The Weekend Jolt

U.S.

Do You Xi What I Xi?

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Whatsoever you do, read Jim Geraghty’s chronicle of Red China’s Coronavirus mendacity. A slice from the calendar:

January 1: The Wuhan Public Security Bureau issued summons to Dr. Li Wenliang, accusing him of “spreading rumors.” Two days later, at a police station, Dr. Li signed a statement acknowledging his “misdemeanor” and promising not to commit further “unlawful acts.” Seven other people are arrested on similar charges and their fate is unknown.

Also that day, “after several batches of genome sequence results had been returned to hospitals and submitted to health authorities, an employee of one genomics company received a phone call from an official at the Hubei Provincial Health Commission, ordering the company to stop testing samples from Wuhan related to the new disease and destroy all existing samples.”

According to a New York Times study of cellphone data from China, 175,000 people leave Wuhan that day. According to global travel data research firm OAG, 21 countries have direct flights to Wuhan. In the first quarter of 2019 for comparison, 13,267 air passengers traveled from Wuhan, China, to destinations in the United States, or about 4,422 per month. The U.S. government would not bar foreign nationals who had traveled to China from entering the country for another month.

January 2: One study of patients in Wuhan can only connect 27 of 41 infected patients to exposure to the Huanan seafood market — indicating human-to-human transmission away from the market. A report written later that month concludes, “evidence so far indicates human transmission for 2019-nCoV. We are concerned that 2019-nCoV could have acquired the ability for efficient human transmission.”

Also on this day, the Wuhan Institute of Virology completed mapped the genome of the virus. The Chinese government would not announce that breakthrough for another week.

Yes, the theme here remains vigilance concerning the worst fiends of the 20th century, and now the 21st — Red China’s brutal billionaire rulers, quarterbacked by the God-supposing Xi Jinping.

There is indeed so much here below about this and related matters, but do consider the abundance is to help and distract some of you through the lonely hours of pathogen-induced isolation and monkishness.

And when you are finished, consider watching Bette Davis in Another Man’s Poison, a middling 1951 film but with a title that fits the theme of these times.

Editorials

1. Sorry, but this is not a “stimulus.” From the editorial:

The provisions to support businesses, small and large, are especially valuable. Businesses cannot be expected to have saved enough money to weather a once-in-a-lifetime pathogen. The public has an interest in their being able to pay ongoing expenses during this crisis and to resume as viable enterprises once it ends. The legislation stipulates that businesses receiving loans cannot pay dividends or engage in stock buybacks for several years. This is faddish thinking, and there are better ways to protect taxpayer interests and keep existing shareholders from making windfall gains.

The legislation is far from perfect. The enormous spending involved would be easier to stomach if legislators and presidents had shown greater restraint before this crisis hit or showed any interest in getting the national debt on a sustainable trajectory. But we will take our own advice. The support for business, the relief for individuals, and the expansion of medical capacity are all urgent matters. They justify a bill that, in a happier time, nobody would consider, and we ourselves would vehemently reject.

Before We Get to the Prime Rib, Do Consider Publisher Garrett Bewkes’ Case for Your Becoming an NRPLUS Member

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Our entire staff spent the last two weeks ensuring that all NR operations can be maintained indefinitely from remote locations across these great United States. Our newsroom is as strong as ever, closely monitoring and reporting on all aspects of the coronavirus crisis (and so much more), and our top opinion writers continue to deliver much-needed insight and perspective, weighing in on all aspects of the crisis — be they medical, social, political, or geopolitical.

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Golden Corral Doesn’t Have This Many Selections on Its Buffet. And Here the Vittles Are Free and Heaping, so Tuck In!

1. Scooter Libby and Logan A. Rank demand that Red China be held accountable. From the piece:

Having unnecessarily caused and exacerbated a worldwide pandemic, untouchable Chinese officials added their next outrage — blaming America. Beijing shamelessly poses as both victim and savior, seeking disproportionate praise for sharing genome information, casualty data, and, relative to the harm, limited supplies.

In any just and lawful setting, actors who recklessly pursue hazardous activities would be held accountable for foreseeable harm caused to others. It would not matter if the wrongdoers did not intend such harm; it would be enough that they knowingly persisted. Exacerbating harm by concealing it and retarding mitigation only increases such liability.

Prevention and simple justice require that Beijing accept consequences facing any other wrongdoer — including an end to dangerous practices and extending at least partial compensation to those so grievously harmed outside China. International diplomacy, legislation, executive action or legal proceedings here and abroad should seek to ensure Beijing acts responsibly.

2. Just how vile and phony can the media be? Charlie Cooke looks at NBC’s coverage of the Darwin Award couple who ate toxic fish cleaner . . . TRUMP’S FAULT! From the piece:

I’m afraid that this is the stuff of idiocracy — the equivalent of a person seeing a bucket of chlorine next to her swimming pool and drinking it because the letters on the outside are arranged in a similar order to the word “chloroquine.” And the idea that the president is to blame for this is . . . well, it’s simply incomprehensible to me. It is possible, certainly, that Donald Trump (along with Andrew Cuomo) has been too bullish on the prospects for chloroquine as a tool in the fight against coronavirus. But that, if true, is a dramatically different sin. We simply cannot run our country on the assumption that “I have high hopes for this drug currently in clinical trials and hope it will eventually be fast-tracked by the FDA and prescribed by a doctor” will be heard by reasonable people as “go into your pantry right now and eat fish tank cleaner if the ingredients look similar to you to a word you heard on television.” Insofar as there is any advice to be disseminated here, it’s “don’t eat industrial cleaning products,” which one would hope is a lesson that most people have already internalized.

3. The political media are woefully failing America, says David Harsanyi. From the analysis:

Some of that trust has been corroded over years of Obama adulation, echo chambers, conspiracy mongering, and knee-jerk partisanship. Some of that trust has also been corroded by the litany of Trump-slaying “bombshells” that have fizzled over the past years. I don’t know how many times I’ve recently heard people affix “if it turns out to be true” to a breaking news story.

Sorry, it’s difficult to trust a newspaper that allows its headline writing to be controlled by left-wing Twitter mobs or one that sends a senior editor from the Washington Post to write a piece on some Twitter rando with 400 followers to own Trump — and then track down his poor parents for good measure. How do we trust producers who believe Dan Rather — a man who pushed multiple forged documents, which smeared Bush 43, on the American public  — is the perfect guest to lecture Americans about accuracy?

All three of those things happened this week.

Worse than all that — or maybe it’s for the best — everyone can now see the hive mind of political journalism at work on Twitter.

RELATED: As Alexandra DeSanctis reports, the public has no trust in the MSM’s handling of the Coronavirus crisis. Here’s the story.

4. Potter’s buying. It may be a wonderful life, but still, Victor Davis Hanson offers thoughts on panicking. From the piece:

If we can get hard data out and the lethality rates descend to near flu levels, and once Americans see that well over 99 percent of the population survives the virus, then they will have confidence in the return of the economy, buy and sell stocks on the basis of innate worth and return rather than panicked speculation, and again rehire, run, and expand their businesses.

In sum, with the use of new treatment protocols and medicines, wider testing, and the approaching summer, we can get the incidence of infection down to a level that allows most people to work and keep the economy alive. Otherwise, make no mistake, if the present economic somnolence continues, many Americans are going to sicken and die — but from the economic virus in reaction to the coronavirus.

5. Given the crisis at hand, what’s with those people, says Kyle Smith, who are rooting for a Trump failure? From the commentary:

We know that the president is unusually thin-skinned and capricious, that he is keenly and perhaps unhealthily focused on what the media are saying about him at any given nanosecond, that he has a short temper and a quick fuse. He goes through cabinet secretaries like a newborn goes through diapers. And pointing out his errors is the legitimate business of CNN, NBC, ABC, MSNBC, the Washington Post, etc. But the way the media are trying to gin up a feud between Trump and Dr. Anthony Fauci is disgraceful and disgusting.

Folks, and by “folks” I mean you absolute freaking Muppets, are you trying to get Fauci fired? Do we really want to start over with a new specialist in infectious diseases in the White House? Would you be happy if Omarosa were Trump’s chief adviser on epidemiology? Would you be more secure if Jared were the last man standing during the medical briefings?

The incandescently moronic jibber-jabber (I won’t call it “reporting”) about the bizarre case of the Arizona woman whose husband died after taking fish-tank cleaner he and she incorrectly supposed to be the drug Trump touted in the White House is the kind of barnyard waste product that shouldn’t even make it to national news reports, and ordinarily wouldn’t, except that the media seem to be getting a near-erotic thrill out of any scrap of information they think might set off Trump. The dead Arizona man didn’t take chloroquine. He took chloroquine phosphate, in a massive dose. Please run the tape for me where Trump said, “Everybody take a spoonful of fish-tank cleaner to save your lives.” “The difference between the fish tank cleaning additive that the couple took and the drug used to treat malaria is the way they are formulated,” dryly noted CBS News. Oh, you don’t say? Because I was going to put rubbing alcohol in my martini tonight. Or is rubbing alcohol differently formulated than gin?

6. Mike Watson unmasks Red China’s charity. From the piece:

Chinese propagandists also claim that China is leading the way in responding to the crisis internationally, which is patently false. China’s much-publicized gift of 1 million masks to Japan is a grand and magnificent gesture, albeit only one-third as grand as prior Japanese donations of nearly 3 million masks to China.

The most remarkable case, however, is in Italy, where China’s ostentatious delivery of supplies and doctors has caused much consternation among Americans who worry that the United States is losing its global leadership role. Media accounts often omitted that the supplies were bought and paid for by the Italians, when the most newsworthy element to the story is that China actually kept its commitment to deliver what it sold.

Overall, China has returned to Europe about as much medical equipment as it received, taking credit for in effect receiving supplies from northern and central Europe and delivering them later to southern Europe — but unlike the European donors, the Chinese aren’t doing it for free. Chinese Communists are boasting about their magnanimity and are letting Germany and the European Union take the blame for shortages across Europe that are largely due to Chinese hoarding. This is not philanthropy; this is mercantilism.

7. The recovery will be slow, says Andrew Stuttaford. From the beginning of the analysis:

The economic numbers are beginning to come in, and, predictably enough, just about wherever you check, they are appalling. In Pennsylvania alone last week there were more than 350,000 first-time claims for unemployment assistance. That compares with (seasonally adjusted) initial national claims over the last year averaging in the low 200,000s, and the news is only going to get worse in Pennsylvania and, probably, every other state. Brokerage research, usually a reliable source of good cheer until well past the last moment, now makes for bleak reading. On Friday, Goldman Sachs estimated that U.S. GDP would tumble by an annualized 24 percent in the second quarter (against earlier expectations of a 5 percent hit). A pandemic has consequences and so do the measures taken to contain it. This week Morgan Stanley ratcheted up the gloom, forecasting an annualized 30 percent GDP decline in a second quarter when unemployment could hit nearly 14 percent. Tracking the course of these projections shows how rapidly the mood is darkening, and expectations play no small role in driving the economy.

Goldman’s economists are, however, anticipating that GDP will recover by (an again annualized) 12 per cent in the third quarter. But the damage inflicted on the economy is not going to be easily undone: Unemployment was expected to peak at 9 percent. Bad though that unemployment figure may be, my guess (and currently that is all that any forecast can be) is that it, along with hopes of a more or less V-shaped recovery, will turn out to be too optimistic. Even if the parts of the economy that have been braked or switched off were to start up again tomorrow, it would take a while for them to return to any approximation of business as usual.

8. Pandemic or not, free trade is working, says Kevin Williamson. From the piece:

There are risks to relying on overseas suppliers for surgical masks, or for any other good. There also are risks to not tapping overseas suppliers for surgical masks and for other critical goods. An earthquake in Utah can take a factory offline as quickly as a diktat from Beijing. Responsible organizations plan for disruptions in their operations; if they find themselves in the vulnerable position of being reliant upon a single provider for some mission-critical component, they find additional ones. The problem with the medical-mask market is not that U.S. firms buy them from Chinese sources but that they do not also buy them from other sources or have quickly executable plans to acquire them from other sources. International trade is not the problem — it is the solution.

The current shortages are less matters of trade than they are matters of the “just in time” model of inventory management and operations, which works very well — if things actually get done in time. The current shortages of everything from ventilators to toilet paper are forcing a reevaluation of the risks associated with low inventories. That’s a classic problem of mispricing risk: Businesses immediately realize the savings associated with reductions in the costs of building and operating large warehouses, but the tradeoffs are not given their due because the costs imposed by them are not immediate. Many of the people who say “We need to run the government like a business!” would not say that if they knew more about the way many American businesses are run. It is worth keeping in mind that Krispy Kreme went bankrupt selling doughnuts to Americans.

A more narrow and more difficult issue than that of international trade is that of trade with China, which groans under the corrupt misgovernment of a single-party gulag state. Trade with China is the right policy for the United States for both economic and national-security reasons: Trade leaves both countries better off in material terms, and the United States is better off with a middle-income China than with a poor and desperate China. While it is wrong to believe that liberal reform in China will come to pass inevitably as a result of its increasing prosperity and its limited economic reforms, almost none of what the United States wants from the U.S.–China relationship is easier to get from a poorer China. Even real problems in the economic relationship, the theft of intellectual property prominent among them, are more tractable to Washington when China has more to lose. The problem for the United States is that Washington is lazy and reliably reaches for the wrong weapon — tariffs — because our national leadership lacks the intellectual capacity and long-term political commitment to pursue our interests in an intelligent and productive way.

9. Andy McCarthy get investigative and explores the reality of “fatality rate.” From the piece:

Not everyone who contracts the SARS-CoV-2 virus will develop the COVID-19 disease. This is where things get murky in the public debate, and why I say the difference between virus and disease is not necessarily discernible in the statistics washing over us.

When Dr. Fauci wrote that the COVID-19 fatality rate may be well under 1 percent when one factors in “cases” involving asymptomatic or only mildly symptomatic people, I assumed that he was talking about people who get the virus but do not report. But beware of that promiscuous word cases.

A person who does not report is not a case in the familiar sense — a case is a person who reports, is tested, and is treated if necessary. Therefore, while we assume there is a group of non-reporting people out there — perhaps a very large group — who have SARS-CoV-2 (and perhaps even have mild cases of COVID-19), there are also non-reporting people who do not have SARS-CoV-2 — they just have analogous symptoms (the kind common to cold, flu, other viruses, etc.). Adding non-reporting people for purposes of computing the COVID-19 fatality rate could thus unduly inflate the denominator and understate the danger. On the other hand, limiting ourselves to only reported cases in which patients test positive for the virus would miss people — probably a lot of people — who have the virus but do not report and quickly recover (although maybe not before they’ve passed it along to others). This would wrongly inflate the fatality rate higher (by depressing the denominator).

And then there is the matter of how stats are kept. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the test that is being administered “is designed to detect the virus that causes COVID-19” — viz., SARS-CoV-2. Does a positive test indicate that the person has the virus but may not have the disease? Not clear. The CDC elaborates, “If you have a positive test result, it is very likely that you have COVID-19” (emphasis added). Meaning: The CDC (at least in the statistics that are being shared publicly) assumes that if you have the virus, you have the disease.

10. “Biden” you say? Name sounds familiar. Dan McLaughlin whereabouts-wonders about the Forgotten Candidate. From the piece:

Biden is frozen in place, without a lot of modern precedent to fall back on. He can’t use his own office to get in the news or do anything useful, because he has been out of office for four years. He can’t hold campaign rallies, which are unsafe for crowds and particularly hazardous to a 77-year-old candidate. His party’s leaders on Capitol Hill seem uninterested in getting him involved in negotiations, even within their own party. He can’t even formally celebrate wrapping up the nomination, because Sanders stubbornly insists on continuing his campaign. So Biden is reduced to reading embarrassingly halting statements off cue cards in an empty room.

This is a bizarre situation for the man who may well be the next president of the United States. It is too early, and events are too volatile, to reliably predict how the coronavirus outbreak will alter the outcome of the election. Trump could end up benefiting from the rally-around-the-leader effect of crises, or he could be sunk by public discontent with his leadership, a faltering economy, and a generally sour national mood. By any estimation, however, Biden was already at least a tossup chance to win in November before this, and the central theory of Trump’s reelection (a booming economy) is now out the window. There is every reason to take seriously the significant likelihood that Biden will be the leader of the free world ten months from now. And almost nobody cares to hear from him in an hour of peril. It is hard to recall a time when a major-party presumptive nominee has been so invisible and so irrelevant on the national stage.

11. Rich Lowry finds the lack of a spotlight helpful to the Democrat cipher. From the column:

Biden’s candidacy holds interest only to the extent he is gaffe-prone. His misfires aren’t Hillary Clinton–style gaffes, laced with arrogance and an insulting dismissiveness that makes them a rallying cry for the other side (e.g., “deplorables”).

Instead, Biden’s verbal tangles, incomplete sentences, and weird mix-ups are amusing — and concerning. They will be used to argue that he isn’t up to the job, but they don’t make anyone hate Biden. He can’t even generate strong feelings in his partisan opposition.

All that said, Biden deserves credit for his insight that the Democratic Party wasn’t defined by woke Twitter and that Obama-Biden Democrats, as he calls them, still constituted the party’s center of gravity. He correctly believed — or hoped — that African-American voters would see him through.

His victories on Super Tuesday and afterward showed that Democrats were willing to turn out en masse for an uninspired candidacy, and it may be that the same dynamic will hold in November.

If so, Biden could do worse than stay in his basement for the duration.

12. John O’Sullivan, in Budapest, awaits the full force of the virus, and in a wide-ranging piece considers the role of immigration into the impact on certain countries, and response strategies that may not jibe with medical realities. From the essay:

If we could solve the medical flaw in this strategy — and that might be possible: read on — it would still face a more obstructive flaw. Governments have already committed themselves and their prestige to a bold (if mistaken) policy and invested immense amounts of political capital in it. It’s hard enough to change their minds before they’ve made such a commitment; it’s nigh impossible to do the same when they’ve bet the house on a single number in roulette. Okay, events will force a retreat to mitigation or something like it eventually. But it would require a bolt from the blue to get them to change now.

Amazingly enough, two bolts have suddenly appeared from the blue.

The lesser bolt is that, as we noticed earlier, researchers have only lately begun to point out that the Italian statistics may greatly exaggerate those deaths caused by the virus: They amount to only 12 per cent of the total number of those who died with the virus. Most died, in effect, from other causes. And that smaller death rate from COVID-19 is likely to shrink farther as the pandemic runs its course. These doubts about the Italian statistics are important because governments and the media have been treating Italy’s experience with COVID-19 as a guide to what their own countries are likely to suffer after a time lag. What if it isn’t? This question has particular significance to the U.K. The IC scientists chose suppression over mitigation in their urgent advice to the British government because they were alarmed by data they had just received from Italy. Did that data exaggerate the Italian death rates? Or did it take into account the growing doubts about them? Probably the latter, though the U.K. media have begun to follow this story only in recent days.

Even if the Italian data showed no bias, however, a third factor must be taken into account: namely, the annual death rate in the U.K. In 2018, one full year before COVID-19 was heard of, 541,000 people died in England and Wales, most of them older and less healthy people. That’s almost the exact prediction in the IC report of how many people would die if nothing was done. Are the 510,000 deaths in addition to the annual total? Apparently not. They will be part of the total. Naturally, no one now knows how large a part, since the deaths are hypothetical and the deceased still alive. But since those Brits who died in earlier years are similar in relevant respects to the great majority of Italians who died with the coronavirus rather than by it, it’s reasonable to argue that the deaths from the virus in the U.K. will not add all that many to the annual total of the dead of previous years, since many of them would likely die if the virus hadn’t erupted among us.

13. Maybe, Madeleine Kearns wonders, we should have listened to Bill Gates. From the piece:

In 2015, Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, gave a TED talk in which he warned that the greatest risk of global catastrophe in the world today was “not missiles, but microbes” — not nuclear war, in other words, but an influenza virus. “If anything kills more than 10 million people in the next decade it’s most likely to be a highly infectious virus,” he warned. Gates’s concern was that while huge sums had been invested in nuclear deterrents, “we’ve actually invested very little in a system to stop an epidemic.”

These weaknesses had been made obvious during the 2014 Ebola outbreak, during which the Gates Foundation had shipped supplies to help doctors and nurses protect themselves from the virus and prevent its spread. At least 10,000 people died from Ebola. It was only a matter of luck that it wasn’t millions more. Part of this was because the virus became infectious only when people were severely symptomatic and bedbound. Another reason is that it did not make its way into densely populated urban areas. “If there is any good to have come out of the Ebola crisis,” Gates said, “it is that it has acted as an early warning, a wake-up call.” For the weakness it had exposed was not merely “that the system didn’t work well enough” but rather that “we didn’t have a system at all.”

The kind of coordinated response Gates had advocated in 2015 would have made all the difference in the current fight against COVID-19. Many have been invoking war as a metaphor. But in truth, it’s more than that. To have a fighting chance against a pandemic, each country needs an army of health-care workers. In the same way that there are military corps, countries needed to have their own medical reserve corps who, in conjunction with the army, are able to provide an immediate and wide-reaching response in the event of an epidemic. Five years ago, Gates called the absence of such provisions “a global failure,” noting that even the World Health Organization was funded only to monitor these epidemics, not to respond to them. NATO prepares for war with war simulations; why was the U.S. not preparing with more germ stimulations?

14. John Hirschauer dissects Nancy Pelosi’s effort to put the Warren / Sanders stink on the Coronavirus bailout bill. From the piece:

Restructuring Corporate Boards

Aid Recipients Must Allow Labor to Appoint One-Third of Corporate Board Members

All companies that receive federal aid related to COVID-19 would be required, under the House proposal, to appoint at least one-third of their board members through “a one-employee-one-vote election process.” In other words, if companies accept aid from the federal government at a moment when, because of a completely unforeseeable global catastrophe, demand has cratered in response to a lethal pandemic, the House bill would force them to completely upend their boards of directors to no conceivable end other than the fulfillment of a longstanding progressive wish.

Requiring States to Allow Same-Day Voter Registration

 Amending the Help America Vote Act to Require States to Accommodate Same-Day Registrants

The Help America Vote Act was signed by President Bush in 2002. It helped to modernize the nation’s voting infrastructure by calling for the creation of computerized voter-registration rolls at the state level, constructing federal accessibility guidelines to accommodate voters with disabilities, and setting up the Electoral Assistance Commission to certify state voting systems. Pelosi’s coronavirus-relief bill, which ostensibly is intended to provide “relief” to businesses and individuals affected, directly or otherwise, by the coronavirus, inexplicably seeks to amend the Help America Vote Act, and, in so doing, upend state election protocols by requiring states to allow same-day voter registration. Twenty-nine states do not allow such registration. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia do. It is not clear that this divide need be resolved at all, much less that it ought to be resolved at the federal level. And it is completely unclear why such a provision has any place in an emergency economic-stimulus package.

15. Peter Spiliakos makes the case for trade with China — but not dependence. From the beginning of the analysis:

Last July seems like the last millennium, but experts were already warning that American reliance on Chinese-made medicine was a strategic risk to the country. Eight months and one pandemic later, the PRC government was already threatening to cut off drug supplies. Dependence on China for medical-mask production forced the U.S. government to lie about the efficacy of masks so that a shortage (from Chinese government hoarding) did not produce a run on supplies that left nothing for medical professionals. While it is undesirable for the U.S. to withdraw from international trade, we should take steps to limit our dependence on an ambitious and unfriendly rival government.

One suggestion has been offered by Senator Tom Cotton (R., Ark.). His plan would, with phase-ins to take account of the current crisis, prohibit the purchase of pharmaceuticals and pharmaceutical ingredients that are produced in China. That is a good first step.

In future years, it will be seen as an act of madness that we allowed our medicine production to be outsourced to a hostile government. The only holdouts will be ideological fanatics and the bought flacks of a government that uses slave labor at home while deploying the language of freedom and business to explain why we should not remove the knife from our throats. As a heuristic, the more opposed the PRC government is to repatriation of supply chains to America (or at least out of China), the better an idea it is.

Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) has proposed federal loans and tax benefits to encourage domestic production of medical supplies. Another policy might complement these suggestions: For key industries, companies that want access to American markets should move some percentage of their production to America.

16. Michael Sobolick advises a combatative approach to Red China’s efforts to turn the Wuhan Virus into some propaganda advantage. From the piece:

Amid this crisis, the CCP today is hard at work — not to right its wrongs, but to rewrite the past. The party is waging a multi-front propaganda campaign that shifts the blame for coronavirus to the United States, while claiming that China’s response bought time for the rest of the world to prepare. The Chinese government is also presenting itself as a global health provider, shipping face masks and test kits to nations with shortages.

Of course, China is right to give this medical equipment to nations in need. But its government is bundling misinformation with this aid.

These lies serve a higher purpose for the party: turning coronavirus into a net positive for the CCP. Consulting firm Horizon Advocacy published a report last week, based on Chinese government and state media sources, that details China’s plan to position its economy in strategic sectors to box out other industrialized nations still reeling from the virus’s impact. According to China’s State Administration of Science, Technology, and Industry for National Defense, China must jumpstart its economy to “pave the way for international market expansion after the epidemic is over.”

Policymakers in Washington should take this gambit seriously. But they shouldn’t assume that America’s friends and partners do. In recent years, China — working via companies such as Huawei and through its much publicized “Belt and Road Initiative” — has greatly expanded its global economic footprint. Yet far too many of China’s trading partners remain blind to the true nature of China’s political system and the threat it poses.

17. More KDW: Our system includes those who find the weak spots and profit off the risk. And that ain’t necessarily bad. From the essay:

In difficult economic times, the usual self-righteous political types and self-interested market incumbents — including business executives whose financial interests are not identical to those of the shareholders who actually own the firms — lament the vultures and the ghouls, and several predictable lamentations will be heard upon the land. As if on cue, there already are demands for new restrictions on short sellers in the stock market, which is to say, on investors who expect the share price of a given company (or commodity or other investment) to go down rather than up. Of course, prices move both ways — but getting a good read on which and when and how is a difficult thing. As Bryan Corbett of the Managed Funds Association wrote in the Wall Street Journal last weekend, “The ability to deliver returns regardless of whether the market goes up or down is one of the key reasons these investors turn to hedge funds. It’s why they’re called ‘hedge’ funds.”

Short sellers are hated because they are the bearers of bad news: “Your business is overrated, your story is bulls***, your shares are overpriced, your management is too lazy and too comfortable.” The class of investors known as “activists” are hated for much the same reason. But they perform an invaluable service — doubting, testing, scrutinizing, looking for weaknesses. That is how institutions — be they businesses, political parties, or governments — get better. But getting better can be painful.

I like the shorts and the skeptics because of the work they do and because they are eternal underdogs. The powerful people hate the shorts because the ruling class, if you’ll forgive the term, is in effect long . . . everything: stocks, especially those of major corporations, but also market incumbents from Wall Street to Main Street to Silicon Valley, housing, commercial real estate, etc. By that I do not mean that the members of the governing and financial elites are motivated by personal financial interest in these things (though one assumes that they are, at least in part, from time to time) but that the ruling class is heavily invested in the status quo and that it dreads the one thing that the TED talkers and the voguish intellectuals claim to celebrate and admire: disruption.

The ruling class is in the position of Ted Hughes’s hawk: “I am going to keep things like this.”

18. More Kearns: Porn merchants are exploiting the pandemic, which has left millions of home-bound eyeballs in the near occasion of sin. From the beginning of the piece:

In the 1980 movie Airplane!, the air-traffic controller Steve McCroskey struggles to guide a plane whose crew have all been knocked out by food poisoning to safety. “Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit smoking,” he says, sweating profusely. Later, he adds that it was also the wrong week to “quit amphetamines” and then again “the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.”

In an attempt to stop our health-care systems from crashing amid the COVID-19 global pandemic, many are stuck in self-isolation, facing the stress of joblessness and indefinite uncertainty. At such a juncture, many men may well be wondering whether they picked the wrong week to quit pornography.

On March 13, Pornhub, the biggest Internet porn provider, announced that it was providing users in Italy with free access and subscriber privileges. Since then, the company has done the same in France and Spain. The site has seen a steady climb in viewers across Europe, Canada, and the United States.

On the days that free premium memberships were launched in Italy, France, and Spain, traffic in each country increased by 57 percent, 38 percent, and 61 percent respectively. On March 17, its worldwide traffic was up by 26.4 percent. Pornhub administrators declared on its blog that the statistics “clearly illustrate that people all over Europe were happy to have distractions while quarantined at home.”

19. Even more KDW: No time like the present to read George Eliot’s Middlemarch. From the piece:

For years, my great white whale was Middlemarch. I do not know why I found it so difficult to crack open. It has a large cast of characters to keep up with, but it is not as populous as a Dickens novel; there’s a bit of Big Sweeping Historical Background there — the Reform Act of 1832 — but, like Vanity Fair, it is basically a domestic novel into which history occasionally intrudes. I suppose I have some trouble dropping myself into English provincial life in the early 19th century — I barely made it through The Mayor of Casterbridge in spite of having the best Hardy professor you could ask for. I finally got around to starting it on one of those very fun cruises National Review organizes. And I regret having waited so long: It may be the best novel I have ever read.

It is a novel about people who make bad choices, sometimes for good reasons, sometimes for bad reasons, sometimes, especially in cases of romantic attachment, simply because they are young and callow and do not know what they really want, what will really make them happy, or that they are, in the famous phrase from Vanity Fair, “striving for what is not worth the having.” Some of the characters bear up under their mistakes with honor and perseverance, and some do not. There are not any shocking, unexpected twists in the plot — there is a sense of inevitability about how things play out: Character is destiny, as some of us conservatives used to say.

20. Brian Allen shares a take on a special exhibit of Baroque art (from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam), conscious that attendance has been corona’d. From the review:

The show is a thrill, but I have to say I liked the portrait — or vivacity — gallery the most. The heads stay on the torsos, for one thing. Portraiture before 1600 veers toward iconography and status. There’s plenty of personality, to be sure, but it’s subordinated to “Who am I?” and “What am I?” rather than the more complex “I’m thinking this or that” or “I’m baring my soul.” Baroque is the age where the “speaking likeness” is introduced, and Bernini does it best in marble. His subjects have torque, expressions, and open mouths. Domenichino’s (1581–1641) portrait of Giovanni Batista Agucchi, from around 1610, shows a vivacious, engaged figure, his expression concentrated and tense. He’s demanding our attention. It’s small, 24 by 18 inches, but its informality and intensity give him presence.

The gallery on love pushes the point — I saw the Titian show on his Metamorphoses six-footers from 1551, and they’re very sexy. Caravaggio turns up the temperature on carnal feeling, though, and Baroque artists do seem to recruit from LA Fitness. But love is love, and it is ageless and invites all styles. The gallery on jest is ineffective, and I think that’s why the curators made it so small and put it at the end of the show, where people are tired, hungry, powder-room-inclined, or lusting after nude Bacchus tea towels in the shop. It’s a difficult theme in any event. Conveying another era’s sense of humor is almost impossible.

I didn’t like two aspects of the show’s design. The lighting makes the galleries, which are new, look tired. Paintings are displayed against pastel panels placed against white walls. A bad choice, and a candidate for Baroque horror. Pale yellow and pinks make the pictures look like black holes.

The scholarship in the catalogue is superb. The essays are loosely connected to the themes of the show, but meaty. They convey a sense of Rome in 1600, moving through the reigns of four popes and their courts. Artists were practiced, passionate networkers. They had to be, since popes and cardinals were prime patrons as well as competitive, jealous ones. The first chapter of the book calls Rome “the navel of the world” — not flattering, as it suggests an entire culture of narcissism, but I take the overall point. The church avoided what could have been a fatal Reformation fusillade. Rome was an immensely rich city around 1600 and in a building boom. New churches and palaces needed decorating. Each papacy did more than trigger musical chairs. It enriched a new crop of people from the provinces having family ties with whoever was pope. This stimulated patronage, too.

21. Armond White, expounding on Pedro Costa’s Vitalina Varela unleashes another punch-packed take on movies and society and liberal hypocrisy. From the review:

Hollywood hucksters, book hustlers, gallery exhibitionists, and grant applicants all sing the same lament about “seeing themselves represented.” And when indoctrinated young people join the chorus, having been taught that complaint is the beginning of self-assertion, you realize that none of them are aware how much multicultural representation already exists in popular culture. They surely can’t know the work of Portuguese art filmmaker Pedro Costa, whose new film, Vitalina Varela (his ninth in his usual style) once again meets every criterion of race, gender, underclass representation — and pushes them to the extreme.

Costa’s acclaim by film culture’s elite conflates his artistry with obsessive liberal sympathy: Vitalina Varela’s middle-aged African protagonist (a nonprofessional portraying herself) arrives in Lisbon after the death of her estranged husband, who emigrated years earlier. (A group of airport workers advise, “Here in Portugal there is nothing for you. Go back home.”)

Vitalina discovers her ex’s life in the dilapidated immigrant ghetto and begs a debauched immigrant priest, Ventura (another Costa alumni), to perform the funeral mass. But the opening shot itself already suggests a burial procession, anonymous blacks staggering through an empty street at night with cruciform objects towering overhead. Repeating themes of desolation, loneliness, regret, and immiseration from previous films, Costa expresses his sympathy in dirge-like fashion. This highly stylized film, as visually striking as the others, is representation by the Rembrandt of the ghetto.

22. Last but not least: This item, posted just as the WJ was placed into the capable hands of Editor Phil, by Jianli Yang and Aaron Rhodes, states that ChiCom dictator Xi Jinping is big-time myth-making with his “Zero” Wuhan Virus campaign. From the analysis:

For years now, Beijing has tried to position China under the Communist Party as the champion and leader of a new, emerging, post-American global order. At the Davos conclave in 2017, Xi spoke of his government’s determination to play a responsible role in defending and contributing to multilateral efforts to “secure peace and reduce poverty.” He was applauded for opposing protectionism. All states, he intoned, should “view their own interests in a broader context” and “refrain from pursuing their own interests at the expense of others.” China has assiduously asserted influence in global institutions, especially United Nations bodies, where Chinese nationals lead four of 15 specialized agencies. In his speech at the special summit of G20 leaders on March 26, Xi showed his determination to build his own image as a world leader.

For him to succeed in his long march through the international community, he needs to have a reputation for success at addressing challenges such as COVID-19. As two veteran China watchers, Kurt M. Campbell and Rush Doshi, pointed out in a recent article in Foreign Affairs, one’s legitimacy as a global leader depends on domestic governance, the provision of global public goods, and the ability and willingness to muster and coordinate a global response to crises. To lead the world response to the pandemic, China must set an example for the rest of the world to follow.

The long-term plan hit a large speed bump with revelations about the regime’s malfeasance in covering up COVID-19, and the Communist Party’s efforts to turn the story around, making itself heroic, are well documented. But the plan could run aground if a second outbreak, which some experts warn is inevitable, occurs in China. In this situation, the regime is turning reflexively to traditional Communist tactics: propaganda and the control of information.

Podcastapalooza

1. On this special edition of The Editors, Rich sits down with David Bahnsen to discuss the current state of the economy, the effectiveness of the congressional stimulus bill, and much more. Pay heed here.

2. Meanwhile, in the bicentennial edition of The Editors, Rich, Charlie, and Jim discuss the U.S.’s struggle to fight COVID-19, and Charlie and Jim disagree over how to view the Senate’s handling of the current crisis. Ringside seats are available right here.

3. On The McCarthy Report, Andy and Rich dissect the DOJ’s coronavirus response, look at its protection of female athletes, and touch briefly on the Maduro indictment. You have the right to remain attentive, here.

4. What happens after the crisis passes? Asked and answered by Kevin and Charlie on the new episode of Mad Dogs and Englishmen. Listen here.

5. The brilliant historian tells his Sancho of his first-hand experience with the economics of panics, and then fills out the new episode of The Victor Davis Hanson Podcast by opining on Capitol Hill Democrats loading up coronavirus relief legislation with an ideological wish list, and the geographically, socially, and ideologically driven coverage of the Wuhan virus. All of it heard here.

6. On The Bookmonger, John J. Miller is joined by Mara Hvistendahl to discuss her book, The Scientist and the Spy. Listen here.

7. Moving over to The Great Books, JJM is joined by Paul Cantor of the University of Virginia to discuss William Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. Prithee, do lend me thine ear, here.

8. At Constitutionally Speaking, Luke and Jay unveil Parts Two and Three of their “Agenda of Federalism” series. Listen to “The Federalist Agenda: Foreign and Domestic Policy” here. And catch “The Decline, Fall, and Peculiar Afterlife of Federalism” right here.

The Six.

1. In The Hungarian Review, the beloved Daniel J. Mahoney — thoroughly scholarly and intellectual here — provides a historical take of the right-of-center French intellectual movement. From the essay:

The English philosopher and man of letters Roger Scruton has long argued that French intellectual life was taken over by “imposters” in the 1960s. There is much evidence to support this claim. Sartre’s political commitments were perverse and even imbecilic – this talented philosophe and littérateur defended the most vile tyrannies as long as they were left-wing. He saw authenticity and emancipation at work in Stalin’s murderous despotism, Castro’s brutal Caribbean tyranny, and Mao’s terroristic assault on human freedom and the life of the mind. Most perversely of all, in the Critique of Dialectical Reason (1960), he provided a “philosophical” defence of “fraternity-terror” as a means of overcoming inauthenticity and bourgeois individualism. The radical existentialist could only find fleeting moments of hope in the bloodlust of revolutionary terror. Scruton rightly calls Sartre’s political choices and judgements “degraded”, owing as much to Robespierre as Marx. But Sartre was a writer of talent and a keen, if one-sided, observer of the human condition when he was not deformed by ideology. The same cannot be said of “phonies” like Althusser who, Scruton argues, degraded both political judgement and the very possibility of a thoughtful encounter with our humanity. “Structuralist” Marxism, à la Althusser, was not even particularly faithful to the Marxism of Marx. The Paris “nonsense machine”, as Scruton bitingly calls it, was committed to a reckless assault on common sense, moderation and decency. In addition, it displayed fierce hostility to even a residual conception of a (normative) human nature. To be sure, Michel Foucault had his moments of genius. But he shared, and radicalised, his generation’s obsession with sex and power relations, seeing domination everywhere, except in Tehran (in 1979) and in Mao’s China, where he perversely discerned avatars of liberation. As for the rest, Deleuze, Lacan et al., they synthesised Marx, Freud and contemporary nihilism (i.e. “post- structuralism”) in an obscurantist mix that will always remain inaccessible to the uninitiated. In their hands, thought was transformed into an instrument of pure destruction, so-called “deconstruction”, at the service of what Scruton so memorably labelled “the culture of repudiation”. Like the Russian nihilists of old, the representatives of cultural repudiation set out to destroy the remnants of the natural moral law and all authoritative institutions necessary to free and civilised life. Today, Alain Badiou is their self-parodic heir. This French “philosopher” combines secular messianic effusions about “the Event”, an eruption of revolutionary bliss and destruction, with apologies for Stalin and Mao. In the Chinese tyrant’s violent discourses during the murderous Cultural Revolution, Badiou finds the voice of philosophy at the service of the world- transforming Event. For much of the Western intellectual world, these figures are thinking France, the only intellectual France they know. Sophisticated nihilism is lauded by academics and literati throughout the world.

2. At The Martin Center, Jacob Howland profiles the continuing free-fall of Tulsa University, a once-solid institution rendered into a leftist sanctuary by new administrators, and now paying the price. From the report:

Suffering from self-inflicted wounds, the University of Tulsa is sick and getting sicker. This is a case study in how “progressive” academic leadership can wreck a once-excellent university.

Last April 11, the university’s administration rolled out “True Commitment,” a radical restructuring that gutted the liberal arts, raised course loads, dissolved academic departments, and effectively turned the university into a technical and vocational school. I wrote about the turmoil that caused in this article for the Martin Center, but I’ll recap the events below.

A campaign of opposition to the restructuring formed immediately, sparked by the circulation of an article that appeared in City Journal on April 17. Concerned Faculty of TU (CFTU) was born at a meeting attended by four hundred people. Faculty votes in the colleges of Law and Arts and Sciences overwhelmingly rejected True Commitment. Students drafted a petition and held a funeral for the liberal arts. Facebook pages and a website were launched, and roughly 20 academic associations and societies wrote letters condemning True Commitment.

The administration quickly launched a venomous counterattack, attempting to muzzle and intimidate faculty and student critics. One low point was an Astroturf email campaign orchestrated by president Gerard Clancy. In September, four college deans and several other administrators denounced the “selfishness and negativity” of the “faceless faculty members”—or perhaps just the “anonymous message board troll”—known as CFTU. Clancy’s email of September 27 was the coup de grâce: 

Several poignant moments occurred this week with many on our campus taking a stand: a stand in the name of our students; a stand for what is best for our community; and a stand against a nameless group that has attacked not only our university but many within it. To date, we have not engaged with a faceless entity.…I also appreciate and value the leadership I’ve seen this week as so many have denounced those who negate our value and hold us back.

Even as TU’s administrators deliberately poisoned the university community, the trustees erected a steel wall to protect them. Faculty Senate resolutions proposing alternatives to True Commitment, and finding that the administration violated constitutional provisions relating to shared governance, were deemed “inconsistent with the University’s Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws” by the board of trustees.

3. At California Policy Center, the great Ed Ring says that the Golden State is long past the time for government-union pension reform. From the analysis:

It’s been a long time since California’s pension systems were responsibly managed. Back then, they made conservative investments, paid modest but fair benefits to retirees, and did not place an unreasonable financial burden on taxpayers. But a series of decisions and circumstances over the past thirty years put these pension systems on a collision course with financial disaster. And like a progressive, initially asymptomatic disease, it is impossible to say exactly when these pension systems crossed the line from health to sickness.

An excellent history of how California’s public employee pension systems moved inexorably towards the predicament they’re now in can be found in a City Journal article entitled “The Pension Fund That Ate California.” Written in 2013, when California’s pension systems were still coping with the impact of the Great Recession, author Steven Malanga identifies key milestones: The power of public sector unions that began to make itself felt starting in the late 1960s. The pension benefit enhancements that began in the 1970s. The growing power of the union representatives on the pension fund boards. Prop. 21, passed in 1984, which allowed the pension systems to invest in riskier asset classes.

The biggest milestone on the road to sickness, however, began in 1999, as Malanga writes, “when union-backed Gray Davis became governor and union-backed Phil Angelides became state treasurer, and the CalPERS board was wearing a union label.” The state legislation that followed, mimicked by local measures across California, dramatically increased pension benefit formulas. Not only were benefits increased, but they were increased retroactively, meaning that even state and local employees nearing retirement would receive the increased pension as if these higher benefit formulas had been in effect for their entire career. And as the internet bubble blew deliriously bigger, the experts said the cost for all these enhancements would be negligible.

4. At City Journal, John Tierney exposes the dirty facts about plastic-bag bans. You’ll find the piece . . . infectious. From the piece:

After the shoppers bought groceries and checked out, the researchers found sufficiently high traces of the surrogate to risk transmission on the hands of the shoppers and checkout clerks, as well as on many surfaces touched by the shoppers, including packaged food, unpackaged produce, shopping carts, checkout counters, and the touch screens used to pay for groceries. The researchers said that the results warranted the adaptation of “in-store hand hygiene” and “surface disinfection” by merchants, and they also recommended educating shoppers to wash their bags.

An earlier study of supermarkets in Arizona and California found large numbers of bacteria in almost all the reusable bags—and no contamination in any of the new single-use plastic bags. When a bag with meat juice on the interior was stored in the trunk of a car, within two hours the number of bacteria multiplied tenfold.

The researchers also found that the vast majority of shoppers never followed the advice to wash their bags. One of the researchers, Charles Gerba of the University of Arizona, said that the findings “suggest a serious threat to public health,” particularly from fecal coliform bacteria, which was found in half the bags. These bacteria and other pathogens can be transferred from raw meat in the bag and also from other sources. An outbreak of viral gastroenteritis among a girls’ soccer team in Oregon was traced to a resuable grocery bag that had sat on the floor of a hotel bathroom.

In a 2012 study, researchers analyzed the effects of San Francisco’s ban on single-use plastic grocery bags by comparing emergency-room admissions in the city against those of nearby counties without the bag ban. The researchers, Jonathan Klick of the University of Pennsylvania and Joshua Wright of George Mason University, reported a 25 percent increase in bacteria-related illnesses and deaths in San Francisco relative to the other counties. The city’s Department of Public Health disputed the findings and methodology but acknowledged that “the idea that widespread use of reusable bags may cause gastrointenstinal infections if they are not regularly cleaned is plausible.”

5. At The Imaginative Conservative, Nathaniel Urban and Jonathan Pidluzny explain higher-education’s identity crisis. From the essay:

Many factors have conspired to fuel the crises roiling higher education today. Perhaps the most important, and the reason so few institutions react appropriately when they arise, is that colleges and universities are facing a crisis of purpose and identity, one that diverts focus from improving the quality of students’ educations in favor of the distraction du jour. Over time, this will only hamper institutions’ efforts to compete for a shrinking number of college-ready students.

The mission statements that purport to guide colleges and universities illustrate an identity crisis in higher education. Not long ago, most institutions conceived of their purpose in clear and simple terms. As the Honorable Judge José Cabranes pointed out, until recently Yale embraced the commonsense purposes of a university: “to create, preserve, and disseminate knowledge.” The best way to advance those goals is beguilingly simple: hire the best faculty, establish strong curricula, reward teaching and research excellence, and foster a free and open marketplace of ideas.

Maybe the problem with such a simple and sensible statement of purpose is that it limits the role of campus administrators to supporting the academic functions of the university. Or maybe it is just not cosmopolitan enough for contemporary sensibilities. Glance at a university’s mission statement today and you will likely find a rambling paragraph expressing a cornucopia of vague and often incoherent aspirations. Most reference some combination of cultivating citizenship (not Yale’s revision), critical thinking, leadership, and (especially) appreciation for diversity and global perspectives. But apart from that last example, few institutions build a curriculum that advances the goals they articulate.

6. At Gatestone Institute, Soeren Kern spotlights Red China’s to spin Europe on its Wuhan Virus High Jinx. From the beginning of the piece:

The Chinese government has been fast-tracking shipments of medical aid to Europe, which has become the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic that first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan. The largesse appears to be part of a public relations effort by Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Communist Party to deflect criticism over their responsibility for the deadly outbreak.

Beijing’s campaign as a global benefactor may deliver results in Europe, where pandering political leaders have long been notoriously fearful of antagonizing the European Union’s second-largest trading partner. What remains unclear is if European publics, which are bearing the brunt of the suffering caused by the epidemic, will be as easily willing to overlook the malfeasance of Chinese officials.

In what can only be described as a geopolitical humiliation, Ursula Von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, the administrative arm of the European Union, which touts itself as the “largest economy in the world,” heaped praise on Communist China for donating an inconsequential amount of medical equipment to the bloc. On March 18, she tweeted:

“Spoke with Chinese PM Li Keqiang who announced that China will provide 2 mil surgical masks, 200,000 N95 masks & 50,000 testing kits. In January, the European Union helped China by donating 50 tons of equipment. Today, we’re grateful for China’s support. We need each other’s support in times of need.”

The European Union has been incapable of providing meaningful assistance to Italy, the bloc’s third-largest member, which has been especially hard hit by the virus. After Germany, the EU’s most powerful member, banned the export of medical protection gear to avoid its own supply shortages of masks, gloves and suits, China stepped in.

BONUS: Lefty college administrators have been flipping the bird at due-process rights. And now a federal court has ruled — reports Connor Ellington at The College Fix — that the apparatchiks might be personally liable for violating the rights of the accused. This could be big. From the story:

The University of Michigan’s refusal to recognize an accused student’s “clearly established due process rights” led a federal judge to deny its administrators “qualified immunity” in the student’s lawsuit.

Senior U.S. District Judge Arthur Tarnow went much further, declaring the school’s 2018 Title IX policy unconstitutional and an element of the “interim” policy that replaced it unconstitutional. . . .

“John Doe” sued the taxpayer-funded institution in 2018 because it placed an “indefinite hold” on his transcript and degree after a female student accused him of sexual misconduct. It also withheld “any form of hearing or cross examination,” per its policy that year.

His denial of qualified immunity leaves eight officials potentially liable as individuals, including Pamela Heatlie, who was quietly removed as senior director of the Office for Institutional Equity after the Baum ruling, and Robert Sellers, the very well paid chief diversity officer.

Also affected: Provost Martin Philbert, named in a similar lawsuit by an accused professor; Office of Student Conflict Resolution Director Erik Wessel; Dean of Students Laura Blake Jones; now-retired Vice President of Student Life E. Royster Harper; OIE investigator Suzanne McFadden; and Registrar Paul Robinson.

The university declined to respond to the judge’s conclusion that the 2018 policy was unconstitutional and it did not follow circuit precedent. “All we can say at this point is that the university will carefully review the judge’s order,” Director of Public Affairs Rick Fitzgerald told The College Fix.

BONUS BONUS: At The American Mind, James Poulus argues that the Wuhan Virus has sparked the need for a “Green Zone Plan.” From the piece:

Consider the following example. Before coronavirus, the programming to “live in the pod, eat the bugs,” order the weed, binge the porn, etc. was interpreted ideologically, as the upshot of a system of ideals toward which people were being pushed through various forms of power to conform. This system basically boiled down to the premise that podlife was the terminus of natural human life lived according to the correct ethical regime. It was how we harmonized autonomy and equality—a political response to the predicaments of our given condition.

After coronavirus, the podlife programming is more clearly driven by a more than ideological force. Rather than a politics meant to manage our nature in accordance with our ideals, podlife is taking shape as a technology meant to secure our life by severing it from nature. The virus provides overwhelming evidence that nature is not our home.

Radical environmentalists have long warned that humans are not fit for the preservation of nature. The ascendant idea is that nature is not fit for the preservation of human life. Even if we manage to beat the virus, the argument goes, our destiny demands that we beat nature, breaking loose from its constraints. To truly live, we must live “off-world,” not in nature but in “space”—outer space or cyberspace, and preferably both.

This is not an ideological claim about how persons and peoples should live, but rather a claim concerning ostensible knowledge about how we must live, in order to live. In this capacity, podlife in the coronavirus era retrieves an ancient concept of knowledge: gnosticism.

BONUS BONUS BONUS: At the Wall Street Journal, Dan Lipinski — the pro-life Illinois Democrat who lost his primary — says he does not regret for a second his stand on behalf of unborn children. From the beginning of his piece:

The morning after I narrowly lost my congressional seat in last week’s Illinois Democratic Primary, I decided to make a public statement and answer questions from the press. With the current wretched state of political discourse, I felt it important to be gracious in defeat.

One adviser said that I should focus on what our team accomplished for my constituents on transportation, the environment, jobs and quality of life. That was tempting; I am proud of our legacy. But a friend told me to be prepared for one question: “Looking back, would you have done anything different?” Abortion advocacy groups poured millions into my opponent’s campaign. If I had simply changed my position on abortion, there probably wouldn’t have been a contest. Abortion proponents wanted to hear me express regret about sticking with my pro-life beliefs.

So rather than wait for the question, I faced it head-on in my statement. I defended my pro-life position, which is rooted in both my Catholic faith and science. “I could never give up protecting the most vulnerable human beings in the world, simply to win an election,” I said. “My faith teaches, and the Democratic Party preaches, that we should serve everyone, especially the most vulnerable. To stand in solidarity with the vulnerable is to become vulnerable. But there is no higher calling for anyone.”

Baseballery

Taking a break from continuum stuff, the Boston Braves did not know it was to be the team’s last game — a late-September Sunday afternoon matchup in Brooklyn against the World Series–bound Dodgers — as Beantown denizens. (The news of the franchise’s move to Milwaukee in 1953 didn’t come until the following March.)

Despite being in seventh place, they would not go quietly. Down to their last out, trailing the Dodgers 5–4, Braves shortstop Johnny Logan drew a walk, went to second on rookie reliever Jim Hughes’ wild pitch, and scored the tying run when rookie third baseman and future Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews slapped a 3–2 pitch for a double. Knotted went the game for four more innings, with Hughes and Braves reliever Lew Burdette pitching scoreless baseball.

Come the 12th: In a bit of baseball irony, the last Dodger out — and the last play ever by the Boston Braves — was registered by Tommy Holmes, the former Braves star who had helped lead them to the 1948 NL pennant. Now ending his eleven-year career (with a .302 batting average) in Brooklyn, where he was used mainly as a pinch hitter, he grounded out.

No rain was falling, no calamity occurred, and no one took the field for the 13th. The game, having taken 2 hours and 53 minutes, was scored a 5–5 tie. Retrosheet, which translates every baseball box score from the 1940s on, notes two matters of great interest in this game’s box score. The first is that the extra-innings continuance led to some rejiggering after the 10th:

HP umpire Al Barlick left the game to catch a train home to Illinois; 1B umpire Tom Gorman moved to HP and 2B umpire Augie Donatelli moved to 1B; Gorman imitated Barlick’s ‘stee-rike’ call and gesture, entertaining the fans.

And then came this note in the bottom of the 12th:

Game called due to lack of interest not Rain.

Say what? That might have been close to the truth, but the next-day account from the Associated Press reported the official fig-leaf:

The Brooklyn Dodgers and Boston Braves played to a 5-5 tie today in a game called at the end of the 12th inning because of darkness.

Umpires explained they feared someone might get hurt in the meaningless game. Most of the field was in shadow but the setting sun shone directly in the eyes of the batters.

In other words, game called on account of . . . sunshine!

Follow, follow, follow

Try to remember, when life was so tender, that dreams were kept beside your pillow . . .

Jennifer Kabbany and Christian Schneider from The College Fix, big-brained host of that other VDH podcast (The Classicist) Troy Senik, vintage-time baseball fan Tom’s Old Days, Ilhan Omar scourge Ben Weingarten, NR writing phenoms Daniel Tenreiro and John Hirschauer, economic wise man Andrew Stuttaford, brilliant movie critic Armond White, Wall Street Journal columnist William McGurn, sainted son and Knights of Columbus writer Andy Fowler, editorial bossman of the heralded Babalublog Alberto de la Cruz, Great American Northwest radio All Stars Kirby Wilbur and Lars Larson, and Quixote to this Sancho, the unrivaled Victor Davis Hanson.

A Dios

Dear amiga Betsy complained — factual, not whining — that since this sequestering commenced, she awakes at 3AM, widely, the mind fraught with concerns and fears. The same was true for Your Humble Correspondent, nightly awake and anxious in the darkest hours . . . until the bat hit the fan. Motivated by The Good Lord to begin praying repeatedly throughout the day (facilitated, for papists, by the rosary, the beads which Mr. Biden sometimes threatens to use in violence) he has found that — by coincidence? (negatory!) — the sleep comes and prevails. It shall be appreciated while it lasts. All that said, if you got what Betsy’s got . . . maybe up the prayer game bigtime whilst shines the sun.

Alas, if you find yourself awake this eve, the early hours of Sunday on the 29th of March, do consider that on TCM Fiddler on the Roof will be playing (the inclusion of this fact in this missive suggested by Jason of the Many Books) and its spirit might bring you some joy and its length some somnolence.

God’s Plentiful Graces and Succor to You and All Those You Hold Dear,

Jack Fowler, who in this valley of tears can receive your communications via jfowler@nationalreview.com.

P.S.: We remain people of hope, remembering always Bill Buckley’s reminder that despair is a sin. So if you can stand a truly dystopian movie that might put an otherwise anxious soul in a funk, watch Stanley Kramer’s powerful 1959 flick On the Beach.

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