Dear Weekend Jolter,
Chuck Schumer’s scheme, whispered aloud to Ms. Maddow, urged the Not-Socialist President to declare a “Climate Emergency” so’s to grab power and shake his dictatorial groove thaaang. Hey! Don’t even think about complaining: Three co-equal branches and separation of powers and all that olden-days constitutional hoo-hah is the stuff of privilege.
Anyway, Cuomo and Newsom have spent the last year test-driving the emasculation of representative government, so we Dems know what to do — which is, whatever the expletive we want. And if one of us (Tulsi!) gets wobbly we’ll remind them of the First Democratic Commandment: Never let a crisis go to waste. And the Second: If you don’t have the crisis, then manufacture one. Presto: Climate Emergency!
David Harsanyi, wise as all get-out, had a few things to say about the razor-thin-margin Senate Majority Leader’s contemptuous game plan. From the beginning of the piece:
This week, Senate majority leader Charles Schumer told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that it may be “a good idea for President Biden to call a climate emergency.”
In other words, the leader of what is allegedly the world’s greatest deliberative lawmaking body — tasked with, among many other things, checking the power of the executive branch — is advocating that his ideological ally bypass Congress, declare a perpetual emergency that affects the entire economy, and rule by fiat.
Of course, anyone who believed Democrats were attempting to preserve “norms” or strengthen institutions, or that they were genuinely upset by the overreaches of Donald Trump rather than frustrated that they weren’t the ones wielding power, was just a sap.
In the Maddow interview, Schumer reasons that Trump had used the emergency powers “for a stupid wall, which wasn’t an emergency.” Indeed, I opposed Trump’s funding sections of the border wall. Yet securing the border — Schumer, incidentally, voted in favor of a barrier when it was politically expedient — is a tangible project, with a beginning and end, and a clear purpose. Schumer wants to activate special executive powers to fight a nebulous all-encompassing future “emergency” that entails control of entire sectors of the economy, all the while erasing the legislative choices of states and economic choices of individuals.
Meanwhile, the editors of this institution thundered about Chuck’s lefty concoction; Get a load of our condemnation:
Biden has promised to transform the United States into a 100 percent clean-energy economy with net-zero emissions by 2050 and to decarbonize the power sector in a mere 15 years. The massive cost of policies that deny Americans affordable and abundant energy sources would almost certainly fail to win approval in Congress under its usual rules. Which is why Democrats are doing everything they can to short-circuit or make an end-run around the system.
The majority leader told MSNBC that Democrats were also trying to figure out ways to sneak climate-change policy into Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan under reconciliation, a budget tactic that allows some spending-related bills to pass with only a simple majority in the Senate. Depending on the particulars, that might be an abuse of the process, and would likely be objectionable on policy grounds, but would at least involve congressional action.
In all the circumventing of responsibility, Congress — entranced by the Governing by Executive Order — seems to be engaging in a little circumcision of sorts too. Well, Our Esteemed Editor puts it more appropriately. From Rich Lowry:
Consider what Biden did on his own the other day. He directed the Interior Department to stop new oil and gas leases on federal land and to identify steps to double renewable-energy production by 2030.
He created a special presidential envoy for climate, as well as a White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy, a National Climate Task Force, a Civilian Climate Corps Initiative, an Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization, a White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council, and a White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council.
On top of this, he established a Justice Initiative to steer 40 percent of relevant federal investments to disadvantaged communities.
And on the seventh day, Biden rested (after tucking his pen back in his pocket).
If Congress had passed a bill doing all this, it’d be considered a pretty active day. Instead, Congress stood on the sidelines . . . and commented.
You ask, When will the pendulum start to swing back? If Your Humble Correspondent knew, he’d tell you. Pray, soon. While you wait, do get a heapin’ helpin’ of conservative wisdom with this week’s WJ: Grab your putter and 9 iron because this edition has more links than the PGA Tour.
(And One Last Thing: You’ll find the Heat Miser song here).
SHORT, SWEET, ECONOMICAL LINKIFICATION
David Harsanyi: Joe Biden & Coronavirus: Deceptions about Plans
Rich Lowry: Journalists Now Want to Limit Free Speech
Kyle Smith: Cancel-Culture Craziness — Stop It
Michael Brendan Dougherty: Cancel Culture Fear: People Who Disagree Passionately Should Be Able to Work Together
Michael Brendan Dougherty: California and Coronavirus: Gavin Newsom’s Failures & Broken Promises
Robert Delahunty and John Yoo: Originalist Case against a Trump Impeachment Trial
Andrew C. McCarthy: Dissent, Patriotism & Insurrection: Important Distinctions
Andrew C. McCarthy: Justice Department: Voter-Disinformation Charge Dubious
Alexandra DeSanctis: Down-Syndrome-Abortion Restrictions Gain Steam at State, Federal Levels
Dan McLaughlin: Edmund Burke and the British Monarchy’s Loss of Power
Cheri Williams: Coronavirus Has Made Human Trafficking of Children Worse
Kevin Hassett see POTUS pandemic politics: Biden’s COVID-Relief Bill: A Glass Not Full
Marc Joffe poo-poos future projections: COVID-19 Stimulus & Relief: State and Local Aid Should Be Guided by Historical Data
David Harsanyi says it walks like a duck: President Biden Wants to End Fracking
Nicholas Phillips wants to end a taboo: Tariffs: Reckoning with Their Advantages Better than Dogmatic Opposition
Lights. Camera. Review!
Kyle Smith scores a knockout: Dear Comrades! Is a Vivid Portrait of the Soviet Nightmare
Armond White takes on the AFI list makers: American Film Institute Best Films of 2020 List: Race-Baiting and Wokism
More Armond, who doesn’t have a sole thing nice to say: Soul: Disney and Pixar Sell Numbing Mind Games to Family Market
Michael Brendan Dougherty sees a movie about the ancient conundrum: Tenet Tackles Christian Mystery of Fate and Free Will
Kevin Williamson likes a new Scorsese flick: Pretend It’s a City: Fran Lebowitz’s Conservative Character Revealed in New Documentary
But Wait, There’s More . . . Take One
There’s a new NR podcast, a weekly bit of wisdom and delight that has sprung from Capital Matters. It’s called Capital Record and it’s hosted by David Bahnsen (yes, he of Radio Free California fame. Episode One is a gem, and it features the great Kevin Hassett. Strap on the ear buds and Listen up here.
But Wait, There’s Still More . . . Take Two
Our friends at National Review Institute are seeking applicants for its acclaimed “Burke to Buckley” program, NYC and Philadelphia division. Some dimwit has done a passable job of providing all the details here.
DÉJÀ VU, BUT WITH AMPLIFYTING EXCERPTS
Conservative Wisdom Served in 16 Sumptuous Offerings
1. Bernie lost, but did he? John Fund looks at the Sandernista takeover of the Democratic Party. From the article:
Just last spring, Bernie Sanders was a two-time loser for the Democratic presidential nomination. His refusal to knuckle under to the establishment of his party had made him a pariah with major donors. But Sanders, a radical socialist since his teens, never allowed himself to become discouraged. He negotiated an agreement with Biden that moved the former vice president to the left on key issues in exchange for his endorsement. After the election, he partnered with some Republican senators to dramatically increase the direct payments to Americans in the pandemic-relief bill. The split that created in Republican ranks may have indirectly led to the two Democratic wins in the Georgia Senate race. Those wins in turn gave Democrats their Senate majority and made Sanders the chairman of the Budget Committee.
Now, while Joe Biden is the new president, it’s Bernie Sanders and his allies who will often be in the driver’s seat making policy. “We’re going to push Joe — the president — as far as we can,” Sanders told CNN.
Wherever that ends up being, it will move this country further to the left than most people thought possible a year ago. Bernie Sanders is proof that if you’re persistent enough, you don’t have to be elected president to be in a position to accomplish your goals.
2. David Harsanyi looks into Joe Biden’s “Day One” COVID deceptions and blarney. From the article:
Worse still, Biden continually underestimated the speed with which medical technology would move. It’s true that Operation Warp Speed was a rare “public-private partnership” success. Yet, every time Trump promised that a vaccine would be available by the end of the year, “fact-checkers” were deployed to claim this was a lie. By December 23, the United States led the world in vaccinations, with over a million people vaccinated. This despite the fact that, during the presidential campaign, Democrats such as Kamala Harris engaged in a cynical partisan effort to erode trust in government by intimating that the efficacy and safety of vaccines would be compromised under the Trump administration.
Now, CNN reports that the Biden administration has inherited “no coronavirus vaccine distribution plan to speak of from the Trump administration.” An anonymous source claims that “there is nothing for us to rework. . . . We are going to have to build everything from scratch.” Why does CNN allow anonymity in a piece bashing the previous administration? Most likely because the claim is obviously untrue. Even National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci refuted the notion. Indeed, the very existence of the vaccine refutes the notion as well.
3. Rich Lowry zings journalists who show contempt for free speech for all. From the article:
They’ve become the thing they profess to hate — closed-minded censors who want to stifle free expression, First Amendment be damned.
Perversely, the TV program and email newsletter of the top media analyst at CNN, Brian Stelter, have been clearinghouses for such advocacy, whether it is demands to get right-wingers removed from social media or — more astonishingly — to keep conservative cable networks off the airwaves.
Stelter’s colleague, media reporter Oliver Darcy, tweeted about his effort to get cable companies to answer why they carry pro-Trump channels such Newsmax and One America News Network. “Do they have any second thoughts about distributing these channels given their election denialism content?” he asked on Twitter. “They won’t say.”
4. Kyle Smith wants to cancel stuff that cancels stuff. From the piece:
Both Wilkinson and Wolfe, as it happens, had given hostages to fortune by disputing the existence of cancel culture, laughing merrily along as progressives wielded it to chase distinguished writers and editors such as Andrew Sullivan and James Bennet from their jobs at, respectively, New York magazine and the Times — not to mention to get my friend Kevin Williamson fired from The Atlantic after one day at work. As long as cancellation was a punishment inflicted only on those who deviated from left-wing orthodoxy, it could not have been real. “It’s hilarious this refrain of ‘cancel culture,’” Wolfe wrote on Twitter on August 24. “As if it is actually anything. Virus? Jobs? Nah.” “Cancel culture, LOL,” Wilkinson wrote on March 12. Moreover, applying the “no violent rhetoric” logic used to justify sacking Wilkinson, Niskanen’s boss should have cancelled himself. When a St. Louis couple brandished firearms outside their home during a protest last summer, Niskanen Center chief Jerry Taylor wrote on Twitter that if he had been present, “I’d like to think I’d rush them and beat their brains in. And I wouldn’t apologize for it for one goddam [sic] second.” Unlike the Pence tweet, Taylor’s wasn’t an ironic joke and was therefore much worse.
Still, pointing out hypocrisy doesn’t get you very far when it comes to the underlying problem: Though some fail to take a social malady seriously until it’s too late, the malady itself should still trouble us. Columnist Adam Serwer of The Atlantic is blaming the Right for firings carried out by progressive bosses, claiming that Wilkinson and Wolfe were fired “for making conservatives mad.”
5. More Cancellation: Michael Brendan Dougherty says it’s a real thing with real consequences. From the analysis:
Most people simply don’t have access to Chip and Joanna Gaines’s fame to withstand an outrage campaign, and even to thrive in it. If what a pastor says in a sermon is likely to get members of his flock fired, opportunists and hatchet men will begin trolling through church podcasts for reasons to campaign against their co-workers. One wonders if the law is shaping behavior in this way, as some studies show that even in the American South, signs of any overt religious affiliation hurt one’s changes of obtaining a job. It is simply not possible to untangle the fall in prestige for religiosity from the increase of legal trouble surrounding rather common religious convictions. Each drives the other.
So conservatives have a double fight on their hands. Politicians may not have all the tools to fight the drop in social prestige that religiosity has suffered, but they do have the ability to clarify whether speech and actions in adherence to a Christian catechism, or what one believes to be the inescapable logic of biology, are legal liabilities for employers. There is a way in which Title VII litigation outsources government-approved censorship and self-censorship into the private sector. Politicians do have the ability to clarify whether mayors have the right to discriminate against businesses led by people with religious convictions they don’t like. They have the ability to stop campaigns of trollish legal harassment.
Of course there are matters on the edge, and cases that are hard to resolve. But it’s only by clarifying these matters that we can allow a great majority of people of goodwill to rebuild a workable consensus and set of conventions that allow people who disagree passionately about important matters to work together productively. And clarifying them should make clear that being forced to take your book to another publishing house is not the same as being asked by the bosses to sign onto statements of moral and religious import while working at a corporate office.
6. More MBD: California’s screw-up governor Gavin Newsom is put under the microscope. From the piece:
Governor Gavin Newsom has tried to distinguish himself during the pandemic. He’s not going to run California like one of those bad states, no. Newsom promised an approach to COVID-19 lockdowns and reopenings that was “driven by data,” and that there would be data transparency with the public.
The promise was that Newsom would be such a good technocratic liberal that in California he wouldn’t even be governing at all; the best science would be governing you. As hospitalizations increased, opportunities for socializing would decrease across a regionalized California. The state would run like an algorithm: perfectly, flawlessly, and ultimately, beautifully. The system would tame coronavirus like an oiled comb running through a full head of slicked-back hair.
Social distancing would be rigorously enforced, even if that meant sending out a bunch of cops to collar a single paddle boarder hundreds and hundreds of yards away from anybody else. How dare that guy spend some alone time getting sun and fresh air when there’s a virus going around that kills people with vitamin D deficiencies, and transmits in poorly ventilated indoor spaces! Can’t he do any of the healthy authorized activities, like eating from a McDonald’s drive-thru?
7. There’s an originalist case to be made about Trump Impeachment 2, and Robert Delahunty and John Yoo make it. From the analysis:
Supporters of Trump’s impeachment must make heavy inferences from these procedural clauses. Take Article I, Section 3’s “judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States.” Trump critics argue that by including future disqualification, the Founders intended impeachment to extend to former officials. But it is not clear from this text whether disqualification must accompany removal (notice the “and” before “disqualification”), or whether it constitutes an independent and separate penalty.
Trump’s critics must rely on a power of impeachment outside the pure confines of the constitutional text. They must argue that when Article II prescribes removal as punishment for “the President, Vice President, and all civil Officers of the United States,” it only describes the standard that applies, and the punishments available, to existing officers — but not former ones. They point out that Article III of the Constitution states that Congress can remove federal judges who violate the “good behavior” standard, but does not make clear elsewhere that impeachment even applies to federal judges. Therefore, the power to impeach judges must come from an impeachment power understood to be in the Constitution even if not expressed in its text.
Any originalist should recognize the faults of this non-textual approach. It contains within itself no limiting principle as to time or targets or terms. If Article II only describes the punishments due to current officers, but does not define other targets of impeachment, then impeachment can include all former executive officers and judges. Congress could impeach Jimmy Carter for the failed Iran hostage rescue operation or Barack Obama for refusing to enforce the immigration laws. It could impeach any former cabinet officer too; it could charge Hillary Clinton for failure to safeguard classified information or James Comey for provoking the Russia special counsel investigation.
8. Andrew C. McCarthy looks at one man’s insurrection and another man’s dissent. From the essay:
Have you noticed that Portland, Seattle, and Denver are exploding once again? Thank the arsonists of the left-wing persuasion — domestic terrorists who, like their foreign-jihadist model, have made it clear that they hate Americans without distinguishing between Republicans and Democrats (in Portland, this “mostly peaceful protest” was against President Biden and vandalized the Democratic Party’s local headquarters, along with the usual government targets). Remarkably, though, Democrats in Washington, D.C., don’t have much to say about it, being preoccupied with the only domestic terrorists they care to notice: neo-Nazis and white supremacists, against whom they want the Biden administration and the FBI to ramp up.
It is quite amazing: For the eight Obama-Biden years, we were told that law enforcement had to limit itself to acting against “violent extremism” — which generally means waiting until after something terrible happens — because it was too perilous, too chilling of constitutionally protected dissent, to take investigative notice of the animating ideology.
The violent extremism in question at the time tended to be jihadist terror, so the animating ideology the Obama administration instructed us not to notice was sharia supremacism. That wasn’t because a nexus between ideology and forcible attacks was lacking. The nexus was crystal clear, had been proved in court countless times, and featured heavily in the 9/11 Commission Report. No, ideology was off the table because “moderate” Islamist organizations that spout softer versions of sharia supremacism just happen to align with Democrats. As do the Black Lives Matter activists and sundry communists and socialists whose protected constitutional expression is, for Antifa, the rationale for violent insurrection.
But now, noticing ideology is cool again! That is, as long as it’s a “far-right” ideology. (In the Democrats’ taxonomy, the National Socialist Party is right-wing. So is white supremacism, now that Joe Biden’s favorite Klansman, Robert Byrd, is no longer around.)
9. More Andy: He takes on the Justice Department’s ridiculous efforts to prosecute voter “disinformation.” From the piece:
In a nutshell, in the final two months of the 2016 campaign, Douglass Mackey, the defendant, disseminated nonsense on social media — what the government’s breathless press release describes as a “disinformation campaign.” Mackey, as described by the New York Post, is a pro-Trump, alt-right Twitter troller who goes by the name of “Ricky Vaughn.” He is said to have collaborated with likeminded jackasses, styling themselves the “Madman Group” and the “War Room.” An illustrative example of their diabolical . . . er . . . tradecraft: A week before the election, Mackey is alleged to have urged in a tweet that voters should “avoid the Line. Vote from Home. Text ‘Hillary’ to 59925. Vote for Hillary and be a part of history.”
If this is what the Bureau is going to spend its time on in the Biden years, maybe it should go back to ferreting out Collusion! under every borscht bowl.
Mackey and the other “madmen” repeatedly claimed that “voting just became easier” because Clinton supporters could supposedly just post the name of favored candidates “on your Facebook or Twitter account on November 8th, 2016 to cast your vote. That’s it.” They had a good laugh over that one, and at the prospect that “dopey sh*tlibs will fall for it too.”
The geniuses were allegedly inspired by false imaging floating around the Internet that had claimed British voters could simply post “Vote Remain” on their Facebook or Twitter accounts, falsely assuring that this would count in the Brexit referendum as a vote against leaving the EU. Unlike the government, Twitter is permitted to regulate even political speech on its platform, and it apparently suspended Mackey’s account a number of times. Nevertheless, the Justice Department dolefully alleges, Mackey’s false tweets were often retweeted, and sometimes even — gasp! — “favorited.”
10. Mario Loyola believes Biden’s “Buy America” push will come back to haunt American workers. From the piece:
The trouble with the federal government’s 1950s-era “Buy America Laws” is that, as globalization has proliferated, supply chains have become almost uniformly transnational. As a result, agencies have found the laws increasingly exorbitant, with the skyrocketing costs of made-in-America substitutes for the globalized goods that federal agencies would otherwise acquire. So they resort to waivers to get around the law and keep their expenditures at something approaching a reasonable cost to taxpayers.
The Biden administration has thus far done a good job spinning reporters (most of whom obviously far prefer Biden to Trump) on the differences between the approaches of the two administrations. Parallel stories in the Washington Post (“Biden aims for new course on trade, breaking with Trump and Democratic predecessors”) and the Wall Street Journal (“Biden Team Promises New Look in Trade Policy”) gave Biden’s communications shop the headlines it wanted, but otherwise show remarkably little difference between the policies of the two presidents.
This bodes ill for America’s global position and for America’s workers. America’s loss of faith in the principles that defeated totalitarianism in the second half of the 20th century recalls the crisis of pacifism and self-doubt that left European democracies fatally weakened in the first half of the 20th century, as totalitarian powers armed for war.
It is perhaps inevitable that the Left’s traditional anti-corporate animus has now become almost as popular on the right, given Big Tech’s demonstration in the last couple of years that it can happily and successfully perform whatever service may be required of it by a one-party state, whether in America or in China, including censorship and other functions of a state media.
11. Alexandra DeSanctis explores the pro-life efforts — spearheaded in South Dakota by Kristi Noem — to adopt Down-Syndrome abortion restrictions. From the report:
Noem’s proposal is just the latest overture in a growing, state-level campaign waged by pro-lifers against abortions chosen on the basis of a child’s sex or disability. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, for instance, is expected to rule soon on an Ohio law banning abortions chosen after receiving a Down-syndrome diagnosis, and several other states have also recently attempted to pass protections for unborn children who receive such a diagnosis.
At the federal level, congressional Republicans introduced a bill similar to Noem’s in late 2019. And on Thursday morning, Representative Ron Estes (R., Kan.) unveiled the “Protecting Individuals with Down Syndrome Act,” which would prohibit any abortion performed “with the knowledge that a pregnant woman is seeking an abortion, in whole or in part, on the basis of . . . a prenatal diagnosis that the unborn child has Down syndrome.” Estes’s bill would also require abortion providers to ask a pregnant woman seeking an abortion whether she is aware of any test results or prenatal diagnosis suggesting that her unborn child has Down syndrome and, if so, informing her of the abortion prohibition. Violators would be subject to a fine or imprisonment of less than five years, and the law would prevent pregnant women from facing prosecution.
These efforts follow recent polling indicating that most Americans, including those who generally support legal abortion, oppose abortions chosen on the basis of an unborn child’s Down-syndrome diagnosis. According to a new Marist survey, 70 percent of Americans oppose such abortions, and a majority of self-identified pro-choice respondents and Democrats agreed.
12. Jimmy Quinn takes on the fib-filled Foreign Affairs piece written by Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif. From the commentary:
Before making his case for an unconditional and immediate U.S. return to the Iran deal, Zarif argues that Washington’s regional military presence over the last two decades has “caused untold damage while achieving little.” Setting aside Tehran’s own role in supporting proxy groups and the Syrian government (Zarif certainly does), many Americans would likely agree that post–9/11 adventurism has been uniquely damaging. Indeed, this is the rhetorical strength of Zarif’s essay — he knows how to sell a message to the American policy elite.
But two of his claims here stand out as exceptionally dishonest. First, in describing the consequences of U.S. military involvement, Zarif notes that 37 million people have been displaced in the region. As I’ve written before, this number — a persistent figure that’s helped the Assad regime deflect blame for its mass atrocities during U.N. meetings — significantly inflates the true number of people that have been forced from their homes by U.S. military action. It’s a baseless number that’s bandied around by U.S.-based opponents of interventionist foreign-policy moves and America’s adversaries, a small but telling lie.
Zarif then goes on to condemn Donald Trump’s decision to order a drone strike on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Qasem Soleimani in 2020. He writes, “The murder removed a leading commander in the fight to push the so-called Islamic State (or ISIS) and other militant groups back from Iraq and Syria — and it added an unforgiveable crime to the already long register of U.S. transgressions against Iran.” These comments on Soleimani, whose paramilitary efforts in Iraq were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans, also exploit a fervent U.S. political debate, this one over whether Trump should have ordered his killing.
13. On the 35th anniversary of the Challenger disaster, Tevi Troy looks back at The Gipper and how he handled this, presidentially. And with greatness. From the assessment:
Reagan was meeting with staff in the Oval Office that Tuesday morning when the Challenger exploded. Upon hearing the news, Reagan left the Oval and went into his nearby study to watch the television footage. Reagan was transfixed, watching as the explosion was shown over and over again. The experience of repeated watching of the explosion was a bond he shared with countless Americans — many of whom were watching to see the first teacher in space — and even made its way into his remarks. As Reagan said in the speech, “On the day of the disaster, our nation held a vigil by our television sets. In one cruel moment, our exhilaration turned to horror; we waited and watched and tried to make sense of what we had seen.”
In the aftermath of the explosion, Reagan made some key decisions. In addition to delaying the State of the Union in favor of an Oval Office address on the tragedy that night, Reagan developed a response plan to the disaster. He sent Vice President George H. W. Bush to Cape Canaveral, the site of the shuttle’s launch, to convey his respects to the families of the fallen. Reagan also called on acting NASA administrator Bill Graham to investigate the crash. These decisions showed Reagan’s willingness to change course when necessary and his ability to delegate.
Moreover, Reagan understood the president’s vital role in the Challenger drama. He had to give a speech that would soothe the nation in a difficult time, and his team had only six hours in which to prepare it. The speechwriting assignment went to Peggy Noonan. Famous today, Noonan was not well-known at the time, just “a little schmagoogie in an office in the Old Executive Office Building,” as she put it a few years ago. But she had a reputation for being good at the emotional speeches. When such a speech was needed, Chief of Staff Don Regan had been known to say, “Get that girl . . . you know, have that girl do that.” Noonan set to work, making sure to solemnly note the tragedy, speak positively about space exploration, and put in a touch of poetry.
14. Christopher Scalia reviews the MSM’s campus “due process” hypocrisy. From the piece:
Simply put, while the Post’s VMI story suggests that criminal standards should apply to honor court hearings about cheating on an exam, the editorial board would prefer that only the lowest evidentiary standards apply to charges of sexual assault.
That’s not the only high standard that the paper’s editors did not want President Trump’s Department of Education to implement. When DeVos first proposed the regulation, the paper called “a proposal that would guarantee a person accused of sexual misconduct the right to cross-examine the accuser” the “most troubling” of the suggested reforms. It was part of the final rule nonetheless.
There’s one more layer of irony to the story. The Post uses the recent Supreme Court decision to suggest that VMI’s policy was racist, as “non-unanimous jury verdicts were rooted in Jim Crow.” Yet journalists and law professors have argued that Title IX campus sexual-misconduct investigations are biased against black male students. Perhaps for that reason, if not for consistency’s sake, the Post could see the value of DeVos’s more rigorous standards of evidence.
It is reasonable to want students accused of violating an honor code to receive a fair hearing that follows high standards of due process. But why would we expect that if we’re not providing it to students facing much more serious charges? The new administration should consider that question before it reverts to Obama-era guidance.
15. Dan McLaughlin gets all royal and explains how the British monarchy lost power, and as is often the case, recommends that one follow the money. From the essay:
By 1780, a decade after Present Discontents, Burke was ready to try more direct means of stemming royal influence than urging the development of principled political parties. This time, he went straight after the money. The impetus for this move had its roots in a bad deal made by George III.
Under George II, the crown had paid the civil list — one of the central props of the patronage system — directly out of certain dedicated revenue streams consisting of customs and excise fees and taxes. While prior kings had surrendered surpluses, George II had a good deal with Parliament, which would pay deficits in the civil list but allow him to keep surpluses. Upon taking the throne, George III agreed to instead accept from Parliament £800,000 per year to pay the civil list. This turned out not only to be an underestimate of what those revenue streams were producing in 1760, but a vast underestimate of their potential: Historian E. A. Reitan estimates that the civil list revenue streams grew to £1 million per year by 1777, and £1.8 million per year by 1798.
Because he was spending so much money on patronage and influence on a fixed income, George III was compelled to go crown in hand to Parliament to pay off his civil list deficits in 1769, and again in 1777. Anger at the latter request, accentuated by the burdens of the American war, fed into a second round of public meetings and agitation in 1779. In February 1780, Burke seized the moment to propose “A Plan for The Better Security of the Independence of Parliament, and the Economical Reformation of the Civil and Other Establishments.” Burke cited petitions asking, “Before any new burdens are laid upon this country, effectual measures be taken by this House to inquire into and correct the gross abuses in the expenditure of public money.”
16. Cheri Williams shows how the COVID crisis had put foster kids at greater risk to sex-traffickers. It’s quite disturbing. From the beginning of the piece:
This is the reality of human trafficking today: One in four victims around the world are children. And at least 60 percent of child trafficking victims in the U.S. have once been in the foster-care system. As the pandemic continues to create circumstances that exacerbate trafficking, children — especially those in foster care — are increasingly at risk.
Children in the foster-care system are more likely to become victims of trafficking because traffickers prey on vulnerable children. Some children were placed in foster care in the first place because they were victims of sexual abuse. Children with experience in the foster-care system are more likely to be homeless than children who weren’t, making them more susceptible to trafficking in exchange for food or shelter. Of the 23,500 runaway children reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in 2018, an estimated one in seven were likely victims of child sex trafficking.
Calls to child-abuse hotlines across the country have decreased since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, mainly because mandatory reporters, such as teachers, aren’t seeing children in person. However, pediatricians and child-abuse advocates have reported an apparent increase in child hospitalizations due to abuse.
1. Well, he is a devout Catholic after all, our abortion-extremist president. As to Planned Parenthood’s BFF, we offer anger that is righteous. From the editorial:
Meanwhile, with the same stroke of the pen, Biden directed his Department of Health and Human Services to consider rescinding a second Trump-administration policy, which prohibits abortion providers from claiming federal funding under the Title X family-planning program.
The current regulation requires abortion groups to financially separate their abortion business from any other services in order to qualify for Title X funding. Planned Parenthood declined to do so, costing the organization about $60 million a year, a mere pittance of its half a billion in federal funding. If Biden’s HHS nominee Xavier Becerra is confirmed by the Senate in spite of his lack of qualifications, undoing this policy will almost certainly be one of the first items on his to-do list.
Though pro-abortion activists cheered these moves, the average American appears to have little interest in forcing the taxpayer to fund abortion. Polling suggests that a majority of the public opposes using U.S. aid money to fund abortions overseas, as do most Democrats and even most who call themselves pro-choice. Likewise, a majority opposes federal funding for abortion here in the U.S., including about a third of Democrats and pro-choice voters.
2. The MSM call for deplatforming of Fox News and other conservative outlets gets NR’s opprobrium. From the editorial:
The folly of this is illustrated by Oliver Darcy, CNN’s “media reporter,” declaring “it is time TV carriers face questions for lending their platforms to dishonest companies that profit off of disinformation and conspiracy theories.” He fumed that AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Charter, and Dish did not respond to his questions. In other words, a CNN employee is angry that the parent company of his employer isn’t taking action to shut down one of his competitors.
The Federal Trade Commission Act empowers the FCC to “prevent unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce,” and cable providers refusing to carry networks that are rivals of their subsidiaries would certainly qualify.
A few years ago, Bloomberg filed FCC complaints about Comcast, contending that the cable carrier was putting its own business news channel, CNBC, in the prime spot on the metaphorical dial in a cluster with the other news channels, and casting Bloomberg News Channel to the cable equivalent of the hinterlands on channel 251. In 2013, the FCC ruled that Comcast had to put Bloomberg near the other news channels. If the FCC saw unfair practices in Comcast putting Bloomberg in a far-off corner of its channel menu, how do you think it’ll respond to a carrier dropping a channel that competes with one of its subsidiaries entirely?
The one cable carrier that did respond to Darcy, CenturyLink, got it right, stating that the company was committed to providing “a variety of broadcast channels covering thousands of topics” and that as a company, it does not “endorse specific media or outlets.” Americans do not need cable-company executives deciding what is and what is not fit for news coverage. Consumers have the option of changing the channel.
3. Keep your polished apples: We want time off. NR lambasts teachers unions for COVID malarkey. From the editorial:
In Chicago, the teachers’ union voted to reject the city’s reopening schedule, demanding that its members continue to work remotely until all of the city’s educators have been vaccinated, which might well mean that students would still be out of the classroom until the spring semester of 2022 or later. District leaders have described the union’s position of militant noncompliance as an “illegal strike,” which is what it amounts to and how it should be treated.
The story is playing out much the same way in other cities: San Francisco had planned to begin reopening schools on Monday, but the teachers’ union blocked the effort. New York has been in a state of educational chaos with the back-and-forth between its incompetent mayor and its intransigent union bosses. The union rejected a reopening plan in Baltimore, but Baltimore plans to proceed without the union’s blessing, citing the dire academic performance of its students in remote learning, with more than half of students failing a class during the disruption.
4. There is a path forward for conservatism. The direction, the forces, the roadblocks, and much more are discussed. From the editorial:
Our political debates are often necessarily contentious, but they must remain only metaphorically battles. Different stripes of conservatives can have productive arguments with one another about how to help families flourish, what the proper bounds of government are, and who should lead the Republican Party. But that debate must not partake of conspiratorial fantasies, and lawless violence must never be on the table. We must strive, against all demagogues, to make our reason the master and not the servant of our passions.
The spirit of republican deliberation is already too frail in our times. Our fellow citizens doubt one another’s good intent and capacity for self-government. Even conservatives are tempted to give up the defense of the Constitution, which would leave it friendless and dying. Nothing, at such a moment, can sound more naïve than a call for Americans to rededicate ourselves to our patrimony. Nothing is more essential.
5. Democrats scheming for a “Climate Emergency” to unleash executive power-grabbing is a dangerous and contemptuous thing. From the editorial:
The majority leader told MSNBC that Democrats were also trying to figure out ways to sneak climate-change policy into Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan under reconciliation, a budget tactic that allows some spending-related bills to pass with only a simple majority in the Senate. Depending on the particulars, that might be an abuse of the process, and would likely be objectionable on policy grounds, but would at least involve congressional action.
Biden has already done much to advance his climate agenda via pen and phone. He issued a slew of consequential climate-related executive orders, rejoining the Paris climate agreement without Senate ratification, enacting a moratorium on new federal oil and gas leases, and shutting down the Keystone XL pipeline by revoking permits for the project. This would only be a taste of the job-killing initiatives he’d undertake after declaring a “climate emergency.” Biden, remember, has previously stated that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal offers the “crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face.”
Climate change is not an existential threat that warrants a declaration of emergency. If Schumer wants to tackle the problem, he presides over the world’s most powerful legislative body. He is free to try to build consensus, compromise, and pass enduring federal legislation. Or not. Whatever the case, it’s certainly not his job to implore the executive branch to take yet more unilateral power at the expense of the Congress.
6. Joe Biden has declared war on high-school girls. We declare DefCon One. From the editorial:
As we warned at the time, Bostock’s sophistry has only served to encourage the transgender lunacy of Democratic radicals. For decades, the Supreme Court upheld that sex discrimination occurs when one biological sex is treated less favorably than the other sex because of sex. It did not require employers to treat one sex as though it were the other by following, through smoke and mirrors, the fashionable dictates of transgender ideology.
In concluding that employers had to treat male-born employees claiming transgender status as females, the Court relied on the ACLU’s fallacious “but for” reasoning: But for the fact that a self-identified transgender employee had been born a male, he would have been treated as any other female employee. This opens up a Pandora’s Box of absurdities. But for the fact that a convicted rapist was born male, he would be imprisoned in a women’s prison. (This has already happened in the United Kingdom and in California.) But for the fact that a mediocre athlete was born male, he would be able to completely dominate in female athletics. (This has already happened internationally and in the state of Connecticut.)
The legal confusion Bostock caused by obfuscating reality has advanced the cause of transgender extremism. In August, the Fourth Circuit cited Bostock in finding in favor of a female-born transgender student suing her school board over their sex-based bathroom policy. The Eleventh Circuit reached a similar conclusion in Adams v. School Board of St. Johns County, Florida. The lawyers representing female athletes in Connecticut who object to their displacement by young men identifying as transgender have been told by a judge that they must refer to the males in question as females.
7. More Bad Joe: His amnesty plan is a stinker. We apply the sniff test. From the editorial:
Although the details are yet to be written into legislation, it’s hard to exaggerate how sweeping this proposal is. It would apply not just to illegal immigrants who have been here for years and become embedded in their communities, but to illegal immigrants who showed up the day before yesterday — the cutoff for the amnesty is January 1, 2021. Even this requirement may be waived for illegal immigrants who were deported on or after January 20, 2017 but resided in the United States three years prior to that.
Biden doesn’t want to give temporary legal status to illegal immigrants. He wants to give them green cards and then, after a period of years, make them eligible for citizenship. This would precipitate a wave of follow-on immigration. Green-card holders can petition for spouses and minor children to come to the United States, while citizens can petition for parents and siblings, as well.
It’s an unwritten rule that comprehensive immigration bills must always increase levels of legal immigration, too, and sure enough, the Biden proposal would loosen and lift various restrictions and caps in the legal system.
8. Hammerin’ Hank gets our farewell. From the editorial:
Black players in the early days of MLB’s integration were lionized in the public square but more susceptible to furtive, menacing demonstrations of racial animus than they’d been before their elevation to celebrity status. A quarter-century after Jackie Robinson stepped onto the diamond at Ebbets Field for the first time, Aaron was still getting hate mail and death threats. They escalated in 1973 as he closed in on Babe Ruth’s record of 714 career home runs. If he felt intimidated, he didn’t show it. If he felt righteous indignation, he weighed his words before expressing it. He modeled restraint.
On his first swing of the 1974 season, he tied Ruth’s record. Four days later, on April 8, against Al Downing of the Los Angeles Dodgers, he connected for his 715th, in Atlanta, before a crowd ecstatic to witness one of their hometown nine make baseball history of such magnitude. Vin Scully, the Dodgers’ announcer, captured the social significance of the moment. “A black man is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South for breaking a record of an all-time baseball idol,” he remarked to his audience. “And for the first time in a long time, that poker face in Aaron” betrayed a certain emotion, showing relief from the tension he must have been coping with “the past several months.”
1. Kevin Hassett finds Joe Biden’s COVID-relief plan heavy on the political and light on pandemic. From the article:
That said, a bill that draws on the lessons of last year would look a good deal different from the package that the president has put forward. While there are elements within Biden’s proposal that genuinely count as relief and should be supported, on other aspects it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the president followed Rahm Emanuel’s infamous advice of not letting a crisis go to waste. He has taken the real need for relief and used it as a Trojan horse to smuggle in a series of policies that owe more to politics than to the pandemic.
First, his proposal includes a massive bail out for state governments, which is really just a transfer to a few traditionally blue states that had major budget problems pre-pandemic. Second, the drop in economic activity this quarter (absent additional policy) should be much smaller than occurred in the second quarter of last year. The amount of dollars provided under a bill truly focused on helping the country weather the latest stage of the pandemic ought to take that into account. Sadly, the size of this package suggests that a broader agenda is involved. Down the road, all this spending, whether justifiable as relief or otherwise, will lead to a long-term budget reckoning, and the bigger the spending, the bigger the reckoning. Third, it is positively foolish to increase the minimum wage to $15 as the president proposes. Those 29.3 percent of businesses that are still shut down might well just call it quits if their labor costs are set to skyrocket when they are able to open again.
Thinking back to the example of the small town, a business will take the loan from government rather than declare bankruptcy only if it expects to make enough profits after we escape the crisis to offset the losses it has incurred during the pandemic. If firms expect higher taxes, higher regulation, and higher labor costs down the road, all of which President Biden has promised, then they are much less likely to try to stick it out now. It will be remarkable if we avoid a lengthy depression and even financial panic given the terrible shocks we have endured this year. If we do, it will be because politicians recognized that while Keynesian stimulus is controversial, relief should not be, and also because President Biden and his team shelved their campaign promises in recognition of the reality that short-run perseverance depends on long-run optimism. Unfortunately, it appears that that recognition has yet to dawn.
2. Nicholas Phillips says the time has come to give the taboo of tariffs its do. From the piece:
Conservatives have long insisted that trade deficits don’t matter. Armchair policy wonks are fond of pointing out that you run a trade deficit with Shake Shack, yet both are better off from this exchange. But as U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer points out, if you run a trade deficit with everyone, with no net-positive income stream from selling goods or services of your own, you’re just in debt, and your consumption of Shackburgers depends on your credit-card company’s patience.
Some believe that creditor patience is virtually limitless for the United States, because the dollar’s reserve-currency status means that our trading partners will always accept dollar-denominated IOUs in the form of U.S. Treasuries to fund our consumption. But trade deficits necessarily get plugged by sales of assets as well as by debt — meaning we are auctioning off our future productive capacity to consume more in the present.
Nor is debt without drawbacks: When exporters such as China and Germany recycle their profits into Treasuries, it lowers interest rates and stimulates borrowing — and financial bubbles — at the same time their production glut deepens American deindustrialization. As Warren Buffett said, “our country has been behaving like an extraordinarily rich family that possesses an immense farm. In order to consume 4 percent more than we produce — that’s the trade deficit — we have been both selling pieces of the farm and increasing the mortgage on what we still own.” If this can’t go on forever, eventually it will stop.
3. Marc Joffe says determining state and local COVID assistance should require Congress to use historical data, and not future projections. From the article:
State and local governments use a variety of revenue-estimation methods, and there is no comprehensive repository of such estimates. Making aid decisions based on counterfactual revenue estimates also raises the question of whether the federal government should guarantee increased budgets for each state and local government. Should the fact that a state budget office or an independent forecaster expects a 5 percent revenue increase in a given year under normal circumstances mean that the state is entitled to this 5 percent revenue bump even under adverse circumstances?
An alternative is to base state and local relief payments on actual revenue losses. For example, calendar year 2019 could be used as a revenue baseline, and aid awards could be based on shortfalls in 2020 and subsequent years. An advantage of this approach is that it requires no forecasting at all. Governments seeking grants could simply report their 2019 and 2020 revenue collections to a federal agency, which would provide an award based on the difference. Another set of grants could be computed and issued once actual 2021 revenue receipts are known.
Basing grants on actual revenue losses rather than on population, unemployment rates, or COVID-19 cases (all of which have appeared as allocation bases in previous House bills) prevents aid money from going to governments that may not need it. For example, Idaho’s most recent revenue report shows receipts from July to November 2020 exceeding prior year collections by 16.6 percent and budget forecasts by 10.6 percent. Limiting assistance to those states that have seen tax revenue decline would better focus relief on those entities facing budgetary difficulties. But a less inclusive package could raise political challenges since representatives and senators from excluded entities would be less inclined to support it.
4. Accept no imitations, says David Harsanyi: Joe Biden very much seeks to end fracking. From the article:
In a Forbes article, “Did Biden Break Campaign Promise on Fracking? No — And Here’s Why,” Rachel Sandler makes the acutely irrelevant observation that “the president does not even have the power to ban fracking nationally.” Biden, you see, is only banning the fracking he can ban. Which is tantamount to arguing that Donald Trump never supported a wall on the southern border because he didn’t have the power to unilaterally build it.
No serious person would buy it. Presidential candidates make promises all the time that can only be achieved through legislative means. Presidents don’t actually “cut taxes” themselves, they need the legislatures to write the bills. We still consider “tax cuts” to be the stated position of Republican candidates.
Fact-checkers were right, of course, that Biden wouldn’t end fracking in a single day with a single decree. Because he can’t. Fact-checkers were also right that Biden couldn’t retroactively ban fracking; he could only end “new” fracking.
It’s true, as well, that Biden lied about his position, and the unskeptical press filtered his falsehood through their coverage. Even today, the easiest way to clear up Biden’s position would be for a reporter to snap out of their sycophantic trance and ask the president if he would sign an energy bill that included a national fracking ban. I assume he would, as eliminating fossil fuels is the stated policy aim.
Lights. Camera. Review!
1. Kyle Smith catches Dear Comrades! and heartily recommends it. From the review:
A rare cinematic peek into the seven-decade crime against humanity that was Soviet Russia, Dear Comrades! chillingly explores events surrounding a state massacre of striking Russian workers on June 1–2, 1962, in the city of Novocherkassk. As the film opens, workers at a train factory have just had their wages cut as the government has announced an increase in food prices. We witness events through the eyes of a middle-aged single mom, Lyuda (patiently played by Julia Vysotskaya) who is a city official on a committee that tries to deal with a threatened strike. As the mob becomes increasingly unruly, army tanks roll in and KGB snipers take up perches. Lyuda and the other bureaucrats soon become trapped in the factory offices. As has been asked many times in Russian history, officials wonder: What is to be done? Lyuda suggests a crackdown. She is a committed Stalinist, now and seemingly forever.
The film is a stunning late-career peak from writer-director Andrei Konchalovsky, whose career dates back to the Sixties and includes everything from highbrow theater adaptations (Uncle Vanya in 1970, The Lion in Winter in 2003) to Hollywood features (Runaway Train in 1985, Tango and Cash in 1989). He draws a superb performance from Vysotskaya (his wife), as Lyuda tries to reconcile her love for Soviet communism with the realities of how it operates, and must operate, to retain power. Her 18-year-old daughter Svetka (Yuliya Borova) is the family liberal and takes the side of the striking workers, which places her in danger.
2. Armond White finds nothing to commend in the American Film Institute’s “best films” wokefest. From the beginning of the commentary:
Movie awards are the pretext, but race is the cudgel that media institutions use in the ongoing effort to “fundamentally transform” American culture (quoted phrase courtesy of Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders). The bureaucrats at the American Film Institute announced a list of the year’s best films that shows they no longer judge quality; instead, they misconstrue political posturing as artistic achievement.
The eleven films cited alphabetically by the AFI are standard-bearers; that the list concludes with the Netflix feature The Trial of the Chicago 7 conveniently suggests a 7/11 dice-toss. We can parallel AFI policy with those Sixties student activists who faced criminal court trial because the AFI’s sympathy is blatant and its tactics are suspect.
Since most cinephiles follow corporate journalism’s recent political activism, The Trial of the Chicago 7’s tribunal stands as a tongue-in-cheek metaphor for their groupthink. The AFI, nestled in Hollywood as a federally funded school for filmmakers, uses this annual list to set politicized standards for students, faculty, the film industry, and the gullible public.
3. More Armond, who does some Soul searching. From the beginning of the review:
Designed to alienate black music culture from its gospel roots, Pixar’s Soul goes all out for secular existentialism. It’s a devious kind of bedtime-story indoctrination in which a disillusioned public-school music teacher, Joe (voiced by Jamie Foxx), searches to find a new meaning of life. Joe’s adventures take him through familiar comic circumstances (School of Rock–style band instruction), family obligation (a domineering mother), and social opposition (competing for personal artistic recognition) that lull Pixar viewers into, once again, accepting the brand’s routine pattern of juvenile self-absorption.
When a street accident shifts Joe’s mortal consciousness to the other side, he repeats the pattern by which black social advancement has drifted away from the spiritual foundations of once-revered freedom and emancipation movements. He finds himself “in the zone,” which his guide #22 (voiced by Tina Fey) instructs him is “the space between the physical and the spiritual.”
Industry giant Pixar shows so little non-technological imagination that it has run out of find-your-way-back-home Yellow Brick Road plots and has recently, since 2015’s Inside Out, settled on sedentary, sleepy-time narrative: mind games.
4. Michael Brendan Dougherty has some thoughts on Tenet. From the review:
And yet, a bad scifi movie can also be a great philosophical drama, and the message at the heart of Nolan’s puzzle-film is extravagantly life-affirming. Tenet successfully portrays a resolution to a thorny theological riddle: How do we reconcile God’s predestination of events with genuine human free will?
As a theological problem, this one has nearly broken the Church. The attempt by Protestant reformer John Calvin to vindicate God’s sovereignty ultimately forced him to abjure any meaningful belief in human free will, leaving us as either tools in the hands of our Maker or utter slaves to sin. For the rest of Christianity, the mystery of how to reconcile the seemingly unreconcilable is beyond the human ability to reason.
5. Kevin Williamson finds conservative DNA in lefty Fran Lebowitz, subject of a new Martin Scorsese’s documentary. From the beginning of the review:
Fran Lebowitz’s politics may be almost impeccably left-wing, but everything else about her is delightfully reactionary in Martin Scorsese’s latest — it is his second — documentary about her life and opinions, a seven-part Netflix series called Pretend It’s a City.
Think of Lebowitz as a parallel-universe Florence King, a gregarious New York misanthrope rather than a cloistered Southern one.
The title comes from Lebowitz’s sardonic advice to the New Yorkers bumping into her on the sidewalk with their noses stuck in their devices: Pretend it’s a city. Lebowitz herself has never owned a mobile phone or a computer. “I have a telephone and an address,” she explains. “That is sufficient.” (She admits to asking friends to order books for her from Amazon.) She bristles when young people explain to her the attraction of social media, explaining with some exasperation that the reason she does not have Twitter or Instagram is not that she doesn’t know what they are — but that she does.
Elsewhere in the Conservative Solar System
1. As part of Real Clear Politics’ “1776 Series,” the incomparable Daniel J. Mahoney seeks to recover what he calls “the other half of our Founding.” From the essay:
All the prominent Founders were fundamentally anti-utopian (even Tom Paine), and had, as Reinhold Niebuhr pointed out, an acute sense of human sinfulness and imperfection. They were not the Puritans or Calvinists of old, but neither did they endorse the materialism and reductionism of the radical Enlightenment or its misplaced belief in an ideology of Progress. They still believed that human beings had souls and were much more than matter in motion. They had no trouble rejecting both the theocratic temptation in politics and a relativism that severed the essential connections between truth and liberty, freedom and the pursuit of the good life. Moral subjectivism (“Who’s to say what is right and wrong?”) was wholly alien to their hearts and minds, precisely because they were civilized men and women.
We now live in a different moral universe, and by no means a better one. Of course, inspired by Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and the early civil rights movement, we have made considerable progress in overcoming racial injustice, and the legacy of the great injustice that was chattel slavery. That is all to the good. But an emphasis on inclusiveness, however necessary and legitimate, does not define or exhaust the moral foundations of democracy. Today, even religious believers habitually speak of morality in terms of “values,” a term derived from economics which suggests that something is good because we value or choose it (its modern use was made famous by Friedrich Nietzsche and Max Weber). Whether people who use that language know that they have succumbed to what C.S. Lewis derided as “the poison of subjectivism” is largely beside the point. As Allan Bloom argued in The Closing of the American Mind over thirty years ago, the language of values, and the language of right and wrong, are by no means the same thing; they ultimately point in different directions. The latter partakes of confidence in the reality of moral facts, the former of thoroughgoing relativism and subjectivism. Language matters, and the language of “values” is, whether we like it or not, the language of moral relativism, even moral subversion. Of course, some thinkers of note use the language of “values” and “disvalues” while dissociating those terms from a framework of moral relativism. But there is peril in that path.
2. At Law & Liberty, Paul Seaton delves into a papal dreamer. From the beginning of the piece:
The Francis pontificate seems to have run its course, its élan spent. Evidence of intellectual exhaustion is not hard to find. The Pope’s recent social encyclical Fratelli tutti (October 2020) was remarkably self-referential and repetitive, an indication of thought that is self-enclosed, lacking in creativity or even curiosity. Even one of the Pope’s most stalwart defenders, Massimo Faggioli, noted this recycling: “Francis quite often cites himself [in Fratelli tutti]: there’s an enormous number of quotes from previous documents (especially Evangelii Gaudium and Laudato si’) and from his speeches and homilies” (“Examining the Encyclical,” Commonweal, Oct 9, 2020). As for the pontificate’s general exhaustion, six months earlier Faggioli had observed that “something disturbing has happened over the past year. One has the impression that during the last several months the dynamism of [Francis’s] pontificate has begun to reach its limit.”
In short, we’re increasingly getting more of the same from Pope Francis. The Pope’s newest set of reflections, Let Us Dream, confirms this assessment. In it, Francis hangs old thoughts about the global “political and economic systems” on a new hook, the coronavirus pandemic.
There is one development that is rather striking, however. Here, the Pope endorses a biblical portrait of an armed Jewish “people” who “rise up against the unbelievers who rule over them, and even those who are making war on them”. In the context of a basic dichotomy of his social thought, an invidious contrast between elites and peoples, have’s and have nots, citing the passage from the Book of Nehemiah (4:17) takes on an ominous resonance. Moreover, when he paraphrases the text, the Pope does not close the door that the text opened: “In other words, they knew they had to defend their future from falling back into the previous tragedy.”
However one is to take this particular endorsement, it joins with general features of Francis’s thought and rhetoric that raise questions about both. On one hand, he regularly excoriates the people’s “selfish” and “heartless” elite superiors, on the other, he wants the downtrodden to “become the agents of a new future” and “the protagonists of social change”. With his starkly binary categories, his rhetoric of condemnation and indignation, and his calls for popular action against unjust systems, the Pope stokes dangerous passions which run counter to his more irenic proposals and utterances. How they are to go together is far from clear. The endorsement cited above only adds fuel to a fire already fanned by the Pope.
3. At Gatestone Institute, Con Coughlin finds that even the bureaucrats of Europe are losing patience with Iran’s nuke-loving leaders. From the piece:
“We welcome President-elect Biden’s positive statements on the JCPOA, and look forward to working with the incoming US administration,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement on behalf of the bloc earlier this month.
The EU supported “intensive diplomacy with the goal of facilitating a US return to the JCPOA and Iran’s return to full JCPOA implementation,” Borrell added.
The EU’s unfettered enthusiasm for the nuclear deal, however, has been dealt a significant blow as a result of Iran’s increasingly aggressive conduct on the nuclear front, to the extent that Mr. Borrell has been forced to concede that the future of the agreement has now reached a “critical juncture”.
In recent weeks, Iran announced that it had begun work on enriching uranium to 20 percent — just short of the level required to produce nuclear weapons — as well as informing the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN-sponsored body responsible for monitoring Iran’s nuclear activities, that it was to resume work on producing uranium metal.
Both these developments represent a clear breach of the JCPOA. Under the agreement, Iran committed to keep uranium enrichment at 3.5 percent, the level required for civilian use, and signed up to a 15-year ban on “producing or acquiring plutonium or uranium metals or their alloys”.
Iran’s announcement that it was proceeding with the production of uranium metal has prompted a furious response from the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany, who, in a joint statement earlier this month, warned that there is “no credible civilian use” for the element, and that “The production of uranium metal has potentially grave military implications.”
4. Cornell University, reports Rachel Lalgie in The College Fix, is giddy over a $5 million grant that will allow it to study “racialized violence.” From the article:
The grant will support efforts by the university’s Migrations: A Global Grand Challenge project to “respond to historical and ongoing nativist and racialized violence in the U.S. by turning the university into a living laboratory,” according to a news release. The research endeavor is titled “Cross-Border Movements: Racism, Dispossession, and Migration.”
The migrations project is an interdisciplinary undertaking of Global Cornell to study the movement of “all living things,” according to its website. “Education — through multidisciplinary research, teaching, and engagement — can prepare future leaders, scientists, policymakers, entrepreneurs, and community members to thrive in a world on the move.”
The grant is part of the Mellon Foundation’s Just Futures Initiatives recent funding round totaling $72 million.
“Receiving this Mellon grant will allow us to continue to build on strengths in the study of racism, dispossession, and migration,” Gerard Arching, professor in Africana Studies and one of the project’s co-organizers, told The College Fix via email. “I am excited by the opportunities that we’ll now have to bring professors and students together to examine and propose solutions for urgent local and world problems such as these.”
5. At The Imaginative Conservative, Anthony Esolen decries society’s failure to turn boys into men. From the essay:
For myself, I haven’t belonged to an all-male anything since I was twelve years old and in the Little League. I have no interest in it. I’ve never hung around with “the boys,” drinking or playing cards or whatnot. My father was all the mentor I ever needed. But what I happen to need and what others need may be quite different things, especially in our time of fatherlessness, underachieving boys, social fraying, and the collapse of marriage. I stick up for the boys because nobody else will, and the shabby neglect of their interests disgusts me. That I do not write about the troubles of girls, which I can know only by observation, is neither here nor there, any more than it was a point against Mrs. Jackson that she did not address working conditions for the immigrant Irish in New England. No one can do everything. Everyone can do something.
And helping boys to become men needs to be done. We owe it to them in justice, nor will we have healthy families, parishes, neighborhoods, and towns otherwise.
I marvel that those in our midst who attribute differences in results to prejudice and systemic injustice never apply that line of reasoning to boys. Yet in their case the argument is most strong. If we look at ethnic groups and their performance relative to others, we must account for innumerable factors besides ethnicity. What is their income? Is there a father in the home? Do they live in the city, the suburbs, or the country? How well do they speak or read English? Do they live in the south or the north, the coastal areas or the heartland? What are their schools like? What traditional skills or moral imperatives do they bring to bear upon their lives in the United States? Do they have strong extended families that can be sources of employment or capital?
But for boys, as compared with girls, none of these factors comes into play. They live in exactly the same families as their sisters, in exactly the same economic and social conditions.
6. More Y Chromosomology: At Splice Today, Emina Melonic defends masculinity. From the piece:
The absurdity of gender fluidity from a biological standpoint and feminist ideology has contributed not only to a denial of masculinity but also the oppression of men. Misogyny is a word that’s thrown around in the public square but there’s never any mention of misandry — hatred of men. If a man tries to voice this, he’s immediately dismissed and called a misogynist. The only way to be accepted among women is to release himself from “maleness” and any masculine element that’s in his body and mind. He’s told to deny his biology (which is impossible) and interior life. He’s told that he’s guilty for being a man and is tried and convicted in this fictional court of female judges.
What makes this issue even more difficult in America is that we’re dealing with the uniqueness of American masculinity, which implies a kind of boundlessness of the landscape, a conquering, with nature and against it, but always moving, always thrusting.
Consider this scene in Hunter S. Thompson’s novel The Rum Diary, begun in 1959: “I was late and there was a line at the reservation desk. I fell in behind fifteen or so Puerto Ricans and one small blonde girl a few places ahead of me. I pegged her for a tourist, a wild young secretary going down to the Caribbean for a two week romp. She had a fine little body and an impatient way of standing that indicated a mass of stored up energy. I watched her intently, smiling, feeling the ale in my veins, waiting for her to turn around for a swift contact with the eyes.”
Feminists call this the “male gaze” — a masculine and heterosexual point of view that objectifies women. Yes, it’s a gaze. Yes, it’s male. And yes, the woman is objectified. But it’s neither good nor bad. When we look at anyone, they’re passive just by virtue of being an object of view. The question is what do we tend to focus on when we look.
7. No Heretics Need Apply: At The James Martin Center, George Leef looks into a suppressed report that explored the academic bent to prevent dissent. From the piece:
Wanting to learn why many on campus reacted as they did, Geher and his research team came up with an idea to study the motivations of faculty members. Their concept was to survey academics, asking them how they prioritize five academic values: academic rigor, knowledge advancement, academic freedom, students’ emotional well-being, and social justice. The objective was to see if academic values were related to the individual’s field, political orientation, gender, and personality.
Geher and his team obtained responses from 177 professors. The results were not at all surprising. They showed, inter alia, that women had a stronger commitment to social justice and student emotional well-being than did men, and faculty who regarded themselves as “agreeable” placed more emphasis on student well-being and social justice than did those who didn’t see themselves as especially agreeable — those in the latter group placed greater emphasis on student learning and academic rigor.
What the research seems to show is that professors who have an underlying devotion to social justice are not particularly interested in academic rigor and the advancement of knowledge.
That fits hand-in-glove with the many observations of hostility by “progressive” professors toward arguments that the programs and policies they support to achieve social justice are actually counter-productive. Those who contend, for example, that minimum wage laws do more to harm low-skilled workers than benefit them, are apt to suffer ad hominem attacks while the substance of their arguments is ignored.
The study’s findings hardly seem controversial. Would anyone doubt that professors who identify as politically liberal would say that they rank student emotional well-being and the pursuit of social justice as their top goals, above student learning and the advancement of knowledge? Or that faculty in fields like business and accounting would rank academic rigor and student learning as higher priorities than social justice and student emotions?
8. At Commentary, Douglas Murray looks at Barbara Amiel’s memoir, and likes the honesty between its covers. From the piece:
Amiel is at pains to stress how financially monastic her pre-Black life was. But by her own admission, she made up for it afterwards, developing a jewelry and couture habit that positively invited attention from the gods of hubris. After Conrad was given a peerage, she became Lady Black, and a certain nominative determinism seemed to take hold. To many observers, she appeared cold and aloof. Fellow hacks became suspicious of her, and she now believes that the negativity she attracted was not coincidental. Meantime, the circles she began to move in on Park Avenue and the toytown world of Palm Beach gave her a serious sense of imposter syndrome.
Showing off one of her homes and couture collections to an interviewer from Vogue magazine, she professed (in a phrase that would haunt her endlessly) to have “an extravagance that knows no bounds.” To read her laceratingly honest account of what was going on in her head in that moment, and indeed throughout this whole period, is not just to understand Amiel’s own mind but the attitude of a great many people who cover their insecurities with boastfulness and imperious certainties. “I created the impression of a woman far thicker-skinned and predatory than I was,” she admits at one point. “I knew this… but I couldn’t help myself.”
Does she blame herself, as so many observers did, for her husband’s fall? Did she drive him to spend beyond his already considerable means? Conrad Black assures her not and says that while she did sometimes “go overboard,” it was “not into perilous waters.” “I was watching and would have stopped you,” he tells her.
None of which much helped husband or wife through the endless self-questioning that must have come during the weeks in court. Nor through the subsequent round trips to the correctional facilities in which Lord Black was imprisoned for a total of three and a half years.
Black himself has already covered the legal and business elements of this terrain in his detailed 2011 book A Matter of Principle. Anyone who thought that book settled scores will marvel at how his wife’s memoir outstrips his. But her eye turns inward as well as out. Details of the pride as well as the fall are often excruciating in their intimacy. There is the period in which even as the Blacks have only each other for company, she cannot bear to have him touch her in bed. Then comes the moment when, like something out of Gatsby — Conrad is suddenly allowed out of prison and Barbara catches up with him at home: “It was about midnight when I finally reached Palm Beach. I walked through the house towards Conrad’s library and I could see the outline of his shoulders on the terrace, backlit by the patio lights. That was my husband. Free.”
9. At City Journal, John Tierney scopes out the MSM cancellers. From the article:
They pretended that riots across the United States last year were “mostly peaceful protests,” while the one at the Capitol was a historic “insurrection” and “attempted coup” that put “democracy in peril.” Its symbolism made the Capitol riot a singularly horrifying spectacle on television, but the actual toll in life and property was much smaller than that of last year’s mob violence, which claimed at least 15 lives and caused more than $2 billion in damage.
Yes, the mob at the Capitol had been fed lies and conspiracy theories about election fraud, and some of the organizers had used social media — including not just Parler but also Facebook and Twitter — to enrage the protesters. It’s no surprise that Joe Biden and other Democrats are denouncing this “Big Lie” and promising to fight “domestic terrorism” by imposing new restrictions on social-media platforms. Politicians are always eager for more power.
But why would any sensible journalist go along with them? Their own profession’s freedom rests on the First Amendment, which allows them to print information no matter how misguided it’s deemed by others, and on landmark Supreme Court decisions protecting even speakers who make generalized calls for violence. That freedom allowed journalists to spend two years promoting a conspiracy theory about Russia collusion, a falsehood that did far more far to cripple the federal government than the Capitol riot. They encouraged last year’s riots by convincing the public, despite abundant evidence to the contrary, that black men were being disproportionately killed by white police officers.
What a day it was for inconclusive games. Two of the longest ever — one being the longest scoreless game in MLB history — took place on Wednesday, September 11, 1946. The shorter of the duo occured at Braves Field in Boston, where the local NL team, clutching onto a rare franchise First-Division finish — took on the third-place Chicago Cubs, who had endured a 10-2 drubbing the previous afternoon.
On the mound for Chicago was southpaw Johnny Schmitz, sporting a 10-10 record, and facing the Braves’ great lefty, Warren Spahn. After three innings, the score was locked at 3-3. And there it would stay for another dozen frames. There were close calls: with two on in the bottom of the Ninth, Cubs shortstop Billy Jurges nailed Braves second baseman Connie Ryan at home for the final out, while in the bottom of the 10th, the Braves loaded the bases — but couldn’t make magic happen.
After that, the Braves could barely get a man on base: Cubs pitcher Hank Borowy, who had helped lead Chicago to the pennant the year before (he went 2-2 against the Tigers in the World Series) was handed the ball in the 11th, and for the next seven innings no-hit the Braves, giving up one lonely walk. And no runs. While Chicago touched Braves reliever Frank Barrett for five hits and two walks in the last 6 2/3 innings, they suffered the same scoreless fate. It all ended when the Braves Johnny Hopp flied out to end the 17th: with darkness consuming the Boston skies, the umps called the game, and into the records books it went, and remains — a 3-3 tie.
That was an offensive riot compared to what was happening the same afternoon in Brooklyn, where the Dodgers — a game and a half behind St. Louis in the battle for the pennant –were playing the 58-76 Cincinnati Reds. In 4 hours and 40 minutes, none of the 14,538 fans at Ebbets Field saw a runner cross the plate. There were 135 plate appearances that yielded 18 hits (10 for the Reds, do the math to figure out how many Brooklyn got), and 7 walks. There were three errors. But in 19 innings, there was not a single run. Johnny Vander Meer started and went 15 innings for the Reds, while Hal Gregg went 10 for the Bums.
There was drama: In the top of the 19th, the Reds had men on First and Second when Bert Haas slapped a single. Dodgers right fielder Dixie Walker grabbed the ball and fired a peg to catcher Bruce Edwards, who applied the tag on Dain Clay. Out. A few minutes later, Walker, batting in the bottom of the frame, popped up for the third out, and that same darkness that had settled the Boston affair had reached Brooklyn — the umps called it, having refereed the longest scoreless game in baseball history. As it still is.
In its way, the goose-eggs outcome would prove consequential for the Dodgers: Though playing one game more (the tie) than the Cardinals, they were knotted with the Redbirds for the top of the NL at the end of the regular season. Both teams sported 96-58 records, necessitating MLB’s first-ever playoff. St. Louis took it, winning the first two games of a best-of-three series.
Indulging woulda, coulda, shoulda: Three weeks earlier, had the Dodgers scored one measly run in the 19-inning contest, Brooklyn would have ended the season as NL champs.
By the way: The Reds were shut out the day prior to the September 11th tie, and the day prior to that had scored but one run, in the Third Inning. And in the game following the Brooklyn monster, the Reds scored but one run against the Giants (at the Polo Grounds) — that run came in the Fourth Inning. Between those two runs, 37 scoreless innings elapsed.
From last year, many prayed, as requested, for a young father and husband with severe cancer, Stage Four, who has made astonishing strides, no doubt in part due to the supplications of many. But — the battle continues to rage. Would you consent to remembering him in your prayers? And too, for an editor of a conservative publication (not NR) who is waging war with an aggressive tumor — he too a father, an exceptional man, a happy warrior. Would that God keep him with his family, and us, for many more years. Consider please a prayer too for him. These are humbly asked of you, and in turn Your Devoted Correspondent will add your intentions to his if sought.
May the Ancient of Days Deliver You and Yours and All from Evil,
Jack Fowler, who can be told of your intentions if sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.