Dear Generous Jolters,
Bogart repeatedly bothering the same kindly fellow American (played by John Huston) in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is not the exact mood we seek to strike here this week. But since we are in fact going to be asking for financial help, and since WJ is addicted to old-movie references, we’ll use it. At least enjoy the clip of his first panhandle.
We don’t beg or mooch like the notorious Fred C. Dobbs, but we do invite folks to stand alongside us on the ramparts, bayonets fixed, supplying us ammo, as we battle Socialism, which is the theme of NR’s 2019 Spring Webathon.
Our goal is to raise at least $175,000 before May runs out (and more if possible), and our rationale for inviting you to buddy up in NR’s vital derring-do is explained wisely here.
WJ has never denied you a big basket of candy in these epistles, and we freely admit the obvious: Before you get to the sweets, sometimes we have to ask you to first consider matters of institutional importance. Such as: Our respectful request for your material support (translated: your donation) to underwrite our increased and darned-vital efforts to combat the renewed adoration of socialism. You know socialism: It’s that evil ideology that has captured the heart, soul, and marrow of the Democratic party, that stands against practically all the principles you believe, that detests the Founders and the doctrines they wove into this ever-perfecting union.
This fight is real. It’s intense. It’s for plenty of marbles, if not for all of them. Your donation to NR is one way for you to be part of that band of brothers and sisters who will share scars, wounds, and the thrill of socking Socialism in its big fat gob, day in and out on NRO.
And just for having to endure my pitch (please don’t ignore it!), here’s an editorial freebee: a PDF of a masterful James Burnham “Third World War” column from NR circa 1956, taking on Socialists and the United Front.
All right, the Weekend Jolt awaits. As Mr. Gleason said, and away we go.
1. Joe from Scranton has tossed his hat into the ring (no hair plugs were harmed). The talk of him being a “moderate” is about as accurate as is the former Veep being Botox-free. From our editorial:
The effort to win the primaries may make Biden move further left himself: He has already denounced our legal system as “white man’s law,” possibly because it respects the presumption of innocence. (Reporters may wish to get some clarity from him on this question.) Were he to get the nomination, his alleged moderation would become a key selling point.
Step outside the funhouse mirror of Twitter. Biden has for his entire career been a strong, albeit not wholly consistent, supporter of every left-wing cause from higher taxes to hate-crimes laws to liberal judicial activism. Conservatives should not let themselves be fooled into thinking he is a moderate, and neither should actual moderates.
2. Since someone needed to take a jackhammer to this $2 billion infrastructure idea concocted by the Trump / Pelosi / Schumer Triumvirate of Spending, our editors volunteered. From the editorial:
“Infrastructure” is not an undifferentiated commodity, a lump of all-purpose putty that we can just order up more or less of as circumstances dictate. Infrastructure instead consists of many thousands of discrete projects, some of which are mainly federal responsibilities, some of which are primarily state and local jobs that may or may not merit federal assistance. And that is how “infrastructure” should be dealt with: on a case-by-case basis. That is why we have this splendidly specialized array of committees and subcommittees and bureaucracies and congressional procedure. And that, not a once-in-a-generation all-in multitrillion-dollar “fix,” is how responsible adults deal with roads and bridges and the like.
We note that figuring out how to pay for this is at the bottom of the current agenda. To the extent that it’s being talked about at all, there already is fundamental and probably unbridgeable disagreement: Some of the Democrats want to undo the 2017 tax cuts, others want to raise the federal gasoline tax. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) insisted: “It is up to President Trump to work with us by identifying new revenue to support that investment.” But revenue bills originate in the House of Representatives, not in the Oval Office.
3. The worst kind of scandal is an incredibly dumb one, properly referred to as a “scandal.” Like the Bill Barr “scandal.” From our editorial:
It’s hard to know where to begin. Barr’s position was eminently reasonable. He wanted to get the basic verdict of the Mueller report out as quickly as possible, given the inherent interest in the question of whether the president of the United States had conspired with the Russians. He opposed the subsequent release of the summaries of the report, as suggested in Mueller’s letter, because he thought it better that the public get the entire report at once. Which it did. Democrats and the media are acting as if Barr engaged in some sort of cover-up, when he went further than required under the regulations to release all of the report with minimal redactions.
May Flowers, and So Here Are 12 Bloomin’ Fantastic NRO Pieces to Fill that Vase
1. Pants on fire: Jim Geraghty offers a rundown of Joe Biden’s biggest fibs. From his Corner post:
In the 2008 vice-presidential debate, he claimed that the U.S. had teamed up with France to kick Syria out of Lebanon, that the U.S. spends more in Iraq in one month than it had in Afghanistan in six or seven years, and cited recently visiting a restaurant that had been out of business for decades.
In the 2012 vice-presidential debate, he suggested that he had voted against the Iraq and Afghanistan wars when he had in voted for them, understated the income level for the Obama tax hikes by $800,000, claimed that no one had told the Obama administration that U.S. diplomatic posts in Libya wanted more security, and claimed that Obamacare had somehow created $716 billion in new funding that was now being applied to Medicare. It had not.
2. Roger Scruton has been smeared by New Statesman hack George Eaton. Defenestration followed quickly. But Douglas Murray isn’t letting the lefty scribe, or the Scruton-ditchers, off the hook (or leaving Roger under the bus). From his report:
But three weeks ago Eaton flagged up an interview he had conducted with Sir Roger Scruton with claims which seemed suspect from the start. Eaton claimed that Scruton had made a succession of “outrageous” remarks during their interview. In addition to anti-Chinese racism, he claimed, Scruton had said awful things about Muslims, Jews, and various other groups of people. All of this had an effect. Believing that what the New Statesman’s deputy editor said was true, Scruton was widely defamed across the British media. He was then swiftly and ignominiously fired (without even being personally informed) from his position heading a government quango. This latter decision was taken by the relevant minister, James Brokenshire MP, within five hours of Eaton’s original tweets.
The malicious intent which Eaton brought to the interview was evidenced not just by the manner in which he announced its alleged contents, but in his posting on Instagram of a photo of himself swigging champagne from a bottle and saying that this was how he was celebrating the sacking of “homophobe and racist” Roger Scruton.
While everything about this seemed to me suspect, few other people seemed to think so. Indeed, almost everybody else who had an opportunity to ditch Sir Roger did so. This list included nearly all Conservative party institutions and websites as well as numerous Conservative figures. The list included (though was not limited to) former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, Danny (Lord) Finkelstein, MP Tom Tugendhat, MP Johnny Mercer, and of course that terrible victim of nominative determinism, Mr. Brokenshire. Like the newspapers, to the best of my knowledge none of these people requested a transcript of the Eaton–Scruton interview. They all decided to leap to judgment, trust George Eaton, trash Sir Roger, and then just move on.
RELATED: Free definition of “quango” here.
3. The fact that whites and blacks are increasingly living in the same neighborhoods seems to have gotten the New York Times good and knickers-twisted. Kyle Smith slaps the liberals who are alarmed at desegregation. From his essay:
You might be value-neutral on this trend (since people should be judged as individuals, it doesn’t matter what demographic boxes your neighbors check), or you might read it as a positive (assuming various cultures are linked to race and ethnicity, being exposed to difference might make you a better or more well-rounded person). But it takes a crabbed and ungenerous soul to find the trend alarming, as the Times does. The paper wonders whether “the area’s sudden reinvention will erase the last remaining signs of its history,” but it cites no examples of anything of historic importance being removed from the South Park landscape. What seems to be happening is that run-down buildings and empty lots are giving way to chic modern homes. To the naked eye, this looks a lot like improvement.
“Nationwide, the arrival of white homeowners in places they’ve long avoided is jolting the economics of the land beneath everyone,” notes a subheadline. “Jolting the economics of” is a curious dysphemism for “increasing the value of.” “Gentrification” has become a loaded word, but it indicates the same phenomenon: money pouring into an area, especially an area that was previously starved of it. Gentrification is a good thing. If you happen to have home equity in a gentrifying area, you are probably getting wealthier. Maybe a lot wealthier. That is a good thing, too. Would the Times prefer that black people who own houses didn’t enjoy robust returns on their investment? To counter these happy tidings, the Times imagines that it must amount to running a sort of gauntlet to patronize a lavish new shopping and dining space: “The food hall is trying to signal that longtime neighbors are welcome, too . . . but they must walk past the new $700,000 rowhomes outside to get here.” “But they must”? I fail to see how walking past a nice house is a daunting experience, unless maybe its owner is firing cannonballs at passersby.
But I’m exaggerating. The Times doesn’t associate these houses with bombardment, merely with slaveholding. The paper sympathetically treats alarmist rhetoric from black residents such as Octavia Rainey, a 63-year-old woman whose home has appreciated considerably. She calls the new houses built by white families, “Gone With the Wind houses, beach houses, slave houses,” comparing second-story porches to “overseers’ perches,” in the Times’ paraphrase of her sentiments.
4. San Francisco is mixing school-assigning and race and, as Fred Schwarz reports, yeah, it’s a mess. From his Corner post:
Friday’s New York Times had an interesting and mostly fair-minded article by Dana Goldstein about San Francisco’s unsuccessful attempts to engineer the racial makeup of its public schools. In pursuit of this goal, some students have had to be assigned to schools that are not their parents’ first or second choice, and that means trouble. It’s hard enough trying to design a school-assignment policy that will satisfy everyone when (as is true in most cities) some of your schools are so bad that no one wants to send their kids there, but setting an additional racial-balance requirement overdetermines the problem even further.
The city used to bus children to schools outside their neighborhoods to achieve racial balance, but this was ruled unfair to Asians. Now San Francisco is still supposed to create racially balanced schools, but without explicitly using race as a factor in deciding who goes where. Good luck with that. The city’s current assignment lottery was instituted in 2011, after decades of lawsuits and litigation and policy reversals.
5. Like Franco, the ERA is still dead. Very. Paul Benjamin Linton and Clarke D. Forsythe explain. From the piece:
The argument that the ERA is still open for ratification is based upon the ratification of the 27th Amendment, which deals with congressional compensation. The 27th Amendment was proposed on Sept. 25, 1789, and ratified by the 38th state (Michigan) on May 7, 1982, more than 202 years later. Because the 27th Amendment was (presumably) validly ratified after more than two centuries, the ERA, so goes the argument, is still before the states. The fallacy of this argument is that, unlike the ERA, which had included a seven-year time period for its ratification, the 27th Amendment had no time limit. Whether the 27th Amendment was validly ratified has no bearing on the viability of the ERA, which died no later than June 30, 1982, the expiration of the extension passed by Congress in 1978.
That the ERA died is evidenced by the fact that there have been multiple efforts to resubmit the ERA to the states, as early as 1983, and as recently as Jan. 26, 2018 (H.J. Res. 35) and March 27, 2019 (S.J. Res. 15). In addition, legislation has been introduced in the House (H.J. Res. 6) and the Senate (S.J. Res. 38) to remove the time limits Congress had adopted for the ERA. If the ERA were still before the states, why would removing the time limits be necessary?
6. It’s not the kind of One-Percenter status they aspire to: Jim Geraghty takes a WJ encore and looks at the dense back of the Democrat prexy pack. You’ll forgive him the schadenfreude in discussing the current position of Kirsten Gillibrand and her nutty “Democracy Dollars” plan. From his Corner post:
But perhaps the most delicious is New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Back in 2017, Vogue’s cover declared, “2020 Vision: All Eyes on Kirsten Gillibrand.” (Back then I laid out how the glowing profile left a very misleading impression that Gillbrand was an economic centrist, an iconoclast, and a campaigning powerhouse with cross-party appeal.) All eyes may be upon her, but she’s at four-tenths of one percent in the RCP average.
Yes, it’s early. Yes, we haven’t had any debates yet. But it doesn’t get any easier for the candidates at the bottom as they compete for attention, donors, and early support.
Gillbrand is now in the “Throw everything against the wall and see what sticks” stage, unveiling a cockamamie plan “to give every voter up to $600 in what she calls ‘Democracy Dollars’ that they can donate to federal candidates for office.” Yes, she wants to take your tax dollars, give you $600 back, and then allow you to donate that money to political candidates like her.
7. Rich Lowry condemns 8chan and the right-wing hate that spawned last week’s synagogue shooting in California. From his column:
Because everything must be about Donald Trump, the Left blames him for Pittsburgh and San Diego. His critics point to his shabby response to Charlottesville (Trump actually did condemn the white nationalists and neo-Nazis, but posited “fine people” on their side who didn’t exist). Yet Trump was explicitly rejected by the San Diego and Pittsburgh shooters, precisely because he’s so pro-Israel.
His State of the Union address earlier this year was notably philo-Semitic. “We must never ignore the vile poison of anti-Semitism, or those who spread its venomous creed,” he said while recognizing a hero of the Pittsburgh massacre. “With one voice, we must confront this hatred anywhere and everywhere it occurs.”
At the same time that an extreme fringe on the right marinates in its own malice, a different sort of anti-Semitism, rooted in hatred for Israel, is getting normalized on the left. It can be seen in the refusal of House Democrats to forthrightly condemn Representative Ilhan Omar for her anti-Semitic posts and comments, and in the astonishing publication by the international edition of the New York Times of a political cartoon worthy of Der Stürmer.
8. David French, discussing the culture’s campaign against masculinity, looks at the synagogue madness and sees aggression — one kind that was evil, another kind that was courageous. From his commentary:
The proper response to the reality of general masculine characteristics isn’t denial or indulgence. It’s development. Last Friday, a lone gunman walked into a synagogue in Poway, Calif., and attempted to massacre the congregants. He opened fire when he entered, and a courageous woman named Lori Kaye lost her life shielding the rabbi from the incoming bullets. As the congregation fled, a man named Oscar Stewart (we should report and remember the names of heroes) ran directly towards the gunfire. He yelled at the shooter, threatening to kill him.
The shooter was so startled that he fled, and Stewart pursued him to his car and pounded on his window until an off-duty Border Patrol officer named Jonathan Morales fired into the car.
Think about that moment. Both Stewart and the shooter were aggressive. Both Stewart and the shooter were violent. But one man’s aggression was courageous. One man’s violence was necessary.
9. Robert Joseph and Eric S. Edelman argue that any possible forthcoming nuke treaties must limit the number of Red Chinese and Russian weapons. From their analysis:
It is also important to revisit the fundamental flaws of New START. In 2010, both of us testified against ratification, highlighting the treaty’s shortcomings and providing our prediction, now proven accurate, that U.S. forces would go down and Russia would build up under the agreement. This was consistent with longstanding Soviet tactics that consistently used arms control to limit U.S. nuclear forces in a manner intended to gain unilateral advantages. We also emphasized the failure to limit theater nuclear forces, based on the fiction that nuclear attacks employing weapons with ranges less than 5,500 kilometers (3,400 miles) would not be strategic. For those who cared about whether agreements actually reduced the number of nuclear weapons on each side, we pointed out that the new bomber-counting rule contained in the fine print of New START allowed the deployment of more strategic warheads than the nominal 1,550 treaty limit, since it counted each bomber as one without regard to the actual weapons load. And we noted that Russia would likely deploy offensive strategic forces that were not explicitly restricted by the agreement, which it has now done. Finally, we warned that the treaty, in principle and practice, seemed to accept at least some limits on missile defenses and conventional, prompt global-strike capabilities.
10. Abigail Disney – rich, entitled lefty heiress with an important last name – attacked the company that bears her name (along with its CEO, Bob Iger) in a Washington Post op-ed, which led Matthew Continetti to reflect on why folks give a mouse’s arse as to her public squeaking. From his column:
“I like Bob Iger,” she wrote in a Twitter rant this week. “I do NOT speak for my family but only for myself.” And she has nothing to do with the company other than holding shares “(not that many).” But Iger’s compensation in 2018 of $65.6 million is “insane.” Someone has to “speak out about the naked indecency” of it all, she wrote in an op-ed for the Washington Post, a newspaper owned by the richest man on Earth. The Trump tax cuts are to blame. Yes, Disney is raising its minimum wage, and gave more than half of its 200,000 employees a $1,000 bonus last year. But it has spent billions more on stock buybacks to — ohmigod — “enrich its shareholders.” And among those shareholders are such undeserving folk as Vanguard and the New York State Common Retirement Fund and CALPERS. Did the retired teacher in Bakersville produce the Emmy award–winning documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell? I didn’t think so. Abigail did, so talk to the hand, Mr. Mutual Fund Investor.
Abigail Disney’s stand for the proletariat is absurd and self-righteous. There is, for starters, the fact that everyone involved in this psychodrama — from Disney to Iger to the owner of the Washington Post — is a super-affluent liberal. Everyone, that is, but many Disney employees, who are not an undifferentiated mass of drones but men and women with a diversity of political views, economic circumstances, work schedules, skill sets, and personal ambitions. Some of them probably liked their tax cut and bonus — and profited from the buybacks as individual shareholders.
Iger is a great chief executive. He has brought Marvel, Star Wars, and 20th Century Fox into the Disney fold, while maintaining quality and preparing a streaming service that will compete with Netflix and Amazon Prime. He’s just about doubled the global revenues of the company, from $34 billion in 2006 to $59 billion in 2018. Disney had more than a quarter of the total domestic box office in 2018, almost twice as much as its closest competitor. Abigail admits that Iger and his lieutenants “have led the company brilliantly.” So what’s her problem? It’s that the world doesn’t conform to her subjective vision of social justice. And since she’s a Disney heiress known only for criticizing her family’s company — sorry, Fork Films is not yet a household name — the media can’t resist giving her publicity. It’s the ultimate man-bites-mouse story.
11. Roberto González and Liza Gellerman explain how Hayek’s teachings predicted what would become of Venezuela courtesy of its leftist economic tyranny. From the beginning of their essay:
Venezuela is a human catastrophe. The evidence is brutally visible and can no longer be explained away by apologists for tyranny. So many people enamored with long-debunked theories had high hopes that for Venezuela — despite the enormous historical and empirical evidence to the contrary — the promise of socialism would work and would not lead to the loss of liberties or drive the once-prosperous nation into poverty. Looking back on the 20th century, we should turn to some of the most prominent thinkers who lived under similar conditions and dissected their experiences for us to learn from. Venezuela’s crisis is a good example of harsh lessons learned by one generation but forgotten by the next.
In 1944, Friedrich Hayek warned in The Road to Serfdom that tyranny inevitably results when a government exercises complete control of the economy through central planning. Over half a century later, beginning with Hugo Chávez’s revolution, Venezuela began its own road to serfdom by expropriating thousands of businesses and even entire industries. The more fortunate companies left before it was too late, while the businesses that remained were handed over to the Venezuelan military, under whose oversight they were neglected into ruins. In a typical demonstration of class warfare, the government publicly vilified these business owners as unpatriotic, greedy lackeys of American interests, claiming that Venezuela’s poverty had been a direct result of their existence.
12. David Beckworth finds that the Fed’s inflation-targeting practice has led to a too-tight monetary policy for the past decade. From the beginning of his analysis:
President Donald Trump has the monetary-policy blues. The Federal Reserve’s four interest-rate hikes in 2018 apparently have him deeply worried that this tightening of monetary policy has weakened the economy. Hence in recent months, Trump has become an outspoken critic of the Fed.
The president’s instincts that something is wrong with Fed policy are actually on point, but he is just scratching the surface of a much deeper problem. The Fed’s current inflation-targeting framework has effectively forced monetary policy to be too tight not just during Trump’s presidency but for the better part of a decade.
Look first at the Fed’s failure to hit its own inflation target of 2 percent. The Fed officially began inflation targeting in 2012 but has been implicitly targeting 2 percent for several decades. The Fed’s preferred measure of inflation, however, has averaged about 1.5 percent since 2009. The persistence of below-target inflation means the price level has drifted far below where it was expected to be a decade ago.
Sensational: The New May 20 Issue of NR Is the First of Two Special Issues Combatting the Socialist Menace
Our Esteemed Editor Mr. Lowry and his wise helpers have assembled what we are calling a “Twin Special Issue,” the primo production (May 20, 2019, and available on NRO in its entirety to NRPLUS members) being a full-throated “Defense of Markets.” In addition to “The Week” and “Books, Arts & Manners,” there are a dozen pieces restating the sorely needed case for free markets. Here are four of ’em:
1. Scott Lincicome says that the case for free trade is both economic and moral. From his essay:
Trade and globalization also support American companies and workers, even in manufacturing. The Commerce Department, for example, has estimated that almost 11 million jobs depended on exports of U.S. goods and services in 2016, and foreign direct investment in the United States—the necessary flip side of our oft-maligned trade deficit—supported millions more. Meanwhile, American companies that adapt and thrive in today’s economy most often do so by making use of imports and global supply chains. The San Francisco Fed, for instance, recently estimated that almost half of U.S. imports are intermediate products purchased by American manufacturers to make globally biggest exporters, therefore, are also its biggest importers. Numerous other studies have found that the vast majority of the value of an American company’s assembled-abroad product (such as an iPhone, assembled in China) accrues to the U.S. company, including its workers and shareholders—not to the place of final assembly (despite what a gross bilateral trade balance, which attributes an import’s full cost to its final export source, might say).
These supply chains not only deliver modern marvels at amazing prices but also allow American companies and workers to focus on our high-value comparative advantages, such as professional services and advanced manufacturing, and leave the lower-value stuff to other countries and workers who lack such skills. Imports, the San Francisco Fed study found, also support millions of other American jobs in transportation, logistics, and wholesale and retail trade—indeed, almost half of all U.S. consumption dollars spent on items not “made in the U SA” go to these Americans, not to foreigners.
2. Samuel Gregg looks at the lasting consequence of our dear late friend Michael Novak, whose classic work, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, remains deeply insightful. From his wonderful essay:
Part Two of the book, “The Twilight of Socialism,” is particularly instructive. Here Novak detailed the economic problems bedeviling socialism, whether of the command-economy type or contemporary social democracy. Novak never claimed that economics should be decisive in political choices. But he did think that the basic insights into reality provided by economics—the workings of incentives and self-interest, comparative advantage, trade-offs, the necessity of free prices as carriers of information, attentiveness to the known side effects of particular choices, etc.—should no more be ignored than any other empirically validated observation arising from the social sciences.
The lessons of economics, however, weren’t the primary point of departure for Novak’s critique of socialism. He genuinely wanted to understand why people embrace socialism, and he concluded that it wasn’t simply economic ignorance.
By the early 1980s, Novak argued, socialism had become less about practical economic programs than about (1) certain ideals regarding equality and poverty and (2) deep hostility to capitalism per se. The single-minded pursuit of these beliefs, combined with the tendency to view capitalism in almost demonic terms, meant that socialism assumed the form of what Novak called a “political religion.” This, he believed, was what made socialism erroneous—and very dangerous.
3. David Bahnsen takes on the unpopular task of defending capital markets, without which there is . . . no capitalism. Sense about cents! From his article:
And while Wall Street (along with the NFL, the textile industry, clean energy, big oil, food and beverage, and youth soccer) has had its fair share of fat cats and disrepute, the public’s antagonism toward financiers is not attributable to a few bad apples. There is a hole in the public’s understanding of capital markets, and it explains the contemporary negativity about finance. So we must be very clear—there is no capitalism without capital markets.
That it is necessary to make an argument for financial markets is itself a testimony to the economic ignorance that has permeated our society. But let us state the obvious: While employment and rising wages are vital benefits of a business, they are not its objective. The objective is, rather, the delivery of a good or service to a customer who wants it. So while hampering businesses threatens jobs and wage growth, it also hampers the development and delivery of goods and services that make life better. Ergo, an attack on business is an attack on quality of life.
And any attack on the financial markets is an attack on business. I suppose one could make a list of businesses that, from cradle to adulthood, have been entirely self-funded. It will not be a very long list. Most businesses require capital to start, and most businesses do not generate cash until after they have started. American financial markets, without any provocation or encouragement from government, organically developed an entire industry known as “venture capital” over the last four decades. It has provided capital to countless technology start-ups that have changed the world. The financial terms were set by private economic actors and administered by risk-taking entrepreneurs and investors, and the sophisticated models in which such firms and investors interacted with developers, programmers, and proprietors were all the work of the invisible hand of American financial markets.
4. Robert Atkinson explains that the term “Chinese capitalism” is an oxymoron. Hey, some people need a good explaining! From his piece:
In his classic 1967 book Modern Capitalism: The Changing Balance of Public and Private Power, Andrew Shonfield tried to make sense of the distinctly different flavors of capitalism that evolved in the post-war era: the German model, where large banks played a key role in allocating investment; the Italian model of public–private ownership of key industries; the French model of indicative planning; the Japanese model of state-led industrial policy; and the American and British models of largely free-market, laissez-faire capitalism, albeit leavened with a growing social-welfare state.
He concluded that, notwithstanding their differences, advanced capitalist economies share basic convictions, including that private capital should be at the center of economic activity, that market-based transactions are the key to prosperity, and that private property should be protected. To be sure, the Left and the Right fight over how to achieve the proper balance of these factors—fights that appear to be intensifying—but most agree on the core principles. In short, any differences between capitalist nations are of degree, not of kind.
This has long led defenders of capitalism to suffer from a certain level of hubris: Isn’t it obvious that the capitalist cookbook is the best? One need only look back at the failed Communist experiment in the Soviet Union for proof. Indeed, as Francis Fukuyama told us in The End of History, “the triumph of the West” included a triumph of market-based capitalism.
1. Alexandra DeSanctis lambasts political extremists who never met an abortion they didn’t like.
3. Need we say more than Kat takes on a “fat sex therapist” who plays the race card.
4. Maddy Kearns slams the New Tork Times and others for anti-Semitic actions.
1. In The American Interest, old pal Chris DeMuth, channeling the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan — and considering the importance of a speech he gave in Rochester, N.Y., in 1986 — reflects upon the nation’s indebtedness and spending debauchery. From the essay:
Pat was exactly right that federal deficits were episodic throughout the nineteenth century. We may put the matter positively: From 1789 through the 1960s, the federal government followed a balanced-budget policy, where annual spending on regular operations was held to annual tax revenues. Borrowing was reserved for emergencies and investments—wars, recessions, natural disasters, and territorial development from the Louisiana Purchase to canals and railroads and highways. And the debts were paid down in businesslike fashion, out of economic growth and government surpluses. This was a bipartisan consensus. Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson agreed on the point. Andrew Jackson—the founder of Pat’s beloved Democratic Party, the frontier populist whose portrait now hangs in the Oval Office—was particularly emphatic. The War of 1812 had propelled the national debt to $127 million, and its subsequent retirement had been complicated by a succession of recessions and financial panics. It remained at $55 million in 1829 when Jackson took office; he resolved to pay it down to zero—and succeeded by the end of 1834 through vigorous administration, ample use of his veto pen, and a booming economy.
This history presents a great conundrum. The government that held to a balanced-budget norm for nearly two centuries was, structurally, the same one we have today. Congress possessed unlimited borrowing power. Taxes had to originate in the House, whose members faced the voters every two years. Presidents were prone to expensive visions and projects. What on Earth were they thinking? Why wasn’t their policy borrow, spend, and elect?
Two considerations seem to have been at work. First was Pat’s “moral dimensions”—the Old Testament admonition, plus the secular obligations not to burden future generations and to keep the powder dry for whatever troubles lay certainly ahead. The second was intensely practical—to police against corruption and mission-creep in the distant national capital. Most citizens had little interest or ability to keep track of what the politicians were up to in Washington. What they did know was that they and their neighbors were highly averse to paying taxes. Voila: holding spending to tax revenues was a natural device for limiting the opportunities for mischief. Budget balancing was more than an elite consensus—it was a popular consensus that practicing politicians were constrained to follow.
2. Consider this Andrew Klavan piece in City Journal about Christianity, in decline, and the many right-of-center intellectuals who bemoan that but who . . . refuse to believe. From the essay:
To acknowledge that our lives are parables for spiritual truths may entail a belief in the extraordinary, but it is how we all live, whether we confess that belief or not. We all know that the words “two plus two” express the human version of a truth both immaterial and universal. We likewise know that we are not just flesh-bags of chemicals but that our bodies imperfectly express the idea of ourselves. We know that whether we strangle a child or give a beggar bread, we take physical actions that convey moral meaning. We know that this morality does not change when we don’t perceive it. In ancient civilizations, where everyone, including slaves, considered slavery moral, it was immoral still. They simply hadn’t discovered that truth yet, just as they hadn’t figured out how to make an automobile, though all the materials and principles were there.
We live in this world of morality and meaning—right up until the moment it causes us pain or guilt or shame or gets in the way of our ambitions or happiness. Then, suddenly, we look at the only logical source of the meaning we perceive and say, “I do not know Him.”
Understood in this way, there is no barrier of ignorance between Christian faith and science. Rather, the faith that made the West can still defend it from the dual threat of regressive religion and barbaric scientism. In fact, it may be the only thing that can.
3. Yeah it’s May, but there are plenty of snowflakes on the campus of Trinity College in Hartford, marginalized, threatened, and triggered by the threat of a conservative (racist!) Churchill Club. The College Fix’s Brittany Slaughter reports. From her piece:
It’s at this campus steeped in tradition that complaints from students of color and their supporters declare the Churchill Club’s existence on campus marginalizes them and makes them feel unsafe and that it supports white supremacy and ethnocentricity. This led the Student Government Association to vote to deny the group on Sunday.
This decision prompted the university’s President Joanne Berger-Sweeney on Monday to overrule the student government’s determination. She cited the Office of Student Activities, Involvement and Leadership’s approval of the club earlier in the semester as the reason why.
Berger-Sweeney’s announcement prompted a crowd of roughly 50 students to storm an administration building on Monday and demand answers, saying they felt unsafe with the Churchill Club on campus and bemoaned that approving it is akin to condoning white supremacy at the school.
4. At Gatestone Institute, Alan Dershowitz answers the ironic question: instead of the infamous anti-Semitic picture it published, what if the New York Times cartoon depicted a Muslim, a Mexican . . . ? From his piece:
There is no inconsistency in defending the right to express bigotry and at the same time protesting that bigotry. When I defended the rights of Communists and Nazis to express their venomous philosophies, I also insisted on expressing my contempt for their philosophies. I did the same when I defended the rights of Palestinian students to fly the Palestinian flag in commemoration of the death of Yasser Arafat. I went out of my way to defend the right of students to express their support of this mass-murderer. But I also went out of my way to condemn Arafat and those who supported him and praise his memory. I do not believe in free speech for me, but not for thee. But I do believe in condemning those who hide behind the First Amendment to express anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, homophobic, sexist or racist views.
Nor is the publication of this anti-Semitic cartoon a one-off. For years now, the New York Times op-ed pages have been one-sidedly anti-Israel. Its reporting has often been provably false, and all the errors tend to favor Israel’s enemies. Most recently, the New York Times published an op-ed declaring, on Easter Sunday, that the crucified Jesus was probably a Palestinian. How absurd. How preposterous. How predictable.
In recent years, it has become more and more difficult to distinguish between the reporting of the New York Times and their editorializing. Sometimes its editors hide behind the euphemism “news analysis,” when allowing personal opinions to be published on the front page. More recently, they haven’t even bothered to offer any cover. The reporting itself, as repeatedly demonstrated by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), has been filled with anti-Israel errors.
5. More on the screwing of Scruton: At The Imaginative Conservative, Paul Krause lambasts the profanity of the political philosopher’s rigged sacking. From the end of his commentary:
Roger Scruton will live on because truth is eternal. Those ephemeral forces of hurried spirits will be forgotten. Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Virgil, St. Augustine, St. Thomas, Dante, Shakespeare, Milton, Dickens, Tolstoy et al. live on for all posterity because they grappled with the fundamental questions of life, reality, and the human condition that all thinking persons necessarily grapple with. The Left’s attempt to destroy men of learning is for a very purposive reason, but any person who is moved by the intellect, that is the soul, will find friends in those now deemed hateful for the modern audience. St. Thomas famously said, “The human mind can only understand truth by thinking.” And thinking has defined Sir Roger’s raison d’être.
His writings on metaphysics, human nature, the soul, religion, and beauty; his contributions to philosophical scholarship and exegesis; his reflections on history and human condition; place him alongside a small cadre of figures who tried to use their mind to understand truth by thinking.
It is predictable that his enemies are the ones controlled by their disordered passions who’d prefer to strike at him rather than think with him. The attacks against Sir Roger are nothing less than an attack on the mind veiled with self-congratulatory righteousness which masks the iconoclastic and profane impulses of a now degenerated and ugly society with no respect for, or want, for beauty, articulation, and consideration. Considerate, intellectual, and thinking people have a far different view of Sir Roger than those who claim he gives “intellectual respectability” to the “far-right” and other such “deplorables.” The sacking of Roger Scruton represents the descent into a world of profanity and ugliness, a world in which truth, beauty, and intellectual consideration are condemned and destroyed.
6. What the frack?! A hat tip to our pals Dick and Debbie at RichardYoung.com for alerting us to this sage analysis from Manhattan Contrarian’s Francis Menton on how America’s energy output has (an overrated) Russia . . . over a barrel. From his piece:
It couldn’t be more obvious that the thing that has dramatically weakened Russia is the oil and gas price collapse brought about by the American fracking revolution. Everything else about dealing with Russia is of minor significance by comparison. Yet the heart of Democratic Party energy policy is the suppression of oil and gas production and/or transport, designed intentionally to drive consumption down by increasing prices. During the Obama years, the administration tried to force down production by refusing permission to drill on government lands; but the frackers beat that by doing their drilling on private land where the government couldn’t stop them. When they Obama administration couldn’t stop production, it then resorted to blocking pipelines so that the oil and gas could not get to market. Trump has reversed that policy, although he continues to face resistance from adverse court decisions, let alone from state environmental regulators in blue states who use their own local environmental laws to block pipelines. Meanwhile, the Green New Deal — endorsed by essentially every candidate for the Democratic nomination for President — would do everything possible to reduce and eliminate U.S. fossil fuel energy production.
Here in New York, our governor and environmental regulators, mostly using the pretext of protecting “clean water,” have managed to block essentially all pipelines that would cross the Hudson River to bring fracked gas from Pennsylvania and points West into New England. New England has been left with a shortage of gas for heating. Result: New England needs to import liquified natural gas from abroad in order to keep its homes warm. And what is the source of that gas? According to World Oil here (on December 28), it’s Russia (of course).
1. The late-breaking spanking-new episode of The Editors features Rich, Charlie, Luke, and Xan dissecting Barr, Biden, and Venezuela. Wisdom awaits you here.
2. On the 101st episode of The Remnant with Jonah Goldberg, we finally hear from our host’s much better half, the fair Jessica Gavora. Will she reveal secrets? Listen here to find out.
3. Dedra Birzer joins John J. Miller on the new episode of The Great Books to discuss Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Scout for it here.
4. More JJM, but this time he’s wearing his Bookmonger chapeau to discuss Alienated America with author Tim Carney. Listen here.
5. Give tax breaks to wealthy LA hoteliers, require cities to build Soviet-style housing, cut government services to boost pay of government workers: On the new episode of Radio Free California, Will and David discuss the liberal plan to wreck Golden State. Catch the new episode here.
6. More Remnant: MBD joins Jonah to talk nationalism, patriotism, and identity, the themes of his new book, My Father Left Me Ireland. Begorrah or be gone! I don’t know what that means, but do listen here.
7. On the new episode of The McCarthy Report, Andy mixes it up with Charlie Cooke, pinch-hitting for the traveling Rich Lowry, to discuss Barr and Mueller. And if that’s not enough, then you have a problem. Hear here.
Lights. Cameras. Critics!
1. Stealing from the new issue of the magazine . . . Ross Douthat, writing his review of Avengers: Endgame with the Notre Dame Cathedral still very much on his mind, finds comparative shallowness in the (“meaningless”) monster hit. From his review:
After the fire at Notre Dame, it was a commonplace that there is no modern equivalent of the Gothic cathedrals—t hat no project nowadays could be toiled at for so long by so many unknown architects and craftsmen, that nothing so vast and elaborate and detailed and complex could emerge as a communal project, the expression of a civilizational rather than an individual genius.
All this is true enough, but if you atend the three-hour experience that is Avengers: Endgame, you may have a sense that you are worshiping in the modern-Hollywood version of the Gothic cathedral. Since the debut of Iron Man in 2008, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has slowly risen like a Chartres above the cinematic countryside, its towers raised by 15 directors, scores of screenwriters and composers, a cast of hundreds, and the technical work of thousands upon thousands more.
All movies are collaborative, and most blockbusters these days are sequels or reboots, but the Marvel Universe is still something else: a unified vision sustained across more than a decade of movie making and 48 hours of total saga running time, at a cost of billions and with global box-office returns approaching $20 billion, with no single actor or director dominating, no single movie standing alone above the pack. To watch its culmination—or, rather, the culmination of this phase, since a universe this profitable must continue—is to feel oneself deep inside a pop-cultural edifice, in which the vault of the central story makes space for countless side chapels and stained-glass memorials, serendipitous reminders that the Marvel Universe is vast and that God’s eye is on the lesser superheroes too.
2. Napalm Alert: 40 years later, Francis Ford Coppola’s just-released Apocalypse Now: Final Cut wins Armond’s accolades, especially relative to Avengers fare. From his review:
As a war film with the hip-cynical soul of hard-boiled detective fiction, Apocalypse Now isn’t merely ironic, it’s aberrant. Why? Film history tells us this was an inevitable expression of Baby Boomers’ ingenuousness. The movie brats who had distinguished American films throughout the Seventies were mostly college-educated draft dodgers, and their output (Hi, Mom!, The Landlord, American Graffiti, Taxi Driver, The Sugarland Express, Stay Hungry, The Driver) fully conveyed that pacifist pessimism. Even George Lucas reinterpreted The Searchers, John Ford’s confrontation with historic American racism, into Star Wars, setting in motion Hollywood’s juvenile destiny.
The style-less Star Wars launched American cinema into infantilism. It instilled a taste for childish, mundane, B-movie fantasy absent visual creativity — a new low — whereas the sensibility in Apocalypse Now was ambivalent. Mixing pessimism with astonishment, it expanded cultural unease on a grand 70mm scale (richly photographed by Vittorio Storaro).
The opening scene is extraordinary film-student art. Coppola mounts an unforgettable visual montage of Willard’s Saigon-hotel nervous breakdown: his panicked upside-down eyes, enflamed images of destroyed forestry, and an annoying, time-ticking ceiling fan are intercut with traumatic, roaring helicopter blades. The film works best employing such collages. Overlapping close-ups (Willard’s face, Kurtz’s face, and Asian statuary) are especially cinematic — unrushed imagery that inspires thought and feeling.
3. Kyle Smith sees one flaw in the new French comedy, Olivier Assaya’s Non-Fiction: It lacks comedy. From the review:
This being a French movie, there is much philandering. And this being a French movie, the cheating gets handled in a very particular way. Discussion of the matter stays on the moral and emotional level of “Can you believe this guy I’m married to? He left the toilet seat up again.” When people have heated discussions in the film, they tend to be about things like whether blogging counts as writing.
The bed-hopping on the surface of the film is of less interest to Assayas, though, than a pair of dueling dualisms: the split between our digital and analogue selves, and the split between our true selves and how we come across in works of fiction (such as films). The writer who presents his books as novels, even though they are barely disguised bits of memoir, stands revealed by a text, which in turn is not a text but a picture that refers back to how a detail was changed in one of his books. Tech is rerouting his life even as he resists it. The editor who pushes for more digitization of his field discovers the value in going in a surprisingly analog direction: publishing coloring books for adults. The meta-fictional element gets stepped up when the characters start talking about Juliette Binoche, as Binoche herself sits there playing Selena. Selena allows that she has Binoche’s email address but cannot share it because “that’s not done.”
4. Armond finds Zhang Yimou’s Shadow to be a striking “visual tone poem” with “a cliffhanger more breathtaking than anything in the Marvel Comics Universe.” From the review:
But, most remarkably, the film’s political conspiracy and moral fascination contain such depth of insight that Shadow achieves what deserves to be called visual Shakespeare. (Coriolanus and Measure for Measure immediately come to mind.) The characters’ shared secrets are acted out through private tricks and public hoaxes in scenes that achieve perfect visual expression of human passion: Yu’s sister (Guan Xiaotong) does a deceptive umbrella dance for male soldiers to demonstrate the advantage of “a feminine touch” when fighting. A zither challenge intended to expose Jing and Yu’s deceit is performed spectacularly, with arms spread and long hair alight from their condor-wing movements.
And the wuxia battle scenes are both majestic and brutal, as in Jing’s siege of General Yang’s stronghold through warriors using specially constructed steel umbrellas made of lethal blades to slide downhill. This startling image (red blood splashes the monochrome) updates Kurosawa’s great illusion of Shakespeare’s Birnam Wood in Throne of Blood (Macbeth).
Thanks to the war, the famous “they” have determined, the Saint Louis Browns were able to win their one measly pennant. Which was won quite dramatically.
The pennant was grabbed in 1944, on the final day of the season (October 1) in the last of a four-game at-home series against the Mighty Yankees. The Browns had lead the AL by as many as seven games in mid-August, but then went on an 8–17 run. Come Labor Day, they were trailing the Yanks by half a game, and come the 18th, the Browns trailed the Tigers by 1.5 games. And then baseball’s most hapless franchise (even the Phillies had once played in the World Series) went on a tear, winning 11 of its last 12 games. It entered its final home series tied with the Tigers, and promptly swept the Yankees, regaining first and the AL championship. The boozed-up and aging Sig Jakucki was brilliant in the 5–2 defeat of the Bronx Bombers: He tossed a complete-game six-hitter. Over in Detroit, at Briggs Stadium, the Tigers were losing to the last-place Senators, 4–1.
The star of the Browns’ victory, though, was replacement outfielder Chet Laabs. Just two years earlier he had clobbered 27 home runs (the second-highest number that season in the AL), but in 1944, playing in just 66 games, he hit only five. Happily for the Browns, two of them came on that sunny October Sunday at Sportsman’s Park. Laabs knocked in four runs (the Browns’ great shortstop, Vern Stephens, knocked in the other with a solo homer) to gain the franchise its sole AL championship before it split for Baltimore a decade later. And there was much rejoicing.
Yep, the Browns lost the “Trolley” World Series that year to the Cardinals, but — so what. Here we are today in 2019, ready to celebrate the 75th anniversary of this worthy and truly singular accomplishment — and wondering if the Baltimore Orioles will admit they are the ex-Browns and concoct some festivities!
Spying an opportunity, Bill W from out California way, likely having just undangled a participle, strikes:
You seemed so disappointed that last week’s Jolt brought no attacks from the Grammar Police, so I thought I would put on [the] GP badge and comment on a misplaced modifier, specifically a misplaced prepositional phrase, that slipped into an otherwise exemplary Jolt.
In The Corner, Michael Strain slams Warren’s plan for being ridiculous.
I am not sure what Elizabeth Warren’s plan for being ridiculous is — but it’s working!
Kidding aside, I continue to look forward to your column each week.
My nits, freshly picked, thank you. Any and all are welcome to send similar correctives relating to style, grammar, spelling, and, well, intelligence.
We pray that any and all who have ever said, “Hey! I really want to go on one of those NR cruises . . .,” will stop with the talking and get with the booking (again, done at www.nrcruise.com). And we further pray that those who have a big honkin’ pang of guilt about never contributing to a past NR webathon will man up or woman up or zir up and donate. Finally, we pray that, with the weather getting warmer and some now sleeping with windows open, neighbors with yapping dogs will not let them out at 5AM to water the grass and make a din over the squirrels and chipmunks.
God bless you and yours, including yours with four legs,
P.S.: Next week, Gran’s recipe.