The Weekend Jolt

National Review

Lost in (Personal) Space

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Our Kyle Smith begins a recent piece by stating “Joe Biden is a creepy old goat.” Geez, what does Kyle have against goats?

The former Veep and prexy wannabe — who maybe caught “Too Many Kisses” too many times at the Scranton Bijou when he was growing up — has come under barrage for his history of hair-sniffing / hand-slipping / lip-kissing / thigh-touching / space-invading ways. But before you could say Pepé le Pew, Joe tried to get woke: He’s promised to rein in the touchy / feely / smoochy ways, which he blamed on the tune Bushel and a Peck being stuck in his noggin (OK, I made that up). He’s swearing off the Bela Lugosi act and has got himself back to thinking presidential thoughts. It’s all in the rear-view mirror. Or is it?

Maybe form your opinion on that after you listen to the new episode of The Editors, in which Rich Lowry, Charlie Cooke, and Michael Brendan Dougherty discuss His Goatiness’ flap and its persistence, plus Joe’s response, and what it all likely means for November 2020. Listen here.

More on Joe below. More on a lot below. We have an Ideas Summit on which to report, a new issue of NR with which to tempt you, and the usual all-you-can-eat smorgasbord of fattening, delicious goodies on display.


1. We commend President Trump’s challenge to GOP lawmakers to come up with an alternative to Obamacare. From the editorial:

Republican senators are not notably eager to take up this assignment; their leader Mitch McConnell has suggested that the Senate will wait for the White House and the Democrats to reach a deal before it tackles health care. Republican strategists say the senators are right: Why put forward a plan and open Republicans to attack over it, when the party can concentrate instead on making the case against Democratic proposals to kick Americans off their health insurance and move toward a government monopoly? Why should Republicans reprise the experience of 2017–18, when they bled public support while trying to pass a health-care bill, spent the next election on the defensive on the issue, and then lost dozens of House seats?

A flaw in this cynical calculation is that Republicans cannot prevent Democrats from attacking them over health care by abandoning the issue; if that strategy worked, the 2018 elections would have gone very differently. Most of the Republicans who will be running for office in 2020 have already gone on record wanting to replace Obamacare. The Republican administration is urging its abolition in court. Democrats already have enough warrant to accuse Republicans of seeking to eliminate a health law on which many millions of Americans rely. Republicans can choose whether to respond to that attack by pointing to their own plan, or by letting Democrats devise a caricatured conservative plan to tie to them.

From the New April 22, 2019, Issue of National Review: Feast Your Eyes and Brain on These Four Pieces.

1. Andy McCarthy lays into “Mueller’s Folly.” From his article:

Comey, despite repeatedly telling Trump he was not a suspect under investigation, stunningly announced in March 2017 congressional testimony that the FBI was investigating the Trump campaign for possible “coordination” in Russia’s cyber espionage. Increasingly frustrated by Comey’s refusal to state publicly the assurances he’d given Trump privately, the president fired the FBI director on May 9. In announcing the dismissal, Trump relied on a memorandum by Rosenstein, which cited bipartisan condemnation of the director’s mishandling of the Hillary Clinton emails caper during the 2016 campaign.

Why did a personnel decision that Rosenstein himself had endorsed be come, just eight days later, Rosenstein’s pretext for a sprawling special-counsel investigation? The hapless deputy AG — a Republican careerist who had carefully cultivated good relations with Democrats — miscalculated that he would be lauded for his memo. Democrats, he failed to grasp, had moved on from rage over Comey’s role in Hillary Clinton’s defeat (particularly his public reopening of the criminal investigation against her a few days before the election). By the time Comey was canned, the FBI director had become useful as a thorn in Trump’s side, especially after he announced the Trump/Russia probe (in contravention of Justice Department rules against public commentary about investigations).

When Trump ousted Comey, Demo crats posed as apoplectic. Trump clumsily tied Comey’s firing to his conduct of the Russia investigation in statements in an NBC News interview and (appallingly) during a White House visit by Russian diplomats. The president clearly meant that Comey had been falsely depicting him as complicit in Russia’s perfidy, but Democrats pounced, spinning Trump’s statements as admissions that Comey had been removed to impede the Russia investigation—notwithstanding that Trump never shut the probe down and even told NBC he wanted it done properly. The heat intensified when, based on a leak from Comey, the New York Times reported that Trump had leaned on the FBI to drop an investigation of former national-security adviser Michael Flynn.

2. In the cover essay, Matthew Continetti explains why the late Charles Krauthammer still matters. From his piece:

Perhaps the most important distinction is between negative liberty and positive liberty. Paraphrasing Isaiah Berlin, Krauthammer wrote in a 1997 column, “What the monists —  the believers in the one true truth, Marx and Rousseau and (by implication) such Third World deities as Mao and Ho and Castro — are proclaiming is not freedom. What they offer may be glorious and uplifting and just. But freedom is something very different. Freedom is being left alone. Freedom is a sphere of autonomy, an inviolable political space that no authority may invade.”

Krauthammer’s career testifies to the power of argument. “The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race,” Mill wrote; “posterity as well as the existing generation, those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.” It’s as if the public sphere were a giant atom smasher, flinging arguments against one another and seeing what emerges.

3. Transgender ideologues, reports Madeleine Kearns, are imposing life-long harm on children, using standards that are, to say the least, unreasonable. From her essay:

Transgenderism is the theory that each person has an innate gender identity that is distinct from that person’s sex. Theories about gender identity were pioneered by sexologists and academics in the mid 20th century, and they remain widely contested and poorly understood. Despite this, they are being applied in a radical and experimental way to children worldwide. Parents and professionals agonize over the fear that young people will suffer physical and psychological harm from the application of transgender theory, but all too often they are cowed into submission.

Some American girls have had double mastectomies as young as 13. Planned Parenthood operates on an “informed consent” basis — meaning that young people are briefed on “both the risks and the benefits” of cross-sex hormones and do not require a letter of referral from a therapist. The organization’s website states: “If you are eligible, Planned Parenthood staff may be able to start hormone therapy as early as the first visit.” Meanwhile, in 2015 the National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded a $5.7 million taxpayer-funded grant for a five-year study on “the impact of early medical treatment in transgender youth.” According to a progress report, the minimum age for the cross-sex-hormones cohort was decreased from 13 to eight.

The claims of prominent clinicians justifying such interventions are baffling. Diane Ehrensaft, a developmental psychologist and founding member of the Child and Adolescent Gender Center clinic in San Francisco, claimed that toddlers can send a pre-verbal “gender message” by tearing barrettes out of their hair and saying things such as “I. Boy.”

4. John Miller reflects on those fellow Michiganders, the “Polar Bears,” who a century ago were fighting the Commies in the brutal far north of the USSR. From his article:

At sunrise, following a sleepless night of trudging through the cold swamps of northern Russia, a couple of men from Detroit made breakfast. Corporal Morris Foley and Private Bill Henkelman brewed tea and opened a can of corned beef. As Foley prepared to finish the last of the beef, Henkelman spoke up: “Let’s save enough for after while.” Foley refused. “There might not be no after while.”

It turned out there wasn’t, at least not for Foley. Later that morning—on September 20, 1918, by the village of Seltso on the Dvina River—his company formed a skirmish line and charged a nest of Russian machine gunners. Bullets ripped through Foley’s face and neck. “Foley had his jaw shot off,” reported a sergeant. Somehow, the young man survived his brutal injury long enough to join a retreat. He died near his original position and was buried close to where he had scarfed down his beef.

Today, Foley’s recovered remains rest in Troy, Mich., in the 200-acre White Chapel Memorial Park Cemetery, alongside the graves of 55 other American soldiers who died fighting Communists in the frozen wilds of northern Russia in 1918 and 1919. They’re marked by one of the most striking sculptures to be seen anywhere, let alone at a cemetery: a snarling polar bear, carved in white marble by the artist Leon Hermant. It’s a tribute to what some U.S. soldiers took to calling themselves a century ago: the “Polar Bears.” They were the first and only Americans to fight a shooting war against Russian Communists.

Scenes from the NR Institute Ideas Summit: Nationalism Conversed (Not Debated)

At National Review Institute’s terrific 2019 Ideas Summit, a highlight was the Whomp in the Swamp to-do between Rich Lowry and Jonah Goldberg over the meaning of “Nationalism.” Jim Geraghty moderated. C-Span covered. Some colleagues reacted. Watch the Whomp here.

1. Kevin Williamson considers the term and sees an image: The parade. And he is not a fan of them. From his essay:

To the extent that 2016 vintage nationalism has produced a policy agenda at all distinguishable from the old Republican stuff, it is anti-capitalist and anti-liberal: in favor of trade restrictions and suspicious of big business, especially banks, anti-immigration, anti-elitist, longstanding tendencies to which American populists from William Jennings Bryan to George Wallace and Ross Perot have been stubbornly attached. That these represent an orientation toward the actual national interest is not obvious: Tariffs function mainly as a sales tax on American consumers and as a crutch for certain U.S.-based firms that wish to be protected from foreign competition. There is more to a nation than its economy, but markets are national institutions, too, and far from the least important of them. Hostility toward these does not serve the nation, even if it serves the interests of some of the nation’s people.

With apologies to the often misunderstood Charles Erwin Wilson, the interest of General Motors is not synonymous with the national interest. There is no substantive nationalist argument for privileging the business interests of U.S.-based firms that produce steel over those of U.S.-based firms that consume steel. Occasionally one will hear arguments that the existence of a thriving steel industry is in sum important to the country in a way that exceeds the value and interests of the firms that compose that industry, but this is ultimately a very limited line of reasoning, one that could be deployed on behalf of any industry, from frisbees to wine. (The national-security case for traditional heavy-industry protectionism is in practice a limitless warrant; Senator Rubio, who also was kind enough to speak at the NRI event, has defended sugar subsidies as a matter of national security, a deficiency that is more irksome in so admirable a senator). It is difficult to say with a straight face that we must act to preserve the frisbee factories as a matter of national interest — because they are our frisbee factories — and not many nationalists, even the perfervid ones, in practice begrudge the French their oenological excellence or the Germans their automotive genius or the Canadians whatever it is they are good at. They do produce cabernet sauvignon in Ohio, after all.

If our nationalists do not think very much of the parts of America that are actually thriving — many of them the envy of the world — and do not think very much of U.S.-led developments, such as international trade, that have enriched the country immeasurably, then what is it they are thinking of?

2. Rich made an argument that Israel is a nation, and has been for millennia, even in the wilderness. David French has a different take on the Biblical dot-connecting. From his rebuttal:

God was preserving a people, not a form of government applicable to other peoples. Abraham isn’t a model for Bismarck. To have enduring value, nationalism always has to be trumped by something else — a higher value beyond the self-interest of its people. For the nation of Israel, that something else was God’s specific purpose and calling for the Jewish people. For the United States of America, it’s the ideals articulated in the Declaration of Independence.

Indeed, the great meaning of the Civil War wasn’t that it was a nationalist triumph over secessionists (a competing nationalism movement), but rather that the triumph represented a “new birth of freedom.” The nation could have survived merely by defeating Confederate armies and suppressing the rebellion. But the greater virtue was the transformed polity.

Yes, there are moments when nationalism is vital. Wars for national survival come to mind. But the enduring unity of a people must be based on something greater, and the value of the nation is measured by factors well beyond its mere existence. Israel stands as a symbol of the power of the virtuous purpose and divine providence, not of divine preference for national governments.

3. And Rich rebuts. From his Corner post:

In sum, I don’t think God ordained nationalism, but I do think nationalism created our system of independent, sovereign nation-states that has proven quite favorable to self-government, democracy, and peace — things that anti-nationalists support, so long as they don’t have to acknowledge nationalism’s contribution to them.

4. And then Jonah volleys on the question of just what “self-government” means. From his Corner post:

According to Merriam-Webster, self-government means “government under the control and direction of the inhabitants of a political unit rather than by an outside authority.” Note how this definition doesn’t include the word democracy. I presume Rich agrees that self-government and democratic self-rule are different things because he lists democracy separately from self-government. As I think I mentioned in our discussion, Woodrow Wilson’s conception of “self-determination” — essentially the term for self-government at the time — wasn’t as democratic as the propaganda of the time, or the text books of today, suggest. Wilson believed that nations should be free to “choose” their own systems, even if the system they chose wasn’t democratic and wasn’t chosen democratically. This is a common view among many progressives and quite a few paleo-conservatives as well. It usually manifests itself in phrases like “Who are we to judge how other countries live?” or “Who are we to impose our values on other countries.” After all, Cuba and North Korea have “self-determination” but they don’t have democracy or the rule of law.

The relevance here is that self-government/self-determination is the goal of many anti-colonial movements of “national-liberation.” But not all national-liberation movements yield . . . liberty. Many of the nations that threw off the yoke of colonialism or alleged “Western hegemony” were very nationalistic, but they were also often very ugly dictatorships. For every India that moved in fits and starts toward democracy — thanks in part to the legacy of British colonialism — there were probably two or three that moved toward dictatorship. In other words, the line between nationalism and “self-government” to democracy is hardly a straight one.

Over at the NRI website there are pictures galore, and C-Span video (it covered the Summit live on the last day), for your enjoyment. A lot of people are particularly interested in the conversation on populism between Tucker Carlson and Michael Brendan Dougherty. Watch it on C-Span here.

Finally: The great Lee Edwards, who participated in the Summit on a panel discussing the legacy of Bill Buckley, follows up with a terrific NRO article assuring that WFB’s spirit was very evident at the affair. From his piece:

Bill Buckley too was a fighter who challenged the liberal zeitgeist, with National Review as his primary weapon. He took the struggle into the streets in 1965 when he ran for mayor of New York City. Ever the fusionist, he reached out to conservative Republicans and blue-collar Democrats on his way to receiving 13.5 percent of the vote. In The Emerging Republican Majority, the political analyst Kevin Phillips wrote that the Buckley campaign uncovered populist Democrats who helped Richard Nixon and Reagan gain their landslide victories.

If he had been a speaker at the NRI Ideas Summit, Bill Buckley would probably have reminded the attendees of a tried and true political axiom that some conservatives seem to have forgotten: Politics is about addition, not subtraction; multiplication, not division. Fusionism was Buckley’s guiding principle as he built the conservative movement that remains a major political force to this day.

A final comment about a question frequently asked at the Ideas Summit: “Should conservatives welcome populists or not?” Here is what Bill Buckley once said: “I would rather be governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory than by the Harvard University faculty.”

If You Were Searching for 13 Links to Amazing NRO Pieces, You Have Come to the Right Place

1. There is a talented young writer, Alec Dent, a senior at the University of North Carolina, who wrote this wonderful commentary about the new movie Hotel Mumbai and how it addresses the now often-mocked power of prayer. From the beginning of his piece:

It’s a sad, sad thing that Hotel Mumbai reflects our time so well. The film, which received its wide release last week, is based on the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, focusing on the massacre and the hours-long hostage situation that took place in the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. Hotel Mumbai is masterfully done, and if another movie has been as successful at placing the viewer in the middle of a mass shooting or, indeed, even attempted to do so, it doesn’t immediately come to mind. Director Anthony Maras has created an atmosphere of almost nonstop panic and intense dread that would give any horror movie a run for its money; it’s a terrifying film that is all the more frightening because you know that the story you’re watching unfold is an account of real events. And Hotel Mumbai hits all the closer to home in the wake of the events in Christchurch just last month. The film is unique and also timely in its message about “thoughts and prayers.”

It’s common for the religious among us to pray for victims after a mass shooting occurs. And it is just as common for such prayers to be mocked and derided. Some critics fear that thoughts and prayers replace legislative action, but many seem to disapprove of the act of prayer itself, casting it as a useless act. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez provided a tone-deaf example of this following the Christchurch shooting, as she tweeted out: “What good are your thoughts & prayers when they don’t even keep the pews safe?” Neil deGrasse Tyson offered a similar message after the Parkland shooting last year, tweeting, “Evidence collected over many years, obtained from many locations, indicates that the power of Prayer is insufficient to stop bullets from killing school children.” Such condescending remarks display a profound ignorance of the role of prayer in the life of religious practitioners, and they are strongly, and unexpectedly, rebuked in Hotel Mumbai.

2. The legacies of our founder are many. Matthew Continetti considers WFB’s wide-ranging influences. From his essay:

Buckley’s skill at repartee not only stopped the opposition in its tracks. It won him converts. His comedic timing and drollery suggested that no matter how important political debate was — and Buckley thought it hugely important — one can never forget that there are aspects of life that should remain outside of politics.

As Buckley wrote: “I like, roughly, in the order described: 1) God, 2) my family, 3) my country, 4) J. S. Bach, 5) peanut butter, and 6) good English prose. Should these biases be identified when I write about, say, Satan, divorce, Czechoslovakia, Chopin, marmalade, and New York Times editorials?”

That expansive list of Buckley’s loves tells us something about the capaciousness of his heart and mind. The size of his personality and impact is why there is not a single Buckley legacy but several.

3. Big Jim Geraghty sized up Joe Biden’s being caught short in this smoochy / rub-y “scandal” — as Veep, he benefitted from a MSM that served as a “reputational bodyguard.” Come 2019, they ain’t there no more — or, as Joe might say depending on the crowd he was addressing, no mo’. Anyway, he got away with something for a long time. From the story:

A lot of us have been making fun of Joe Biden for decades. He’s got a goofy charm, but half of what comes out of his mouth makes no sense. In the 2008 debate with Sarah Palin, he declared, “Along with France, we kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon,” and everyone just acted like he hadn’t hallucinated a major foreign-policy event. His gaffes are particularly tone-deaf, he’s a blustery blowhard, he’s been wrong about a heck of a lot in his long history, and he’s often an egomaniacal BS artist.

For eight years, Biden got away with a lot because the media chose to perceive him as that “wacky, lovable Uncle Joe” and if the media paid too much attention to his flaws outside of comic relief from the usually serious Obama, it would call into question Obama’s judgment in picking him.

Biden didn’t just start touching women in public this way recently. In BuzzFeed, Katherine Miller writes, “Everybody already knows what they think about Joe Biden putting his hands on people, because we’ve all seen this happen in public. We’ve seen Biden kiss people at public events! We’ve all had years to think about it!” And not many people were upset about it while Biden was vice president — at least not many people on the Left; our John Fund mentioned this in 2015, as did Victor Davis Hanson. I wrote that year that “Biden’s style is a bit ‘hands-on.’”

4. More from Jim on Joe, and the media’s decades-long delayed reaction to the creepy antics of its favorite hacks. From his piece:

When I first heard about Lucy Flores’s account of her encounter with Joe Biden, I reacted with great cynicism. Here we have a Bernie Sanders supporter who is making an issue out of Joe Biden’s characteristically buffoonish behavior, five years after the fact, in a fairly transparent effort to scare him out of the 2020 presidential race. As Kyle Smith observed, after eight years of the media painting Biden as America’s wacky, lovable uncle and perfectly qualified to be a heartbeat away from the presidency, it is now socially acceptable to declare, “Joe Biden is a creepy old goat. Everyone knows this.”

But if you read Flores’s essay, you’ll notice that she’s diagnosing the same phenomenon about the national media and Democratic party that many of us on the Right have been complaining about for a long time: The degree to which allegations of inappropriate behavior or sexual misconduct are taken seriously — particularly whether they rise to the level of columns declaring “It’s time for a national conversation” — is heavily shaped by how important the accused is to the cause of progressivism at that given moment. In 1998, almost the entire Democratic party rushed to save Bill Clinton; now it’s okay to declare his behavior appalling and worthy of a forced resignation. We could only see Chappaquiddick portrayed on the silver screen after Ted Kennedy’s death.

5. Oh, to be a lefty Virtue Signaler! As Victor Davis Hanson notes, there is hardly ever a price to pay when caught in a hoax, scam, or scandal. From his essay:

The result is that progressive actors and institutions understand that even their bad behavior will be contextualized rather than audited. Such medieval-style exemption gives them a natural blank check to overreach and to act unethically, crudely, and even unlawfully — as they might not have if they had expected ramifications.

After all, Johnny Depp, Peter Fonda, Robert de Niro, Madonna, Snoop Dogg, and other exhibitionists factored into their obscene presidential vituperation that the powers that matter to them — movie moguls, film critics, media hosts, neighbors in their tony zip codes, universities — would award their hate or at least nod at it. Far less vitriol aimed at President Obama would have earned social and career ostracism, whether one was an erstwhile birther like Donald Trump or a Missouri State Fair clown wearing an Obama mask. Had Mike Pence hugged, kissed, squeezed, and blown the hair of women and girls in the serial fashion of good old liberal Joe Biden, he would have likely been asked to step down from his vice presidency.

The career of liar, conspiracist, racist, and anti-Semite Al Sharpton took off after his Tawana Brawley hoax — soaring onto cable TV and into the hugs of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. The likes of a Bill Maher, Alec Baldwin, Barbra Streisand, Joe Biden, and Harry Reid know they can say almost anything they wish, on the premise that their occasional racist, sexist, and hate-filled slurs were long ago indemnified by cheap progressive virtue-signaling.

6. Jonah Goldberg responds to the latest nagger from David Neiwert — longtime barnacle and blogger for the unrivaled shake-down operation, the Southern Poverty Law Center — who lives to disassociate down-and-dirty fascism from its lefty-loving economics. From the Corner post:

If all Neiwert wanted to do was argue that Fascism in Europe was about blood and soil, violence, nationalism, and racial purity, I would still argue he’s being too simplistic. But simplistic isn’t necessarily synonymous with untrue or indefensible. But part of my argument was that the ideas that led to Italian Fascism and, to a lesser extent Nazi Fascism, were in the air across the west. American progressives and many British socialists cared far, far, far more about biological and racial purity than the pre-1938 Italian fascists ever did. Notions of the glory of military struggle can be found in the rhetoric of the war-minded Teddy Roosevelt and the pacifist author of the Moral Equivalent of War William James (whom Mussolini claimed as a major influence). The nationalization and militarization of politics and society was a dream of countless progressives and found its apotheosis in the goon squads of the American Protective League and, later, in the industrial armies of Hugh Johnson’s Blue Eagle.

Neiwert cannot countenance, never mind rebut, any of these facts – including the widespread admiration of Mussolini by American and British intellectuals in the 1920s and early 1930s (the title of my book comes from a speech by H.G. Wells calling for Western “liberals” to become Liberal fascists or “Enlightened Nazis”). This is because his definition of Fascism must indict American conservatives — and only American conservatives. (Note: I am not a fan of Dinesh D’Souza’s effort to take my argument and twist it into the kind of indictment of liberals Neiwert levels at conservatives or that I was accused of doing.)

As for “economics” always being an “afterthought” in Fascism, this would have been a shock to the fascists and to their admirers around the world. Read the Nazi Party platform of 1920; about half of the planks are about economics. Without the economic turmoil in Weimar, the Nazi party — with its incessant calls to destroy capitalism — would not have found any purchase.

7. To hell with “ze” and “zir” — Graham Hillard says conservatives need to say ixnay to the demands of transgender ideologues. He and she rule! From his essay:

The United States is now half a decade into the “transgender moment” declared by The Atlantic and other media outlets in the months before and after Obergefell v. Hodges settled the anterior matter of same-sex marriage. Yet unlike the gay-rights movement, which pursued judicial victories and cultural legitimacy with equal fervor, the struggle for transgender equality has thus far been fought largely in the court of public opinion, the occasional executive or jurisprudential expansion of existing anti-discrimination provisions notwithstanding. To the extent that the average American engages with transgender issues at all, he or she is more likely to do so emotionally or intellectually than legally, facing pressure from social norms and the informal demands of etiquette rather than the written requirements of the state.

Certainly this could change. The New York City Commission on Human Rights’ various guidelines regarding gender expression and employment provide an example of how it might, as do the handful of school-bathroom cases making their way through the courts. Yet so pronounced has been the transgender movement’s influence on the American mind that further alteration of the nation’s laws hardly seems necessary. On the subjects of identity and the nature of gender, the sexual avant-garde is steadily gaining the field. On the question of language, their battle may already be won.

8. A big judicial upset happened in Wisconsin, where the wildly outspent, vilified conservative Christian (bigot!!) Republican Brian Hagedorn beat liberal icon Lisa Neubauer in the open-seat race for the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The victory solidifies the conservative majority. John McCormack has the skinny.

RELATED: More context on the race, and the leftist onslaught against Hagedorn, comes from David French. From his piece:

The headlines were brutal. On February 14, one in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Hagedorn had founded a Christian school that “allows bans on teachers, students, and parents in gay relationships.” In other words, his school — like thousands of other Christian schools — banned sexual activity outside of a marriage between a man and a woman. Its statement of faith included the entirely orthodox declaration that “Adam and Eve were made to complement each other in a one-flesh union that establishes the only normative pattern of sexual relations for men and women, such that marriage ultimately serves as a type of the union between Christ and his church.”

On February 20, another Journal Sentinal headline contended that Hagedorn had been paid $3,000 for “speeches to legal organization dubbed hate group.” The “hate group” was my former employer, the Alliance Defending Freedom. And who “dubbed” it hateful? The discredited and scandal-ridden Southern Poverty Law Center.

9. If you’re not Orthodox, the Putin Regime ain’t loving you, especially in the Eastern Ukraine. Doug Bandow reports on how religious freedom is under attack in Russia, aided and abetted by Orthodox Church leaders in Moscow. From his article:

However, persecution merged with politics even more brutally in eastern Ukraine, where Moscow backed local separatists. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom rated Russia a tier-1 persecutor, warranting treatment as a “country of particular concern.” Reported the USCIRF: “Russia represents a unique case,” being “the sole state to have not only continually intensified its repression of religious freedom since the USCIRF commenced monitoring it, but also to have expanded its repressive policies to the territory of a neighboring state, by means of military invasion and occupation. Those policies, ranging from administrative harassment to arbitrary imprisonment to extrajudicial killing, are implemented in a fashion that is systematic, ongoing, and egregious.”

Many have suffered, in Russia generally, in Chechnya and Dagestan, and in Crimea. The USCIRF explained that “the Russian government views independent religious activity as a major threat to social and political stability, an approach inherited from the Soviet period.” Groups must register; the government can regulate their activities; at the instigation of the Orthodox Church, the state treats blasphemy as a crime; evangelism and worship by disfavored groups are treated as extremism and terrorism; and “religious groups not affiliated with state-controlled organizations are treated with suspicion.” The government, now nationalist rather than Communist, treats the Orthodox Church as a de facto state church.

10. The birthday of Cesar Chavez is de facto Mexican-American Day in the US, and also noted as Border Control Day because — didja know? — that CC was, per Mark Krikorian, “a fierce defender of America’s borders as a means of helping struggling American workers better themselves.” From his commentary:

A useful window into Chavez’s views on border control comes from a speech he delivered almost exactly 40 years ago at the National Press Club in Washington. The speech came in the midst of a strike against lettuce farmers by Chavez’s United Farm Workers union, and the core of Chavez’s complaint was that the federal government was refusing to enforce immigration laws, thus siding with the farmers against the workers.

Many labor unions perfectly embody Eric Hoffer’s observation that “every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.” But in this case, as in others, there’s a reason the movement got started in the first place. Farmworkers are uniquely vulnerable to exploitation given the nature of their workplace, and they’re not covered by many of the legal protections enjoyed by other workers.

In the specific case Chavez was addressing, he claimed that over an eight-and-a-half-year period, post-inflation hourly pay for lettuce-pickers had increased a total of less than 8 percent, while those working piece-rate were actually getting paid less in 1979 than they had been in 1970. All this while, Chavez claimed, the lettuce farmers’ earnings had increased far more than inflation. As Chavez told the National Press Club, “we couldn’t live with what we were getting paid.”

11. As Jon Riches reports, there’s an important case before the Supreme Court — Kisor v. Wilkie — that could upend the current precedent that empowers bureaucrats to be the judge and jury when it comes to interpreting regulations. From his piece:

One of the most offensive of these doctrines is known as Seminole Rock or Auer deference, after the U.S. Supreme Court decisions that memorialized them. These cases stand for the proposition that when an administrative agency interprets its own regulation, reviewing courts must give “controlling weight” to the agency’s interpretation, unless it is plainly erroneous.

The issue before the Court in the Kisor case is whether courts should dispense with these doctrines at the federal level — and with the addition of Justice Neil Gorsuch, there is a strong likelihood the Court will do precisely that. This is wonderful news for those who believe in the rule of law and due process, as well as for those who have fallen under the extraordinary power of regulatory enforcement action.

Not so encouraging, however, is that 36 states have adopted some form of deference doctrine when interpreting legal questions involving state administrative agencies. So even if the Supreme Court gets it right in Kisor, state courts may still defer to regulators. Some state supreme courts, including Wisconsin’s and Mississippi’s, have reversed these doctrines in recent years. But state legislatures can also work to restore due process. Because most states model their administrative procedures acts on the federal version, a simple amendment to these laws can eliminate deference in the states.

12. Once upon a time, people took pen in hand and wrote long letters (on paper!) to others. Sarah Schutte is the apostle for the ancient custom, calling (beautifully) for its rebirth. From her gorgeous piece:

After finding the appropriate pen, you realize that pens imply the act of handwriting — a touchy subject for many. Before you complain about your illegible scribble, though, remember: Letters take time, concentration, and forethought for a reason. The less you care about your handwriting, the less legible it will be. Handwriting gives you time to form your prose, strengthening it and refining it as you move from one sentence to the next, varying the pace, playing with tone, and doodling. Yes, doodling is an undeniable part of handwriting, and it helps with the next reason for why letter writing is deeply important.

To write a letter is to tell a story, to share some of our life with someone dear to us. It is the story of those important and mundane events that shape our everyday lives. Letters take forethought and concentration because they are a process, a kind of reflection. Because of the travel time and response time, weeks can pass between letters, and these weeks are full. Claim to lead an uninteresting life? Think again. Stories surround you, and it all depends on the perspective you take. Too much to write about? Choose the most important events and, in reflecting on those, you may discover some smaller and more important ones hiding in plain sight. And those doodles? Well, sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.

13. About time a little WJ attention was directed to Brian Allen — who pens a weekly art column for NRO. Mea maxima culpa. This week past he talked up the Toledo (Ohio, not Spain) Museum of Art show on Frans Hal, the 17th-century painter whose show-focused works are about families. Get the paper towels and sponges: Everything here seems . . . juicy. From the review:

I love Hals for his brio. He takes what were likely dour, hard-working Dutch businessmen and their dowdy wives and invests them with joy, warmth, even a touch of abandon. They’re mobile, breathing, and agile. They’re sometimes forbidding, but usually they’re huggers and kissers, and looking at them makes me think of good food and music. I’m always drawn to what I call “zafdig,” or juicy painting, in part because I learned about art at a museum with plenty of Renoirs and Sargents.

Hals is a zafdig painter and distinguished himself from many other Dutch artists in his style and in his preference for portraits. When the Nazis started bombing London in 1939, George VI wanted his bomb shelter decorated with paintings of cows at pasture by Aelbert Cuyp, also Dutch and Hals’s contemporary. If I were George VI, Cuyp, like plenty of Dutch art, would have bored me into stupefaction, if not outright submission to the Germans. Hals makes for joy. His work is a metaphor for life and promise.

Lights. Cameras. Critics!

1. There is a new documentary out, The Brink, about sloven-meister Steve Bannon (who has lied about Your Humble Correspondent!), and Kyle Smith has seen it and finds the subject indeed on the brink . . . of irrelevance. From the beginning of the review:

Steve Bannon is talking about Birkenau. Auschwitz, you see, was a bit jury-rigged but, ah, Birkenau. Real pros did that one. “Oh my God, it’s precision engineering to the nth degree,” he says, “by Mercedes and Krupp and Hugo Boss. It is an institutionalized industrial compound for mass murder.” It’s the look in his eye that’s striking as he says these words. He doesn’t look sorrowful. There’s a glint of wonder there. He talks about all the boring bureaucracy, all the meetings and coffee cups, all the otherwise rational people involved in building Satan’s playground, how they all distanced themselves from “the moral horror of it.”

I don’t know in what context Bannon started musing along these lines, and I’m not sure I want to know. His Holocaust remarks come at the outset of The Brink, director Alison Klayman’s cinema-vérité look at Bannon’s rough ride since he was first ousted from President Trump’s White House and then separated from the Breitbart site and his major financial backers, the Mercer family. Later in the movie Bannon is inviting reporters over to his townhouse to watch what he calls a “propaganda” movie about Trumpism, and he lightheartedly asks, “What would Leni Riefenstahl do?” Bannon seems to think he offers some kind of roguish, politically incorrect charm, but he’s the only one who sees it. If you don’t want to be called far-right or to be accused of playing footsie with fascists, a handy rule of thumb is: Don’t compare yourself to the director of Triumph of the Will.

2. Armond White sees Us and what he’s watching is a freak-show characterization of black American identity. And then there is his take about writer / director Jordan Peele as a charlatan. From the outset of the review:

The title of Toni Morrison’s new essay collection, The Source of Self-Regard, indicates what should be the point of the horror-comedy Us, if Us had a point. Morrison figures out the roots of identity, personal awareness, and artistic ambition. Through 43 compositions mostly about race, reprinted without original dates and bound in a subtly defiant pink jacket, the Nobel prize winner reintroduces herself to the woke generation. Morrison’s examples of belles lettres contradict Jordan Peele’s low-brow Hollywood-backed hucksterism, yet she addresses the generation that Hollywood has learned to control, especially in this moment, when “inclusion” and “diversity” are little more than marketing strategies. How better to sell Black Lives Matter tickets than by calling a movie “Us”? 

The actors who portray the besieged black family in Us were obviously cast for their dark skin tone. Writer-director Peele apparently likes the political horror-comedy frisson of colorism, using Lupita Nyong’o (Patsey in 12 Years a Slave) and Winston Duke (M’Baku in Black Panther) the same way he cast Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out — as ultra-blacks. This nontraditional Hollywood casting is more than counterintuitive; it’s a specious form of authenticity. Peele emphasizes racial difference — taunting it — but without Morrison’s in-depth exploration.

3. Unplanned is proving to be a very powerful film. Kathryn Jean Lopez knows it well and shares its message. From her new column:

I think that’s the power of the new movie Unplanned. It’s the story of a woman and her desire to help women, to have a purpose, to do something good with her life. She believed she was doing that as a volunteer in college and then when she worked at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas. It also hurt the hearts of some of those dearest around her — her parents, her boyfriend who became her husband — who believed that the abortions done at her clinic were the ending of human lives. But they loved her through that intimate, emotional difference of opinion. Love can do that. Love is sacrificial and hopeful and accepts people as they are.

I watched Unplanned thinking of so many of the caricatures we sometimes make people into. With certain words or associations, we jump to conclusions about people, ascribing all kinds of ideas and values and motivations that might not be fair. One opinion voiced, one article tweeted, and we may write off people, un-friend them, dismiss them as nothing short of everything we perceive wrong with the world.

4. More Unplanned: Abby Johnson — whose personal story is the movie’s basis — and Lila Rose explain how it tells the truth about abortion. From the outset of their piece:

Abortion may be one of the most hotly debated topics in America, but it’s a word that not many people can readily — and accurately — define. The abortion industry uses vague terms like “choice,” “autonomy,” “reproductive rights” or “reproductive health,” “essentially a miscarriage,” and “gently emptying the uterus” to cloud the conversation. In a discussion of abortion, we are told to consider only the mother and her choice. The other party is only a “product of conception” or an “undifferentiated mass of uterine matter.”

Equally vague is our language about the way abortions are performed, which we hardly ever hear described in medical terms. That is why the recently released film Unplanned is so important. Seeing the truth about abortion will change people’s minds on the procedure and society’s view of this heinous human-rights abuse. It did for us.

5. Madeleine Kearns watches The Aftermath. Seems like she finds it to be a little better than meh. From her review:

Director James Kent’s new film, The Aftermath — starring Keira Knightley, Jason Clarke, and Alexander Skarsgard — takes one such marriage as its subject. Set in 1946 Germany, it follows the failing union of a British couple, Lewis (Clarke) and Rachel (Knightley) Morgan, and the latter’s adulterous affair with a handsome German widower, Stefan (Skarsgard).

The movie begins with Rachel traveling to Hamburg, where Lewis, a British colonel, is stationed. The two are happy to be reunited, but there is clearly a great deal of unspoken tension between them. Rachel is uneasy in her new home — a stately country manor requisitioned by the British military — and is made all the more so when Lewis allows Stefan and his troubled teenage daughter Freda, who had owned the home before Germany’s defeat, to stay with them. . . .

To be fair, the story it isn’t altogether boring. Generally, the dialogue and characterization are compelling. Knightley skillfully combines vulnerability and passion. When she bursts into tears, we believe her. But the scenes that explore the nature of war — which is perhaps the more interesting theme here — are lagging. It is never made clear, for instance, what it is that Lewis is doing in Hamburg. He may have PTSD from the war, but instead of having it brought to life in flashbacks or otherwise explained, we’re forced to make do with the occasional sidelong reference to his combat experiences. The threat of Freda’s Nazi boyfriend is similarly ill-developed and proves little more than a catalyst for a narrative resolution that otherwise might not have arrived.

6. Kyle is diggin’ Bonnie and Clyde, the new Netflix movie about the repugnant, cowardly thieves who are finally exposed for what they were. From the review:

Retelling Bonnie and Clyde from the point of view of the actual heroes of the story is a superb idea that took far too long to come to screen. Hired by the governor of Texas, “Ma” Ferguson (Kathy Bates), aging ex-Rangers Frank Hamer (Costner) and Maney Gault (Harrelson) are given a special mandate to end a reign of terror that left 13 people dead, yet was celebrated as a romantic tale of sexy desperadoes who were folk heroes to the newspapers of the Great Depression and later easily adapted into symbols of Sixties liberation.

Channeling Hamer’s rage and disgust, The Highwaymen attacks the myth of Bonnie and Clyde, who are seen only in glimpses. Far from robbing banks on behalf of hapless victims of the Depression, the Barrow gang mostly stuck to soft targets such as gas stations and grocery stores. Yet ordinary Americans were enthralled by the rebel legends and are seen concealing information to cover for the killers — though they were cheap, vicious cowards who would do anything for a buck. Governor Ferguson (Kathy Bates) replies to reporters pushing the Robin Hood narrative, “Did Robin Hood ever shoot a gas station attendant in the head for four dollars and a tank of gas?”

John Fusco’s shrewd and meditative script has fun trolling Bonnie and Clyde: The scene in the earlier film in which Bonnie dramatically reads aloud her poem about her life and anticipated death inspires a scene in which Hamer and Gault consider the same poem and note that it’s moronic. “Used to be, you had to have talent to get published. Now you just have to shoot people,” notes Gault. In another scene Gault just about has Clyde in his sights when the bandit’s car is suddenly mobbed by adoring fans.

The Six

1. When it comes to hoaxes, you’ll find the file drawer under “Hate Crimes” to be burgeoning. In Commentary, Wilfred Reilly has the stats and the facts. From his essay:

Our nation is not racked with hate crimes. When people in positions of power or visibility say that it is, they should be rebuked for it. I have done a great deal of research on hate crimes in America, and the tragically underreported fact is that an enormous number of such incidents reported over the past decades turn out to have been hoaxes. While Jussie Smollett’s case transfixed the nation, it is merely the most recent of a long line of politically motivated fake bias crimes. It’s difficult to think of a more compelling task for American scholars than to point out the dangerous lies behind this invented crisis.

My research and analysis of hate-crime hoaxes began informally. When I was a graduate student several years ago, I became interested in two widely reported incidents near my hometown of Chicago. The first was the burning to the ground of a popular gay-owned lounge in inner-suburban Oak Park. The second incident involved students at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, where I once applied for an academic job, reporting death threats by apparent hate-group members who put up hangman’s nooses. Strong stuff.

2. At Gatestone Institute, Raymond Ibrahim reports that the UK’s “venomous” Home Office is saying “no” to persecuted Christians and “yes” to Christian persecutors. From his report:

Concerning the asylum process, she said that whenever she responded to her Home Office interviewer, “he was either chuckling or maybe just kind of mocking when he was talking to me. . . . [H]e asked me why Jesus didn’t help you from the Iranian regime or Iranian authorities.”

These two recently exposed cases appear to be symptomatic not only of a breathtaking lack of logic that flies in the face of history ― God obviously did not always save those who believed in Him ― but also what increasing appears to be a venomous Home Office bias against Christians. For instance, when Sister Ban Madleen, a Christian nun in Iraq who had fled the Islamic State, applied to the Home Office to visit her sick sister in Britain, she was denied a visa ― twice. Another report cites a number of other Christian orderlies who were denied visas, including another nun with a PhD in Biblical Theology from Oxford; a nun denied for not having a personal bank account, and a Catholic priest denied for not being married.

3. At The American Conservative, Bill Wirtz, recently canned because he tipped over a sacred cow, considers how deeply biased European media outlets are against conservatives. From his piece:

A bit more than a year ago, I was fired from a public radio broadcaster after I submitted a column criticizing the overblown and overpaid public sector in my home country. Echoing my more recent episode, an editor claimed my statement that the public sector is inefficient was “not factual.” Here as well, I was initially brought in to diversify the range of opinions. On the same taxpayer-funded broadcaster, you can listen to a wide range of left-wing pseudo-intellectuals day in and day out, lambasting global predatory capitalism and recommending the creation of new welfare programs.

Sometimes they do get caught.

German public broadcaster ADR was recently found to have commissioned a framing document by a linguistic expert, in order to find ways to demonize opponents of Germany’s media royalty, which taxes all citizens to fund public broadcasting. The linguist recommended that those who do not want to pay the fee shouldn’t be labeled simply as opponents, but as “questioning the authority of democratic decisions.” She also recommended that ARD portray those opponents as acting “contrary to democracy,” “untrustworthy,” and “disloyal.” Rejecting the media fee should be portrayed as “asking for less democracy.” She even suggested new slogans for ARD: “Others want profits, we want cultural profits,” “TV without censorship for profits,” “excellence instead of profits.” The idea was to demonize both opponents of the licensing fee and private media companies that could replace the functions of public broadcasting.

4. Playing off of Russell Kirk’s The Roots of American Order, Jeff Pollett — in a new essay for Modern Age — compares the five great cities (Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, London, and Philadelphia) that Kirk described as the bases for the success of the American civic project, with five modern cities that are agents of chaos and the engines for uprooting order. From the essay:

Which brings us to our fifth anti-city, and the most inhuman and anti-human of them all, the one that possesses all the vices of the others with none of their virtues: Silicon Valley.

Silicon Valley has dedicated itself to the quick buck, to novelty, to constant stimulation and growth, and to the destruction of the relationship between past and future. Its fundamental modes of operation—innovation and piracy—have no aim other than a constant burrowing deeper into people’s lives and minds. Its aim, if it has one, is to turn us into cyborgs, appendages to the gadgets it creates.

Could anyone in Silicon Valley write sensibly about love, about death, about the need for face-to-face communication, or about the rhythms of nature? The answer is decidedly no, and the evidence is in part displayed in an utter hostility to the parameters of existence. In their quest to bypass death, the Siliconians have denied all limits to human being and knowing. All wisdom begins in knowing the limits of our humanness. But the Siliconian revolt is a pressing beyond all limits, and thus a pressing beyond wisdom and beyond that which makes us most human. The transhumanist movement, which believes that consciousness is but a series of algorithms that can be downloaded, is an anti-humanist movement precisely because it seeks to negate the fact that we are embodied creatures, part of the physical world, to which we have obligations and from which we draw our sustenance.

5. The Panam Post publishes an op-ed from lawyer and novelist Emmanuel Rincón, who provides a harsh assessment of Venezuela, then and now. (Hat tip to our friend Alberto de la Cruz at Babalublog for alerting us to this troubling analysis.) From the piece:

Hydroelectric power:

1986: The final stage of the Raúl Leoni Hydroelectric Complex enters into operation, which with an installed capacity of 10,235 MW becomes the largest hydroelectric power station in the world at the time. A year later, the “San Agatón” Hydroelectric Power Plant was inaugurated, the first stage of the “Leonardo Ruiz Pineda” Hydroelectric Generation Complex, belonging to the Uribante-Caparo Development of the CADAFE company. In 1988, work began on the construction of the Macagua II hydroelectric dam on the Caroní River.

2019: Only in the month of March, Venezuela registers 5 blackouts nationwide.


1987: During the Copa Libertadores, the goalkeeper of Unión Atlético Táchira, scores a goal from his own side that contributes to the team’s 3:2 victory over Independiente de Avellaneda.

2019: Vinotinto players do not have uniforms.

6. At Law & Liberty, Greg Weiner reflects on how today’s political correctness will be tomorrow’s infraction. From his essay:

Now, let us specify what, in an age of political correctness, is obligatory: the N-word that Mark Twain stands accused of using too often in his masterwork is objectively offensive, and Washington and Jefferson are accountable for enslaving people, which must be weighed opposite their ample virtues. But the phenomenon of political correctness, as Hawthorne teaches, is nonetheless fundamentally about progress at the expense of the past. What frustrates those accused of violating the tents of political correctness is that the goalposts are constantly moving in the name of progress. The moral authority is never Burke’s “collected reason of ages.” It is always the omnipresent now, oriented toward the glorified future.

This faith in the now arises from a boundless confidence in contemporaneous reason that in turn implies a conception of man as the measure. It is not possible, or perhaps it is not necessary, to believe in reason’s limitations when man is not accountable to anything that transcends himself. The notion of permanence, and its transcendent nature, imply limits to human reason that the cult of progress cannot accept, for permanence declares there are some things reason cannot change or fully comprehend.

Progress, by contrast, rejects the past by necessity. Terminology that was commonplace in what Hawthorne called “yesterday’s newspapers” is consequently offensive today. The same is true of political positions. Barack Obama could not win the Democratic nomination for president in 2020 because the health-care reform he signed in 2010 — then considered revolutionary — left too much room for the private insurers that the champions of Medicare for All deplore today. Among elements of the right, the issue is less progress than the present: Fealty to the sitting president can upend long-standing norms because the standard is not tradition but rather today. On either account, whether progress or presentism, there can be neither heroes — they come from the past, a foreign country — nor traditions.


I’m going to blame or credit, however it is best taken, Peter T with the delicious dollop of info about what is considered (not by Yankees fans) the greatest game ever played — Game Seven of the 1960 World Series, which of course featured Hall of Famer Bill Mazeroski’s walk-off homer in the bottom of the 9th. His was the 78th plate appearance of the game, a 10–9 see-saw slugfest that saw 24 hits: Not once before he drilled Ralph Terry’s pitch did any Pirate or Yankee strike out. And only five walks were issued. That’s an amazing feat: Bat was hitting ball, and nearly every batter put the leathered orb in play. And get this: The game took only 2:36 to play.

From the fevered brain in the Land of Coulda: This might have ended with another Yankee championship but for a decision by Casey Stengel — whose brilliant career as Yankee manager would end five days later when the ownership game him the heave-ho (blaming his age, 70) — in the top of the 8th: Bobby Shantz (the AL’s MVP in 1952) had come in to relieve in the 3rd inning with the Bronx Bombers trailing 4–0. For the next four innings he held the Pirates scoreless while the Yankees clawed back, and in the top of the 8th, the Yanks ahead 7–4 with men on second and third bases with two outs, Stengel let Shantz hit. He lined out, ending the rally. In the bottom of the 8th, pinch hitter Gino Cimoli tagged Shantz for a single, Bill Virdon then hit the famous hit-a-rock grounder that took a wicked hop and clocked shortstop Tony Kubek in the throat, Dick Groat followed with a single, and the Pirate floodgates opened: a five-run rally erupted. The drama didn’t end though: Yanks promptly tied the score in the next frame. And then came the Maz homer.

Interesting: Pirates pitcher Harvey Haddix — whose 1–0 loss in a famous 1959 near-perfect outing against the Braves is considered one of the National Pastime’s greatest performances (he pitched 12 perfect innings before getting tagged in the bottom of the 13th) — gave up those two Yankee runs in the 9th, earning him a blown save. But the Mazeroski homer earned him the victory, his second of the series (he started and beat the Yanks, 5–2, in Game 5 in The Bronx). Take the W, because it’s better than the L.

Department of Corrections

In which my medical ignorance is exposed. Correspondence from Dr. Eric C of Youngstown, know-it-all, who, in fact, knows it all:

I am writing to criticize your metaphor, because I know that you are a punctilious stylist, and would want to know this. I have no criticism of the ideas you present in your newsletter.

You write “The media would be wise to express humility, sorrow, and remorse, because that might go some way toward defibrillating their own flatlining reputation.” The idea is right; the expression is wrong.

I have a fair bit of familiarity with defibrillators, thankfully from the handle side, not the paddle side. Defibrillators are used to treat, as their name implies, ventricular fibrillation (VF). The electrocardiograph (ECG) in VF is anything but a flat line. The ECG shows chaotic up and down zig-zagging, not the orderly progression of defined wave forms seen in a normal cardiac rhythm. Application of a brief electrical current across the heart depolarizes all the voltage-bearing elements of the heart, and allows the heart’s electrical activity to resume in normal fashion.

In contrast, a flat-line ECG represents no electrical activity in the heart at all. All the potentially voltage-bearing elements of the heart are already depolarized. (A mannequin has a flair-line ECG.) Defibrillating a person with a flat-line ECG is as beneficial, as the Yiddish proverb says, as cupping a corpse. Defibrillation is not used on patients who have flat-line ECGs. . . .

Thank you for your newsletters. I find them insightful and interesting, even if they are episodically imperfect in cardiology.

A Dios

Last weekend, Yours Truly drove a rickety UHaul truck many hundreds of miles on I-95 in the pouring rain. A rosary was said. No accidents happened. Thank you, Lord! More will be said this week. May I humbly recommend that you find a way to offer thanks for those things which . . . merit thanks.

God’s Blessings on You and Your Flock,

Jack Fowler

Who stands, or sits, ready to receive your missives about misunderstandings related to medical devices — or anything else for that matter — sent to

P.S.: Harpo Marx, sans freres, had a cameo part in Too Many Kisses. Good thing for his shtick that it was a silent movie, but . . . it seems he did in fact speak in it (or, maybe more accurately, he intertitled!). You can watch the clip here.

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