying. I didn’t need a specific degree or skill to do them. But they were valuable nevertheless. They taught me important life lessons, such as the importance of showing up on time, getting the little things right, communicating openly with my boss, and establishing priorities. I also learned what I was good at, what type of work I really enjoyed, and the pleasure of a job well done. Without those lessons, I could never have climbed the ladder of opportunity.

Most people I talk to think about their first few jobs the same way. They may or may not remember how much they made. But they definitely remember gaining experiences and skills that last for life. Moreover, they want everyone to be able to find their best path upward, which usually starts with those early jobs.

But it seems to me that policymakers have forgotten the importance of entry-level jobs. How else can I interpret the growing calls for minimum-wage hikes? Whatever else those policies do, they always cut off the lowest rungs of the ladder of opportunity. It’s almost like our elected leaders don’t want entry-level jobs.

5. Veronique de Rugy runs the numbers and finds them un-stimulating. From the piece:

Here is another point to observe with the latest $380 billion output-gap estimate, in light of proposed ($1.9 trillion) “stimulus” spending.

If the case for more stimulus is to close the output gap (return to pre-pandemic economic fundamentals), then a $1.9 trillion stimulus to close the gap would imply a fiscal multiplier of 0.2. But progressives have been telling us for years that the spending multiplier is 1.3, 1.5, or higher (which would imply the need for just $250 billion). With the CBO’s multiplier estimate of 0.58 for the CARES Act, stimulus totaling $600 billion (as proposed by the GOP) would close the gap fully in 2021. Which one is it? You can’t have it both ways.

At this point, I still think zero dollars is the correct amount of stimulus. Based on past experiences, we close the gap by encouraging growth in the private economy, not encouraging growth of government.

A Conservative Quartet from the February 22, 2021 Issue of National Review

1. Charles C.W. Cooke looks at the decline in virtues and America’s “Illiberal Moment.” From the essay:

Voltaire’s apocryphal maxim “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” is in the process of being turned squarely on its head. Today, a more suitable rendering might read: “I disapprove of what you say, you are exiled, goodbye.”

To be adequately maintained, classical liberalism demands three key virtues. Humility, so that each of society’s competing factions might comprehend that it will not always hold power. Tolerance, so that the habitual reaction to a difference of opinion is the shrug rather than the bayonet. And forbearance, so that the immediate rush of victory can be subordinated to longer-term ambition. Little by little, we are losing all three and, as they go, forgetting the good practices that have built, sustained, and improved our remarkable society for generations.

Thus far, these losses have been primarily limited to our culture. For now, the Supreme Court continues to stand athwart, especially in defense of free speech. But, with culture sitting upstream of the law, and with the institutions that are supposed to be the most committed to liberalism rapidly becoming the institutions that are the least committed to liberalism, we cannot expect that this will remain true forever. The New York Times is, of course, within its legal and institutional rights to issue craven apologies for the crime of having irritated its readers’ sensibilities, just as the paper’s staff is within its rights to pretend that a given column has meaningfully put them in “danger.” But it matters when it happens. Behavior breeds behavior, and every time the employees of Politico revolt because Ben Shapiro edited Playbook for a day, or the crew at New York magazine decides that it “can’t even” with Andrew Sullivan, or the team at The Atlantic insists that the appearance of Kevin Williamson’s byline represents a mortal threat, or CNN’s Oliver Darcy proposes that the competitors to the cable network for which he works should be shut down, our hard-won customs are damaged a little more. Read a piece about a contretemps at a major American press outlet and you will invariably learn of a split between the “old guard,” which is committed to free speech and pluralism, and the “woke young,” which is not. That old guard was a young guard once, though. And, one day, the woke young will be the woke old.

2. David Harsanyi knocks an Emmy-winner and policy ghoul off a pedestal. From the article.

For nearly a year, Cuomo’s preternatural ineptitude was enabled by national media. A person might get irritated by watching Cuomo discuss his global popularity on The Tonight Show or by listening to him explore the phenomenon of “Cuomosexuals” on Ellen. Then again, those interviews seemed like enhanced interrogations compared with the treatment he received from various cable-news networks covering his press conferences, or from CNN, where his obsequious brother kibbitzed with him night after night after night.

Cuomo would go on to win an Emmy Award “in recognition of his leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic and his masterful use of television to inform and calm people around the world.” A litany of celebrities — Robert De Niro, Billy Joel, Ben Stiller, Spike Lee, and others — showered the governor with hosannas. Billy Crystal noted, “In the darkest days of the pandemic, your daily briefings live from New York gave us hope, gave us clarity, gave us the truth, and gave us something that we were not getting from Washington: leadership.”

Conservatives roundly mocked Cuomo’s Emmy win, but it was perhaps his most deserved honor. Cuomo’s well-produced pressers might have been a Potemkin village, but the façade of confidence, scientific certitude, and proficiency was a useful juxtaposition with President Trump’s frequent and incoherent ramblings and antagonistic COVID updates. One of the nation’s great political mediocrities proved that winning over pundits and reporters was more vital for one’s reputation than saving lives. If you allowed yourself to be used as a cudgel against Republicans — not just Trump, but Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas — all the better.

3. There is an anti-progressive bloc forming in our cities. Ryan Streeter checks it out. From the piece:

Trump gained in every borough of New York City except Staten Island (where he was already a favorite) compared with 2016, recording a gain of 12 percentage points in his share of the total vote in the Bronx and 9 points in Queens. He improved his margin by more than 18 points in largely immigrant and working-class assembly districts encompassing Elmhurst, Corona, and Jackson Heights. New York City as a whole swung toward Trump by 7.6 points between 2016 and 2020, more than any single state swung in the election, as Trump picked up support in 58 of the city’s 65 assembly districts. Compared with 2016, he gained votes in cities such as Philadelphia and Detroit, the latter of which gave Trump 5,000 more votes than in 2016 and Biden 1,000 fewer than Hillary Clinton won. As pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson has noted, even though Joe Biden won major metros as expected, closer scrutiny of a number of blue cities reveals blue doughnuts: As Democrats increased their command of the suburbs, their hold on inner cities weakened.

No one expected this, and there certainly isn’t much about Donald Trump’s policies on trade, immigration, tax cuts, or conservative judges that explains it. It seems obvious instead that in the age of COVID and violent protests, progressive cities overplayed their hand. When you ask your residents to pay too much for subpar housing, pledge to defund the police as crime soars, and force parents to do things they thought their taxes paid teachers to do, you shouldn’t be surprised at the backlash.

4. It’s nothing to laugh about: Joseph Epstein searches for the answer to an important question — what killed comedy? From the essay:

More comedians seemed to be at work in that day. But, then, there were more places for them to display their talents. Television no longer offers what were once known as variety shows, the most popular of which at the time was The Ed Sullivan Show, which ran from 1948 to 1971 and introduced innumerable stand-up comics, among them Richard Pryor, Joan Rivers, Flip Wilson, Alan King, Phyllis Diller, Jackie Mason, Rodney Dangerfield, George Carlin, and others. So big was comedy that some comedians had their own shows — Bob Hope, Milton Berle, Jackie Gleason, Carol Burnett, Steve Allen, and Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis — on which still other comedians appeared. Your Show of Shows, starring Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca, was so popular and so amusing that people stayed home on Saturday nights to watch it. Johnny Carson was known for introducing new young comedians on his late-night talk show and having older established comedians — Jonathan Winters, Don Rickles, Shecky Greene, Dangerfield — as fairly frequent guests.

The range of comedy was in itself fairly impressive. Rickles did insult humor, Winters went off on wild imaginative flights, Burnett did pleasing physical humor, Mason did heavily Jewish material, and Wilson riffed on black culture, while both Rivers and Diller worked the veins of female vanity, sensibility, and resentment, and Steven Wright played off the comedy of literalism (“Went into a restaurant whose menu said ‘Breakfast Anytime,’ so I ordered French toast in the Renaissance”). The Dick Van Dyke Show and, later, The Mary Tyler Moore Show were what today would be called “must-see TV.” I’m not sure anyone noticed at the time, but it was a golden age of comedy.

An entire branch of comedy, now quite gone, was that done by (mostly) men known as “impressionists.” They did imitations of famous movie stars and occasionally of politicians. Two of the better known among them were Frank Gorshin and Rich Little. Gorshin’s caricatural impressions of Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster made it impossible for me ever again to watch the movies of either of these actors without inwardly giggling. The standard repertoire of the impressionists included imitations of James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, Bette Davis, John Wayne, and others. So far as I know, no impressionists are at work today. Of whom, after all, could they do impressions? Brad Pitt, Gwyneth Paltrow, Adam Schiff, Leonardo DiCaprio? Personalities, whether in movies or public life, no longer exist who seem worth imitating.

In the private realm, there is joke-telling, the act of friends telling friends jokes they have heard. When I hear what I take to be a good joke, I am eager to pass it on. In Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious, Freud was quite wrong in thinking that jokes are inherently acts of unconscious aggression, but he wasn’t wrong when he called jokes “good news,” by which he meant that the creation of a joke meant someone was thinking.

Elsewhere in the Conservative Solar System

1. At Hoover Institution’s Strategika — whose editor-in-chief is none other than Victor Davis Hanson — the topic of Issue 70 is “The U.S.-Russian Relationship,” and the lead of the dozen-or-so articles is Seth Cropsy’s essay, “Is There a Russian Card?” From the piece:

Beneath this razor-edged surface are the long-term prospects for Russo-American cooperation as exemplified for instance by the Kremlin’s hybrid intervention in Belarus in the fall of 2020. But it is the statesman’s task to see beyond the immediate political crisis, cut through confusion and contradiction, and chart a wise course into the future. Every possibility must be reviewed. Even a partnership with an ethically repugnant geopolitical foe.

Ironically, the Belarus intervention reveals more clearly one of Putin’s core motivating factors. For all his pretentions of international strength and domestic unity — including the supermajority he commands in every presidential election — Putin still views a “color revolution” within Russia as a real possibility. Although the Kremlin gained control of Crimea, the Ukraine crisis generated significant political costs. Russia is now wholly responsible for a small enclave of Eastern Ukraine with no domestic economy. Its occupation of five percent of Ukrainian territory has earned it the Ukrainian population’s lasting enmity, both in the country’s west and its east. And while sanctions pressure has not destroyed the Russian economy, it has at least undermined it.

2. More from Strategika: Zafiris Rossidis reviews how the Ruskies and ChiComs engage in Covid Age information warfare. From the piece:

The first attempt at “weaponizing” information came from the Chinese as early as the first days of the appearance of the virus in the United States. Chinese sources claimed that the American government had deployed military forces in many cities to ensure the lockdown. Then, Chinese officials, through their personal accounts, criticized the U.S., claiming that it had introduced the coronavirus to China, using it as a bioweapon. This was reminiscent of the Cold War, as the mere mention of biological warfare, even though an old disinformation tactic, remains an effective one.

Until recently, the West regarded the network of the Confucius Institutes and Public Diplomacy as primary sources of China’s influence in the international arena. Since 2018 however, China has constructed an immense digital infrastructure using new, improved methods that do not simply manipulate the recipient’s emotions but also disorganize both smaller and larger social groups, using psychological modeling.

Russia, also, presents an interesting case. Russian services have vast experience and tradition, in disseminating disinformation and in hybrid operations. Russia is one of those countries that use the manipulation of information as a prime “weapon” to gain a larger share of power. Russia aggressively employs this form of asymmetric warfare, fully aware that today, it is social networking and not the mainstream media that exclusively provides information to citizens.

3. One More from Strategika: Josef Joffe says forget about playing a Russia Card against Red China. From the beginning of the article:

Theoretically, two superpowers — the United States and Russia — should go after China, a rising contender, to preserve the established hierarchy. But it won’t happen. For an instructive historical lesson, go back to a comparable constellation when that master of manipulation, Henry Kissinger, failed to play China against the Soviet Union. The intent was to draw a much weaker and poorer China into the American orbit in order to pressure the Soviet Union, the world’s no. 2.

In Kissinger’s words: “We opened to China … to introduce an additional element of calculation for the Soviets.” Translated: The U.S. would bribe China so that it would weigh in against Moscow and help the Nixon administration to arrange a graceful exit from Vietnam. Kissinger assumed that both “had the same objective.”1

They did not. China pocketed the gifts: the betrayal of Taiwan, a seat among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, and the opening of America’s markets. And China never did do America’s bidding. It did not position itself against the USSR, nor did it save the U.S. from humiliation in Vietnam. Today, Beijing is America’s worst rival in the contest over global primacy, not to speak of its predatory trade policy.

4. At California Policy Center, Ed Ring contends the AWOL legislature must take action to reopen the Golden State. From the piece:

One creative way to begin to safely unlock Californians has been proposed by Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, who late last year proposed that individual counties adopt a “Healthy Communities Resolution.” The intent of the resolution (read full text) is to allow each county to “respond locally to the COVID-19 virus in accordance with our local data and circumstances,” and to allow this response to be “tailored to geographically separate areas.” So far ten counties have adopted this resolution.

In Sacramento County, however, just to illustrate what Kiley and others are up against, Supervisor Susan Frost’s attempt to introduce the Healthy Communities Resolution was opposed 4-1. She couldn’t even get someone to second the motion so they could debate the topic and vote on it. Her opponents claimed that to selectively open portions of the county based on neighborhood conditions was “racist.” And with that magic word, end of discussion.

Kiley’s resolution also calls for school districts to “safely open all schools as soon as possible and provide in-person instruction to the greatest extent possible without further delay.” And it isn’t just classroom instruction, but sports, where pressure is building to reopen. Just a few days ago, San Diego high school athletes filed a lawsuit that aims to force California to join 47 other states that have already resumed active high school sports. Support for this lawsuit has grown overnight into a grassroots movement. On Facebook, the “Let Them Play CA” group has acquired over 50,000 members in less than a month and continues to rapidly add participants.

5. At Gatestone Institute, Judith Bergman reports on how Vladimir Putin has shot himself in the foot. From the analysis:

Aleksei Navalny, opposition leader, anti-corruption activist and fierce critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, returned to Russia on January 17 after recovering for five months in Germany from having been poisoned with a military grade nerve agent, Novichok. It was an event widely reported to have been an assassination attempt by Russian state agents.

Upon landing, Navalny was immediately arrested on charges that he had violated the parole terms from a suspended sentence received in 2014 for alleged fraud, a conviction that the European Court of Human Rights ruled was “arbitrary and manifestly unreasonable.”

Upon his arrest, Navalny was denied access to a lawyer, and — after a hearing that took place in a police station, which only pro-Kremlin media were allowed to attend — jailed for an initial term of 30 days. He is due to go on trial on February 2.

“It seems,” Navalny said about the proceedings, “that the grandpa in the bunker is so afraid of everything that they demonstratively ripped apart the code of criminal procedure and threw it in the trash.”

6. At Quillette, Peter Baehr contemplates the ChiCom regime’s debasement of Hong Kong, and what the individual must do in the face of such. From the essay:

Article 38 of the PRC Constitution guarantees the “dignity” and “inviolability” of citizens. Yet “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble,” in Communist Party gibberish, was enough for a mainland critic of Hong Kong’s national security law, Zhang Wuzhou, to find herself in police custody, her body contorted into a human ball, hands and feet tied together in metal cuffs. “Picking quarrels and stirring up trouble” also felled the mainland citizen-journalist, Zhang Zhan, who reported on the CCP’s botched handling of COVID-19 in Wuhan. Serving a four-year sentence, she is currently on hunger strike.

In all such cases, a state’s deception and double-standards are, paradoxically, all too obvious. “Plain for anyone to see.” The constitution says one thing; the authorities do another. By contrast, the deception practiced by individuals on themselves — self-deception — is not obvious; it is all too murky. The shrewdest account of it I know comes not from a Chinese thinker, however, but from a German one: Karl Jaspers, a prominent psychologist and philosopher who lived through the Nazi years. He was forced to resign from his post at the University of Heidelberg in 1937 because of the taint attached to his having married a German-Jew. Miraculously, Jaspers and his wife Gertrud survived the war physically unharmed, not actively opposing the Nazi state but, going into “inner emigration,” refusing to collaborate with it in any way. When the war ended, Jaspers urged his fellow Germans to take responsibility for the many ways in which they had supported and participated in a genocidal regime. Though he was writing specifically about Germany under National Socialism, Jaspers’s analysis applies to conduct under dictatorships more generally.

A striking feature of Jaspers’s moral perspective is his refusal to portray German citizens as benighted or ideologically saturated people, incapable of understanding their circumstances in a realistic light. And it was precisely this refusal that drove him to coin the concept of “false conscience” (falsches Gewissen) as a counterpoint to the Marxist idea of “false consciousness” (falsches Bewusstsein). Jaspers did so in his book Die Schuldfrage (1947), published in English a year later as The Question of German Guilt. Admittedly, “false conscience” is an odd-looking idiom, at least in English. But Jaspers had good reasons to coin it.

To describe participation in the Nazi Reich as evidence of “false consciousness,” as Marxists did, or as a manifestation of an “authoritarian personality,” as Marxist-Freudians did, actually suggests that no moral culpability can reasonably be attributed. After all, if a consciousness is false and then later becomes true, persons gifted with this miraculous transformation are essentially bifurcated beings. Only their true consciousness can (now) be morally appraised. Their former false consciousness cannot for it was determined by economic circumstances, “geographical conditions,” “world-historical situation” and the tempestuous forces unleashed by Nazi rule. Similarly, individuals subject to an authoritarian upbringing can hardly be responsible for its impact on their “personality.”

7. At Commentary, Christine Rosen explores how Betsy DeVos withstood a hostile media. From the article:

Consider the New York Times columnist Gail Collins, who made DeVos a frequent subject of her opinion columns, going so far as to sponsor a Worst Trump Cabinet Member reader poll in June 2017 that named DeVos the winner. Collins wrote approvingly of the results, which focused less on policy disagreements than on personal attacks: “Many readers noted that our secretary of education does not seem to be. . . all that bright.”

In a May 2020 column contest for “worst political person” (Collins expanded her contest franchise as the Trump years wore on), she wrote: “I want to put a word in here for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who is often unfairly overlooked when it comes to counting terrible people in the current government. This is because of her general ineptitude, and you should thank God every day this woman doesn’t know how to get things done.”

But if DeVos couldn’t get things done, how to explain the fact that this January, Collins’s employer featured on the Times’ editorial page a lengthy scolding of DeVos for doing too much? “The departing education secretary, Betsy DeVos, will be remembered as perhaps the most disastrous leader in the Education Department’s history,” the editorial board wrote, adding that her “lack of vision has been apparent in a variety of contexts.”

It’s not DeVos’s lack of vision the Times objects to; it was her unwillingness to play along with the liberal narrative about federal education policy. The Times editorial page spent paragraph after paragraph criticizing DeVos for saying that state and local governments were the ones to make decisions about keeping schools closed during the pandemic, for example. They complained that Joe Biden’s new secretary of education will have to find ways to deal with the “learning loss” caused by school closures and, by implication, DeVos’s failure to use federal authority the way they believe she should have. Nowhere did the Times mention the main driver of school closures and subpar remote-learning plans, which also happens to be the interest group that constituted DeVos’s most outspoken critic for the past four years: teachers’ unions.

8. At The Imaginative Conservative, Christopher England makes the case for National Greatness. From the beginning of the essay:

As the United States muddles through a global pandemic and the aftermath of a contested election, it is hard to avoid a sense that the country is now suffused by a spirit of grievance and revenge. Donald Trump’s call to “make America great again” has given rise to the cynical response, voiced by Andrew Cuomo and others, that “America was never that great.” Even libertarians and many traditional conservatives have come to see talk of greatness as little more than a smokescreen for an aggressive foreign policy and an interventionist state. Unfortunately, none of the parties to this debate appear to fully grasp the vital role that conceptions of civic greatness play in sustaining a free society.

In this context, the legendary Harvard philosopher Alfred North Whitehead once made an unusual comment about the culture of freedom. In 1933, surveying a political landscape wracked by the Great Depression, Whitehead rather bizarrely suggested that the preservation of freedom in the West might require a public culture that could replace the religious symbolism of the Book of Revelation with political symbolism of the “speech of Pericles to the Athenians” from Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War. Strange as this juxtaposition may appear, Whitehead had a very simple, and very timely, point to make.

He argued that Western notions of political freedom are largely an outgrowth of the Christian religious tradition that conceives of universal moral standards and insists on the equal dignity of every individual soul. This egalitarian universalism opens the intellectual space for conceptions of human rights, classical liberalism, democracy, democratic socialism, and many other forms of modern politics. So far, so good.

9. At The College Fix, Grace Bureau reports on the popularity og The Communist Manifesto as assigned reading in major American colleges. From the beginning of the story:

A new survey found that “The Communist Manifesto” is among the Top 10 most assigned books in Ivy League institutions and the top-ranked public colleges in the nation.

The book, written by Karl Marx in 1848, was ranked as the top-fourth text assigned at public colleges and universities, and the seventh-most assigned at Ivy League institutions.

The other two reading assignments that also overlapped on the top 10 lists are “The Elements of Style” and the “Tragedy of the Commons.”

Results were published by DegreeQuery, a Utah-based company that numerically rates and ranks college degrees, career paths and universities, according to its website.

The company used the Open Syllabus Project database to determine its results. The online database provides access to the syllabi of over 2,500 U.S. colleges.

Baseballery

The elusive doubleheader was a mainstay of the National Pastime, especially in Ye Olden Days. Traveling by trains (the Red Sox heading to St. Louis to start a road trip) was a constraint, compounded by Mother Nature and the lack of lights. Imagine this: In 1943, the Chicago White Sox played in 44 doubleheaders — 88 of its 155 games came that way. In one stretch — between a July 17th two-fer at home against the Detroit Tigers and a July 25th doubleheader at Yankee Stadium, the White Sox played 12 straight games as part of twin bills. Aa July 15th single game against the Tigers just prior to that streak followed consecutives doubleheaders against the Yankees on July 10th and 11th (the Bronx Bombers swept both).

The consecutive-doubleheaders record belongs to the lowly 1928 Boston Braves. An aside: the team’s 50-103 record would typically be good enough for last place, but the 1928 Philadelphia Phillies won it going away with a 43-109 record, one of the worst in MLB history.

Anyway . . . commencing on September 4th against Brooklyn, the Braves played in 9 consecutive doubleheaders, going 4-14. The core of that streak included four consecutive twin bills at home against the New York Giants — the visitors swept the quartet. Prior to the streak, one game (a September 2 loss to the Giants) separated two additional Braves’ doubleheaders, while on the streak’s back end, two games against the Cubs, on September 17th and 18th, were followed by four more consecutive twin bills.

The doubleheader that provided spectators with the greatest offensive fireworks took place in 1939, naturally, on July 4th, and appropriately in Philadelphia, as the Athletics hosted the visiting Boston Red Sox. The opening contest did not go over well with the 22,030 fans at Shibe Park, as the Red Sox battered the A’s 17-7. Future Hall of Famers Bobby Doerr, Ted Williams, and Joe Cronin each smacked a home run for the Sox. So did Jim Tabor, who collected three hits. It was just the beginning of a exceptional day for the rookie third baseman.

Hard to believe — when you consider that 30 runs were scored — that the second game on the twin bill took only two-and-a-half hours to complete. The Red Sox prevailed, 18-12, and Tabor provided much of the damage for the winners: He slapped three home runs, including a grand slam in the Third and another grand slam (an inside-the-park job) in the Sixth, and with his other solo dinger (in the Eighth), accounted for 9 RBIS (he also scored five runs).

When Bill Nagel scored the Athletics final run in the bottom of the 9th — registering the 54th combined tally of the afternoon — it tied a record, set in the pre-Modern Era, when on Wednesday, May 30, 1894, the Boston Beaneaters shellacked the Cincinnati Reds, 13-10 and then 20-11.

A Dios

Pray for those suffering Uyghur women, for their deliverance, and maybe even that He Who We Are to Fear might render His wrath and smote those who thrill to persecution. But first . . .

May the Almighty’s Blessings Mend Hearts and Souls,

Jack Fowler, who can get messages to Kaj Relwof if sent to jfowler@nationalreview.com.

National Review

I’m Senator Heat Miser

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Dear Weekend Jolter,

Chuck Schumer’s scheme, whispered aloud to Ms. Maddow, urged the Not-Socialist President to declare a “Climate Emergency” so’s to grab power and shake his dictatorial groove thaaang. Hey! Don’t even think about complaining: Three co-equal branches and separation of powers and all that olden-days constitutional hoo-hah is the stuff of privilege.

Anyway, Cuomo and Newsom have spent the last year test-driving the emasculation of representative government, so we Dems know what to do — which is, whatever the expletive we want. And if one of us (Tulsi!) gets wobbly we’ll remind them of the First Democratic Commandment: Never let a crisis go to waste. And the Second: If you don’t have the crisis, then manufacture one. Presto: Climate Emergency!

David Harsanyi, wise as all get-out, had a few things to say about the razor-thin-margin Senate Majority Leader’s contemptuous game plan. From the beginning of the piece:

This week, Senate majority leader Charles Schumer told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that it may be “a good idea for President Biden to call a climate emergency.”

In other words, the leader of what is allegedly the world’s greatest deliberative lawmaking body — tasked with, among many other things, checking the power of the executive branch — is advocating that his ideological ally bypass Congress, declare a perpetual emergency that affects the entire economy, and rule by fiat.

Of course, anyone who believed Democrats were attempting to preserve “norms” or strengthen institutions, or that they were genuinely upset by the overreaches of Donald Trump rather than frustrated that they weren’t the ones wielding power, was just a sap.

In the Maddow interview, Schumer reasons that Trump had used the emergency powers “for a stupid wall, which wasn’t an emergency.” Indeed, I opposed Trump’s funding sections of the border wall. Yet securing the border — Schumer, incidentally, voted in favor of a barrier when it was politically expedient — is a tangible project, with a beginning and end, and a clear purpose. Schumer wants to activate special executive powers to fight a nebulous all-encompassing future “emergency” that entails control of entire sectors of the economy, all the while erasing the legislative choices of states and economic choices of individuals.

Meanwhile, the editors of this institution thundered about Chuck’s lefty concoction; Get a load of our condemnation:

Biden has promised to transform the United States into a 100 percent clean-energy economy with net-zero emissions by 2050 and to decarbonize the power sector in a mere 15 years. The massive cost of policies that deny Americans affordable and abundant energy sources would almost certainly fail to win approval in Congress under its usual rules. Which is why Democrats are doing everything they can to short-circuit or make an end-run around the system.

The majority leader told MSNBC that Democrats were also trying to figure out ways to sneak climate-change policy into Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan under reconciliation, a budget tactic that allows some spending-related bills to pass with only a simple majority in the Senate. Depending on the particulars, that might be an abuse of the process, and would likely be objectionable on policy grounds, but would at least involve congressional action.

In all the circumventing of responsibility, Congress — entranced by the Governing by Executive Order — seems to be engaging in a little circumcision of sorts too. Well, Our Esteemed Editor puts it more appropriately. From Rich Lowry:

Consider what Biden did on his own the other day. He directed the Interior Department to stop new oil and gas leases on federal land and to identify steps to double renewable-energy production by 2030.

He created a special presidential envoy for climate, as well as a White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy, a National Climate Task Force, a Civilian Climate Corps Initiative, an Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization, a White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council, and a White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council.

On top of this, he established a Justice Initiative to steer 40 percent of relevant federal investments to disadvantaged communities.

And on the seventh day, Biden rested (after tucking his pen back in his pocket).

If Congress had passed a bill doing all this, it’d be considered a pretty active day. Instead, Congress stood on the sidelines . . . and commented.

You ask, When will the pendulum start to swing back? If Your Humble Correspondent knew, he’d tell you. Pray, soon. While you wait, do get a heapin’ helpin’ of conservative wisdom with this week’s WJ: Grab your putter and 9 iron because this edition has more links than the PGA Tour.

(And One Last Thing: You’ll find the Heat Miser song here).

SHORT, SWEET, ECONOMICAL LINKIFICATION

Articles

John Fund: Bernie Sanders Pushes Biden and Democrats Far Left

David Harsanyi: Joe Biden & Coronavirus: Deceptions about Plans

Rich Lowry: Journalists Now Want to Limit Free Speech

Kyle Smith: Cancel-Culture Craziness — Stop It

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Cancel Culture Fear: People Who Disagree Passionately Should Be Able to Work Together

Michael Brendan Dougherty: California and Coronavirus: Gavin Newsom’s Failures & Broken Promises

Robert Delahunty and John Yoo: Originalist Case against a Trump Impeachment Trial

Andrew C. McCarthy: Dissent, Patriotism & Insurrection: Important Distinctions

Andrew C. McCarthy: Justice Department: Voter-Disinformation Charge Dubious

Mario Loyola: Biden and America First: Economic Nationalism the New ‘Washington Consensus’

Alexandra DeSanctis: Down-Syndrome-Abortion Restrictions Gain Steam at State, Federal Levels

Jimmy Quinn: Javad Zarif & Foreign Affairs – Iran’s Brazen Falsehoods in an American Magazine

Tevi Troy: Ronald Reagan’s 1986 Challenger Speech Was a Window into Presidential Greatness

Christopher J. Scalia: Washington Post’s Virginia Military Institute Story Shows Inconsistency on Campus Due Process

Dan McLaughlin: Edmund Burke and the British Monarchy’s Loss of Power

Cheri Williams: Coronavirus Has Made Human Trafficking of Children Worse

Editorials

Joe Biden’s Abortion Extremism

Joe Biden’s War on Women

Calls to Shut Down Fox News Show Contempt for Free Speech, Ignorance of the Law

Coronavirus & Public Schools: Teachers’ Unions COVID Ransom Demand

Biden’s “Climate Emergency” Power Grab

Conservatism, Biden’s Administration, and the Path Forward

Joe Biden’s Immigration Plan Ignores Enforcement Completely

Remembering Hank Aaron, Baseball Legend

Capital Matters

Kevin Hassett see POTUS pandemic politics: Biden’s COVID-Relief Bill: A Glass Not Full

Marc Joffe poo-poos future projections: COVID-19 Stimulus & Relief: State and Local Aid Should Be Guided by Historical Data

David Harsanyi says it walks like a duck: President Biden Wants to End Fracking

Nicholas Phillips wants to end a taboo: Tariffs: Reckoning with Their Advantages Better than Dogmatic Opposition

Lights. Camera. Review!

Kyle Smith scores a knockout: Dear Comrades! Is a Vivid Portrait of the Soviet Nightmare

Armond White takes on the AFI list makers: American Film Institute Best Films of 2020 List: Race-Baiting and Wokism

More Armond, who doesn’t have a sole thing nice to say: Soul: Disney and Pixar Sell Numbing Mind Games to Family Market

Michael Brendan Dougherty sees a movie about the ancient conundrum: Tenet Tackles Christian Mystery of Fate and Free Will

Kevin Williamson likes a new Scorsese flick: Pretend It’s a City: Fran Lebowitz’s Conservative Character Revealed in New Documentary

But Wait, There’s More . . . Take One

There’s a new NR podcast, a weekly bit of wisdom and delight that has sprung from Capital Matters. It’s called Capital Record and it’s hosted by David Bahnsen (yes, he of Radio Free California fame. Episode One is a gem, and it features the great Kevin Hassett. Strap on the ear buds and Listen up here.

But Wait, There’s Still More . . . Take Two

Our friends at National Review Institute are seeking applicants for its acclaimed “Burke to Buckley” program, NYC and Philadelphia division. Some dimwit has done a passable job of providing all the details here.

DÉJÀ VU, BUT WITH AMPLIFYTING EXCERPTS

Conservative Wisdom Served in 16 Sumptuous Offerings

1. Bernie lost, but did he? John Fund looks at the Sandernista takeover of the Democratic Party. From the article:

Just last spring, Bernie Sanders was a two-time loser for the Democratic presidential nomination. His refusal to knuckle under to the establishment of his party had made him a pariah with major donors. But Sanders, a radical socialist since his teens, never allowed himself to become discouraged. He negotiated an agreement with Biden that moved the former vice president to the left on key issues in exchange for his endorsement. After the election, he partnered with some Republican senators to dramatically increase the direct payments to Americans in the pandemic-relief bill. The split that created in Republican ranks may have indirectly led to the two Democratic wins in the Georgia Senate race. Those wins in turn gave Democrats their Senate majority and made Sanders the chairman of the Budget Committee.

Now, while Joe Biden is the new president, it’s Bernie Sanders and his allies who will often be in the driver’s seat making policy. “We’re going to push Joe — the president — as far as we can,” Sanders told CNN.

Wherever that ends up being, it will move this country further to the left than most people thought possible a year ago. Bernie Sanders is proof that if you’re persistent enough, you don’t have to be elected president to be in a position to accomplish your goals.

2. David Harsanyi looks into Joe Biden’s “Day One” COVID deceptions and blarney. From the article:

Worse still, Biden continually underestimated the speed with which medical technology would move. It’s true that Operation Warp Speed was a rare “public-private partnership” success. Yet, every time Trump promised that a vaccine would be available by the end of the year, “fact-checkers” were deployed to claim this was a lie. By December 23, the United States led the world in vaccinations, with over a million people vaccinated. This despite the fact that, during the presidential campaign, Democrats such as Kamala Harris engaged in a cynical partisan effort to erode trust in government by intimating that the efficacy and safety of vaccines would be compromised under the Trump administration.

Now, CNN reports that the Biden administration has inherited “no coronavirus vaccine distribution plan to speak of from the Trump administration.” An anonymous source claims that “there is nothing for us to rework. . . . We are going to have to build everything from scratch.” Why does CNN allow anonymity in a piece bashing the previous administration? Most likely because the claim is obviously untrue. Even National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci refuted the notion. Indeed, the very existence of the vaccine refutes the notion as well.

3. Rich Lowry zings journalists who show contempt for free speech for all. From the article:

They’ve become the thing they profess to hate — closed-minded censors who want to stifle free expression, First Amendment be damned.

Perversely, the TV program and email newsletter of the top media analyst at CNN, Brian Stelter, have been clearinghouses for such advocacy, whether it is demands to get right-wingers removed from social media or — more astonishingly — to keep conservative cable networks off the airwaves.

Stelter’s colleague, media reporter Oliver Darcy, tweeted about his effort to get cable companies to answer why they carry pro-Trump channels such Newsmax and One America News Network. “Do they have any second thoughts about distributing these channels given their election denialism content?” he asked on Twitter. “They won’t say.”

4. Kyle Smith wants to cancel stuff  that cancels stuff. From the piece:

Both Wilkinson and Wolfe, as it happens, had given hostages to fortune by disputing the existence of cancel culture, laughing merrily along as progressives wielded it to chase distinguished writers and editors such as Andrew Sullivan and James Bennet from their jobs at, respectively, New York magazine and the Times — not to mention to get my friend Kevin Williamson fired from The Atlantic after one day at work. As long as cancellation was a punishment inflicted only on those who deviated from left-wing orthodoxy, it could not have been real. “It’s hilarious this refrain of ‘cancel culture,’” Wolfe wrote on Twitter on August 24. “As if it is actually anything. Virus? Jobs? Nah.” “Cancel culture, LOL,” Wilkinson wrote on March 12. Moreover, applying the “no violent rhetoric” logic used to justify sacking Wilkinson, Niskanen’s boss should have cancelled himself. When a St. Louis couple brandished firearms outside their home during a protest last summer, Niskanen Center chief Jerry Taylor wrote on Twitter that if he had been present, “I’d like to think I’d rush them and beat their brains in. And I wouldn’t apologize for it for one goddam [sic] second.” Unlike the Pence tweet, Taylor’s wasn’t an ironic joke and was therefore much worse.

Still, pointing out hypocrisy doesn’t get you very far when it comes to the underlying problem: Though some fail to take a social malady seriously until it’s too late, the malady itself should still trouble us. Columnist Adam Serwer of The Atlantic is blaming the Right for firings carried out by progressive bosses, claiming that Wilkinson and Wolfe were fired “for making conservatives mad.”

5. More Cancellation: Michael Brendan Dougherty says it’s a real thing with real consequences. From the analysis:

Most people simply don’t have access to Chip and Joanna Gaines’s fame to withstand an outrage campaign, and even to thrive in it. If what a pastor says in a sermon is likely to get members of his flock fired, opportunists and hatchet men will begin trolling through church podcasts for reasons to campaign against their co-workers. One wonders if the law is shaping behavior in this way, as some studies show that even in the American South, signs of any overt religious affiliation hurt one’s changes of obtaining a job. It is simply not possible to untangle the fall in prestige for religiosity from the increase of legal trouble surrounding rather common religious convictions. Each drives the other.

So conservatives have a double fight on their hands. Politicians may not have all the tools to fight the drop in social prestige that religiosity has suffered, but they do have the ability to clarify whether speech and actions in adherence to a Christian catechism, or what one believes to be the inescapable logic of biology, are legal liabilities for employers. There is a way in which Title VII litigation outsources government-approved censorship and self-censorship into the private sector. Politicians do have the ability to clarify whether mayors have the right to discriminate against businesses led by people with religious convictions they don’t like. They have the ability to stop campaigns of trollish legal harassment.

Of course there are matters on the edge, and cases that are hard to resolve. But it’s only by clarifying these matters that we can allow a great majority of people of goodwill to rebuild a workable consensus and set of conventions that allow people who disagree passionately about important matters to work together productively. And clarifying them should make clear that being forced to take your book to another publishing house is not the same as being asked by the bosses to sign onto statements of moral and religious import while working at a corporate office.

6. More MBD: California’s screw-up governor Gavin Newsom is put under the microscope. From the piece:

Governor Gavin Newsom has tried to distinguish himself during the pandemic. He’s not going to run California like one of those bad states, no. Newsom promised an approach to COVID-19 lockdowns and reopenings that was “driven by data,” and that there would be data transparency with the public.

The promise was that Newsom would be such a good technocratic liberal that in California he wouldn’t even be governing at all; the best science would be governing you. As hospitalizations increased, opportunities for socializing would decrease across a regionalized California. The state would run like an algorithm: perfectly, flawlessly, and ultimately, beautifully. The system would tame coronavirus like an oiled comb running through a full head of slicked-back hair.

Social distancing would be rigorously enforced, even if that meant sending out a bunch of cops to collar a single paddle boarder hundreds and hundreds of yards away from anybody else. How dare that guy spend some alone time getting sun and fresh air when there’s a virus going around that kills people with vitamin D deficiencies, and transmits in poorly ventilated indoor spaces! Can’t he do any of the healthy authorized activities, like eating from a McDonald’s drive-thru?

7. There’s an originalist case to be made about Trump Impeachment 2, and Robert Delahunty and John Yoo make it. From the analysis:

Supporters of Trump’s impeachment must make heavy inferences from these procedural clauses. Take Article I, Section 3’s “judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States.” Trump critics argue that by including future disqualification, the Founders intended impeachment to extend to former officials. But it is not clear from this text whether disqualification must accompany removal (notice the “and” before “disqualification”), or whether it constitutes an independent and separate penalty.

Trump’s critics must rely on a power of impeachment outside the pure confines of the constitutional text. They must argue that when Article II prescribes removal as punishment for “the President, Vice President, and all civil Officers of the United States,” it only describes the standard that applies, and the punishments available, to existing officers — but not former ones. They point out that Article III of the Constitution states that Congress can remove federal judges who violate the “good behavior” standard, but does not make clear elsewhere that impeachment even applies to federal judges. Therefore, the power to impeach judges must come from an impeachment power understood to be in the Constitution even if not expressed in its text.

Any originalist should recognize the faults of this non-textual approach. It contains within itself no limiting principle as to time or targets or terms. If Article II only describes the punishments due to current officers, but does not define other targets of impeachment, then impeachment can include all former executive officers and judges. Congress could impeach Jimmy Carter for the failed Iran hostage rescue operation or Barack Obama for refusing to enforce the immigration laws. It could impeach any former cabinet officer too; it could charge Hillary Clinton for failure to safeguard classified information or James Comey for provoking the Russia special counsel investigation.

8. Andrew C. McCarthy looks at one man’s insurrection and another man’s dissent. From the essay:

Have you noticed that Portland, Seattle, and Denver are exploding once again? Thank the arsonists of the left-wing persuasion — domestic terrorists who, like their foreign-jihadist model, have made it clear that they hate Americans without distinguishing between Republicans and Democrats (in Portland, this “mostly peaceful protest” was against President Biden and vandalized the Democratic Party’s local headquarters, along with the usual government targets). Remarkably, though, Democrats in Washington, D.C., don’t have much to say about it, being preoccupied with the only domestic terrorists they care to notice: neo-Nazis and white supremacists, against whom they want the Biden administration and the FBI to ramp up.

It is quite amazing: For the eight Obama-Biden years, we were told that law enforcement had to limit itself to acting against “violent extremism” — which generally means waiting until after something terrible happens — because it was too perilous, too chilling of constitutionally protected dissent, to take investigative notice of the animating ideology.

The violent extremism in question at the time tended to be jihadist terror, so the animating ideology the Obama administration instructed us not to notice was sharia supremacism. That wasn’t because a nexus between ideology and forcible attacks was lacking. The nexus was crystal clear, had been proved in court countless times, and featured heavily in the 9/11 Commission Report. No, ideology was off the table because “moderate” Islamist organizations that spout softer versions of sharia supremacism just happen to align with Democrats. As do the Black Lives Matter activists and sundry communists and socialists whose protected constitutional expression is, for Antifa, the rationale for violent insurrection.

But now, noticing ideology is cool again! That is, as long as it’s a “far-right” ideology. (In the Democrats’ taxonomy, the National Socialist Party is right-wing. So is white supremacism, now that Joe Biden’s favorite Klansman, Robert Byrd, is no longer around.)

9. More Andy: He takes on the Justice Department’s ridiculous efforts to prosecute voter “disinformation.” From the piece:

In a nutshell, in the final two months of the 2016 campaign, Douglass Mackey, the defendant, disseminated nonsense on social media — what the government’s breathless press release describes as a “disinformation campaign.” Mackey, as described by the New York Post, is a pro-Trump, alt-right Twitter troller who goes by the name of “Ricky Vaughn.” He is said to have collaborated with likeminded jackasses, styling themselves the “Madman Group” and the “War Room.” An illustrative example of their diabolical . . . er . . . tradecraft: A week before the election, Mackey is alleged to have urged in a tweet that voters should “avoid the Line. Vote from Home. Text ‘Hillary’ to 59925. Vote for Hillary and be a part of history.”

If this is what the Bureau is going to spend its time on in the Biden years, maybe it should go back to ferreting out Collusion! under every borscht bowl.

Mackey and the other “madmen” repeatedly claimed that “voting just became easier” because Clinton supporters could supposedly just post the name of favored candidates “on your Facebook or Twitter account on November 8th, 2016 to cast your vote. That’s it.” They had a good laugh over that one, and at the prospect that “dopey sh*tlibs will fall for it too.”

The geniuses were allegedly inspired by false imaging floating around the Internet that had claimed British voters could simply post “Vote Remain” on their Facebook or Twitter accounts, falsely assuring that this would count in the Brexit referendum as a vote against leaving the EU. Unlike the government, Twitter is permitted to regulate even political speech on its platform, and it apparently suspended Mackey’s account a number of times. Nevertheless, the Justice Department dolefully alleges, Mackey’s false tweets were often retweeted, and sometimes even — gasp! — “favorited.”

10. Mario Loyola believes Biden’s “Buy America” push will come back to haunt American workers. From the piece:

The trouble with the federal government’s 1950s-era “Buy America Laws” is that, as globalization has proliferated, supply chains have become almost uniformly transnational. As a result, agencies have found the laws increasingly exorbitant, with the skyrocketing costs of made-in-America substitutes for the globalized goods that federal agencies would otherwise acquire. So they resort to waivers to get around the law and keep their expenditures at something approaching a reasonable cost to taxpayers.

The Biden administration has thus far done a good job spinning reporters (most of whom obviously far prefer Biden to Trump) on the differences between the approaches of the two administrations. Parallel stories in the Washington Post (“Biden aims for new course on trade, breaking with Trump and Democratic predecessors”) and the Wall Street Journal (“Biden Team Promises New Look in Trade Policy”) gave Biden’s communications shop the headlines it wanted, but otherwise show remarkably little difference between the policies of the two presidents.

This bodes ill for America’s global position and for America’s workers. America’s loss of faith in the principles that defeated totalitarianism in the second half of the 20th century recalls the crisis of pacifism and self-doubt that left European democracies fatally weakened in the first half of the 20th century, as totalitarian powers armed for war.

It is perhaps inevitable that the Left’s traditional anti-corporate animus has now become almost as popular on the right, given Big Tech’s demonstration in the last couple of years that it can happily and successfully perform whatever service may be required of it by a one-party state, whether in America or in China, including censorship and other functions of a state media.

11. Alexandra DeSanctis explores the pro-life efforts — spearheaded in South Dakota by Kristi Noem — to adopt Down-Syndrome abortion restrictions. From the report:

Noem’s proposal is just the latest overture in a growing, state-level campaign waged by pro-lifers against abortions chosen on the basis of a child’s sex or disability. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, for instance, is expected to rule soon on an Ohio law banning abortions chosen after receiving a Down-syndrome diagnosis, and several other states have also recently attempted to pass protections for unborn children who receive such a diagnosis.

At the federal level, congressional Republicans introduced a bill similar to Noem’s in late 2019. And on Thursday morning, Representative Ron Estes (R., Kan.) unveiled the “Protecting Individuals with Down Syndrome Act,” which would prohibit any abortion performed “with the knowledge that a pregnant woman is seeking an abortion, in whole or in part, on the basis of . . . a prenatal diagnosis that the unborn child has Down syndrome.” Estes’s bill would also require abortion providers to ask a pregnant woman seeking an abortion whether she is aware of any test results or prenatal diagnosis suggesting that her unborn child has Down syndrome and, if so, informing her of the abortion prohibition. Violators would be subject to a fine or imprisonment of less than five years, and the law would prevent pregnant women from facing prosecution.

These efforts follow recent polling indicating that most Americans, including those who generally support legal abortion, oppose abortions chosen on the basis of an unborn child’s Down-syndrome diagnosis. According to a new Marist survey, 70 percent of Americans oppose such abortions, and a majority of self-identified pro-choice respondents and Democrats agreed.

12. Jimmy Quinn takes on the fib-filled Foreign Affairs piece written by Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif. From the commentary:

Before making his case for an unconditional and immediate U.S. return to the Iran deal, Zarif argues that Washington’s regional military presence over the last two decades has “caused untold damage while achieving little.” Setting aside Tehran’s own role in supporting proxy groups and the Syrian government (Zarif certainly does), many Americans would likely agree that post–9/11 adventurism has been uniquely damaging. Indeed, this is the rhetorical strength of Zarif’s essay — he knows how to sell a message to the American policy elite.

But two of his claims here stand out as exceptionally dishonest. First, in describing the consequences of U.S. military involvement, Zarif notes that 37 million people have been displaced in the region. As I’ve written before, this number — a persistent figure that’s helped the Assad regime deflect blame for its mass atrocities during U.N. meetings — significantly inflates the true number of people that have been forced from their homes by U.S. military action. It’s a baseless number that’s bandied around by U.S.-based opponents of interventionist foreign-policy moves and America’s adversaries, a small but telling lie.

Zarif then goes on to condemn Donald Trump’s decision to order a drone strike on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Qasem Soleimani in 2020. He writes, “The murder removed a leading commander in the fight to push the so-called Islamic State (or ISIS) and other militant groups back from Iraq and Syria — and it added an unforgiveable crime to the already long register of U.S. transgressions against Iran.” These comments on Soleimani, whose paramilitary efforts in Iraq were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans, also exploit a fervent U.S. political debate, this one over whether Trump should have ordered his killing.

13. On the 35th anniversary of the Challenger disaster, Tevi Troy looks back at The Gipper and how he handled this, presidentially. And with greatness. From the assessment:

Reagan was meeting with staff in the Oval Office that Tuesday morning when the Challenger exploded. Upon hearing the news, Reagan left the Oval and went into his nearby study to watch the television footage. Reagan was transfixed, watching as the explosion was shown over and over again. The experience of repeated watching of the explosion was a bond he shared with countless Americans — many of whom were watching to see the first teacher in space — and even made its way into his remarks. As Reagan said in the speech, “On the day of the disaster, our nation held a vigil by our television sets. In one cruel moment, our exhilaration turned to horror; we waited and watched and tried to make sense of what we had seen.”

In the aftermath of the explosion, Reagan made some key decisions. In addition to delaying the State of the Union in favor of an Oval Office address on the tragedy that night, Reagan developed a response plan to the disaster. He sent Vice President George H. W. Bush to Cape Canaveral, the site of the shuttle’s launch, to convey his respects to the families of the fallen. Reagan also called on acting NASA administrator Bill Graham to investigate the crash. These decisions showed Reagan’s willingness to change course when necessary and his ability to delegate.

Moreover, Reagan understood the president’s vital role in the Challenger drama. He had to give a speech that would soothe the nation in a difficult time, and his team had only six hours in which to prepare it. The speechwriting assignment went to Peggy Noonan. Famous today, Noonan was not well-known at the time, just “a little schmagoogie in an office in the Old Executive Office Building,” as she put it a few years ago. But she had a reputation for being good at the emotional speeches. When such a speech was needed, Chief of Staff Don Regan had been known to say, “Get that girl . . . you know, have that girl do that.” Noonan set to work, making sure to solemnly note the tragedy, speak positively about space exploration, and put in a touch of poetry.

14. Christopher Scalia reviews the MSM’s campus “due process” hypocrisy. From the piece:

Simply put, while the Post’s VMI story suggests that criminal standards should apply to honor court hearings about cheating on an exam, the editorial board would prefer that only the lowest evidentiary standards apply to charges of sexual assault.

That’s not the only high standard that the paper’s editors did not want President Trump’s Department of Education to implement. When DeVos first proposed the regulation, the paper called “a proposal that would guarantee a person accused of sexual misconduct the right to cross-examine the accuser” the “most troubling” of the suggested reforms. It was part of the final rule nonetheless.

There’s one more layer of irony to the story. The Post uses the recent Supreme Court decision to suggest that VMI’s policy was racist, as “non-unanimous jury verdicts were rooted in Jim Crow.” Yet journalists and law professors have argued that Title IX campus sexual-misconduct investigations are biased against black male students. Perhaps for that reason, if not for consistency’s sake, the Post could see the value of DeVos’s more rigorous standards of evidence.

It is reasonable to want students accused of violating an honor code to receive a fair hearing that follows high standards of due process. But why would we expect that if we’re not providing it to students facing much more serious charges? The new administration should consider that question before it reverts to Obama-era guidance.

15. Dan McLaughlin gets all royal and explains how the British monarchy lost power, and as is often the case, recommends that one follow the money. From the essay:

By 1780, a decade after Present Discontents, Burke was ready to try more direct means of stemming royal influence than urging the development of principled political parties. This time, he went straight after the money. The impetus for this move had its roots in a bad deal made by George III.

Under George II, the crown had paid the civil list — one of the central props of the patronage system — directly out of certain dedicated revenue streams consisting of customs and excise fees and taxes. While prior kings had surrendered surpluses, George II had a good deal with Parliament, which would pay deficits in the civil list but allow him to keep surpluses. Upon taking the throne, George III agreed to instead accept from Parliament £800,000 per year to pay the civil list. This turned out not only to be an underestimate of what those revenue streams were producing in 1760, but a vast underestimate of their potential: Historian E. A. Reitan estimates that the civil list revenue streams grew to £1 million per year by 1777, and £1.8 million per year by 1798.

Because he was spending so much money on patronage and influence on a fixed income, George III was compelled to go crown in hand to Parliament to pay off his civil list deficits in 1769, and again in 1777. Anger at the latter request, accentuated by the burdens of the American war, fed into a second round of public meetings and agitation in 1779. In February 1780, Burke seized the moment to propose “A Plan for The Better Security of the Independence of Parliament, and the Economical Reformation of the Civil and Other Establishments.” Burke cited petitions asking, “Before any new burdens are laid upon this country, effectual measures be taken by this House to inquire into and correct the gross abuses in the expenditure of public money.”

16. Cheri Williams shows how the COVID crisis had put foster kids at greater risk to sex-traffickers. It’s quite disturbing. From the beginning of the piece:

This is the reality of human trafficking today: One in four victims around the world are children. And at least 60 percent of child trafficking victims in the U.S. have once been in the foster-care system. As the pandemic continues to create circumstances that exacerbate trafficking, children — especially those in foster care — are increasingly at risk.

Children in the foster-care system are more likely to become victims of trafficking because traffickers prey on vulnerable children. Some children were placed in foster care in the first place because they were victims of sexual abuse. Children with experience in the foster-care system are more likely to be homeless than children who weren’t, making them more susceptible to trafficking in exchange for food or shelter. Of the 23,500 runaway children reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in 2018, an estimated one in seven were likely victims of child sex trafficking.

Calls to child-abuse hotlines across the country have decreased since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, mainly because mandatory reporters, such as teachers, aren’t seeing children in person. However, pediatricians and child-abuse advocates have reported an apparent increase in child hospitalizations due to abuse.

Editorials

1. Well, he is a devout Catholic after all, our abortion-extremist president. As to Planned Parenthood’s BFF, we offer anger that is righteous. From the editorial:

Meanwhile, with the same stroke of the pen, Biden directed his Department of Health and Human Services to consider rescinding a second Trump-administration policy, which prohibits abortion providers from claiming federal funding under the Title X family-planning program.

The current regulation requires abortion groups to financially separate their abortion business from any other services in order to qualify for Title X funding. Planned Parenthood declined to do so, costing the organization about $60 million a year, a mere pittance of its half a billion in federal funding. If Biden’s HHS nominee Xavier Becerra is confirmed by the Senate in spite of his lack of qualifications, undoing this policy will almost certainly be one of the first items on his to-do list.

Though pro-abortion activists cheered these moves, the average American appears to have little interest in forcing the taxpayer to fund abortion. Polling suggests that a majority of the public opposes using U.S. aid money to fund abortions overseas, as do most Democrats and even most who call themselves pro-choice. Likewise, a majority opposes federal funding for abortion here in the U.S., including about a third of Democrats and pro-choice voters.

2. The MSM call for deplatforming of Fox News and other conservative outlets gets NR’s opprobrium. From the editorial:

The folly of this is illustrated by Oliver Darcy, CNN’s “media reporter,” declaring “it is time TV carriers face questions for lending their platforms to dishonest companies that profit off of disinformation and conspiracy theories.” He fumed that AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Charter, and Dish did not respond to his questions. In other words, a CNN employee is angry that the parent company of his employer isn’t taking action to shut down one of his competitors.

The Federal Trade Commission Act empowers the FCC to “prevent unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce,” and cable providers refusing to carry networks that are rivals of their subsidiaries would certainly qualify.

A few years ago, Bloomberg filed FCC complaints about Comcast, contending that the cable carrier was putting its own business news channel, CNBC, in the prime spot on the metaphorical dial in a cluster with the other news channels, and casting Bloomberg News Channel to the cable equivalent of the hinterlands on channel 251. In 2013, the FCC ruled that Comcast had to put Bloomberg near the other news channels. If the FCC saw unfair practices in Comcast putting Bloomberg in a far-off corner of its channel menu, how do you think it’ll respond to a carrier dropping a channel that competes with one of its subsidiaries entirely?

The one cable carrier that did respond to Darcy, CenturyLink, got it right, stating that the company was committed to providing “a variety of broadcast channels covering thousands of topics” and that as a company, it does not “endorse specific media or outlets.” Americans do not need cable-company executives deciding what is and what is not fit for news coverage. Consumers have the option of changing the channel.

3. Keep your polished apples: We want time off. NR lambasts teachers unions for COVID malarkey. From the editorial:

In Chicago, the teachers’ union voted to reject the city’s reopening schedule, demanding that its members continue to work remotely until all of the city’s educators have been vaccinated, which might well mean that students would still be out of the classroom until the spring semester of 2022 or later. District leaders have described the union’s position of militant noncompliance as an “illegal strike,” which is what it amounts to and how it should be treated.

The story is playing out much the same way in other cities: San Francisco had planned to begin reopening schools on Monday, but the teachers’ union blocked the effort. New York has been in a state of educational chaos with the back-and-forth between its incompetent mayor and its intransigent union bosses. The union rejected a reopening plan in Baltimore, but Baltimore plans to proceed without the union’s blessing, citing the dire academic performance of its students in remote learning, with more than half of students failing a class during the disruption.

4. There is a path forward for conservatism. The direction, the forces, the roadblocks, and much more are discussed. From the editorial:

Our political debates are often necessarily contentious, but they must remain only metaphorically battles. Different stripes of conservatives can have productive arguments with one another about how to help families flourish, what the proper bounds of government are, and who should lead the Republican Party. But that debate must not partake of conspiratorial fantasies, and lawless violence must never be on the table. We must strive, against all demagogues, to make our reason the master and not the servant of our passions.

The spirit of republican deliberation is already too frail in our times. Our fellow citizens doubt one another’s good intent and capacity for self-government. Even conservatives are tempted to give up the defense of the Constitution, which would leave it friendless and dying. Nothing, at such a moment, can sound more naïve than a call for Americans to rededicate ourselves to our patrimony. Nothing is more essential.

5. Democrats scheming for a “Climate Emergency” to unleash executive power-grabbing is a dangerous and contemptuous thing. From the editorial:

The majority leader told MSNBC that Democrats were also trying to figure out ways to sneak climate-change policy into Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan under reconciliation, a budget tactic that allows some spending-related bills to pass with only a simple majority in the Senate. Depending on the particulars, that might be an abuse of the process, and would likely be objectionable on policy grounds, but would at least involve congressional action.

Biden has already done much to advance his climate agenda via pen and phone. He issued a slew of consequential climate-related executive orders, rejoining the Paris climate agreement without Senate ratification, enacting a moratorium on new federal oil and gas leases, and shutting down the Keystone XL pipeline by revoking permits for the project. This would only be a taste of the job-killing initiatives he’d undertake after declaring a “climate emergency.” Biden, remember, has previously stated that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal offers the “crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face.”

Climate change is not an existential threat that warrants a declaration of emergency. If Schumer wants to tackle the problem, he presides over the world’s most powerful legislative body. He is free to try to build consensus, compromise, and pass enduring federal legislation. Or not. Whatever the case, it’s certainly not his job to implore the executive branch to take yet more unilateral power at the expense of the Congress.

6. Joe Biden has declared war on high-school girls. We declare DefCon One. From the editorial:

As we warned at the time, Bostock’s sophistry has only served to encourage the transgender lunacy of Democratic radicals. For decades, the Supreme Court upheld that sex discrimination occurs when one biological sex is treated less favorably than the other sex because of sex. It did not require employers to treat one sex as though it were the other by following, through smoke and mirrors, the fashionable dictates of transgender ideology.

In concluding that employers had to treat male-born employees claiming transgender status as females, the Court relied on the ACLU’s fallacious “but for” reasoning: But for the fact that a self-identified transgender employee had been born a male, he would have been treated as any other female employee. This opens up a Pandora’s Box of absurdities. But for the fact that a convicted rapist was born male, he would be imprisoned in a women’s prison. (This has already happened in the United Kingdom and in California.) But for the fact that a mediocre athlete was born male, he would be able to completely dominate in female athletics. (This has already happened internationally and in the state of Connecticut.)

The legal confusion Bostock caused by obfuscating reality has advanced the cause of transgender extremism. In August, the Fourth Circuit cited Bostock in finding in favor of a female-born transgender student suing her school board over their sex-based bathroom policy. The Eleventh Circuit reached a similar conclusion in Adams v. School Board of St. Johns County, Florida. The lawyers representing female athletes in Connecticut who object to their displacement by young men identifying as transgender have been told by a judge that they must refer to the males in question as females.

7. More Bad Joe: His amnesty plan is a stinker. We apply the sniff test. From the editorial:

Although the details are yet to be written into legislation, it’s hard to exaggerate how sweeping this proposal is. It would apply not just to illegal immigrants who have been here for years and become embedded in their communities, but to illegal immigrants who showed up the day before yesterday — the cutoff for the amnesty is January 1, 2021. Even this requirement may be waived for illegal immigrants who were deported on or after January 20, 2017 but resided in the United States three years prior to that.

Biden doesn’t want to give temporary legal status to illegal immigrants. He wants to give them green cards and then, after a period of years, make them eligible for citizenship. This would precipitate a wave of follow-on immigration. Green-card holders can petition for spouses and minor children to come to the United States, while citizens can petition for parents and siblings, as well.

It’s an unwritten rule that comprehensive immigration bills must always increase levels of legal immigration, too, and sure enough, the Biden proposal would loosen and lift various restrictions and caps in the legal system.

8. Hammerin’ Hank gets our farewell. From the editorial:

Black players in the early days of MLB’s integration were lionized in the public square but more susceptible to furtive, menacing demonstrations of racial animus than they’d been before their elevation to celebrity status. A quarter-century after Jackie Robinson stepped onto the diamond at Ebbets Field for the first time, Aaron was still getting hate mail and death threats. They escalated in 1973 as he closed in on Babe Ruth’s record of 714 career home runs. If he felt intimidated, he didn’t show it. If he felt righteous indignation, he weighed his words before expressing it. He modeled restraint.

On his first swing of the 1974 season, he tied Ruth’s record. Four days later, on April 8, against Al Downing of the Los Angeles Dodgers, he connected for his 715th, in Atlanta, before a crowd ecstatic to witness one of their hometown nine make baseball history of such magnitude. Vin Scully, the Dodgers’ announcer, captured the social significance of the moment. “A black man is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South for breaking a record of an all-time baseball idol,” he remarked to his audience. “And for the first time in a long time, that poker face in Aaron” betrayed a certain emotion, showing relief from the tension he must have been coping with “the past several months.”

Capital Matters

1. Kevin Hassett finds Joe Biden’s COVID-relief plan heavy on the political and light on pandemic. From the article:

That said, a bill that draws on the lessons of last year would look a good deal different from the package that the president has put forward. While there are elements within Biden’s proposal that genuinely count as relief and should be supported, on other aspects it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the president followed Rahm Emanuel’s infamous advice of not letting a crisis go to waste. He has taken the real need for relief and used it as a Trojan horse to smuggle in a series of policies that owe more to politics than to the pandemic.

First, his proposal includes a massive bail out for state governments, which is really just a transfer to a few traditionally blue states that had major budget problems pre-pandemic. Second, the drop in economic activity this quarter (absent additional policy) should be much smaller than occurred in the second quarter of last year. The amount of dollars provided under a bill truly focused on helping the country weather the latest stage of the pandemic ought to take that into account. Sadly, the size of this package suggests that a broader agenda is involved. Down the road, all this spending, whether justifiable as relief or otherwise, will lead to a long-term budget reckoning, and the bigger the spending, the bigger the reckoning. Third, it is positively foolish to increase the minimum wage to $15 as the president proposes. Those 29.3 percent of businesses that are still shut down might well just call it quits if their labor costs are set to skyrocket when they are able to open again.

Thinking back to the example of the small town, a business will take the loan from government rather than declare bankruptcy only if it expects to make enough profits after we escape the crisis to offset the losses it has incurred during the pandemic. If firms expect higher taxes, higher regulation, and higher labor costs down the road, all of which President Biden has promised, then they are much less likely to try to stick it out now. It will be remarkable if we avoid a lengthy depression and even financial panic given the terrible shocks we have endured this year. If we do, it will be because politicians recognized that while Keynesian stimulus is controversial, relief should not be, and also because President Biden and his team shelved their campaign promises in recognition of the reality that short-run perseverance depends on long-run optimism. Unfortunately, it appears that that recognition has yet to dawn.

2. Nicholas Phillips says the time has come to give the taboo of tariffs its do. From the piece:

Conservatives have long insisted that trade deficits don’t matter. Armchair policy wonks are fond of pointing out that you run a trade deficit with Shake Shack, yet both are better off from this exchange. But as U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer points out, if you run a trade deficit with everyone, with no net-positive income stream from selling goods or services of your own, you’re just in debt, and your consumption of Shackburgers depends on your credit-card company’s patience.

Some believe that creditor patience is virtually limitless for the United States, because the dollar’s reserve-currency status means that our trading partners will always accept dollar-denominated IOUs in the form of U.S. Treasuries to fund our consumption. But trade deficits necessarily get plugged by sales of assets as well as by debt — meaning we are auctioning off our future productive capacity to consume more in the present.

Nor is debt without drawbacks: When exporters such as China and Germany recycle their profits into Treasuries, it lowers interest rates and stimulates borrowing — and financial bubbles — at the same time their production glut deepens American deindustrialization. As Warren Buffett said, “our country has been behaving like an extraordinarily rich family that possesses an immense farm. In order to consume 4 percent more than we produce — that’s the trade deficit — we have been both selling pieces of the farm and increasing the mortgage on what we still own.” If this can’t go on forever, eventually it will stop.

3. Marc Joffe says determining state and local COVID assistance should require Congress to use historical data, and not future projections. From the article:

State and local governments use a variety of revenue-estimation methods, and there is no comprehensive repository of such estimates. Making aid decisions based on counterfactual revenue estimates also raises the question of whether the federal government should guarantee increased budgets for each state and local government. Should the fact that a state budget office or an independent forecaster expects a 5 percent revenue increase in a given year under normal circumstances mean that the state is entitled to this 5 percent revenue bump even under adverse circumstances?

An alternative is to base state and local relief payments on actual revenue losses. For example, calendar year 2019 could be used as a revenue baseline, and aid awards could be based on shortfalls in 2020 and subsequent years. An advantage of this approach is that it requires no forecasting at all. Governments seeking grants could simply report their 2019 and 2020 revenue collections to a federal agency, which would provide an award based on the difference. Another set of grants could be computed and issued once actual 2021 revenue receipts are known.

Basing grants on actual revenue losses rather than on population, unemployment rates, or COVID-19 cases (all of which have appeared as allocation bases in previous House bills) prevents aid money from going to governments that may not need it. For example, Idaho’s most recent revenue report shows receipts from July to November 2020 exceeding prior year collections by 16.6 percent and budget forecasts by 10.6 percent. Limiting assistance to those states that have seen tax revenue decline would better focus relief on those entities facing budgetary difficulties. But a less inclusive package could raise political challenges since representatives and senators from excluded entities would be less inclined to support it.

4. Accept no imitations, says David Harsanyi: Joe Biden very much seeks to end fracking. From the article:

In a Forbes article, “Did Biden Break Campaign Promise on Fracking? No — And Here’s Why,” Rachel Sandler makes the acutely irrelevant observation that “the president does not even have the power to ban fracking nationally.” Biden, you see, is only banning the fracking he can ban. Which is tantamount to arguing that Donald Trump never supported a wall on the southern border because he didn’t have the power to unilaterally build it.

No serious person would buy it. Presidential candidates make promises all the time that can only be achieved through legislative means. Presidents don’t actually “cut taxes” themselves, they need the legislatures to write the bills. We still consider “tax cuts” to be the stated position of Republican candidates.

Fact-checkers were right, of course, that Biden wouldn’t end fracking in a single day with a single decree. Because he can’t. Fact-checkers were also right that Biden couldn’t retroactively ban fracking; he could only end “new” fracking.

It’s true, as well, that Biden lied about his position, and the unskeptical press filtered his falsehood through their coverage. Even today, the easiest way to clear up Biden’s position would be for a reporter to snap out of their sycophantic trance and ask the president if he would sign an energy bill that included a national fracking ban. I assume he would, as eliminating fossil fuels is the stated policy aim.

Lights. Camera. Review!

1. Kyle Smith catches Dear Comrades! and heartily recommends it. From the review:

A rare cinematic peek into the seven-decade crime against humanity that was Soviet Russia, Dear Comrades! chillingly explores events surrounding a state massacre of striking Russian workers on June 1–2, 1962, in the city of Novocherkassk. As the film opens, workers at a train factory have just had their wages cut as the government has announced an increase in food prices. We witness events through the eyes of a middle-aged single mom, Lyuda (patiently played by Julia Vysotskaya) who is a city official on a committee that tries to deal with a threatened strike. As the mob becomes increasingly unruly, army tanks roll in and KGB snipers take up perches. Lyuda and the other bureaucrats soon become trapped in the factory offices. As has been asked many times in Russian history, officials wonder: What is to be done? Lyuda suggests a crackdown. She is a committed Stalinist, now and seemingly forever.

The film is a stunning late-career peak from writer-director Andrei Konchalovsky, whose career dates back to the Sixties and includes everything from highbrow theater adaptations (Uncle Vanya in 1970, The Lion in Winter in 2003) to Hollywood features (Runaway Train in 1985, Tango and Cash in 1989). He draws a superb performance from Vysotskaya (his wife), as Lyuda tries to reconcile her love for Soviet communism with the realities of how it operates, and must operate, to retain power. Her 18-year-old daughter Svetka (Yuliya Borova) is the family liberal and takes the side of the striking workers, which places her in danger.

2. Armond White finds nothing to commend in the American Film Institute’s “best films” wokefest. From the beginning of the commentary:

Movie awards are the pretext, but race is the cudgel that media institutions use in the ongoing effort to “fundamentally transform” American culture (quoted phrase courtesy of Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders). The bureaucrats at the American Film Institute announced a list of the year’s best films that shows they no longer judge quality; instead, they misconstrue political posturing as artistic achievement.

The eleven films cited alphabetically by the AFI are standard-bearers; that the list concludes with the Netflix feature The Trial of the Chicago 7 conveniently suggests a 7/11 dice-toss. We can parallel AFI policy with those Sixties student activists who faced criminal court trial because the AFI’s sympathy is blatant and its tactics are suspect.

Since most cinephiles follow corporate journalism’s recent political activism, The Trial of the Chicago 7’s tribunal stands as a tongue-in-cheek metaphor for their groupthink. The AFI, nestled in Hollywood as a federally funded school for filmmakers, uses this annual list to set politicized standards for students, faculty, the film industry, and the gullible public.

3. More Armond, who does some Soul searching. From the beginning of the review:

Designed to alienate black music culture from its gospel roots, Pixar’s Soul goes all out for secular existentialism. It’s a devious kind of bedtime-story indoctrination in which a disillusioned public-school music teacher, Joe (voiced by Jamie Foxx), searches to find a new meaning of life. Joe’s adventures take him through familiar comic circumstances (School of Rock–style band instruction), family obligation (a domineering mother), and social opposition (competing for personal artistic recognition) that lull Pixar viewers into, once again, accepting the brand’s routine pattern of juvenile self-absorption.

When a street accident shifts Joe’s mortal consciousness to the other side, he repeats the pattern by which black social advancement has drifted away from the spiritual foundations of once-revered freedom and emancipation movements. He finds himself “in the zone,” which his guide #22 (voiced by Tina Fey) instructs him is “the space between the physical and the spiritual.”

Industry giant Pixar shows so little non-technological imagination that it has run out of find-your-way-back-home Yellow Brick Road plots and has recently, since 2015’s Inside Out, settled on sedentary, sleepy-time narrative: mind games.

4. Michael Brendan Dougherty has some thoughts on Tenet. From the review:

And yet, a bad scifi movie can also be a great philosophical drama, and the message at the heart of Nolan’s puzzle-film is extravagantly life-affirming. Tenet successfully portrays a resolution to a thorny theological riddle: How do we reconcile God’s predestination of events with genuine human free will?

As a theological problem, this one has nearly broken the Church. The attempt by Protestant reformer John Calvin to vindicate God’s sovereignty ultimately forced him to abjure any meaningful belief in human free will, leaving us as either tools in the hands of our Maker or utter slaves to sin. For the rest of Christianity, the mystery of how to reconcile the seemingly unreconcilable is beyond the human ability to reason.

5. Kevin Williamson finds conservative DNA in lefty Fran Lebowitz, subject of a new Martin Scorsese’s documentary. From the beginning of the review:

Fran Lebowitz’s politics may be almost impeccably left-wing, but everything else about her is delightfully reactionary in Martin Scorsese’s latest — it is his second — documentary about her life and opinions, a seven-part Netflix series called Pretend It’s a City.

Think of Lebowitz as a parallel-universe Florence King, a gregarious New York misanthrope rather than a cloistered Southern one.

The title comes from Lebowitz’s sardonic advice to the New Yorkers bumping into her on the sidewalk with their noses stuck in their devices: Pretend it’s a city. Lebowitz herself has never owned a mobile phone or a computer. “I have a telephone and an address,” she explains. “That is sufficient.” (She admits to asking friends to order books for her from Amazon.) She bristles when young people explain to her the attraction of social media, explaining with some exasperation that the reason she does not have Twitter or Instagram is not that she doesn’t know what they are — but that she does.

Elsewhere in the Conservative Solar System

1. As part of Real Clear Politics’ “1776 Series,” the incomparable Daniel J. Mahoney seeks to recover what he calls “the other half of our Founding.” From the essay:

All the prominent Founders were fundamentally anti-utopian (even Tom Paine), and had, as Reinhold Niebuhr pointed out, an acute sense of human sinfulness and imperfection. They were not the Puritans or Calvinists of old, but neither did they endorse the materialism and reductionism of the radical Enlightenment or its misplaced belief in an ideology of Progress. They still believed that human beings had souls and were much more than matter in motion. They had no trouble rejecting both the theocratic temptation in politics and a relativism that severed the essential connections between truth and liberty, freedom and the pursuit of the good life. Moral subjectivism (“Who’s to say what is right and wrong?”) was wholly alien to their hearts and minds, precisely because they were civilized men and women.

We now live in a different moral universe, and by no means a better one. Of course, inspired by Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and the early civil rights movement, we have made considerable progress in overcoming racial injustice, and the legacy of the great injustice that was chattel slavery. That is all to the good. But an emphasis on inclusiveness, however necessary and legitimate, does not define or exhaust the moral foundations of democracy. Today, even religious believers habitually speak of morality in terms of “values,” a term derived from economics which suggests that something is good because we value or choose it (its modern use was made famous by Friedrich Nietzsche and Max Weber). Whether people who use that language know that they have succumbed to what C.S. Lewis derided as “the poison of subjectivism” is largely beside the point. As Allan Bloom argued in The Closing of the American Mind over thirty years ago, the language of values, and the language of right and wrong, are by no means the same thing; they ultimately point in different directions. The latter partakes of confidence in the reality of moral facts, the former of thoroughgoing relativism and subjectivism. Language matters, and the language of “values” is, whether we like it or not, the language of moral relativism, even moral subversion. Of course, some thinkers of note use the language of “values” and “disvalues” while dissociating those terms from a framework of moral relativism. But there is peril in that path.

2. At Law & Liberty, Paul Seaton delves into a papal dreamer. From the beginning of the piece:

The Francis pontificate seems to have run its course, its élan spent. Evidence of intellectual exhaustion is not hard to find. The Pope’s recent social encyclical Fratelli tutti (October 2020) was remarkably self-referential and repetitive, an indication of thought that is self-enclosed, lacking in creativity or even curiosity. Even one of the Pope’s most stalwart defenders, Massimo Faggioli, noted this recycling: “Francis quite often cites himself [in Fratelli tutti]: there’s an enormous number of quotes from previous documents (especially Evangelii Gaudium and Laudato si’) and from his speeches and homilies” (“Examining the Encyclical,” Commonweal, Oct 9, 2020). As for the pontificate’s general exhaustion, six months earlier Faggioli had observed that “something disturbing has happened over the past year. One has the impression that during the last several months the dynamism of [Francis’s] pontificate has begun to reach its limit.”

In short, we’re increasingly getting more of the same from Pope Francis. The Pope’s newest set of reflections, Let Us Dream, confirms this assessment. In it, Francis hangs old thoughts about the global “political and economic systems” on a new hook, the coronavirus pandemic.

There is one development that is rather striking, however. Here, the Pope endorses a biblical portrait of an armed Jewish “people” who “rise up against the unbelievers who rule over them, and even those who are making war on them”. In the context of a basic dichotomy of his social thought, an invidious contrast between elites and peoples, have’s and have nots, citing the passage from the Book of Nehemiah (4:17) takes on an ominous resonance. Moreover, when he paraphrases the text, the Pope does not close the door that the text opened: “In other words, they knew they had to defend their future from falling back into the previous tragedy.”

However one is to take this particular endorsement, it joins with general features of Francis’s thought and rhetoric that raise questions about both. On one hand, he regularly excoriates the people’s “selfish” and “heartless” elite superiors, on the other, he wants the downtrodden to “become the agents of a new future” and “the protagonists of social change”. With his starkly binary categories, his rhetoric of condemnation and indignation, and his calls for popular action against unjust systems, the Pope stokes dangerous passions which run counter to his more irenic proposals and utterances. How they are to go together is far from clear. The endorsement cited above only adds fuel to a fire already fanned by the Pope.

3. At Gatestone Institute, Con Coughlin finds that even the bureaucrats of Europe are losing patience with Iran’s nuke-loving leaders. From the piece:

“We welcome President-elect Biden’s positive statements on the JCPOA, and look forward to working with the incoming US administration,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement on behalf of the bloc earlier this month.

The EU supported “intensive diplomacy with the goal of facilitating a US return to the JCPOA and Iran’s return to full JCPOA implementation,” Borrell added.

The EU’s unfettered enthusiasm for the nuclear deal, however, has been dealt a significant blow as a result of Iran’s increasingly aggressive conduct on the nuclear front, to the extent that Mr. Borrell has been forced to concede that the future of the agreement has now reached a “critical juncture”.

In recent weeks, Iran announced that it had begun work on enriching uranium to 20 percent — just short of the level required to produce nuclear weapons — as well as informing the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN-sponsored body responsible for monitoring Iran’s nuclear activities, that it was to resume work on producing uranium metal.

Both these developments represent a clear breach of the JCPOA. Under the agreement, Iran committed to keep uranium enrichment at 3.5 percent, the level required for civilian use, and signed up to a 15-year ban on “producing or acquiring plutonium or uranium metals or their alloys”.

Iran’s announcement that it was proceeding with the production of uranium metal has prompted a furious response from the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany, who, in a joint statement earlier this month, warned that there is “no credible civilian use” for the element, and that “The production of uranium metal has potentially grave military implications.”

4. Cornell University, reports Rachel Lalgie in The College Fix, is giddy over a $5 million grant that will allow it to study “racialized violence.” From the article:

The grant will support efforts by the university’s Migrations: A Global Grand Challenge project to “respond to historical and ongoing nativist and racialized violence in the U.S. by turning the university into a living laboratory,” according to a news release. The research endeavor is titled “Cross-Border Movements: Racism, Dispossession, and Migration.”

The migrations project is an interdisciplinary undertaking of Global Cornell to study the movement of “all living things,” according to its website. “Education — through multidisciplinary research, teaching, and engagement — can prepare future leaders, scientists, policymakers, entrepreneurs, and community members to thrive in a world on the move.”

The grant is part of the Mellon Foundation’s Just Futures Initiatives recent funding round totaling $72 million.

“Receiving this Mellon grant will allow us to continue to build on strengths in the study of racism, dispossession, and migration,” Gerard Arching, professor in Africana Studies and one of the project’s co-organizers, told The College Fix via email. “I am excited by the opportunities that we’ll now have to bring professors and students together to examine and propose solutions for urgent local and world problems such as these.”

5. At The Imaginative Conservative, Anthony Esolen decries society’s failure to turn boys into men. From the essay:

For myself, I haven’t belonged to an all-male anything since I was twelve years old and in the Little League. I have no interest in it. I’ve never hung around with “the boys,” drinking or playing cards or whatnot. My father was all the mentor I ever needed. But what I happen to need and what others need may be quite different things, especially in our time of fatherlessness, underachieving boys, social fraying, and the collapse of marriage. I stick up for the boys because nobody else will, and the shabby neglect of their interests disgusts me. That I do not write about the troubles of girls, which I can know only by observation, is neither here nor there, any more than it was a point against Mrs. Jackson that she did not address working conditions for the immigrant Irish in New England. No one can do everything. Everyone can do something.

And helping boys to become men needs to be done. We owe it to them in justice, nor will we have healthy families, parishes, neighborhoods, and towns otherwise.

I marvel that those in our midst who attribute differences in results to prejudice and systemic injustice never apply that line of reasoning to boys. Yet in their case the argument is most strong. If we look at ethnic groups and their performance relative to others, we must account for innumerable factors besides ethnicity. What is their income? Is there a father in the home? Do they live in the city, the suburbs, or the country? How well do they speak or read English? Do they live in the south or the north, the coastal areas or the heartland? What are their schools like? What traditional skills or moral imperatives do they bring to bear upon their lives in the United States? Do they have strong extended families that can be sources of employment or capital?

But for boys, as compared with girls, none of these factors comes into play. They live in exactly the same families as their sisters, in exactly the same economic and social conditions.

6. More Y Chromosomology: At Splice Today, Emina Melonic defends masculinity. From the piece:

The absurdity of gender fluidity from a biological standpoint and feminist ideology has contributed not only to a denial of masculinity but also the oppression of men. Misogyny is a word that’s thrown around in the public square but there’s never any mention of misandry — hatred of men. If a man tries to voice this, he’s immediately dismissed and called a misogynist. The only way to be accepted among women is to release himself from “maleness” and any masculine element that’s in his body and mind. He’s told to deny his biology (which is impossible) and interior life. He’s told that he’s guilty for being a man and is tried and convicted in this fictional court of female judges.

What makes this issue even more difficult in America is that we’re dealing with the uniqueness of American masculinity, which implies a kind of boundlessness of the landscape, a conquering, with nature and against it, but always moving, always thrusting.

Consider this scene in Hunter S. Thompson’s novel The Rum Diary, begun in 1959: “I was late and there was a line at the reservation desk. I fell in behind fifteen or so Puerto Ricans and one small blonde girl a few places ahead of me. I pegged her for a tourist, a wild young secretary going down to the Caribbean for a two week romp. She had a fine little body and an impatient way of standing that indicated a mass of stored up energy. I watched her intently, smiling, feeling the ale in my veins, waiting for her to turn around for a swift contact with the eyes.”

Feminists call this the “male gaze” — a masculine and heterosexual point of view that objectifies women. Yes, it’s a gaze. Yes, it’s male. And yes, the woman is objectified. But it’s neither good nor bad. When we look at anyone, they’re passive just by virtue of being an object of view. The question is what do we tend to focus on when we look.

7. No Heretics Need Apply: At The James Martin Center, George Leef looks into a suppressed report that explored the academic bent to prevent dissent. From the piece:

Wanting to learn why many on campus reacted as they did, Geher and his research team came up with an idea to study the motivations of faculty members. Their concept was to survey academics, asking them how they prioritize five academic values: academic rigor, knowledge advancement, academic freedom, students’ emotional well-being, and social justice. The objective was to see if academic values were related to the individual’s field, political orientation, gender, and personality.

Geher and his team obtained responses from 177 professors. The results were not at all surprising. They showed, inter alia, that women had a stronger commitment to social justice and student emotional well-being than did men, and faculty who regarded themselves as “agreeable” placed more emphasis on student well-being and social justice than did those who didn’t see themselves as especially agreeable — those in the latter group placed greater emphasis on student learning and academic rigor.

What the research seems to show is that professors who have an underlying devotion to social justice are not particularly interested in academic rigor and the advancement of knowledge.

That fits hand-in-glove with the many observations of hostility by “progressive” professors toward arguments that the programs and policies they support to achieve social justice are actually counter-productive. Those who contend, for example, that minimum wage laws do more to harm low-skilled workers than benefit them, are apt to suffer ad hominem attacks while the substance of their arguments is ignored.

The study’s findings hardly seem controversial. Would anyone doubt that professors who identify as politically liberal would say that they rank student emotional well-being and the pursuit of social justice as their top goals, above student learning and the advancement of knowledge? Or that faculty in fields like business and accounting would rank academic rigor and student learning as higher priorities than social justice and student emotions?

8. At Commentary, Douglas Murray looks at Barbara Amiel’s memoir, and likes the honesty between its covers. From the piece:

Amiel is at pains to stress how financially monastic her pre-Black life was. But by her own admission, she made up for it afterwards, developing a jewelry and couture habit that positively invited attention from the gods of hubris. After Conrad was given a peerage, she became Lady Black, and a certain nominative determinism seemed to take hold. To many observers, she appeared cold and aloof. Fellow hacks became suspicious of her, and she now believes that the negativity she attracted was not coincidental. Meantime, the circles she began to move in on Park Avenue and the toytown world of Palm Beach gave her a serious sense of imposter syndrome.

Showing off one of her homes and couture collections to an interviewer from Vogue magazine, she professed (in a phrase that would haunt her endlessly) to have “an extravagance that knows no bounds.” To read her laceratingly honest account of what was going on in her head in that moment, and indeed throughout this whole period, is not just to understand Amiel’s own mind but the attitude of a great many people who cover their insecurities with boastfulness and imperious certainties. “I created the impression of a woman far thicker-skinned and predatory than I was,” she admits at one point. “I knew this… but I couldn’t help myself.”

Does she blame herself, as so many observers did, for her husband’s fall? Did she drive him to spend beyond his already considerable means? Conrad Black assures her not and says that while she did sometimes “go overboard,” it was “not into perilous waters.” “I was watching and would have stopped you,” he tells her.

None of which much helped husband or wife through the endless self-questioning that must have come during the weeks in court. Nor through the subsequent round trips to the correctional facilities in which Lord Black was imprisoned for a total of three and a half years.

Black himself has already covered the legal and business elements of this terrain in his detailed 2011 book A Matter of Principle. Anyone who thought that book settled scores will marvel at how his wife’s memoir outstrips his. But her eye turns inward as well as out. Details of the pride as well as the fall are often excruciating in their intimacy. There is the period in which even as the Blacks have only each other for company, she cannot bear to have him touch her in bed. Then comes the moment when, like something out of Gatsby — Conrad is suddenly allowed out of prison and Barbara catches up with him at home: “It was about midnight when I finally reached Palm Beach. I walked through the house towards Conrad’s library and I could see the outline of his shoulders on the terrace, backlit by the patio lights. That was my husband. Free.”

9. At City Journal, John Tierney scopes out the MSM cancellers. From the article:

They pretended that riots across the United States last year were “mostly peaceful protests,” while the one at the Capitol was a historic “insurrection” and “attempted coup” that put “democracy in peril.” Its symbolism made the Capitol riot a singularly horrifying spectacle on television, but the actual toll in life and property was much smaller than that of last year’s mob violence, which claimed at least 15 lives and caused more than $2 billion in damage.

Yes, the mob at the Capitol had been fed lies and conspiracy theories about election fraud, and some of the organizers had used social media — including not just Parler but also Facebook and Twitter — to enrage the protesters. It’s no surprise that Joe Biden and other Democrats are denouncing this “Big Lie” and promising to fight “domestic terrorism” by imposing new restrictions on social-media platforms. Politicians are always eager for more power.

But why would any sensible journalist go along with them? Their own profession’s freedom rests on the First Amendment, which allows them to print information no matter how misguided it’s deemed by others, and on landmark Supreme Court decisions protecting even speakers who make generalized calls for violence. That freedom allowed journalists to spend two years promoting a conspiracy theory about Russia collusion, a falsehood that did far more far to cripple the federal government than the Capitol riot. They encouraged last year’s riots by convincing the public, despite abundant evidence to the contrary, that black men were being disproportionately killed by white police officers.

Baseballery

What a day it was for inconclusive games. Two of the longest ever — one being the longest scoreless game in MLB history — took place on Wednesday, September 11, 1946. The shorter of the duo occured at Braves Field in Boston, where the local NL team, clutching onto a rare franchise First-Division finish — took on the third-place Chicago Cubs, who had endured a 10-2 drubbing the previous afternoon.

On the mound for Chicago was southpaw Johnny Schmitz, sporting a 10-10 record, and facing the Braves’ great lefty, Warren Spahn. After three innings, the score was locked at 3-3. And there it would stay for another dozen frames. There were close calls: with two on in the bottom of the Ninth, Cubs shortstop Billy Jurges nailed Braves second baseman Connie Ryan at home for the final out, while in the bottom of the 10th, the Braves loaded the bases — but couldn’t make magic happen.

After that, the Braves could barely get a man on base: Cubs pitcher Hank Borowy, who had helped lead Chicago to the pennant the year before (he went 2-2 against the Tigers in the World Series) was handed the ball in the 11th, and for the next seven innings no-hit the Braves, giving up one lonely walk. And no runs. While Chicago touched Braves reliever Frank Barrett for five hits and two walks in the last 6 2/3 innings, they suffered the same scoreless fate. It all ended when the Braves Johnny Hopp flied out to end the 17th: with darkness consuming the Boston skies, the umps called the game, and into the records books it went, and remains — a 3-3 tie.

That was an offensive riot compared to what was happening the same afternoon in Brooklyn, where the Dodgers — a game and a half behind St. Louis in the battle for the pennant –were playing the 58-76 Cincinnati Reds. In 4 hours and 40 minutes, none of the 14,538 fans at Ebbets Field saw a runner cross the plate. There were 135 plate appearances that yielded 18 hits (10 for the Reds, do the math to figure out how many Brooklyn got), and 7 walks. There were three errors. But in 19 innings, there was not a single run. Johnny Vander Meer started and went 15 innings for the Reds, while Hal Gregg went 10 for the Bums.

There was drama: In the top of the 19th, the Reds had men on First and Second when Bert Haas slapped a single. Dodgers right fielder Dixie Walker grabbed the ball and fired a peg to catcher Bruce Edwards, who applied the tag on Dain Clay. Out. A few minutes later, Walker, batting in the bottom of the frame, popped up for the third out, and that same darkness that had settled the Boston affair had reached Brooklyn — the umps called it, having refereed the longest scoreless game in baseball history. As it still is.

In its way, the goose-eggs outcome would prove consequential for the Dodgers: Though playing one game more (the tie) than the Cardinals, they were knotted with the Redbirds for the top of the NL at the end of the regular season. Both teams sported 96-58 records, necessitating MLB’s first-ever playoff. St. Louis took it, winning the first two games of a best-of-three series.

Indulging woulda, coulda, shoulda: Three weeks earlier, had the Dodgers scored one measly run in the 19-inning contest, Brooklyn would have ended the season as NL champs.

By the way: The Reds were shut out the day prior to the September 11th tie, and the day prior to that had scored but one run, in the Third Inning. And in the game following the Brooklyn monster, the Reds scored but one run against the Giants (at the Polo Grounds) — that run came in the Fourth Inning. Between those two runs, 37 scoreless innings elapsed.

Zounds!

A Dios

From last year, many prayed, as requested, for a young father and husband with severe cancer, Stage Four, who has made astonishing strides, no doubt in part due to the supplications of many. But — the battle continues to rage. Would you consent to remembering him in your prayers? And too, for an editor of a conservative publication (not NR) who is waging war with an aggressive tumor — he too a father, an exceptional man, a happy warrior. Would that God keep him with his family, and us, for many more years. Consider please a prayer too for him. These are humbly asked of you, and in turn Your Devoted Correspondent will add your intentions to his if sought.

May the Ancient of Days Deliver You and Yours and All from Evil,

Jack Fowler, who can be told of your intentions if sent to jfowler@nationalreview.com.

National Review

Seventeen Seventy Eighty Sixed

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Dear Weekend Jolter,

Joe was a moderate, so he said. Joe was no Socialist, so he said. He’s a Trojan Horse, so his election foe said. And Donald Trump was right as rain about that. The pronunciamentos and actions of President Biden’s first days are a testament to the draw of the Democratic Party’s ever-leftward Left. For example: Deep in the bowels of President Biden’s very first executive order was a revocation of President Trump’s 2020 executive order establishing a 1776 Advisory Commission.

Good to know we have a President who believes that associating his office with this country’s Founding is a liability. Maybe even the stuff of his nightmares. Welp, so much for unity, e pluribus unum, and all such troublesome patriotic mumbo jumbo.

By the way, that Commission met and issued a report that was a much-needed slap-back at the “1619 Project” ideologues. You can find the report here. Download it why don’t you, and maybe even share it. It will prove a useful tool.

National Review has a formal opinion on the matter. From the beginning of the editorial:

Joe Biden went out of his way on his first day in office to cancel Donald Trump’s 1776 Commission.

Established to research and promote patriotic education, the commission was a welcome initiative — while it lasted.

It sought to counterbalance the hostile view of American history advanced by the “1619 Project,” which jumped almost directly from the pages of the New York Times to the curriculum in schools around the country. That project made basic historical errors that it corrected only grudgingly and under pressure from some of the foremost historians in the country, absurdly argued for 1619 — the first year that African slaves were brought to these shores — as the “true” founding of the country (before subsequently editing out this claim without explanation), and distorted the American Revolution, Abraham Lincoln, and the history of slavery, among other things.

Perversely, the Times in effect revived the argument of the likes of John C. Calhoun that the Declaration of Independence was a lie, only from a woke 21st-century perspective.

There is sure to be much more of Biden Malarkey in the weeks and months up to the . . . well, let’s not talk about the 25th Amendment again. But do let us get on to the Weekend Jolt. It’s a big one!

Links that Are Slim and Fit for You On-the-Go Conservatives

A Phalanx of Fantastic Philosophical Feats

Kyle Smith: Media Bootlickers Hurl Themselves at Biden’s Feet

Victor Davis Hanson: 1776 Commission Report Controversy: America Is Imperfect — and Also Great

John McCormack: On Day One, the Biden White House Dodges on Abortion

Robert VerBruggen: Biden Immigration Plan Is Left-Wing Fantasy

Rich Lowry: Keystone Pipeline: Joe Biden Tells Canada to Drop Dead

Jimmy Quinn: The Fight Intensifies over China’s Forced-Labor System

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Does Biden See America’s Despair?

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Trumpism After Trump: His Voters Are Not Going Away

David Bahnsen: Trump Presidency: A Final Assessment, and the Path Forward

Andrew C. McCarthy: Trump Presidency: Real Accomplishments vs. Reality of Trump Himself

Mario Loyola: Trump’s Tragic Fall

David Harsanyi: John Brennan & Censorship: Threat to Democracy

David Harsanyi: Democrats Will Pay a Price for Placating the Squad

Tim Busch: Trump’s Originalist Judges Can Start to Mend America’s Cultural Rift

Douglas Feith: Why I’m a Zionist

Colin Dueck: Conservative Nationalism & U.S. Foreign Policy

Editorials

Biden’s Foolish Sabotage of the Keystone Pipeline

Biden’s COVID Pandemic Relief Package Is a Mess

Biden Paris Climate Accords Return Means Climate-Change Orthodoxy Again Runs U.S. Policy

The Madness of the Arizona GOP

In Defense of Liz Cheney

Reform or Eliminate the Pardon Power

Capital Matters

Alex Muresianu explains that old lesson: Corporate Tax Rules Hurt American Manufacturers

Andrew Stuttaford provides the profile: The Death Tax’s Not So Little Helper (Possibly)

Brad Palumbo won’t take a hike: A $15 Minimum Wage Doesn’t Belong in the COVID Relief Bill

Casey Mulligan hears the other shoe dropping: Obamacare Taxes Did Not Generate Revenue

From the New February 8, 2021 Issue of National Review

Avik Roy finds a solution in the 19th Century: Restoring the Conservative Conscience

Charles C. W. Cooke explores: What to Do about Social-Media Double Standards?

Gerald Russello finds an important book: Conservatism’s Contested Tradition

Robert Kaplan scopes out the competition: How We Lose against China

Lights. Camera. Review!

Armond White catches a Biden Era nihilist flick: Promising Young Woman Sees Gender Divide as Comedy

Kyle Smith checks out hard-Left fantasies: Critics Raise the Red Flag for a Socialist Parable

Armond finds it rough on the ears, and soul: Sound of Metal Is Noisy Spiritual Vacancy

And Now an Encore Presentation, with Frills and Anticipated Accoutrements

Editorials

1. All set to stifle America’s economy, Joe Biden threatens to shut down the Keystone pipeline. We call out the crazy. From the editorial:

Fossil fuels, far from being the great villain of the climate story, have been the main source of greenhouse-gas reductions in the United States over the past several decades, as relatively clean-burning natural gas displaces relatively dirty coal in electricity generation. But that is not the kind of intelligent tradeoff that interests American environmentalists, who are moralists and romantics and committed to the notion that hydrocarbon fuels are, simply, evil — and that they must be fought on every front. Hence, the American Left’s comprehensive and total war on any and all infrastructure associated with our most abundant energy sources — not only oil pipelines but natural-gas pipelines, too, along with rail-shipping facilities, refineries and other plants, and West Coast export depots intended to help U.S. producers in Asian markets. If it produces, consumes, moves, or processes oil or gas, the American Left opposes it. If Joe Biden is interested in improving the employment and wage outlook for middle-class Americans, he ought not make our industrial, chemical, manufacturing, transportation, and electricity sectors hostage to the narrow-minded concerns of a small group of fanatics.

There is a worrying Hayekian lesson in this, too: It is impossible for American businesses to make big, long-term investments in a political environment in which every project is up for renegotiation — or summary economic execution — every time the White House changes hands. Why invest in building and moving physical goods, and taking on the political risk that goes along with such investments, when you could join the booming financial sector and put your money into the money business? This is not to sniff at finance or other work in the service economy, but, surely, in a continental nation as vast as ours, with an economy as complex as ours, it shouldn’t be possible for one man serving a short term in a temporary elected office to undo years of work and billions of dollars in investment. This is pure foolishness, and it will cost us.

2. And then there is his COVID-Relief proposal. We say Biden’s bill is a mess. From the editorial:

Now that vaccines are being administered, policy-makers face a different challenge — not keeping Americans inside, but getting them back to work as quickly as possible. In this context, President-elect Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package misses the mark.

The proposal gives a nod to public health — with $20 billion allocated to vaccine distribution, $50 billion to testing, and $40 billion to medical supplies and emergency-response teams — but fails to address the most pressing hurdles to COVID-19 immunity. Vaccines sit unused not for lack of funding but thanks to burdensome rules determining which patients can receive shots and which doctors can administer them. Additional spending to speed up vaccine distribution is welcome, but its effects will be muted if bureaucratic hurdles remain in place.

Even if the public-health provisions were to succeed in reopening the economy, much of the rest of Biden’s plan guarantees that it will reopen weaker. For one, an expanded unemployment-insurance top-up of $400 a week would mean more than 40 percent of those receiving unemployment benefits would make more off-the-job than on-the-job at least until September, and possibly for longer. The food-service and retail industries hit hardest by the pandemic would see the largest shortfalls in labor, exacerbating the challenges they’ve faced over the past year. Enhanced unemployment may have been reasonable when we wanted workers to stay home, but it’s catastrophic when we want them to go back to work.

3. On Day One Biden get his disastrous promise: to return the U.S. to the clutches of the Paris Climate Accord. It’s worth condemning, and we do. From the beginning of the editorial:

That didn’t last long. Just a couple of months ago, the U.S. formally (and finally) completed the withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement announced by President Trump in 2017. On Wednesday, one of the first actions of the newly inaugurated President Biden was to begin the process for rejoining the Paris accord (it will take 30 days, as opposed to the years required to conclude America’s earlier departure). As when the U.S. initially signed up to the agreement under President Obama, this will be achieved by executive order, another example of the way that climate campaigners can be reluctant to subject their policy prescriptions to regular democratic review. And so, we will, it seems, always have Paris. This is not a good thing.

In theory, the agreement imposes little by way of legal obligation, other, mainly, than a duty on the part of its signatories to file periodic reports on their climate progress. But this is designed to underpin a “name and shame” regime, which, in democracies, will be used by activists, regulators, politicians, and (quite possibly) lawyers to force through a domestic climate-change agenda. That could be seen in the U.S. under the Obama administration and has continued to be the case here at the state level. By 2019, 25 states had committed to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions in a manner “consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement.” Meanwhile, much of Europe is engaged in trying to set emissions targets to levels of ever greater impracticality or destructiveness (take your pick). As a reminder that rejoining the Paris agreement is not a move that can be seen in isolation, in the first full day of his administration, President Biden withdrew the permit for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline and set the stage for a regulatory onslaught that will rein in the economy, if not the climate.

4. We express shock at the Arizona GOP’s self-inflictions. From the editorial:

Whatever their other faults, neither Flake nor John McCain ever lost an election in Arizona. In 2020, Arizona voted Democrat in the presidential election for only the second time since 1948 and is now represented by two Democratic senators for the first time since 1953. Normally, this would prompt some introspection about how the party can win back voters. Instead, Ward and the state party are now focused not only on censuring Flake and Mrs. McCain, but also the state’s sitting Republican governor, Doug Ducey.

The ostensible grievance is that Ducey’s response to COVID amounts to assuming “dictatorial powers” under a “faux State of Emergency.” The actual motivation appears to be an extension of Donald Trump’s rage at Ducey for acknowledging the obvious fact that Joe Biden won Arizona.

A party looking for answers about winning statewide elections might be interested in emulating Ducey, who was reelected by 14 points in 2018 while the Democrats were winning a Senate race. A party interested in governing as its members want might be interested in emulating Ducey for that reason as well, given his solidly conservative record as governor. A party testing the public mood on COVID might note that fringe groups on both the left and the right tried to promote recall petitions against him during the pandemic, and both failed to get enough signatures. What sort of message are Arizona voters supposed to take from the state party denouncing its own governor as a dictator? Surely, not one that will fill them with confidence about electing Republicans to responsible office.

5. We take umbrage at those taking umbrage at Liz Cheney over her impeachment vote. From the editorial:

She voted to impeach President Trump with a statement meant to leave a mark and make it as hard as possible for fellow Republicans to turn away from his misconduct. She said of Trump’s behavior before and after the riot that “there has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”

Cheney did this, not as a moderate member of the House from a suburban swing district, but as a conservative from Wyoming’s at-large district.

She didn’t do it as an obscure backbencher, but the No. 3 in the House GOP leadership.

She didn’t do it as a long-serving member about to retire, but as a politician with considerable room to rise and presumably ambitions to do so.

She did it knowing that she would put a political target on her back, and indeed the backlash was instantaneous, with calls to boot her from leadership and threats of a primary challenger. Cheney’s rejoinder is that hers was a vote of conscience, a word and concept that some of her critics need to reacquaint themselves with.

6. The President’s power to grant pardons needs Constitutional reform. From the editorial:

Trump’s newest pardons and commutations include a bipartisan rogue’s gallery of people who are rewarded for their prominence or their usefulness to Trump rather than for any injustice done to them: Steve Bannon, Albert Pirro (the ex-husband of Fox News host Jeannine Pirro), former Trump fundraiser Elliott Broidy, former Republican congressmen Duke Cunningham and Rick Renzi, Trump-endorsing rapper Lil Wayne, and former Democratic mayor of Detroit Kwame Kilpatrick. Several of the pardon recipients were convicted of crimes of political corruption or espionage. Bannon, one of the least deserving recipients, was under indictment for fleecing Trump’s own grassroots supporters with a fraudulent “build the wall” nonprofit.

The pardon power is especially prone to misuse when a president is done facing the voters and is on his way out the door. Bill Clinton’s late pardon of the fugitive Marc Rich and his prior clemency offer to Puerto Rican FALN terrorists are the most infamous examples. Andrew McCarthy has argued for abolishing the pardon power entirely, given the vast expansion of federal offenses since the Founding. Other proposals would include a congressional override, limits on pardons late in a president’s term, or an explicit ban on presidents pardoning themselves, their families, or in some cases, their co-conspirators. Any such reform would require a constitutional amendment, but this is a problem of genuine bipartisan concern, and it would be a healthy development to revive the amendment process for such a purpose.

A Boatload of Brilliance, Meaning 16 Links and Excerpts from NRO Must-Reads

1. Kyle Smith examines the MSM bootlickers, gaa gaa over the new president they have so enabled. From the beginning of the piece:

‘This team truly understands optics. These images will inspire our friends and shake our foes,” says Matt Dornic, casting an eye over a display of nation-affirming firepower to mark the occasion of Joe Biden’s inauguration. Er, make that fireworks power. Dornic, a supposedly nonpartisan spokesman for the supposedly nonpartisan CNN, attached to his sentiment, issued via Twitter, a picture of the fireworks Wednesday night on the Mall. An elaborate use of fireworks is going to make Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping tremble with unease? Why was this point not being made by CNN personalities when Donald Trump presided over a big fireworks display at the RNC last summer?

The next sound the media will hear is that of viewers clicking off CNN and MSNBC as the major American news networks become the equivalent of Putin’s media marionettes. Ratings will crash as viewers tire of the songs of state praise, and Fox News Channel will be the only TV news choice for those seeking substance rather than sycophancy. Is the transgender individual Rachel Levine, for instance, a sound choice to take a leading health-care position in the federal government? All we’ll hear about her on CNN is that she is ideal because of who she is, rather than because of her actual record, which is dismal. You might say appointing her amounts to valuing identity politics more than American lives, though you won’t be saying that on CNN.

Anyone who was an adult in 1993 can tell you that it was common then for women to have sexual dreams and fantasies about Bill Clinton — tall, roguish, powerful, and a robust 46 years old. The first Boomer president swept into office on a wave of panting ladies, adoring celebrities, and approving reporters. The adulation that met the inauguration of Barack Obama in 2009 made the Clinton worship look like Beatlemania had grown into a full-on religion, with infatuation becoming a deep spiritual conviction. Obama was not only cool, he would lead us all out of the darkness, renew our souls, and repair our country.

And Joe Biden? Joe Biden isn’t sexy, he’s senescent. He isn’t transformational, he’s tired. His own close associates marvel at his incompetence.

2. Victor Davis Hanson has some thoughts on the 1776 Commission (he was a member, after all) and its report, issued in the final days of the Trump presidency. From the article:

Some ideologies, such as fascism and communism, were easily identifiable as inimical to our principles. Both occasionally won adherents in times of economic depression and social strife, before they were defeated and discredited abroad.

Perhaps more controversially, the commission identifies other challenges, such as continued racism, progressivism, and contemporary identity politics. The report argues how and why all those who have insisted that race become a basis from which to discriminate against entire groups of people are at odds with the logic of the Declaration.

Historically, progressivism assumed that human nature is malleable. With enough money and power, Americans supposedly can be improved so that they will accept more paternalistic government, usually to be run by technocrats. Often, progressives sought to curb the liberties of the individual, under the guise of modernist progress and greater efficiency.

The commission was no more sympathetic to the current popularity of identity politics or reparatory racial discrimination. It argues that using race, ethnicity, sexual preference, and gender to define who we are — rather than seeing these traits as incidental when compared with our natural and shared humanity — will lead to a dangerous fragmentation of American society.

3. Seems like the alleged devout Catholic has never met an abortion he wouldn’t fund. John McCormack looks Day One utterances from Team Biden. From the beginning of the report:

During her first press conference on January 20, President Joe Biden’s White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, was asked by an EWTN reporter about Biden’s intentions on killing two pro-life policies: the Hyde amendment (a measure that prohibits direct federal funding of elective abortions under Medicaid) and the Mexico City Policy (an executive order that denies funding to overseas organizations that perform or promote abortion).

Psaki said she’d have more to say in the coming days on the Mexico City Policy — a measure backed by every Republican president since Reagan and rescinded by every new Democratic president shortly following his inauguration. And on Thursday, Anthony Fauci announced that Biden will indeed be scrapping the policy.

Psaki dodged on the Hyde amendment. “I will just take the opportunity to remind all of you that he is a devout Catholic, and somebody who attends church regularly. He started his day attending church with his family this morning,” she said. “But I don’t have anything more for you on that.”

4. So much for being “Mr. Moderate.” Robert VerBruggen examines Biden’s terrible immigration plan. From the piece:

I’ve written numerous times in this space about the difficulty of bipartisan immigration reform, but the main obstacles to Republican support are as follows. First, regarding illegal immigration, conservatives want to know the problem has been solved for the future before they agree to amnesty for those already here. (Reagan’s 1986 amnesty, which was coupled with enforcement measures that never panned out, is a big reason for this.) And second, regarding legal immigration, conservatives generally want to focus more on skills and less on family connections when deciding whom to allow into the country, while leaving the overall level of immigration steady or even reducing it. As I often note, leaving the level as-is is the median response in public-opinion polls, so the Right is on firm political ground opposing increases.

Biden’s plan flunks on both counts.

One big part of controlling illegal immigration must be to police the border. But Biden has already promised not to build any more of Trump’s big, beautiful, woefully incomplete wall — even though border fencing is a simple and effective way to keep people from crossing a border without authorization. Instead he wants to try other technologies, asking the Department of Homeland Security to figure out the particulars. There’s nothing wrong with expanding and experimenting with these approaches, of course, but this is not a great trade for amnesty. There’s simply too big a risk that it won’t work or won’t even really be tried. As it happens, Biden’s pick to head DHS has already come under fire for being too soft on immigration; in fact, he was the architect of the illegal “deferred-action” program for Dreamers who came to the country illegally as minors (which Biden is also preserving).

5. Joe Biden tells Canada to drop dead. Rich Lowry covers the Keystone Pipeline follies. From the piece:

The multi-billion-dollar project to run from Alberta to Nebraska was first proposed years ago in the naive faith that two adjoining, friendly countries could cooperate on a big, mutually beneficial infrastructure project.

That was before the Keystone XL became a hate totem for the Left, which makes it sound like the pipeline might be the tipping point toward inevitable planetary destruction, among its myriad other alleged sins.

President Barack Obama denied a cross-border permit for the project in 2015. President Trump quickly reversed course. And now Biden is likely going to reverse Trump’s reversal.

It’s a symptom of our time that a major investment that deserves some stability in American decision-making has become a shuttlecock between outgoing and incoming administrations — and been caught in a nightmarish trap of litigation and red tape all the while.

6. Jimmy Quinn covers the fight of some allied western nations over Red China’s system of forced labor. From the article:

Within the span of a few days, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States all issued rules to tighten up their enforcement of laws designed to combat the slave labor that the Chinese Party-state has inflicted on over, by some estimates, upwards of half a million Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims from China’s West.

The new regulations aren’t all identical. The upshot, though, is all the same: Some democracies are moving off the sidelines from which they merely “expressed concern” in substitution for concrete action on the Uyghur crisis. The United States has for months led this push, leading with targeted sanctions, bans on companies complicit in the atrocities, and restrictions on forced-labor-tainted imports. But the response from other Western democracies has lagged, even following this summer’s explosive revelations about Beijing’s forced sterilization of Uyghurs. If last week is any indication, though, that’s starting to change for the better.

These forced-labor practices are an open secret. The reams of evidence that offer insights about the situation include not just eyewitness accounts and satellite imagery, but also the Chinese government’s own documents and other information that researchers, such as Adrian Zenz (who has written some of the most impactful reports on Xinjiang), have found online.

7. Despair is amok, but does Joe Biden really see it? Michael Brendan Dougherty contemplates. From the piece:

While COVID-era relief policies have been a marvel of improvisation and sheer institutional might in the United States, it’s notable that even when we got a temporary glimpse of an economy with rising incomes and disappearing work at the lower end — a kind of Marxist afternoon reverie — suicide and drug deaths continued to rise.

Man doesn’t live by bread alone. Michael Lind has described these policies of just throwing cash at workers who are otherwise written off as “palliative liberalism.” These policies are an attempt to purchase “political acquiescence from workers who have stagnant or declining incomes.”

What men and women need to avoid deaths of despair is not just incomes, but fulfilling roles and work in society. No single policy can address this. But the trends are not good, and Joe Biden’s presidency can falter on them. For decades America has seen declining labor-force participation among men. For decades, America has seen an increase in drug abuse. For decades, American participation in civil-society organizations and churches has been declining, and with fertility plunging, extended-family trees are splitting into shriveled, disconnected branches and twigs.

If Joe Biden doesn’t meaningfully address his administration and the American government to these problems, he will be a failure.

8. More MBD, who knows the reality that conflicts with the fantasies of Trump foes: There is a thing that is Trumpism, and it ain’t going away. From the assessment:

The political logic of Trumpism resided in ideological and electoral opportunities — namely, solidifying the GOP among its new more-Evangelical voters, and reaching out over and over again to the remnants of Reagan Democrats and other groups that have been globalization’s losers — voters who have been effectively abandoned by a Democratic Party dominated by college-educated lifestyle progressives.

In fact, one big clue that “Trumpism” won’t just go away with Trump is that the phenomenon is global. Many left-leaning parties across the world made their peace with global capitalism after 1989, abandoning their traditional workers in favor of culturally progressive, upwardly mobile, educated voters; they centered themselves instead on the new professionals in global cities. That shift has inevitably generated failures and resentments, left and right. On the left, it inspired Syriza in Greece and a short vogue for old-school nationally focused socialists like Bernie Sanders in the U.S., Jeremy Corbyn in the U.K., and Jean-Luc Mélenchon in France. It also inspired a broader movement on the right. The rise of Trumpism in the U.S., Brexit in Britain including Johnson’s smash-through in Labour heartlands, and the advent of Lega under Matteo Salvini in Italy are all connected by dissatisfaction with a politics of the 1990s.

And there are reasons to believe that political conditions will continue to call for a Trumpist response for some time.

The most obvious reason for this is China. Free trade has often been accepted by conservatives as simply efficient. But in the case of China, it has been defended by citing larger theories about the world that have proven untrue — namely, that trade liberalization would lead to political liberalization in China and that any losses owing to America’s strategy of low-wage labor arbitrage would be diffuse and easily ameliorated through redistribution of the gains. None of this has proved true, and what is called “free trade” by Americans is clearly seen by the Chinese as mercantile and industrial policy for China’s geostrategic benefit.

9. David Bahnsen assesses the Trump presidency, and the path forward for conservatives. From the essay:

It could hardly have been called a swamp-draining four years, with multiple grifters and unimpressive individuals achieving senior positions in the administration. When a fallout would occur, the president never owned up to the fact that he was the one who hired the now-outcast member of his team. The melodrama was fitting of a reality TV show, but not the serious and sober administration of government. This is not a small point. It became Ground Zero for part of my disconnect with MAGA throughout these last four years. “Hey, maybe you don’t like Trump, but you have to agree General Mattis is awesome!” “Thank God Mattis is gone, that guy was a warmonger!” Time and time again staff and cabinet positions were arguments for the president until their removal became an argument for the president.

I believe that Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary, Steve Mnuchin as Treasury Secretary, Mike Pompeo at State, Larry Kudlow at NEC, and other key leadership positions served our country well. I also believe that overall, the dysfunctions in the staff and administration – and the high percentage of staffers who lacked the professional competence to be in their role — did great damage to the president’s agenda, and worse, great damage to the agenda of the conservative movement.

Just as I do not feel my list of accolades was comprehensive, I am certain my list of criticisms is not, either. But in categorizing my critiques around these three major categories (the incalculable damage his character and behavior has caused, the precedent of what he has done in fiscal management, and the dysfunctional management of personnel), many of the other criticisms people may launch could fit as a subset within these. These three categories are sufficient and overwhelming.

It is my humble, gracious, yet unwavering view that what many of the president’s supporters see (and love) as a “won’t back down/fight the Left” attitude, is really a character malady that happens to sometimes align with the Right’s agenda. The character traits that sacrificed the Senate seats in Georgia for his incessant need to portray himself as a victim are the same traits that caused him to brawl with CNN. We like the latter and end up getting bitten when it manifests in the former. I believe the Right’s opposition to the Left is ideological, cultural, political, and existential. I believe Trump’s opposition is deeply personal, vindictive, and incidental. If you believe I am wrong about this, at least understand where I am coming from. It should not be hard to consider the likelihood of my framing.

10. Andrew C. McCarthy bemoans what was gratuitously undone. From the article:

We mustn’t overstate the case — and not just because, in Burke’s elegantly simple wisdom, “The power of bad men is no indifferent thing.” Even concerning the judiciary, Trump’s achievement is not quite as advertised. Many of the judges he replaced were conservatives appointed during the presidencies of Reagan and the two Bushes. They took senior status or retired to make way for conservative replacements. The Supreme Court seems locked into a reliable originalist majority for the next several years, and Trump managed to get an impressive number of circuit judges through (his 54 equals what Obama managed in twice the time); but to truly remake the judiciary, Trump would need to have been reelected. That would have led to much higher appointment numbers (such as Obama’s 329 judges, Bush 43’s 327, and Bill Clinton’s 378), with many more replacements of liberal judges.

Moreover, Trump did not merely lose the 2020 election, mostly due to character failings that, in conjunction with a COVID-ravaged economy, overshadowed his achievements in the minds of most voters. His demagogic campaign to brand the election as “stolen” from under the nose of state election officials, particularly Georgia Republicans, sabotaged GOP prospects in the Peach State. Thus were two eminently winnable seats lost in the run-off earlier this month. That handed control of the Senate to Democrats. Had Republicans held even one seat, the Biden administration would have had to play ball with McConnell to get its judicial nominees through the confirmation process, and would have had to propose more moderates. Now Biden and new majority leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) will duplicate the Trump-McConnell feat, except it will be young progressive jurists rolling off the confirmation conveyor belt. Trump will have no one but himself to blame.

11. Mario Loyola explores what he considers the nexus of tragedy and Donald Trump. From the analysis:

Hence, the day after the election, Trump had before him two very different courses of action. He could accept the formal result of the election, highlight the sanctity of democratic procedure, and use his continuing leadership of the Republican Party to push for reform — and perhaps for another run in 2024. Or he could fan the flames of popular fury, further undermine the people’s trust in our democratic institutions, and risk all in a desperate gambit to benefit himself.

Tragically for all of us, he chose the latter course. He took little interest in the crucial runoff elections looming in the state of Georgia, on which depended the GOP’s continued control of the Senate. This was tragedy at its finest, because only a GOP Senate could now protect many of Trump’s greatest achievements, such as the tax reform of 2017. And GOP control of the Senate would be vital in addressing all that went wrong in the 2020 election.

But Trump and his more fanatical supporters demanded fealty to his increasingly theatrical attempts to reverse the results of the election, instigating a civil war within the Republican Party. Leading Trump supporters promised that Republicans who didn’t join the farce would be “finished forever.” Thus, in a childish temper tantrum over losing the White House, Trump dead-enders threw away control of the Senate, a stupid and unforgivable betrayal of the Republican Party. It was the fanatical Trumpers’ most shameful moment, and recalls Octavius Caesar’s final indictment of Antony: “’Tis to be chid– / As we rate boys who, being mature in knowledge, / Pawn their experience to their present pleasure, / And so rebel to judgment.”

12. David Harsanyi weighs in on the odious spymaster, liberal-media darling John Brennan. From the article:

We still don’t even know what role Brennan played in spying on his political opponents during the 2016 campaign. We do know he went on TV for years after, alleging to have insider knowledge of an unprecedented seditious criminal conspiracy against the United States. Never once was he challenged by his hosts. And when an independent multi-million-dollar investigation couldn’t pull together a single indictment related to those claims, Brennan shrugged it off by saying that he may have “received bad information.”

Brennan was back on MSNBC yesterday, contending that American intelligence agencies “are moving in laser-like fashion to try to uncover as much as they can about” the pro-Trump “insurgency” that harbors “religious extremists, authoritarians, fascists, bigots, racists, nativists, even libertarians.”

Even a former Communist such as Brennan surely understands that there is nothing prohibiting Americans from being religious extremists, fascists, bigots, racists, nativists, or even libertarians. It’s definitely none of his business, or that of intelligence agencies, to define what those terms mean. (And the idea that libertarians, who can’t get a minyan to agree on anything libertarian, are marshaling forces for a national insurgency is nonsensical.)

13. More David, who argues that Democrats will pay a big price for placating the “Squad.” From the piece:

It’s important to remember that most intraparty debates among contemporary Democrats revolve around the political practicality and speed with which ideas can implemented — as opposed to, say, Republicans, whose intraparty debates reveal fundamental internal ideological disagreements over immigration or trade. How many Democrats oppose student-loan forgiveness or socialized medicine as bad policy rather than for merely being politically unfeasible?

“I think Republicans did get some traction trying to scare people on this ‘socialist narrative,’” Representative Jared Huffman (D., Calif.), a member of the House Progressive Caucus, said after the Democrats took a beating in House races this fall. “That was a shrewd play from them,” he went on. “These labels do distract us and divide us in unfortunate ways. . . . What’s the point of embracing a phrase like that? All you do is feed into these fears and bogus narratives.”

There is sadly nothing bogus about the socialist goals of legislators arguing for the effective nationalization of major industries such as energy and health care, or for the stripping of individual rights, whether it be the First or Second Amendments. And there is nothing particularly “shrewd” about pointing this reality out.

14. Tim Busch finds two Trumps, and believes history might remember the one who appointed judges faithful to the Constitution. From the piece:

For decades, appointees of both Republicans and Democrats have forced their own cultural values onto society. From religious freedom to abortion to marriage to many other issues, judges have twisted the Constitution’s words to fit their own preconceived ideas and political goals. The result has been an ever-deepening cultural divide that now threatens to tear America apart.

That divide is the natural result of abandoning originalism. When justices and judges start dictating policy from the bench, instead of letting lawmakers and elected leaders do so, Americans lose faith in the country’s republican form of government. Instead of fair fights that are won or lost by legislative votes and elections, there are unfair fights in which unelected judges set the country’s course.

As originalists, Trump’s appointees can start to mend America’s cultural rift. While their judicial philosophy prohibits them from taking sides in cultural debates, the result of their rulings will be the return of power to America’s legislative and policy-making institutions, where those debates can be worked out in the way they were intended. That is what the rule of law demands. It is the rule of the people through our elected representatives, not the rule of unelected judges.

President Trump’s record on judicial appointments is second to none. Time will tell if he will be most remembered, however, as the president who sparked a riot that overran Congress, in a terrible assault on the rule of law. Thankfully, the justices and judges he appointed to the federal courts will surely be remembered for their actions to defend the rule of law, and with it, the American experiment in self-government.

15. Douglas Feith explains why he is a Zionist, and why that position is compatible with American patriotism. From the essay:

So, it’s understandable that an American may question how Israel can be both democratic and Jewish.

The short answer is that the way Americans practice democracy is not the only way. It helps to consider that most liberal, democratic countries were founded on an ethnic basis. Most give special consideration to the majority population’s cultural interests. Many favor a particular language. Some have a state church. A number, including Ireland and Japan, have laws of return that favor expatriates of the majority people. As democracies go, Israel, being ethnically based, is ordinary. It is the United States that is exceptional.

The compatibility of Zionism and democracy relates to the issue of dual loyalty, which poses the question of whether those American Jews who are Zionists should be viewed as having divided loyalties. The question has been of personal interest to me, of course, because of my government work. Some of my more rabid critics have accused me of divided loyalties.

First of all, the frame of mind that produces such accusations is the same that argued for opposing John Kennedy’s presidential campaign on the grounds that, as a Roman Catholic, Kennedy would subordinate his oath of office to his loyalty to the pope. It’s simplistic and erroneous — and it violates the American democratic principles that it claims to uphold.

16. Colin Dueck contemplates conservative nationalism. From the piece:

As a matter of historical record, the original American colonies were founded by English Protestant settlers, and this specific cultural and religious heritage provided the context for U.S. founding principles. Over the years, some U.S. nationalists have defined their identity mainly in religious or ethnic terms. This has long encouraged tensions between an ethnic definition of the American nation and a civic one. Yet in their Declaration of Independence, the American revolutionaries stated that “all men are created equal,” justifying their rebellion in part by claiming certain universal natural rights. These claims were informed by beliefs well described as classically liberal. There has consequently been within the United States, from the very beginning, a kind of “American creed,” a civic religion or national identity with some notably classical liberal elements, including the rule of law, individual freedom, majority rule, equality of right, enterprise, progress, and limited government. As 19th-century Marxists such as Friedrich Engels noted, this classical-liberal creed made it difficult to promote socialism within the United States. This is what Engels meant by American exceptionalism — and he found it exceptionally frustrating.

In terms of its worldwide implications, the leaders of the American Revolution hoped that it would encourage the spread of republican forms of government and the creation of a new international system, characterized by peaceful commercial exchange, individual liberty, the rule of law, and human progress. They rejected the 18th-century European state system as corrupt, militaristic, warlike, and autocratic. Of course, the pressing question was inevitably how to interact with states still part of that Old World system. To varying degrees, the Founders and succeeding generations embraced America’s westward continental expansion, to create what Thomas Jefferson described as an “empire of liberty.” They also embraced commercial opportunities overseas. In this sense, U.S. economic and territorial expansion beyond existing boundaries long predated America’s later rise as a global power. Simultaneously, however, these very same early statesmen cherished the preservation of U.S. independence, and for that matter held to a policy of prudent disengagement from European alliances, a policy laid out formally by George Washington in his 1796 Farewell Address, in which he said that “the great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible.” This emphasis on avoiding what Jefferson later called “entangling alliances” became a key component of U.S. foreign policy throughout the 19th century. Early American statesmen saw no essential contradiction between expanding the sphere of republican governments and preserving their nation’s independence.

Capital Matters

1. Corporate taxes harm manufacturing, and yes, Alex Muresianu needs to tell us again that important fact. From the article:

First, some context. The corporate-income tax is ideally a tax on corporate profits, or revenues minus costs. In a perfect world, the cost of investment in a factory would be deducted in the year it is made, just like the cost of salaries. In reality, however, while calculating book income, investment costs are spread out over what is deemed to be the life of the asset, in order to match the cost of the investment with the revenue it generates.

While that might make sense for an accountant, it creates economic problems. Thanks to inflation and the time value of money, deductions for an investment five years from now are worth less than deductions today, so companies cannot deduct the real value of their investments as they do with labor or administrative costs. This imbalance creates a tax bias against capital-intensive industries such as manufacturing.

2. Andrew Stuttaford argues that the Death Tax might have a little helper. From the piece:

To his credit, President Trump briefly floated the idea of adjusting capital gains for inflation, but that, sadly, got nowhere.

The discussion (to the extent that there has been any) over inflation adjustment up to now has been focused on the gain that occurs when I (not yet dead, hurrah!) sell something that I had acquired earlier. The starting point for that discussion has been the price I paid for that asset, or its value when I received it. Now imagine selling something that you have inherited, and that the law has been changed so that its basis cost is not the value of the asset at the time you acquired it (the current rule), but the price paid by the person (a parent, say, maybe even a grandparent) who left it to you. The effect of, say, five or ten years of inflation on a nominal gain will be bad enough, even at comparatively low levels of inflation (compounding is what it is). Now imagine what it could mean in the case of an asset, which, in the case of an older person (and the ranks of those who die tend to be filled with the old) might well have been held for a very long time indeed. There have been bouts of inflation, whether general or in specific asset classes, within the lifetimes of many of those who have yet to — how shall I put this — trigger their will. And looking to the future, who is to say that inflation will remain at current depressed levels?

3. Brad Palumbo decries the inclusion of a $15 minimu-wage mandate in Biden’s COVID-relief proposal. From the analysis:

Many states either set their state’s minimum wage rates at the federal rate or have no separate state minimum and simply rely on the federal rule (which will then apply to all but the smallest and most local of businesses). Others set their rates slightly above the federal mandate but still far below $15. In fact, no state in the country yet has a $15 statewide minimum wage, although some are scheduled to phase one in and several large cities have introduced a $15 (or higher) rate.

Making the switch would shock labor markets.

“In 35 states, the median hourly wage was less than $20,” wrote American Enterprise Institute economist Michael Strain in an article for Bloomberg in October. “Setting a minimum wage so close to the median wage would price many workers out of the labor market. Indeed, in 47 states, 25% of all workers earned less than $15 an hour.”

Think of it like this: If a law passed tomorrow mandating that cars had to be sold for close to the current median price, what would happen to all the cars on the market currently priced for far less? A significant number simply wouldn’t get sold, because they’ve been forcibly priced above what people had been prepared to pay for them or, for that matter, what they could afford.

4. ObamaCare’s big lie (well, one of them) writes Casey Mulligan, was it dubious claim of raising revenues to offset costs. From the article:

The employer penalty has a complex, four-step enforcement scheme, which incentivized employers to remain small and to favor part-time employment over full-time employment. These drags on the labor market reduced the payroll and personal-income tax revenue received by the federal treasury. Nonetheless, Congress was told, revenue from the penalty itself would add up to $46 billion through fiscal year 2018 (see page 6 of this document). In fact, the employer penalty generated $0  (rounded to the nearest billion) because of the complexity of the enforcement scheme.

The individual mandate, which President Trump and a Republican Congress repealed in 2017, was just as absurd. It punished individuals who turned down Obamacare plans and the generous tax credits that went with them.

Take Ben Winslett, a Baptist pastor, husband, and father of five from Alabama, who describes himself as “securely in the middle class earning nearly the exact average US income each year.” His family’s health insurance was “taken care of on my own in the previous system,” but the ACA outlawed their $250 monthly policy, leaving them with far more expensive alternatives. As he describes it, the ACA “has placed an enormous financial burden on normal, everyday people quite literally forcing us onto government assistance we didn’t need before” (emphasis added). In other words, consumers are encouraged to buy subsidized health insurance, even when they are perfectly happy with unsubsidized plans. Consumers who turn down the government aid by neglecting to accept subsidies are owed gratitude by us federal taxpayers. The ACA did the opposite with its “individual mandate,” administering a financial punishment.

From the New Issue

The February 8, 2021 issue of National Review is now off the presses and into the U.S. Postal system for those who like paper and ink. But it is also available in toto on our website. As is our custom, we make a quartet of recommendations.

1. Avik Roy believes the ways of 19th-century liberals might prove instructive to 21st-century conservatives. From the essay:

Today, it’s the era of small government that’s over. In 2020, for the first time since World War II, the size of the federal debt exceeded the United States’ annual economic output. Indeed, recent Republican presidents have overseen greater increases in the national debt than have their Democratic counterparts. You have to squint really hard to find the political constituency — in either party — for limited government.

Moreover, conservatives have failed to persuade the broader public to return to pre-1960s social mores. While Trump overwhelmingly won the votes of white born-again or Evangelical Christians, 76 percent to 24, he lost the votes of everyone else by a margin of 62 to 36. That second group — the non-Evangelicals — represented 72 percent of the electorate in 2020 and will claim an even larger share in future elections. Thanks to the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, pro-lifers may finally get their chance to overturn Roe v. Wade. But what other possible victories for social conservatism lie on the horizon?

While everyone focuses on the events of the last three weeks, it’s the last three decades that demand our attention. For if conservatives can’t shrink the size of government, and if conservatives can’t convince young people to live like their grandparents, what is it that conservatives exist to do, other than shake their fists at their televisions?

What realistic policy goals should conservatives strive to achieve in the 21st century? Can timeless conservative principles adapt to the way rising generations actually live their lives today, and will live their lives in the future? If so, how? Over the last four years, these deeper questions about the conservative mission have gone unanswered.

The end of the Trump presidency is an ideal time to take stock: to refresh our thinking about American self-government, and to expand the coalition that yearns for it.

2. Robert Kaplan considers the political and social-media pitfalls that might enhance Red China’s dominance over America. From the essay:

Social media—the key independent variable in this ongoing process—work contrary to the nation-state, writes the British journalist and chronicler of postmodern wars David Patrikarakos. Social media create networks of like-minded people regardless of national identity, and thus serve to weaken national identity. The networks they establish can elevate racial, gender, political, or sexual identity above that of the national community. Social media thus balkanize America while allowing powerful transnational economic and political-interest groups to depart America virtually. It is a commonplace now to recognize that our corporate and policy elites are part of a global class of like-minded colleagues and associates who all care much more about the opinions of one another than about those of poorer compatriots in their home countries.

To borrow from the conclusion of Stephen Vincent Benét’s epic poem of the Civil War, John Brown’s Body, America has existed in three stages: a North–South nation with a “tropic empire, . . . the last foray of aristocracy,” located in the South; followed by “the great, metallic beast” of the Industrial Revolution, “expanding East and West”; and finally a continental land mass split asunder by globalization, whereby our elites are becoming one with those in Europe and Asia while the left-behind masses inherit the economically depressed nation-state, leading to a lumpen patriotism that was on display on January 6 at the Capitol. It is globalization that constitutes the backdrop to our stark political divisions.

Of course, social media and the whole array of digital/cyber inventions also operate in China. But the context there is completely different. China is a Han Chinese blood-and-soil nation that oppresses non-Han subject peoples such as the Tibetans and the Turkic Uyghur Muslims, who tend to live in distinct areas of the southwest and west. China is also increasingly authoritarian, on the verge of being totalitarian. The combination of these factors, plus the high level of technological development achieved by China, allows the regime to use social media as a means of patriotic indoctrination and behavioral control. The electronic mob in China helps unify a prideful nation bordered by enemy ethnic groups and hostile outside forces, whereas the electronic mob in the United States, at least on the left, works against national pride altogether, reducing the American historical experience to genocide against the indigenous inhabitants and to ongoing racism.

3. Charles C.W. Cooke considers: What to do about Twitter? From the article:

What can we do about it? Well, it’s complicated — whatever glib U.S. senators and ignorant television hosts might tell you. On the one hand, the Internet as we know it simply cannot operate if its component parts are too heavily regulated, which is why core elements such as DNS and IP allocation are neutral by design; why ISPs, peering networks, and data centers have been historically indifferent as to what information they serve; and why — until now, at least — most websites and platforms have limited their interventions to addressing clear violations of the law. On the other hand, the private companies that provide so much of the Internet’s functionality enjoy First Amendment rights, too. Much of the coverage of this issue pits every question as if it were a matter of censorship vs. liberty. But it is not always that simple. To force a business owner to take a customer he doesn’t want is itself a form of intellectual control.

To understand how complicated and messy these issues are, one need only look at how awkwardly they attach to the two main political parties in the United States. It is a matter of considerable irony, for example, that it is the Democratic Party that wants to use Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 to reclassify broadband providers as “common carriers” and thereby to prevent them from discriminating in any way between different kinds of traffic, while the Republican Party not only opposes the move but, in 2017, chose to reverse the Obama administration’s reforms at the first possible opportunity it got. Equally ironic is that it is the most populist members of the Republican Party who hope to remove or dilute the Section 230 protections attaching to Internet-based hosts and platforms and, thereby, to give those hosts and platforms a more convenient excuse for kicking off the dissenting or unpopular voices they claim to want to protect. To listen to the Josh Hawleys and Ted Cruzes of the world, one might get the impression that Section 230 accords Twitter and Facebook the power to determine who may use its service and who may not, and that repealing it would immediately strip them of that power. This is almost certainly incorrect: In a world without Section 230, Twitter and Facebook would be more, not less, liable for their users’ speech and, in consequence, would be more, not less, likely to monitor it. Here, as almost everywhere else at the moment, our political debate is an inchoate mess.

Perhaps that is inevitable, given that there are no sympathetic characters in this drama. I continue to believe that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is one of the best laws that have been passed in recent memory, and yet I am under no illusions as to why we are witnessing a backlash against it. Implicit in the logic of Section 230 is the assumption that the hosts and platforms that it protects will pass that protection on to their customers. But, as companies such as Amazon Web Services, Google, and Twitter are showing us every day, that assumption is now a shaky one. In an ideal world, Amazon Web Services would not care a great deal about the speech of, say, Parler and its users, because, thanks to Section 230, Amazon Web Services cannot be held liable for their speech.

4. Gerald Russello takes on Edmund Fawcett’s important new book, Conservatism, The Fight for a Tradition. From the beginning of the review:

Early in this magisterial history, Edmund Fawcett identifies the twin projects of conservatism. “Conservatives fight to identify and protect traditions that liberal modernity undermines,” he writes, “and they fight among themselves for ownership of their own conservative tradition.” So discussions of conservatism typically do two things: defend particular ideas about what conservatism is, and explain how conservatives defend it from its opponents.

Fawcett, a longtime correspondent for The Economist, has also written a well-received volume on liberalism. At the beginning of this book, he gives the game away by positioning liberalism at the center of the Western political tradition and conservatism as useful only insofar as it serves liberalism. “To survive, let alone flourish, liberal democracy needs the right’s support,” he writes, “needs, that is, conservatives who accept liberal and democratic ground rules.” Moreover, he argues, such acceptance has been good for conservatives, who have been better combatants than liberals on the ideological-political chessboard over the past two centuries. For Fawcett, three “advantages — the backing of wealth, institutional support, and electoral reach — helped the right prevail at the liberal democratic game.” He continues: “Puzzling as it sounds, conservatism’s ultimate reward for compromising with liberal democracy was domination of liberal democracy.”

To explain why the advantages accrued to conservatism, Fawcett presents perhaps the most comprehensive view of “the conservative mind” since Russell Kirk’s classic book (1953) of that title, discussing thinkers from the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, and France. His roster includes, among others, Enoch Powell, Roger Scruton, David Willetts, John Kekes, Yuval Levin, Peter Sloterdijk, and Arnold Gehlen. The opening chapter is devoted to modern conservatism’s forerunners, including Edmund Burke, Joseph de Maistre, and other critics of revolution. Because of such antecedents, critics of conservatism often assume that it must always be reactionary, a wish to restore an ancien régime. It can’t be restored, so how can conservatism make any sense?

Lights. Camera. Review!

1. Armond White ain’t buying what Promising Young Woman is selling. From the beginning of the review:

The serial-killer comedy Promising Young Woman is so full of hatred and cheating, it deserves to be called the first movie of the Biden-Harris era. More than that president-elect photo with the vacant smile in front of haloed backdrop signage, or that Vogue cover shot of Harris in sneakers, it’s Promising Young Woman that conveys ideas about revenge and cultural takeover.

British actress Carey “Crybaby” Mulligan plays Cassie (short for the prophetess Cassandra), who sets out to punish men for a BFF’s date-rape. Pretending girly helplessness, she recalls those pink-hatted Hillary Clinton cry-bullies of 2016. That’s the slyest aspect of director Emerald Fennell’s angry satire. Fennell’s facetious pop-art visual style loses its mirth as the film slips into an attack on the patriarchy, justifying Cassie’s plan to dominate other people’s lives while sacrificing herself — the cutting-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face method seen in COVID culture and politics.

Pouty Cassie combines the traits of Hillary, Nancy Pelosi, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Lady Macbeth, yet Mulligan’s miscasting (she’s 35 years old) exposes the film’s deceit. Mulligan’s poor-poor-pitiful-me shtick feels based on a lifetime of bellyaching.

2. Kyle Smith finds Martin Eden a garden of full-bloom socialism. From the beginning of the review:

‘Socialism is the only thing that will save you,” a red-flag waving activist promises the protagonist of the movie Martin Eden, which is being praised as a masterpiece by left-wing writers and was named the best film of 2020 by several of them. Martin dismisses this advice, and is undone.

So: Viva socialism? This movie has got it all worked out. Never mind that socialism has been a disaster every place it’s ever been tried: The sort of people who deride Avengers movies for being childish fantasy are sticking to their gauzy childlike views about socialism, the ideology that’s always on the brink of success in some fantasist’s imagination.

Martin Eden isn’t, however, much of a movie, and doesn’t even do a particularly good job of defining its rhetorical parameters; to the extent it makes an argument, it does so poorly. But if socialism fan-service is what you’re after, maybe this will be right up your alley.

3. More Armond: All the sense reject Sound of Metal. From the beginning of the review:

The metal genre of rock music suggests rebellion — defiance and anti-orthodoxy. But the indie film Sound of Metal is just a new-fashioned, sentimental pity party for Ruben (Riz Ahmed), a multiracial drummer in an experimental rock-metal art band. His rebellion is a pose: bleached hair, tattooed body, drug-addict history, itinerant lifestyle. He’s not rebellious; he’s privileged. His bandmate girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke) — the self-cutting, suicidal vocalist of their spoken-word (shrieking word) duo — is the scion of an upper-crust French family, slumming with her hipster American boyfriend across the U.S.A.

When Ruben loses his hearing to high-decibel concert overkill (while Lou tearfully pursues her careerist path), he’s forced to confront his demons. This doesn’t mean bothering to reassess his attraction for metal-genre anarchy; it’s just privileged navel-gazing. Ruben enrolls in a rehab center for the deaf but eventually opts out for the globe-trotting advantages of bourgeois bohemians. From the desolate roads of Nomadland America, he finds himself on the streets of Paris where he finally realizes that his crisis is existential.

Elsewhere in the Conservative Solar System

1. At Gatestone Institute, Raymond Ibrahim talleys the massive numbers of persecuted Christians around the globe. From the article:

The “extreme persecution” that Christians experience in 10 of the absolute 12 worst nations comes from “Islamic oppression” or is occurring in Muslim majority nations. These include: Afghanistan (#2), Somalia (#3), Libya (#4), Pakistan (#5), Yemen (#7), Iran (#8), Nigeria (#9), Iraq (#11), and Syria (#12).

Among the worst, Afghanistan and Somalia, the “persecution is only very slightly less oppressive than in North Korea.” In the rest, Christians face persecution ranging from being harassed, beat, raped, imprisoned, or slaughtered merely for being identified as Christian or attending church.

Overall, the persecution Christians experience in 39 of the 50 nations on the list is also either from “Islamic oppression” or is occurring in Muslim majority nations. The overwhelming majority of these nations are governed by some form of shari’a (Islamic law). It is either directly enforced by government or society or, more frequently, both, although societies — family members in particular — tend to be more zealous in its application.

In India (#10) — the only non-Islamic nation alongside North Korea to make the top 12 — rising Hindu nationalism continues to use “extensive violence” against Christians based on the belief that “to be Indian is to be Hindu.” Christians are additionally “accused of following a ‘foreign faith’ and blamed for bad luck in their communities. These believers are often physically attacked and sometimes killed, as well as being under constant pressure from their family and community to return to Hinduism.”

2. At The College Fix, Asher Notheis reports on professional pontificator Ibram Kendi’s new Big Bother project. From the beginning of the article:

Anti-racism proponent and Boston University Professor Ibram Kendi is embarking on a new project — a collaboration of his anti-racism activism and data.

The university announced the “Racial Data Lab” in a December news release. The lab, a joint project of the Center for Antiracist Research and the computing and data science department, “will put BU at the center of the emerging field of racial data science,” university officials said.

The announcement comes five months after Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey gave Kendi’s center a “no strings attached” $10 million donation. Kendi and his associated would not say if that donation is funding the new project.

“The new Racial Data Lab’s first project will be the Racial Data Tracker (RDT), which [Professor Azer] Bestavros and Kendi say is aimed at developing and maintaining the nation’s largest online collection of racial inequity data and will be accessible and available to the public,” the release said.

Kendi’s team would did not provide any details on the project.

3. In Commentary, James Meigs investigates the problems with the COVID vaccine rollout. From the piece:

In a classic case of “elite panic,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced an executive order threatening any health-care provider that administers the vaccine to an unapproved person with a $1 million fine and the loss of medical licenses. With the state’s infection rate surging beyond even last spring’s horrific levels, the governor decided to focus on menacing Columns_Feb_1.14C.indd 11 1/14/21 2:59 PM providers who vaccinate too broadly. Doubling down, he also threatened providers with $100,000 fines if they don’t administer their vaccines fast enough. (I’m reminded of Robert Heinlein’s description of a totalitarian state in which “anything not compulsory was forbidden.”) If you wanted to discourage health-care companies and workers from having anything to do with vaccinating people, Cuomo’s schizophrenic plan would be an excellent start.

Governor Cuomo also cracked down on county officials who were poised to roll out their own mass-vaccination campaigns. In recent years, New York county health departments received millions in federal grants to create emergency vaccination centers in schools, fire stations, and civic centers. They’d recruited volunteers and held annual flu-vaccination drives for practice. Just before Christmas, Cuomo pulled the plug on those efforts, announcing that the state’s vaccine supply would initially be distributed only through hospitals under the governor’s direct supervision. “We’re still waiting to hear back from them,” one county spokesman said about efforts to coordinate with the state health officials. Meanwhile, as of the first week of January, New York State had administered only about a third of the doses it had been allocated. The rest sat in refrigerators, ticking toward expiration.

Critics of Operation Warp Speed say the White House should have emulated Cuomo’s approach, enforcing more centralized, top-down management of vaccine delivery. Incoming President Biden has suggested he’ll do just that, including taking more control of private corporations under the Defense Production Act. The Trump administration’s decision to let states take the lead put too much of the burden on state public-health agencies, critics say. Here they have a point. After nearly a year of coping with the pandemic, the state agencies are overstretched and underfunded. The coronavirus relief bill that Congress finally passed in December includes billions to help states distribute vaccines and expand testing. But imagine if those funds had reached the states back in the fall, when planning for the vaccine rollout should have happened. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently bragged about her political wisdom in delaying passage of the coronavirus bill until after the election. As a member of Congress, the 80-year-old Pelosi was vaccinated on December 18. Perhaps someone will ask her what the delay in COVID relief means for other elderly Americans desperate for their shots.

4. More from James Meigs, this time in the new issue of City Journal, where he makes the case for election reform. From the article:

As new calls for national election reform emerge, members of Congress should be wary of proposals that undermine the authority of individual states or dictate too much technological standardization. Our election system should remain “loosely coupled.”

The vulnerabilities of electronic voting systems pale next to those involved in absentee voting. Voting by mail “increases the risks of fraud and of contested elections,” warned the 2005 Commission on Federal Election Reform, chaired by former secretary of state James Baker and former president Jimmy Carter. While Oregon and a few other states that rely heavily on mail-in ballots have reported relatively few problems, the underlying risks of mail-in voting are inherently hard to detect because the process happens mostly out of sight. Airlines keep meticulous records of every maintenance procedure. Banks and casinos carefully track the handling of cash in their facilities. Voting by mail precludes the kind of supervision that keeps those industries safe. As the New York Times noted in 2012, mail-in voting “replaces the oversight that exists at polling places with something akin to the honor system.” It’s hard to be certain that the person whose name is on the envelope actually filled out the ballot, or to know whether he or she was pressured or even bribed to do so. These problems are particularly severe in states like California that permit third parties to “harvest” absentee ballots from settings such as nursing homes, a tactic known as “granny farming.”

Despite these issues, the Democratic Party has pushed to expand voting by mail and to loosen voting registration rules in ways that make it harder for states to maintain accurate voter rolls. A 2017 voting bill backed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would have forced states to adopt those and other changes. The bill never became law, but the Covid-19 pandemic gave Democratic activists a rationale to push for similar changes in 2020. If they manage to make those changes permanent, the effect will be to “normalize deviance” in our election system. Less oversight and looser procedures would make problems harder to detect while encouraging fraud.

5. At The American Conservative, Christopher Barnard explains how the environmental movement’s Green Dealers lost America. From the piece:

Nevertheless, with a motivation as galvanizing as a secular higher power, progressive environmentalists will always justify prioritizing ideology over action. Just last week, in fact, more than 300 progressive environmental groups attempted to block a bipartisan energy package because it didn’t go as far as they wanted. The groups even claimed that the legislation contained “dirty handouts.” It didn’t matter that it was the result of countless bipartisan discussions or that it funded the development of technologies (such as nuclear energy and carbon capture) that would mean millions of tons of less carbon in the atmosphere.

This is why many remain wary of the modern environmental movement. It’s not because most of the country doesn’t believe in climate change. It’s because for those on the ground who see environmental challenges each and every day, the progressive environmental agenda rings hollow. When the Green New Deal, the holy scripture of choice for the climate movement, encompasses everything from racial justice to health care to jobs guarantees, it becomes painfully clear just how far removed the debate is from empirical reality. We need specific, targeted solutions, not one-size-fits-all, top-down plans that make climate change intangible to the average American. In fact, in his book Enlightenment Now, Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker writes that people are less likely to accept the reality of climate change and decide to act on it when they are told that only widespread social revolution can solve the apocalypse, or else. However, they feel much more inclined to proactively tackle the problem if they are told that innovative, targeted solutions can and do exist.

6. At Law & Liberty, Tillman Nechtman and Natalie Taylor share a history lesson and consider the prudence of George Washington to the rage of Donald Trump. From the article:

On January 6, 2021 just as Congress was scheduled to meet to count and certify the votes of the Electoral College, President Donald Trump — a tall man who, because of his wealth and media savvy, had cast a shadow on American culture for decades — stood before a crowd outside the White House in Washington, D.C.  Four years before, Trump won the presidency by appealing to Americans’ suspicion of elites and now, as his presidency was coming to an end after a failed re-election bid, he stirred the crowd’s passionate indignation by telling his supporters that the election had been stolen.

He encouraged them to march on Congress to demand the restoration of our democracy before it was too late.  The subsequent scenes of protestors forcibly entering our legislative halls and vandalizing the seat of our democracy are now familiar to all.  An ancient fear that a tyrant might emerge out of a democracy, exploit the people’s passions, and aggravate their sense of grievance became a pressing twenty-first century concern as Americans despaired that their proud tradition of the peaceful transition of power might come to an end 234 years after our first president, George Washington, left office.

The tale need not end in despair.  We can turn back the page to March 15, 1783, early spring in Newburgh, NY and, metaphorically, in the history of democratic government in the United States.  The Revolutionary War was all but concluded with a peace treaty on the near horizon.  The victorious, but beleaguered, Continental soldiers and their officers were anxious to receive the pay and the pensions promised to them by the Continental Congress.   If Congress could not pay them before it signed the peace treaty and disbanded the army, the soldiers might never again have the opportunity to press their claims.

In that spring of 1783, an anonymous letter circulated through the military’s ranks at Newburgh.  Purportedly written by a “a fellow soldier” and one “whose past sufferings have been as great . . . as yours,” the letter cast suspicions upon the Continental Congress; it had neither the ability nor the intention to pay the soldiers.  “Faith has its limits,” the author insisted, “as well as temper; and there are points beyond which neither can be stretched, without sinking into cowardice, or plunging into credulity.”

7. At The Imaginative Conservative, our esteemed friend, Bradley Birzer, considers one of America’s founder, James Otis, and his focus on the nature of our rights. From the article:

Feel free to call me a conservative (I won’t object), but my response to a crisis is always to go back to first principles. I feel like I’ve been going back to first principles repeatedly over the past eleven months. Lockdowns, riots, more lockdowns, more riots, election confusions, more lockdowns (remember, I live in Michigan — no state has been more locked down) and — lo and behold — another riot. This last one, though, was the real doozy. Since 1968, those of us not on the left have been able to blame civil unrest on the left itself. Those days, it seems, have finally ended. Regardless, let’s return to first principles.

In particular, since the Capitol Hill unrest, I’ve been thinking about the nature of rights and duties. Going back to the first principles of the Founding, one finds that the Founders talked unceasingly about rights. While rights language appears before the 1760s, it becomes a critical part of the cultural landscape in February 1761 when James Otis delivered his five-hour oration on the nature of rights, the common law, and the natural law. The basis of the argument came from Otis’s denial of the writs of assistance — which had, in violation of the common law, allowed for an open-ended search and seizure by government agents. They did not have to prove guilty, but merely presume it. They did not have to have probable cause, only instinct. Thus, armed with the writs of assistance, they could search any man’s property for any reason at any time and without impediment.

Although we do not know exactly what Otis said that day, we have some good indications from his writings following that speech. “I say men, for in a state of nature, no man can take my property from me, without my consent: If he does, he deprives me of my liberty, and makes me a slave,” Otis argued. “If such a proceeding is a breach of the law of nature, no law of society can make it just — The very act of taxing, exercised over those who are not represented, appears to me to be depriving them of one of their most essential rights, as freemen; and if continued, seems to be in effect an entire disfranchisement of every civil right.” While God demands that men govern themselves, the laws of nature and the common law prevent one man from controlling another man. Slavery, thus, in any form is forbidden, whether it be chattel slavery or the taxation of a person without his consent.

Baseballery

Let us consider the doubleheader, and ones of particular feats, especially as regards pitching. That being the criteria, it is difficult to top what happened at the Polo Grounds on Sunday, July 2, 1933, before a Depression-Era crowd of 42,000. They’d see something spectacular, as the Giants took on the visiting St. Louis Cardinals, stocked with plenty of Gas House Gangers.

The opener proved historic: The great Carl Hubbell, on the mound for the Giants, dueled it out with Redbirds’ righty Tex Carleton, and after nine innings, the score was knotted at goose eggs. St. Louis touched Hubbell for only three hits to that point, while the Giants scattered four. In the 11th Inning, New York loaded the bases with one out, but couldn’t score, while the Cardinals remained baffled by Hubbell’s screwball. In the 17th, Jesse Haines, who’d been the Cardinals star pitcher in the Twenties (he’d end up in the Hall of Fame), took over from Carlton. His relief appearance did not last long: In the bottom of the 18th Inning, having walked two (Hubbell walked no one this day, and struck out 12), Haines served up a game-winning single to Hughie Critz, ensuring Hubbell’ historic complete-game shutout. The affair took four hours and two minutes. Do check out the box score.

But that was only the day’s first game. On the mound for the Cardinals in Game Two was Dizzy Dean, facing the Giants Roy Parmelee. This contest was a quickie by comparison with the opener: It took but an hour and 25 minutes for the Giants to rack up their second 1-0 win of the afternoon, the sole run coming on third baseman Johnny Vergez’s home un in the Fourth Inning. Parmelee was touched for only four singles — including a pinch hit by the great Rogers Hornsby in the Ninth Inning — but he struck out 13 Cardinals and walked one in a brilliant performance. Dean went the distance for the Cardinals, giving up only five hits while striking out six.

It was 36 years before another team notched a duet of 1-0 doubleheader wins: On Friday, September 12, 1969, in Pittsburgh, in the thick of their heralded race to take the NL pennant, the New York Mets pulled off the feat at the expense of the Pirates.

In the opener of the twi-nighter, New York southpaw Jerry Koosman held the Bucs to three measly hits (one of those hits, and two walks led to a jam in the Third Inning) to best Bob Moose, who gave up just one run. Of special interest: It was driven in by a Koosman single in the Fifth. That was one of only four hits Koosman has in 1969, when he batted a ghastly .048 (his career batting average was .119).

The aging Don Cardwell was on the mound for the Mets in the second game, facing a very young Dock Ellis. Both men had their stuff — indeed, in eight innings, Elis struck out 11 Mets. But as in the first game, it was the Met starting pitcher who provided the necessary offense: In the Second Inning, Cardwell stroked a two-out single to drive in Bud Harrelson. No more runs were needed. In the Ninth Inning, Tug McGraw came in to earn his 12th save of what had become the Mets’ magical season.

The 19,303 Pirates fans at Forbes Field might have not liked the day’s defeats, but there is no question they witnessed on of MLB’s rarer events.

A Dios

Hank Aaron has passed away. Pray please for his soul’s peaceful repose. And this being written on the 48th anniversary of a most unjust Supreme Court ruling, pray for strength for those pressed and conflicted by forces which contrive to make them carry out an unconscionable act, and pray that those of us who find such unconscionable will make it a point to the material aid of women determined to choose life.

God’s Blessings on Tender Mercies on You and Yours

Jack Fowler, who will defend the Founding at all costs, including nasty missives directed towards jfowler@nationalreview.com.

P.S.: The new issue of The Human Life Review is off the presses, and spotlights an important essay by Lyle Strathman, A Case for the Revocation of Roe v. Wade. Please do check it out.

National Review

Alienable Rights

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Dear Weekend Jolter,

Once upon a time in the City of Brotherly Love, great men wrote on parchment a testimony to liberty and the natural state of those living in America — and indeed of all peoples living in all places. These men declared (after all, it was a Declaration) that there was a Creator, and that He had endowed men with certain unalienable rights. The list was not exhaustive, but it noted that among these were life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

What a mockery these past ten days have made of this self-evident truth, now all the more despised by, and under attack by, those who yearn for power and control, those intoxicated by the exquisite thrill that comes to some from punishing and suppressing and crushing others, those born to raise Hell and to shred the Philadelphia Story.

It may only be January, but totalitarian larvae are emerging.

This missive’s mission is to provide links aplenty. Your Humble Correspondent promises the usual plethora (they follow below) but begs indulgence to inform you that he is currently reading Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago, and recommends it to all as both a history lesson and as a survey of the Leftist soul (and, indeed, into the souls of all humans).

A further prolegomena to this missive: Down Under, in that place the Chinese Communist Party politburocrats disdain as gum on its national shoe, toils an old pal, the wise, Sydney-relocated journalist, James Morrow. From afar he observes in the Daily Telegraph what many a pontificator in our Land of Diminishing Rights can’t, don’t, or won’t: that America’s Trump-detesting Big Tech giants have commenced a PRC-style crackdown that will, at a minimum, guarantee conservatives one right — the one to remain silent. From James’s latest column:

Because what Big Tech, much of the media, and other large corporations that are closely allied with the Left are doing goes far beyond Democrats’ attempt to run a second impeachment case against Trump, just days before he leaves office or even after he leaves.

Instead, they are now proposing — indeed what is already underway — is a purge that seeks to un-person 75 million Trump voters while establishing a Chinese style Social Credit System run not by governments but “woke” corporations happy to toe the line.

Just as in China, where your every social media move is monitored for wrongthink, Facebook and Twitter have been kicking off thousands of users — not just Donald Trump — in America and Australia for, apparently, nothing more than their politics.

American libertarian Ron Paul has had his Facebook page locked, apparent revenge for a column criticising Big Tech’s censorship regimes, while plenty of Australian social media users on the Right have also found themselves locked out in recent days.

Of course, “violating community standards” is the way they put it, which brings up the questions, which community?

Whose standards?

Don’t think you can go somewhere else, either.

One more worthy distraction, if you will: The dire situation has brought Thomas Sowell out of column retirement. He penned Is Truth Irrelevant? this week. Here is a slice of his wisdom:

Unfortunately, too many American educational institutions — from elementary schools to universities — have become indoctrination centers. The riots that swept across the country last year are fruits of that indoctrination and the utter disregard for other people’s rights that accompanied those riots.

At the heart of that indoctrination is a sense of grievance and victimhood when others have better outcomes — which are automatically called “privileges” and never called “achievements,” regardless of what the actual facts are.

Facts don’t matter in such issues, any more than facts mattered when smearing Lincoln.

Any “under-representation” of any group in any endeavor can be taken as evidence or proof of discriminatory bias. But those who argue this way cannot show us any society — anywhere in the world, or at any time during thousands of years of recorded history — that had all groups represented proportionally in all endeavors.

You will find a copy of our Declaration of Independence here. Do read it and maybe even download it from the National Archives website. Some day, you may wish you had.

On now to the Weekend Jolt.

JUST THE LINKS MAM

A Copious Collection of Keen Conservatism

Victor Davis Hanson: Assault on the Capitol Has Let Loose the Electronic Octopus

David Harsanyi: Media and Capitol Riots: Dishonesty Favoring the Left

More Harsanyi: Twitter and Parler Trump Bans: Free Speech Still Harmed

Robert Maranto: Why Republicans Distrust the Media

Madeleine Kearns: The Rise of the Religious Left

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Do Smartphones Create Distemper and Make Our Politics Insane?

Jimmy Quinn: The Ridiculous Ruckus over State Department’s Taiwan Regulations

George Terwilliger: Election Integrity: Mailed Ballots Should Be Verified More Rigorously

Rich Lowry: Twitter Deranged American Politics

Frederick M. Hess: Betsy Devos and the Poisonous Politics of Malice

Fred Bauer: The Senate Tempers America’s Partisan Passions and Conflicts

Conrad Black: Donald Trump’s Accomplishments Could Not Overcome Political Opponents

Mark Mills: Peter Huber, R.I.P.

Brian Allen: A Great Curator Works Wonders at the North Carolina Museum of Art

More Allen: Visiting the Alonso Berruguete Show at Meadows Museum in Dallas

Editorials

An Impeachable Offense

Capital Matters

Kevin Hassett warns: The End of Trump Presidency Creates Economic Uncertainty

Andrew Stuttaford finds a Green movement clad in manacles: Sustainable Industry Sustained by Forced Labor?

John H. Cochrane: Free Market Beats Central Planning, Even for COVID-19 Tests and Vaccines

David Goldman says the agent is in your hand: Beijing’s Plan to Take Over the Global Economy

James Broughel and Dustin Chambers connect the deadly dots: How Joe Biden Can Reduce the Mortality Costs of Federal Regulations

Lights. Camera. Review!

Armond White says we watched the predictor of Big-Tech fascism: The Unheeded Threat of The Social Network

Kyle Smith remembers a director who laid off the ideology: Michael Apted, Non-Visionary Filmmaker, R.I.P.

More Armond: He catches a rip-off: