The Weekend Jolt

National Review

Cancel Your Own Go**am Sedition

Dear Weekend Jolter,

One can imagine the volt-crammed thunderbolts Bill Buckley would be hurling today at the new-fangled Marxists whose great grandpas and grannies he first engaged in battle back in the early 1950s. The author of some five dozen books, one of the best was one of his last, the 2007 collection Cancel Your Own Go**am Subscription (asterisks provided by Your Third Commandment-Sensitive Correspondent). The title clearly lends itself to the roiling cultural revolution turning American cities into places of mayhem and anarchy.

Bill was a realist. Convinced conservatism’s central battles — against the indoctrinating Left, against radical Islamofascism — would never be a thing of the past, he planned for National Review, his prized creation (approaching its 65th anniversary this November) to be in it for the long haul, to fight battles even Bill might not have foreseen: for example, that the liberal-biased media would itself become, institution-wide, a thing of hard-core ideology, of fabrication, of madness, of canceling.

Bill founded NR in the company of ex-Communists who knew all too well that in places Soviet, the truth was an enemy of unmitigated power. The original NR crew knew well the practices under Uncle Joe — that the enemies of the vanguard (which always included former members of the vanguard) were not only to be eliminated from the planet, but from history (of course, after first pleading guilty). Cancelling — whether through the old ways of a bullet in the back of the head, document forgeries, photo retouching, or the new ways of social-media stonings — is and always has been a critical Marxist tool.

From its 1955 origins, this was the very kind of history National Review was tasked to stand athwart, to yell STOP at, to battle and beat back with truth and wisdom and smart-a**ery. Rich Lowry and the current crew have been bequeathed this duty, have embraced it, and are diligent and unafraid to carry it out, now, a month hence, a year and a decade and a century hence. This is, after all, in the term used by great James Burnham, a “protracted conflict.” Were truer words ever spoken?

About that hence: There is no hence without you. NR operates under a fiscal-year structure which concludes soon, which prompts us to embark on a webathon. We seek to raise a sorely needed $250,000 (twice that and then some is the true deficit, in case you were wondering) from fellow conservatives who are keen to see NR stay strong during this exhaustive fight against these agents of sedition — against these incendiary ideologues who lie about America and about Americans, these twisted malcontents who deride our core beliefs and the blessings of liberty, these caustic hypocrites who seek the destruction. We ask this: that you lend NR material aid to stay in the thick of it, of this fight that is our fight and your fight, so we do not falter because of lack of funds, so we continue to grow because of the confidence that NR is a reliable source of real news, of sane analysis, of sharp criticism of the foes of liberty.

Will you help us . . .  cancel this sedition?

That’s a direct request. What might be your response? If you need more incentive to lend support, perhaps Rich Lowry’s appeal will sway you. If you need no persuasion, then donate here.

Speaking of Our Esteemed Editor . . . he finds official Portland (fun fact: George H. W. Bush’s term for the long-time rioter haven was “Little Beirut”) to be a disgrace, and he’s right to contend the hotbed of destruction and Antifa theatrics and Pelosi-backslapped mutineers is such. From Rich’s piece:

Although the federal courthouse has done nothing to provoke protesters and has been standing at the same spot since 1997, it has been a constant target. Protesters have smashed its glass doors, covered its exterior with graffiti, and repeatedly attempted to light it on fire. This has been happening since at least early July.

True to form, protesters over the weekend took down fencing and lit a fire at the building’s entryway. As a statement from the Portland police put it, “dozens of people with shields, helmets, gas masks, umbrellas, bats, and hockey sticks approached the doors” of the courthouse — but surely it was just a misunderstanding that led the federal officers to believe they had to repulse them with tear gas.

This isn’t hard: It is the people attacking federal property who bear moral responsibility for what’s happening in Portland. In all the cities around the country where nihilistic mobs aren’t trying to burn down symbols of our justice system, there’s no enhanced presence of federal officers.

The feds haven’t been wearing badges with their names and have been using unmarked cars — for fear of retaliation against the officers involved and mob actions against vehicles. Both are unquestionably legal tactics. According to DHS, the officers are wearing the insignias of their agencies and unique identifiers; they are arresting only people suspected of involvement of attacks on federal property; and they are identifying themselves to arrestees, although not to crowds.

Perhaps these officers should be more clearly identified, but there’s no case whatsoever for calling them, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has, “stormtroopers” who are “kidnapping protesters.” The arrest of a man named Mark Pettibone has gotten a lot of press attention. He says he did nothing wrong and was arrested by federal agents, who took him to the federal courthouse and read him his Miranda rights, before releasing him.

Andy McCarthy, at, weighed in on Portland’s lunacy, arguing what should be the perspective from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. In his piece, Andy argued that the President has a means of responding, one based in his Constitutional duty / obligation as POTUS to enforce federal laws, pinhead mayors and do-squat governors be damned. From the commentary:

Back in June, in the mayhem that followed George Floyd’s death after being arrested by Minneapolis police, there was a raging public debate about whether the president should deploy the National Guard and perhaps other U.S. military forces to stabilize cities and reestablish order.

As a matter of law and history, the commander-in-chief has such authority; there are, however, certain circumstances in which the Constitution calls for waiting until the state government has asked for federal military assistance.

Law enforcement is a completely different matter.

Enforcing federal law is an independent obligation of the chief executive. Consequently, the president and the Justice Department never have to wait for a state to ask for federal intervention.

Federal law enforcement agencies may and routinely do take investigative and enforcement action within the territorial jurisdiction of the states.

They need not provide notice to, much less a request for permission from, the state government and its police agencies.

Andy explores POTUS alternatives further at The Hill. Check it out. All that asked, all that recommended, there is so very much in this edition of the WJ. Do enjoy the smorgasbord of conservatism that awaits you.


1. John Lewis passed away. The civil rights hero deserved to be recognized for such. Also worth remembering: his partisan hackery. From the editorial:

Lewis was beaten 40 times by cops, state troopers, or hostile mobs; he spent 31 days in Mississippi’s notorious Parchman Farm prison. He was the first chairman of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, a post he was ousted from by Stokely Carmichael, who was eager to use other weapons. After his years of activism, he entered politics, contesting a primary in 1986 for a congressional seat against another young black leader, Julian Bond. Bond was polished, lighter-skinned. Lewis told primary voters they should pick a work horse, not a show horse. He beat Bond narrowly, then won and held his Atlanta seat ever since.

And his congressional career was . . . almost indistinguishable from any other left-wing black Democrat. He voted against wars, and for programs that often distressingly failed to deliver their idealistic promises. In 2010, he was one of three congressmen who claimed that Tea Party members screamed racial epithets and spat at them as they walked from Capitol Hill. The charge of spitting was withdrawn, and no tape was ever produced that captured the epithets.

Yet in that aged form, encrusted by partisanship and reverence, that brave young man could still be discerned. His fellow Georgia congressman Newt Gingrich was wont to remind conservative, white audiences that Lewis bore literal scars from the fight for civil rights — rights that were promised in the post–Civil War amendments, but took a century, and the efforts of the brave, to make real. R.I.P.

2. President Trump’s COVID performance — magnified on his interview with Chris Wallace — is harming his presidency and chance to be reelected. From the editorial:

His responses on COVID in particular were characteristic of his posture through much of the crisis. He blamed testing for the recent increase in cases — partly true, but positivity rates have soared in the states with major spikes in cases. He claimed, falsely, that other countries don’t do tests. He complained that no one talks about Mexico and Brazil, which aren’t really material to what’s happening in, say, Florida. He argued over our mortality rate, not quite accurately. And so on.

The overall sense was of the president trying to litigate his way out of admitting any U.S. failures or the seriousness of the crisis (although he did at one point say, in the midst of all the fog, “I take responsibility always for everything”).

Given that the virus had reached our shores and begun spreading in communities earlier than first thought, and given the understandable hesitation of authorities around the country to take the extreme step of locking down, it was inevitable that we would get hit hard like many other advanced Western countries. After initial stumbles on testing, the administration’s substantive response has often been adept and energetic; any fair-minded observer should admire, for example, Admiral Brett Giroir’s work supporting the testing supply chain.

The administration is often criticized for not nationalizing the overall response, but this would have required more in-depth knowledge of on-the-ground conditions in various localities than the federal government is ever going to have. As for pushing for reopening, the president was right to want to do it — lockdowns are a blunt-force instrument that have considerable downsides — but the way he went about expressing that view contributed to the unsteadiness of his leadership.

3. We have some thoughts as to what should be left out of the COVID relief bill. From the editorial:

Senate Republicans have made a good start by ditching two bad ideas. One is President Trump’s demand for a big reduction in the payroll tax. Under the right circumstances, cutting that tax would be a very good idea. It does not, however, fit the needs of the moment very well. The millions who are out of work would not receive any direct benefit from it, while many people who don’t need help would. Federal revenue, meanwhile, would drop. Deficits will unfortunately have to rise over the short term, but they should do so only for good reasons.

The other abandoned idea is Senator Chuck Schumer’s demand for the return of an unlimited deduction for state and local taxes. Republicans capped it in the tax law they enacted in late 2017. They were right to cap it; if anything, it should be eliminated. The deduction makes it easier for state governments to increase their spending and taxes. Even if the Democrats had the better of the argument over the policy, however, it would not bear any relation to the country’s needs during the COVID pandemic. The people who would benefit from the expanded deduction — high earners in high-tax states — overlap very little with the people in dire straits.

Expanded unemployment benefits made sense at a time when our national anti-COVID strategy included temporary lockdowns. Those higher benefits were, among other things, a way to maximize the effectiveness of those lockdowns by enabling compliance. But the increase was much too large in many cases, with people getting more money for not working than they had gotten on the job. As a recovery gets underway, we want work to resume — which means those benefits should be tapered off.

The Cancel Counter

National Review has run a regularly updated account of the most absurd acts of cancellation. Honcho’d by Zach Evan and John Loftus, it can be found here. Here, as a sample, is Item #82:

Emory & Henry College in Virginia has announced that the school will consider changing its wasp mascot, because it is indicative of the acronym WASP, which might foster an exclusive and discriminatory environment for students who are not White Anglo-Saxon Protestants.

Do visit the Cancel Counter (like voting in Chicago) early and often.

We’ll See Your Dozen and Raise You a Half More Examples of Unmitigated Wisdom Published This Week Past by NRO

1. More on Portland: David Harsanyi fingers the problem. It’s not as the Law, but the lawlessness. From the commentary:

If it were up to me, I’d leave Portland to the anarchists and their political accomplices. But federal law enforcement — including agencies such as the DEA, FBI, ICE, ATF, Department of Homeland Security, and Marshal Service — regularly operate across the country. Sometimes they make arrests, and sometimes they do so after going undercover. This happens under every administration, every day, and it often happens for far less compelling reasons. As far as we know, cops haven’t broken any laws in the streets of Portland. The protesters who cover their faces have broken tons.

With this in mind, it’s been instructive watching many of the same characters who cheer on governors who take undemocratic emergency powers and shut down houses of worship without the consent of the people — and who sometimes arrest Americans for playing Wiffle ball, attending church, or cutting hair — act as if policing portends the end of democracy. The same people who incessantly clamor to empower the federal government when it suits their purposes now act as if protecting a federal courthouse is the Reichstag fire.

MSNBC’s John Heilemann says that Trump’s sending federal police into Portland is a “trial run” for using “force” to “steal this election.” In a piece titled “Trump’s Occupation of American Cities Has Begun,” Michelle Goldberg, somehow still allowed to freely opine at the New York Times, says that “fascism” is already here. House speaker Nancy Pelosi calls the police “stormtroopers” who are “kidnapping protesters.”

All of these contentions are ugly conspiracy theories, hyperbolic allegations meant to fuel partisan paranoia before an election. Even if we accept the criticisms of law enforcement, the driving problem, and it’s been happening to various degrees in a number of major cities, is that mayors are allowing “protesters” to trample on public and private property. They allow it because they share the same left-wing sensibilities. But protesting should never be a license to anarchy.

2. Rich Lowry offers another take on the Northwest madness, and charges the federal response to the mayhem is legal and proportionate. From the piece:

As Mark Morgan, the acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, put it at the press conference, “We’re not going to allow somebody to walk up to the federal property, assault a federal officer, or agent, and then, because then they walk off federal property, then we’re going to say, ‘Oh, we can’t go arrest you,’ that doesn’t make sense. Of course, we’re going to arrest you, and we have the authority to make that arrest, and we will continue to do that. What this means is, we are not patrolling the streets of Portland, as has been falsely reported multiple times in the past few days.”

In an interview, Ken Cuccinelli, the acting deputy secretary of DHS, describes the viral video from an arrest late last week that jump-started a lot of the outrage: “The video starts one or two blocks after a foot pursuit where the officers in question had approached an individual who appeared to match the description of someone who had assaulted two federal officers about an hour beforehand. So it wasn’t a day ago, it was an hour before. And [they] identified themselves as federal agents verbally. And of course they’re wearing the same uniforms they’ve been wearing for weeks with . . . Department of Homeland Security indicia on both shoulders and ‘police’ on front and back, and the guy took off running.”

“So they ran after him,” he continues, “and he stopped running. Ironically, he ran to the courthouse, and at that point they caught up with him, detained him.”

These aren’t rogue arrests, but are made in keeping with all relevant procedures. “The U.S. Attorney’s office is consulted on every engagement that our officers are doing,” explained Kris Cline, the principal deputy director of the Federal Protective Service (FPS) at the same press conference. “The U.S. Attorney’s office is also at our roll call every evening to make sure that officers and agents are aware of the use of force, rules of engagement, authority, jurisdiction. They spend a lot of time on that.”

3. Steve Stampley finds the Lincoln Project to be a thing of grifting. From the piece:

The four founders of the Lincoln Project — Steve Schmidt, Rick Wilson, George Conway, and John Weaver — introduced their new venture to the world in a New York Times op-ed in which they described their aims as to prevent President Trump’s reelection by “persuading enough disaffected conservatives, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents in swing states” to vote against him and to take down as many Republican members of Congress as possible.

But the project is a scam — little more than the most brazen election-season grift in recent memory. And it is working. As the ragtag band of three otherwise unemployed strategists plus one lawyer hoped, the allure of Republican-on-Republican violence has proven irresistible to the MSNBC set. Per their most recent FEC filing, the group has raised $19.4 million since its inception this past November.

The gap between the group’s rhetoric and its actions is enormous. The Times op-ed declared that “national Republicans have done far worse than simply march along to Mr. Trump’s beat. Their defense of him is imbued with an ugliness, a meanness and a willingness to attack and slander those who have shed blood for our country, who have dedicated their lives and careers to its defense and its security, and whose job is to preserve the nation’s status as a beacon of hope.” And yet the group’s focus thus far has been on vulnerable Senate Republicans, notably the moderate Susan Collins and the mainstream Cory Gardner, who haven’t exhibited any such behavior. Neither has Joni Ernst, another target.

The Lincoln Project’s ads don’t attack these GOP senators for supporting profligate federal spending, contributing to explosive debt, or enabling feckless foreign policy, nor do they bash President Trump for his incoherent trade policy or his failure to tame an ascendant administrative state. Rather, they attack Republicans from the left, in terms that please the Lincoln Project’s predominantly progressive funders. Rarely, across dozens of ads, is a political principle recognizable to anyone as center-right to be found. Is the Lincoln Project aware of who Abraham Lincoln was?

4. More Lincoln Project: Dan McLaughlin provides the body-slam. From the analysis:

First up, the “Lincoln Project,” a political action committee founded by three former Republican campaign consultants — Steve Schmidt, Rick Wilson, and John Weaver — and former Republican lawyer George Conway. You may know Schmidt mainly as John McCain’s 2008 campaign manager and for helming Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2006 reelection campaign as California governor. Weaver was instrumental in McCain’s 2000 campaign (the 2008 campaign only took off after ditching Weaver), and the 2012 Jon Huntsman and 2016 John Kasich campaigns. In between, he theatrically left the Republican Party once before over George W. Bush. His Huntsman and Kasich campaigns veered heavily into sneering-at-Republican-voters-for-media-plaudits territory. In 2019, Weaver registered as a foreign agent for a Russian state-owned energy company.

Still, these men are entitled to their view of Trump. They are entitled to their idiosyncratic strategy of running ads aimed primarily at getting Trump’s attention and trying to hurt his feelings so that he lashes out, rather than ads aimed primarily at persuading voters. They are perhaps less entitled to present themselves as disaffected Republicans while catering to a donor base of Democrats — much less the questionable, murky financial transactions that Steve Stampley’s piece this morning details.

Where the Lincoln Project leaves behind any pretense at being a Republican or conservative project at all is in concentrating its efforts heavily on mainstream, moderate, and otherwise very not-Trumpy Republican Senators — Susan Collins, Cory Gardner, Joni Ernst, Martha McSally, and Thom Tillis — and doing so mainly by running ads attacking them from the left, not the right. Some of these folks hold seats that, if won by the Democrats, would be extremely hard to win back. And if your claim is that Republicans need to be defeated to learn some sort of lesson, there is no evidence that burning down the Republican caucus on Capitol Hill by removing its more moderate and temperate members will make it less Trumpy. As I predicted in 2018, that was not the lesson taken by House Republicans from losing power, and it is not how the Republican Parties of California, Virginia, or New York have responded to losing power. What moderates the party is the need to pursue the building of majorities, not the experience of the wilderness, where performative rage is more lucrative.

Also, stocking the Senate with Democrats while Joe Biden builds a lead in the polls is a recipe for removing checks from the Democratic agenda rather than building checks on Trump. Does that concern the Lincoln Project? Quite the contrary. In an interview with the Washington Post’s left-wing writer Greg Sargent, Weaver not only pledges to support the Democrats’ election-law agenda after Biden’s election, but to demand that Republican senators back the Democratic policy agenda more broadly.

5. Victor Davis Hanson lambasts the woke-ness of the NBA. From the essay:

During the COVID-19 epidemic, the national quarantine, and the demonstrations, violence, and cultural revolution that has followed the death of George Floyd, the NBA has not been shy about political activism. Players, coaches, ex-players, and obsequious sports writers have all virtue-signaled the nation about America’s supposed sins.

Indeed, part of the NBA woke/hip/cool/edgy brand is to trash the “establishment” that has ensured the foundations of its multibillion-dollar-empire. In scary marketing fashion, NBA players, current and retired, and their acolytes in popular culture have veneered their 1950s-style corporate fealty with woke talk about BLM, the “Jews,” eugenics, Farrakhan, and the usual totems of “resistance.”

Their basic message for young consumers is that you can hate the man and still wear $400 sneakers — the same way that you can wear a jersey with an edgy logo during the game and then retire at night into your Malibu compound. In the spirit of medieval indulgences, paid to help the sinner enter heaven, the more that the players become corporate cut-out pitchmen, the more they voice left-wing boilerplate to square the circle of being privileged rich people who nonetheless cling to street cred for the sake of advertising.

No one knows how long this 30-year disingenuousness can continue. It may come to a head this fall, when the league will soon deal with some players’ plans to kneel during the national anthem next season. The NBA has approved of individual players wearing politicized slogans on their jerseys — politicized in the sense of trashing the U.S., but not offering an ill word about Chinese Communist atrocities. The message is, “Ridicule your own democracy all you want, but censor your incorrect thoughts about racist and totalitarian China.”

Joe Fan at home is supposed to watch all this and say, “That’s right! We sure do need more multimillionaires to trash of our flag, anthem, and country! Sign me up for more cable ESPN.”

In other words, the NBA and lots of its players are both athletes and social activists — but with very selective agendas, given that the league is as critical of America as it is silent about China’s monstrous behavior. During the COVID-19 epidemic, few NBA players noted that Chinese businesses were turning away African students and workers, as the government singled them out for forced COVID-19 testing.

The hypocrisy over China has become a touchstone for lots of long-known but taboo subjects in the NBA. Despite all the virtue-signaling about diversity, the league, like the NFL, is one of the most nondiverse institutions in America. 

6. Kevin Williamson finds America’s medical associations are increasingly interested in and activist on political agendas . . . to the harm of their own credibility. From the article:

There are a lot of people making a lot of bad decisions in regard to COVID-19. I wish they would make better decisions. But if some people do not seem to believe that they are getting a straight answer from the medical community about the pandemic, it may be because they remember not having got a straight answer from the medical community about gun rights, climate change, population control, abortion, and much else. If some people believe that the doctors and their organizations are playing politics with the pandemic, it may be because they remember the doctors and their organizations playing politics with a lot of other issues before.

For example: The efforts of the American Medical Association and similar organizations to medicalize the debate over gun control, part of a larger effort from progressives to pathologize dissent, is typical of the pattern. Doctors, like scientists, enjoy a great deal of prestige, much of it well-earned. That prestige is rooted in expertise that is specialized. But like the businessman-politician who argues that what’s needed is to run the IRS or OSHA as though it were a business, physicians mistakenly generalize their actual expertise and experience. It’s the same thing behind Michael Jordan’s baseball career: “I’m good at this, so I must be good at that.” And so a guy who belongs to a professional association in which there are other people who treat patients for gunshot wounds comes to believe that he has special knowledge about the questions of regulation and constitutional jurisprudence related to gun control, and that he has special moral and intellectual standing to speak on these questions.

And so it is, “Gun control is a public-health emergency,” “Population control is a public-health emergency,” “Climate change is a public-health emergency,” etc. But when the AMA speaks about climate change, it does not speak about the actual medical questions related to climate change; instead, it engages in simple, ordinary political activism, e.g., endorsing changes in the electricity-generating industry as though the world’s physicians collectively knew the first thing about operating utilities. Physicians are entitled to their opinion on this as citizens; but as physicians, they have a responsibility to invoke their medical authority only where it is actually applicable. To do otherwise is to damage the credibility of their profession — with the results that can be seen all around us right now.

7. There was supposed to have been an “Automation Revolution.” Daniel Tenreiro checks out a study that wonders what came of it. From the piece:

Not quite, say economists Keller Scholl and Robin Hanson. In a paper published last month, they found that over the past 20 years, both the level and growth rate of job automation have been more or less flat. According to their analysis of 1,505 expert reports published by the Occupational Information Network (O*NET), while many workers are losing their jobs to machines, they are doing so at roughly the same rate as in the past.

Among the 261 occupational characteristics reported by O*NET — such as the degrees to which jobs require creativity, physical strength, or numeracy — two stand out in predicting automation: the importance of machinery and the importance of routine tasks. Unsurprisingly, assembly-line workers and data-entry clerks are particularly vulnerable to automation.

But factory work has seen a trend of automation going back several decades. Those sounding the alarms on AI have warned that not only factory workers but also skilled “knowledge” workers would face competition from machines. Indeed, algorithms are said to be capable of customer service, medical diagnostics, and news writing, among numerous other tasks. Yet the analysis of Scholl and Hanson indicates that workers are far more likely to be displaced by relatively dated technologies: manufacturing machinery, word processors, and spreadsheets. In other words, the types of jobs being automated haven’t changed much, despite technological advances.

The study also considers the vulnerability of jobs to automation by computers and machine-learning algorithms in light of two metrics devised by academics, called “computerizability” and “machine-learning suitability.” While the potential of digital technologies and AI to replace a given occupation appears to be a strong predictor of automation, its significance disappears when other factors, such as routineness, are taken into consideration. Which is to say that the “threat” posed by artificial intelligence is more or less the same as that posed by older technologies.

8. John O’Sullivan assesses the main reactions critics of the Harper’s letter. From the analysis:

The first dismisses the authors’ concerns for free thought and free speech as almost eccentric interests at a time when a pandemic is raging and mass social protests for racial justice are spreading through America. That invites the retort: If that’s so, why are you taking an equal amount of trouble to sign a counter-petition or write a column questioning their set of priorities? Why are you not taking up nursing or handing out Black Lives Matter petitions on street corners? They might be doing those things, to be sure; but so might the signers of the Harper’s letter. Considered coolly, moreover, the objection is a silly one: a claim that you can’t defend freedom and chew gum at the same time. Its intent, though, is more sinister. It hints that some discreditable motive prompted their letter. What might that be?

Well, the second theme is that the Harper’s authors are protecting their own positions and ability to write what they wish rather than helping lesser-known writers from disadvantaged social groups, including some who have been blocked or persecuted, to gain access to good jobs in literature or journalism. But the principles advanced in the letter, if they were generally accepted, would go a long way to achieving those ends. Protection of free speech is more important to striving newcomers than to established authors or scholars. For the writers who are least likely to be subject to cancellation in practice are those who are wealthy and popular enough to defy Twitter mobs and corporations nervous of Twitter mobs — i.e., writers like those who signed the Harper’s letter. In defending free speech, they were acting altruistically at least as much as selfishly and giving greater protection and opportunities to others.

That’s so even though there’s no obligation on someone entering a trade or profession to demand its reordering to create jobs for applicants from particular social groups, let alone make personal sacrifices to do so. That might be a virtuous thing to do. And there are in fact any number of prizes, scholarships, and special programs for young, minority, and women writers in publishing and the media. But it might also be a quixotic enterprise if the group is less represented because most of its members aren’t particularly interested in working in that trade. You don’t find many Norwegian-American hip-hop artists, for instance, and a special recruitment program would probably either fail to recruit any or encourage worse hip-hop. Just so when it comes to getting and keeping a writer’s job: It’s not enough to be young, a member of a minority, a woman, a trans person, or a radical progressive; you should have talent too.

The third theme is, quite simply, that there’s no such thing as “cancel culture” and no threat to free speech except the failure of the mainstream media to provide more employment to minority, female, and radical voices. Charles Blow of the New York Times gives it straight: Anyone is free to write what he wishes, and if he voices conservative views, his disgusted readers quite properly have the right to stop reading him. Sure, he’ll have to go into another line of work — but that’s accountability.

9. More Dan McLaughlin: He mocks the “stutter” defense of Joe Biden. From the Corner post:

In Biden’s case, one of the things that is really noticeable lately is how often he stumbles verbally even in taped advertisements shot and paid for by his campaign. The defense newly raised in 2019-20 for this is to point out that Biden overcame a youthful stutter in the early 1950s, and that this still infects his speech patterns today. Here’s the thing, though: Nobody had to make this argument for Biden when he ran for the Senate in 1972, or when he ran for president in 1988 and 2008, or when he chaired the Clarence Thomas–Anita Hill hearings in 1990, or when he ran for vice president and debated Sarah Palin in 2008 and Paul Ryan in 2012. The Biden we saw throughout those years was a gaffe machine, in part for having a reputation for running his mouth far faster than his brain could keep up with. His penchant for never-ending opening statements at Senate hearings was legendary. He prevailed over Ryan in debate entirely by the force of his verbal ability to shout over Ryan’s answers, cutting him off whenever he called Biden out on anything. In the 2020 debates, Biden repeatedly cut off his own answers to comply with time limits and avoid interruptions. Biden was always hard to fact-check because of his ability to generate newly-minted fabrications on the fly at high velocity, many of which were new to the listener . . .

10. John Loftus has spent time in Hollywood, and advises those we seek a career there to be especially woke in the era of Lefty McCarthyism. From the piece:

Meanwhile, distinguished filmmakers preach hiring practices that discriminate — but in the ‘right’ way. Selma director Ava DuVernay wrote on Twitter, “Everyone has a right to their opinion. And we — black producers with hiring power — have the right not to hire those who diminish us.”  She goes on to say: “So, to the white men in this thread . . .  if you don’t get that job you were up for, kindly remember . . .  bias can go both ways. This is 2020 speaking.”

Jordan Peele, the Oscar-winning director and screenwriter, articulated the sentiment as bluntly as DuVernay. “I don’t see myself casting a white dude as the lead in my movie. Not that I don’t like white dudes. But I’ve seen that movie before.” Responding to Peele’s statement anonymously in the Daily Mail, one executive quipped, “If a white director said that about hiring a black actor, their career would be over in a heartbeat.”

As someone who has spent time in Hollywood offices, I can attest to the environment. Almost everyone assumes you are woke. If you aren’t: Good luck. To have a career one must fake it — and fake it well. Or else buy into the ideology, wholeheartedly. Dropping a hint, however harmless, that you stray from the progressive culture is like dipping your leg into a bathtub full of sharks. You cannot escape unscathed. When some of my ‘friends’ and peers discovered I held conservative views, they soon after ignored me. One friend said I had committed “social suicide.”

In addition to this more straightforward hostility, there are also many in Hollywood who simply embrace woke ideology to get ahead. They will do or say whatever they can to rub elbows with producers, talent agents, C-list stars, single-parent SAG members — anyone who can help their careers.

11. Michael Brendan Dougherty profiles the fake-news reality of the modern American (fake)newsroom. From the piece:

Last week, the Times ran a story about a 30-year-old Texas man who believed COVID-19 was a hoax and contracted the disease at a “COVID party” before dying. Every detail of the story was uncorroborated, which made it exactly the kind of urban legend that moral panics produce. Though it was viral on social media, because it confirmed all the prejudices of the Times’s energized liberal readership, the Times began to edit the story as it was criticized here in National Review and in Wired. The entire tone of the story went from credulous to skeptical, but you wouldn’t have noticed the difference if you hadn’t been paying close attention, because no editor’s notes were appended to it announcing the changes. The Times has begun “stealth editing” its stories in this manner more and more lately, effacing the traditional journalistic ethic that seeks to keep an intact record not just of the news, but of how the reporting of the news evolves.

Also last week, The Atlantic ran an essay, “How I Became a Police Abolitionist,” that roots the activism of its author in a heart-rending story of a 16-year-old gunned down by the police in a rec center for failing to put his name on a sign-in sheet. Christopher Bedford, at The Federalist, a conservative web outlet that has far fewer resources than The Atlantic, rather conclusively showed that the story as told was full of holes and likely never happened.

In recent months, the Times has failed to report properly even on its own internal controversies. Take the publication of an op-ed by Senator Tom Cotton, which called for the use of the U.S. military to quell rioting while taking pains to separate rioters from peaceful protesters. The piece caused a freakout among Times staffers that ultimately cost editorial-page editor James Bennet his job. The news desk at the Times, in its own navel-gazing story on the controversy, falsely described Cotton’s op-ed as a call “for the federal government to send the military to suppress protests against police violence in American cities.”

12. Dmitri Solzhenitsyn explains the dreadful state of free speech on American college campuses. From the commentary:

Anecdotally, I can speak to a disturbing event that happened over this past month at Harvard. A friend of mine recently posted a comment to a group chat for the Harvard class of 2023: “UPenn seems to be letting the majority of students come back.” A perfectly innocuous thing to say. But a harsh response immediately followed: “The way in which you all have the privilege to ignore the crises that are affecting the world right now. Coronavirus. White Supremacy and Anti-Blackness. . . . It actually sickens me that you all perpetuate and participate in these asinine conversations when you know we aren’t going back to campus.” My friend attempted to defend herself, asking, in essence: How can you think to shame me for asking a perfectly innocent question? You know nothing about my background, what I’ve been through, or my beliefs.

But the ball was already rolling. Activist bullies started chiming in, shaming my friend for speaking up. When others tried to defend her or to make a broader point about the state of free speech on college campuses, they were drowned out by mindless slogans: “Human rights are not your thought experiment.” “Civil discourse is the language of the oppressor.” Another friend of mine argued that we live in a free country; he, like my first friend, went on to be shamed on Twitter for being “problematic.”

College campuses are in the middle of a cultural cascade. Educators can face massive backlash for even slightly deviating from the activist manifesto, such as by suggesting that the police should not be defunded or by refusing to give special treatment to minorities enrolled in their courses. Students don’t fare much better: A UNC survey finds that 68 percent of college conservatives report needing to self-censor to avoid backlash. And administrators, far from drawing the line at the most egregious instances of speech suppression, pander to the loudest activists, thereby undermining a healthy culture of discourse and inquiry.

13. More Dmitri: He lauds the Hong Kongers who keep at the cause of freedom, despite the consequences of imprisonment from the brutal Commie overlords. From the article:

After the oppression bill became law for Hong Kongers, a chilling effect spread throughout the commercial hub: Pro-democracy activists quieted down, faced with the once-unthinkable reality of being arrested for standing peacefully in public places and voicing their desire for freedom. Shopkeepers were compelled to remove customers’ protest artwork and pro-democracy sticky notes from their shops lest the government punish them for endorsing the democracy camp’s message. Protesters deleted their social-media accounts, as speech that had been legal just days previously was now a potential crime against the government. Members of the press in Hong Kong began to feel as though they could not write freely and objectively without punitive consequences; the New York Times, over the next year, will relocate a third of its staff to Seoul.

These many fears are warranted: The oppression law outright bans any activity that the Chinese government arbitrarily deems subversive, secessionist, or terrorist, as well as what it deems collusion with foreign forces. Indeed, on the anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to its status as a Chinese territory — a day that would normally be marked by mass demonstrations — only a few thousand brave souls took to the streets. Police wielding pepper spray and water cannons nevertheless promptly forced the small crowd to disperse. Almost 400 protesters were arrested, including a 15-year-old girl who was simply waving an independence flag. It is perhaps only a matter of time before the authorities start handing out life-imprisonment sentences for their political enemies — such harsh punishments are permitted under the oppression law — or even worse.

But if there is any silver lining to Hong Kong’s terrifying condition, it is the resilience with which Hong Kong’s democracy activists have met the restrictions of the CCP. Like true Darwinian specimens adapting to adverse conditions, Hong Kong’s protesters have switched up their tactics, bending the measures of the oppression law without breaking them. Since colorful posters with pro-democracy slogans have become synonymous with “subversion” — a big red target for authorities on the prowl — activists have begun to display crafty signs that appear, when seen from afar, to convey pro-democracy messages, but that, on closer inspection, are nothing but squiggles and odd shapes. At least a few activists have already stumped police with such signs, evading arrest. Others have begun to hold up blank white signs, or to put up blank white sticky notes in their shops.

14. More China: Jimmy Quinn profiles the ChiCom botched of its attempts to coverup the imprisonment of Uighur prisoners. From the piece:

The Chinese Communist Party has lied about its concentration camps since it started building them three years ago. It initially denied their existence, but that became an untenable line as satellite imagery and news reports demonstrated otherwise. These days, state media and Chinese diplomats use Western social media to argue that China’s Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims do in fact enjoy a high quality of life, sharing strange propaganda videos of smiling, dancing Uighurs in Xinjiang. Party officials say that the existence of the facilities is part of a counterterror strategy, and they contest the particulars of Western allegations about Xinjiang, such as the number of people detained and whether its slave-labor scheme runs roughshod over human rights. (It does.)

Chinese officials also play offense, though. Earlier this month, the Global Times reported that Beijing was considering a lawsuit against Adrian Zenz, the expert who wrote the forced sterilizations report, and the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, which has published a series of groundbreaking studies on Xinjiang. The lawsuit threat is, of course, laughable: The research produced by Zenz and ASPI is impeccable and all but certainly libel-proof. Instead of substantive criticism, CCP propaganda traffics in ad hominem attacks. Zenz, a well-regarded China researcher, is known in the Chinese state press as a far-right zealot, while ASPI is described as a puppet of American defense contractors. The CCP’s few attempts to actually debunk their research are pitiable. The real purpose seems to be to deter future research and to isolate Zenz and ASPI from others looking into Xinjiang. It remains unclear whether this will work, but the researchers have clearly struck a nerve with Beijing. Zenz recently told Radio Free Asia that the lawsuit threat means that the CCP is “losing the battle” to contest the genocide claims.

Chinese envoys in Western capitals add a more polished gloss to the genocide-denial campaign, but this has also backfired. Liu Xiaoming, China’s ambassador to the U.K., had trouble refuting the drone footage when asked about it by the BBC’s Andrew Marr this weekend. He also failed to reassure viewers that China is not working to lower the Uighur birthrate in Xinjiang, asserting that it has doubled over the past 40 years. Liu’s colleague in Washington, Cui Tiankai, made a similar claim during an interview with Fareed Zakaria on Sunday. Like Liu, though, Cui failed to account for the sharp drop in the birthrate that started a few years ago, coinciding with the advent of Beijing’s most draconian policies in Xinjiang. By appearing before Western audiences, China’s ambassadors have actually called more attention to the CCP’s mass atrocity crimes and failed to sow any doubt about the evidence.

15. Jianli Yang reports on a fed-up India throwing down the gauntlet with its adversarial neighbor, Red China. From the analysis:

China may be a powerful adversary to India, but its bluffs can be called. And that is what India has done in the last two weeks, making a host of decisions that, seen in the perspective of the stand-off with China, represent its resolve and constitute a sustained effort on several fronts — military, diplomatic, economic, social — to make China pay.

Previously, India had never taken sides with or against China on the Hong Kong protests. But this time around, it took a strong stand on the passage of the new security law, which is an attempt to stifle the city’s pro-democracy movement.

It has also blocked Chinese firms from investing in India under the free FDA route, taken several initiatives to force a global probe into the source and origin of COVID-19, and, as mentioned above, banned a host of Chinese apps.

That’s not all. India’s railways ministry has canceled a signals and telecom contract with a Chinese company for a mammoth freight corridor project in Uttar Pradesh. Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL) have decided to exclude Chinese firms from providing telecom equipment and cancelled their plans for upgrading 4G services. The roads department has announced that no highway projects will be awarded to China. The power ministry is looking to curtail imports from adversarial nations, including China. The move is aimed also at reducing the ability of adversarial nations  to cripple India’s power infrastructure through cyber attacks.

Several Indian states have followed up on the national government’s moves. A push to deny a Chinese firm, Shanghai Tunnel Engineering Co Ltd, a contract for the construction of a critical section of the Delhi-Meerut RRTS corridor, is ongoing. The state of Maharashtra is on the verge of cancelling three agreements with Chinese firms. It includes an agreement with China’s Great Wall Motors (GWM) to set up an automobile plant near Pune and produce electric vehicles there. However, the state is going ahead with nine other agreements signed with the U.S., Singapore, and South Korea, indicating to China what’s to come.

16. Paul R. Michel ad Matthew J. Dowd sound the alarm: America needs a course correction or it will lose out to Red China’s technology offensive. From the piece:

What has been the U.S. response? We do not have a master plan, nor a strategy to concentrate on advancing the key technologies vital to economic and national security. In fact, rather than increasing government support for critical research and development (R&D) funding, we have reduced it. In the 1960s, U.S. government funding for R&D equaled 1.8 percent of GDP; now it is only 0.6 percent — a two-thirds drop.

Private funding by venture capitalists is also increasingly moving overseas, with the United States’ share of global venture capital shrinking from 84 percent in 2004 to around 50 percent in recent years. China and Europe, with stronger patent protections, have benefitted. U.S. private investments have also disturbingly shifted away from hard technologies, such as computer chips, to lower-risk commercial activities such as entertainment and hospitality.

There are a number of factors contributing to this shift in technological leadership. First, China subsidizes favored firms in key areas, such as Huawei, its leading 5G company. The United States does not. Our strongest 5G company, Qualcomm, must compete against Huawei and the Chinese government, while also contending with legal and regulatory challenges from our own government. For example, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission launched an ill-advised antitrust enforcement action against Qualcomm, shrinking the revenue that the company needs to fund its R&D.

China has also notably boosted private investment incentives by strengthening patent protections in the country. It has upgraded its patent office, repeatedly modernized its intellectual property (IP) laws, and created new IP courts trained in technology, providing fast, cheap enforcement with routine injunctions against infringers.

17. Michael Washburn rekindles interest in the late great D. Keith Mano’s dystopian novel, The Bridge, which he said foreshadowed the current madness. From the article:

The country has decided, in essence, that it simply doesn’t deserve to go on, that there’s nothing at all worth upholding and preserving, that it would be better if people killed one another off or died of disease, hunger, or despair.

Much of this vision is disturbingly familiar to Americans in 2020, even if a few of the particulars don’t yet apply at this point in time. Yet the fictional scenario described above is of a somewhat earlier vintage. How remarkable that a novelist way back in the early 1970s set forth a dystopian vision whose accuracy, whose sheer uncanny prescience, will amaze readers today.

That wordsmith is D. Keith Mano (1942–2016), a prolific writer, journalist, and National Review contributor, and the novel is The Bridge, a dark, gripping, brilliantly written book published in 1973 and now out of print but not hard to find a copy of online. The Bridge is the story of Dominick Priest, a denizen of the decaying East Coast of the United States who makes his way out of Manhattan and through parts of the tri-state area in the hope of meeting up with his pregnant wife.

He’ll need luck. A mysterious official body known as the Council has decided to end life as we know it. The country is in ruins following an official decree of the Council’s Emergency Committee on Respiration, passed on July 7, 2035, that people are too destructive of the natural and microbial environment to have any right to go on with their careers, relationships, and lives.

It’s not just pollution and forgetting to recycle that has led to this decree. Even the act of breathing, you see, destroys microscopic organisms in the air. Who are we to say that our accomplishments, our civilization, our lives, have more value than those microscopic beings? Relativism has won. To live, let alone take pride in living, in America is unthinkable and impermissible.

“We of the Council, convened in full, have decided that man in good conscience can no longer permit this wanton destruction of our fellow creatures, whose right to exist is fully as great as ours,” the decree states. “It is therefore decreed that men, in spontaneous free will and contrition, voluntarily accede to the termination of their species.” The operative word is contrition. Guilt is a force eating people from inside. Citizens are too cowed, too stricken with guilt, to mount any organized resistance to the Council’s diktat. Although not all have chosen to give up on life, everything is in ruins and life expectancy for citizens is low indeed.

18. Kyle Smith find a paucity of “Redskin” hate. From the piece:

Yet the public shrugged. Only 29 percent say the name should be changed, because most people see no slight in the Redskins name. A 2016 poll found only nine percent of American Indians thought the name was offensive; 90 percent were not offended. A poll taken just last summer and published in the Post, the Jeff Bezos-owned newspaper published in a city named after a slaveholder whose name National Review is withholding so as to express its opposition to racist nomenclature, showed that most Indians are “proud” of the Redskins name, which has in the past frequently been used by tribal members themselves. The [name of city redacted] Post didn’t publish the actual results of the survey, apparently because the data didn’t align with its staffers’ views on the matter, but this strangely elliptical story on the poll said respondents (500 American Indians) were given a slate of 40 different adjectives to describe how they felt about the name, and “most” of them said “proud.” (Other options included disappointed, empowered, embarrassed, appreciative, and hopeless.)

It is beyond obvious that the hubbub over the name Redskins was an obsession whipped up by politically correct white liberals for whom language is a sort of disgusting crumb-strewn carpet to which they daily take a magnifying glass, then ritually attack with the Roomba of good intentions in an effort to clear it of all specks of prejudice. We may not be able to solve the problems associated with the actual police, but it tickles the amour propre to deputize oneself as a member of the language police and to set about righting the most comically irrelevant alleged wrongs.

The New Issue of National Review Is Unleashed and Bearing Much Brilliance

The August 10, 2020 issue is scorching hot off the presses, ink put on paper, paper bounded into a magazine, now in the hands of the United States Postal Service – except for that read-it-immediately digital version, whose contents are now awaiting your very eyeballs, and from which we share a sampling of five pieces. Enjoy!

1. Christopher Caldwell’s cover essay scores the Let’s-Discriminate Prophet of Anti-Racism, Ibram X. Kendi. From the beginning of the essay:

It is a measure of how deeply our culture is fragmented that some of the best-read people in the country have never heard of Ibram X. Kendi. Most Wall Street Journal readers would probably have to Google him. But Kendi now has four books at or near the top of the best-seller lists, including Stamped from the Beginning, which is a history of American racism that won the National Book Award in 2016, and two books on racism for younger readers. Racism is Kendi’s thing. His newest, How to Be an Antiracist, reappeared at the top of the New York Times nonfiction best-seller list this summer after having spent several months on the list last fall and winter. For many of the protesters who poured onto America’s streets in June in the wake of the videotaped killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, the book has been a conceptual road map. As the first fires were being lit in Minnesota, Boston University announced it would offer Kendi, 38, the most prestigious tenured chair at its disposal, making him only the second holder of the Andrew W. Mellon Professorship in the Humanities. The chair has been vacant since the death of the novelist and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel four years ago. BU will also host the Center for Antiracist Research, which Kendi founded at American University.

The “antiracism” of which Kendi is the most trusted exponent is not just a new name for an old precept. It is the political doctrine behind the street demonstrations, “cancelings,” Twitter attacks, boycotts, statue topplings, and self-denunciations that have come together in a national movement. Anti-racists assume that the American system of politics, economics, and policing has been corrupted by racial prejudice, that such prejudice explains the entire difference in socioeconomic status between blacks and others, that the status quo must be fought and beaten, and that anyone not actively engaged in this system-changing work is a collaborator with racism, and therefore himself a legitimate target for attack.

Under anti-racism, the private sphere becomes a battlefront. In Denver, ACLU organizers push people to “raise kids who ‘see color.’” The English department at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette has instituted quotas to increase its BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color) hiring until all its senior positions are 15 percent minority. In California, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors introduced a Caution against Racially Exploitative Non-emergencies (CAREN) Act that would make it easier to prosecute those whose calls to 911 appear motivated by racial prejudice.

The anti-racism movement may sometimes be misguided: While the Floyd killing was affecting, for instance, there is still no evidence that it was an instance of racism. And the movement may be smaller than it looks, drawing primarily on those within the universe of activist foundations (such as the ACLU), the Bernie Sanders campaign (whose members fill the ranks of Showing Up for Racial Justice, or SURJ), and university ethnic-studies departments. Still, social media have broadened the networks from which each of these groups can recruit, and the anti-racism movement has grown to the point where Ibram X. Kendi can be said, for better or for worse, to be changing the country.

2. Well, David Mamet is at it again, the lockdown prompting a search for old books, which he recounts, combined with some sharp analyses of current contentions. From the piece:

I tried again, the website of my neighborhood “Airport Books” emporium. They are jam-packed with volumes denouncing Trump; but they (and I must use that saddest of words, “still”) have the carousel of Penguin Classics, and one never knows. (I found Nella Larsen’s Passing there last year.)

Well, their webpage reports, to my joy, that they have opened. It also says that they offer their support to the community in the midst of this wretched pandemic, which, they go on to say, is of course the centuries-old plague of Systemic Racism.

Now, I don’t know what Systemic Racism is, but neither does anyone else. Like Social Justice, any communicable meaning is destroyed by the adjective. Both terms are indictments of Human Evil; its perpetrators are easily identifiable: They are those who request a definition.

So much for that bookstore.

My second errand was to the shoe shop, also right around the corner from my house.

Here’s a joke. A bank robber was arrested in Chicago last week for refusing to wear a mask. I put up my bandana as I entered the shoe store. I’m saddened to have to go along with the farce, but I have heard, and intermittently practiced, “Don’t go looking for trouble, till trouble comes looking for you.”

3. Victor Davis Hanson assesses Trump’s foreign policy. From the essay:

No one knows what the balance of power will look like after the end of the COVID-19 epidemic. Yet at least now the world recognizes that Beijing’s systematic deceit and corruption of transnational organizations were exactly what the U.S., alone since 2017, had been warning about. The lessons of 2020 were not that America had unduly taken on China, but that America had ripped off the veneer of Chinese intentions, which now were revealed as unapologetically imperialist and bellicose, without the prior dissimulating claims of furthering world harmony.

One reason that the Middle East has ceased being the world’s hotspot is current U.S. foreign policy. The decision to accelerate fracking and horizontal drilling has crashed oil prices, robbing the Middle East of billions of dollars in U.S. importation revenue and making its oil optional, not essential, in American strategic thinking.

The Obama policy of championing Iran over both Israel and moderate Arab states — and by extension Iranian terrorist surrogates, such as Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian government, Hezbollah, and Hamas — is deservedly in shambles. It was destroyed by the Trump administration’s departure from the flawed Iran deal, its leveling of tough “snapback” trade sanctions on Tehran, and the forging of a new de facto tripartite alliance of America, Israel, and moderate Arab states against Iran. The effort to bleed Iran economically through sanctions and boycotts, and the retaliatory strikes on its military aggression abroad — most notably the killing of Soleimani, the arch-terrorist-architect — put Iran in an especially vulnerable position. Its position became even worse when oil prices crashed in February 2020 and Tehran clumsily tried to hide the fact that its Chinese patron’s imported coronavirus had reached epidemic proportions throughout Iranian territory.

Obama’s failed multiyear effort at a reset with Russia (2009– 2014) only whetted the appetite of Vladimir Putin to absorb eastern Ukraine and Crimea and to carve out an imperial zone of operations in Syria — given that the Putin regime has often seen American outreach not as magnanimity to be repaid in kind but as timidity to be leveraged. John Kerry, the Obama administration’s secretary of state, invited the Russians back into the Middle East after a 40-year hiatus, ostensibly to become a stabilizing influence in controlling Syrian weapons of mass destruction. They have never left, although the cost of their presence suggests it may ultimately prove as unwise as other such Mideast interventions have been for a long array of Western nations.

4. Ramesh Ponnuru finds that John Roberts is intent on the High Court on having a love affair with itself. From the piece:

When the Supreme Court sets aside a law that contradicts the Constitution, its authority to do so is clear enough. If the Court must choose between the permanent will of the people, as expressed in the higher law, and the transient will of their elected representatives, as expressed in a mere statute, there is no true choice at all. That’s the basic argument Chief Justice John Marshall made in Marbury v. Madison (1803); and while it has often been described as a cunning political maneuver on his part, it is hard to gainsay. On what basis, though, can the justices deprive the people of duly enacted laws when those laws cannot plausibly be said to conflict with the Constitution? That’s the question that moved the Casey Court to talk about broken faith and lost national identity.

It’s the same question raised, but hardly answered, by Chief Justice Roberts’s controlling opinion in June Medical this summer. Roberts based his decision on a precedent (Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt) from 2016 that he explicitly said was mistaken. The people of Louisiana are to be denied a law that their elected representatives (in both parties) consider just and right, that is consistent with the text and original understanding of the Constitution — and that a majority of the Supreme Court recognizes to be consistent with the Constitution. Rather than resort to the grandiloquence of Casey, he justifies this denial in the name of legal stability. This stated rationale fits the legal materials poorly: His opinion in June Medical departs from the reasoning of Whole Woman’s Health, which he acknowledged at the time had misapplied Casey, which itself reworked Roe. If the foundations of your house were so stable, you’d seek better lodging.

If the actual rationale was the pursuit of the Court’s institutional interests, as is widely speculated, perhaps it is best that it was left unstated. But it should not be surprising that the attempt to burnish the Court’s reputation should involve its accretion of power — or that a strong doctrine of precedent in constitutional cases should lead to the Court’s exercising power in ways ever more detached from the source of that power.

5. While the world is fixated by a virus, Nina Shea reports the ChiCom crackdown on Christians gets amped up. From the piece:

Now China is doubling down on the sinicization of Christianity. As the coronavirus spread, Beijing took new measures to sharply curb the knowledge and practice of Christianity within its borders and to enlist remaining church institutions in the tasks of party indoctrination and propaganda. In recent years, scholars have argued that, given the rate of growth of Christianity in China, the church there would become the world’s largest church by 2030. That projection needs recalibration.

Chinese authorities started by making examples of two internationally renowned underground Christian leaders. On December 30, as news about the coronavirus circulated on social media, Pastor Wang Yi of the Early Rain Covenant Church, a Protestant house church, was sentenced to an unusually long prison term, nine years, for “inciting subversion.” (More typical for Christian leaders in recent years have been detentions of four or six months.) On Easter Sunday, his church’s leadership were jailed for praying online.

Under the Vatican agreement, Bishop Vincent Guo Xijin of Mindong, Fujian Province, had been demoted to the position of auxiliary bishop, to make way for a bishop preferred by the government. Guo was pushed out of his home on January 15, the day that China initiated its highest-level emergency response to the virus. This time, the 61-year-old prelate was stripped of his human dignity and forced to sleep on the doorstep of the church administrative building for rejecting membership in the PCA. After international criticism, he regained access to his apartment, but with its utilities shut off.

In the ensuing months, 20 underground Catholic priests, followers of the bishop, disappeared into detention after rejecting the PCA pledge of “independence, autonomy, and self-administration of the Church in China” — meaning independence from Catholic teaching and any degree of Vatican governance. One was Father Huang Jintong, tortured with four days of sleep deprivation. He signed the registration to join the PCA but not before trying, in keeping with a Vatican suggestion in June 2019, to add his intent to “remain faithful to the Catholic doctrine.” On June 19, 70- year-old Catholic bishop Augustine Cui Tai, of the underground church in Xuanhua Diocese, Hebei Province, was reported detained. Meanwhile, the state has yet to disclose information on Bishop James Su Zhimin, about whom nothing is known since his 1996 detention in Hebei, for unauthorized praying. Hong Kong’s Cardinal Joseph Zen, bishop emeritus, had been right to warn that the Vatican’s silence on the rights of its faithful, unregistered churches in its 2018 agreement would allow China to “succeed in eliminating the underground church with the help of the Vatican.”


1. At the Victor Davis Hanson Podcast, VDH discusses the reasons and consequences of keeping America’s classrooms locked, free speech on campus, the NFL and NBA prioritizing woke, Donald Trump’s interview with Chris Wallace, and what 2021 might look like in Joe Biden’s America. Listen here.

2. On Radio Free California — the new “Oakland’s Dog Diaper Day Afternoon” edition — David and Will discuss food fights over McDonald’s, Trader Joe’s, and foie gras, Governor Gavin Newsom’s cynical handling of COVID-19 data, the racist impact of teachers unions walking out of classrooms, and the return of Major League Baseball — now with pumped-in crowd noise. Listen here.

3. On Episode 239 of The Editors, Rich, Charlie, and Luke discuss the legalities of federal law enforcement tactics in Portland, the hypocrisy of the Lincoln Project, and more. Listen here

4. On Political Beats, Super Cool Scot and Jim Jam Jumpin’ Jeff play host to guest Dan “Baseball Crank” McLaughlin for Part One (there will indeed be a Part Two!) of DM’s opinionating on Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Listen here.

5. At The Bookmonger, John J. Miller is joined by the great Brad Thor to discuss his new thriller, Near Dark. Listen here.

6. At The Great Books, JJM is joined by Nicholas Basbanes to discuss Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s The Song of Hiawatha. Listen here.

7. On Mad Dogs and Englishmen (Episode 273) Kevin and Charlie discuss weddings, funerals, Kanye West, and the situation in Portland. Listen here.

Lights. Cameras. Review!

1. Armond White checks out 2020 The Movie. He finds it devastating to the D.C. cast of characters. From the review:

It looks like one of those typical Hollywood promotional ads, using the kind of video clips that actors make at press junkets, talking to an off-screen interviewer (usually a studio flack or one of the hoard of shills assigned to provide showbiz content for the entertainment segments of news programs around the world — a light industry in itself). The product being hyped in 2020 The Movie is an imaginary film about this election year, featuring popular franchise actors discussing their roles as familiar figures in the news. It teases us about how these politicians enter our imagination.

Switching the real for the pretend is the basis of the spot’s genius: Chris Hemsworth, frequently seen touting his role as Thor in the Marvel movies, is identified discussing his portrayal of President Trump. (“Whether you’re playing a god or a human or whatever, you just make it real.”) Jessica Walter, of TV’s Arrested Development, talks about impersonating Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. (“She’s just so self-involved. She has no social graces, let’s put it that way, and she does a lot of horrible things.”). Kathy Bates, Oscar-winner for Misery, explains her imitation of Hillary Clinton. (“This crazy character — I wanted her to be a really despicable, and not very nice woman, definitely.”) Alan Cummings, Nightcrawler in the X Men franchise, breaks down his characterization as House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff. (“It was all a kind of a mistake that he believed in something that wasn’t actually true. He’s this kind of angry, nasty, scary person who lives in this horrible old boggy place.”)

Each skit (including seven others) does triple-duty. First, the facial resemblance between actors and politicos is uncanny. Then there’s the satire of movie-promotion blather that italicizes talking-point clichés. Plus, the speakers’ facile-sincere tone mocks 60 Minutes–style pseudo-interrogation. (This pomposity also infects the TV gossip format of Entertainment Tonight, Extra, Inside Edition, and TMZ, which all lately include political commentary.)

2. Kyle Smith is watching the new series, Brave New World, and wishes it were better. From the review:

Brave New World, an hour-long series whose first nine episodes just debuted on Peacock, the new streaming service from NBC Universal, is temperamentally so right-wing that I wish it were better. As it is, the series (created by David Wiener, whose last show was Homecoming) is merely tolerable, hampered by a lead-you-around-by-the-nose quality that is more in keeping with the network-TV ethos than with top-shelf cable drama. The writing is mostly superficial, albeit with some clever satiric touches. The characters are flat.

Still, the setup is rich with possibility. The author of the 1932 novel, Aldous Huxley, was a curious chap, an Englishman who borrowed themes and a title from The Tempest and filtered them through what he perceived to be the most disturbing tech advances of 1920s America, particularly mass production and Hollywood talkies. Huxley, who found that the U.S. was where “all the resources of science are applied in order that imbecility may flourish and vulgarity cover the whole earth,” wrote a dystopian satire taking American culture to a logical endpoint — and then moved to California five years later and spent the rest of his life in America. The way disgust and envy commingled in Huxley’s American vision will be familiar to any American who has ever been to England and observed how loudly the captives of that soggy island proclaim America’s faults before meekly admitting, five drinks later, that they’d love to move here.

Brave New World takes place centuries in the future, when the world has united under one government and the swells live in cool, serene, bored London, now called New London. It’s a sanitized-for-your-protection Tomorrowland full of whizzing transportation options, digital gimcrackery, and limitless sex and drugs. Babies are grown in pods, monogamy is forbidden, everyone is programmed to be a happy member of an assigned caste before birth (managerial Alphas through Epsilon worker bees), and the fear of death has been extinguished from the human mind. Even these exquisitely calibrated humans find their life sterile, so they pop lots of soma pills to balance their moods and, for thrills, take rocket rides to “Savageland,” the last corner of earth that didn’t sign up for the new world order and is now preserved as a theme park where the attractions are stage shows based on garbled histories of 20th-century American habits like shotgun weddings and “the day of Black” — Black Friday at the superstore.

3. More Kyle. He watches The Painted Bird and finds it high-brow torture porn. From the review:

There is so much grim knowledge about the Holocaust available to us, that sticking close to the factual record is the obvious and perhaps best choice. Still, we have all absorbed a lot of Holocaust material over the years, and it’s intriguing when an artist approaches the topic via allegory, fantasy, or even comedy. The Painted Bird, a black-and-white three-hour film written and directed by the Czech Václav Marhoul, seems promising at first: a successor to the ambiguous and strange allegories of the Soviet director Andrei Tarkovsky, perhaps?

Not really. The Painted Bird is instead a picaresque three-hour litany of child abuse that practically comes with a neon sign flashing “MAN IS CRUEL” at all times. In any given ten minutes, the hapless, silent boy at the center of the movie, Joska (Petr Kotlár), may get beaten, raped, tortured by animals, or all three. What’s the point of ramming home the same point in a hundred sickening ways?

The Painted Bird is based on the novel that made the name of the Pole Jerzy Kosiński, who was later revealed to be a fraud and a plagiarist and committed suicide at age 57. Among those who initially believed that this made-up story was based in memory was Elie Wiesel. Published in 1965, the book was for many years revered as a classic, though it is semi-forgotten today.

Elsewhere in the Conservative Solar System

1. Since Portland is on the brain, how about we resurface the late Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s historic Portland Declaration? Ok you say? Good. It’s available at the website of the good folks at The Philadelphia Society. From the beginning of the essay:

The Free World today is menaced not only by hostile armies, but by sets of ideas which either reduce man to a purely materialistic animal, or present a philosophy of doubt if not despair. The effect of these ideologies, if they are not opposed, must be to crush us, or at least to undermine our will to resist.

The Free World has to rise to this challenge and declare a firm, coherent, and consistent belief in its values, values well grounded and anchored in a great tradition, for which we ought to be ready to make sacrifices, to fight, even, if necessary, to die. Such a belief might be called a philosophy, a world view, or indeed an ideology; whatever we call it, we cannot hope to survive without it.

Webster’s Second International calls “ideology” (under 4b) a “systematic scheme of ideas about life.” Outstanding thinkers on both sides of the Atlantic have insisted that man, for better or worse, is an ideological creature distinguishing himself from the beasts by having, besides reason and religion, a coherent and logical view interpreting his personal and social existence.

Yet since, for many, this comprehensive view tends to be incoherent and indistinct, traditional thinkers in the Free World have a duty to give it a more precise profile, form, and color. Carefully, though: what can be said critically about utopias can also be stated about ideologies: as concrete visions set in the future, they can be thoroughly unrealistic, achievable only by unreasonable sacrifices out of all proportion to their value to mankind. Or they can be legitimate goals.

Finally, we must have before us a guiding vision of what our state and society could be like, to prevent us from becoming victims of false gods. The answer to false gods is not godlessness but the Living God. Hence our ideology must be based on the Living God, but it should appeal also to men of good will who, while not believers, derive their concepts of a well-ordered life, whether they realize it or not, ultimately from the same sources we do.

2. At The Imaginative Conservative, Joseph Pearce reports on the whimpering death of the American university. From the commentary:

Take the situation at Vanderbilt University, for instance.

A petition being circulated this summer accuses the school of racism for not having had enough black students and faculty over the past decades. This implies that black students had actually applied and were denied admission due to their race, whereas, in fact, black students and faculty have been highly sought after, as part of the policy of affirmative action which Vanderbilt, like most institutions, actively pursues. In spite of the university’s best proactive efforts to attract black students and faculty, relatively few have been forthcoming. The few who did apply were accepted over more qualified students and were often given full-ride scholarships. The petition seems to demand that Vanderbilt waves a magic wand to change the demographics, not understanding that you can only accept people who have actually applied and that you can’t accept those who haven’t.

Further signs of this race-obsessed mania can be seen in demands that Vanderbilt’s music department practice “equality” by ensuring that all faculty and student recitals and large ensemble concerts be required to program 50% of their music by black and women composers. Perhaps we should sacrifice quality for equality, limiting the performance of Bach or Beethoven to make way for unknown pieces by unknown composers, purely on the grounds of their sex or skin colour, but the bottom line is that there are simply not enough compositions by black composers to make this possible, even were it desirable. There is no music written by black composers for certain instruments and there are not enough living black classical composers to write new music quickly enough to provide the requisite quota of compositions for those instruments. The fact is that these agenda-driven fanatics expect the square peg of their ideological dogmatism to fit into the round hole of actual reality.

This sort of post-rational madness could indeed signal the final demise of the American university. It has, however, been a long time dying, and many would say that it has been a long time coming. Those who saw the Academy’s abandonment of the rational foundations on which it was built knew that its collapse was inevitable. In losing its reason, it has lost its reason to exist. In affirming that all is ultimately meaningless, it confessed that it is itself ultimately meaningless. In condemning the corpus of Western civilization, it was condemning itself. In betraying the corpus, it becomes the corpse. After the “woke” comes the wake; and after the wake, the whimper.

3. At Commentary, Noah Rothman holds that if you are interested in understanding authoritarianism, the ChiCom actions in Hong Kong are worth your attention. From the piece

After more than a year of unrest, mass demonstrations, and extrajudicial violence from both uniformed and unidentifiable executors of state power, the Chinese government has essentially stripped the city of Hong Kong of its special status within Beijing’s orbit. The Chinese Communist Party wasted no time imposing its will on the unruly city — ferreting out the leaders of the pro-democracy movement and intimidating anyone around the world who had aided their efforts to keep Hong Kong free. “If you haven’t tasted what tyranny is, be prepared, because tyranny is not comfortable,” warned Bao Pu, one of the city’s few remaining independent publishers. He wasn’t kidding.

The instant that Hong Kong’s new national-security law (which criminalizes forms of political expression regarded as a threat to Communist rule) came into effect, officials loyal to Beijing began executing mass arrests and violently dispersing crowds of dissenters. Pro-democracy literature has begun disappearing from the city’s book stores and libraries. School teachers who were among the millions of Hong Kong residents who took to the streets in 2019 and 2020 to protest this new law have been reprimanded or, in some cases, dismissed and rendered persona non grata. Independent and foreign-owned media organs are abandoning their presence in a city they can no longer cover objectively. Liberal activists have fled Hong Kong’s shores, fearing the real and tangible consequences that are now associated with their political beliefs.

The heavy hand of the CCP has not limited its reach to within the confines of the so-called “special administrative region.” A chilling Reuters report indicates that a number of multi-billion-dollar global wealth-management firms are responding to Chinese pressure and scrutinizing their ties to Hong Kong’s pro-democracy demonstrators. The goal, it would seem, is to transform these liberal activists into living shadows — barred from successfully navigating the international commercial environment as a result of their pro-democratic political convictions. “The designation, called politically exposed persons, can make it more difficult or altogether prevent people from accessing banking services,” Reuters reported. Some banks are reportedly engaged in background checks on their clients that go as far back as the 2014 “umbrella movement” demonstrations against Beijing. To maintain access to Chinese capital, these firms — many of them Western — are more than willing to throw their enlightened political inheritance to the wolves.

4. At The American Conservative, Addison del Mastro does squat thrusts on the “fitness-industrial complex.” From the article:

It is not the class itself or the instructor that I find objectionable — and I’m happy to report that both male and female instructors irk me equally — but the entire phenomenon and style of the workout program. I bristle, for example, at its seamless and Orwellian slide from literal descriptions of exercises to mushy pseudo-metaphysics and cut-rate inspirational cant; its plain talk of doing the work and eschewing gimmicks while heckling anybody who misses a rep or a day in an exquisitely gimmicky program; its uniquely American marriage of the crassly commercial and the cheaply transcendental, one part used car salesman and one part Christian Scientist.

More substantively, workout culture is individualistic in the most corrosive and shame-inducing sense, pretending that the individual exists in a vacuum, and that socio-political problems like obesity, sedentary jobs, automobile dependency, and subsidized junk food, either do not exist or are merely wholesome opportunities to exercise self-restraint. Workout culture admits no possibility of societal sickness or policy solutions to the problems of being unhealthy or overweight. It is a sort of glossed-over eugenic ideology, a cult of self-improvement in a broader society which is deeply and perhaps terminally inconducive to self-improvement. The gym rat is social Darwinism made flesh.

Every workout regimen, often a scammy mix of videos and chemical simulacra of food, bills itself as the holy grail, the One True Faith for the acquisition of a beach body. To question whether a beach body should in fact be our primary earthly obsession would, of course, be rather gauche. Nothing will turn you into a body-positive feminist like a dip into this gross commercialization of body shame. Consider, for example, the contempt hurled at Planet Fitness, a self-styled “Judgement Free” fitness chain with the temerity to acknowledge that it is possible to get physical activity and enjoy a slice of pizza. The problem, which no gym or fitness instructor can remedy, and in which few seem to have any interest, is that modern society provides few opportunities for real physical activity. They must be sought out, and that is the real work of physical self-improvement. The more integrated into actual living (gardening, fishing, hiking) the better. Working out, an abstract kind of self-punishment at cross-purposes from almost every other modern sedentary activity, quite simply fails very often to deliver.

5. At Gatestone Institute, Majid Rafizadeh contends that continued pressure might break the mullah’s hold on power in Iran. From the article:

The Iranian regime is facing an unprecedented level of pressure, which, if it continues, can threaten the ruling mullahs’ hold on power. Iran’s currency, the rial, which has been in free fall in the last few weeks, has plunged to a record low. As of July 18, 2020, a US dollar is now worth approximately 250,000 rials. Before the current US administration imposed a “maximum pressure” policy against Tehran, a US dollar had equaled nearly 30,000 rials.

People, as they see the value of their money depreciating by almost ten-fold, have been rushing to get foreign currency. Last month, Iran’s oil exports also sank to a record low. Three years ago, Iran was exporting roughly 2.5 million barrels of oil a day. According to the latest reports, Iran’s oil export is now around 70,000 barrels a day — a reduction of nearly 97%. The country’s budget heavily relies on selling oil.

The political deputy of the province of Bushehr, Governor Majid Khorshidi, told a gathering on July 14 that they should not ignore US sanctions: “We used to see this approach [of ignoring US sanctions] from the previous administration [Ahmadinejad] and unfortunately it still continues,” he added. “But I have to say that sanctions have broken the economy’s back”.

While the US “maximum pressure” policy has played a crucial role in putting economic pressure on the regime, the mullahs’ widespread financial and political corruption and their chronic economic mismanagement are also key factors in the country’s dire financial situation.

For almost four decades, the regime has been squandering the nation’s resources on terror and militia groups as well as its nuclear program. It is also estimated that the regime has spent more than $100 billion on its nuclear program.

6. At Law & Liberty, John O. McGinnis asks if America is ready for the next Cold War. From the essay:

If the previous policy toward China failed, are we in for a new Cold War, as suggested recently by Rep. Mike Gallagher in the Wall Street Journal? The original Cold War was a great success, though fraught with peril. It helped defeat the Soviet Union and liberate subject nations under Soviet domination. Except for the imprudent intervention in Vietnam, it was fought through legal mechanisms, international institutions, military build-up, and ideological assertiveness. Ultimately, we won because we had a more prosperous and otherwise attractive society than the Soviet Union: the evil empire could no longer command even the modicum of allegiance needed to survive.

It seems sadly clear that the United States is not in nearly as good a position to wage a successful Cold War against China today. Let us begin with some of the institutions that helped win the Cold War for the United States. One was freer trade, like that constituted by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. This institution increased economic growth and strengthened the bonds between the nations that opposed the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, however, the United States gave up on the Trans-Pacific Partnership in 2017. This agreement would have created a free trade zone among nations of the Pacific, many of which are crucial allies against a rising China. Donald Trump refused to ratify the agreement, but the failure was bipartisan. During the campaign, Hilary Clinton came out against an agreement she herself had helped negotiate! The United States now cannot make important new trade agreements even when the reasons are as compellingly geopolitical as they are economic.

Immigration policy was also a powerful tool of the Cold War. Congress passed the Jackson-Vanik amendment to the Trade Act of 1974, making trade relations with the Soviet Union dependent on permitting emigration from the Soviet Union to the United States. It also granted refugee status to Jewish emigrants. Senator Henry (Scoop) Jackson thought that “if people could vote with their feet, governments would have to acknowledge that and governments would have to make for their citizens a life that would keep them there.”

Today, one such method of ideological combat would be to offer refugee status to those fleeing Hong Kong. In addition, we could permit the many Chinese students at our universities to stay on, should they choose, so long as we scrutinized them for any possible ties to Chinese security agencies. One aspect of a modern cold war is the battle for talent. But it seems doubtful that the United States could pursue such bold immigration policies, mired as we are in debates over illegal immigration.

7. At Quillette, Erik Terzuolo believes COVID will force a reinvention of the American university. From the piece:

First, we should acknowledge that the traditional image of the American college experience — years of intimate classroom instruction and rewarding social experiences, all on beautiful, well-manicured campuses full of historic buildings and spreading chestnut trees — was mostly a fantasy to begin with, and was becoming progressively more obsolete even before COVID-19 hit us.

In 2018, according to the Digest of Education Statistics, 5.7 million of America’s 16.6 million undergraduate students attended two-year institutions. Another 6.3 million were part-time students. Total enrollment, including post-baccalaureate students, in for-profit institutions seems to have peaked in 2010 at slightly over two million. But in 2018, the for-profits still had close to one million students, almost 740,00 of them undergraduates. Figures for 2017 detailing student age cohorts indicate that almost eight million undergraduate students were aged 25 or older, with 3.1 million of those over 35. In fall 2018, over 35 percent of students already were taking at least some of their courses through distancelearning methods. Few undergraduates actually live on campus. All in all, less than a quarter of American undergraduates are college-age teenagers or young adults experiencing the ideal of full-time study in a four-year program at a private school. Increasingly, that’s an experience reserved for the sons and daughters of America’s elite, even if Hollywood has conditioned us to imagine it to be a near-universal undergraduate experience.

For historical, cultural, and political reasons, Americans imagine their country to be a land of opportunity. As a result, we have placed overly higher expectations on education as a means for Americans of humble means to advance themselves. The reality is that few of the Americans who need education the most are able to access the most desired programs. Till now, it has been difficult to re-engineer higher education as an instrument of social equity and justice, because the system wasn’t originally designed for that purpose. And so it would benefit America if the pandemic caused the emergence of a more multi-faceted approach to achieving greater equality (or, at the very least, preserving social stability). A more accessible and affordable education model might be better for the country in the long run, even if students are denied some of the atmospheric trappings that the best schools will continue to provide.

As a student at a large public university in the Midwest, I had many classes with hundreds of students, where the professor’s only responsibility was to lecture, and actual contact with undergraduates was mostly delegated to graduate teaching assistants who were reasonably expert in the subject matter. Did I like this way of learning? No. Did I learn a lot? Yes.

8. At Hillsdale College’s Imprimis, Heather Mac Donald derides the recent “four months of government malfeasance,” unparalleled in our nation’s history. From the essay:

Never before had public officials required millions of lawful businesses to shut their doors, throwing tens of millions of people out of work. They did so at the command of one particular group of experts — those in the medical and public health fields — who viewed their mandate as eliminating one particular health risk with every means put at their disposal.

If the politicians who followed their advice weighed a greater set of considerations, balancing the potential harm from the virus against the harm from the shutdowns, they showed no sign of it. Instead, governors and mayors started rolling out one emergency decree after another to terminate economic activity, seemingly heedless of the consequences.

The lockdown mandates employed mind-numbingly arbitrary distinctions. Wine stores and pot dispensaries were deemed “essential” and thus allowed to stay open; medical offices were required to close. Large grocery stores got the green light; small retail establishments with only a few customers each day were out of luck. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer notoriously used her red pen within megastores to bar the sale of seeds, gardening supplies, and paint.

It was already clear when these crushing mandates started pouring forth that shutting down every corner of the country was a reckless overreaction. By mid-March, two weeks before the Imperial College model was published, Italian health data showed that the coronavirus was terribly lethal to a very small subset of the population — the elderly infirm — and a minor health problem to nearly everyone else who was not already severely ill. The median age of coronavirus decedents in Italy was 80, and they died with a median of nearly three comorbidities, such as heart disease and diabetes. The lead author of the Imperial College model has admitted that up to two-thirds of all coronavirus fatalities would have died from their comorbidities by the end of 2020 anyway.

Three months later, this profile of coronavirus casualties still holds true. Public health interventions could have been targeted at that highly vulnerable population without forcing the American economy into a death spiral.

A Dios

Of the young cancer-bereft father for whom I sought prayers, his elated mother writes that his “markers” have fallen dramatically. All around, family and doctors find this result shocking and amazing and yes, believe it is rooted somewhat in the power of prayer. Never underestimate it, and exercise it — while you may. Someday soon the New Commissars might find it a capital offense.

God’s Graces for Courage, to Speak Truth in the Face of Evil and Hostility,

Jack Fowler, who stands ready to receive your hectoring and unsolicited advice at


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