Dear Weekend Jolter,
There wasn’t a movie titled The Reprobates, so we go with what’s available — The Misfits. Which, after extensive stretching, is about the nicest term one might use to describe the fools who invaded the Capitol Building on Wednesday (our John McCormack was there). It would be delusional to call them or consider them ideologues or revolutionaries, but then Fred Sanford’s go-to epithet about big dummies would be wide of the mark too.
“Patriots?” Some use that term. Hmmm. Have it your way, but the daughters of Your Humble Correspondent had best never bring one of these flag-clad arsehats home to meet the folks.
So short in the tooth, 2021 is proving already to be the Year of the Reprobate. And an encore, because . . . so was last year. Granted, 2020’s reprobates merely engaged in . . . how did it go? . . . oh yes, peaceful protests.
Let us recall the last attempt at destruction of the Capitol Building. It was an attack that failed when Americans — the brave passengers trapped on the actual Flight 93 — fought back. Now, these are folks one indeed may rightly describe as “patriots.” They saved The People’s House, and paid for it with their lives.
True enough, the Capitol Building is where dumb and bad things can and do happen under the heading of “official business.” No matter: America demands intolerance of vandalizing clowns on the structure’s sacrosanct premises.
Sacrosanct: So too is your house, and mine — something many pontificators were at a loss to remark upon this summer past when flames burned down Americans’ homes and small businesses. To our media lords, it matters who lights the match.
Well, here’s hoping that the video footage and the selfies these louts — these criminals — posted on Instagram and the like will be carefully reviewed, that names will be put to faces (and tattoos and costumes), that warrants will be issued and arrests made and trials held and sentences rendered.
If only horsewhipping was permitted under the penal code.
As for the President: After the mayhem (empowered in part by his words — the dots connect pretty easily) was suppressed, and the corpses dragged away, and after the Congress confirmed the Electoral College’s votes, he pledged an “orderly transition on January 20th.” This was tweeted verbiage that may prove undone by deeds yet to come and / or be unimagined.
(An ensuing videotaped speech by the President, writes Michael Brendan Dougherty, rang very hollow indeed.)
The Editor of this entity, Rich Lowry, has this to say about the presidential egging-on, and more:
The rioters themselves bear ultimate responsibility for their acts, but Trump egged them on.
He fed them poisonous lies about the election, including lunatic conspiracy theories worthy of QAnon that, if true, would justify violent revolution.
He encouraged them to come to Washington and said they wouldn’t stand for his “landslide” victory getting taken away.
He whipped them up on Wednesday with one of his typically high-octane speeches about how the election was stolen from them and urged them to march on the Capitol to give “weak” Republicans the “pride and boldness they need to take back our country.”
When the mob overwhelmed security and made its way on to the Senate and House floors, sending Vice President Pence and lawmakers fleeing, Trump tweeted about how he’d been wronged by Pence’s entirely correct view that he lacked the power as vice president to unilaterally declare him the winner of the election.
It was only a couple of hours later that Trump, clearly under duress, released a pro forma video calling on his supporters to go home, but, of course, repeating all of his same attacks on the integrity of American democracy that motivated the rioters in the first place.
We move on to the full fare of our missive by noting this institution of Mr. Buckley’s making is not selective, as are so many in America’s press and chattering class, in its condemnation of rioting — whether in in our Capital, in Seattle, in Minnesota, in countless other cities — and its condemning of instigating forces. The bottom has fallen out of the MSM Hypocrisy Market. And with these things having been said, and with many more to be said just below, we order every Tom, Dick, and Ophelia: Get thee to the Jolt!
A Bevy of Wisdom and Sobriety — 17 Quite Worthwhile Articles Published this Week on NRO
Andrew C. McCarthy: Trump’s Allies Become the Swamp: The ‘Electoral Commission’ Gambit
Andrew C. McCarthy: Against Invoking the 25th Amendment
Dan McLaughlin: Making Him Go Could Make Things Worse
Fred Bauer: The Georgia Senate Debacle Has Many Fathers
Neal B. Freeman: Come Home to the Freedom Party
Cameron Hilditch: Britain’s National Health Service Doesn’t Work
Robert VerBruggen: COVID and Deaths of Despair: Analyzing the 2020 Death Toll
Michael Brendan Dougherty: China Is Getting Away with It
Victor Davis Hanson: Cancel Culture: Defend Homer and Classical Literature against Ignorance
Nicholas Frankovich: Reginald Foster, Vatican Latinist and Contrarian Genius, R.I.P.
Capital Matters — A Quartet of Wise and Edifying Writings
Michael Hochberg and Leonard Hochberg: The Bill Is Coming Due for China’s ‘Capitalist’ Experiment
Joseph Sullivan: Joe Biden’s Corporate Tax Plan Would Make America Mediocre Again
Alexander William Salter: How the Biden Administration Can Stand up to Red China
Selections from the New January 25, 2021, Issue of National Review, Your Favorite Fortnightly
Ramesh Ponnuru’s take on a 2021 conservative political operations manual: Back to Opposition
John Yoo and John Bolton say changes in Iran policy must be via treaty ratification: JCPOA 2.0
Andrew C. McCarthy hates commuters (or is it commutators?): Repeal the Pardon Power
Kevin Williamson considers obligations to the Subaru Voter: Joe Biden’s Two Left Wings
Jay Nordlinger’s account of political prisoner Loujain al-Hathloul: A Saudi Woman
Joel Kotkin’s sees a nation reinventing itself: The Case for American Optimism
Lights. Camera. Review!
Armond White: My Annual Better-Than List for 2020
AND NOW, LINKS APLENTY AND ADORNED
1. Welp, if you didn’t think Donald Trump could push the envelope, you’d have been wrong. We condemn the mob-whipping, and more. From the editorial:
He whipped up and urged on a mob toward the U.S. Capitol, where it breached the building and forced his vice president and lawmakers to flee. He didn’t immediately address the violence and reportedly resisted calling out the National Guard. He finally issued a brief video telling the rioters to go home but expressing his love for them. At no point did he condemn their conduct and at the end of the day, he tweeted that such acts are what happen when an election is stolen (leading to the temporary suspension of his Twitter account).
The scenes at the Capitol were so shocking that they were difficult to fathom. They were worthy of a third-world country, not a well-established constitutional republic whose political stability has been one of the wonders of the world. Not only did the rioters desecrate a great temple of American democracy, they managed to disrupt the counting of electoral votes, the final step of the presidential election. Trump has never had any interest in the peaceful transfer of power, and yesterday’s events mean that the transfer this year, indeed, hasn’t been peaceful.
Of course, the backdrop to all of this is Trump’s unhinged and poisonous lies about the election. If shadowy forces have really stolen our democracy, why isn’t an insurrection to stop Joe Biden from taking office justified?
2. His stand against efforts to overturn the Electoral College vote was, we argue, Majority Leader Mitch McConnells’ finest hour. From the editorial:
Amid our national obsession with the presidency and its occupants, it can be easy to forget that it is Congress, and not the executive branch, that is supposed to be prime within the federal government. Congress can pass legislation without the executive, and, if it sees fit, it can remove him at will. The executive, by contrast, has little power beyond that which has been delegated to him, and it can do nothing of consequence to congressional staff.
Having watched Congress abdicate its responsibilities for so long, it was welcome to see Senator McConnell taking his elevated role as seriously as he did — and even more important to see him admonishing others in his party for playing so casually with fire. Referring openly to the machinations of Senators Cruz, Hawley, and co., McConnell counseled against the depravity of pretending that a vote against the election results was “a harmless protest gesture while relying on others to do the right thing.”
In his notes from the Constitutional Convention, James Madison observed that the work of defending the new system would not be done by parchment, but by people. It is a sign of the enduring strength of the United States that those people not only exist but make up a solid majority. McConnell spoke for them yesterday.
3. The plan by Ted Cruz and other Republican Senators to stymie the Electoral College was a folly. From the editorial:
The letter from the Cruz eleven states that “ideally, the courts would have heard evidence and resolved these claims of serious election fraud.” In point of fact, federal courts in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Nevada did consider the Trump campaign’s claims on the merits, and they all found them wanting. The letter laments that the Supreme Court didn’t take up the factual questions, but the highest court in the land isn’t a random fact-finding body. The most prominent suit that landed on its desk was an attempt by Texas to throw out the results in key battlegrounds won by Biden. The court declined to hear the suit because it was so flagrantly constitutionally flawed.
The letter cites the contention over the notorious 1876 presidential election between Democrat Samuel Tilden and Republican Rutherford B. Hayes. Trying to draw an analogy to today, it refers to “serious allegations of fraud and illegal conduct” in 1876, but this significantly understates it.
In 1876, there weren’t just allegations; there was honest-to-God evidence of bribery and ballot stuffing on both sides in the chaotic atmosphere of Southern states still under Reconstruction. There were rival slates of electors from Louisiana, Florida, and South Carolina. Black voters were subjected to horrific violence and intimidation to keep them from the polls.
To compare any of this to today is perverse. In Georgia, for instance, machine and hand recounts have confirmed the results, while a signature audit has found no evidence of endemic mismatches. Yet, the president of the United States is still calling the Republican secretary of state of Georgia to try to browbeat him into awarding him victory in the state based on misinformation and conspiracy theories.
4. Who lost Georgia? The GOP’s dual defeat was quite avoidable. There is an explanation. From the editorial:
Republicans who seek to absolve Trump of any responsibility for the defeats say the fault is Mitch McConnell’s, for refusing to allow the federal government to send $2,000 checks to most households. Even more federal spending may have made a difference — although it should be noted that Loeffler and Perdue both came out for the bigger checks. But this is not a defense of Trump. It amounts to saying that Trump elevated an issue that helped the Democrats, first by having his White House sign off on a COVID-relief deal without the checks and then by demanding them after the fact. It would have been less harmful for him to insist on the checks consistently or to have touted all the help that the relief deal included. Instead, again, he chose the course most destructive to Republican political interests.
The narrow loss of the Senate is not a long-term electoral catastrophe. As dismaying, irresponsible, and just plain nutty as Trump’s conduct since the election has been, his presidency is ending with Republicans in a healthy electoral condition. They are hardly doomed in Georgia: They came close to winning these elections even under adverse circumstances, and Raphael Warnock will face the voters again in 2022. In Washington, D.C., they have the power to filibuster legislation. They can make it as politically costly as possible for Democrats to raise taxes in a reconciliation bill, or to confirm liberal culture warriors such as Xavier Becerra to the cabinet. They can seek to build on Trump’s success in attracting new voters to the Republican coalition and at the same time to win back some of the old ones he has alienated.
17 Demonstrations of Beneficial Conservative Sanity that Merit Your Attention
1. Andrew C. McCarthy was not buying what Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley were selling. From the piece:
The states certified their election results under their laws prior to December 8. These include Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia, and Arizona — states whose popular-election results have been targeted by President Trump and his supporters. Some of the claimed irregularities have been colorable, some spurious, but there is no proof that any of them would have changed the result of the election in any single state, much less President-elect Biden’s overall victory. Neither Senator Hawley nor Senator Cruz claims otherwise. Moreover, the states resolved disputes raised by Team Trump under their own laws. The states’ duly elected officials certified the results under the states’ duly enacted procedures.
As far as the federal government is concerned, that is the end of the matter. Those state certifications are conclusive. It is not a matter of whether it is the result we would have preferred, or even whether it is a result we find suspect. It is the law. This undeniable fact has been recognized by several federal judges, including judges appointed by Trump, who have examined the Trump claims, rejected them, and disclaimed any authority under the circumstances to disturb the states’ determinations.
If, despite all that, Democrats were trying to orchestrate a congressional do-over, Republicans would be pointing out, with due indignation, that the Constitution makes the election of a president, like the ratification of the Constitution itself, a matter of state sovereignty. Under our foundational law, it is the states, not the people and certainly not Congress, that determine for which candidate their electoral votes are cast.
As long as one candidate has received a majority of the state-certified electoral votes, Congress’s role is solemn but strictly ministerial: to witness the counting of the votes. The Twelfth Amendment requires that to be done in the presence of lawmakers at a joint session of Congress, over which the vice president presides — because of his largely ceremonial role as president of the Senate and because the Twelfth Amendment mandates that, after the states have cast their electoral votes, they transmit those votes “to the President of the Senate” in Washington.
2. More Cruz/Hawley: Thomas Berry found their challenge to be a dead-end stunt. From the piece:
To better understand why this plan is both illegal and a terrible idea, some background history is necessary. The Constitution’s Twelfth Amendment stipulates that the electors from each state must meet, vote, and record their votes in two separate lists, one for president and one for vice president. They must then “sign and certify” those lists and transmit them “sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate.” Once the lists make their way to Congress, the “President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted.”
This passive-voice phrasing crucially leaves out who does the counting. And the Twelfth Amendment is also silent on the extent to which the power to count includes the power to judge whether particular votes should count. As Justice Joseph Story observed in his 1833 Commentaries on the Constitution, “no provision is made for the discussion or decision of any questions, which may arise, as to the regularity and authenticity of the returns of the electoral votes,” and it “seems to have been taken for granted, that no question could ever arise on the subject.”
Unfortunately, that assumption turned out to be overly optimistic. Controversies did arise, culminating in the disputed Hayes–Tilden election of 1876, which legislators settled by passing an emergency bill after the electors had cast their ballots but before Congress had counted them. The bill established a commission to determine the winner of each disputed state, but it did not attempt to set any long-term precedent.
3. Congressman Mike Gallagher found the objection scheme wrong-headed, and worse. From the assessment:
If state legislatures have been injured or ignored by renegade governors, election commissions, and courts, they could contest their respective states’ slates of electors. Yet not a single legislative chamber, including those controlled by Republicans, has done so. Many of my fellow Republicans have had informal meetings in hallways and Holiday Inns to discuss objecting. But not a single chamber in any of the 50 states has been willing to override the will of its voters based on evidence of fraud. Their silence consents to the Electoral College count.
Moreover, the idea that Congress — not the people in the states — gets to choose the president and the vice president would surprise the Framers. It would stun millions of Americans, as well as all of the American citizens who have voted in federal elections since the beginning of this Republic. The Constitution lays out a single circumstance in which Congress gets to pick the president: If no candidate receives a majority of the duly certified Electoral College vote, then the House picks the president based on state delegations. Selectively decertifying states to throw the election into the House is not a clever workaround. I have scoured The Federalist Papers, the history of the Electoral Count Act, and Madison’s notes on the Constitutional Convention. I cannot find any evidence to support the objectors’ approach as a legitimate means of presidential selection. It is constitutional nihilism.
The objectors are going down a dangerous path of vast federal overreach. By even forcing debate today, they are endorsing the pernicious idea that Congress, not the states, is the right forum for litigating — or even worse, relitigating — an election. This is an extremely progressive interpretation of the Constitution. It gives the federal government enormous new powers to regulate how states conduct elections, something the Left has sought for half a century. Until now, conservatives have rightly fought back against this line of legal reasoning. Yet the objectors would throw it all away for a few hours of primetime debate that they concede is unlikely to change the outcome.
4. More Andy McCarthy: He opposes the calls for invoking the 25th Amendment against President Trump. From the piece:
The vice president and congressional leadership were intrepid in returning to their important business last night. But even before the electoral votes were finally counted and Biden was recognized as the next president, calls were coming from both sides of the political aisle for Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from power with less than two weeks to go in his term.
To do so would not be as grave an offense against the Constitution as would have been acceding to Trump’s unhinged demands. But make no mistake, it would be unconstitutional.
The 25th Amendment is not a substitute for impeachment. It is a necessary process to deal with a specific kind of dire situation, namely, when the president is by some medical emergency rendered unable to perform the duties of the presidency. It is meant for such situations as Woodrow Wilson’s stroke or presidential assassinations which, as our history illustrates, sometimes require life-saving emergency surgery or tragically find stricken presidents lingering a while before expiring.
The amendment is not applicable to a situation in which the president is alleged to be unfit for reasons of character, or due to the commission of political offenses that may rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors.
5. Kyle Smith is in accord with Andy, but understands why the option is tempting: From the piece:
Let’s not do this. The 25th Amendment (Section 4) stipulates that it is applicable only if “the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” But Donald Trump is obviously not “unable,” merely unwilling to discharge his duties. No serious person doubts that Trump is perfectly capable of saying that Joe Biden has been duly elected president and that he is committed to an orderly transfer of power. (Indeed, he affirmed the latter in an early-morning tweet sent out by his aide Dan Scavino). Or Trump could, if he wanted, calm tensions by simply ceasing to claim that the election was stolen. He chooses not to do these things but he is able to do them. The reading of the 25th Amendment being discussed by cabinet officials and pundits yesterday would amount to essentially declaring that the president is unable to discharge his duties because he is insane. This is not a diagnosis that non-medical professionals in the cabinet should be making. Ruling that the president suffers from some debilitating mental disorder or another would, at a minimum, require a rigorous examination by trained professionals, not an off-the-cuff decision by politicians. (Yet even if a slate of psychological experts were to examine the president, they probably wouldn’t agree on what condition to diagnose.)
Using the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office is a temptation that must be rejected. It would clearly be a political move meant to extract from public life an unpopular figure. The United States of America cannot go down the road of confusing political unfitness with medical unfitness. The cabinet would simply be using the 25th Amendment as a pretext for taking down a lawfully elected leader they oppose. It would amount to an unconstitutional coup. If the 25th Amendment could be deployed in his case, it could be deployed in many other cases. How many times did their political opponents declare that Nixon or Reagan was “a lunatic” unfit to serve?
6. Dan McLaughlin argues that making Trump go will make things worse for America. From the piece:
One way or another, I come back to this: Removing Trump from office by a clear, bipartisan action (by Pence, or by a large number of Republican senators) might possibly avoid tearing the country apart. But a hotly contested effort to do so would be worse than what we have now, imposing long-term political damage and possibly inciting more violence rather than calming the waters. So, the question is not whether most Democrats or some Republicans are willing to do so or could justify it, but whether enough Republicans are on board to make this look more like a unanimous verdict of our political system. That would, in turn, make it harder for Trump to mobilize support to target the people who voted him out. But it is far from clear that the overwhelming popular mandate exists for such a dramatic step.
This gets to the real nub of the problem with either of these remedies: The case for removing Trump is largely one of prudence — of care for the system. But is it prudent, two weeks before the end of his term, to stage a potentially divisive fight to strip Trump of his powers? In particular, if Congress can muster a large, bipartisan vote for a resolution of censure, that is almost certain to attract the support of some Republicans who would otherwise balk at an impeachment vote. It might enable the partisan temperature to come down, rather than go up, while leaving behind a formal marker of disapproval.
I do not have an easy answer, and that suggests caution. Surely, at this juncture, Trump richly deserves impeachment and removal. Mike Pence, having been close to this president for years, is in a better position to assess whether he is truly in such a dangerous mental state now that the hazards of leaving him in place outweigh the risk of popular rage if he is defenestrated now. But one way or another, Trump’s actions since the election have indelibly stained his presidency. He cannot go away soon enough.
7. Fred Bauer does a paternity test on the GOP’s election debacles in Georgia. From the analysis:
The direct-cash plan flew through the House only to hit a dam in the Senate. Mitch McConnell’s career as Senate majority leader has been marked by big political gambles, such as blocking the Merrick Garland nomination in 2016 and pushing through Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination in the waning days of the 2020 campaign. In the lead-up to the January runoffs, he made another gamble and blocked a stand-alone vote on the stimulus checks.
Whether $2,000 checks would have gotten to 60 votes remains an open question (though it seems quite possible), but the fact that the GOP-held Senate blocked them gave Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff a potent political weapon. Both pledged that, if Democrats won the Senate, they would bring those checks up for a vote. The high-stakes bets of Senate Republicans on judicial nominations might have upset Democrats, but they also rallied GOP voters; blocking the checks, however, had the downsides of those past gambles without the benefits.
In the January runoffs, then, Republicans faced a political Bermuda Triangle. The president’s war with Georgia Republicans split the party and alienated middle-of-the-road voters. Trumpworld elevated voices, such as Lin Wood, urging Republicans not to vote in the January runoffs because elected Republicans had supposedly been insufficiently loyal to Trump and had not done enough to reverse the allegedly “hacked” election. The GOP’s refusal to pass expanded direct-cash benefits hurt the party with blue-collar voters. All that depressed Republican turnout.
8. More Kyle, who says that despite now controling Congress, Democrats have no mandate to make sweeping changes. From the piece:
Democrats will be shoving their faces into a buzzsaw if they interpret an election season that delivered them 50 percent of the Senate, 4.5 seats (at this moment) more than 50 percent of the House, and an incoming president who reached 270 electoral votes by a margin of only 43,000 votes spread across three states, as a decisive mandate for sweeping change. Or even as a quiet mandate for major change. Or even as a whispered suggestion of substantial change. The people don’t want anything more complicated than to turn the page on the Trump era.
Americans have decided, albeit by a much narrower margin than almost anyone expected, that they have had enough of Trump’s shenanigans. No other message took any particular hold in the public imagination. Even the devastation of the coronavirus was not strongly tied to Trump in the voters’ minds. If it had been, the electorate would have handed Biden a landslide comparable to Obama’s in 2008. The voters grasp that the virus would have played out in much the same way even if Democrats had been in charge. Given that the virus hit hardest in New York and New Jersey, where the various actions and inactions of Democratic officials had obviously catastrophic results, the public is wise enough to understand that simply being “the party of caring” is not enough to endow Democrats with magical virus-management powers. Today, New York governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City mayor Bill de Blasio are blaming each other for being unable to get the vaccines injected into people, many of whom will simply die waiting as these inept Democrats bicker and bungle.
Much of what drives people’s voting psychology is: not that. Barack Obama won primarily because he was not George W. Bush (whom he successfully argued had a clone in John McCain). He won again because he was not Mitt Romney, who reminded too many people of the management consultant who eliminated Dad’s job. Donald Trump, who was elected president in 2016 at a moment when he had an approval rating of 37 percent, won mainly because he was not Hillary Clinton. And Joe Biden very obviously won by not being Trump.
9. Neal B. Freeman makes the case for the Freedom Party. It already has members, maybe even you. From the article:
Indeed, so. The groups hit hardest by the lockdowns happen to be the constituent elements of the Freedom Party and, to those of you who choose to see this division as the work of coincidence, we say that you are sweet souls and you have our concern.
Take the egregious case of restaurants. Immigrants who come to America for the right reasons open restaurants for good reasons: (1) they can leverage their intellectual property (Mom’s recipes); (2) the kids will never go hungry; (3) it is still in some measure a cash business; and (4) they can launch and grow their business with a loyal, hardworking, and underpaid staff — the kids and their cousins. Immigrant restaurants have been for more than a century a first-class ticket to the American dream.
Here in Florida where I live, we are blessed not only with the legacy restaurants — French, Italian, Chinese, and Mexican — but with more recent arrivals, including Cuban, Haitian, Puerto Rican, Nicaraguan, and most recently of all, Venezuelan. These restaurants are run by independent businesspeople, who ripen over time into prime prospects for the Freedom Party. (The Puerto Ricans present a special case. Since the turn of the century, a million Puerto Ricans have settled in the Orlando area. That’s more than New York, more than San Juan. It’s been a veritable diaspora from an island with three million people. To overstate but accost the central point: The early arrivals came for opportunity and started their own businesses. The later arrivals, after Hurricane Maria, came for social services and became welfare clients. To read the national press, you would think that “Hispanics” are a fungible lot.) The Associated Press reports that, across the country, 110,000 restaurants have closed during the pandemic. That’s an astounding number, a tragic number. Not one of those families came to America aspiring to become government dependents.
I recount these episodes to drive home the obvious point. It is not only in war — when the patriotic citizen cedes ground carelessly to the national-security state — that individual freedoms shrink and shrivel. It is not only in bursts of ideological exuberance — the New Deal, the Great Society, the Biden Infrastructure-Boondoggle-To-Be-Named-Later — that the state advances. As every American knows in his hips, to borrow Willmoore Kendall’s timeless phrase, the state never sleeps. Sometimes slowly, sometimes with gathering speed, sometimes on cat’s paws, sometimes with the banging of rhetorical pots and pans, the state advances. The era of big government is never over.
10. Britain’s weirdly revered National Health Services, writes Cameron Hilditch, is marked by deadly failures. From the piece:
Britain’s irrational attachment to this failed system becomes intelligible in light of Nigel Lawson’s observation that “the NHS is the closest thing the English people have now to a religion.” The idea of health care provided free at the point of access has become grafted onto the vine of British national identity to such an extent that no amassing of data or evidence can persuade the public to abandon it.
The United Kingdom has changed at such a fundamental level over the past century that the old markers of identity no longer arouse any sense of affinity or self-recognition in the hearts and minds of the people. The older national inheritance exemplified by treasures such as Magna Carta, Lincoln Cathedral, and the language of the King James Bible have lost all of their cultural adhesiveness. At this point, almost the only thing that unites British people beyond their common language is the state to which they all involuntarily belong. And since the administration of health care is nothing more than the action of the state at its highest point of moral elevation, it makes sense that the NHS would be politically impregnable.
The excess deaths that the U.K. is suffering this winter along with the crushing physical and mental burdens borne by British doctors and nurses ultimately redound to this long-term failure of British culture. By transforming a medical institution into a cultural institution for the sake of forging a new, progressive national identity, Britons have underwritten decades of deadly failure. The U.K. is unlikely to change course at this point for all the reasons stated above, but there is still time for American progressives to pre-emptively end their irresponsible love affair with single-payer health care. American policymakers of both parties should see the NHS for the failure that it is, and look elsewhere for inspiration when seeking to reform the nation’s health-care system. Countless lives will be saved if they do.
11. Robert VerBruggen analyzes COVID’s 2020 death toll. From the piece:
One of the most important questions, of course, is what we accomplished through our reaction to COVID-19. As individuals, we retreated to our homes to protect ourselves and stop the spread of the virus. Governments mandated lockdowns, masks, social distancing, and more. The economy predictably cratered. All this certainly had consequences for our mental and physical health, our substance abuse, our kids’ education. Was the cure worse than the disease?
A new study from Casey B. Mulligan, who recently served as chief economist for President Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers for about a year, is a small step toward answering that question. It focuses specifically on the issue of who died, and why, through October 3 of last year. We’ll have better analyses once our slow-moving federal bureaucracy gets more data together, but the study paints a broad-brush picture of the death toll from COVID — and from our response to it.
The paper compares last year with previous ones, using a statistical model to predict what mortality would have looked like in 2020 if preexisting trends had continued. Things actually got off to a good start, with deaths below expectations, possibly thanks to a mild flu season. But from March through early October, “excess” deaths totaled a shocking 250,000.
12. China emerges from its year of global arson even stronger, writes Michael Brendan Dougherty. How in the heck can they get away with it? From the article:
European leaders met with Chinese President Xi Jinping this week to bring about a signature Chinese “investment” plan in the European Union. They are doing this, supposedly, to chart a middle way between the United States and the CCP, and to open up access to Chinese markets.
“Progress implies cooperation by both sides, implies reciprocity, and implies trust,” said Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, in announcing the agreement. But China does not follow its own agreements. State subsidies and investment are opaque, precisely to use these trade agreements as a form of mercantile expansion. Von der Leyen also said that human rights were non-negotiable European values. And yet, at the conclusion of this agreement, no one was sprung from the prison camps of Xinjiang or from the cells holding Hong Kong political prisoners.
Angela Merkel approved a deal to allow Huawei more access to contracts in the German 5G network, and even appeared in a sickening press conference in which the Chinese Communist flag and the EU flag were made to look like they were patterned after one another.
It’s not just the EU but the incoming Biden administration that is already signaling that bygones will be bygones after 2020. That’s why Disney Chairman Bob Iger’s name is being floated for U.S. ambassador to China. Disney has been slavishly flattering the Chinese government in hopes of being allowed access to the profitable Chinese market. This included credited “thanks” to the provincial authorities in Xinjiang at the end of the Disney film Mulan. It is these provincial authorities who are carrying out genocidal policies against Uyghurs.
These are the leaders of the free world, sucking up to Chairman Xi.
13. Adam Hoffman describes how Princeton students are blocking conservative speakers: From the piece:
As president of the right-leaning party of Princeton University’s American Whig-Cliosophic Society, the oldest collegiate literary, political, and debate society in the nation, I am responsible for bringing conservative speakers and voices to the heart of Princeton’s political scene. In 2020, I tried to do my job, only to be shut down by an intolerant Left.
Several months ago, I submitted a list of potential speakers to the American Whig-Cliosophic Society’s Speakers Council. They flagged a number of my speakers as controversial and decided to put them to a vote before the group’s student Governing Council, in accordance with procedures laid out to prevent a repeat of a 2018 disinvitation incident. My “provocative” speakers included Washington Post columnist and Pulitzer Prize winner (and Princeton alumnus) George Will and Neomi Rao, a former law professor and currently a circuit judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Predictably, none of the left-leaning party’s choices, including extreme progressives such as bell hooks and provocateurs such as Jamelle Bouie, were deemed controversial enough for further review.
Unfortunately, the speakers’ fates seemed sealed before we even began consideration. Some on the Speakers Council deemed George Will too controversial for campus, on the basis of his writing on “marginalized groups,” particularly his accused insensitivity for victims of sexual assault. The Governing Council feared his heterodox views would trigger discomfort and lead to protests. Not even his 2019 baccalaureate address at Princeton — at the university president’s invitation — and his former position on the university’s Board of Trustees could turn the tables in his favor. According to this group of Princeton’s political elite, Princeton students could not handle Will’s arguments. And so I was not allowed to invite Will to campus.
14. More Campus Antics: George Leef reports on a new study which shows the tactics of college administrators to dispose of non-liberal professors. From the article:
In today’s Martin Center article, retired professor Stephen Baskerville writes about a new paper he has written for the Center focusing on those tactics. In that paper, he writes, “I explore how non-disparagement agreements (NDAs) and mandatory arbitration (MA) provide a veil of legally enforced secrecy, shielding administrations from negative publicity, professional censure, and legitimate oversight, as they cleanse their faculty of ideologically heterodox professors.”
Using those methods, administrators can get rid of faculty they don’t want around, and keep everything silent because the hapless profs are prevented from ever discussing what happened to them. In consequence, both academic freedom and shared governance are undermined.
Baskerville also reveals that it isn’t just overtly leftist schools that use those tactics, but supposedly conservative, Christian ones. He explains, “Ironically, NDAs appear less likely to be used by liberal than conservative institutions, notably Evangelical Christian colleges, to disguise their capitulation to leftist pressure. Fearing controversy and avoiding public debate, these institutions make ‘routine use of non-disclosure agreements that stop current and former staff and board members from discussing sensitive matters.’”
15. Victor Davis Hanson wonders if the wisdom of Homer can be immune to the Cancel Culture. From the article:
Great works of literature such as Homer’s Odyssey, Virgil’s Aeneid, the Bible, and Dante’s Inferno offer lasting cultural referents that enrich the very way we speak and think. When we do not know the names of people, places, and things from Odyssey — such as the Olympians, the Trojan horse, Calypso, Hades, Scylla and Charybdis — then we have little foundation for understanding the logic and language of much of the present world.
Finally, from classic literature we learn values, both reassuring and troubling. Remember the fate of the goatherd Melanthius and the suitor Antinous. Arrogant bullies like these two do not end up well in Odyssey. But the humble and kind usually do.
For Homer, loyalty, responsibility, courage, and keeping a clear head are not optional, but rather lifesaving virtues. Odysseus possesses them and therefore makes it home despite losing his crew.
Yet in the pre-Christian pagan world of early Greece, morality is also defined as hurting enemies and helping friends, not turning the other cheek.
Hubris begets divine retribution, not Sermon on the Mount forgiveness of one’s sins. But to appreciate the values of the New Testament requires knowing a few of the more brutal tenets it sought to replace.
Our current cultural crisis is not from reading too much, but from not reading much of anything at all. Most of the people who deface monuments and wreck statues know almost nothing about the targets of their furor.
Canceling Homer is not virtue-signaling. It is broadcasting ignorance.
16. Nicholas Frankovich pays tribute Reginal Foster, the late Latinist. From the piece:
Foster had no use for any such faction. He had no patience for complaints from the opposite camp, either, where Latin was scorned as elitist, an obstacle between people and priest. Look, everyone who acquires the language does so in the same way: People learn it. Why don’t you? “You do not need to be mentally excellent to know Latin,” Foster insisted. “Prostitutes, beggars, and pimps in Rome spoke Latin, so there must be some hope for us.” (Not that a Roman lowlife was necessarily dim, but you get the idea.) As for the hoary assumption that princes of the Church whisper secrets to one another in a dead language, above our heads, please. Latin instruction in seminaries has been neglected for generations. The linguae francae (note the plural) of the Church in the 21st century are Italian and more Italian, French and Spanish, English and German. Among the many missives that Foster at his desk in the Apostolic Palace penned in the language of Cicero (and — mark you, snob — of the Roman masses) were congratulatory greetings that his office sent to high-ranking churchmen. He said that the notes were sometimes returned and accompanied by requests for translations.
He thought that the pope, who could lead by example, should set aside a couple of hours every day, 2 to 4 p.m., for reading in Latin — forget the siesta. He suggested that the Holy Father “stand up at the United Nations and speak Latin and say, ‘If you don’t understand this, it’s too bad, jack!’” Foster’s mission to revive Latin as a spoken language has been left to his followers. Was he quixotic? Or a pioneer? Wait at least a century or two before answering. The Church lives by a slow clock. Imagine the reaction if you could visit the 19th century and you described for its inhabitants the extent of modern Hebrew, a forerunner, Deo volente, of Latin redivivus. These dry bones will live again.
17. Brian Allen argues that taxpayer dollars bankrolling new Washington museums on women and Latinos will be a big waste. From the piece:
“Latino” or “Hispanic” is a gringo term. It condenses, and it minimizes nuance. Americans with south-of-the-border heritage have roots in so many different, disparate places. Mexico, El Salvador, Colombia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, the Canary Islands, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Peru, and a dozen other places have distinct cultures and, in America, wildly different trajectories. New Mexico has many descendants of Spanish grandees who came there in the 1600s.
Granted, my Italian grandmother was born not too long after the reunification of Italy. She was from Modena and thought Sicily was really part of Africa. My grandfather hailed from Fano, near Ravenna and Rimini. Neither felt any feeling, warm or cold, toward any other part of Italy. The experiences of Neapolitans, Venetians, Calabrians, and the Milanese weren’t theirs. I suspect people with Mexican heritage aren’t anymore smitten by Cuban themes than they are with maple-sugar making and white picket fences, which Vermonters can extol without end.
I don’t think this new museum can or will be coherent. I don’t think people from these places have an all-encompassing identity, much as Americans with European or Asian heritage don’t. I’d rather see museums in cities with, for instance, big Cuban-American or Dominican-American populations focus on history and culture that mean something to the locals. There are dozens of museums doing this now. Centralizing the vast, discordant history of Latinos-in-America in Washington will make for a bland mishmash.
It seems a boondoggle and gravy train. People having some form of Spanish acculturation seem to assimilate quickly. A generation or two from now, I wonder what the museum’s constituency would be.
1. David Bahnsen encourages a rethink of lifetime bans for insider-trading criminals. From the article:
It would be tough to think of a clearer example of “cruel and unusual” punishment than stripping someone of their existential purpose and calling in life. If, say, two years of jail is warranted, or a $2 million penalty, fine. But to then pile on a ban (that can last decades or even a lifetime) on working in the field someone loves, the field they know, the field that animates them, is a pile-on that defies basic standards of justice and mercy. It is inherently excessive, for if the goal is to “take them off the field” during the course of a jail sentence, the jail sentence should be the punishment. If the debt has been paid to society, telling someone after they have paid that debt that the punishment shall be prolonged, whether by statute (or regulation) is excessive, and in certain cases even cruel and unusual. This is not to say that an employer owes the guilty party a second chance. If a wrongdoer at, say, JP Morgan pays their debt to society for some form of violation, I would never suggest that Goldman Sachs owes them a second chance once he or she emerges from jail or pays off their fine. Market forces will and should affect their ability to regain professional opportunity, and their own creativity, tenacity, and persistence will have to overcome these challenges, which are considerable — not least because their offense will be a matter of public record and, in the case of brokers and many investment managers, will be visible on a database maintained specifically to tell prospective employers or clients.
2. Michael Hochberg and Leonard Hochberg believe the bill is due for China’s ‘Capitalist’ experiment. From the piece:
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has re-awoken to a profound truth: Rich, secure capitalists are the natural enemies of authoritarian regimes. In a hybrid autocratic-capitalist model, capitalism is the means to generate wealth, but power is the end goal. Successful capitalists naturally begin to demand that their personal and property rights be protected from authoritarian fiat. Capital in the hands of entrepreneurs is a political resource; it poses a threat to the implementation of centralized plans.
Realizing this, the CCP has begun to assert control over the private sector by “installing . . . Party officials inside private firms” and having state-backed firms invest in private enterprises. In the absence of civil rights or an independent judiciary, “private” companies have no real independence from the government in China. Dissent and demands for civil rights are a threat to the regime and will be crushed.
China’s shift from encouraging external investment and internal market competition toward treating capitalism as a threat has an obvious historical precedent. From 1921–1928, the Soviet Union instituted a policy of economic liberalization, which allowed for the privatization of agriculture, retail trade, and light industry. This partial and temporary return to a controlled and limited capitalism, known as the New Economic Policy (NEP), saved the Soviet economy from collapse and enabled Russia to modernize. But, in 1928, Stalin suddenly reversed course: He collectivized agriculture and liquidated the most prosperous farmers, thereby necessitating the frequent resort to grain imports, notably from the United States.
3. Joseph Sullivan says the Biden corporate-tax plan will Make America Mediocre Again. From the analysis:
Biden’s corporate-tax proposal is remarkable. Its explicit aspiration is for America not to stand out among its G7 (a group of seven advanced economies) peers. Under the plan, the U.S. would intend neither to gain advantage from tax policy nor have its tax code be a source of competitive disadvantage: The best that can be said is that America would be leading from the middle rather than from behind. If the G7 were a seven-person seminar, America would show up hoping to do no better than two or three classmates.
Even in its modest ambition to be mediocre, however, the Biden administration appears poised to fail. If the U.S. adopted Biden’s proposed federal tax rate, its overall corporate-tax rate would not be “in line” with the rest of the G7. Assuming U.S. state and local corporate taxes stayed the same, Biden’s proposal would result in nearly the highest overall corporate-tax rate in the G7, according to data from the OECD. The U.S. would be tied with France. In fact, as the chart above shows, factoring in state and local taxes, the U.S. corporate-tax rate is much closer to the G7 overall corporate-tax average today than it would be if the proposal Joe Biden campaigned on were adopted.
4. Alexander William Salter makes the case for e Biden Administration granting of emergency visas to Chinese persecuted by the PRC. From the piece:
When the West opened up to China, the hope was that political liberalization would follow economic liberalization. That has not happened. Instead, the free nations of the world, led by the U.S., face a Chinese Communist Party hell-bent on maintaining its authoritarian political system by any means necessary. Joe Biden must recognize China for what it is: a transgressor of both international law and human rights. Beijing cannot be an international partner in good standing under its current leadership.
Unfortunately, many Western elites are complicit in China’s brutality, particularly the leaders of multinational corporations. New evidence suggests “Uyghurs are working in factories that are in the supply chains of at least 82 well-known global brands in the technology, clothing and automotive sectors, including Apple, BMW, Gap, Huawei, Nike, Samsung, Sony and Volkswagen.” Since many of these companies embrace calls for social-justice stakeholder capitalism, their duplicity in overlooking actual injustice — slave labor — is hypocritical and unconscionable. We cannot rely on woke capital to stand up to the CCP. The task falls on the Biden administration, unlikely as that may seem.
While combating China requires a holistic strategy, the granting of emergency visas is relatively simple and highly effective
A Tasty Sampler from the New January 25, 2021, Issue of Your Favorite Fortnightly Magazine
You will find the entire January 25, 2021 issue here. A suggested quintet of selections from its remarkable contents follow.
1. Ramesh Ponnuru discusses the S.O.P. for the GOP in opposition. From the piece:
At the start of those two previous Democratic presidencies, Republicans engaged in some ruminations about whether their party had a future. Both because they know how those chapters in American politics ended and because they think Donald Trump lost the election for reasons peculiar to himself, they are less motivated to do any rethinking now.
The obvious lesson for Republicans is to dust off the old British political maxim that “the duty of an opposition is to oppose.” Oppose Biden’s tax increases. Oppose his environmental regulations. Oppose his health-care program. Oppose his judicial nominees. Oppose his immigration proposals. Oppose him on almost every point.
Defeat Biden on some of these issues, and it will demoralize Democratic voters while invigorating Republican ones. Put up a strong but losing fight, and his victories will make Democratic voters complacent while enraging Republican ones. Cooperate with Biden, on the other hand, and you make him look moderate, give him a success, and annoy some of your own supporters.
The basic electoral logic of this oppositional stance is hard to dispute, which is why both Republicans and Democrats in our polarized era have increasingly adopted it when out of the White House. It will serve Republicans well given that most, and probably the vast majority, of Biden’s agenda will deserve rejection.
2. John Yoo and John Bolton tag-team to make the case for any Iran policy change occurring under the guise of a treaty consideration. From the analysis:
New presidents feel the need to score policy wins in the first months of their term. Democratic down-ballot failures in 2020 mean Biden will have little maneuvering room to advance his domestic issues, and will instead have to turn to foreign policy for any early successes. Despite gaining the presidency by a healthy Electoral College margin (and winning the popular vote), the Democrats have seen their advantage in the House of Representatives shrink to a 222–212 majority (depending on two possible challenges), their narrowest since 1942. The Senate outcome is even closer, but as we go to press, it appears likely that the Democrats, thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote, will control that body 51–50, as tight as it gets.
While the executive enjoys vast power in foreign affairs, Republicans can put up a stiff fight through a combination of constitutional strategy, congressional tactics, and political infighting. (We wrote on this subject for NR six years ago, in “Advice on ‘Advice and Consent,’” December 31, 2014, without noticeable effect on the Senate; but we decided to try again under new circumstances.) They should refuse to accept the JCPOA as an international agreement because of its failure to undergo the treaty process required by Article II of the Constitution. If Biden emulates Obama and withholds JCPOA 2.0 from Senate consideration, Congress should deploy its own constitutional powers by imposing mandatory sanctions on Iran, beefing up military spending in the region, withholding appropriations to the State Department and other agencies, and refusing to confirm nominees to national-security positions or cooperate with the White House on other elements of its agenda.
The JCPOA is not the only international agreement the incoming administration intends to revive. “The United States will rejoin the Paris Agreement on day one of my presidency,” Biden promised in December, referring to the global climate-change agreement. Biden also envisions reentering the World Health Organization, from which Trump withdrew for its cover-up of the COVID-19 pandemic’s China origins. The JCPOA, though, raises the most immediate and profound constitutional problems.
3. Andy McCarthy makes the case for repealing the presidential authority to pardon. From the article:
The pardon power has in fact been invoked throughout the nation’s history to ease strife and promote reconciliation. In one of its first uses, President Washington pardoned a pair of Whiskey Rebellion agitators sentenced to death for treason — to the chagrin, ironically, of Hamilton, notwithstanding its being a textbook application of his thinking. President Lincoln made copious resort to his clemency authority for dozens of Confederate soldiers and officials, and in 1863 he made broad amnesty a core part of his vision for post-war reconstruction of the South and healing of the Union. It fell to President Andrew Johnson to issue that broad pardon to treasonous Rebel forces. That was in 1868 on Christmas Day, the heart of the season in which presidents typically extend clemency — originally in homage to the virtues of redemption and forgiveness. But today, pardons having become increasingly political and unsavory, it’s just as likely that Christmas is pardon time because fewer people are paying attention over the holiday.
Of course, there is not necessarily a disjunction between partisan political considerations and the national interest. President Gerald Ford pardoned his predecessor, Richard Nixon, in an effort to move the nation and his administration beyond the Watergate crisis. His successor, Jimmy Carter, mass-pardoned approximately 200,000 Vietnam draft evaders, dwarfing President Harry Truman’s pardoning after World War II of about 1,500 conscientious objectors. History remembers these clemency grants kindly. They spurred vehement protest at the time, though, in the tinderbox that was then American politics — as when President Reagan relied on the Carter amnesty to rationalize pardoning FBI officials convicted of illegal break-ins during the investigation of domestic anti-war terrorists. One of those officials, Mark Felt, was later revealed as the “Deep Throat” of Watergate fame.
Alas, while national healing is the best use of the pardon power, it is not the usual use.
4. Jay Nordlinger tells the story of Loujain al-Hathloul, a prominent political prisoner in Saudi Arabia. From the article:
What did she do? She campaigned for human rights, and, specifically, women’s rights: the right to live independently; the right to have legal recourse in the case of domestic abuse; the right to drive a car.
She knew the risks she was taking in campaigning for these simple rights. She had no “need” to do it, because she was living a perfectly fine life as it was. But she felt compelled to do it. According to her family, and others who know her, she has a strong sense of right and wrong, and a strong sense of patriotism. In short, she wanted her country to be freer and more just.
Possibly, Loujain al-Hathloul will be released in a matter of months. The judge suspended two years and ten months of her sentence, and gave her credit for the time she has already spent in prison. Her family is hoping for the best, although dictatorships are good at dashing hopes.
Loujain is 31 years old, born in July 1989. Her name means “pearl,” and her brother Walid says, “That’s what she is to our family.” Their father is an engineer, educated at the University of Michigan; their mother is a retired schoolteacher. There are six siblings altogether: two brothers, four sisters. Loujain is the fourth child in that lineup.
Three of the siblings live abroad, and have campaigned mightily for Loujain. The rest of the family is in Saudi Arabia, and barred from leaving the country. There is little they can do of a public nature. Freedom of speech is not recognized by the Saudi government.
“It does not surprise me that Loujain became an activist,” says Walid. As a girl, she cared a lot about people and questioned injustices around her: in particular, inequality between boys and girls, and men and women. She was always asking questions that weren’t quite safe to ask.
5. America is reinventing itself, says Joel Kotkin, and that’s grounds for optimism. From the piece:
Fortunately, the goofy one-world globalism of the American establishment is not so popular among the populace, because while free trade benefited some selected companies and the already affluent, it did so at the expense of most other people. The trade deficit with China, as the left-wing Economic Policy Institute points out, has cost as many as 3.7 million jobs since 2000. The view from BlackRock and Apple is not like the view from Main Street or the Rust Belt.
What America needs is not richer technology oligarchs but a policy agenda to increase jobs and bring production back to our communities. Despite the much-ballyhooed consumer benefits of low-cost imports, the vast majority of Americans seem willing to pay higher prices that could come from moving production out of China. Some American companies and foreign corporations have recognized the strategic advantages of locating here in the U.S. and the downsides of shifting operations to China and other competitors. The tariffs may not have made a big impact, as Trump promised, but the annual rate of jobs coming from offshore, according to the Reshoring Initiative, increased from 6,000 in 2010 to 180,000 in 2017. Cumulative jobs brought back represent about 5 percent of total U.S. industrial employment.
One signature shift has been the announcement by Taiwan Semiconductor to build a new $12 billion plant in Arizona, greatly increasing our high-tech security. These investments have the key characteristic of tightening supply chains on critical goods. President-elect Biden would do best to take advantage of a resurgent U.S. industrial sector that has survived the pandemic, performing better than its rivals in Europe.
The pandemic has helped make opposing dependence on China a bipartisan issue, particularly in terms of medical equipment, There have been longer-standing problems with our dependence on high-tech gear. Democrats, as former Indiana senator Evan Bayh has suggested, cannot hide behind globalist notions if they wish to win a sustainable majority.
Lights. Camera. Review!
1. Oh my does Armond White have cutting things to say about Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. From the beginning of the review:
Viola Davis looks frightening in the film version of August Wilson’s 1984 play Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Her monstrous eye shadow, shark-jawed false teeth (recalling Richard Kiel chomping at James Bond in The Spy Who Loved Me), baggy bodysuit, and obviously dubbed singing prove that no one involved with this film feels any emotional connection with its historical subject.
Ma Rainey (born Gertrude Pridgett in Columbus, Ga., in 1886) was known as “the Mother of the blues” for originating blues art and humor. It was her century-old achievement that inspired Wilson’s ambition to write a series of ten plays, each set in a different decade of the 20th century, affirming black American vernacular. Now, in a film directed by George C. Wolfe and produced by Denzel Washington, Rainey’s bawdy honesty, and Wilson’s grand concept, have been hijacked to serve the bitter agenda of today’s racial-justice movement. A historically false, dramatically trite fiasco results.
During his Eighties sinecure at the Yale Repertory Theatre, where the play was originally workshopped, Wilson laid out a dramatic scheme that would provoke shock (and guilt). But for 2020, Wolfe and Washington emphasize “systemic racism” — the inescapable pressure of white corporate ownership that shadows Ma Rainey and her musical accompanists.
2. Michael Washburn reflects on the great actress at the centenary of Lana Turner’s birth: From the beginning of the piece:
As we mark the 100th birthday of Lana Turner (1921-1995) this coming February 8 and reflect on her cinematic legacy, some of us may recall a line from a rather different sort of film from the kind in which Turner typically starred. In 2001’s wacko fantasy-drama Donnie Darko, Jena Malone, distraught over events in her personal life but elated at meeting up with her love interest — the film’s eponymous anti-hero — muses, “I guess some people are just born with tragedy in their blood.”
Indeed. It’s an observation that evokes Hemingways, Kennedys, and dozens of troubled movie and pop-music stars through the years, but seems particularly apt in the case of a film legend for whom life imitated art in the most lurid and gruesome way. Over the course of her life, Turner married and divorced seven men, and though not solely her own fault, Turner’s personal entanglements certainly stained her life and reputation and those of her teen daughter, Cheryl Crane, forever. In Crane’s memoir, Detour: A Hollywood Story, Crane alleges that Turner’s fourth husband, Lex Barker, repeatedly abused and molested her when she was a girl, but that’s not even the worst of it. On April 4, 1958, L.A. entrepreneur and mobster Johnny Stompanato, who had been aggressively courting and harassing Turner for months, attacked Turner in her home in Beverly Hills. This prompted then-14-year-old Cheryl to rush to her mother’s defense and fatally stab Stompanato. It was the end of an abusive relationship with a bully who had seen nothing wrong with storming onto the set of Another Time, Another Place and threatening Sean Connery with a gun. (The late Connery’s actions on this awful occasion were as heroic as anything he later did onscreen as James Bond.)
3. More Armond: He scopes out the films of 2020 and unleashes his 16th annual “Better Than” List. From the piece:
Straight Up > Nomadland, First Cow, The 40-Year-Old Version, and I’m Thinking of Ending Things
James Sweeney’s screwball comedy (dazzlingly acted by himself and Katie Findley) reveals today’s romantic uncertainties — the spiritual crisis underlying gender dysphoria. It crushes the “topical” trend from filmmakers who employ PC distractions — respectively, feminism and wealth-redistribution (Chloé Zhao), race (Radha Blank), and pseudo-cerebral hipster psychosis (Charlie Kaufman). Ingenious honesty vs. all kinds of crazy self-righteousness.
On a Magical Night > Mank
Christophe Honoré’s dreamlike farce tracing a couple’s emotional and sexual footprints makes no excuses, unlike David Fincher’s unconvincing attempt to mythify cruelty among friends and colleagues in Hollywood.
True History of the Kelly Gang > First Cow
Justin Kurzel’s Ned Kelly legend boldly reimagines the pathos of Australia’s white Western tribalism, while Kelly Reichardt condemns American capitalism as racist and homophobic. A rousing cultural lesson vs. a didactic history lesson.
Elsewhere in the Conservative Solar System
1. At Modern Age, crowd favorite Daniel J. Mahoney reflects on statesmanship as human excellence. From the essay:
Perhaps statesmanship of the noblest and truest kind has always been associated with crises of one sort or another: Solon addressing civil strife and class conflict in Athens in the sixth century BC; Pericles steering a middle path between imperial grandeur and prudent restraint in resisting the expansion of the Athenian Empire at the beginning of the Peloponnesian War; Cicero using all the arts of rhetoric and statesmanship in an ultimately failed attempt to save the remnants of Roman republicanism from the threat of Caesarian despotism; Burke eloquently warning defenders of ordered liberty against the proto-totalitarianism of Jacobin France; Washington leading the American people to their rightful station among the peoples of the earth and governing the new republic with an austere republican dignity; Lincoln preserving the Union and putting an end to the evil of chattel slavery at the same time; Churchill eloquently and firmly defending liberty and law, and all the achievements of the “English-speaking peoples,” against the dreadful barbarism of Nazism. Such statesmanship is, always and everywhere, a rare political achievement and an equally infrequent if admirable manifestation of the highest possibilities of the human soul.
Classical authors were right to understand such statesmanship as an elevated standard against which all political action can be judged. The thoughtful or reflective statesman exercises what the contemporary French political philosopher Pierre Manent calls “commanding practical reason,” not arbitrary power or a plan to satisfy the lowest impulses of his soul. Every political community needs such commanding practical reason, an authoritative exercise of judgment and foresight at the service of the common good. But the doctrinaire egalitarianism and relativism that many today confuse with democracy do not readily allow for such qualitative differences to be acknowledged and affirmed.
Elementary distinctions “natural” to political life — the distinctions between authority and authoritarianism, reason and will, nobility and baseness, domination and the mutual accountability inherent in free political life — are effaced in the name of a terrible simplification. Arguments about “the advantageous and the just,” as Aristotle so memorably put it in the opening chapters of his Politics, are summarily reduced to mere struggles for “power.” This effacement of politics as a moral science goes hand in hand with a toxic egalitarian moralism that feels free to repudiate our civilized inheritance and to judge all thought and action in the light of the overlapping determinisms of “race, class, and gender.” In truth, there can be no authentic political sphere, no veritable “public space,” when thought and action are reduced to cruel and inexpiable struggles for power and domination. And whatever the antinomian left claims, the messianic struggle for “justice” will lead only to mayhem, violence, and tyranny if the goods of life are said to have no foundation in the human soul or the natural order of things. One cannot promote justice on the “willful” premises of Machiavellian (and Nietzschean) modernity. If one begins with nihilistic premises, if one reduces every argument to a pretense for domination and exploitation, one necessarily ends with the self-enslavement of man. A barely concealed nihilism cannot provide a foundation for common humanity, the civic common good, or mutual respect and accountability. In the end, it can only negate our civilized inheritance despite the perfectionist or utopian veneer that invariably accompanies it.
2. At Reuters, Greg Torode reports on the ChiCom crackdown in Hong Kong now taking aim at Catholics, as nuns are arrested. From the investigation:
As the pressure rises, the acting head of the local Church, Cardinal John Tong, has been curbing activist voices in the Catholic hierarchy, according to four people with knowledge of the matter. One target has been the Justice and Peace Commission, a human rights body within the diocese that has traditionally championed political and religious liberty.
In October, the four people said, Tong’s executive committee, known as the curia, censored a statement on Sino-Vatican relations released by the commission. They removed a reference to James Su Zhimin, the Bishop of Baoding, who was arrested by Chinese authorities more than 20 years ago on the mainland and has become a hero to many in the Church. His fate is unknown.
Tong, 81, has also told his priests not to deliver sermons that are too political, cautioning them that they should avoid using language that causes “social disorder.” Tong, like all bishops, has full administrative authority over his diocese.
“We are at the bottom of the pit — there is no freedom of expression anymore,” the former Bishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal Joseph Zen, told Reuters in a written reply to questions. “All these things are normal in mainland China. We are becoming like any other city in China.”
With the exception of 88-year-old Cardinal Zen, all Church leaders, local priests and parishioners interviewed for this article declined to be named. “For any word you say,” Zen told Reuters, the authorities “can say you’re offending the National Security Law.”
3. More Red China: At Newsweek, Ben Weingarten predicts Xi will eat Biden’s lunch. From the article:
Communist China is betting on a return to the status quo ante of American acquiescence to, and support of, its hegemonic ambitions through comprehensive “engagement” and outright appeasement under a Biden administration.
That is the primary takeaway, if the recent remarks of Chinese State Councilor and Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi are any indication.
In the waning days of 2020, Wang delivered a speech at the Asia Society entitled, “Reorient and Steer Clear of Disruptions for a Smooth Sailing of China-U.S. Relations.” The title itself gives away the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) game: It seeks a reversion to the ostensibly pacific relations with the U.S. under which our ruling class aided, abetted and enabled its rise from trifling concern to our most formidable geopolitical adversary.
Wang would make this view even clearer in a subsequent interview published in CCP mouthpiece Xinhua, in which he said “China-U.S. relations have come to a new crossroads, and a new window of hope is opening.” As Xinhua summarized it, “The Chinese side hopes that the next U.S. administration will return to a sensible approach, resume dialogue with China, restore normalcy to the bilateral relations and restart cooperation.”
4. At Gatestone Institute, Majid Rafizadeh reports on a coterie of liberal House Democrats wanting mightily to restore Iran’s fortunes and become the mullahs’ BFFs. From the piece:
Have these lawmakers and Biden learned nothing from recent history? Some may argue that Iran’s mullahs would change their destructive behavior if they were rewarded in advance with appeasement policies and financial incentives. This argument, however, has been proven to be breathtakingly wrong.
There was an opportunity to initiate and expand peaceful policies during the eight-year administration of President Barack Obama. Throughout this time, Obama made unprecedented concessions in an attempt to appease the ruling mullahs. He met them with generosity and flexibility every step of the way. What was the outcome?
As sanctions against Iran were lifted during the Obama administration, it quickly became clear that those actions, instead of moderating the malign activity of the mullahs, gave Iran an unmerited global legitimacy in the eyes of the international community. These gifts from the US — the newfound legitimacy, the billions in cash and the lifting of sanctions — generated even more billions in revenue for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), as well as for Iran’s militias and terror groups. Tehran also used that influx of revenues to expand its influence throughout the region, including in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon — and as far away as Venezuela. Iran apparently sees Venezuela as its “beachhead for diplomatic and commercial expansion into Latin America,” including “underground ‘missile cities’” along the Gulf coast. Iran’s expansion campaign has proved to be immensely successful.
5. At The New Yorker, Anthony Lane recommends the new movie by Andrei Konchalovsky, “Dear Comrades!” — the story of a 1962 uprising in the USSR town of Novocherkassk, and its bloody suppression (a massacre) by the heirs of Stalin. From the review:
Vysotskaya has a face that can harden in resolve or blench in shock, and such doubleness serves her well in “Dear Comrades!,” where she barely has the time, let alone good cause, to crack a smile. She plays Lyuda Syomina, who heads the production sector on the City Committee of Novocherkassk—a solid industrial base in southern Russia, cradled in a wide loop of the Don River, and housing an electric-locomotive plant. Lyuda, who was a nurse on the front line in the Second World War, and who still reveres the memory of Stalin, lives with her elderly father (Sergei Erlish) and her eighteen-year-old daughter, Svetka (Yulia Burova). As the story begins, in the summer of 1962, we find Lyuda in bed with her boss, the unlovely Loginov (Vladislav Komarov). They speak not of sweet nothings but of unobtainable somethings; food prices have been raised, meat and milk are scarce, and there are rumors of unrest. Loginov is unperturbed. “The Central Committee instructions clearly say that the change will result in higher living standards in the nearest future,” he says.
Your initial reaction is: “Nobody talks like that.” But Loginov does, as does Lyuda (she dismisses the shortages as “temporary hardship”), and you soon realize that both of them are true believers. In reciting the necessary rhetoric, like a rosary, they are not so much describing a situation as willing the reality to match up to their creed. What interests Konchalovsky is the sundering of words from facts, and the speed with which that split becomes a gulf. Thus, during a committee meeting, a siren goes off, indicating that the unthinkable has happened: factory workers, offered lower pay and less to eat, have gone on strike. “This is a crime,” Lyuda says. “People are ignorant.” Yet she is the one who doesn’t want to know.
A regional superior named Basov (Dmitry Kostyaev) arrives from out of town to handle the crisis. Fat chance. Portly and perspiring, he steps onto a balcony to address the crowd below. “Comrades, we live in a wonderful time,” he declares. A rock is thrown in reply. As the tension mounts, and as we follow the chain of command, we sense the rising fear, with apparatchiks hurrying to offload blame. Even a general, heralded as “a beast,” looks nervous in the presence of two brooding honchos from the Central Committee, dispatched on Khrushchev’s orders. Their fear is that information might leak out and foment further dissidence elsewhere; the city is to be sealed off. Boldly, if unwisely, Lyuda stands up and recommends an “extreme penalty” for those who incited the trouble. She will have her wish.
6. At The College Fix, Jackson Walker reports on Byrn Mawr College’s “reparations fund.” From the article:
Bryn Mawr College, a women’s liberal arts college in Pennsylvania, recently agreed to student activists’ demands that a “reparations fund” be created for black and indigenous students.
It was one of many demands issued by the Bryn Mawr Strike Collective, a student-led group that organized a racial justice strike on campus during the fall semester.
The students’ demand called for “the implementation of a ‘reparations fund’ towards a yearly allocation of funds and resources to Black and Indigenous students in the form of grants for summer programs, affinity groups, multicultural spaces, and individual expenses such as books, online courses, therapy, and any and all financial need beyond the scope of racial justice work.”
Bryn Mawr leaders agreed to this demand by renaming the Dean’s Emergency Fund to the Dean’s Student Assistance Fund, doubling its allocation to $10,000 annually, and appointing a committee that includes representation of black, indigenous, and people of color staff and faculty, to administer the fund.
Last week in this space much was made of Gary Peter’s pinch-hit, walk-off home run, a dilly of an accomplishment for a pitcher who occasionally performed batsman duties. Also, a promise was made: to herald some of the long-ball achievements of Wes Ferrell.
A few notes first. Wes was a pitcher, quite distinguished — he had a 193-128 career record for the Braves, Dodgers, Red Sox, Yankees, Indians, and Senators, hurling from 1927-1941, a workhorse righty who led the AL in complete games in four seasons, and innings pitched in three. A two-time All Star, Wes was the brother of Hall of Fame catcher Rick Ferrell; indeed, the two were teammates over six seasons for the Red Sox and Senators (in fact, the two were jointly traded from Boston to Washington in 1937 for . . . yep, Bobo Newsom.
The power hitter of the two was the pitcher: In 7,076 plate appearances, Rick amassed 28 career homers. Wes, in just one-fifth of his bro’s plate appearances, socked 38 home runs. 37 of them came as a pitcher — an MLB record.
But let us talk about that pinch homer, and a few others that came in July of 1935.
The pincher first: At home before 24,000 fans at Fenway Park, the Sox facing the visiting Detroit Tigers, on July 21, 1935, a sunny Sunday, Beantown starter Lefty Grove (baseball-reference.com), the Hall of Famer, took a 4-3 lead into the top of the Ninth Inning, and blew it: a string of two-out hits gave the Tigers a 6-4 lead. In its last licks, the Red Sox put together two hits and a bunt to have men on second and third with one out, and Grove (a weak hitter — his 1935 batting average was .079) on deck. Joe Cronin, the player/manager (and the man on third), made the not-tough call, and Wes Ferrell — who was hitting .365 for the season! — strode towards the batters box. Whatever pitch Tigers ace Tommy Bridges served up was deposited on the other side of the Fenway fence — Ferrell’s pinch-hit, three-home, walk-off secured the Red Sox a 7-6 victory.
More drama followed over the next week. In fact, on the next day. The St. Louis Browns were in town, and Wes Ferrell was on the mound, facing Dick Coffman. Into the bottom of the Ninth the game went, a 1-1 tie. Babe Dahlgren — who, a few years later, would achieve notoriety for replacing Lou Gehrig as the Yankee’s first baseman — led off and popped out. Up came Wes Ferrell — and out, way over the Green Monster, went Coffman’s pitch. For the second consecutive game, Ferrell had a walk-off home run.
Two more dingers would come before the month was over. On July 31st, the Red Sox were in Washington, Ferrell facing Bobo Newsom (in the first of his five separate tours with the Senators) on the mound, but the bigger contest was at the plate: Ferrell smacked two home runs, deep into the left-field bleachers at Griffith Stadium, and driving in four runs to anchor a 6-4 Sox win.
Of additional note: A year later, on August 12th, the Philadelphia Athletics visiting Boston, Ferrell again clubbed two homers, both off A’s starter Hod Lisenbee, one of them a grand slam, and driving in all of Boston’s runs in a 6-4 victory.
One more: At Fenway on August 22, 1934, against the White Sox, Ferrell went deep twice: In the Eighth Inning, off Les Tietje, his solo shot knotted the game at 2-2. Then with two out in the bottom of the Tenth Inning, Ferrell again went long on Tietje. It was his first career walk-off, and it also earned him his 12th victory of the season.
For those who perished in the madness, pray for the peaceful, eternal repose of their souls. For those harmed in performing their duties, whetehr in this week or in weeks and months past, speedy recovery and solace. And as we should ever do, let us pray for wisdom. A lot of wisdom. Do not underestimate the importance of knowing (if one may paraphrase the great Mr. Rogers — not of the Neighborhood but of the Home Guitar Course ) when to hold ’em, when to fold ’em, when to walk away, and when to run.
May We Be Made Worthy of the Almighty’s Promises,
Jack Fowler, who will accept digitized rebukes if communicated to firstname.lastname@example.org.