Dear Weekend Jolter,
It was Lincoln’s Birthday in 1970 or thereabouts and just enough snow had melted to reveal parts of the infield, so some of the neighborhood knuckleheads grabbed their mitts and headed to Indian Field (where Chief Nimham and 17 Stockbridge tribe members, friends of the Revolution, had been cut down by the Brits in 1778) and tried to simulate a game in the cold and mud. My gosh did we love baseball.
And Abe. We loved him, instinctively. Well, maybe in part because school was closed on his birthday (and Washington’s a couple of days later), sure. But we read books about him, recited poems about him, memorized his speeches. Do kids today? Do adults? My beloved Turner Classic Movies will broadcast no Lincoln flicks — not Henry Fonda’s Young Mr. Lincoln nor Abe Lincoln in Illinois (for which future NR subscriber Raymond Massey would earn an Oscar nomination) — on his 211th birthday this February 12.
Let us lament, but take note of this too: On POTUS 16’s birthday next week, TCM will be showing Kings Row. It starred a guy named Ronald Reagan. That is a happy happenstance. If you’ve never seen the movie, do.
And let this be mentioned before we move on to the Big Enchilada that is this weekend’s Jolt: Two colleagues have written books on Abe. Both deserve a spot on your bookshelf. One is Rick Brookhiser’s Founders’ Son: A Life of Abraham Lincoln. The other is Rich Lowry’s Lincoln Unbound: How an Ambitious Young Railsplitter Saved the American Dream—And How We Can Do It Again. They both come highly recommended.
As Does This Deal . . .
There is one more stateroom to be resold (a couple canceling) on the National Review 2020 Rhine River Charter Cruise, all information about which can be found at nrcruise.com. No pussy-footing here: It’s yours for $6,000. Email the bloke who authors this missive at firstname.lastname@example.org to claim it. Take inspiration from the famous Latin saying, Snoozitas, ergo Loseitas.
1. Prior to the impeachment voting, we argued that Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander had it right. It caused a run on fainting couches. From the editorial:
The Tennessee Republican said that it has been amply established that Donald Trump used a hold on defense aid to pressure the Ukrainians to undertake the investigations that he wanted, and that this was, as he mildly put it, inappropriate. But this misconduct, he argued, doesn’t rise to the level of the high crimes and misdemeanors required to remove a president from office. If the Senate were to do so anyway, it would further envenom the nation’s partisan divide. Besides, there is a national election looming where the public itself can decide whether Trump should stay in office or not.
Since we already know the core of what happened, Alexander explained, there was no need to hear from additional witnesses in the Senate trial. (On this theory of the case, the Senate is in effect acting like an appellate court, rendering a judgment on a threshold question of law, rather than a trial court sifting through the facts.)
In the wake of Alexander’s statement, other Senate Republicans endorsed his line of analysis, which, it must be noted, is superior to the defense mounted by the White House legal team over the last two weeks.
Because the president refused to acknowledge what he did, his team implausibly denied there was a quid pro quo and argued that one hadn’t been proven since there were no first-hand witnesses. Obviously, this position was at odds with the defense team’s insistence that no further witnesses be called. It also raised the natural question why, if people with firsthand knowledge had exculpatory information, the White House wasn’t eager to let them come forward.
Uno Momento . . .
David Bahnsen’s crackling new takedown of the cost of a President Warren really needs to be in your hands and on your bookshelf. Get your copy of his book, Elizabeth Warren: How Her Presidency Would Destroy the Middle Class and the American Dream. And treat yourself to some of the great interviews David has had about the book — lend an ear at ElizabethWarrenThreat.com.
With Charity for All, Here Are 16 Invigorating and Emancipating NRO Pieces that Will Fill Your Stovepipe Hat and Then Some
1. Andy McCarthy reacts to the grim news told by his friend (and ours) Rush Limbaugh. From his Corner post:
Rush is an American original. It is said of some originals that, if you didn’t have them, you’d have to invent them. (Voltaire was talking about God when he said it; Don King, of course, about himself.) Yet no one could ever have invented Rush, because he was inconceivable.
When he burst upon the national scene over three decades ago, popular political media was the preserve of the political left. The thought of anyone, much less an unabashed conservative, carrying a three-hour daily broadcast through monologues teeming with conviction and good cheer — with the occasional phone call but virtually no guests — was not just unheard of. It was not in the realm of perceived possibility.
It took talent on loan from God, for sure. But it mainly took a guy with supreme belief in himself. Belief that was well-founded because it sprang from a unique combination of life-experience, of getting off the floor when life knocks you down, and of a sense of destiny about doing what you’re born to do. Add to that Rush’s abiding faith in the innate goodness of America — of her traditions, love of liberty, willingness to sacrifice, and grasp that human flourishing means learning from our mistakes.
2. Michael Brendan Dougherty tries to figure out Mitt Romney, who has always been an enigma (to MBD). From the piece:
But the inconsistency carries through again. Even though in 2016 he said he would have rejected Trump’s endorsement for president had Trump said what he did about Muslims then, Romney happily accepted Trump’s endorsement for Senate in 2018, and then, when he arrived in Washington, returned the favor with a Washington Post op-ed criticizing the president. All these gyrations can be explained in isolation, as attempts at conciliation and provocation come in their turns. But the movement taken as a whole is surprisingly snakelike.
And so I come to his speech explaining his vote to convict and remove President Trump. My own view is that what Trump did was wrong, but much less serious a violation of his duties than many things done under all the presidents of my lifetime. And so I think the proposed remedy of impeachment and removal is excessive, unless we intend to dramatically raise the standards of public conduct. Perhaps we ought to raise them in a way that would disallow vice presidents’ sons from sitting on the boards of state-linked corporations in a country where his father’s administration had just backed a change of government without an election. Perhaps a top adviser to the Romney campaign shouldn’t have been on that same board either, given the appearance of corruption it gives to Ukrainians.
Romney waited for his moment until after all his Senate colleagues had committed to their course of action. Romney framed his decision in the most elevated terms possible. “I swore an oath, before God, to exercise ‘impartial justice.’” He said, “I am a profoundly religious person. I take an oath before God as enormously consequential.” I’m happy for him to finally acknowledge his faith in this way. Though, I wish as governor of Massachusetts he had fought to allow Catholic adoption agencies to take their oaths before God as seriously as he does.
Related: Ramesh Ponnuru strongly disagrees.
3. Rich Lowry finds the little candidate with the big wallet to be offensive. From the column:
Without more than $50 billion to his name, Bloomberg would almost certainly be running a campaign like another late entrant, former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, who hasn’t been heard from.
Bloomberg’s political strategy has always been built on the belief that nothing succeeds like excess. If he wants it, he can buy it, and money is no object.
It’s a free country, and Bloomberg can spend as much money as he likes on whatever suits his fancy. But Bloomberg 2020 is still an affront to small-d democratic sensibilities, a tribute not to his superior political skills or messaging compared with the other candidates, but his access to an enormous personal bank account.
The level of his spending is truly astonishing — Croesus goes all in on Super Tuesday. He’s spent more than $300 million on various forms of advertising. By the end, he’s going to make the profligate self-funder Tom Steyer — who managed to pointlessly buy himself onto the Democratic debate stage — look miserly.
4. In New Hampshire, Corky Messner doesn’t care that he’s a political neophyte — he still thinks he can knock off incumbent Democrat senator Jeanne Shaheen. A slice:
As a veteran, Corky has a lot to say about the Department of Veteran Affairs and its shortcomings. He supports President Trump’s reforms. He also thinks the opioid crisis is the biggest problem facing New Hampshire currently.
Corky has handed off all his business responsibilities in order to focus on his campaign. “I don’t sleep much,” he says. “I will outwork anybody.” However, “one thing I need to do more is work out,” he adds. “I need to drop some LBs.” He smiles as people laugh. He’s tall and broad-shouldered, and you can see how he was a Ranger in his younger years, despite his gut.
“I’m not a career politician. When you own a large firm, that’s a lot of power. I’m not going to Washington to gain power. I don’t need to go to Washington to enrich my family members.” Later in the evening, he spends a good ten minutes talking about what he believes to have been the corrupt dealings of Joe Biden and his son Hunter. “Read the New Yorker article on Hunter. And The New Yorker is friendly to the Left. But there are a lot of facts in there that will astonish you.”
The campaign tracker videotaping from the back is a sign that the New Hampshire Democratic party takes Corky seriously enough to try to catch him in a campaign-ending gaffe. The Democrats have also made an issue of the fact that Corky is not from New Hampshire originally (he was born in Altoona, Pa.) and owns property in other states.
5. John O’Sullivan, who has spent over half a century euro-scepticizing, marks Brexit and tells tales. From the reflection:
On June 4, 1975, therefore, I sat down at my clattering typewriter in the Telegraph offices and embarked on a melancholy task. As one of the minority of editorial writers opposed to EEC membership, I had been asked by editor Bill Deedes to write a light account of the referendum campaign that would appear on the morning of the vote. Bill said he wanted my squib to offset the solemnity of the editorial, but my suspicion was that he was a secret No voter who wanted it to offset the Telegraph’s stern admonition to vote Yes. And he may have been right. In its small way that squib was the modest beginning of the Telegraph’s Euroscepticism, which has since played a big part in achieving Brexit — the full story of which is told in the Telegraph itself.
In principle Bill could have ordered a No editorial, but pressure from the establishment for an endorsement of Britain’s EU membership was so overwhelming in 1975 that it would have seemed eccentric, unpatriotic, even treasonable. So I read through “the files” of the previous month’s campaigning and started bashing out the piece:
From the Establishment and the respectable anti-Establishment, from the Economist and the New Statesman, from Lord Feather [of the Trades Union Congress] and Mr. Campbell Adamson [of the Confederation of British Industry], from Prime Ministers Wilson (Labour) and Heath (Tory), from the Royal Commission Volunteers to ‘Actors and Actresses for Europe’, from the farthest reaches of the civilized West End, the same advice, the same dire predictions of life outside the Market (‘God, it was hell out there in 1972’), the same comforting assurances of a bright future inside, less ecstatic admittedly than similar forecasts before we had entered (‘Come in, come in, the water’s lukewarm’ was their newer message) have been proclaimed with an almost religious fervor.
Religion itself had been conscripted for the European cause. The bishop of London, preaching in St Paul’s, had said that those concerned about sovereignty were guilty of the heresy “My country, right or wrong,” which was “essentially selfish and inward-looking.” Big Business spoke with one voice: The CBI’s Ralph Bateman declared that it would be “madness” to leave the EEC, and Mr. Barrie Heath told the workers at the engineering company, Guest, Keen and Nettlefolds, that membership in the EEC was not a political issue at all. It was a simple matter of economic and industrial efficiency.
“Is he Sir Barrie?” asked Enoch Powell, the leading Tory campaigner for a No vote. “No? Well, he soon will be.” He was, too — given a knighthood three years later “for services to exporting.”
6. The Vatican shows once again how it is gutless to take on Commies, with Ryan Berg and Frances Tilley reporting on the papal silence in the face of attacks on the Church in Nicaragua by the detestable ideologue Daniel Ortega. From the piece:
The Church is at the tip of the spear in the fight for the restoration of democracy in Nicaragua. Nicaragua’s bishops, working tirelessly to find a solution to the crisis, have brokered dialogue between the opposition and the regime on multiple occasions. Rectories have morphed into informal clinics for the thousands wounded in the protests, many of whom are denied access to state-run medical care due to their participation. The Ortega-Murillo regime responded to the Church’s activism by surgically targeting members of the clergy, slandering them as “coup-plotters.”
Yet, with the Church under siege in Nicaragua, the silence from Rome is deafening.
The Catholic Church’s support for the country’s democratic movement has been met with regime attempts to infiltrate and entrap priests under an enlarged definition of “terrorism.” When these tactics fail, the Ortega-Murillo regime resorts to strong-arming and intimidating members of the clergy. Security forces manhandle priests at the cathedral in Managua and surround churches during Mass. Recently, mothers and wives of political prisoners went on a hunger strike in a church in Masaya to protest the illegal detention of their loved ones. The government responded by cutting water and electricity and surrounding the church with police and paramilitaries. The Reverend Edwin Román, who permitted the hunger strike and subsequently became imprisoned inside without food for over a week, said of the Ortega strongmen, “They left us like rats in a hole.”
7. Elizabeth Warren’s attack on Bernie Sanders backfired, reports John McCormack. From the analysis:
When the January Democratic debate rolled around, Warren tried out a new closing line of attack against Bernie Sanders: identity politics. She suggested he had committed a sexist sin by privately telling her a woman couldn’t win the White House — an allegation he denied, noting that he’d recruited her to run in the 2015 Democratic presidential primary against Hillary Clinton. Her hot-mic moment after the debate drew national coverage. “I think you called me a liar on national TV,” she told Sanders. Then the race was drowned out by impeachment.
How did the attack on Sanders work out for Warren? While we don’t have final results from Iowa, partial results show she finished behind Sanders and Buttigieg. With 62 percent of precincts reporting, Buttigieg and Sanders are battling for first place, while Warren is a distant third at 18.3 percent, just a bit ahead of Biden at 15.6 percent. Elsewhere, the polls show that Sanders’s lead over Warren has only grown since the January 14 debate: He entered that clash running five points ahead of her in the RealClearPolitics average of New Hampshire polls; by Monday, February 3, that lead had been stretched to twelve points. In the same time period, his advantage over her in the RCP average of national polls increased by six points.
8. Kevin Williamson finds the Democrats, basking in the Iowa afterglow, to be a political party of great ineptitude. From the piece:
What the parties are not there to do — when they are functioning properly — is to act as mere aggregators. Unhappily, that is largely what the two major parties currently do.
They have gone from being organizations with standards, procedures, and interests of their own to being “a vehicle that anyone can drive,” as Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report puts it. In the case of the goat rodeo in Iowa, she notes, “these changes were driven by representatives of a candidate who does not define himself as a Democrat.” Senator Sanders, a professing socialist, is formally an independent. “This isn’t unlike Donald Trump’s ability to completely hijack the GOP,” she adds. “The party does not have an identity outside the president.”
Max Weber, the great political theorist, worried about a habit he called “caesarism.” Mass democracy, in his view, was no bulwark against authoritarian and dictatorial strongman rule — it is closer to being a guarantor of such rule. Caesarism, in Weber’s formulation, is the result of power shifting from a parliament to a supreme leader who acts, in theory, as a tribune of the people. Gerhard Casper in his 2007 lecture on Weber and caesarism identifies the major tenets of the creed as: “plebiscitary elections, disdain for parliament, relying on the legitimacy of the monarchy for cover, preference for governing with the help of emergency legislation, nontoleration of any autonomous power within the government, [and] failure to attract or suffer independent political minds.” For “monarchy” we may substitute “presidency” and find ourselves with an excellent characterization of presidential politics in 2020.
9. More Kevin: He mocks the whining of Kansas Democrats who declare an approaching Dark Ages over abortion-reform legislation. From the critique:
Abortion opponents in Kansas have tried to restrict the practice through statute, only to be blocked by naked judicial activism from a state supreme court intent on magicking a right to abortion into a document that contains no such thing or anything that might plausibly be construed as such a thing. Faced with might-makes-right politics from a lawless court, abortion opponents have stuck by the rule of law and are now advancing a constitutional amendment that would make it abundantly and redundantly clear that the state constitution does not remove the power of the state’s lawmaking body to make laws touching abortion. Governor Laura Kelly, a Democrat, declared that this threatens to return Kansas “to the Dark Ages.”
Funny kind of dark age, this.
There are a few genuine advocates of a dark-ages mode of life. In the Western world, for example, there are a few extremist environmentalists (by no means representing the main stream of the environmental movement) who advocate a return to a pre-industrial way of life, though they rarely speak very openly about what that would imply for political rights — if you believe that you can enjoy 21st-century liberty and democracy under a 15th-century standard of material and technological life, you have not thought through that carefully enough. In the Islamic world, likewise, there are a few extremist groups and sects that have pronounced dark-ages tendencies when it comes to culture. Some of our pro-abortion friends have been known to describe abortion opponents as “Taliban Christians” and the like — meaning anti-modernists and reactionaries. But being American progressives and therefore predictably parochial, they remain blissfully ignorant of the fact that Islamic law takes a considerably more liberal view of abortion relative to Catholic teaching or to the positions typical of anti-abortion American evangelicals. (As among Christians, there is considerable sect-by-sect variation.) And so it is worth keeping in mind that both the Western proponents of anti-modern primitivism and the would-be fathers of a revived Islamic caliphate both typically take a view of abortion that is closer to that of Governor Kelly, Planned Parenthood, and the rest of the butchers’ guild.
10. Polly Doesn’t Want To Be a Cracker: John Hirschauer reports on the new craze of white women assembling to dine while being chastised for their complicit/inherent pigmental racism. Take a bite here:
In a society that has lost its sense of sin, Rao and Jackson offer attendees a coherent, almost biblical story of their depravity: White people are necessarily “privileged,” inexorably stained by their “whiteness” like the blot of original sin. The dinners offer an opportunity for baptismal rebirth and conversion, to shed their attachments to white hegemony and achieve a sense of meaning and purpose in a nihilistic age. Frankl said that the “mass neurosis of the present time can be described as a private and personal form of nihilism.” For Saira Rao and Regina Jackson, mass neurosis is a business model.
Rao and Jackson’s website “Race to Dinner” describes the dinner events as a chance for “white women” to partake in a “conversation about how the white women at the table are complicit in the continued injustices of our white supremacist society.” Rao explained her rationale to The Guardian: “I spent years trying to get through to white women with coffees and teas — massaging them, dealing with their tears, and I got nowhere.” Since coddling didn’t work, Rao resolved to “shake them awake.” How? By entering the proverbial lions’ den: “Wealthy white women,” Rao said, “have been taught never to leave the dinner table.” If she and Jackson were able to meet “them” in “their” element — white women have been “taught never to leave the dinner table,” after all — the activists might have more success.
They’ve been quite successful, in a certain sense. Since the program began in the spring of 2019, 15 groups have hired Rao and Jackson to deconstruct their “whiteness” and inherited “white privilege.” Those sessions, combined with the annualized payout from the tandem’s Patreon account, amounts to well over $40,000 in revenue. If “oppression” is the operative enemy the duo intends to fight, one wonders if and when Rao and Jackson will raise sufficient funds to put themselves out of business.
11. Switch to Tea! Starbucks is selling coffee by trans-proselytizing. No one knows this beat better than Madeleine Kearns. From her piece:
And now Starbucks has decided to throw their corporate weight behind the child sex-change agenda: “We’re proud to partner with the UK charity Mermaids with a limited-edition Mermaids Cookie. With every cookie sold, 50p will go to the charity to support their helpline, providing support for transgender and gender diverse young people and their families.”
In their campaign video, Starbucks show a young woman called Gemma being called Gemma by others and looking sad (at no point does she ask not to be called Gemma). However, when she orders a coffee at Starbucks, a barista asks her name, she answers “James” and smiles.
Aiming to raise $130,000 for Mermaids, the company explains: “Starbucks #whatsyourname campaign celebrates this signature act and the significance I can have for some transgender and gender diverse people as they use their new name in public.”
In actual fact, this campaign furthers an agenda that violates basic safeguarding, fosters secrecy, and sets children down the path to irreversible harm. The word “evil” is overused nowadays. But using corporate power to persuade vulnerable youngsters to reject their own bodies is exactly that.
12. The housing California needs, California is not getting, says Michael Tanner. Take a bow, Nanny State political hacks. From the piece:
The lack of affordable housing has led to an explosion of homelessness. There are an estimated 130,000 homeless people in the state, including around 28,000 in the San Francisco Bay Area and 60,000 in Los Angeles County alone. But even often overlooked cities such as San Diego have homeless populations in excess of 8,000. By some calculations, more than 47 percent of all unhoused homeless people in America reside in California.
While many of California’s homeless suffer from drug, alcohol, and mental-health problems, many more are driven to the streets by the cost of housing. By some estimates, as much as two-thirds of the state’s homeless problem can be traced to housing costs.
Last week California lawmakers had the opportunity to take the tiniest of baby steps toward dealing with the crisis. The Housing Accountability Act, SB50, would have allowed the construction of multi-family housing in some neighborhoods near mass transit that were previously zoned exclusively for single-family housing. They failed.
13. The Trump Administration’s deregulatory efforts in labor are having a great impact, says Patrick Pizzella. From the analysis:
Under President Trump’s leadership, the Department of Labor has taken a hard look at our regulatory approach. We’ve ramped up enforcement of beneficial regulations and have set about targeting lawless employers who cheat or endanger their workers. Meanwhile, we’re reducing and reforming regulations that do little more than thwart job creation and prosperity.
In fiscal year (FY) 2017, the Department published seven deregulatory actions and zero significant regulatory actions, saving the American economy $112 million. Having gotten warmed up, we published 12 deregulatory actions in FY 2018 — and, again, zero significant regulatory actions, saving American businesses $3.28 billion. In FY 2019, our eleven deregulatory actions more than doubled the previous year’s economic impact, providing an additional $7.96 billion boost to an economy that’s enjoying the lowest unemployment rate since 1969 and that has created 6.7 million new jobs since President Trump took office.
For example, in 2019, we issued a rule that expands access to retirement savings options for America’s small businesses and their employees. With Association Retirement Plans (ARP), small businesses, including self-employed workers, can band together by geography or industry to provide employees with retirement savings plans like a single large employer, creating greater economies of scale. Among our many other accomplishments, we lawfully updated overtime regulations for the first time in over 15 years and enabled more Americans to access portable health reimbursement arrangements.
14. Armond White dissects Joaquin Phoenix’s BAFTA scolding, it being Black History Month, him being . . . a sanctimonious lefty. From the beginning of his piece:
Joaquin Phoenix kicked off Black History Month at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts ceremony by lecturing the London audience on racial discrimination. His acceptance speech for the Best Actor prize was a more interesting performance than the hebephrenia Phoenix displayed in Joker. Rather than hide behind a clown’s mask of madness and social victimization, Phoenix mixed empathy with self-importance.
Perhaps he meant this attempt at commiseration to be better than the usual moral intimidation, yet it revealed the actor’s deep naïveté. What used to be called bleeding-heart liberalism is now conflated with self-righteousness. While under the sway of political fashion, Phoenix, in his sincerity, clarified the oafish middle ground.
Taking his sentimentality beyond the generic hashtag protest, Phoenix displayed a personal, simple-minded credulousness: “I feel very honored and privileged. . . . But I have to say I also feel conflicted because so many of my fellow actors don’t have that same privilege. I think we send a very clear message to people of color that you are not welcome here.”
From that point, Phoenix’s good intentions veered into rogue opportunism. If he understood that the awards were meant to be premised on pointing out excellence, not race, there’d be no need to signal — through mawkish, hands-in-pockets, aw-shucks pity and verbal fumbling — that he was one with progressive dissenters.
15. The Louvre’s Leonardo exhibition wins the praise of Brian Allen. From the review:
Only 15 paintings are attributed to Leonardo. He lived off and on in Florence but for long periods was cosseted by potentates such as the Duke of Milan and the French King Francis I who considered him their pet genius. He took forever to finish paintings, if he finished them at all. He was born out of wedlock, his father a small-town lawyer and his mother a peasant. He had little formal education. When he tried to steal papal work from the young Raphael and Michelangelo, he failed. By 1510 in Rome, however esteemed Leonardo was, they were more fashionable, and reliable. Why, then, is Leonardo the genius for all seasons, the original Renaissance man?
The exhibition explains Leonardo’s fame with impressive clarity and precision. He mastered movement, which conveys the reality of life on figures represented on a flat surface. He developed an atmosphere for his figures, settings where they convincingly breathe. An understanding of light, especially shade, molds form like putty. Leonardo believed that understanding the material world was essential in representing it. To him, mathematics, geology, anatomy, engineering, aeronautics, and botany weren’t always detours or diversions, though they sometimes were, hence, only 15 paintings in a 50-year career. He felt he couldn’t represent life, its physical and intellectual aspects, without knowing how life ticks.
It’s mostly a drawings show, along with eight of his paintings and the massive 1507–08 copy of The Last Supper done on canvas by Marco d’Oggiono. His story begins in Florence in the shop of Andrea del Verrocchio (1435–1488) where the savant Leonardo worked as a teenage apprentice. About a dozen large drapery studies by either Verrocchio or Leonardo are somber experiments in achieving form and weight through subtle undulations of lights and darks. These studies feel abstract and modern. Saint-Morys Study, by Leonardo, from the late 1470s, is the most impressive. The subject is a close-up, intense passage of drapery. The colors are an austere brown and gray. Light not only makes the folds and creases but gives what’s underneath presence and credibility.
16. Kyle Smith is troubled by what he sees in the Netflix documentary American Factory. From the review:
Such a portrayal is American Factory, a heartbreaking Netflix documentary about the gritty truths of capitalism. You may have heard the film, which has been nominated for an Oscar, described as “Obama’s movie.” It isn’t. It’s directed by veteran documentarians Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert. Barack and Michelle’s company, Higher Ground Productions, put their imprimatur on the film after the fact, when it was sold to the Obamas’ partners at Netflix. Nevertheless, you can see the affinity, as I’ll explain.
In Moraine, outside Dayton, Ohio, a unionized GM assembly plant shut down in 2008 as demand for the SUVs it produced waned with high fuel prices. The huge property sat there, empty and forlorn, until a Chinese behemoth that makes windows for automobiles, Fuyao Glass, decided to take a chance on it and reopen the facility. Workers who had once gotten $29 an hour and generous union benefits were offered less than half of that. Another way of looking at it: Laid-off workers who were getting $0 an hour were given a chance to come back to work for $13 an hour. Not the least of the film’s ironies is that after an all-American union (the IUE-CWA ran the shop) helped destroy jobs, an American state dangled $10 million in tax credits to lure China in to reopen the place, with non-union jobs.
Yet as soon as the plant gets up and running, what happens? Yep, union organizers start sniffing around. At a ribbon-cutting speech, the fatuous Senator Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) goes off-piste and starts calling for unionization, after which an (American) factory executive is seen cordially wondering whether the scissors used to cut the ribbon could also be used to separate Brown’s head from his shoulders.
The February 24, 2020 Issue of National Review Isn’t Sheepish about Answering the Old Rhetorical Question: “Is the Pope Catholic?”
As is our custom, we entice you with four suggestions from the bountiful fare contained in the new edition of National Review On Dead Tree. It went to press days after the Iowa Caucuses, which means: We still didn’t know the outcome.
1. The cover essay belongs to the great Daniel J. Mahoney, one of America’s premier conservative scholars, and also one of the great commentators on the state of the Catholic church, whose spiritual leader, Pope Francis, he casts as a wayward shepherd leading his flock down an erroneous path. From the essay:
On matters of war and peace, and immigration and the integrity of borders, Francis has been guided by the same humanitarian moralism that has informed his “frenzied activism” on other fronts. In a 2018 book of interviews with the left-wing French sociologist Dominique Wolton, Francis lightly dismisses the rich Catholic tradition of ethical and prudential reflection on matters of war and peace. In the tone of a person with no political responsibilities, and no sense of what they might be, he declares that there is no such thing as a just war. If he means that no war is simply or absolutely just, he is reiterating age-old Christian wisdom about the impact of original sin even on decent political communities attempting to defend the civilized patrimony of humankind. But this pope, abandoning equitable or balanced judgment, declares that only with peace do you “win everything.” He overlooks the fact that “peace” can also be a vehicle of mendacity, oppression, injustice, violence, and genocide, as that proffered by totalitarian regimes. As Vladimir Solovyov argued in his “Short Tale of the Anti-Christ” (1900), there can be such a thing as an “evil peace” and a good or legitimate war (and vice versa, of course). Francis’s conception in no way resembles the “tranquility of order” so richly articulated in Book 19 of St. Augustine’s City of God. If only he would display more deference to the rich theological and philosophical wisdom of the past.
Francis seems to believe, like the Leninists of old, that wars are caused only by rapacious capitalists, discounting quests for power, influence, glory, or fame, and never by totalitarian ideologues. Only the most naïve progressive or humanitarian could see “money”—“Satan’s dung,” as Francis rather colorfully calls it in his conversations with Wolton—as “the greatest threat to peace in the world today.” Alas, such musings sound more like the pronouncements of a secular progressive than the considered reflections of a man of a Church “which knows the truth about man,” to cite the great Pascal.
The silence of most of the bishops in the Catholic Church on this embarrassing but destructive mixture of progressivism, reflexive activism, and casual dismissal of the deepest wisdom of the Church is disconcerting. There are exceptions. As Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the former head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has repeatedly pointed out, the Church must recover the clarity of true theology and the natural moral law. “Spiritual and moral renewal in Christ and not the de-Christianization of the Church or her transformation into an NGO” will point the way forward. If the Church is nothing but a humanitarian NGO, she is nothing holy or enduring and will be blown to and fro by various ideological winds. In his pre-Christmas address at the end of 2019, Francis railed against “rigid” traditionalists who will not accept “change.” He also quoted the late Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini of Milan, who claimed shortly before his death in 2012 that the Catholic Church was “200 years behind the times.” One must ask: When did the morally and intellectually empty ideological standard of progress and reaction replace the enduring distinctions between truth and falsehood and good and evil? Doesn’t the Church aim to see and uphold the “timeless in time,” as T. S. Eliot so eloquently put it?
2. Kevin Williamson checks out the homeless situation in Austin. He finds quite the situation. From the article:
‘I’m a weekend mom, now,” says T-Boog. She’s building a firepit in front of her tent for cooking and warmth, assembling stray bricks and fragments of cinderblock. Her daughter, who is listening to music on the stereo of a car parked nearby, turns the music down and turns her face away. T-Boog has been living here at Camp R.A.T.T.—“Responsible Adult Transition Town”—for a few weeks. It is a new facility, though “facility” is probably not quite the right word. As the political volleys between Governor Abbott and Mayor Adler went back and forth, with the city resolving and then unresolving to enforce its “urban camping” ordinance—as though this were about camping—the inevitable question came up: If Austin clears out the homeless camps, then where do the homeless go? The answer the state came up with is five acres of blasted dusty state-owned land near Montopolis Drive, walled and gated and concertina-wired and overseen by two smiling and friendly agents from the state’s Division of Emergency Management who normally are tasked with managing the aftereffects of hurricanes and tornadoes rather than the slow-motion man-made disaster whose effects are being funneled here into Camp R.A.T.T., which the residents originally had called “Camp Abbott” before settling on the more aspirational name they’ve given their community.
This is not T-Boog’s first experience with tent life. Before, she lived in an encampment “in the woods,” she says. A couple of large settlements have been discovered over the years in Austin’s greenbelt. Camp R.A.T.T. gives its residents some respite that they do not enjoy elsewhere. They are living here with the state’s begrudging consent, so they do not have to worry about being chased away from whatever semi-permanent arrangements they can make, and there are daily deliveries of water and food in the form of MREs. Like all of the Camp R.A.T.T. residents I speak to, T-Boog is not an Austin native. She comes most recently from Orlando but prefers the less swampy climate here. One of her neighbors comes from San Diego but has in recent years traveled all over the country, from California to the Carolinas. T-Boog says she has a hard time keeping a job because she always wants to try new things. She applied for an online degree program in “entrepreneurship” but was unable to enroll because she doesn’t have regular access to an Internet connection. Things went bad for her after a divorce. Her daughter comes to visit her on the weekends, but she doesn’t let her stay overnight. “It’s not safe,” she says.
T-Boog is a classic kind of American delusional. “Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires,” Ronald Wright wrote in his History of Progress. T-Boog is living in a tent but imagines reinventing herself as a serial entrepreneur. Another resident speaks of his plans to do something “with media.”
3. Alexandra DeSanctis profiles former Veep and wanna-POTUS Joe Biden’s race to the Left. From the report:
Biden spends most of his campaign events talking about the sitting president. “We have to beat Donald Trump,” he says again and again on the trail. In Waukee, Biden emphasized the theme with which he kicked off his campaign, saying that another term for Trump would “fundamentally change the nature” of the U.S., while his own presidency would “restore the character of the nation.”
“I really do believe this year that the character of the nation is on the ballot”—that’s how he put it in Waterloo, before repeating his campaign-video description of the Charlottesville violence. “To state the obvious, the next president is going to inherit a country divided and a world in disarray, and there is no time for on-the-job training,” he added.
But Iowa’s voters appear not to have agreed with Biden’s assessment that he is the candidate best equipped to be that president. He’s been banking on appealing to Democratic voters who can’t stand Trump and are wary of the progressive direction in which other politicians want to take their party. In a state such as Iowa, those types of voters likely exist in droves, but Biden’s efforts to win them over fell flat.
“Everything I say, I’ve done, and everything I talk about is authentic,” Biden told an undecided voter in Cedar Rapids on the Saturday before the caucuses. “Now, if you don’t like what I’m talking about, I understand. You can be for somebody else. But ask yourself, who is going to be able to unite the country? How can Pete do that? How can Bernie do that?”
That undecided voter later told the New York Times, “He 100 percent could have swayed me, and I was hoping that he would, and he did not.”
4. Richard Tempest assesses the latest volume release (the first time March 1917 has been published in English) of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s majestic history (The Red Wheel) of the Soviet Revolution. From the review:
The book traces the clash between two new centers of power, the democratically minded provisional government, established by the elected parliament, or Duma, and the Petrograd Soviet of Deputies, a revolutionary talking-shop-cum-gangsters’-den. They compete against each other in the name of liberty and fraternity as they dismantle every institution of state, including the army fighting on the Eastern Front, and thereby ensure the nation’s doom. Most of the action takes place in St. Petersburg (Petrograd) and its environs, though there are historical vignettes set in Moscow, in the southern city of Rostovon-Don, at Nicholas’s General Headquarters (GHQ) at Mogilev, and on the ships of the Imperial Russian Navy.
Like the rest of the saga, March 1917 features reliable and unreliable character voices, graphic descriptions, and hallucinatory reveries, as well as an elaborate hierarchy of metaphors at the apex of which stand the (Christian) Cross and the (satanic) Wheel. Refracted across the epic’s many narrative layers, each glyph generates sometimes explicit and sometimes coded meanings. Thus, the boutonnières worn by the revolutionaries become imaginatively transformed into “large, torn red scrap[s], . . . as shaggy as fire, . . . revolving around the pinning point in angles, tears, and wisps.” The passage occurs in one of the “screens,” or mock film scripts, the saga’s most conspicuously experimental element, which intertwines its historiographical, symbolic, and surreal strands. Also present in Book 2 are documentary interpolations, mostly extracts from the newspapers of the period, as well as popular proverbs, set in caps and centered at the end of several of the chapters, as punchy commentary on the events described. “A hero’s beard, a conscience of clay,” for example, serves as a folksy assessment of the imperial authorities’ lack of moral courage. In Solzhenitsyn’s book, with its dozens of hirsute generals, politicians, and conspirators, the revolution is a festival of beards.
Marian Schwartz’s translation hews faithfully to the original. It renders archaisms, dialecticisms, grammatical complexities, and syntactical inversions into careful English prose, while retaining the idiosyncratic authorial diction and conveying the wicked delight he takes in lampooning the historically clueless, irresponsible, and immoral.
1. At The New Criterion, John Steele Gordon reminisces about Harry Flashman and the beloved novel series written by the late George MacDonald Fraser. From the reflection:
Flashman was the brilliant conception of the British author George MacDonald Fraser. Flashman had been a minor character in Thomas Hughes’s Victorian classic Tom Brown’s School Days—so minor he didn’t even have a first name in that book. As the school bully at Rugby, Flashman had made Tom Brown’s life hell until he had been expelled for drunkenness.
But Fraser took this thinly fleshed-out character and brought him to life by means of a masterly literary conceit. Had he simply written these books as third-person novels, it is unlikely they would have caught on, because Flashman was apparently devoid of the redeeming qualities that the heroes of picaresque tales always have. Consider Tom Jones, for instance, or, for that matter, Robin Hood.
Instead, Fraser wrote them in the first person, explaining that they were actually the memoirs of Harry Flashman. “The great mass of manuscript known as the Flashman Papers,” he wrote, “was discovered during a sale of household furniture at Ashy, Leicestershire, in 1965. . . . The papers, which had apparently lain untouched for fifty years, in a tea chest . . . were carefully wrapped in oilskin covers.” All Fraser had to do, he explained, was edit them very lightly and supply footnotes and endnotes. As far as I know, the Flashman Papers are the only novels in the English language, perhaps besides Tolkien’s, with extensive back matter, at least back matter written by the author and not an English professor determined, as they always are, to make a good book boring.
These endnotes, the product of meticulous and extensive historical research, are the source of the extraordinary verisimilitude of the Flashman Papers. Indeed they had such a feeling of verisimilitude that no fewer than ten of the twenty-eight American reviewers treated the first one as a genuine autobiography.
And the endnotes reveal another of Fraser’s literary conceits. For while Harry Flashman is completely fictional, the world he lived in for so long (his dates are 1822–1915) was very real, as were many of the characters and events in the Flashman Papers. Fraser sticks to history as much as possible. Flashman wrote that he met Florence Nightingale, for instance, at Balmoral, Queen Victoria’s Scottish estate, on the night of September 22, 1856, and, indeed, Nightingale was there that day, as recorded in Queen Victoria’s letters.
2. In Commentary, Wilfred C. Reilly advises that there is no coming race war. From the article:
Looking at today’s dueling headlines, it is tempting to ask: “So, do we have an epidemic of horrifically racist white-on-black crimes or an epidemic of brutish black-on-white crimes?” The answer is “neither.” Moreover, the statistics so thoroughly refute popular fear-mongering that Americans of all colors should take the media to task for the divisive false version of reality they so often present. In September of this year, the Trump administration’s Department of Justice released the 2019 Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) report, entitled “U.S. Criminal Victimization 2018,” a comprehensive breakdown of U.S. crime data for the year in question. The reality of interracial crime revealed within the pages of this thorough report is far indeed from the “race war” fantasies of extremists on either side.
According to the report, only 15.3 percent of the 3,581,360 violent crimes against whites in 2018 were committed by blacks, who make up 12 to 13 percent of the U.S. population. These percentages are, needless to say, almost directly proportional. And whites were even less likely to commit racist crimes: Only about 11 percent of the 563,940 violent crimes against blacks were committed by whites. Significantly, no third group—say, Latinos—made up for these positive findings. During the study year, persons of Hispanic or Latino descent made up only 7.9 percent of all those who attacked blacks and just 10.2 percent of all those who attacked whites. The massive majority of crime in 2018 was intra-racial, with 62.1 percent of all attacks on white people coming from other whites (non-Hispanic whites make up 61 percent of the U.S. population) and 70.3 percent of all attacks on black people coming from other blacks. For good measure, nearly 50 percent of all attackers of Hispanics were themselves Hispanic. All told, only about 2,000,000 crimes, out of 5,061,940 violent crimes and roughly 12,000,000 total crimes, involved any interracial use of force whatsoever.
It is true that, as alt-righters are fond of pointing out, there are more black attacks on whites than white attacks on blacks in a typical year: Generally about 500,000 of the first and 100,000 or fewer of the latter (59,777 in 2018). However, this fact taken alone is, in debater’s parlance, “true but meaningless.” The honest math around the topic gets more complicated than this, but it’s worth noting as a starting point that there are five times as many white people as black people in the United States. Even an utterly anti-racist black criminal would thus find himself confronted with 500 to 600 percent more white targets than black ones. It is also true that, on average, whites have more money than blacks do, making the former more tempting targets for such crimes as robbery. And the black violent-crime rate overall, as per the BJS, is roughly 2.4 times the white rate, making blacks statistically more likely to be involved in crime against members of all groups.
3. At Gatestone Institute, Denis MacEoin deep-dives into the flawed programs to “deradicalize” Islamofascist terrorists. From the article:
On Friday November 29, 2019, an Islamist terror attack took place in London. Two young people, both recent Cambridge University graduates, Jack Merritt (25) and Saskia Jones (23), were stabbed and killed by a single attacker. It was a terrible and unnecessary loss of life.
The special irony about Jack and Saskia’s deaths is that they (and a colleague) had been involved with Cambridge University’s Learning Together prison-rehabilitation program, similar to the US version known as Inside-Out, both of which bring prison inmates together with students to learn together. The British programme is run by Cambridge University’s Institute of Criminology, from which both Merritt and Jones had received M.Phils in criminology.
On that Friday, the fifth anniversary of the program, they were attending a conference on offender rehabilitation. The event, dedicated to work on reintegrating prisoners after their release, took place in the stately Fishmongers’ Hall at the north end of London Bridge. It was attended by a mix of academics, students, graduates and former prisoners, some with tags.
Just after lunch, at 12.58 p.m., the conference erupted into chaos when one of the participants threatened to blow it up. A man, later identified as Usman Khan, revealed that he was wearing what appeared to be a suicide vest. It is not clear what he planned to do, given that the vest was a fake and could not have served in any attack. However, he did have two knives taped to his wrists. When he left the Hall and went down to the bridge, it was indeed with these weapons that he killed Merritt and Jones and injured several others, some badly.
Remarkably, instead of running for their lives, many of the conference participants, including some prisoners, tackled Khan. One was a convicted murderer on day release. Two of these heroes were Merritt and Jones, who paid for their bravery with their own lives.
4. The Golden State has embraced corporate socialism. At California Policy Center, Ed Ring explains how and why. From the study:
Corporate socialism in California today is a marriage of convenience between, on one hand, monopolistic corporations and the oligarchy they’ve spawned, and on the other, a seething coalition of progressive socialists with an agenda that is best described as a self-contradictory mixture of nihilism and idealism. What California’s corporate socialists have done is concoct a profitable interpretation of this agenda, implementing those elements that will aggrandize them, and paying lip service to the rest. There are ample examples of this practice.
To ensure “diversity,” an amazingly lucrative profession has emerged, embodied in “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” departments inside every institution of higher education, as well as embedded in the human resources departments of every major corporation.
To protect wilderness, sound principles of land management such as controlled burns, maintenance of firebreaks and access roads, selective logging and salvage logging have been either banned altogether or mired in prohibitive levels of bureaucratic delays, leading to catastrophic fires that were blamed on the “climate.”
To protect the “climate,” land development outside of existing cities has been all but frozen, restricting the supply of new homes and driving prices to unaffordable levels. For similar reasons relating to “climate,” clean conventional energy from natural gas and nuclear power are being systematically reduced in favor of heavily subsidized “renewable” energy providers.
To ensure housing “affordability,” the Homeless Industrial Complex has arisen, with budgets so padded that the average cost to build “permanent supportive housing” in California now exceeds a half million per unit.
To respect the rights of the homeless, as well as “alternative lifestyles,” hundreds of thousands of vagrants, most of them either insane, substance abusers, predators, or all three, have been permitted to camp on the sidewalks and in the parks of every major California city. To assist them, tens of billions are being spent on public employees and nonprofit personnel, and the problems just get worse.
5. At The College Fix, Daniel Payne asks and answers — why do liberal students never seem to endure the same offenses that happen to conservatives? From the beginning of the piece:
A snapshot of a few of the things conservative student groups have endured on campus in recent months: At George Mason University, Young America’s Foundation was told by campus authorities that they weren’t allowed to post flyers; at the College of Lake County, a campus employee distributed material claiming that Young Americans for Freedom was a “hate group;” the student government at the University of Scranton blocked a conservative student group from forming; the same thing happened at Hobart and William Smith Colleges; last year conservative students endured numerous violent attacks on their college campuses; an anarchist group at the University of Texas threatened to dox any student if they joined a campus conservative club; the list goes on.
It’s worth asking: How come we never hear about liberal students suffering the same indignities?
Spoiler alert: Because it doesn’t really happen. Liberal students enjoy the benefit of the doubt on virtually every college campus in the country; conservative students are generally seen as outliers at best and enemies at worst. What that means in practice is twofold: One, conservatives are much more likely to face the kinds of sustained and sometimes violent harassment as detailed above, and two, nobody cares all that much when it does happen.
6. If we could all only write like Mark Helprin! At Claremont Review of Books, the great author reflects on his mid-60s time at Harvard as an undergrad. This is a story of love and heartbreak. From the essay:
My first brush with the deluge was anecdotal but potently symbolic. In 1965, I witnessed what I think of as the Ur-protest at Harvard, in the form of a single demonstrator carrying a sign in front of Lowell House. He was against parietals, the rules that not only dictated the limited hours in which girls could visit your room, but assigned proctors to inspect periodically for sexual activity. I didn’t like parietals, but in that era when we dressed in jacket and tie all day, as I had since 4th grade, I appreciated their value in elevating desire by means of the heavy cultivation of forbidden fruit, and in steadying, so to speak, the morals of state. Even if the heart of the game was to circumvent them, that they were there was civilizing. So, undecided, I heard him out.
He was not, however, merely protesting parietals, he was protesting America—past, present, and, were it not to transform according to his lights, future. I loved America and was profoundly grateful for its principles and its reality, so I asked him why he was so angry. His father, he said, one of the Hollywood Ten, was unjustly accused of being a Communist, and had had to move to France. I replied that being a Communist in America was not illegal, and it was a pity that he had had to move to France—though I myself would have loved to have moved to France if only for the food—but that his father was indeed a Communist, and either his father had lied to him or he was lying to me. He reacted in amazed disbelief. I couldn’t possibly back up what I said. But, no, I told him, his father had been in the same Hollywood Communist cell as my mother, who had known him quite well. Ahem.
It is remarkable how such true believers can leverage a community that lacks awareness, conviction, and fighting courage. A well-known Communist tactic is to place a small group of agents both at the four corners and scattered near the center of a large meeting. Reacting simultaneously either to propose or oppose, they can carry the more passive participants with them by creating the illusion of consensus. As the Vietnam War and urban unrest destabilized the ’60s, posing urgent questions one after another and, like the sea beyond a dyke, exerting constant pressure against the figurative walls of the university, leftist true believers took control of Harvard’s soft, privileged center. Pacific by nature, academics are ill-suited to Leninist political combat, and though they cannot be blamed for shying from it, they should be held to account for becoming its converts and agents.
Connie Mack was a tightwad, and with the economy heading ever further south as the Great Depression intensified, he decided to cut costs for the defending AL Champ Philadelphia As’ trip to Cleveland for a one-game make-up on Sunday, July 11, 1932, by bringing along only two pitchers. One was 20-year-old righthander Lew Krausse (he would start only one more game in his brief MLB career), and the other was 34-year-old righty Eddie Rommel, who had twice led the AL in wins (in 1922 and 1925), and also losses (in 1921 and 1923), and had carved out a role as the As’ chief reliver in his final seasons.
If there was ever a baseball box score to look at, it belongs to this game. The visiting As quickly got on the scoreboard with two runs in the top of the first against the Indians’ Clint Brown (he’d register a 15–12 record that season, with a 4.08 ERA), but in the bottom half of the frame, Cleveland tagged Krausse for three runs on Earl Averill’s homer. It would be one of five hits that day by the future Hall of Famer. Indeed, it would be one of 33 hits by the Indians — compared to a measly 25 by the As — in an 18-inning slugfest that ended with the Athletics triumphing, 18–17.
But who knew all that was looming when Rommel came in to relieve Krausse in the bottom of the second. And with no one else to throw, the veteran knuckleballer found himself hurling 17 frames before striking out Indians first baseman Ed Morgan (he also had five hits) to end the game in the 18th. Over the dual blowout, Rommel gave up 29 hits and 9 walks, allowing 14 runs (13 earned). Of those hits, 8 were had by Indians shortstop Johnny Burnett. He also singled off Krausse in the first — Burnett’s nine total hits is an MLB one-game record.
There were relief theatrics for the Indians too. Behind 8–7 in the 7th Inning, manager Roger Peckinpaugh brought in ace Wes Ferrell (he’d lead Cleveland with 23 wins that season) to get the Tribe out of a two-out, bases-loaded jam. He didn’t: A bases-clearing double by Jimmy Dykes, followed by an Al Simmons RBI single and a Jimmie Foxx home run (he had three on a day of six hits with eight RBIs) almost broke open the game — except for the fact that in the bottom of the 7th, Rommel allowed eight Indian runs.
And so it went — the Athletics go ahead in the 9th, 15–14, but with two out the Indians knot it in the bottom of the inning. Another Foxx dinger in the 16th puts the As ahead by two, but the Indians grab them back in the bottom of the frame. Still on the mound all this time for Cleveland is Ferrell: He hurled 11 1/3 innings, allowing eight runs on a dozen hits and four walks. He took a blown save and the loss. Rommel (who had three hits and an RBI) proved the winner. It would be the final of his career, which boasted a strong 171–119 record over 13 seasons, all spent with Mr. Mack. Later, he would become an AL umpire, calling balls and strikes for 22 seasons till he hung up his specs (Rommel was the first MLB umpire to wear glasses while working a game).
They can’t count votes, but they can run this nation? Not happening folks. Pray that it doesn’t.
And while you’re praying, say a few for Rush.
The Almighty’s Blessings and Graces for You and Yours, for Your Happiness and Good Health,
(who can be reached on his Mississippi River flatboat with your caustic bromides and heartfelt condemnations if communicated electronically at email@example.com)