The Weekend Jolt

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Dear Weekend Jolter,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But First . . .

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

And you’ll find an excerpt here.

Editorials

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DT: What about on the consumer side?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Signer, though, seems to feel differently.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reform School

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Podcastapalooza

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Six

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baseballery

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

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

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

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

A Dios

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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