The Weekend Jolt

National Review

May We Borrow Your Teeth?

Dear Weekend Jolter,

As Cole Porter wrote for Du Barry Was a Lady, friendship means being there through thick and thin, right and wrong, night and day. Yep, here I am when you’re in a jam, happy to complain when they put that bullet in your buh-rain, and no problemo, if you ever lose your teeth when you’re out to dine, borrow mine.

May we?

There is a National Review webathon occurring right now, and boy oh boy oh girl are we ever counting on your friendship. We are going full throttle, all cylinders clicking, the pedal is on the metal, guzzling the Five Hour Energy so we can fight, without pause, without relenting, this all-out Left assault on Western Civilization, our Founding, and our safety. Our effort seeks $250,000 — we’re just the other side of being halfway towards it, and only 9 days to go.

This week, Your Humble Correspondent penned an appeal seeking your support. Not only did it ask (nicely) for such, but it also offered something. Namely: Two classic Bill Buckley essays on Richard Nixon’s 1972 trip to Red China. You will want to read and enjoy them.

So, please: Read the appeal. Find and read the essays. And as The Beatles sang, Help. Because this fight is also your fight, friend. Could you spare NR $10, $25, $50? Maybe $100 or $250? Word is you won Powerball — could you see fit to sending us $1,000? Do what you can, right here. Many thanks in advance, because we know you and your help and your teeth are on the way.

And so below is a mother load of conservative wisdom. What a Weekend Jolt awaits!

Editorials

1. What’s dumber than New York’s lawsuit against the NRA? As we search for an answer, read our condemnation. From the editorial:

The specific accusations of wrongdoing against NRA honcho Wayne LaPierre are that he spent NRA funds on himself and his family, setting up a front company in order to charge personal expenses to the NRA while camouflaging that fact from the organization and from the IRS. If that were found to be the case, then LaPierre would very likely be convicted of several crimes, both state and federal. But he has not even been charged with any crime at all.

Instead, New York State Attorney General Letitia James is only working to deliver on her campaign promise to ruin the NRA legally after decades of Democrats failing to beat the organization politically. This is part of a nationwide Democratic campaign: In San Francisco, they declared the NRA a “terrorist organization”; New York Governor Andrew Cuomo attempted to use financial regulators to deprive the NRA of access to banking services and insurance, thereby ending its ability to engage in organized public advocacy; in Los Angeles, the city demanded that any NRA member doing business with the city identify himself, an attack on the First Amendment that was almost immediately shut down by a federal judge acknowledging the “overwhelming” evidence that the purpose of this was “to suppress the message of the NRA.”

If Wayne LaPierre or other NRA executives have committed a crime, then indict them and present the evidence in a criminal court. The attempt to legally dissolve the NRA instead is pure political score-settling, and an assault on the First Amendment, the rule of law, and democracy itself.

Your Fancy Is Begging to Be Tickled by this Double Septet of Examples Conservative Brilliance

1. Rich Lowry applies ruler to the knuckles of the teacher unions, which once again are placing kids last. From the piece:

Then, there are the teachers unions.

Their approach has been a diametrically opposed to that of the everyday heroes of America. Their first and last thought has been of their own interests. They have sought to limit their labor while still getting paid — at the ultimate cost of the education of kids who may never fully make up the gaps in their learning during their time away from the classroom.

Obviously, any gathering of people has its risks, and school districts should make every reasonable accommodation to the realities of the pandemic. There are many teachers who are better than their unions — or not members of a union at all — and some are truly at high risk from the virus. All of this is true enough, and yet the unions have represented institutional laziness and selfishness at a time of incredible strain for parents across the country.

The unions have a handy foil in President Trump, who has taken up the cause of school reopening with his usual deftness, which is to say none at all.

But it shouldn’t require wearing a MAGA hat to acknowledge the benefits of in-person instruction. And the experience of other advanced countries suggests it carries low risks.

2. Andrew McCarthy makes legal mincemeat of the Democrat canard that Candidate Trump received a “defensive briefing.” From the analysis:

That “defensive briefing” lie should now be put to rest, thanks to the recently declassified FBI report about the session. Yes, one big takeaway is that the FBI used the “briefing” as an investigative operation. But don’t miss the forest for the trees. Even on its own deceptive terms, the faux briefing was neither portrayed nor conducted by the FBI as defensive to warn the Trump campaign; it was a standard counterintelligence and security briefing for presidential candidates.

Claims to the contrary notwithstanding, Trump never got a defensive briefing. Common sense tells you why: Our intelligence agencies do not give defensive briefings to someone they consider the main suspect. The main suspect is deemed the agent of a foreign power against whom others need defending. You don’t warn the main suspect that you are trying to catch him; you investigate the main suspect to try to make the case. It is the people around the main suspect who need a warning, not the other way around.

I first encountered the gambit to depict the August 2016 session as a defensive briefing a couple of years ago, as a panelist on a Fox News program. Floated by one of the ubiquitous, self-described “Democratic strategists,” it seemed out of left field. I countered that this was wrong, that the session was a standard intelligence briefing given to presidential candidates. But there wasn’t enough time to explain the difference between that and a defensive briefing.

Given all that is now publicly known, the defensive-briefing claim should be so discredited that even partisan Democrats refrain from invoking it. But no. A little over a week ago, I was invited to discuss Russiagate on Martha MacCallum’s Fox News program. The format had me following Representative Eric Swalwell (D., Calif.), a slippery partisan who put so much stock in the bogus Steele dossier that he has seamlessly become one of the last of the “collusion” dead-enders. When the question of why Trump’s campaign had not been given a defensive briefing came up, Swalwell insisted that it had gotten one.

3. Wasn’t the Left always telling us that guns were only safe in the hands of cops? That tune has changed, and John Lott considers what will happen when gun-rights are further restricted at a time when police departments are defunded. From the analysis:

After a concealed-carry-permit holder stopped a shooting last December at the West Freeway Church of Christ near Fort Worth, Texas, Michael Bloomberg warned that it didn’t mean we should put our faith in civilians. “It may be true that someone in the congregation had his own gun and killed the person who murdered two other people,” he said. “But it’s the job of law enforcement to have guns and to decide when to shoot. You just do not want the average citizen carrying a gun in a crowded place.”

But months later, with the movement to defund police all the rage, gun-control activists now don’t trust police with guns. The Trace, a Bloomberg-funded outlet dedicated to gun-control advocacy, is probably at odds with police in part because officers are so overwhelmingly in favor of gun ownership. Just in the last month, it’s published articles with such headlines as, “An Arkansas Cop Said He’d Shoot at Protestors. Then He Killed a Fellow Cop,” and “The ‘Warrior Cop’ Is a Toxic Mentality. And a Lucrative Industry.” And it advocates for disarming police, claiming that American officers kill civilians at higher rates than those in countries where law enforcement is unarmed.

Meanwhile, Shannon Watts, the head of the Bloomberg-funded Moms Demand Action, has said simply that “police violence is gun violence.” She has Tweeted that “Not only are these heavily armed secret police [sent by Trump are] a threat to the safety of Black Americans, they’re likely a precursor to what the administration is planning to try and suppress the vote in Black and Latino communities in November.”

4. As November approaches, Victor Davis Hanson senses that things of consequence, unseen and unforeseen may occur, and that they may favor the incumbent president. If he lets them. From the piece:

Joe Biden masterfully has been able to conduct a teleprompted Zoom/Skype, virtual campaign from his basement, and an occasional press conference with a few preselected questions to toadyish reporters.

He assumes there will be no convention, no stump speech, no hostile interviews — and prays for no debates. Biden may pull all that off, depending on the course of the virus over the next 90 days — and his own polls. If in such scripted appearances he appears just occasionally confused, as during the abbreviated primary season, or slurs his words, or at times goes off topic, his health will probably be a major issue, but not a deciding one.

However, if by October Biden is campaigning in traditional style, giving impromptu interviews and emulating Trump’s ubiquity, then there are real chances of deer-in the-headlights pivotal moments of utter confusion that could be determinative — given that their ubiquity could not be covered up by the pro-Biden media.

The key here is to watch Trump polls. If they linger at 42–43 positive in the RealClearPolitics averages, then Biden remains a virtual candidate. If Trump nears the 45–48 favorable range, Biden will be forced to emerge, and that could become catastrophic. Remember, Trump can be edgy, controversial, and unpopular, but selecting Biden as the nominee was the most reckless move the Democrats have pulled off in a generation. As Churchill said of the one figure in World War I who governed the fate of the omnipotent British fleet, Admiral Jellicoe: “Jellicoe was the only man on either side who could lose the war in an afternoon.” So too Biden is the only candidate who could lose his party everything in an hour or so.

5. Cameron Hilditch surveys the lockdown wreckage and discovers another epidemic has taken place — of domestic violence. From the piece:

Across the globe, women like Rahema have suffered at the hands of domestic abusers during this pandemic. In France, reported cases of domestic violence rose 30 percent from the time a lockdown was imposed March 17 to the beginning of April. Countries as varied as Argentina, Cyprus, and Singapore saw similarly significant increases in reports after imposing their own lockdowns. Where I live, in the U.K., 16 women and girls were killed in suspected domestic homicides during the first month of the lockdown in March, over three times the number who were killed during the same time span last year — and more have died in the months since. I was ashamed to discover while writing this piece that two of those women lived no more than a few miles away from me. Elizabeth Dobbin, age 82, was found dead in the home she shared with her 32-year-old grandson in Larne, Northern Ireland, on March 30. Emma Jane McParland, 39, was stabbed to death in her Belfast home on April 30, and her son has been charged with her murder. In spite of how close I live to where these ladies died, I didn’t hear about their murders when they happened, at the height of the lockdown. I imagine that their stories were buried under the daily body-count of COVID victims on the news, and that their bodies were buried in the presence of no more than ten people, each observing the proper social-distancing guidelines, of course.

The bottom line here is that the coronavirus has exacerbated certain (in some cases mutually reinforcing) social evils that are incidental to it and that will not vanish once a vaccine arrives. Domestic violence is one such evil, and the data we now possess on it should force us to recalibrate our pandemic-response efforts accordingly.

There are several areas of public concern related to the lockdowns that need to be reframed in light of the data on domestic violence. The first is school re-openings. Teachers are some of the most frequent reporters of child abuse in the country. Given the amount of daily contact they have with children, they are often the first to spot malnutrition, bruises, or other wounds, and social workers rely heavily on their testimony when evaluating whether or not a child is in a dangerous domestic situation. With the lockdown and suspension not only of schools, but of day-care centers, clubs, and sports teams, vulnerable children now have little, if any, contact with the members of their community who would otherwise be able to spot suspicious patterns of behavior. In late March, a hospital in Fort Worth, Texas, reported six physical-abuse cases involving children in a single week; the usual number is about eight a month. The National Sexual Assault Hotline saw an increase in calls from children during March, the first month of lockdown, compared with February. And yet, statistics like these simply never come up in the debate over re-opening schools.

6. Dan McLaughlin profiles Rhode Island senator, conspiracy theorist, and rule-of-law scoundrel Sheldon Whitehouse. From the analysis:

Typically of people who traffic in this sort of paranoia, Whitehouse gets even uglier after a decision does not go his way. The legal saga of Michael Flynn has faced its own torturous history, with a panel of the D.C. Circuit ordering the dismissal of the case, followed by the en banc Circuit recently deciding to rehear that dismissal. There are serious reasons why the Justice Department was right to abandon the Flynn prosecution, and difficult questions about when courts can and should demand the continued enforcement of a guilty plea when the prosecution itself wants to drop it. But for Whitehouse, channeling Donald Trump’s “so-called judge” rhetoric, the only possible explanation for an adverse ruling is a dark conspiracy; thus, he tweeted, “‘Judge’ Rao delivers the coverup she was put on the court for,” and ranted about “how flagrant ‘Judge’ Rao’s decision is, covering up Flynn scandal.” “Where you see Neomi Rao,” tweeted Whitehouse, “you can expect a lot of Trumpy dirt to follow. She’s a cartoon of a fake judge.”

Neomi Rao is, of course, the daughter of Indian immigrants and a Senate-confirmed federal-appeals judge with a stellar resume: graduate of Yale and the University of Chicago Law School, on the law review, Supreme Court clerk, white-shoe law firm, law professor, co-chair of an American Bar Association committee. But to Whitehouse, a single ruling he doesn’t like means “Judge” goes in scare quotes. Whitehouse’s particular crusade to smear Reo is longstanding. In another case, he tweeted that she was a “@FedSoc stooge . . . This is why Trump is packing the courts with political hacks. If there were more on this panel, they’d have covered up for him.”

During her confirmation hearings, Whitehouse launched an intemperate and false attack on an academic research center Reo founded, claiming that it was bankrolled, bought and paid for by his favorite Emmanuel Goldsteins: the Koch brothers and the Federalist Society.

7. Peter Jaworski and Samuel Hammond report that the miscreant hacks at WHO have also created a global blood-plasma shortage. From the piece:

Unfortunately, this is par for the course for the WHO. Take its stance on blood donation. Since adopting World Health Assembly Resolution 28.72 back in 1975, the WHO has consistently opposed compensation for blood and blood-plasma donors, pushing member countries to adopt its preferred model of “100 percent voluntary, non-remunerated” donation.

This model is rooted in the belief that paying donors will attract volunteers with risky lifestyles, resulting in less-safe blood and plasma. That may have been true in the 1970s and ’80s, and the safety of blood and plasma used for transfusions remains a complex issue to this day. But advancements in testing and other technologies have made the safety of paying donors a non-issue in the case of plasma used for plasma therapies. Thanks to advanced viral screening, removal, and inactivation techniques, every national health authority recognizes that plasma therapies derived from paid donations result in medicines that are just as safe and effective as those made from unpaid plasma donations.

Yet the WHO’s stance remains unchanged, and it has contributed to a global supply shortage that forces countries to import their blood plasma from the small number of countries who follow a paid model and thus have a surplus supply. The result has been a growing and unsustainable global reliance on the U.S. for plasma. Over 70 percent of the world’s supply of plasma, which is used to manufacture plasma-derived medicinal therapies such as immunoglobulin, albumin, and clotting factor, comes from the veins of paid American donors. Add in the other countries where donors can be paid — Germany, Austria, Czechia, and Hungary — and what you’re left with is five countries responsible for 90 percent of the global plasma supply.

8. Luther Abel is in on the scene, where he queries Portland mom Joanna as to why she is leaving the Oregon nuthouse. From the interview:

Abel: What would you say your occupation is?

Joanna: I’ve been a stay at home mom for years. My husband traveled for work 75 percent of the time, until the lockdowns from COVID. So I’ve been very involved with my children’s education. I moved them from the public elementary school to a local Catholic school in the neighborhood, for many of the reasons I was just describing.

Abel: What exactly made you switch?

Joanna: I was involved with the PTA program at the local public school when my daughter attended kindergarten and first grade and my son was in preschool. During the PTA meetings, there was constant debate and struggles with how best to spend our limited budget dollars. And we knew based on budget cuts to Portland Public Schools, that we were going to face teacher shortages, larger class sizes, and a reduction of certain elective classes like art and music. And in the midst of that, I was always trying to say, “Why don’t we find ways to use the money to benefit all students? let’s do things that are academically focused.” I always used the SMART reading program as a perfect example of an academic program that impacts all students at all levels across all grades. Academic integrity, to me, was what the school should be focused on; but, there was always a very vocal minority among the parents who were very adamant about “equity awareness” issues — things that would help support the minority student population. Compared to a lot of the other schools [we have] a higher percentage of African-American students there; and at the middle-school level, they really wanted to focus on a particular elective, a highly regarded African drumming class from a talented musician who was well respected in the community, but it was very expensive and it took a lot of dollars away to selectively impact very few. It wasn’t academic related. Every time I tried to object or provide redirection, it was viewed as insensitive or I wasn’t aware of the problem. This escalated to the point where they offered white ally trainings so that white parents could understand and learn their white privilege.

9. More Luther: He reports from the Portland Madness. From the story:

The second night I covered the ongoing Portland protests (you can read about the first night here), I decided to arrive at the hour when I had departed the night before: about 30 minutes past midnight. The crowd was significantly larger now compared with its size 24 hours before but also more dispersed. After protesters started a small fire with cardboard boxes and other random trash, people began to coalesce. The night before, I had focused on individual protesters, trying to grasp their rationale; the second night, I focused on the physical attacks on structures around Chapman and Lownsdale Squares. Three events made me reconsider my view of the protesters, especially those who are still in the streets at 2 a.m.

The first event was the tearing of plywood from the exterior of a kids’-entertainment business, Uncharted Realities, across the street from Lownsdale Square. In the video below you can hear and then see two individuals rend a sheet and a half of plywood from the face of the building and carry their acquisitions — like triumphant Viking raiders returning with pillage — approximately 100  yards, to the street in front of the federal courthouse. After the plywood is removed, one individual tries to enter the building but fails and gives up quickly. The protesters then strive to break a plywood board in half, with limited success; they finally prop it up, allowing them to apply more force and reduce the board to burnable sections, which they used to keep the street fire fueled.

10. Kyle Smith dials 911 on the Mayor de Blasio-manufactured policing crisis in New York City. From the piece:

The tangible effects of de Blasio’s approach are everywhere. De Blasio has a vision for the city, and the cops are determined to let it be realized. At Broadway and 40th Street, junkies are shooting up in plain sight, in daytime. (Around the corner from where Rent used to dazzle Giuliani-era tourists by painting a picture of shambolic life in pre-Giuliani New York). The police shrug. In a protest at City Hall park, one activist smacked a New York Post reporter in the face with a two-by-four in view of police, and the police initially yawned, making an arrest only after the Post ran a story about the matter. Compared with last year, homicides are up 24 percent, burglary is up 46 percent, and shootings are up a breathtaking 69 percent. New Yorkers sense the city, already reeling from the virus and the economic effects of the lockdown, is sinking into lawlessness. De Blasio’s answer has been not to make amends with the police but to send crime counselors out into the street to advise people not to do bad things. Step forward, “violence interrupters.” I’m sure such “community groups” will talk the thugs out of shooting babies in their strollers.

With police already jumpy about getting engulfed by angry mobs, Molotov-cocktail attacks, and having their vehicles set on fire in even the toniest neighborhoods, they see de Blasio’s policy actions and public comments as gratuitous insults. Police unions have been buying full-page ads in the Post blasting de Blasio’s disastrous leadership, and one such union, the Sergeants Benevolent Association, has taken to ripping de Blasio in social media. Cops are lining up to hand in their retirement papers.

11. Therese Shaheen sheds light on the real “Two Chinas,” where a de facto caste system is very much in place. From the article:

For in truth, on the mainland today, there are two Chinas. There is the China of densely populated, modern urban centers such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Chongqing, and there is the China of everywhere else. The China of everywhere else is dollars-a-day poor, uneducated, and aging. It is also vast, containing some 600–700 million people, or about half of the total Chinese population.

The two Chinas are the direct result of government policy — and the source of a structural weakness that cannot be remedied as things stand now. The country’s internal-passport, or hukou system, requires families to register in their region of origin and entitles them only to the social, education, and economic benefits allocated to that region by the government. It extends back centuries but was enshrined as a tool of economic and social control under Mao Zedong. Designed to limit economic mobility and tilt economic benefits toward the urban elite, it has created a kind of caste system, an unbridgeable gulf between China’s wealthy city-dwellers and its rural poor.

CCP general secretary Xi Jinping is seen as an advocate for reform of the system, but his motives are not altruistic. He knows that the existence of the two Chinas has created the conditions for social unrest, as employment and income in the countryside decrease while the social safety net frays. He also knows that the import-substitution model of economic development that China has followed must eventually end if national income is to rise further. The continued prosperity of Chinese cities depends on low-cost labor, and the country has plenty of that; it’s just in the wrong places.

12. China Con’d: Jimmy Quinn is ringside for the Trump versus TikTok fight. From the piece:

For this reason, the talk of a ban made sense, if Trump’s comments Monday about making a Treasury payment for an acquisition deal sounded unserious. Thanks to a combination of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and a May 2019 executive order, the president has the necessary powers to enact such a measure, essentially forcing TikTok off Apple’s App Store and the Google Play Store. (He could also do this by ordering the Commerce Department to place TikTok on the Entity List, a government blacklist.) A ban could get messy, though, because the app would still remain on the phones of the 100 million Americans who already have downloaded it. Short of a U.S. government move to block Americans from connecting to the app — a drastic measure that appears not to be under consideration here — it would be at an impasse. However, Robert Chesney suggests in an analysis for Lawfare that a ban might convince creators to leave the platform, taking their audiences with them.

But such a move could still come with the potential political cost of antagonizing TikTok’s Gen Z users, many of whom are conservative. This was not lost on the Trump administration, which eventually allowed Microsoft to proceed with its negotiations to acquire TikTok’s operations in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. TikTok’s acquisition by an American company would be a victory for the Trump administration, but not just any deal will suffice. To eliminate the security risk, an agreement would need to result in all of TikTok’s operations being brought to the United States. As of now, the company’s software engineers are based in China, and ByteDance is responsible for all software decisions. Disrupting the CCP’s ability to influence the platform requires rebuilding these operations in the United States, where the app can be carefully audited. This would be a tall order — but a company with Microsoft’s resources might be up to the task.

13. Armond White mocks Beyoncé, cultural absolute monarch, and her new Disney production, Black Is King. From the review:

Now, Beyoncé encounters no cultural resistance; like her peers LeBron James and Colin Kaepernick, the singer-dancer-songwriter-actress simply follows fads — the “Black Lives Matter” and “Black Girl Magic” fads — without any historical or political foundation. These uninformed “influencers” display a simpleton’s version of ethnic pride, epitomized by Beyoncé’s going full “African” in extravagant costumes, makeup, ethnographic photography, and drumbeats. It’s the same narcissistic excess and contrivance that Robert Downey Jr. warned against in Tropic Thunder when actors go “full retard.”

In Beyoncé’s Black Is King fantasy, all black people — and all Africa — are the same. It’s as if she recognizes no distinction among Ilhan Omar, Idi Amin, Robert Mugabe, Miriam Makeba, Chinua Achebe, Ousmane Sembene, Haile Selassie, Idrissa Ouedraogo, Brenda Fassie, Nelson Mandela, Iman, John Kani, let alone Patrice Lumumba, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, or King Sunny Ade, or particular ideas her ancestors represented.

Black Is King’s assorted daydreams, designs, ethnicities, cosmologies, and polyglot nostrums (“Lost languages flow out of our mouths”) are sold as “a visual album.” It follows the coffee-table-book graphic appropriations of the music video genre’s peak achievements — stealing shamelessly from Hype Williams and Mark Romanek — only to illustrate how disoriented, misguided, and commercialized black identity has become. Black Is King’s faux-politics spring from Beyoncé’s agency (“agency” being a euphemism for “privilege”), yet it is insulting because Beyoncé uses the Disney cartoon The Lion King as the primal, biblical source of her pretend race consciousness.

14. Clang Clang Clang went the Dali: Brian Allen visits the Saint Louis Art Museum. It wows him. From the piece:

A hundred and one years later, the city was a metropolis, so much so that it hosted the 1904 World’s Fair, nominally in honor of the Louisiana Purchase’s centennial, and later sired the movie-musical Meet Me in Saint Louis, itself a claim to fame. This week, I’ll profile the museum, a jewel in America’s string of encyclopedic civic art galleries. Set outside Chicago, New York, and the nation’s capital, they’re icons of local pride and holders of the finest in world art. St. Louis Art Museum — it goes by SLAM, which is hip, so I tend not to like it — is a center for scholarship, too. Next week, I’ll review its solid show on Jean-Francois Millet.

I spent most of the day at the museum, which reopened with dispatch in mid-June. It’s new hygiene protocols are reasonable, easy to design and implement, and unobtrusive. For many reasons, service to the public is in St. Louis’s bones, so I’m not surprised it opened as soon as it could. In a normal year, the museum gets around 600,000 visitors. It was happily populated with art lovers when I was there.

I saw beauty after beauty, but for the subtlest cinematic magic nothing beats its Liu Cai silk scroll Fish Swimming and Falling Flowers, from around the late eleventh century. Liu is the Giotto of Chinese scroll painting. Running about eight feet, the rare colored ink scroll depicts pink flower petals drifting onto a transparent pool in which a cornucopia of fish swim. It’s both ethereal and documentary, with the precision of, let’s say, Audubon but the refinement and delicacy of angels. It’s the star of a fine collection of Asian art.

Capital Matters

1. Kevin Hassett has five questions for Trump trade honcho Peter Navarro. From the quintet, here’s one:

Have you accomplished as much as you hoped on trade? What does the agenda look like going forward?

President Trump promised during the 2016 campaign to renegotiate bad trade deals and put a big check in that box with a revamped South Korean pact and a swap of Joe Biden’s NAFTA for Donald Trump’s USMCA. We also have a Phase One deal with the CCP that addresses some of the seven deadly (structural) sins of CCP predation.

The Trump team thought we had a full and comprehensive deal with the CCP’s trade negotiators in May of 2019 — but the CCP reneged on it. Clearly, there is much more work to be done in the second term to end the CCP’s economic aggression. In the meantime, we fully expect the CCP to fully honor the terms of Phase One.

The broader mission of the Trump administration is to continue bringing our supply chains and production home, particularly for critical areas like Essential Medicines. If we have learned anything from this China virus pandemic, it is that the U.S. is dangerously dependent on the world for its medicines, medical supplies like masks and gowns, and medical equipment like ventilators. On August 6, 2020, President Trump signed a sweeping executive order to bring the production of our Essential Medicines back onshore.

When thinking about the American imperative to bring home our supply chains for critical sectors of our economy, classically trained economists must be much more mindful of the negative national-security, geopolitical, and exogenous shock externalities associated with global supply chains and build them into their models.

The world has changed. Our profession must do a better job of anticipating such change.

2. Sami Karim finds the goldbugs are happy. And probably rich too. From the analysis:

After a long decline in the 1980s and 1990s, gold began its rehabilitation on the eve of the new millennium. Had Swanson caught the gold bug in July 1999, when gold made a historic bottom at $252.8, he would have gained 677 percent from his investment, a performance that towers over the major stock indices.

Entire careers have been made in the stock market over that 21-year span, with billions of dollars flowing into the pockets of bankers and investment managers, and into their six-figure cars, seven-figure Hampton homes, and eight-figure private jets.

Yet none of these financiers’ portfolios has measured up to gold. The dumb barbaric yellow relic has trounced all of them over nearly every interval since 1999, as can be seen in the table above. The one exception to this public thrashing is the ten-year period since 2010 in which gold has underperformed only because it spiked in 2010-11, much as it is currently.

3. Mathis Bitton warns that the West must unite to offset Red China’s economic tyranny. From the commentary:

As long as distrust and animosity permeate Sino–American relations, a spiral of escalation appears inevitable. The two countries have fought over human-rights abuses in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, over trade and tariffs, over 5G technology, over the impact of TikTok, over the Taiwan Strait, over the South China Sea, and over the Persian Gulf. From territorial disputes to economic rivalry, a multitude of tensions have set the stage for a wider conflict between the two superpowers. These clashing interests could well become the foundations of a new Cold War.

Worse still, the formation of geopolitical blocs is well underway. At the United Nations Humans Rights Council in Geneva, 53 countries — most of which were African or Middle-Eastern — signed a statement in support of China’s “security” law. The only nations to stand against it were the U.S., a few EU member-states, the U.K., Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. In other words, everyone but a handful of democracies stood ready to support anti-liberal, repressive measures designed to crush peaceful and legitimate protests against Beijing. While we need not read these new political alignments as what Samuel Huntington called a “clash of civilizations,” this alarming state of affairs should make us wary of a growing opposition between, as historian Niall Ferguson put it, “the West and the rest.”

Where countries such as the U.K. have proven willing to join America’s efforts by banning Chinese 5G or offering refugee status to Hong Kong protesters, most non-European nation-states seem increasingly eager to allow — if not support — President Xi’s belligerent foreign policy. While their passivity need not mean that they applaud the CCP’s actions with enthusiasm, it may point to China’s growing economic influence — for instance, since China has invested billions in Africa, states whose survival depends upon Chinese investments are unlikely to challenge Xi Jinping’s geopolitical decisions. In fact, the CCP has shown itself capable of wielding its considerable economic power as an instrument of coercion. After threatening to impose disproportionate tariffs upon the EU if member-states refused to let Huawei control their 5G infrastructure, China cut off imports of beef from Australia because its government asked international institutions to investigate the origins of COVID-19 — thereby depriving Australians of a major source of export revenues.

4. Kevin Brady ties the Stimulus to achieving independence from Red China’s grip on the medical industry. From the piece:

However, Congress needs to include two more key elements to restore a strong, post-COVID economy that expands paychecks and increases the number of U.S. jobs: First, we must make America medically independent from China. Second, we must use pro-growth policies that will foster real prosperity beyond just getting through the next few months.

During this crisis, we have learned about America’s vulnerability to China when it comes to crucial medicines, medical supplies, ingredients, and technology. Yet Congress, despite spending trillions to deal with the fallout from that vulnerability, has not acted on this cruel COVID lesson.

Working with House Republicans, the Ways and Means Committee GOP have developed and introduced legislation to make America medically independent from China. Our approach establishes resilient supply chains anchored in the U.S. and running through reliable trading partners.

These bills include aggressive, smart tax incentives to on-shore the research and manufacturing of crucial medicines, medical supplies, ingredients, and technology. We offer new tax incentives for developing more infectious-disease drugs while cutting the corporate tax rate in half for advanced manufacturing done here in the U.S.

5. Kevin Williamson makes the case for a federal COVID-liability shield. From the article:

The coronavirus epidemic is an extraordinary event that requires an extraordinary legislative response. But the workaday problem of excessive and abusive litigation, especially against businesses, has been around since long before the coronavirus, and almost certainly will still be a problem when we have put this ghastly epidemic behind us. This is a fight worth having, and the reformers have not yet begun to fight — at least, they have not pressed the fight to anywhere near the point they must. There has been some encouraging action, notably in Louisiana. There is room for much more.

Tort reform presents a classic case of concentrated benefits vs. dispersed costs. The lawyers who get rich by suing businesses — in response to legitimate abuses or for purely mercenary harassment — have fought reform tooth and talon, and they can be counted on to continue doing so. Business leaders understand the issue from the other side, though it does not land on them with great weight until they find themselves in the crosshairs. Most of the real cost is borne by third parties, meaning consumers, meaning you and me. We pay more for food and medicine, for housing, for everything that moves in a truck, for everything that requires labor — for everything, effectively — in order to enable the nation’s trial lawyers to make the payments on their G550s.

I do not mean to suggest that the trial bar is purely parasitic. Individuals and institutions sometimes damage the well-being of others in a way that violates the law, and the trial bar, when it is functioning as it should, works as a kind of supplementary regulatory apparatus. There are even some kinds of lawsuits that we do not have enough of, notably libel and lawsuits against the likes of the Washington Post and Joy Reid. But the loosey-goosey norms of American tort action create powerful incentives for irresponsible and opportunistic litigation, which can impose very high costs, e.g. contributing to the high cost of doctors’ fees by making malpractice insurance radically more expensive than it needs to be. Texas has made some progress on that front, with the predictable result of the Texas Medical Board licensing a record number of new physicians in the years after the reforms were implemented. Fewer lawsuits means lower insurance costs means more doctors and more competition.

NR’s New Issue Takes on History’s Poster Bigot of the Left

The August 24, 2020 issue of National Review is out, awaiting your eyeballs. All of it can be read if you have an NRPLUS subscription. (You don’t? Fix that now by subscribing here.) As ever, there is much wisdom and conservative honesty found on every page between the covers, and as is our custom, we share a sampling of such:

1. Kevin Williamson’s cover essay takes on Karl Marx, enduring in nasty consequence (per the subtitle: “Man of letters, Jew-hating bigot, patron saint of Black Lives Matter”). From the essay:

Our contemporary Marxists are not as embarrassed by Marx’s racism and anti-Semitism as they should be — or, indeed, even as embarrassed as some of Marx’s contemporaries were. In an 1890 letter, Friedrich Engels chastised his collaborator for his obsessive Jew-hatred, reminding him that “anti-Semitism betokens a retarded culture, which is why it is found only in Prussia and Austria, and in Russia too. Anyone dabbling in anti-Semitism, either in England or in America, would simply be ridiculed.”

Marx was not unique in being an anti-Semite of Jewish origin or in leaning on ethnic stereotypes (e.g., he spoke of “lazy Mexicans” who would benefit by being politically dominated by the United States). He can be found abusing his rivals with ethnic slurs, sometimes practically rococo in their ornamentation. (His letter to Engels denouncing “Der jüdische N*****” Ferdinand Lassalle, which includes spiteful racial speculations about the man’s ancestry, is the most infamous example.) But Judaism was hardly an afterthought to the father of socialism. It is notable that one of Marx’s first high-profile contributions to intellectual life was “On the Jewish Question,” which is full of anti-Jewish invective: “What is the worldly cult of the Jew? Huckstering. . . . The bill of exchange is the real god of the Jew.” It traffics in familiar anti-Semitic canards, including the claim that the Jews who were being persecuted in Europe in Marx’s time were secretly dominating public affairs through their financial power: “The contradiction which exists between the effective political power of the Jew and his political rights is the contradiction between politics and the power of money,” Marx writes.

(Engels again offers a corrective, writing to Marx: “In North America not a single Jewis to be found among the millionaires.”)

2. Andrew McCarthy, who knows a thing or two about the Department of Justice, analyzes the performance of AG Bill Barr. From the article:

When it comes to the Justice Department, Barr is an institutionalist — and coming from this former federal prosecutor, that’s no pejorative. Before succeeding Richard Thornburgh as President George H. W. Bush’s attorney general, Barr had been the deputy AG, and before that the assistant attorney general in charge of the Office of Legal Counsel — the “lawyers’ lawyer” post at Justice, formerly held by such luminaries as Supreme Court justices Antonin Scalia and William Rehnquist.

Barr had first navigated the crossroads of law and politics as a domestic-policy staffer in the Reagan White House. Yet it was foreign relations, in all its intrigue, that drew him to government, as an analyst in the CIA’s intelligence directorate. Raised on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Barr initially envisioned a career as a China expert while completing bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Columbia University. Even as he worked at the CIA, though, he excelled as a student at George Washington University’s law school, earning a prestigious clerkship on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. With such credentials, and in that bygone time, Barr was confirmed in 1991 by a voice vote of the full Senate. In stark contrast, as Trump’s AG nominee in 2019, Barr was confirmed over the nay votes of some 45 Democrats.

This unmovable wall of opposition was unsurprising, notwithstanding Barr’s repeated testimonial assurances that “the attorney general must ensure that the administration of justice, the enforcement of the law, is above and away from politics,” that “any toleration of political interference” would be uniquely “destructive” of the Justice Department as an institution and, in turn, of the rule of law and our system of government. He took the job as the Mueller probe was winding toward its conclusion, with Democrats, Never Trumpers, and their media allies still expecting the boom to be lowered on the president — if not felony charges (seemingly foreclosed by longstanding Justice Department guidance against indicting a sitting president), then at least a roadmap to impeachment.

3. Rich Lowry and Ramesh Ponnuru explain Trump’s poor re-elect poll numbers and odds. From the piece:

The standard restrictions apply: There are around three months to go, state-level polling was off in 2016, and Trump doesn’t have to make up much ground to be within plausible range of another Electoral College victory. Still, his situation is dire by any measure. Underlying conditions have turned against him, yet even when the economy was thriving, Trump was in a notably perilous position for a president presiding over peace and prosperity. The fault is not in his stars but in his tweets, erratic behavior, scattershot belligerence, and denials of reality, which had already made him radioactive before what he sometimes calls the “Wuhan flu” ever emerged.

Trump is thin-skinned, self-obsessed, small-minded, intellectually lazy, and ill-disciplined. These never seemed to be great qualities in a chief executive, but they have caught up with Trump over the last six months in particular. They have played into his poor handling of the coronavirus crisis and the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd. When times became more serious, he remained as unserious as ever.

COVID has been the main factor worsening his political condition. The damage didn’t register in the polls at first. At the end of March and beginning of April, polling had his handling of the crisis in positive territory, a kind of rally-around-the-flag effect. But the effect was smaller and shorter-lived for him than it was for other officials, in the states and abroad. As of early August, the average of the polling at the website FiveThirtyEight has his rating on the crisis at 58 percent disapprove and 38 percent approve. This is a flashing red light given that COVID is the most important issue to voters at the moment, a rare instance when the economy isn’t the top issue in a presidential election.

4. If / when the filibuster is gone, Congress will change in many ways, says Luke Thompson. Many bad ways. From the piece:

Nonetheless, pressure is building in Democratic circles to eliminate the filibuster once and for all. According to reporting in The Hill, Oregon senator Jeff Merkley, one of the chamber’s most outspoken liberals, is circulating “nuclear option” proposals to end the already attenuated filibuster. Delaware senator Chris Coons, who frequently masquerades as a moderate, made clear his support for abolishing the procedure should it prove a barrier to a hypothetical Biden agenda. When Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, cautioned against filibuster reform, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow responded with a tweet reading, simply, “LOLOLOL.”

This marks a shift from a year ago, when Senate Democrats were more divided on the question. At that point, Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, was pushing for eliminating the filibuster as part of her misbegotten presidential campaign. Under pressure, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, of New York, said in July that nothing was “off the table” when it came to the filibuster, and Dick Durbin, of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, made similar noises. Yet at that point, numerous other Democrats seemed reluctant, including Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris, neither of whom could be described as a “moderate.” Virginia’s Tim Kaine, who like Coons has mastered the art of getting the D.C. press corps to call him a “moderate” for little discernible reason, also expressed concern.

Now the ranks of reluctant Democrats seem to be shrinking. Many of those mentioned above are changing their tune or avoiding the question, leaving a smaller cadre of liberal senators expressing skepticism about the nuclear option. Angus King, of Maine, an independent in-name-only, has expressed discomfort with the move. Dianne Feinstein, of California, certainly no moderate, has also said that she believes the legislative filibuster serves the Senate well. Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, whose overwhelmingly conservative voters would no doubt object to greasing the skids for liberal legislation, says he opposes the nuclear option in no uncertain terms. According to a Politico profile from late last year, Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema likewise opposes the move.

If these four continue to hold out, Democrats will need to do much better than expected in this fall’s Senate races to have the numbers required to kill the filibuster once and for all.

Elsewhere in the Conservative Solar System

1. A Catholic college cancels Flannery O’Connor. Marc Guerra tells the story at Catholic World Report. From the article:

Maritain’s phrase “kneel before the world” came to mind on hearing of Loyola University Maryland’s “cancelling” of Flannery O’Connor. Confronted with a signed, two-sentence petition from students that referred to “recent letters and postcards written by Flannery O’Connor” containing “strong racist sentiments and hate speech,” the university’s president, Brian F. Linnane, S.J., announced that the Flannery O’Connor Residence Hall would be renamed for Sister Thea Bowman. Many of the students who signed the petition demanding Loyola remove her name from the hall did not know who the author of the “recent letters and postcards” was or that the author died in 1964 or even that Flannery O’Connor was a woman.

The precipitating cause of the student petition was an essay published in The New Yorker by Paul Elie in mid-June, titled “How Racist Was Flannery O’Connor?” Cherry-picking from Angela Alaimo O’Donnell’s Radical Ambivalence, Elie’s piece credits its author with discovering and bravely bringing forth allegedly damning new evidence of the principled integrationist’s own personal struggles with the race question and her use of unflattering racial language in some of her personal writings. (Of particular concern to Elie is a 1964 letter in which a 39-year-old O’Connor states, “About the Negroes, the kind I don’t like is the philosophizing, prophesying, pontificating kind, the James Baldwin kind . . . My question is usually would this person be endurable if white”).

Despite Elie’s hyperbolic claims to the contrary, his essay does not reveal anything substantially new — either in terms of factual information or moral and spiritual truth — about O’Connor. The fact that she occasionally referred to black people using language that we find not just indelicate but morally offensive has been known by professional and amateur readers of O’Connor since the first volumes of her letters were published back in the 1970s. The deeper point is that Elie’s sensationalist charge of racism, leveled weeks after the killing of George Floyd, is both unfair and untrue (and exploits both Floyd’s death and O’Connor’s character to tap into a cultural moment). Pouring over her private correspondences and her published stories, one finds no evidence that she classified people, who she profoundly believed were made in the image of God and saved in Jesus Christ, by their race or evaluated the dignity of an individual based on his skin color. Even the remark about James Baldwin that Elie tries to make great hay out of, shows just the opposite is true. Her objection to Baldwin is that he is a blusterer, that he opines freely on subjects on which he can make no special claim to knowledge — by contrast, in the same letter, she speaks respectfully about Martin Luther King, Jr. and, believe it or not, admiringly of Cassius Clay. If anything, her remarks about Baldwin reveal a woman who was at times difficult to be around — setting the bar at whether a “person” is “endurable” does not expect too much from human beings.

2. In the new issue of National Affairs, Greg Weiner decries the dearth of prudence in politics. From the essay:

Aquinas — for whom prudence was a moral virtue — says in the Summa Theologica that “providence” is “the principal part of prudence.” He continues: “The other two parts of prudence, memory of the past and understanding of the present, are subordinate to it, helping us decide how to provide for the future.”

Burke expressed much the same sentiment when he said that “a disposition to preserve, and an ability to improve, taken together, would be my standard of a statesman.” Burke’s unique contribution to our understanding of prudence was to theorize its cautious dimension as rooted in what he called “a moral rather than a complexional timidity”; that is, a timidity arising from humility in the face of our limited ability to comprehend the infinite complexity of human, and particularly of social, affairs. As such, it does not make prudent statesmen timid in action — they are often very bold. But it makes them timid in the confidence they have regarding their own knowledge.

This is the moral core of prudence, the intersection between limitation and humility. It is based on what we do not, and often cannot, know. For Burke, it leads to the assumption that the aggregated wisdom of human experience as reflected through tradition is a surer guide than metaphysical abstraction at a single moment in time. Prudence is inseparable from the rivers of tradition on which we are all borne — swimming against them without endeavoring to understand them is simply flailing — and inseparable from their relationship to the future.

Michael Oakeshott understood the rejection of history and habit in favor of reason that addresses all problems de novo to be the essence of what he called, and deliberately capitalized as, “Rationalism.” For the Rationalist, politics was “a matter of solving problems, and in this no man can hope to be successful whose reason has become inflexible by surrender to habit or is clouded by the fumes of tradition.” But this “assimilation of politics to engineering” was a chimera: “the myth of rationalist politics.” Just as progressivism’s tendency was to compress authority into a single office, Rationalism’s was to compress time into a single moment: now. Problems exist now and must be solved, mechanically and scientifically. The result is Progress, which John Stuart Mill — whose On Liberty is misread as a libertarian rather than a progressive manifesto — foresaw.

3. At The College Fix, the great Jennifer Kabbany reports on how Wright State has barred an economics professor from offering a course critical of Karl Marx. From the article:

A longtime economics professor at Wright State University who has repeatedly requested permission to teach a class critical of Marxism has been rebuffed by his bosses and peers who appear unwilling to allow the topic to be taught to the general student population.

Meanwhile, the university frequently offers courses that praise Marxism, economics Professor Evan Osborne told The College Fix.

Osborne said the “short version” of his predicament “is that we have an angry, radical-left cohort in the department, they praise Marxism in the classroom, they will not let me teach critically about it, and numerous people in the university have refused to do anything about it.”

While Osborne has recently been given permission to teach the class this fall to honors students, he is not allowed to open the class to the entire student body, he said. Only honors students may enroll in honors courses.

Osborne has been able to teach his class once before, as an honors course in fall 2014. Again, only honors students were permitted to enroll.

After the class went well, Osborne said he proposed it as an economics elective or as a special topics course that any business student could enroll in. Today, all these years later, his battle to open the course to all such students continues, he said.

“That my department is full of extremists who probably don’t belong in a business-college economics department, to be sure, is a manifestation of academic freedom,” Osborne told The College Fix via email. “And I do not want to change how economics is taught at WSU, broadly speaking. I just want my academic freedom to offer a different view to also be respected.”

4. At Law & Liberty, Emina Melonic explores the “dialogic imagination” of the late Michael Oakshott. From the essay:

Oakeshott is a philosopher who understands and takes seriously the primacy of metaphysics. This is one of the reasons why his insights into politics and political philosophy are original and valuable. Without taking into consideration a metaphysical make-up of human beings and the world that surrounds them, comprehending political life will be difficult and incomplete.

For Oakeshott, life is composed of modes of being and individual experiences. Each mode of being, be it intellectual or practical, is working toward something in a particular sphere of existences. But this does not mean that all we are is just a bunch of “modes” swarming around, unrelated to each other, free of responsibility and consequences of our choices, however big or small they may be. Rather, the spheres that are composed of both experience and reality are in constant dialogue. As Oakeshott writes in Experience and Its Modes, “. . . no separation is possible between experience and reality. Reality is nothing but experience, the world of experience as a coherent whole. Everything is real so long as we do not take it for more or less than it is. Nothing is real save the world of experience single and complete. Thus, reality is a world, and is a world of ideas.”

The last part of this passage is crucial because Oakeshott connects a philosophy of what we may call ‘experiential metaphysics’ to the fact that our society ‘runs’ on ideas. While in Experience and Its Modes, we see explorations of a variety of experiences and knowledge that is centrally focused on the metaphysical explorations, in Rationalism in Politics, we witness an interesting development in Oakeshott’s thought. It is, in many ways, a continuation of what he has achieved in Experience and Its Modes, which focuses on the way we think and judge. In this case, mode has an ontological connotation, and Oakeshott defines modes of being as ideas of the world and their representation in thought and experience.

He divides the human experience into three modes: history, science, and practice. In this philosophical endeavor, which might be best described as ‘metaphysical epistemology,’ Oakeshott shows that three separate modes of being that are constantly communicating with one another, and bridging the theoretical ideal of a particular mode with that of practice. In other words, the modes are not mere philosophical constructs but are firmly connected to reality.

5. At the Mercatus Center blog, The Bridge, Charles Lipson accuses Woke colleges of manufacturing conformists. From the essay:

Don’t be fooled by universities’ incessant chatter about “diversity.” Most are poster children for ideological conformity and proud of it. The faculty, students, and administrators know it. Indeed, many welcome it since their views are so obviously right and other views so obviously wrong. They believe discordant views are so objectionable that no one should express them publicly.

What views are now considered beyond the pale? They almost always involve ordinary political differences. We are not talking here about direct physical threats. Those are already illegal, and universities rightly deal with them. They don’t have to face neo-Nazi marches. Nor is anyone advocating such noxious ideas as genocide, slavery, or child molestation. Speech about those subjects might be legal, but virtually nobody is making the case for them. That is not what the fight for freedom of speech on campus is about. It is about the freedom to voice — or even hear — unpopular views on topics such as merit-based admissions, affirmative action, transgender competition in women’s sports, abortion, and support for Israel.

These are perfectly legitimate topics, and students ought to be free to hear different ideas about them. They are hotly contested topics in America’s body politic. That’s how democracies work. Not so on college campuses, where the “wrong views” are not just minority opinions. They are verboten, and so are the people who dare express them. Challenging this repressive conformity invites condemnation, severs friendships, and threatens careers. It is hardly surprising that few rise to challenge it.

Worse yet, university leaders seldom do. They have a fundamental responsibility to defend open discourse, and they have largely abdicated it. Shame on them. Instead of defending the free expression of unpopular views, they condemn them and flaunt their own virtue. That’s what Princeton’s president Christopher Eisgruber did when he attacked classics professor Joshua Katz, saying Katz had not exercised free speech “responsibly” when he allegedly gave a “false description” of a Black student group. Katz’s own department condemned him, too, though the university finally decided the professor would not be formally punished. They will save the ducking chair for another day.

6. At Gatestone Institute, Lawrence A. Franklin argues that containment of Red China needs to be the top goal of Western leaders. From the beginning of the piece:

After China’s many transgressions over the past 50 years — including the theft of $600 billion of U.S. intellectual property each year; Beijing’s malignant cover-up of the Covid-19 virus; the Communist regime’s attempts to blind US airmen with lasers; constructing military islands in the South China Sea, and last month sending a massive fleet of 250 Chinese fishing vessels near the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador, to name but a few — the military containment of Chinese expansionism and Communist Party Chairman Xi Jinping’s stated goal of world domination needs to be the highest foreign policy priority of the Free World.

The ultimate objective of this initiative would be to prevent Communist China’s aggression against the independent states of the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.

China’s walk-in-the-park takeover of Hong Kong — an illegal appropriation — undoubtedly served to whet China’s expansionist appetite.

The first military containment of China could encompass a broad and multi-tiered defense perimeter in an arc extending from Japan’s coastal waters, southeast to the continent of Australia, and northwest to the Himalayan borderlands between China and India, where China has already been attempting a land invasion. Although China’s recent record of malign behavior has drawn the ire of many, China is encouragingly vulnerable. Fourteen states share sections of China’s land borders, and the Chinese already have territorial disputes with 18 countries.

The leaders of China’s Communist Party have been clear about China’s territorial claims, particularly in the South China Sea. China’s claim there, if realized, would include about 85% of the waters off China and most of the island archipelagos within the South China Sea. The United States needs to be unambiguously clear that it will physically block any Chinese effort to realize any baseless assertions of Chinese sovereignty. America’s determination also needs be transparent so that Chinese leaders do not doubt U.S. resolve, in case China might be tempted to check it by staging a violent incident.

7. At First Things, the exceptional Daniel Mahoney makes the case for considering the late political philosopher Aurel Kolnai for an intelligent critique of civilization-assaulting nihilism. From the piece:

After the war, Kolnai taught at the University of Laval in Quebec City before his final move to England and the University of Bedford in 1955. While in Quebec City, he concluded that communism, not Nazism, was the most “perfected” form of totalitarianism. In 1950, he wrote a daring and illuminating essay called “Three Riders of the Apocalypse” in which he discussed the affinities among Nazism, communism, and what he called “progressive democracy.” As we shall see, Kolnai saw much truth in democracy and in Chesterton’s “plain man,” but opposed the doctrinaire and even revolutionary democratic notions advanced in the name of the “common man.” In an essay from the same period, “The Meaning of the Common Man,” Kolnai outlined an alternative to the illusions of “progressive democracy.” A democracy worth its salt should emphasize its political continuity with Western traditions of constitutionalism and its “moral continuity with the high tradition of Antiquity, Christendom, and the half-surviving Liberal cultures of yesterday.” True democracy, informed by conservative constitutionalism and the moral law, is rooted in respect for the rule of law and a transcendental support for human liberty and dignity.

Unlike “progressive democracy,” Kolnai argued, conservative democracy respects the best of the liberal tradition and rests upon a balanced social and political order that limits “all social powers and political prerogatives” and defers “to a Power radically beyond and above Man in his social reality, in his political dignity and in all manifestations of his ‘will.’” Kolnai was a thoughtful partisan of what Tocqueville once called “liberty under God and the law.” Progressive democrats see “no enemies to the Left.” They too often indulge revolutionary regimes and destructive social movements–precisely because these “democrats” have distorted and repudiated indispensable Christian categories. At a profoundly spiritual level, Christianity set men free and “lifted [them] above the flats of his fallen nature.” Modern humanitarianism, the religion of humanity, put forth a new, utopian program whereby angry and impatient human beings “construed the automatic workings of [man’s] fallen nature into a mirage of self-made heaven.” And in the final, “metaphysically mad” epiphany, to cite a Burkean formulation, revolutionaries engage in destructive totalitarian projects that attack recalcitrant reality, “afire with the unholy rage of . . . emancipation and sovereignty.” All of this necessarily culminates in what Kolnai never tired of calling “the self-enslavement of man.”

8. At The Imaginative Conservative, brilliant Bradley Birzer scopes out Harry Truman’s deep affinity for Thomas Jefferson, and how he sought to weave that love, as well as the Declaration of Independence, into the fledgling United Nations. From the piece:

Truly, Truman believed, America must resolve to be the defender of the United Nations itself, the true defender of the Declaration of Independence.

Again, it should be noted, Truman had made similar points throughout his presidency. Before the struggles of the Korean peninsula became a tragic and hot reality for America, in 1947, Truman had already tied the fortunes of Jefferson and the Declaration to the United Nations. In his Jefferson Day speech of that year, he said the United States must be willing to support the United Nations, citing the case of the Monroe Doctrine and Jefferson’s support of it as evidence that he would support the UN. “We, like Jefferson, have witnessed atrocious violations of the rights of nations. We, too, have regarded them as occasions not to be slighted. We, too, have declared our protest. We must make that protest effective by aiding those peoples whose freedoms are endangered by foreign pressures.”

To be sure, Truman’s co-opting of Jefferson did not go unchallenged. Washington, in his Farewell Address, and Jefferson, in his First Inaugural, had openly and unreservedly called for a policy of American republicanism to prevent the entanglement of alliances with powers that felt no virtue or right. Washington had famously stressed an openness in commercial policy, but a reservedness (to the extreme) in foreign entanglements. Not surprisingly, Truman’s most vocal critics came from the anti-war Right. William Henry Chamberlin of The Wall Street Journal wondered aloud what Jefferson might think, had he actually attended any of Truman’s talks. What happened, Chamberlain wondered, to Jefferson’s cautions against government overreach, at home and abroad? “So the foundations of the American [Jeffersonian] idea may be summarized as follows: belief in intense distrust of any concentration of power in government, firm rejection of tyranny, whether of a monarch, a dictator or a mob, faith in equality and opportunity.”

9. At Real Clear Defense, Francis Sempa says Red China’s rise proved Douglas MacArthur right. From the article

With the benefit of hindsight, we can look back across the past 70 years and see Communist China develop into a first-rate power that threatens — with its increasingly powerful navy, its growing and more sophisticated army, and its global geopolitical vision known as the Belt and Road Initiative — hegemony on the Eurasian landmass. MacArthur, to his credit, sensed this 70 years ago. China, under Mao’s regime, he wrote in a memorandum to George Marshall in November 1950, is manifesting “increasingly dominant aggressive tendencies,” leading to the creation “of a new and dominant power in Asia.” The Chinese Communist Party, he continued, is “aggressively imperialistic with a lust for expansion and increased power.” “When [the Chinese] reach fructification of their military potential,” MacArthur warned, “I dread to think what may happen.”

Truman and his top advisers were Eurocentric in their approach to international politics. They understandably and perhaps correctly perceived the principal immediate threat to U.S. security as emanating from Europe. This may explain, in part, Truman’s disastrous policies in Asia beginning with his abandonment of the Chinese Nationalists during China’s civil war and culminating in the Korean War stalemate. MacArthur’s geopolitical view was more comprehensive, more global. He sensed that the future pivot of world politics was in the Asia-Pacific, not Europe — and he was right.

A Dios

The crazy-named tropical storm came to this part of the Republic with a sneaky fury, depositing twisters and some just-about versions of such, creating chaos, leaving behind multitudes without power, not even The Power of HooDoo. As the milk curdles and the frozen chicken thighs melt in the lifeless refrigerator, we nevertheless take confidence that God in His Heaven will provide. After all, does He not feed the birds of the air, who neither sow nor reap nor gather? Before returning to the chainsaw and gathering (the wreckage, which abounds), we remain thankful for our fortunes, and for the fact that we live in this Great Nation.

May His Graces Be Abundant and Fruitful and Available to You and Yours,

Jack Fowler, who will respond to any communication, with however many fingers remain, if sent to jfowler@nationalreview.com.

P.S.: Don’t forget to support the National Review webathon. Do that here.

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