Dear Weekend Jolters,
How delicious this all is, to see a plot, actual and nefarious and contrived, flop, to see its game plan and perpetrators exposed, to watch the shameless media enablers — in large part the same cabal found contorting about Joe Biden allegations — unclutching their pearls just long enough to tweet hackneyed outrage, to project (“injustice!”) as cheeks crack and cataracts spout rage, to cry wolf yet again.
Meanwhile, the tide turns, it comes high . . . and the sandcastles are getting washed away. Boo hoo!
Our Andrew C. McCarthy knows a thing or two about federal prosecuting, and right after the news broke that the Justice Department was dropping its disgraceful case again General Michael Flynn, he penned a summary analysis for the New York Post, which we recommend you read, and which ended thusly:
The case was troubling enough that Attorney General Bill Barr appointed US Attorney Jeff Jensen of St. Louis to review it. This has recently resulted in eye-popping disclosures: Indications that there was an agreement not to prosecute Flynn’s son (which was not disclosed to the court); the withholding of exculpatory evidence, including the FBI’s perjury trap deliberations; and evidence that the bureau improperly edited its report summarizing its ambush interview of Flynn.
With Flynn’s tireless new attorney, Sidney Powell, pressing for more discovery and pleading with the judge to throw the case out based on outrageous government misconduct, the ball was in the Justice Department’s court. On Thursday, DOJ did the right thing, dropping the case.
General Flynn can never be made whole for the financial and emotional ruin wrought on him and his family over the last three years. But the prosecution’s decision to admit its case was baseless is better for Flynn than a pardon would have been. It is justice — too long delayed, but in the end not denied.
Closer to home, at NRO, Andy commented on renewed attention paid to the partially redacted Rosenstein “Scope” Memo, the Ground Zero of this legal insanity. It’s well worth the read. Here’s a slice:
Rosenstein agitated over being made the fall guy. In his hand-wringing over how to restore his reputation as a scrupulous nonpartisan (i.e., a nominally Republican bureaucrat admired by Democrats), he broached the possibilities of invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a mentally unfit president from office and of covertly recording the president in the Oval Office (if Trump ranted, recordings might convince the cabinet that he was unstable). Realizing that these were lunatic notions, Rosenstein finally settled on naming Mueller, a Beltway eminence, to be a special counsel. The appointment was made on May 17, with Rosenstein’s assurances to congressional Democrats that Mueller would have virtually boundless authority.
But the problem remained: There was no factual basis to believe that the Trump campaign, or anyone associated with it, had engaged in a conspiracy with the Kremlin to interfere with the 2016 campaign by cyberespionage or any other criminal activity.
The failure of Rosenstein’s order appointing Mueller to specify a proper foundation for a criminal probe was not just a public-perception problem for the Justice Department: It portended legal challenges. If Mueller charged anyone, as it appeared he was poised to do to Manafort (for tax and other crimes unrelated to Trump and Russia), the defense would surely claim that Mueller’s appointment was illegitimate.
To paper over this deficiency, Rosenstein issued the scope memo. Up until yesterday, we had been permitted to see only the Manafort-related passages (because, as just adumbrated, they became an issue in Mueller’s prosecution of Manafort). But as I noted at the time, even that glimpse of the memo provided insight into the travesty that was the Mueller appointment, and the Trump–Russia probe itself.
Do read Andy’s brilliant 2019 book, Ball of Collusion. And now let’s tuck in the napkin for the weekly feast that awaits.
1. A federal judge blocks the kick of American women’s soccer egos. We cheer. From the editorial:
Third, and most important, the women’s team made less money because they were offered the chance to play under the men’s contract terms and turned them down. This is where the case tells inconvenient truths about the labor market. The men’s team played under a “pay-to-play” contract, in which all the economic risk was borne by the players in exchange for more upside if the players made the team and the team was successful. The men’s team was not successful, so they made less money. Now, with no games being played, they are making no money at all, while the women are still getting paid.
The women’s team turned down that deal, because they valued different things: guaranteed contracts, injury protection; health, dental, and vision insurance; child-care assistance; severance pay; guaranteed rest time. In short: more security and more benefits. True, they asked for the men’s deal plus those things, on the theory that they had a legal right to both. The USSF negotiator told them, “Your proposal is basically for all of the upside plus the elimination of risk.” But that’s negotiation; what the women’s team unanimously accepted was a tradeoff of less opportunity in exchange for less risk and more benefits.
As Judge Klauser noted, both benefits and economic security have economic value, and the women’s team’s position “ignores the reality that the [men’s and women’s teams] bargained for different agreements which reflect different preferences, and that the [women’s team] explicitly rejected the terms they now seek to retroactively impose on themselves.” This is often true of the wider labor market, in which women tend – not always, but on average – to prefer jobs with more benefits and security, even when that may come at the expense of less cash or less opportunity for bonuses. Those are legitimate choices that should be respected.
2. Orange County, CA, needs a lockdown like Joe Biden needs plagiarism lessons. We say end the nutty restrictions. From the editorial:
Orange County is, in reality, faring better than much of California in the epidemic: As of this writing, it has suffered 52 COVID-19 deaths out of a population of more than 3 million, substantially fewer than nearby counties such as Riverside and San Bernardino, even though those have smaller populations. Orange County seems to have been doing reasonably well without any heavy-handed diktats from Newsom. The parks in question include, as a lawsuit against Newsom’s order points out, those under the control of the cities in question, Huntington Beach and Dana Point. (National Review Institute trustee David L. Bahnsen is involved in that lawsuit.)
We would like to see scrupulous compliance with social-distancing practices. We also believe that people are more likely to accept the legitimacy of those rules when the decisions governing them are made in a way that is reasonable and democratic rather than unreasoning and autocratic, when decisions are made at the local level and respect the genuine diversity among our communities, and when those entrusted with the extraordinary authority of emergency powers are not themselves acting out of hysteria or in response to hysteria.
We very strongly suspect that having figures such as Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot bellowing at teenagers, “We will take you to jail — period” probably does more harm than good. The hectoring and bullying style that has too often accompanied the implementation of social distancing inspires more defiance than the rules themselves do. And such threats bring with them an obvious problem: Make good on them and you are endangering lives with the enforced closeness of arrest and jail; fail to make good on them and the credibility of local government is eroded. Best not to put yourself into such a bind to begin with. There will be some noncompliance, but a domineering approach is likely to make that problem worse rather than better.
3. While Betsy DeVos feels the expected hate from liberal interests who decry due process on American campuses, we applaud her efforts to return a sense of justice where it is now AWOL. From the editorial:
And so DeVos is pushing in the right direction. But there is the deeper question of why campus proceedings are appropriate at all to handle matters of sexual assault, which is a serious crime and the business of police and prosecutors, not the business of deans of students who have no particular competency in prosecuting felonies or misdemeanors. If a college wants to maintain a policy of expelling students convicted of certain crimes (or policing lower-stakes violations of campus policies), then that is entirely reasonable. But seeing to that conviction is the business of the criminal-justice system, not the higher-education system. Sexual assault is not a matter of the campus honor code — it is a question of serious criminal misconduct.
Where police departments and prosecutors are negligent or incompetent, as they sometimes show themselves to be in these matters, then that is an occasion for reforming the police departments and prosecutors’ offices — not for handing over law-enforcement duties to professors and college administrators. Of course, victims of sexual assault may be uncomfortable talking to police and may find the prospect of doing so traumatic; universities can support these students with counseling and mental-health services, but colleges cannot substitute themselves for the criminal-justice system.
Taking the police out of the equation invites abuse, from Lena Dunham’s hoax claim of having been raped by a College Republican at Oberlin to the Duke lacrosse case to Rolling Stone’s fictitious account of a rape at the University of Virginia. Rape hoaxes are a particularly odious instance of an all-too-common phenomenon of our times, the Jussie Smollett–style hate-crime hoax. The power of such claims makes them irresistible to political partisans and others in need of handy weapons for character assassination, as in the case of Brett Kavanaugh.
A 20-Piece Maestro-Honchoed Orchestra Performing a Riveting Symphony of Conservative Brilliance (It Will Be Difficult, But Please: We Ask that You Refrain from Applauding until the Conclusion of the Program)
1. David Harsanyi watches liberal hypocrites rewrite history as Tara Reade’s claims against Joe Biden upend #MeToo theology. From the analysis:
You can believe whomever you choose in the alleged sexual-misconduct cases of Joe Biden and Brett Kavanaugh, but you can’t revise history to erase your partisan double standards.
One of the most egregious examples of revisionism can be found in a column by the New York Times’ Michelle Goldberg, who employs nearly every attack Americans were warned never to use against alleged sexual-assault victims during the Kavanaugh hearings — questioning their motivations, asking why they didn’t file charges, attacking them for not remembering specifics, etc. And yet, even if we adopt Goldberg’s new standards, Tara Reade still emerges as a more credible accuser than Christine Blasey Ford.
For starters, Ford was unable to offer a time or place or a single contemporaneous corroborating witness. Ford offered no evidence that she even knew Kavanaugh. Reade worked for Joe Biden. Reade has offered a specific time and place for the attack.
2. More MSM: Jim Geraghty hammers the Fifth Estate’s coronavirus failures. From the piece:
In short, this crisis has revealed that our largest and most influential media institutions are well-prepared to cover some stories but are barely able to cover others. Events in New York City, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles are covered the most, because the most media institutions are based there. Covering a story like the unprecedented disruptions to our food-supply chain requires paying attention to what’s going on in places such as Pasco, Wash., Logansport, Ind., and Waterloo, Iowa. The national media is much more interested in celebrity chefs than in where and how we produce the food we eat.
Cable-news networks really like covering a politician’s latest pronouncement and then having a roundtable of commentators argue about what he said. This is relatively cheap, easy, and quick. Donald Trump has been a godsend to cable news, because he’s always saying or tweeting something outrageous, and it is easy to find talking heads willing to declare his daily statements or actions the best or worst thing ever. American media institutions love stories about big personalities, and stories with binary conflicts, because those stories have an instinctual, visceral appeal for viewers.
3. Rich Lowry goes after the lockdown fanatics. From the column:
It’s difficult to remember, but flattening the curve was never supposed to be about eradicating the disease. A piece by the progressive website Vox featured a widely circulated version of the flattening-the-curve graph and noted that shutdown measures “aren’t so much about preventing illness, but rather slowing down the rate at which people get sick.”
A viral Medium piece published in mid-March famously called the period of lockdowns to squelch the disease “the Hammer” and the subsequent period of living with it “the Dance.” The article didn’t deny the seriousness of the disease; if anything, it was alarmist. Yet, by the standards of the current debate, the piece is unacceptably lax.
“The time needed for the Hammer,” it said, “is weeks, not months.” After that, it predicted, “our lives will go back close to normal.” And it contemplated living in a fuzzy realm of tradeoffs between important goals — or, as it put it, “a dance of measures between getting our lives back on track and spreading the disease, one of the economy vs. health care.”
Such an acknowledgment of the need to strike a balance between the economy and public health is now considered tantamount to murder.
4. The credentialed are having their day at the expense of those with common sense. Victor Davis Hanson challenges the wisdom of leaving the pandemic fight in the hands of the “experts.” From the essay:
Unfortunately, in the present crisis, we have listened more to the university modeler than to a numbers-crunching accountant. The latter may not understand Banach manifolds, but he at least knows you cannot rely on basic equations and formulas if your denominator is inaccurate and your numerator is sometimes equally unreliable.
It seems a simple matter that the small number of those testing positive for the virus simply could not represent all those who are infected with the contagion. Yet such obviousness did not stop modelers, experts, and political advisers from authoritatively lecturing America on the lethality and spread of COVID-19.
Internet coronavirus-meters feign scientific accuracy with their hourly streams of precise data. But those without degrees wondered why such metrics even listed China, whose data is fanciful, or why the number of “cases” is listed when it hinges entirely on the hit-and-miss and idiosyncratic testing of various states and nations.
Throughout this crisis, there has been a litany of arrogance and ignorance. The FDA early on made a hubristic and disastrous decision to monopolize testing. Neither the WHO nor the CDC could get their stories straight on the wisdom or folly of wearing masks.
5. Congressman Frank Rooney says that the time to call out China for a myriad of abuses has been long a-coming. From the piece:
How can American business and government oppose China’s outsized influence? One way is to create new supply chains and reinforce existing ones with U.S. allies in Asia, and in the Western Hemisphere and Europe. Chinese leaders do not think that our leaders and businesses have the resolve to accept higher costs in a less efficient supply chain for imported products, and we need to call their bluff. Policymakers should create new incentives for businesses to reorient supply chains away from China and disincentives for companies to invest there. A “sovereignty tax” on American investment in China, reflecting the value that U.S. companies derive from U.S. sovereignty but the damage they are doing to our strategic position by investing there, could be an example. It is worth incurring higher costs to be strategically secure.
As the pandemic abates, the U.S. and our allies should clearly and openly call out the abuses that China has perpetrated on the Western world since its admission to the WTO. The mantra of accommodation to China to mollify the PRC and slowly integrate them into existing global trade relationships has failed — or, more precisely, has worked for China but no one else. China’s leaders are repressive, they violate trade norms, and they steal intellectual property. They project hegemonic power wherever they can. We need to develop a partnership with American, European, and Asian businesses and governments to bring China’s exploitation to an end.
6. Dan McLaughlin provides a drubbing of Max Boot for his latest foolishness, this time for his excuse-mongering for the pandemic manufacturers in Beijing. From the analysis:
Second, by suggesting that the U.S. government might owe “reparations” for sending Americans abroad in 1918, Boot completely ignores both the geopolitical and the medical contexts of the era. No matter what news arrived from Kansas, the absolute last thing that Georges Clemenceau would ever have requested in the spring of 1918 was a halt to shipping American soldiers to France. The French and British had bled their nations white fighting the Germans, who — finally freed of the need to devote huge numbers of troops to the Russian and Italian fronts — launched a massive offensive in March designed to be a knockout blow. With the manpower of the European combatants virtually exhausted — the same reason for shipping in Chinese labor — the arrival of a million Americans over the course of 1918 was seen as providential. The Americans played a key supporting role in stopping the German spring offensive, which was finally brought to an end by an outbreak of the Spanish flu among the German army, incapacitating nearly half a million men in June 1918. Americans played an even more important role in the Entente’s fall offensive that ended the war. France and Britain would have hazarded any risk of disease to keep the doughboys coming “over there.”
Moreover, morale-driven press censorship was at least as extensive in Britain, France, and Germany in 1918 as it was in the United States. The reason why news came from Spain was precisely that Spain was neutral in the war. The lack of honest public reckoning with the pandemic was pervasive and hardly limited to the United States.
7. Robert VerBruggen has had it with the coronavirus modeling that would have trouble predicting if the sun will rise in the East tomorrow. From the commentary:
When modeling epidemics, scientists typically try to simulate the way a virus spreads: exponentially at first, because each infected person interacts with many other vulnerable individuals, and then slowing down as the population either gains immunity or takes deliberate steps to reduce transmission. This process can be modeled in very general terms, or by simulating the specific interactions and infections of millions of people as the Imperial College COVID-19 model does. Either way, the result’s utility is limited by the fact that researchers had to make a bunch of assumptions to arrive at it. Exactly how quickly does the disease spread when left unchecked? How much do people reduce their interactions when advised or legally required to practice social distancing? Which types of interactions are most dangerous? Different answers to these questions can yield very different modeling results.
The IHME model was meant to sidestep that issue. Rather than re-creating the underlying processes through which a disease spreads, it looked at what had actually happened in other countries during this pandemic. It “fit a curve” connecting trends in the U.S. with trends in other places, showing us where we’d end up if things worked out the same way as they had for those places.
There were some hiccups almost immediately: Early IHME estimates were of 100,000 to 200,000 deaths, but the number soon dropped to 80,000 and then even lower. As I pointed out at the time, at least some of these revisions were easily justified. The researchers were getting important new data — including death trends from countries whose pandemics had recently peaked and updated information about how many Americans were hospitalized for each death that occurred. Models should change when better information comes in. That’s how they’re calibrated to make better predictions in the future.
8. Madeline Kearns explores the thinking behind Joe Biden’s “A Woman” veep commitment. From the piece:
Biden needs not just A Woman, then, but a whole bunch of women who will abandon yesterday’s principles for today’s political convenience. Fortunately, the Democratic Party is full of such people. In a tweet, Reade wrote that “those who remain silent are complicit to rape” and tagged Ocasio-Cortez, Stacey Abrams, Kamala Harris, Tulsi Gabbard, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, and Michelle Obama. Perhaps one of them will be Biden’s vice president.
This strategy might be received differently if Joe Biden were a Republican. Readers of National Review will remember that moment when Mitt Romney, during a 2012 presidential debate, was asked by questioner in the audience how he planned to “rectify the inequalities in the workplace.” He answered that, as governor of Massachusetts, when he was looking to fill his cabinet, he made a concerted effort to find female applicants. He went to a number of women’s groups for suggestions, and they gave him “whole binders full of women,” he added. What Romney obviously meant was that he had binders full of women’s résumés. In other words, as an employer, he had a personal history of taking affirmative action with respect to hiring women and promoting gender equality. But because he was a Republican, the media accused him of being patronizing and a misogynist.
But Joe Biden is a Democrat and the liberal media are behaving much like Farquaad’s magic mirror, presenting their own binders full of women. A recent NBC report highlights the “unique strengths and weaknesses” of the ladies who might be picked. Insultingly, Stacy Abrams’s strengths are listed purely as things she cannot control: skin color, age, place of birth, etc. Her weaknesses, on the other hand, relate to experience and suitability: “Abrams’ highest level of government service was as the minority leader in Georgia’s state House,” and she “hasn’t been vetted nationally.” Amy Klobuchar, meanwhile, is described as “a proven winner in Minnesota,” yet is cast off as “unlikely to galvanize minority or progressive voters” on account of her being white. Biden’s policies on gender equality are even more embarrassingly superficial. This week, he pledged to cut funding to the U.S. Soccer Federation if women are not paid as much as their male counterparts.
9. And yeah, writes Isaac Schorr, Elizabeth Warren would be a terrible Veep pick. From the piece:
As the past few months have made clear, Biden has won this argument in the minds of most Democratic voters. Despite his weak performances in the first three primary contests, he cruised to victory after victory, beginning in South Carolina, leaving both Warren and Sanders in the dust. In Warren’s home state of Massachusetts, Biden won with 33.6 percent of the vote. Warren took home the bronze trophy and 21.6 percent. Presidential-primary campaigns always include sniping between candidates, and often those candidates end up on a ticket together anyway. But why would Joe Biden — a 78-year-old man with significant health questions who won the Democratic nomination handily — select a former rival with a dearth of electoral accomplishments and a radically divergent outlook to serve as his vice president?
Warren’s base, wine-track female voters, are already going to come out to support Biden in droves. Despite her progressive politics, Warren’s supporters in the primary tended to be less ideologically motivated than Sanders’s and were attracted to her campaign because of her gender, her perceived wonkishness, and the obvious contrasts of her Harvard Law–professor status and personality with President Trump. Her voters showed up at the polls in 2018 to rebuke the president, and they are going to do so again in 2020 regardless of whom the Democratic Party chooses as its nominee.
10. Rupert Darwall attacks the Lefty-Green effort to bully American corporations into adopting the capitalism-killing Paris Agreement. From the analysis:
That timeline is now being used to bully American corporations into aligning their business strategies with the Paris agreement and force them to commit to eliminating greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050. In fact, the text of the Paris agreement speaks of achieving a balance between anthropogenic sources and removals “in the second half of this century.” The net-zero target has no standing in American law or regulation. Net zero is not about a few tweaks here and there. It necessitates a top-down coercive revolution the likes of which have never been seen in any democracy. This is spelt out in the IPCC’s 1.5°C report, which might as well serve as a blueprint for the extinction of capitalism.
The IPCC makes no bones about viewing net zero, it says, as providing the opportunity for ‘intentional societal transformation.’ Limiting the rise to rise in global temperature to no more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels — an ill-defined baseline chosen by the UN because the Industrial Revolution is our civilization’s original sin — requires ‘transformative systemic change’ and ‘very ambitious, internationally cooperative policy environments that transform both supply and demand.’
11. Sally Satel contends the disruption caused by the pandemic response may lead to a mental-health crisis, but offers sound advice to prevent a dire outcome. From the analysis:
We need to think clearly about whose needs are best met by mental-health professionals and whose suffering should be “treated” in other ways.
Under lockdown, basic mental hygiene will suffice for most: Get out of your pajamas each morning, keep a routine, and get ample sleep and exercise. Also connect, connect, and (virtually) connect with family and friends, and help others do the same. A bracing dose of Stoic philosophy is also in order, to remind us that “life is what our thoughts make of it,” as Marcus Aurelius understood.
Some need more than good advice to endure the pandemic, however. Mandated isolation can be an anxiety-provoking trial. To soften or avert a “social recession,” as former surgeon general Vivek Murthy recently called it in The Atlantic, neighbors must engage with isolated elderly or disabled people and assure them that they matter and belong and that they won’t go without material reserves.
12. R. Richard Geddes and Barry Strauss come down hard on American colleges who are suckling on the Beijing teat and providing cover for the brutal communist regime. From the commentary:
China has been ruthless in its quest to steal research, control information, and gain approval. It has distributed targeted funds to strategically selected academics in American universities (as seen in this year’s allegations at Harvard University and the University of Florida), established Confucius Institutes on campuses to spread Marxist ideas, and engaged in a global propaganda campaign — a sophisticated, data-driven effort, aided by a massive social-media blitz — to portray itself as a worldwide savior, rather than a state with a lot of explaining to do.
The denunciation of Communism is left to those viewed as unsophisticates, retrogrades, or even racists by many elites and academics. Criticizing the Chinese Communist regime should not be viewed as a criticism of its people, and Communism should not get a pass because people fear being called racist.
While the Chinese regime has been credited by some for bringing hundreds of millions of people up from poverty, the credit belongs to the Chinese people themselves, enterprising and hard-working as they are. The regime merely got out of the way after decades of disastrous social engineering. Oppression still exists, particularly for Uighurs, Tibetans, defenders of civil liberties in Hong Kong, and outspoken people everywhere in China.
13. Kyle Smith checks out the new Netflix documentary by and about Michelle Obama. He sees lots of tall tales. From the review:
Obama tells us in the movie of suffering racial discomfort around Princeton, where “I was one of a handful of minority students. It was the first time in my life where I stood out like that.” She reports in her memoir that Princeton’s student body was “less than nine percent black,” but, since blacks were 12 percent of the U.S. population, Princeton was fairly representative of the country as a whole. It was her mostly black neighborhood back home that was atypical.
That brings us to the smoking gun of the movie, the one story Obama has to offer of being indisputably the victim of a racist insult. While discussing her college years, she says, “I learned that one of my roommates moved out because her mother was horrified that I was black. She felt her daughter was in danger. I wasn’t prepared for that.” The story she tells in the memoir is different: She learned in 2008, via a newspaper interview with an ex-roommate, that the reason the girl had moved out was because of the racist mom. At Princeton, Michelle Robinson didn’t suspect the reason the roommate had moved out and was evidently unbothered about it: “I’m happy to say I had no idea why,” she writes.
14. And then there is that Palestinian problem . . . the one in the Lone Star State. Steve Presley and Robert D. Johnson report on how the Union Pacific Railroad is trying to break a long-term deal that will result in screwing over a Texas city. From the piece:
When Union Pacific railroad acquired MoPac in 1982, company executives were well-aware of the 1954 agreement and openly affirmed its validity. With Union Pacific’s much larger workforce, the percentage of its employees that had to be maintained in Palestine was much smaller, but otherwise the deal remained the same. In the decades that followed, Union Pacific repeatedly reaffirmed its commitment to the 1954 agreement, and the people of Palestine continued to rely on it in setting their city-planning and economic-development policies.
But then, last November, on the day before Thanksgiving, Union Pacific filed suit in federal court to have the 1954 agreement invalidated. It hopes, essentially, to take the money and run — to close up shop in Palestine, increasing its own profits by laying off scores of workers and leaving the community devastated.
This is no story of a railroad that has fallen on hard times. Union Pacific is one of the most profitable railroads in the world. At most, walking out on its obligations to Palestine will save it less money than some of its executives make in annual bonuses. But it does fit a larger pattern: Underneath the media’s radar, the company has been leaving one town after another reeling from sudden terminations and layoffs in the interest of its own bottom line. From St. Louis and Kansas City in Missouri to Omaha and North Platte in Nebraska to the town of Hermiston in Oregon, Union Pacific has been terminating lifelong employees and union members for years.
15. More Kearns: She gives the rundown on coronavirus modeler Neil Ferguson, personification of the Expert Commandment, “do as I say not as I do.” From the piece:
All while lecturing the public on the importance of cooperating with nationwide house imprisonment, Ferguson was conducting an affair with his married lover, who travelled across London on multiple occasions to “visit” him. The timeline provided by The Telegraph, who broke the story, leaves little room for excuses. It shows that while Ferguson briefed the country to stay put, his lover, superbly cast as the 38-year-old Antonia Staats (get it?), a left-wing activist, was traveling to and fro between her husband, their kids, and her $2 million home for her quarantine rendezvous with her favorite government scientist. As if this story couldn’t get any more bourgeois, the husband apparently wasn’t bothered by this, because the couple have an “open marriage.” It is the kind of story the British press love. Hypocrisy, stupidity, and a brilliant distraction from more pressing (and depressing) matters.
Britain is currently in its seventh week of the lockdowns. In England and Wales, officials dispense a fine for breaking lockdown protocols every five minutes. Hypocrisy is the only remaining sin in secular Britain. Of course, the fact that Staats is married is neither here nor there. Brits no longer expect government officials and advisers to be faithful spouses. The infuriating part is that her first visit coincided with a public warning from Ferguson that lockdown measures were essential and would have to be prolonged. Meanwhile, her subsequent visits occurred after she had told friends that she suspected her husband had contracted COVID-19. Ferguson himself spent two weeks in “complete isolation,” having contracted coronavirus. So, here is a person instructing the country on how to live, in order to “save lives,” via the most draconian measures ever willingly tolerated in a liberal democracy, while flouting his own rules.
16. More McLaughlin: Dan expounds on the New York Times winning a Pulitzer Prize for its 1619 agitprop. From the essay:
Journalism and academia are supposed to honor, as their highest value, the fearless pursuit of truth. If you tried to parody the sad decline of prestige awards in those fields into an ideologically blinkered self-congratulatory echo chamber for progressive agitprop, it would be difficult to find a more on-the-nose example than the Pulitzer Prize awarded to Nikole Hannah-Jones of the New York Times for commentary. Hannah-Jones was, according to the Pulitzer committee, honored for “a sweeping, deeply reported and personal essay for the ground-breaking 1619 Project, which seeks to place the enslavement of Africans at the center of America’s story, prompting public conversation about the nation’s founding and evolution.”
“Deeply reported” is one way to describe an essay that required the Times to append a correction and a separate “Editor’s Note” regarding an incendiary assertion that was presented without factual support, and that resulted in Hannah-Jones’s eventually admitting, after seven months of defending the claim, scrambling to find scholarly support for it, and bitterly denouncing her critics in racial terms, that “in attempting to summarize and streamline, journalists can sometimes lose important context and nuance. I did that here.” One hesitates to think what the runners-up for the award looked like.
Technically, the Pulitzer is for Hannah-Jones’s lead essay in the 1619 Project, and not for her role as the self-described architect of the rest of the essay collection. So, we can set aside the errors ranging from American political history to basic economics that plagued other submissions and focus on the lead essay.
17. Armond White explains why the Hollywood of 2020 could never remake the classic movie Network. From the essay:
Network’s hysteria is irrelevant to today’s climate in which CBS, NBC, and ABC are more blatantly partisan than Chayefsky’s fictitious UBS. Fans of Network who cite the film as a cautionary tale ignore what really accounts for the film’s status: Chayefsky dared to bite the hand that fed him. He wasn’t aiming at some phantom ideology or faceless idiocy, even when putting down a generalized audience of boob-tube addicts. The satire is squarely aimed at powerful people who offended Chayefsky’s personal sense of morality following his early career during the 1950s, the original “golden age” of TV.
Instead of examining politics, the film aims at specific stereotypes — manic news anchor Howard Beale (Peter Finch), pompous network news producer Max Schumacher (William Holden), and rapacious entertainment producer Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway). They each represent figures made sacrosanct today, hypocrites who hide behind political correctness.
Another reason Network couldn’t be remade today is that these potentates know how to shield and defend themselves. No matter how much reality TV gluts the airwaves, we’re never shown what goes on behind the scenes of newsrooms. No one takes responsibility for the conspiracy theories that pass for mainstream media perspective — one person’s truth, another person’s “fake news.” Recall the media uproar when Clint Eastwood’s Richard Jewell depicted a newspaper reporter in the style of Dunaway’s Christensen, and then remember the shallow, vengeful harridans of last year’s Bombshell. The masters of media — this would include the contemptuous, censorious hipsters of Silicon Valley — do not allow criticism.
18. More Armond: He compares the flick industry’s take on First Ladies. It’s Melania vs. Michelle, and here’s a slice of the review:
Somebody at Channel 13, New York’s liberal-biased public-television channel, must have been asleep at the switch when the station recently broadcast the politically tinged rom-com Ladies in Black. It’s a movie about fashion, femininity, and courage and consequently the first film release that acknowledges Melania Trump and her unique role as our country’s first immigrant first lady since Louisa Adams, the wife of John Quincy Adams.
The American premiere of Ladies in Black, a 2018 Australian film by Bruce Beresford that never opened in U.S. theaters, matched public television’s frequent emphasis on immigrant experience and female empowerment. Based on Australian writer Madeleine St. John’s 1993 novel about saleswomen working at Goode’s high-end clothes emporium in 1950s Sydney, it prominently features a character — Slovenian refugee and fashion habitué Magda, played by Julia Ormond — who brings kindliness, self-assurance, and taste to her new country, just as Melania Trump has distinctly shown. In this context, Magda edges past public television’s stubborn liberal partisanship to reflect the emigrant optimism and style that has been marginalized by mainstream media.
Programming this film had to be an accident, given the political preferences of the cultural gatekeepers in left-of-Lenin New York. But it’s a happy accident that counters the deification of former first lady Michelle Obama in Netflix’s new documentary memoir Becoming, a lesser, openly propagandistic film made, strangely, in an aggressive PBS mode.
The contrast of these two movies pinpoints the media’s failure to be fair and balanced about these two first ladies.
19. Brian Allen goads the Texas museum leaders who are proving fearful of opening their doors to the great unwashed and undisinfected. From the beginning of the piece:
The governor of Texas says museums there “can” open again, but some are dragging their feet. The Houston Museum of Fine Arts, the Menil Collection, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Kimbell Art Museum, Amon Carter Museum, the Museum of Modern Art in Fort Worth, and the big museums in San Antonio want weeks, maybe even months more, before they start serving the public again.
They’re waiting for all the experts, every last one of them, and everyone’s Ouija board to agree that opening is totally, absolutely safe, but life doesn’t work that way. Life’s a risky business, but they’re catering to all the alumni of Safe Space U among their staff. Where’s the Alamo spirit?
“We’ll reopen when and if it seems safe to reopen incrementally,” Contemporary Austin announced. “When and if?” Do they think they might stay closed until there’s not a coronavirus left on the planet? If they do, they’re no longer a public institution. Rather, they are an art warehouse and don’t deserve a not-for-profit tax exemption.
20. More Kyle, who finds not one, not two, but three ways to consider Dog Day Afternoon. From the essay:
Dog Day Afternoon is possibly the most perfect entry among the dozens of great gritty Seventies movies that provided me with a durable memory library of cinematic brilliance. (It’s streaming on the TCM app through May 10.) Al Pacino’s Sonny is the scion of a long line of antiheroes reaching back to Paul Muni’s James Allen, who explains, heartbreakingly, “I steal” at the end of 1932’s I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, a film that showed us why he stole, with great tender sympathy for the plight of criminals. Sonny has a touch of Warren Beatty’s cute confusion —“Hey!” is his last word, one shirttail hanging out, one lens missing from his sunglasses — before Clyde Barrow gets gunned down without a word of warning by a hidden squad of cowardly riflemen at the end of Bonnie and Clyde (1967). Too, Sonny exhibits some of the shamelessness and peacockery of ultra-criminal Alex DeLarge in A Clockwork Orange (1971), whose felonious acts are an assertion of human free will. All of these are Warner Bros. productions, the crime movies that plumbed the humanity of malefactors.
Sonny was also one of the lone, usually doomed truthtellers who fight the system — director Sidney Lumet’s great subject, from Twelve Angry Men (1957) to Serpico (1973), Network (1976), Prince of the City (1981), and The Verdict (1982). That’s how Lumet guides the audience to consider the situation, anyway: His and Pacino’s Sonny (who in real life was named John Wojtowicz) is an adorable, sensitive soul who obviously means no harm. Who among us has not fretted over how to pay for his lover’s sex-change operation and been forced to rob a bank as the only available means of funding? Sonny gets harangued by his shrewish wife, pleads for calm from his histrionic boyfriend, and sadly informs his moronic junior partner that “Wyoming” is not a country. These scenes go beyond humanizing Sonny. We actually love the poor guy and want him to survive his nutty ordeal. Don’t cops do a lot of awful things too, by the way? Attica! How exhilarating to side with the rebels.
1. On the new episode of The Editors, Rich, Charlie, and Alexandra discuss Joe Biden’s response to the Tara Reade allegations, the unfair media coverage of Florida’s handling of the lockdown, and whether or not we’ll have a baseball season. Batter up!
2. And then on a special edition of The Editors, Rich and Oren Cass discuss his new group, American Compass. Learn about it here.
3. And then on yet another edition (#214!) of The Editors, Rich, Charlie, and Luke discuss Biden and Trump’s presidential chances and Betsy DeVos’s recent Title IX revisions. You’ll want to listen, and you can do that here.
4. On the new episode of The McCarthy Report, Andy and Rich discuss the Scope memo, the House Intelligence Committee transcripts, and wrap up some Flynn items from last week. Wisdom’s in session, here.
5. On The Great Books, John J. Miller and Rhodes College prof Scott Newstok discuss the Sonnets of one Bill Shakespeare. Lend us your ears, here.
6. On The Bookmonger, JJM is joined by David Ignatius to talk about his new spy novel, The Paladin. Prepare your decryption devices and then eavesdrop here.
7. On Episode 14 of The Victor Davis Hanson Podcast, VDH discusses the war between the credentialed class and the folks with practical experience, the love affair between America businesses and Communist China, the free-speech angle to college undergrads opting for victimhood status, the misguided panacea of coronavirus testing, and putting Joe Biden’s veepstakes in historical context. All properly credentialed conservatives may listen here.
8. On the new episode of Mad Dogs & Englishmen, Kevin and Charlie discuss a ridiculous criticism of National Review and Betsy DeVos’s Title IX reform. Do catch it here.
9. At Radio Free California, David and Will consider how tough-talking Gavin Newsom bows to popular pressure to ease the lockdown. And then they discuss the progressive warning — that emergency orders to shrink the prison population, house the homeless, and hand out free laptops are their proof of concept for future governance. All that and more can be heard here.
1. David Goldman’s lead essay in the new issue of Claremont Review of Books puts China at the top of the “U.S. Threats” list. From the essay:
The past year was a watershed. As matters stand the United States will be overtaken by China in the next several years. China is developing its own intellectual property in key areas. Some of it is better than ours—in artificial intelligence, telecommunications, cryptography, and electronic warfare. In other key fields like quantum computing—possibly the holy grail of 21st-century technology—it’s hard to tell who’s winning, but China is outspending us by a huge margin.
China’s first great multinational company, Huawei, is rolling out fifth generation (5G) mobile broadband across the whole of Eurasia, from Vladivostok, Russia to Bristol, England, despite a full-court press by the Trump Administration to stop it. In January 2020 Great Britain—America’s closest ally—brushed off Trump’s personal intervention and allowed Huawei to build part of Britain’s 5G network. The European Community announced it would take no measures to exclude the Chinese giant. Washington tried to strangle Huawei by slapping export controls on U.S. components for 5G equipment and smartphones, only to see Huawei continue expanding using Asian components while achieving self-sufficiency in chip production.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich deplored this as “the greatest strategic disaster in U.S. history.” At stake are not only the sinews of the new industrial age, but scores of spinoff applications that will transform manufacturing, mining, health care, finance, transportation, and retailing—virtually the entirety of economic life—in what China calls the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
2. Also in the CRB, Christopher Caldwell makes mincemeat of the idea of dual citizenship. From the essay:
Political theorists used to think dual citizenship a dangerous thing because it presents occasions for dual loyalty and erodes the social compact on which all citizens’ rights depend. Under the newer understanding, that’s a feature rather than a bug. We live in an interconnected global economy in which we’re supposed to have multiple loyalties. Rights are human rights—no national authority need assert them.
There will always be a use for dual citizenship, especially in dealing with children of international marriages. But the old understanding was more right than wrong. The transformation from national citizens’ rights to universal human rights does divide loyalties and corrode sovereignties. On top of that, we are beginning to notice practical problems with mass dual citizenship that were hardly considered at all when we began dispensing it liberally at the sunny outset of the civil rights era.
Dual citizenship undermines equal citizenship, producing a regime of constitutional haves and have-nots. The dual citizen has, at certain important moments and in certain important contexts, the right to choose the regime under which he lives. He can avoid military conscription, duck taxes, and flee prosecution. When Spain, as coronavirus cases spiked in mid-March, banned all movement outside the home except for designated purposes, one of those purposes was to “return to your habitual place of residence.” A Spaniard with citizenship in a second country thus had the constitutional privilege of exempting himself from a nationwide lockdown in a way that his fellow Spaniard did not. Such special privileges do not often matter—but when they do, they matter in a life-or-death way.
You would have to be a very provincial person not to see that the problems traditionally associated with loyalty to two countries can become quite severe. A classic articulation of this worry was the Supreme Court dissent by Justice Melville Fuller in United States v. Wong Kim Ark in 1898. That case established so-called “birthright citizenship”—the understanding, controversial in many quarters, that the 14th Amendment grants citizenship for all people born on American soil. . . .
3. Galling: At Gatestone Institute, Petra Heldt smotes the Danish Bible Society, which publishes a rump edition of the Holy Book that frequently drops the word “Israel.” From the article:
It is difficult not to see an intentional technique that eliminates the homeland of Israel and replaces it with a home for others; and that replaces the God of Israel with the God of you.
Unlike the Bible Society of Israel presentation, the Danish Bible Society statement of April 22 exemplifies a crafty method of misleading the reader. It seems simply a further example of its technique of distortion.
The Danish Bible Society statement comes with the headline, “Fake news about the Danish Bible.” The subheading reads:
“Is the word ‘Israel’ omitted from the Contemporary Danish Bible 2020? Get your facts straight with this Q&A so you can identify the fake news.”
This sets the tone for the Danish Bible Society’s rejection of the international outcry against its version of the Bible. The Danish Bible Society seems to regard the international outcry as a gross injustice.
The Danish Bible Society, disagreeing with those who criticized it for eliminating Israel from its Bible 2020, did not “take measures to correct” its mistranslations. Instead, the Danish Bible Society doubled down and insisted upon its bowdlerization.
4. At The College Fix, Kyle Hooten reports on GOP congressional efforts to investigate the level of ChiCom influence at U.S. universities and colleges. From the article:
The lawmakers in the memo ask for the documents to be provided by May 11, as well as a staff-level briefing on the matter, noting the Committee on Oversight and Reform “has broad authority to investigate ‘any matter’ at ‘any time’ under House Rule X.”
The other six Republican lawmakers who signed on to the memo are: Virginia Foxx, ranking member of the House Committee on Education and Labor; Mac Thornberry, ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee; Mike Rogers, ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security; Frank Lucas, ranking member of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology; Devin Nunes, ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence; and Michael McCaul, ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
In a news release, Thornberry cited his concerns over China obtaining sensitive information through institutions doing research with the Department of Defense. Foxx noted that “China is now attempting to suppress academic research into the origins of the pandemic.”
5. At Commentary, Christine Rosen broils Red China’s U.S. media lackeys. From the piece:
In the past few months, many journalists have covered the coronavirus pandemic with rigor and integrity. One early warning about the danger of trusting China and the World Health Organization came in February in a well-reported piece by Jeremy Page and Betsy McKay in the Wall Street Journal. And reporters and pundits are correct to criticize the Trump administration’s inconsistent and often shambolic response to the pandemic. Even so, we must not allow the glaring blind spots in the mainstream media’s coverage of the virus in the preceding months to disappear down a convenient memory hole—in particular, their credulous approach to China and their lack of rigor in examining Chinese influence on the WHO.
From the beginning, the WHO’s statements about the emerging virus read more like Chinese propaganda than global health recommendations. On January 30, for example, when WHO director general Tedros Ghebreyesus finally acknowledged that the virus posed a global health emergency, he made sure to note that “this declaration is not a vote of no confidence in China.” To the contrary, he added: “The WHO continues to have confidence in China’s capacity to control the outbreak.” Just a day earlier, other WHO officials praised China’s Xi Jinping for helping “prevent the spread of the virus to other countries,” even though by that point WHO officials knew the virus had already appeared in at least 18 other nations. And yet, with the exception of the Wall Street Journal’s report, it’s difficult to find anyone in the mainstream media who didn’t take WHO largely at its word.
Or consider the media’s approach to the numbers, which are the main story of any pandemic. Without accurate data, it is nearly impossible to get a handle on the scope and scale of a global public health crisis. And yet, from the beginning, China withheld information, silenced internal whistleblowers, and engaged in a concerted effort to stifle bad news about the pandemic.
6. At The Critic, Toby Young nails the arrogance better known as Neil Ferguson, pandemic modeler and horndog. From the piece:
More often than not, the “solutions” these left-leaning experts come up with make the problems they’re grappling with even worse, and so it will prove to be in this case. The evidence mounts on a daily basis that locking down whole populations in the hope of “flattening the curve” was a catastrophic error, perhaps the worst policy mistake ever committed by Western governments during peacetime. Just yesterday we learnt that the lockdowns have forced countries across the world to shut down TB treatment programmes which, over the next five years, could lead to 6.3 million additional cases of TB and 1.4 million deaths. There are so many stories like this it’s impossible to keep track. We will soon be able to say with something approaching certainty that the cure has been worse than the disease.
Neil Ferguson isn’t single-handedly responsible for this world-historical blunder, but he does bear some responsibility. His apocalyptic predictions frightened the British Government into imposing a full lockdown, with other governments quickly following suit. And I’m afraid he’s absolutely typical of the breed. He suffers from the same fundamental arrogance that progressive interventionists have exhibited since at least the middle of the 18th Century – wildly over-estimating the good that governments can do, assuming there are no limits to what “science” can achieve and, at the same time, ignoring the empirical evidence that their ambitious public programmes are a complete disaster. At bottom, they believe that nature itself can be bent to man’s will.
BONUS: Also in CRB, the great Daniel J. Mahoney considers Helena Rosenblatt’s The Lost History of Liberalism: From Ancient Rome to the Twenty-First Century. From the review:
To be sure, Rosenblatt recognizes that liberalism has an important pre-history. She has intelligent things to say about liberalitas, the “noble and generous way of thinking and acting toward one’s fellow citizens” that defined liberality for Cicero and the most thoughtful Romans. And she is not wrong that this understanding of liberality has an aristocratic tinge but is nevertheless necessary for civilized life, even in modern times. Yet her rather arbitrary starting point ignores the crucial roles of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke in liberalism’s development. Like many intellectual historians, she fails to see how Hobbes designed the architecture of the liberal order: the state and civil society, the primacy of individual rights, an account of appetite and desire central to modern political economy, a marked suspicion of revealed religion, and, of course, the foundational “state of nature” he invented to radically account for human origins and obligations. If Rosenblatt read Michael Oakeshott, Leo Strauss, or Bertrand de Jouvenel with care, she would see how Hobbes’s thought points toward liberalism and not authoritarianism or totalitarianism. (Whether it provides an adequate moral foundation for a liberal order is another question. I have my doubts.)
As for Locke, Rosenblatt reads him as Hobbes’s opposite. She links him to Ciceronian or classical liberality—a stretch—and writes he was convinced “[m]en in a state of nature were capable of knowing and following a moral law.” This is a far too conventional rendering of Locke’s truly audacious moral and political reflection. To begin, there is no moral law for Locke—morality is the product of “mixed modes,” constructed by human beings. Even the notion of “murder” is a linguistic construction rather than a prohibition rooted in divine or natural law. And because he jettisons the classical Christian notion of “substance,” it is very difficult to know who precisely is this being with rights (and, Locke acknowledges reluctantly, some accompanying obligations and duties).
DOUBLE BONUS: Brad Birzer at Spirit of Cecilia channels Alexander Solzhenitsyn and recounts his 10 rules of totalitarianism. We share Numbers 8 and 9 from the list:
8. Lies. “The permanent lie becomes the only safe form of existence, in the same way as betrayal. Every wag of the tongue can be overheard by someone, every facial expression observed by someone. Therefore every word, if it does not have to be a direct lie, is nonetheless obliged not to contradict the general, common lie. There exists a collection of ready-made phrases, of labels, a selection of ready-made lies.
9. Cruelty. “And where among all the preceding qualities was there any place left for kindheartedness? How could one possibility preserve one’s kindness while pushing away the hands of those who were drowning? Once you have been steeped in blood, you can only become more cruel. . . . And when you add that kindness was ridiculed, that pity was ridiculed, that mercy was ridiculed—you’d never be able to chain all those who were drunk on blood.”
TRIPLE BONUS: Gene Z sent this and believes it deserves attention, and you know what? Gene is right. So James Hartley’s Public Discourse essay encouraging renewed efforts at fusionism between social conservatives and libertarians — set before the backdrop of the American Compass launch — merits your attention. From the piece:
While not all of the problems identified by American Compass are economic problems, some are. Restricting our attention to those issues, what do we find? To crystallize the issues, let’s start with a story. Mr. Botts owns a bookstore in a small town. Ever since he was young, he wanted to own a bookstore; he loves his bookstore; his customers love his bookstore. Everything is wonderful. Then one day a new person comes into town and opens a brand new bookstore. Let’s call him Mr. Bezos. This new bookstore has a larger variety of books for sale than Mr. Botts ever had. Also, this new bookstore sells every single book at a lower price than over at Mr. Botts’s store. And, to top it all off, Mr. Bezos will deliver every book you buy to your home within two days, with no delivery charge.
You live in this town. You like Mr. Botts and his bookstore. When Mr. Bezos opens his store, do you have a moral obligation to continue to pay the higher prices over at Mr. Botts’s store? Are you committing a moral wrong to decide to give your business to Mr. Bezos? Remember, if you and the other people in your town do not continue to shop at Mr. Botts’s store, it will close, and Mr. Botts will lose his job that he loves and that gave him purpose and meaning in his life. That is not an easy question to answer. It gets worse when you discover that Mr. Walton also came to town selling everything at a lower price than all the other little shops in town had been charging. What do you owe to all these people in your town who are about to lose the jobs they love? Suppose it would cost you an extra $20 a year to allow Mr. Botts to stay in business. Even a minimal charitable impulse would convince someone to spend that much to keep this friend and neighbor from losing the ability to work at the job that brings him so much pleasure.
If there were ever a baseball manager who had an impossible task, it was James Thompson “Doc” Protho, the one-time dentist and third baseman who, come the late 1930s, found himself at the helm of one the consistently worst MLB franchises, the Philadelphia Phillies. From 1933 to 1945, the Phillies had a lock on seventh or eighth place — usually the latter — in the National League basement, including five consecutive seasons with 100 or more losses.
The 1938 squad was one of those disasters, chalking up a 45–105 record and trailing the World Series–bound Chicago Cubs by 43 games (and the seventh place Brooklyn Dodgers by 24 ½ games). Protho — who had had a decent stint managing in the minors — believed he could inspire the hapless, talent-free squad. It was not to be.
In 1939, the team was even worse than it was the year prior, sporting a 45–106 record. Its pitching staff included Max Butcher (who had a 2–13 record), Ike Pearson (ditto), and Al Hollingsworth (1–9). In 1940, the was miniscule improvement as the Phillies were 50–103, trailing the first-place Reds by 50 games. Talent remained sparse. And Pearson again proved symbolic, with a 3–14 record.
And then came 1941, and Protho’s Phillies put up some of the worst numbers in NL history: a 43–111 record and seven pitchers with double-digit losses. They were shut out 22 times, and in one five-game stretch in June the Phillies lost 5–0, 3–0, 3–2, 3–0, and 6–0. Pearson pulled a 4–14 record on the year. (His MLB career record, 13–50, is one of the worst ever, but Pearson did serve as a Marine Captain in WW2, so mockery is not permitted.)
After the three-year stint, Protho was done. Back to the minors he went to manage the Memphis Chicksaws for a number of years.
Of note: In 1942, hoping a name change and a new manager would reverse their sorry fortunes, the re-tagged “Phils” (they’d be the “Blue Jays” in 1944–45) under new manager Hans Lobert could only muster a 42–109 record.
Of additional note: The one masochistic man to play for the Phillies and Phils and Blue Jays throughout this stretch was future Hall of Famer Chuck Klein.
Before We Part
Our pal Amity Shlaes’ book, Great Society: A New History, has been out a few months, and has registered a slew of excellent reviews, including this recent one in NR by Fred Siegel. You really should have it. A few weeks back, Peter Robinson hosted an excellent Uncommon Knowledge interview with Amity about the book. You can watch it here. And you will find the book’s Amazon link here.
A tidbit: Here’s a slice from Amity’s Introduction to her book (the Harrington she refers to is Michael, the great liberal agitator of the early 1960s and author of the then-bestselling and consequential book The Other America):
There were not many self- described socialists in the country in the early 1960s. The Young People’s Socialist League, the premier socialist youth group, was reporting a doubling in membership across the colleges, but that increase was merely from four hundred to eight hundred members. Still, socialists such as Harrington were far from alone in their insistence on transcendent change. Many Americans ached to make American society over, whether by tinkering or rebuilding, in the name of improving life for all. In the early 1960s the groups that nursed this ambition were diverse. They were university students who hoped to fashion their own utopia— Harrington worked with a new group called Students for a Democratic Society, or SDS. There were union chiefs who sought explicitly to re-create the culture and benefits of socialism like that of Northern Europe, not just for union members, but also for the nation at large. There were government officials such as Shriver who believed the right president could indeed lead the country in epic reform. There were engineers who envisioned transformation through technology. There were businesses that thought great corporations would lead in raising the standard of living for all. Typical was General Electric, whose motto was “Progress is our most important product.” There were factory workers whose lives had improved in the 1960s and who hoped to finally make it into the middle class by the 1970s. There were priests, ministers, and rabbis who sought collective spiritual renewal in aspects of life far beyond their pulpits. There were civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King, who dreamed of a time when race would no longer matter.
Most Americans shared something else with Harrington: confidence. In the 1930s, the New Deal had failed to reduce unemployment. The prolonged periods of joblessness were what had made the Depression “Great.” But the memory of the New Deal failure had faded just enough that younger people liked the sound of the term. And memories of more recent success fueled Americans’ current ambition. Many men were veterans. They had been among the victorious forces that rolled across Europe and occupied Japan at the end of World War II. Compared with overcoming a Great Depression, or conquering Europe and Japan, eliminating poverty or racial discrimination had to be easy. American society was already so good. To take it to great would be a mere “mopping up action,” as Norman Podhoretz, who had served in Europe, put it.
Underlying the new American ambition was dissatisfaction with the pace of projects that had been launched in the 1950s: civil rights law that had not desegregated train stations or schools, the construction of the interstate highways that didn’t seem to help the poor, urban renewal funding that could not meet the needs of all. Now the country wanted more, faster. In the 1960s America sensed “the fierce urgency of now,” as King put it. The Magic of Thinking Big was the title of a popular self- help book. Americans wanted to see change that blasted like a space rocket. The country had to use its power to do something superlative. This good society had to become, in the words of President Johnson, a Great Society.
The request for prayers, made in our last number, for a young man suffering from Stage Four cancer are humbly renewed and deeply appreciated. Meanwhile the padre asked Your Sinful Correspondent again to a private Mass this week, if only to discuss afterwards the parish’s closing in 2021, the church itself (a place where an actual miracle occurred) to be locked, its fate unknown. Will we be grateful if it perhaps be used on occasion to host funerals of the dearly departed? Lament as we might, it’s hard to keep open the doors when vocations are stymied and the once-faithful convince themselves that Sunday’s obligation is now to sleep in. Ah, well — God will have to fix this, and plenty of other stuff too. If only we would ask. Oremus.
The Creator’s Copious Blessings and Graces on You and All His Sheep, Lost or Not,
Jack Fowler, who awaits electronic face-slaps directed via email@example.com.