National Review

Capitol Punishment


Dear Weekend Jolter,

There wasn’t a movie titled The Reprobates, so we go with what’s available — The Misfits. Which, after extensive stretching, is about the nicest term one might use to describe the fools who invaded the Capitol Building on Wednesday (our John McCormack was there). It would be delusional to call them or consider them ideologues or revolutionaries, but then Fred Sanford’s go-to epithet about big dummies would be wide of the mark too.

“Patriots?” Some use that term. Hmmm. Have it your way, but the daughters of Your Humble Correspondent had best never bring one of these flag-clad arsehats home to meet the folks.

So short in the tooth, 2021 is proving already to be the Year of the Reprobate. And an encore, because . . . so was last year. Granted, 2020’s reprobates merely engaged in . . . how did it go? . . . oh yes, peaceful protests.

Let us recall the last attempt at destruction of the Capitol Building. It was an attack that failed when Americans — the brave passengers trapped on the actual Flight 93 — fought back. Now, these are folks one indeed may rightly describe as “patriots.” They saved The People’s House, and paid for it with their lives.

True enough, the Capitol Building is where dumb and bad things can and do happen under the heading of “official business.” No matter: America demands intolerance of vandalizing clowns on the structure’s sacrosanct premises.

Sacrosanct: So too is your house, and mine — something many pontificators were at a loss to remark upon this summer past when flames burned down Americans’ homes and small businesses. To our media lords, it matters who lights the match.

It shouldn’t.

Well, here’s hoping that the video footage and the selfies these louts — these criminals — posted on Instagram and the like will be carefully reviewed, that names will be put to faces (and tattoos and costumes), that warrants will be issued and arrests made and trials held and sentences rendered.

If only horsewhipping was permitted under the penal code.

As for the President: After the mayhem (empowered in part by his words — the dots connect pretty easily) was suppressed, and the corpses dragged away, and after the Congress confirmed the Electoral College’s votes, he pledged an “orderly transition on January 20th.” This was tweeted verbiage that may prove undone by deeds yet to come and / or be unimagined.

(An ensuing videotaped speech by the President, writes Michael Brendan Dougherty, rang very hollow indeed.)

The Editor of this entity, Rich Lowry, has this to say about the presidential egging-on, and more:

The rioters themselves bear ultimate responsibility for their acts, but Trump egged them on.

He fed them poisonous lies about the election, including lunatic conspiracy theories worthy of QAnon that, if true, would justify violent revolution.

He encouraged them to come to Washington and said they wouldn’t stand for his “landslide” victory getting taken away.

He whipped them up on Wednesday with one of his typically high-octane speeches about how the election was stolen from them and urged them to march on the Capitol to give “weak” Republicans the “pride and boldness they need to take back our country.”

When the mob overwhelmed security and made its way on to the Senate and House floors, sending Vice President Pence and lawmakers fleeing, Trump tweeted about how he’d been wronged by Pence’s entirely correct view that he lacked the power as vice president to unilaterally declare him the winner of the election.

It was only a couple of hours later that Trump, clearly under duress, released a pro forma video calling on his supporters to go home, but, of course, repeating all of his same attacks on the integrity of American democracy that motivated the rioters in the first place.

We move on to the full fare of our missive by noting this institution of Mr. Buckley’s making is not selective, as are so many in America’s press and chattering class, in its condemnation of rioting — whether in in our Capital, in Seattle, in Minnesota, in countless other cities — and its condemning of instigating forces. The bottom has fallen out of the MSM Hypocrisy Market. And with these things having been said, and with many more to be said just below, we order every Tom, Dick, and Ophelia: Get thee to the Jolt!



Trump’s New Low

Mitch McConnell’s Finest Hour

Ted Cruz’s Electoral College Objection Plan — Electoral Commission A Bad Idea

Georgia Senate: Trump Is Responsible for this Avoidable Defeat

A Bevy of Wisdom and Sobriety — 17 Quite Worthwhile Articles Published this Week on NRO

Andrew C. McCarthy: Trump’s Allies Become the Swamp: The ‘Electoral Commission’ Gambit

Thomas Berry: Republican Senators Electoral-College Challenge: Legally and Practically a Terrible Idea

Mike Gallagher: Republicans in Congress Shouldn’t Object to Electoral College Certification

Andrew C. McCarthy: Against Invoking the 25th Amendment

Kyle Smith: Trump, 25th Amendment & Impeachment — End This Republican Nightmare

Dan McLaughlin: Making Him Go Could Make Things Worse

Fred Bauer: The Georgia Senate Debacle Has Many Fathers

Kyle Smith: Congressional Democrats Have No Mandate for Sweeping Change

Neal B. Freeman: Come Home to the Freedom Party

Cameron Hilditch: Britain’s National Health Service Doesn’t Work

Robert VerBruggen: COVID and Deaths of Despair: Analyzing the 2020 Death Toll

Michael Brendan Dougherty: China Is Getting Away with It

Adam Hoffman: College Campuses and Free Speech: Suppression of Conservative Voices Continues

George Leef: College Officials Find New Ways to Silence Unwanted Professors

Victor Davis Hanson: Cancel Culture: Defend Homer and Classical Literature against Ignorance

Nicholas Frankovich: Reginald Foster, Vatican Latinist and Contrarian Genius, R.I.P.

Brian Allen: New Washington Museums on Women and Latinos Promise to Be a Waste of Space and Money

Capital Matters — A Quartet of Wise and Edifying Writings

David Bahnsen: Insider Trading and Financial Crimes: Rethinking Lifetime Bans

Michael Hochberg and Leonard Hochberg: The Bill Is Coming Due for China’s ‘Capitalist’ Experiment

Joseph Sullivan: Joe Biden’s Corporate Tax Plan Would Make America Mediocre Again

Alexander William Salter: How the Biden Administration Can Stand up to Red China

Selections from the New January 25, 2021, Issue of National Review, Your Favorite Fortnightly

Ramesh Ponnuru’s take on a 2021 conservative political operations manual: Back to Opposition

John Yoo and John Bolton say changes in Iran policy must be via treaty ratification: JCPOA 2.0

Andrew C. McCarthy hates commuters (or is it commutators?): Repeal the Pardon Power

Kevin Williamson considers obligations to the Subaru Voter: Joe Biden’s Two Left Wings

Jay Nordlinger’s account of political prisoner Loujain al-Hathloul: A Saudi Woman

Joel Kotkin’s sees a nation reinventing itself: The Case for American Optimism

Lights. Camera. Review!

Armond White: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom Turns August Wilson into #BLM Tyler Perry

Michael Washburn: Lana Turner Centenary: The Actress’s Faustian Life Choices Parallel Her Movie Characters

Armond White: My Annual Better-Than List for 2020



1. Welp, if you didn’t think Donald Trump could push the envelope, you’d have been wrong. We condemn the mob-whipping, and more. From the editorial:

He whipped up and urged on a mob toward the U.S. Capitol, where it breached the building and forced his vice president and lawmakers to flee. He didn’t immediately address the violence and reportedly resisted calling out the National Guard. He finally issued a brief video telling the rioters to go home but expressing his love for them. At no point did he condemn their conduct and at the end of the day, he tweeted that such acts are what happen when an election is stolen (leading to the temporary suspension of his Twitter account).

The scenes at the Capitol were so shocking that they were difficult to fathom. They were worthy of a third-world country, not a well-established constitutional republic whose political stability has been one of the wonders of the world. Not only did the rioters desecrate a great temple of American democracy, they managed to disrupt the counting of electoral votes, the final step of the presidential election. Trump has never had any interest in the peaceful transfer of power, and yesterday’s events mean that the transfer this year, indeed, hasn’t been peaceful.

Of course, the backdrop to all of this is Trump’s unhinged and poisonous lies about the election. If shadowy forces have really stolen our democracy, why isn’t an insurrection to stop Joe Biden from taking office justified?

2. His stand against efforts to overturn the Electoral College vote was, we argue, Majority Leader Mitch McConnells’ finest hour. From the editorial:

Amid our national obsession with the presidency and its occupants, it can be easy to forget that it is Congress, and not the executive branch, that is supposed to be prime within the federal government. Congress can pass legislation without the executive, and, if it sees fit, it can remove him at will. The executive, by contrast, has little power beyond that which has been delegated to him, and it can do nothing of consequence to congressional staff.

Having watched Congress abdicate its responsibilities for so long, it was welcome to see Senator McConnell taking his elevated role as seriously as he did — and even more important to see him admonishing others in his party for playing so casually with fire. Referring openly to the machinations of Senators Cruz, Hawley, and co., McConnell counseled against the depravity of pretending that a vote against the election results was “a harmless protest gesture while relying on others to do the right thing.”

In his notes from the Constitutional Convention, James Madison observed that the work of defending the new system would not be done by parchment, but by people. It is a sign of the enduring strength of the United States that those people not only exist but make up a solid majority. McConnell spoke for them yesterday.

3. The plan by Ted Cruz and other Republican Senators to stymie the Electoral College was a folly. From the editorial:

The letter from the Cruz eleven states that “ideally, the courts would have heard evidence and resolved these claims of serious election fraud.” In point of fact, federal courts in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Nevada did consider the Trump campaign’s claims on the merits, and they all found them wanting. The letter laments that the Supreme Court didn’t take up the factual questions, but the highest court in the land isn’t a random fact-finding body. The most prominent suit that landed on its desk was an attempt by Texas to throw out the results in key battlegrounds won by Biden. The court declined to hear the suit because it was so flagrantly constitutionally flawed.

The letter cites the contention over the notorious 1876 presidential election between Democrat Samuel Tilden and Republican Rutherford B. Hayes. Trying to draw an analogy to today, it refers to “serious allegations of fraud and illegal conduct” in 1876, but this significantly understates it.

In 1876, there weren’t just allegations; there was honest-to-God evidence of bribery and ballot stuffing on both sides in the chaotic atmosphere of Southern states still under Reconstruction. There were rival slates of electors from Louisiana, Florida, and South Carolina. Black voters were subjected to horrific violence and intimidation to keep them from the polls.

To compare any of this to today is perverse. In Georgia, for instance, machine and hand recounts have confirmed the results, while a signature audit has found no evidence of endemic mismatches. Yet, the president of the United States is still calling the Republican secretary of state of Georgia to try to browbeat him into awarding him victory in the state based on misinformation and conspiracy theories.

4. Who lost Georgia? The GOP’s dual defeat was quite avoidable. There is an explanation. From the editorial:

Republicans who seek to absolve Trump of any responsibility for the defeats say the fault is Mitch McConnell’s, for refusing to allow the federal government to send $2,000 checks to most households. Even more federal spending may have made a difference — although it should be noted that Loeffler and Perdue both came out for the bigger checks. But this is not a defense of Trump. It amounts to saying that Trump elevated an issue that helped the Democrats, first by having his White House sign off on a COVID-relief deal without the checks and then by demanding them after the fact. It would have been less harmful for him to insist on the checks consistently or to have touted all the help that the relief deal included. Instead, again, he chose the course most destructive to Republican political interests.

The narrow loss of the Senate is not a long-term electoral catastrophe. As dismaying, irresponsible, and just plain nutty as Trump’s conduct since the election has been, his presidency is ending with Republicans in a healthy electoral condition. They are hardly doomed in Georgia: They came close to winning these elections even under adverse circumstances, and Raphael Warnock will face the voters again in 2022. In Washington, D.C., they have the power to filibuster legislation. They can make it as politically costly as possible for Democrats to raise taxes in a reconciliation bill, or to confirm liberal culture warriors such as Xavier Becerra to the cabinet. They can seek to build on Trump’s success in attracting new voters to the Republican coalition and at the same time to win back some of the old ones he has alienated.

17 Demonstrations of Beneficial Conservative Sanity that Merit Your Attention

1. Andrew C. McCarthy was not buying what Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley were selling. From the piece:

The states certified their election results under their laws prior to December 8. These include Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia, and Arizona — states whose popular-election results have been targeted by President Trump and his supporters. Some of the claimed irregularities have been colorable, some spurious, but there is no proof that any of them would have changed the result of the election in any single state, much less President-elect Biden’s overall victory. Neither Senator Hawley nor Senator Cruz claims otherwise. Moreover, the states resolved disputes raised by Team Trump under their own laws. The states’ duly elected officials certified the results under the states’ duly enacted procedures.

As far as the federal government is concerned, that is the end of the matter. Those state certifications are conclusive. It is not a matter of whether it is the result we would have preferred, or even whether it is a result we find suspect. It is the law. This undeniable fact has been recognized by several federal judges, including judges appointed by Trump, who have examined the Trump claims, rejected them, and disclaimed any authority under the circumstances to disturb the states’ determinations.

If, despite all that, Democrats were trying to orchestrate a congressional do-over, Republicans would be pointing out, with due indignation, that the Constitution makes the election of a president, like the ratification of the Constitution itself, a matter of state sovereignty. Under our foundational law, it is the states, not the people and certainly not Congress, that determine for which candidate their electoral votes are cast.

As long as one candidate has received a majority of the state-certified electoral votes, Congress’s role is solemn but strictly ministerial: to witness the counting of the votes. The Twelfth Amendment requires that to be done in the presence of lawmakers at a joint session of Congress, over which the vice president presides — because of his largely ceremonial role as president of the Senate and because the Twelfth Amendment mandates that, after the states have cast their electoral votes, they transmit those votes “to the President of the Senate” in Washington.

2. More Cruz/Hawley: Thomas Berry found their challenge to be a dead-end stunt. From the piece:

To better understand why this plan is both illegal and a terrible idea, some background history is necessary. The Constitution’s Twelfth Amendment stipulates that the electors from each state must meet, vote, and record their votes in two separate lists, one for president and one for vice president. They must then “sign and certify” those lists and transmit them “sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate.” Once the lists make their way to Congress, the “President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted.”

This passive-voice phrasing crucially leaves out who does the counting. And the Twelfth Amendment is also silent on the extent to which the power to count includes the power to judge whether particular votes should count. As Justice Joseph Story observed in his 1833 Commentaries on the Constitution, “no provision is made for the discussion or decision of any questions, which may arise, as to the regularity and authenticity of the returns of the electoral votes,” and it “seems to have been taken for granted, that no question could ever arise on the subject.”

Unfortunately, that assumption turned out to be overly optimistic. Controversies did arise, culminating in the disputed Hayes–Tilden election of 1876, which legislators settled by passing an emergency bill after the electors had cast their ballots but before Congress had counted them. The bill established a commission to determine the winner of each disputed state, but it did not attempt to set any long-term precedent.

3. Congressman Mike Gallagher found the objection scheme wrong-headed, and worse. From the assessment:

If state legislatures have been injured or ignored by renegade governors, election commissions, and courts, they could contest their respective states’ slates of electors. Yet not a single legislative chamber, including those controlled by Republicans, has done so. Many of my fellow Republicans have had informal meetings in hallways and Holiday Inns to discuss objecting. But not a single chamber in any of the 50 states has been willing to override the will of its voters based on evidence of fraud. Their silence consents to the Electoral College count.

Moreover, the idea that Congress — not the people in the states — gets to choose the president and the vice president would surprise the Framers. It would stun millions of Americans, as well as all of the American citizens who have voted in federal elections since the beginning of this Republic. The Constitution lays out a single circumstance in which Congress gets to pick the president: If no candidate receives a majority of the duly certified Electoral College vote, then the House picks the president based on state delegations. Selectively decertifying states to throw the election into the House is not a clever workaround. I have scoured The Federalist Papers, the history of the Electoral Count Act, and Madison’s notes on the Constitutional Convention. I cannot find any evidence to support the objectors’ approach as a legitimate means of presidential selection. It is constitutional nihilism.

The objectors are going down a dangerous path of vast federal overreach. By even forcing debate today, they are endorsing the pernicious idea that Congress, not the states, is the right forum for litigating — or even worse, relitigating — an election. This is an extremely progressive interpretation of the Constitution. It gives the federal government enormous new powers to regulate how states conduct elections, something the Left has sought for half a century. Until now, conservatives have rightly fought back against this line of legal reasoning. Yet the objectors would throw it all away for a few hours of primetime debate that they concede is unlikely to change the outcome.

4. More Andy McCarthy: He opposes the calls for invoking the 25th Amendment against President Trump. From the piece:

The vice president and congressional leadership were intrepid in returning to their important business last night. But even before the electoral votes were finally counted and Biden was recognized as the next president, calls were coming from both sides of the political aisle for Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from power with less than two weeks to go in his term.

To do so would not be as grave an offense against the Constitution as would have been acceding to Trump’s unhinged demands. But make no mistake, it would be unconstitutional.

The 25th Amendment is not a substitute for impeachment. It is a necessary process to deal with a specific kind of dire situation, namely, when the president is by some medical emergency rendered unable to perform the duties of the presidency. It is meant for such situations as Woodrow Wilson’s stroke or presidential assassinations which, as our history illustrates, sometimes require life-saving emergency surgery or tragically find stricken presidents lingering a while before expiring.

The amendment is not applicable to a situation in which the president is alleged to be unfit for reasons of character, or due to the commission of political offenses that may rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors.

5. Kyle Smith is in accord with Andy, but understands why the option is tempting: From the piece:

Let’s not do this. The 25th Amendment (Section 4) stipulates that it is applicable only if “the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” But Donald Trump is obviously not “unable,” merely unwilling to discharge his duties. No serious person doubts that Trump is perfectly capable of saying that Joe Biden has been duly elected president and that he is committed to an orderly transfer of power. (Indeed, he affirmed the latter in an early-morning tweet sent out by his aide Dan Scavino). Or Trump could, if he wanted, calm tensions by simply ceasing to claim that the election was stolen. He chooses not to do these things but he is able to do them. The reading of the 25th Amendment being discussed by cabinet officials and pundits yesterday would amount to essentially declaring that the president is unable to discharge his duties because he is insane. This is not a diagnosis that non-medical professionals in the cabinet should be making. Ruling that the president suffers from some debilitating mental disorder or another would, at a minimum, require a rigorous examination by trained professionals, not an off-the-cuff decision by politicians. (Yet even if a slate of psychological experts were to examine the president, they probably wouldn’t agree on what condition to diagnose.)

Using the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office is a temptation that must be rejected. It would clearly be a political move meant to extract from public life an unpopular figure. The United States of America cannot go down the road of confusing political unfitness with medical unfitness. The cabinet would simply be using the 25th Amendment as a pretext for taking down a lawfully elected leader they oppose. It would amount to an unconstitutional coup. If the 25th Amendment could be deployed in his case, it could be deployed in many other cases. How many times did their political opponents declare that Nixon or Reagan was “a lunatic” unfit to serve?

6. Dan McLaughlin argues that making Trump go will make things worse for America. From the piece:

One way or another, I come back to this: Removing Trump from office by a clear, bipartisan action (by Pence, or by a large number of Republican senators) might possibly avoid tearing the country apart. But a hotly contested effort to do so would be worse than what we have now, imposing long-term political damage and possibly inciting more violence rather than calming the waters. So, the question is not whether most Democrats or some Republicans are willing to do so or could justify it, but whether enough Republicans are on board to make this look more like a unanimous verdict of our political system. That would, in turn, make it harder for Trump to mobilize support to target the people who voted him out. But it is far from clear that the overwhelming popular mandate exists for such a dramatic step.

This gets to the real nub of the problem with either of these remedies: The case for removing Trump is largely one of prudence — of care for the system. But is it prudent, two weeks before the end of his term, to stage a potentially divisive fight to strip Trump of his powers? In particular, if Congress can muster a large, bipartisan vote for a resolution of censure, that is almost certain to attract the support of some Republicans who would otherwise balk at an impeachment vote. It might enable the partisan temperature to come down, rather than go up, while leaving behind a formal marker of disapproval.

I do not have an easy answer, and that suggests caution. Surely, at this juncture, Trump richly deserves impeachment and removal. Mike Pence, having been close to this president for years, is in a better position to assess whether he is truly in such a dangerous mental state now that the hazards of leaving him in place outweigh the risk of popular rage if he is defenestrated now. But one way or another, Trump’s actions since the election have indelibly stained his presidency. He cannot go away soon enough.

7. Fred Bauer does a paternity test on the GOP’s election debacles in Georgia. From the analysis:

The direct-cash plan flew through the House only to hit a dam in the Senate. Mitch McConnell’s career as Senate majority leader has been marked by big political gambles, such as blocking the Merrick Garland nomination in 2016 and pushing through Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination in the waning days of the 2020 campaign. In the lead-up to the January runoffs, he made another gamble and blocked a stand-alone vote on the stimulus checks.

Whether $2,000 checks would have gotten to 60 votes remains an open question (though it seems quite possible), but the fact that the GOP-held Senate blocked them gave Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff a potent political weapon. Both pledged that, if Democrats won the Senate, they would bring those checks up for a vote. The high-stakes bets of Senate Republicans on judicial nominations might have upset Democrats, but they also rallied GOP voters; blocking the checks, however, had the downsides of those past gambles without the benefits.

In the January runoffs, then, Republicans faced a political Bermuda Triangle. The president’s war with Georgia Republicans split the party and alienated middle-of-the-road voters. Trumpworld elevated voices, such as Lin Wood, urging Republicans not to vote in the January runoffs because elected Republicans had supposedly been insufficiently loyal to Trump and had not done enough to reverse the allegedly “hacked” election. The GOP’s refusal to pass expanded direct-cash benefits hurt the party with blue-collar voters. All that depressed Republican turnout.

8. More Kyle, who says that despite now controling Congress, Democrats have no mandate to make sweeping changes. From the piece:

Democrats will be shoving their faces into a buzzsaw if they interpret an election season that delivered them 50 percent of the Senate, 4.5 seats (at this moment) more than 50 percent of the House, and an incoming president who reached 270 electoral votes by a margin of only 43,000 votes spread across three states, as a decisive mandate for sweeping change. Or even as a quiet mandate for major change. Or even as a whispered suggestion of substantial change. The people don’t want anything more complicated than to turn the page on the Trump era.

Americans have decided, albeit by a much narrower margin than almost anyone expected, that they have had enough of Trump’s shenanigans. No other message took any particular hold in the public imagination. Even the devastation of the coronavirus was not strongly tied to Trump in the voters’ minds. If it had been, the electorate would have handed Biden a landslide comparable to Obama’s in 2008. The voters grasp that the virus would have played out in much the same way even if Democrats had been in charge. Given that the virus hit hardest in New York and New Jersey, where the various actions and inactions of Democratic officials had obviously catastrophic results, the public is wise enough to understand that simply being “the party of caring” is not enough to endow Democrats with magical virus-management powers. Today, New York governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City mayor Bill de Blasio are blaming each other for being unable to get the vaccines injected into people, many of whom will simply die waiting as these inept Democrats bicker and bungle.

Much of what drives people’s voting psychology is: not that. Barack Obama won primarily because he was not George W. Bush (whom he successfully argued had a clone in John McCain). He won again because he was not Mitt Romney, who reminded too many people of the management consultant who eliminated Dad’s job. Donald Trump, who was elected president in 2016 at a moment when he had an approval rating of 37 percent, won mainly because he was not Hillary Clinton. And Joe Biden very obviously won by not being Trump.

9. Neal B. Freeman makes the case for the Freedom Party. It already has members, maybe even you. From the article:

Indeed, so. The groups hit hardest by the lockdowns happen to be the constituent elements of the Freedom Party and, to those of you who choose to see this division as the work of coincidence, we say that you are sweet souls and you have our concern.

Take the egregious case of restaurants. Immigrants who come to America for the right reasons open restaurants for good reasons: (1) they can leverage their intellectual property (Mom’s recipes); (2) the kids will never go hungry; (3) it is still in some measure a cash business; and (4) they can launch and grow their business with a loyal, hardworking, and underpaid staff — the kids and their cousins. Immigrant restaurants have been for more than a century a first-class ticket to the American dream.

Here in Florida where I live, we are blessed not only with the legacy restaurants — French, Italian, Chinese, and Mexican — but with more recent arrivals, including Cuban, Haitian, Puerto Rican, Nicaraguan, and most recently of all, Venezuelan. These restaurants are run by independent businesspeople, who ripen over time into prime prospects for the Freedom Party. (The Puerto Ricans present a special case. Since the turn of the century, a million Puerto Ricans have settled in the Orlando area. That’s more than New York, more than San Juan. It’s been a veritable diaspora from an island with three million people. To overstate but accost the central point: The early arrivals came for opportunity and started their own businesses. The later arrivals, after Hurricane Maria, came for social services and became welfare clients. To read the national press, you would think that “Hispanics” are a fungible lot.) The Associated Press reports that, across the country, 110,000 restaurants have closed during the pandemic. That’s an astounding number, a tragic number. Not one of those families came to America aspiring to become government dependents.

I recount these episodes to drive home the obvious point. It is not only in war — when the patriotic citizen cedes ground carelessly to the national-security state — that individual freedoms shrink and shrivel. It is not only in bursts of ideological exuberance — the New Deal, the Great Society, the Biden Infrastructure-Boondoggle-To-Be-Named-Later — that the state advances. As every American knows in his hips, to borrow Willmoore Kendall’s timeless phrase, the state never sleeps. Sometimes slowly, sometimes with gathering speed, sometimes on cat’s paws, sometimes with the banging of rhetorical pots and pans, the state advances. The era of big government is never over.

10. Britain’s weirdly revered National Health Services, writes Cameron Hilditch, is marked by deadly failures. From the piece:

Britain’s irrational attachment to this failed system becomes intelligible in light of Nigel Lawson’s observation that “the NHS is the closest thing the English people have now to a religion.” The idea of health care provided free at the point of access has become grafted onto the vine of British national identity to such an extent that no amassing of data or evidence can persuade the public to abandon it.

The United Kingdom has changed at such a fundamental level over the past century that the old markers of identity no longer arouse any sense of affinity or self-recognition in the hearts and minds of the people. The older national inheritance exemplified by treasures such as Magna Carta, Lincoln Cathedral, and the language of the King James Bible have lost all of their cultural adhesiveness. At this point, almost the only thing that unites British people beyond their common language is the state to which they all involuntarily belong. And since the administration of health care is nothing more than the action of the state at its highest point of moral elevation, it makes sense that the NHS would be politically impregnable.

The excess deaths that the U.K. is suffering this winter along with the crushing physical and mental burdens borne by British doctors and nurses ultimately redound to this long-term failure of British culture. By transforming a medical institution into a cultural institution for the sake of forging a new, progressive national identity, Britons have underwritten decades of deadly failure. The U.K. is unlikely to change course at this point for all the reasons stated above, but there is still time for American progressives to pre-emptively end their irresponsible love affair with single-payer health care. American policymakers of both parties should see the NHS for the failure that it is, and look elsewhere for inspiration when seeking to reform the nation’s health-care system. Countless lives will be saved if they do.

11. Robert VerBruggen analyzes COVID’s 2020 death toll. From the piece:

One of the most important questions, of course, is what we accomplished through our reaction to COVID-19. As individuals, we retreated to our homes to protect ourselves and stop the spread of the virus. Governments mandated lockdowns, masks, social distancing, and more. The economy predictably cratered. All this certainly had consequences for our mental and physical health, our substance abuse, our kids’ education. Was the cure worse than the disease?

A new study from Casey B. Mulligan, who recently served as chief economist for President Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers for about a year, is a small step toward answering that question. It focuses specifically on the issue of who died, and why, through October 3 of last year. We’ll have better analyses once our slow-moving federal bureaucracy gets more data together, but the study paints a broad-brush picture of the death toll from COVID — and from our response to it.

The paper compares last year with previous ones, using a statistical model to predict what mortality would have looked like in 2020 if preexisting trends had continued. Things actually got off to a good start, with deaths below expectations, possibly thanks to a mild flu season. But from March through early October, “excess” deaths totaled a shocking 250,000.

12. China emerges from its year of global arson even stronger, writes Michael Brendan Dougherty. How in the heck can they get away with it? From the article:

European leaders met with Chinese President Xi Jinping this week to bring about a signature Chinese “investment” plan in the European Union. They are doing this, supposedly, to chart a middle way between the United States and the CCP, and to open up access to Chinese markets.

“Progress implies cooperation by both sides, implies reciprocity, and implies trust,” said Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, in announcing the agreement. But China does not follow its own agreements. State subsidies and investment are opaque, precisely to use these trade agreements as a form of mercantile expansion. Von der Leyen also said that human rights were non-negotiable European values. And yet, at the conclusion of this agreement, no one was sprung from the prison camps of Xinjiang or from the cells holding Hong Kong political prisoners.

Angela Merkel approved a deal to allow Huawei more access to contracts in the German 5G network, and even appeared in a sickening press conference in which the Chinese Communist flag and the EU flag were made to look like they were patterned after one another.

It’s not just the EU but the incoming Biden administration that is already signaling that bygones will be bygones after 2020. That’s why Disney Chairman Bob Iger’s name is being floated for U.S. ambassador to China. Disney has been slavishly flattering the Chinese government in hopes of being allowed access to the profitable Chinese market. This included credited “thanks” to the provincial authorities in Xinjiang at the end of the Disney film Mulan. It is these provincial authorities who are carrying out genocidal policies against Uyghurs.

These are the leaders of the free world, sucking up to Chairman Xi.

13. Adam Hoffman describes how Princeton students are blocking conservative speakers: From the piece:

As president of the right-leaning party of Princeton University’s American Whig-Cliosophic Society, the oldest collegiate literary, political, and debate society in the nation, I am responsible for bringing conservative speakers and voices to the heart of Princeton’s political scene. In 2020, I tried to do my job, only to be shut down by an intolerant Left.

Several months ago, I submitted a list of potential speakers to the American Whig-Cliosophic Society’s Speakers Council. They flagged a number of my speakers as controversial and decided to put them to a vote before the group’s student Governing Council, in accordance with procedures laid out to prevent a repeat of a 2018 disinvitation incident. My “provocative” speakers included Washington Post columnist and Pulitzer Prize winner (and Princeton alumnus) George Will and Neomi Rao, a former law professor and currently a circuit judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Predictably, none of the left-leaning party’s choices, including extreme progressives such as bell hooks and provocateurs such as Jamelle Bouie, were deemed controversial enough for further review.

Unfortunately, the speakers’ fates seemed sealed before we even began consideration. Some on the Speakers Council deemed George Will too controversial for campus, on the basis of his writing on “marginalized groups,” particularly his accused insensitivity for victims of sexual assault. The Governing Council feared his heterodox views would trigger discomfort and lead to protests. Not even his 2019 baccalaureate address at Princeton — at the university president’s invitation — and his former position on the university’s Board of Trustees could turn the tables in his favor. According to this group of Princeton’s political elite, Princeton students could not handle Will’s arguments. And so I was not allowed to invite Will to campus.

14. More Campus Antics: George Leef reports on a new study which shows the tactics of college administrators to dispose of non-liberal professors. From the article:

In today’s Martin Center article, retired professor Stephen Baskerville writes about a new paper he has written for the Center focusing on those tactics. In that paper, he writes, “I explore how non-disparagement agreements (NDAs) and mandatory arbitration (MA) provide a veil of legally enforced secrecy, shielding administrations from negative publicity, professional censure, and legitimate oversight, as they cleanse their faculty of ideologically heterodox professors.”

Using those methods, administrators can get rid of faculty they don’t want around, and keep everything silent because the hapless profs are prevented from ever discussing what happened to them. In consequence, both academic freedom and shared governance are undermined.

Baskerville also reveals that it isn’t just overtly leftist schools that use those tactics, but supposedly conservative, Christian ones. He explains, “Ironically, NDAs appear less likely to be used by liberal than conservative institutions, notably Evangelical Christian colleges, to disguise their capitulation to leftist pressure. Fearing controversy and avoiding public debate, these institutions make ‘routine use of non-disclosure agreements that stop current and former staff and board members from discussing sensitive matters.’”

15. Victor Davis Hanson wonders if the wisdom of Homer can be immune to the Cancel Culture. From the article:

Great works of literature such as Homer’s Odyssey, Virgil’s Aeneid, the Bible, and Dante’s Inferno offer lasting cultural referents that enrich the very way we speak and think. When we do not know the names of people, places, and things from Odyssey — such as the Olympians, the Trojan horse, Calypso, Hades, Scylla and Charybdis — then we have little foundation for understanding the logic and language of much of the present world.

Finally, from classic literature we learn values, both reassuring and troubling. Remember the fate of the goatherd Melanthius and the suitor Antinous. Arrogant bullies like these two do not end up well in Odyssey. But the humble and kind usually do.

For Homer, loyalty, responsibility, courage, and keeping a clear head are not optional, but rather lifesaving virtues. Odysseus possesses them and therefore makes it home despite losing his crew.

Yet in the pre-Christian pagan world of early Greece, morality is also defined as hurting enemies and helping friends, not turning the other cheek.

Hubris begets divine retribution, not Sermon on the Mount forgiveness of one’s sins. But to appreciate the values of the New Testament requires knowing a few of the more brutal tenets it sought to replace.

Our current cultural crisis is not from reading too much, but from not reading much of anything at all. Most of the people who deface monuments and wreck statues know almost nothing about the targets of their furor.

Canceling Homer is not virtue-signaling. It is broadcasting ignorance.

16. Nicholas Frankovich pays tribute Reginal Foster, the late Latinist. From the piece:

Foster had no use for any such faction. He had no patience for complaints from the opposite camp, either, where Latin was scorned as elitist, an obstacle between people and priest. Look, everyone who acquires the language does so in the same way: People learn it. Why don’t you? “You do not need to be mentally excellent to know Latin,” Foster insisted. “Prostitutes, beggars, and pimps in Rome spoke Latin, so there must be some hope for us.” (Not that a Roman lowlife was necessarily dim, but you get the idea.) As for the hoary assumption that princes of the Church whisper secrets to one another in a dead language, above our heads, please. Latin instruction in seminaries has been neglected for generations. The linguae francae (note the plural) of the Church in the 21st century are Italian and more Italian, French and Spanish, English and German. Among the many missives that Foster at his desk in the Apostolic Palace penned in the language of Cicero (and — mark you, snob — of the Roman masses) were congratulatory greetings that his office sent to high-ranking churchmen. He said that the notes were sometimes returned and accompanied by requests for translations.

He thought that the pope, who could lead by example, should set aside a couple of hours every day, 2 to 4 p.m., for reading in Latin — forget the siesta. He suggested that the Holy Father “stand up at the United Nations and speak Latin and say, ‘If you don’t understand this, it’s too bad, jack!’” Foster’s mission to revive Latin as a spoken language has been left to his followers. Was he quixotic? Or a pioneer? Wait at least a century or two before answering. The Church lives by a slow clock. Imagine the reaction if you could visit the 19th century and you described for its inhabitants the extent of modern Hebrew, a forerunner, Deo volente, of Latin redivivus. These dry bones will live again.

17. Brian Allen argues that taxpayer dollars bankrolling new Washington museums on women and Latinos will be a big waste. From the piece:

“Latino” or “Hispanic” is a gringo term. It condenses, and it minimizes nuance. Americans with south-of-the-border heritage have roots in so many different, disparate places. Mexico, El Salvador, Colombia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, the Canary Islands, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Peru, and a dozen other places have distinct cultures and, in America, wildly different trajectories. New Mexico has many descendants of Spanish grandees who came there in the 1600s.

Granted, my Italian grandmother was born not too long after the reunification of Italy. She was from Modena and thought Sicily was really part of Africa. My grandfather hailed from Fano, near Ravenna and Rimini. Neither felt any feeling, warm or cold, toward any other part of Italy. The experiences of Neapolitans, Venetians, Calabrians, and the Milanese weren’t theirs. I suspect people with Mexican heritage aren’t anymore smitten by Cuban themes than they are with maple-sugar making and white picket fences, which Vermonters can extol without end.

I don’t think this new museum can or will be coherent. I don’t think people from these places have an all-encompassing identity, much as Americans with European or Asian heritage don’t. I’d rather see museums in cities with, for instance, big Cuban-American or Dominican-American populations focus on history and culture that mean something to the locals. There are dozens of museums doing this now. Centralizing the vast, discordant history of Latinos-in-America in Washington will make for a bland mishmash.

It seems a boondoggle and gravy train. People having some form of Spanish acculturation seem to assimilate quickly. A generation or two from now, I wonder what the museum’s constituency would be.

Capital Matters

1. David Bahnsen encourages a rethink of lifetime bans for insider-trading criminals. From the article:

It would be tough to think of a clearer example of “cruel and unusual” punishment than stripping someone of their existential purpose and calling in life. If, say, two years of jail is warranted, or a $2 million penalty, fine. But to then pile on a ban (that can last decades or even a lifetime) on working in the field someone loves, the field they know, the field that animates them, is a pile-on that defies basic standards of justice and mercy. It is inherently excessive, for if the goal is to “take them off the field” during the course of a jail sentence, the jail sentence should be the punishment. If the debt has been paid to society, telling someone after they have paid that debt that the punishment shall be prolonged, whether by statute (or regulation) is excessive, and in certain cases even cruel and unusual. This is not to say that an employer owes the guilty party a second chance. If a wrongdoer at, say, JP Morgan pays their debt to society for some form of violation, I would never suggest that Goldman Sachs owes them a second chance once he or she emerges from jail or pays off their fine. Market forces will and should affect their ability to regain professional opportunity, and their own creativity, tenacity, and persistence will have to overcome these challenges, which are considerable — not least because their offense will be a matter of public record and, in the case of brokers and many investment managers, will be visible on a database maintained specifically to tell prospective employers or clients.

2. Michael Hochberg and Leonard Hochberg believe the bill is due for China’s ‘Capitalist’ experiment. From the piece:

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has re-awoken to a profound truth: Rich, secure capitalists are the natural enemies of authoritarian regimes. In a hybrid autocratic-capitalist model, capitalism is the means to generate wealth, but power is the end goal. Successful capitalists naturally begin to demand that their personal and property rights be protected from authoritarian fiat. Capital in the hands of entrepreneurs is a political resource; it poses a threat to the implementation of centralized plans.

Realizing this, the CCP has begun to assert control over the private sector by “installing . . . Party officials inside private firms” and having state-backed firms invest in private enterprises. In the absence of civil rights or an independent judiciary, “private” companies have no real independence from the government in China. Dissent and demands for civil rights are a threat to the regime and will be crushed.

China’s shift from encouraging external investment and internal market competition toward treating capitalism as a threat has an obvious historical precedent. From 1921–1928, the Soviet Union instituted a policy of economic liberalization, which allowed for the privatization of agriculture, retail trade, and light industry. This partial and temporary return to a controlled and limited capitalism, known as the New Economic Policy (NEP), saved the Soviet economy from collapse and enabled Russia to modernize. But, in 1928, Stalin suddenly reversed course: He collectivized agriculture and liquidated the most prosperous farmers, thereby necessitating the frequent resort to grain imports, notably from the United States.

3. Joseph Sullivan says the Biden corporate-tax plan will Make America Mediocre Again. From the analysis:

Biden’s corporate-tax proposal is remarkable. Its explicit aspiration is for America not to stand out among its G7 (a group of seven advanced economies) peers. Under the plan, the U.S. would intend neither to gain advantage from tax policy nor have its tax code be a source of competitive disadvantage: The best that can be said is that America would be leading from the middle rather than from behind. If the G7 were a seven-person seminar, America would show up hoping to do no better than two or three classmates.

Even in its modest ambition to be mediocre, however, the Biden administration appears poised to fail. If the U.S. adopted Biden’s proposed federal tax rate, its overall corporate-tax rate would not be “in line” with the rest of the G7. Assuming U.S. state and local corporate taxes stayed the same, Biden’s proposal would result in nearly the highest overall corporate-tax rate in the G7, according to data from the OECD. The U.S. would be tied with France. In fact, as the chart above shows, factoring in state and local taxes, the U.S. corporate-tax rate is much closer to the G7 overall corporate-tax average today than it would be if the proposal Joe Biden campaigned on were adopted.

4. Alexander William Salter makes the case for e Biden Administration granting of emergency visas to Chinese persecuted by the PRC. From the piece:

When the West opened up to China, the hope was that political liberalization would follow economic liberalization. That has not happened. Instead, the free nations of the world, led by the U.S., face a Chinese Communist Party hell-bent on maintaining its authoritarian political system by any means necessary. Joe Biden must recognize China for what it is: a transgressor of both international law and human rights. Beijing cannot be an international partner in good standing under its current leadership.

Unfortunately, many Western elites are complicit in China’s brutality, particularly the leaders of multinational corporations. New evidence suggests “Uyghurs are working in factories that are in the supply chains of at least 82 well-known global brands in the technology, clothing and automotive sectors, including Apple, BMW, Gap, Huawei, Nike, Samsung, Sony and Volkswagen.” Since many of these companies embrace calls for social-justice stakeholder capitalism, their duplicity in overlooking actual injustice — slave labor — is hypocritical and unconscionable. We cannot rely on woke capital to stand up to the CCP. The task falls on the Biden administration, unlikely as that may seem.

While combating China requires a holistic strategy, the granting of emergency visas is relatively simple and highly effective

A Tasty Sampler from the New January 25, 2021, Issue of Your Favorite Fortnightly Magazine

You will find the entire January 25, 2021 issue here. A suggested quintet of selections from its remarkable contents follow.

1. Ramesh Ponnuru discusses the S.O.P. for the GOP in opposition. From the piece:

At the start of those two previous Democratic presidencies, Republicans engaged in some ruminations about whether their party had a future. Both because they know how those chapters in American politics ended and because they think Donald Trump lost the election for reasons peculiar to himself, they are less motivated to do any rethinking now.

The obvious lesson for Republicans is to dust off the old British political maxim that “the duty of an opposition is to oppose.” Oppose Biden’s tax increases. Oppose his environmental regulations. Oppose his health-care program. Oppose his judicial nominees. Oppose his immigration proposals. Oppose him on almost every point.

Defeat Biden on some of these issues, and it will demoralize Democratic voters while invigorating Republican ones. Put up a strong but losing fight, and his victories will make Democratic voters complacent while enraging Republican ones. Cooperate with Biden, on the other hand, and you make him look moderate, give him a success, and annoy some of your own supporters.

The basic electoral logic of this oppositional stance is hard to dispute, which is why both Republicans and Democrats in our polarized era have increasingly adopted it when out of the White House. It will serve Republicans well given that most, and probably the vast majority, of Biden’s agenda will deserve rejection.

2. John Yoo and John Bolton tag-team to make the case for any Iran policy change occurring under the guise of a treaty consideration. From the analysis:

New presidents feel the need to score policy wins in the first months of their term. Democratic down-ballot failures in 2020 mean Biden will have little maneuvering room to advance his domestic issues, and will instead have to turn to foreign policy for any early successes. Despite gaining the presidency by a healthy Electoral College margin (and winning the popular vote), the Democrats have seen their advantage in the House of Representatives shrink to a 222–212 majority (depending on two possible challenges), their narrowest since 1942. The Senate outcome is even closer, but as we go to press, it appears likely that the Democrats, thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote, will control that body 51–50, as tight as it gets.

While the executive enjoys vast power in foreign affairs, Republicans can put up a stiff fight through a combination of constitutional strategy, congressional tactics, and political infighting. (We wrote on this subject for NR six years ago, in “Advice on ‘Advice and Consent,’” December 31, 2014, without noticeable effect on the Senate; but we decided to try again under new circumstances.) They should refuse to accept the JCPOA as an international agreement because of its failure to undergo the treaty process required by Article II of the Constitution. If Biden emulates Obama and withholds JCPOA 2.0 from Senate consideration, Congress should deploy its own constitutional powers by imposing mandatory sanctions on Iran, beefing up military spending in the region, withholding appropriations to the State Department and other agencies, and refusing to confirm nominees to national-security positions or cooperate with the White House on other elements of its agenda.

The JCPOA is not the only international agreement the incoming administration intends to revive. “The United States will rejoin the Paris Agreement on day one of my presidency,” Biden promised in December, referring to the global climate-change agreement. Biden also envisions reentering the World Health Organization, from which Trump withdrew for its cover-up of the COVID-19 pandemic’s China origins. The JCPOA, though, raises the most immediate and profound constitutional problems.

3. Andy McCarthy makes the case for repealing the presidential authority to pardon. From the article:

The pardon power has in fact been invoked throughout the nation’s history to ease strife and promote reconciliation. In one of its first uses, President Washington pardoned a pair of Whiskey Rebellion agitators sentenced to death for treason — to the chagrin, ironically, of Hamilton, notwithstanding its being a textbook application of his thinking. President Lincoln made copious resort to his clemency authority for dozens of Confederate soldiers and officials, and in 1863 he made broad amnesty a core part of his vision for post-war reconstruction of the South and healing of the Union. It fell to President Andrew Johnson to issue that broad pardon to treasonous Rebel forces. That was in 1868 on Christmas Day, the heart of the season in which presidents typically extend clemency — originally in homage to the virtues of redemption and forgiveness. But today, pardons having become increasingly political and unsavory, it’s just as likely that Christmas is pardon time because fewer people are paying attention over the holiday.

Of course, there is not necessarily a disjunction between partisan political considerations and the national interest. President Gerald Ford pardoned his predecessor, Richard Nixon, in an effort to move the nation and his administration beyond the Watergate crisis. His successor, Jimmy Carter, mass-pardoned approximately 200,000 Vietnam draft evaders, dwarfing President Harry Truman’s pardoning after World War II of about 1,500 conscientious objectors. History remembers these clemency grants kindly. They spurred vehement protest at the time, though, in the tinderbox that was then American politics — as when President Reagan relied on the Carter amnesty to rationalize pardoning FBI officials convicted of illegal break-ins during the investigation of domestic anti-war terrorists. One of those officials, Mark Felt, was later revealed as the “Deep Throat” of Watergate fame.

Alas, while national healing is the best use of the pardon power, it is not the usual use.

4. Jay Nordlinger tells the story of Loujain al-Hathloul, a prominent political prisoner in Saudi Arabia. From the article:

What did she do? She campaigned for human rights, and, specifically, women’s rights: the right to live independently; the right to have legal recourse in the case of domestic abuse; the right to drive a car.

She knew the risks she was taking in campaigning for these simple rights. She had no “need” to do it, because she was living a perfectly fine life as it was. But she felt compelled to do it. According to her family, and others who know her, she has a strong sense of right and wrong, and a strong sense of patriotism. In short, she wanted her country to be freer and more just.

Possibly, Loujain al-Hathloul will be released in a matter of months. The judge suspended two years and ten months of her sentence, and gave her credit for the time she has already spent in prison. Her family is hoping for the best, although dictatorships are good at dashing hopes.

Loujain is 31 years old, born in July 1989. Her name means “pearl,” and her brother Walid says, “That’s what she is to our family.” Their father is an engineer, educated at the University of Michigan; their mother is a retired schoolteacher. There are six siblings altogether: two brothers, four sisters. Loujain is the fourth child in that lineup.

Three of the siblings live abroad, and have campaigned mightily for Loujain. The rest of the family is in Saudi Arabia, and barred from leaving the country. There is little they can do of a public nature. Freedom of speech is not recognized by the Saudi government.

“It does not surprise me that Loujain became an activist,” says Walid. As a girl, she cared a lot about people and questioned injustices around her: in particular, inequality between boys and girls, and men and women. She was always asking questions that weren’t quite safe to ask.

5. America is reinventing itself, says Joel Kotkin, and that’s grounds for optimism. From the piece:

Fortunately, the goofy one-world globalism of the American establishment is not so popular among the populace, because while free trade benefited some selected companies and the already affluent, it did so at the expense of most other people. The trade deficit with China, as the left-wing Economic Policy Institute points out, has cost as many as 3.7 million jobs since 2000. The view from BlackRock and Apple is not like the view from Main Street or the Rust Belt.

What America needs is not richer technology oligarchs but a policy agenda to increase jobs and bring production back to our communities. Despite the much-ballyhooed consumer benefits of low-cost imports, the vast majority of Americans seem willing to pay higher prices that could come from moving production out of China. Some American companies and foreign corporations have recognized the strategic advantages of locating here in the U.S. and the downsides of shifting operations to China and other competitors. The tariffs may not have made a big impact, as Trump promised, but the annual rate of jobs coming from offshore, according to the Reshoring Initiative, increased from 6,000 in 2010 to 180,000 in 2017. Cumulative jobs brought back represent about 5 percent of total U.S. industrial employment.

One signature shift has been the announcement by Taiwan Semiconductor to build a new $12 billion plant in Arizona, greatly increasing our high-tech security. These investments have the key characteristic of tightening supply chains on critical goods. President-elect Biden would do best to take advantage of a resurgent U.S. industrial sector that has survived the pandemic, performing better than its rivals in Europe.

The pandemic has helped make opposing dependence on China a bipartisan issue, particularly in terms of medical equipment, There have been longer-standing problems with our dependence on high-tech gear. Democrats, as former Indiana senator Evan Bayh has suggested, cannot hide behind globalist notions if they wish to win a sustainable majority.

Lights. Camera. Review!

1. Oh my does Armond White have cutting things to say about Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. From the beginning of the review:

Viola Davis looks frightening in the film version of August Wilson’s 1984 play Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Her monstrous eye shadow, shark-jawed false teeth (recalling Richard Kiel chomping at James Bond in The Spy Who Loved Me), baggy bodysuit, and obviously dubbed singing prove that no one involved with this film feels any emotional connection with its historical subject.

Ma Rainey (born Gertrude Pridgett in Columbus, Ga., in 1886) was known as “the Mother of the blues” for originating blues art and humor. It was her century-old achievement that inspired Wilson’s ambition to write a series of ten plays, each set in a different decade of the 20th century, affirming black American vernacular. Now, in a film directed by George C. Wolfe and produced by Denzel Washington, Rainey’s bawdy honesty, and Wilson’s grand concept, have been hijacked to serve the bitter agenda of today’s racial-justice movement. A historically false, dramatically trite fiasco results.

During his Eighties sinecure at the Yale Repertory Theatre, where the play was originally workshopped, Wilson laid out a dramatic scheme that would provoke shock (and guilt). But for 2020, Wolfe and Washington emphasize “systemic racism” — the inescapable pressure of white corporate ownership that shadows Ma Rainey and her musical accompanists.

2. Michael Washburn reflects on the great actress at the centenary of Lana Turner’s birth: From the beginning of the piece:

As we mark the 100th birthday of Lana Turner (1921-1995) this coming February 8 and reflect on her cinematic legacy, some of us may recall a line from a rather different sort of film from the kind in which Turner typically starred. In 2001’s wacko fantasy-drama Donnie Darko, Jena Malone, distraught over events in her personal life but elated at meeting up with her love interest — the film’s eponymous anti-hero — muses, “I guess some people are just born with tragedy in their blood.”

Indeed. It’s an observation that evokes Hemingways, Kennedys, and dozens of troubled movie and pop-music stars through the years, but seems particularly apt in the case of a film legend for whom life imitated art in the most lurid and gruesome way. Over the course of her life, Turner married and divorced seven men, and though not solely her own fault, Turner’s personal entanglements certainly stained her life and reputation and those of her teen daughter, Cheryl Crane, forever. In Crane’s memoir, Detour: A Hollywood Story, Crane alleges that Turner’s fourth husband, Lex Barker, repeatedly abused and molested her when she was a girl, but that’s not even the worst of it. On April 4, 1958, L.A. entrepreneur and mobster Johnny Stompanato, who had been aggressively courting and harassing Turner for months, attacked Turner in her home in Beverly Hills. This prompted then-14-year-old Cheryl to rush to her mother’s defense and fatally stab Stompanato. It was the end of an abusive relationship with a bully who had seen nothing wrong with storming onto the set of Another Time, Another Place and threatening Sean Connery with a gun. (The late Connery’s actions on this awful occasion were as heroic as anything he later did onscreen as James Bond.)

3. More Armond: He scopes out the films of 2020 and unleashes his 16th annual “Better Than” List. From the piece:

Straight Up > Nomadland, First Cow, The 40-Year-Old Version, and I’m Thinking of Ending Things

James Sweeney’s screwball comedy (dazzlingly acted by himself and Katie Findley) reveals today’s romantic uncertainties — the spiritual crisis underlying gender dysphoria. It crushes the “topical” trend from filmmakers who employ PC distractions — respectively, feminism and wealth-redistribution (Chloé Zhao), race (Radha Blank), and pseudo-cerebral hipster psychosis (Charlie Kaufman). Ingenious honesty vs. all kinds of crazy self-righteousness.

On a Magical Night > Mank

Christophe Honoré’s dreamlike farce tracing a couple’s emotional and sexual footprints makes no excuses, unlike David Fincher’s unconvincing attempt to mythify cruelty among friends and colleagues in Hollywood.

True History of the Kelly Gang > First Cow

Justin Kurzel’s Ned Kelly legend boldly reimagines the pathos of Australia’s white Western tribalism, while Kelly Reichardt condemns American capitalism as racist and homophobic. A rousing cultural lesson vs. a didactic history lesson.

Elsewhere in the Conservative Solar System

1. At Modern Age, crowd favorite Daniel J. Mahoney reflects on statesmanship as human excellence. From the essay:

Perhaps statesmanship of the noblest and truest kind has always been associated with crises of one sort or another: Solon addressing civil strife and class conflict in Athens in the sixth century BC; Pericles steering a middle path between imperial grandeur and prudent restraint in resisting the expansion of the Athenian Empire at the beginning of the Peloponnesian War; Cicero using all the arts of rhetoric and statesmanship in an ultimately failed attempt to save the remnants of Roman republicanism from the threat of Caesarian despotism; Burke eloquently warning defenders of ordered liberty against the proto-totalitarianism of Jacobin France; Washington leading the American people to their rightful station among the peoples of the earth and governing the new republic with an austere republican dignity; Lincoln preserving the Union and putting an end to the evil of chattel slavery at the same time; Churchill eloquently and firmly defending liberty and law, and all the achievements of the “English-speaking peoples,” against the dreadful barbarism of Nazism. Such statesmanship is, always and everywhere, a rare political achievement and an equally infrequent if admirable manifestation of the highest possibilities of the human soul.

Classical authors were right to understand such statesmanship as an elevated standard against which all political action can be judged. The thoughtful or reflective statesman exercises what the contemporary French political philosopher Pierre Manent calls “commanding practical reason,” not arbitrary power or a plan to satisfy the lowest impulses of his soul. Every political community needs such commanding practical reason, an authoritative exercise of judgment and foresight at the service of the common good. But the doctrinaire egalitarianism and relativism that many today confuse with democracy do not readily allow for such qualitative differences to be acknowledged and affirmed.

Elementary distinctions “natural” to political life — the distinctions between authority and authoritarianism, reason and will, nobility and baseness, domination and the mutual accountability inherent in free political life — are effaced in the name of a terrible simplification. Arguments about “the advantageous and the just,” as Aristotle so memorably put it in the opening chapters of his Politics, are summarily reduced to mere struggles for “power.” This effacement of politics as a moral science goes hand in hand with a toxic egalitarian moralism that feels free to repudiate our civilized inheritance and to judge all thought and action in the light of the overlapping determinisms of “race, class, and gender.” In truth, there can be no authentic political sphere, no veritable “public space,” when thought and action are reduced to cruel and inexpiable struggles for power and domination. And whatever the antinomian left claims, the messianic struggle for “justice” will lead only to mayhem, violence, and tyranny if the goods of life are said to have no foundation in the human soul or the natural order of things. One cannot promote justice on the “willful” premises of Machiavellian (and Nietzschean) modernity. If one begins with nihilistic premises, if one reduces every argument to a pretense for domination and exploitation, one necessarily ends with the self-enslavement of man. A barely concealed nihilism cannot provide a foundation for common humanity, the civic common good, or mutual respect and accountability. In the end, it can only negate our civilized inheritance despite the perfectionist or utopian veneer that invariably accompanies it.

2. At Reuters, Greg Torode reports on the ChiCom crackdown in Hong Kong now taking aim at Catholics, as nuns are arrested. From the investigation:

As the pressure rises, the acting head of the local Church, Cardinal John Tong, has been curbing activist voices in the Catholic hierarchy, according to four people with knowledge of the matter. One target has been the Justice and Peace Commission, a human rights body within the diocese that has traditionally championed political and religious liberty.

In October, the four people said, Tong’s executive committee, known as the curia, censored a statement on Sino-Vatican relations released by the commission. They removed a reference to James Su Zhimin, the Bishop of Baoding, who was arrested by Chinese authorities more than 20 years ago on the mainland and has become a hero to many in the Church. His fate is unknown.

Tong, 81, has also told his priests not to deliver sermons that are too political, cautioning them that they should avoid using language that causes “social disorder.” Tong, like all bishops, has full administrative authority over his diocese.

“We are at the bottom of the pit — there is no freedom of expression anymore,” the former Bishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal Joseph Zen, told Reuters in a written reply to questions. “All these things are normal in mainland China. We are becoming like any other city in China.”

With the exception of 88-year-old Cardinal Zen, all Church leaders, local priests and parishioners interviewed for this article declined to be named. “For any word you say,” Zen told Reuters, the authorities “can say you’re offending the National Security Law.”

3. More Red China: At Newsweek, Ben Weingarten predicts Xi will eat Biden’s lunch. From the article:

Communist China is betting on a return to the status quo ante of American acquiescence to, and support of, its hegemonic ambitions through comprehensive “engagement” and outright appeasement under a Biden administration.

That is the primary takeaway, if the recent remarks of Chinese State Councilor and Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi are any indication.

In the waning days of 2020, Wang delivered a speech at the Asia Society entitled, “Reorient and Steer Clear of Disruptions for a Smooth Sailing of China-U.S. Relations.” The title itself gives away the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) game: It seeks a reversion to the ostensibly pacific relations with the U.S. under which our ruling class aided, abetted and enabled its rise from trifling concern to our most formidable geopolitical adversary.

Wang would make this view even clearer in a subsequent interview published in CCP mouthpiece Xinhua, in which he said “China-U.S. relations have come to a new crossroads, and a new window of hope is opening.” As Xinhua summarized it, “The Chinese side hopes that the next U.S. administration will return to a sensible approach, resume dialogue with China, restore normalcy to the bilateral relations and restart cooperation.”

4. At Gatestone Institute, Majid Rafizadeh reports on a coterie of liberal House Democrats wanting mightily to restore Iran’s fortunes and become the mullahs’ BFFs. From the piece:

Have these lawmakers and Biden learned nothing from recent history? Some may argue that Iran’s mullahs would change their destructive behavior if they were rewarded in advance with appeasement policies and financial incentives. This argument, however, has been proven to be breathtakingly wrong.

There was an opportunity to initiate and expand peaceful policies during the eight-year administration of President Barack Obama. Throughout this time, Obama made unprecedented concessions in an attempt to appease the ruling mullahs. He met them with generosity and flexibility every step of the way. What was the outcome?

As sanctions against Iran were lifted during the Obama administration, it quickly became clear that those actions, instead of moderating the malign activity of the mullahs, gave Iran an unmerited global legitimacy in the eyes of the international community. These gifts from the US — the newfound legitimacy, the billions in cash and the lifting of sanctions — generated even more billions in revenue for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), as well as for Iran’s militias and terror groups. Tehran also used that influx of revenues to expand its influence throughout the region, including in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon — and as far away as Venezuela. Iran apparently sees Venezuela as its “beachhead for diplomatic and commercial expansion into Latin America,” including “underground ‘missile cities’” along the Gulf coast. Iran’s expansion campaign has proved to be immensely successful.

5. At The New Yorker, Anthony Lane recommends the new movie by Andrei Konchalovsky, “Dear Comrades!” — the story of a 1962 uprising in the USSR town of Novocherkassk, and its bloody suppression (a massacre) by the heirs of Stalin. From the review:

Vysotskaya has a face that can harden in resolve or blench in shock, and such doubleness serves her well in “Dear Comrades!,” where she barely has the time, let alone good cause, to crack a smile. She plays Lyuda Syomina, who heads the production sector on the City Committee of Novocherkassk—a solid industrial base in southern Russia, cradled in a wide loop of the Don River, and housing an electric-locomotive plant. Lyuda, who was a nurse on the front line in the Second World War, and who still reveres the memory of Stalin, lives with her elderly father (Sergei Erlish) and her eighteen-year-old daughter, Svetka (Yulia Burova). As the story begins, in the summer of 1962, we find Lyuda in bed with her boss, the unlovely Loginov (Vladislav Komarov). They speak not of sweet nothings but of unobtainable somethings; food prices have been raised, meat and milk are scarce, and there are rumors of unrest. Loginov is unperturbed. “The Central Committee instructions clearly say that the change will result in higher living standards in the nearest future,” he says.

Your initial reaction is: “Nobody talks like that.” But Loginov does, as does Lyuda (she dismisses the shortages as “temporary hardship”), and you soon realize that both of them are true believers. In reciting the necessary rhetoric, like a rosary, they are not so much describing a situation as willing the reality to match up to their creed. What interests Konchalovsky is the sundering of words from facts, and the speed with which that split becomes a gulf. Thus, during a committee meeting, a siren goes off, indicating that the unthinkable has happened: factory workers, offered lower pay and less to eat, have gone on strike. “This is a crime,” Lyuda says. “People are ignorant.” Yet she is the one who doesn’t want to know.

A regional superior named Basov (Dmitry Kostyaev) arrives from out of town to handle the crisis. Fat chance. Portly and perspiring, he steps onto a balcony to address the crowd below. “Comrades, we live in a wonderful time,” he declares. A rock is thrown in reply. As the tension mounts, and as we follow the chain of command, we sense the rising fear, with apparatchiks hurrying to offload blame. Even a general, heralded as “a beast,” looks nervous in the presence of two brooding honchos from the Central Committee, dispatched on Khrushchev’s orders. Their fear is that information might leak out and foment further dissidence elsewhere; the city is to be sealed off. Boldly, if unwisely, Lyuda stands up and recommends an “extreme penalty” for those who incited the trouble. She will have her wish.

6. At The College Fix, Jackson Walker reports on Byrn Mawr College’s “reparations fund.” From the article:

Bryn Mawr College, a women’s liberal arts college in Pennsylvania, recently agreed to student activists’ demands that a “reparations fund” be created for black and indigenous students.

It was one of many demands issued by the Bryn Mawr Strike Collective, a student-led group that organized a racial justice strike on campus during the fall semester.

The students’ demand called for “the implementation of a ‘reparations fund’ towards a yearly allocation of funds and resources to Black and Indigenous students in the form of grants for summer programs, affinity groups, multicultural spaces, and individual expenses such as books, online courses, therapy, and any and all financial need beyond the scope of racial justice work.”

Bryn Mawr leaders agreed to this demand by renaming the Dean’s Emergency Fund to the Dean’s Student Assistance Fund, doubling its allocation to $10,000 annually, and appointing a committee that includes representation of black, indigenous, and people of color staff and faculty, to administer the fund.


Last week in this space much was made of Gary Peter’s pinch-hit, walk-off home run, a dilly of an accomplishment for a pitcher who occasionally performed batsman duties. Also, a promise was made: to herald some of the long-ball achievements of Wes Ferrell.

A few notes first. Wes was a pitcher, quite distinguished — he had a 193-128 career record for the Braves, Dodgers, Red Sox, Yankees, Indians, and Senators, hurling from 1927-1941, a workhorse righty who led the AL in complete games in four seasons, and innings pitched in three. A two-time All Star, Wes was the brother of Hall of Fame catcher Rick Ferrell; indeed, the two were teammates over six seasons for the Red Sox and Senators (in fact, the two were jointly traded from Boston to Washington in 1937 for . . . yep, Bobo Newsom.

The power hitter of the two was the pitcher: In 7,076 plate appearances, Rick amassed 28 career homers. Wes, in just one-fifth of his bro’s plate appearances, socked 38 home runs. 37 of them came as a pitcher — an MLB record.

But let us talk about that pinch homer, and a few others that came in July of 1935.

The pincher first: At home before 24,000 fans at Fenway Park, the Sox facing the visiting Detroit Tigers, on July 21, 1935, a sunny Sunday, Beantown starter Lefty Grove (, the Hall of Famer, took a 4-3 lead into the top of the Ninth Inning, and blew it: a string of two-out hits gave the Tigers a 6-4 lead. In its last licks, the Red Sox put together two hits and a bunt to have men on second and third with one out, and Grove (a weak hitter — his 1935 batting average was .079) on deck. Joe Cronin, the player/manager (and the man on third), made the not-tough call, and Wes Ferrell — who was hitting .365 for the season! — strode towards the batters box. Whatever pitch Tigers ace Tommy Bridges served up was deposited on the other side of the Fenway fence — Ferrell’s pinch-hit, three-home, walk-off secured the Red Sox a 7-6 victory.

More drama followed over the next week. In fact, on the next day. The St. Louis Browns were in town, and Wes Ferrell was on the mound, facing Dick Coffman. Into the bottom of the Ninth the game went, a 1-1 tie. Babe Dahlgren — who, a few years later, would achieve notoriety for replacing Lou Gehrig as the Yankee’s first baseman — led off and popped out. Up came Wes Ferrell — and out, way over the Green Monster, went Coffman’s pitch. For the second consecutive game, Ferrell had a walk-off home run.

Two more dingers would come before the month was over. On July 31st, the Red Sox were in Washington, Ferrell facing Bobo Newsom (in the first of his five separate tours with the Senators) on the mound, but the bigger contest was at the plate: Ferrell smacked two home runs, deep into the left-field bleachers at Griffith Stadium, and driving in four runs to anchor a 6-4 Sox win.

Of additional note: A year later, on August 12th, the Philadelphia Athletics visiting Boston, Ferrell again clubbed two homers, both off A’s starter Hod Lisenbee, one of them a grand slam, and driving in all of Boston’s runs in a 6-4 victory.

One more: At Fenway on August 22, 1934, against the White Sox, Ferrell went deep twice: In the Eighth Inning, off Les Tietje, his solo shot knotted the game at 2-2. Then with two out in the bottom of the Tenth Inning, Ferrell again went long on Tietje. It was his first career walk-off, and it also earned him his 12th victory of the season.

A Dios

For those who perished in the madness, pray for the peaceful, eternal repose of their souls. For those harmed in performing their duties, whetehr in this week or in weeks and months past, speedy recovery and solace. And as we should ever do, let us pray for wisdom. A lot of wisdom. Do not underestimate the importance of knowing (if one may paraphrase the great Mr. Rogers — not of the Neighborhood but of the Home Guitar Course ) when to hold ’em, when to fold ’em, when to walk away, and when to run.

May We Be Made Worthy of the Almighty’s Promises,

Jack Fowler, who will accept digitized rebukes if communicated to


National Review

Happy New Fear


Dear Weekend Jolter,

It’s worth noting the popular tune Happy Days Are Here Again (Yours Truly favors the 1930 version by Ben Selvin and The Crooners) was released at the outset of a Great Depression. Talk about the power of positive thinking (or, singing). It took only a decade for reality to catch up with the lyrics.

Many today are shaking the muck and mire of 2020 off their shoes, confident that 2021 has brought happy days with it. Yes, it might have. Also Might: We might look back one day and wistfully daydream, Remember 2020? Oh that was a wonderful year — compared to what came after.

Whoa! Bill Buckley often reminded us of the holy doctrine that despair is a sin, so this space will opt (cautiously) for this position: that the declaration “Happy New Year” is a statement of fact in addition to being a well-wishing thought. (Okay: with a Biden Presidency, a likely wishful-thinking one too.)

Just 364 more to go! Here to fill up Day One is a plethora of links to NR brilliance. Do enjoy.


Just the Links M’am


Louie Gohmert & Josh Hawley’s Election Objections Are Going Nowhere

Brexit: Boris Johnson’s Trade Deal Ends the Fight for Good


Ryan Mills: Kelly Loeffler Warns of Generational Stakes in Georgia’s Elections

Alexandra DeSanctis: Planned Parenthood Is Helping Staff the Biden Administration

John McCormack: Will the Hyde Amendment Survive the Biden Presidency

Jimmy Quinn: New E.U. Trade Deal with China Ignores Beijing’s Disdain for Human Rights

Jimmy Quinn: China’s Coronavirus Deception: Researcher Decodes Beijing’s Propaganda | National Review

Helen Raleigh: China’s Repression and Aggression Is Creating a Backlash against Xi Jinping’s Policies

John O’Sullivan: Life after Brexit

Ellen Carmichael: Journalists’ Behavior over Luke Letlow’s Death Is Abhorrent — and Telling

Victor Davis Hanson: A Guide to Wokespeak

Madeleine Kearns: Hypocrisy of Woke Corporations: Nike, China & the Uyghurs

Rich Lowry: The Surge in Online Buying and Amazon’s Historic Hiring Binge

David Harsanyi: Homer Simpson: Union Poster Child

Michelle Minton: New Alcohol Guidelines a Victory for Science over Politics

Isaac Schorr: Progressive Dominance of Campus Culture Exerts Real Costs

Madeleine Kearns: Cancel Culture Is a Teenage Nightmare

Michael Washburn: Walker Percy’s ‘The Moviegoer’ Speaks to COVID Crisis and Social Isolation

Stephen Sholl: How Hungary’s Communist Regime Tried & Failed to Coopt Christmas

Capital Matters

Daniel Tenreiro: The Capital Note: Escape from Silicon Valley — to Miami

Paul Gessing: Netflix and Hollywood Benefit from Energy Industry-Backed Subsidies

Phillip Cross: Innovation Is Hard to Measure But Essential

David Chavern: Congress Must Give Local News Publishers Fighting Chance against Tech Giants.

Jordan McGillis: Biden Electric-Vehicle Plan Would Hurt U.S. Manufacturers

Brian Riedl: The Case against $2,000 Coronavirus Relief Checks: On Six Arguments and Myths

Lights. Camera. Review!

Kyle Smith: Promising Young Woman Is a Sad Feminist Cry for Help

Armond White: The New Documentary Time Is Arty Condescension on Prison-Reform Activism

Kyle Smith: Best Movies of 2020: Pixar’s Onward Tops List of Titles That Shone in a Dark Year


Take Two: Links Galore, Supersized with Excellent Excerpts


1. We praise the outcome of Britain’s trade deal and the completion of Brexit. From the beginning of the editorial:

Four and a half years after the momentous vote in June 2016, Brexit is finally and fully accomplished with a U.K.–EU trade deal that sailed through Parliament 521 to 73.

It’s over.

The economic uncertainty about the United Kingdom’s “future relationship” with the nascent super-state is finished. The bottom line is that the U.K. will continue trading relatively freely with the European Union, avoiding the economic disruption that would come by falling back on WTO rules in a disorderly exit. Trade will be done through the mechanism of the new trade agreement with agreed-upon provisions for regulations and retaliatory tariffs. Like all sovereign nations, the U.K. can now go about making its own trading arrangements in the world, while keeping faith with its existing covenants.

It’s over.

2. We strongly condemn the legal actions of Congressman Gohmert and others to have Vice President Pence veto the Electoral College results. From the editorial:

Gohmert’s plan is particularly preposterous, in that it would entrench into American law the idea that the incumbent vice president is permitted — perhaps even obliged — to veto the results of any presidential election whose outcome he dislikes. Instead, as president of the Senate, the vice president has a purely ministerial role presiding over the counting of electoral votes by Congress. If Richard Nixon could serve this function after his own heartbreaking loss in 1960, surely Mike Pence can sign off on this year’s results.

That almost no Republican senators have shown any interest in actively pursuing these ploys is a testament to their good sense, which makes it all the more disappointing that Josh Hawley has volunteered to join Brooks in objecting. President Trump has taken aim at the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, for acknowledging that Joe Biden is the president-elect, and at the assistant majority leader, John Thune, for observing that the Mo Brooks plan is destined to “go down like a shot dog.” In Trump’s estimation, McConnell’s statement shows that he does not know how “to fight,” while Thune’s shows that he is “weak.” There is, indeed, a great deal to admire about politicians who give their cause their all. But there is nothing strong or admirable about seeking to overturn the result of a presidential election.

Trump and his team have had ample time to produce evidence of the widespread fraud they allege changed the outcome in key states and have failed to do so. Congress should now do its job and ratify the results in good faith, no matter how much it enrages the president.

If Your New Year’s Resolution Was to Read a Ton of Conservative Brilliance, Well, You’re in Luck: Here Are 17 Links

1. Ryan Mills is in Georgia on the campaign trail with Kelly Loeffler. From the report:

Loeffler wasn’t well known to most voters when Governor Brian Kemp appointed her to the Senate last December to fill the seat vacated by Johnny Isakson, who stepped down for health reasons. In interviews, Loeffler can appear stiff and overly rehearsed. During an early December debate, she almost mechanically referred to her opponent as “radical liberal Raphael Warnock” 13 times. There are online parodies suggesting that she might be a robot.

Like Collins, Loeffler has been an outspoken ally of President Trump since being appointed. And like most of her Senate Republican colleagues, she hasn’t explicitly endorsed the president’s repeated claim that the election was stolen — but she hasn’t ruled it out either.

She believes some of what Trump complains of occurred in her own state. Days after the election, she joined Senator David Perdue in calling for Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger to step down over his alleged “failure to deliver honest and transparent elections.”

Many of Loeffler’s most devoted supporters have embraced the president’s more sweeping claims of fraud. And some have even considered heeding the advice of Trump ally Lin Wood, an Atlanta-based attorney, who has urged Republicans to stay home on Election Day unless Perdue and Loeffler do more to support the president’s efforts to overturn the election.

2. Alexandra DeSanctis finds that when Joe Biden is not in his basement, he’s in the pocket of Planned Parenthood. From the article:

According to Newsweek, Planned Parenthood is now “working closely with the Biden-Harris transition team to ensure they’re ‘ready to hit the ground running day one.’”

“The first thing we would like to see would be an executive order on day one, within the first 100 days, that demonstrates the administration’s commitment to sexual and reproductive health care,” Planned Parenthood president Alexis McGill Johnson told the outlet in an interview.

Jacqueline Ayers, Planned Parenthood’s vice president of government relations and public policy, told Newsweek that the Biden administration should use the federal budget “to indicate how this administration would prioritize these programs that have been woefully underfunded for a long time.” Ayers is referring to programs that would direct federal funding to Planned Parenthood, among other abortion providers.

3. John McCormack says the Hyde Amendment may be aborted by the Biden Administration. From the report:

When Lipinski’s No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act last received a vote in 2017, only three Democrats voted for it. Two of those Democrats won’t be returning to Congress in the new year: Minnesota congressman Collin Peterson lost in the November general election, and Lipinski himself was defeated in a Democratic primary earlier this year that was waged against him largely because of his opposition to abortion. Lipinski thinks there are more House Democrats who oppose repealing the Hyde amendment but voted against the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act because that bill also prohibited elective-abortion coverage in the Obamacare exchanges.

If the House does pass a bill ending the Hyde amendment and Democrats control the Senate, efforts to save it will depend a lot on Democratic senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia. While Montana Democratic senator Jon Tester flip-flopped this year on nuking the Senate filibuster, Manchin has sworn up and down since the November election that he will keep the Senate’s 60-vote threshold for most legislation, including the appropriations bill that funds Medicaid.

In 2016, Manchin said it was “crazy” when Democrats explicitly called for repealing the Hyde amendment in their party platform, and he now says he’d vote against legislation getting rid of it.

4. Jimmy Quinn covers the EU’s trade deal with Red China, and finds the expected: that the “human rights” loudmouths have betrayed those who endure forced labor under the Communist regime. From the piece:

But refusing to conclude negotiations over the agreement would have accomplished one simple thing: denying the Chinese Communist Party-state legitimacy and the greater leverage that comes with these sorts of negotiations and deeper ties. Europe recently acknowledged that China is a “systemic rival” and that curtailing Chinese investment in certain vital European industries is a security concern. This year saw the beginning of a U.S.-EU strategic dialogue to coordinate on China-related issues. The president of the European Council even took to the U.N. General Assembly in September to declare Europe’s allegiance to the U.S. side in the competition with China.

But this was no match for the desire to cater to business interests across the continent, particularly in Germany.

For the past four years, headlines declared that Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron are the new leaders of the free world — the United States, this narrative claimed, had abdicated its responsibility to defend liberal democracy and the Western alliance. There’s certainly no disputing that Donald Trump’s fusillades against NATO, collective defense, and America’s allies strained transatlantic relations (even if they resulted in larger allied contributions to NATO) — but the destructive potential of this agreement dwarfs any of the concrete damage that the president might have inflicted upon the alliance.

Officials on both sides of the aisle are right to be furious about this agreement. It sells out a people targeted for eradication and sets transatlantic cooperation on China back several steps when it’s needed most.

5. More Jimmy, who digs into a new report that sheds light on Red China’s pandemic deceptions. From the article:

“We all know that the official number of diagnosed cases coming up from the Chinese authorities was not reliable,” Zhong told National Review in an interview following the release of his latest research paper in December. “But a quantitative question is, How unreliable are those numbers?”

Many have attempted to answer the same question. Some turned to reports about increased cremations in Wuhan, which suggested that official case numbers in early 2020 were being deliberately suppressed by the authorities. On-the-ground reports from Xinjiang shed light on an outbreak there that took place later in the year and that Chinese officials had downplayed.

But Zhong’s research — based on machine-learning analysis of articles that appear in the People’s Daily, the flagship Party propaganda outlet — offers an inventive way “to analyze the Chinese government’s own words.” It’s called the Policy Change Index (PCI).

“The reason why that actually would work is because words are very indicative of intentions in terms of the Chinese government’s policymaking process,” Zhong said. The idea behind the PCI is that, if the tone used by major state newspapers during the COVID pandemic sounds as urgent as the tone used by the same publications during the peaks of a previous disease outbreak, that could call into question the government’s claim of low case counts.

6. More Red China: Helen Raleigh sees a global backlash coming towards Xi & Company. From the piece:

Without its demographic dividend and with an aging population, China’s economic growth will further slow down at the time when the government needs to keep its growing middle class from demanding a level of political freedom matching their newfound wealth. An aging population would also force the government to allocate more national resources for elder care and social services, which means there will be fewer resources to compete against the U.S. This is probably one of the most important reasons why Xi feels that he has to abandon the so-called strategic-patience guidance issued by Deng Xiaoping, the paramount leader of China from 1978 to 1997, who instructed his comrades to bide their time and avoid any confrontation with powerful external forces until China was in a much stronger position both economically and militarily.

Xi, however, believes that China can’t afford to bide its time any longer. It must replace the liberal world order with a Sino-centric world order before China’s population becomes too old and the Chinese economy becomes too stagnant. However, rather than furthering economic reform and opening up more sectors to foreign investment and competition to strengthen its economy, Xi chose to hide China’s weaknesses and exaggerate China’s economic strengths. He emphasizes self-reliance and utilizing China’s resources to pump up “national champions,” or state-owned enterprises that could compete against global leaders in strategic sectors. Xi feels that nationalism is his new trump card, something he can use to motivate, excite, and unite a billion people all the while strengthening the CCP’s rule over them. Others say that his inward-looking nationalist policies are leading China to the very middle-income trap — in which China’s level of development stalls out before reaching the heights of other modern industrial nations — that Xi and his predecessors tried very hard to avoid.

7. If anyone can illuminate what a post-Brexit Britain will be, it’s John O’Sullivan. From his analysis:

It’s the end of one of the most hard-fought struggles that has ever roiled the British political system, and a great political victory for the prime minister, Boris Johnson, who 13 months ago was fighting — and not visibly winning — a seemingly interminable battle against the entrenched forces of Remainerdom in Parliament and in the wider political establishment. It’s also a victory for the small but principled band of Brexiteers in the Tory European Reform Group (ERG) who were a minority of a Eurosceptic Tory minority when the campaign for a referendum on EU membership began seriously in the 2010 Parliament and who have achieved 90 percent of their aims. And though their names have not been on top people’s lips today, it’s a massive personal triumph for Nigel Farage and Dominic Cummings, too. It will be a scandal and a shame if Mr. Farage is not granted as a tribute the peerage he refused as a bribe, and if Mr. Cummings (who may not want early retirement in the Lords) does not get equivalent recognition.

And as far as any political change can be called irreversible in a democratic society, it looks irreversible or, to be more cautious, reversible only in the very long run. That’s the case because the balance of political opinion in and out of Parliament is in favor of Boris’s TCA and even more in favor of not re-opening the Brexit debate. A YouGov poll showed public opinion supported the deal by 57 percent as against 9 percent rejecting it with 34 percent retreating into Don’t Know territory. The Tory Party, which for most of the decade had been split between one-third that supported the Tory leadership in supporting EU membership and two-thirds wanting (if usually discreetly) to opt out, was today united. All but two Tory MPs voted for the TCA, and their abstentions may not have been for political reasons. (Both ERG members, they had supported Boris’s deal.) For the next generation or two, the Tories will be the Brexit Party without qualifications, if only because they won’t want to return to the deep divisions of the last four years. For almost that long, therefore, they’re likely to occupy the commanding heights of politics and opinion.

8. Ellen Carmichael decries the media ghouls covering the death of Congressman-Elect Luke Letlow. From the article:

Some progressive Twitter activists and left-wing reporters couldn’t wait to begin their grave-dancing. Letlow deserved to die, they mused, because he didn’t take COVID seriously enough. They scoured his online presence to find any proof that he engaged in so-called “denialism.” Some, such as Vox’s Aaron Rupar, pointed to an October video where the then-candidate had the audacity to advocate for reopening the economy while maintaining state and federal precautions on coronavirus. Molly Jong-Fast of The Daily Beast also shared the video. Hundreds of their followers joined in, blaming Letlow for his own death and expressing that he was unworthy of pity because of his politics. For them, his death was further proof that those who dare propose policy prescriptions that differ from their own, no matter how rational or mainstream they may be, just have it coming to them.

Setting aside the lack of evidence for their claim that Letlow denied the dangerous realities of coronavirus, the COVID ghouls and scolds clearly see themselves as worthy and qualified judges of their fellow man. It is they who decide whether or not people act appropriately enough to be spared death by coronavirus. As Michael Brendan Dougherty recently put it, they feel empowered to “turn every sick person into either a blameworthy fool or a blameless victim,” an extraordinarily arrogant and inhumane view of human suffering.

9. Victor Davis Hanson compiles the beginnings of a Woke dictionary. From the piece:

“CULTURAL APPROPRIATION.” This adjective-noun phrase must include contextualization to be an effective tool in the anti-racism effort.

It does not mean, as the ignorant may infer from its dictionary entries, merely “the adoption of an element or elements of one culture or identity by members of another culture or identity.”

Asian Americans do not appropriate “white” or “European” culture by ballet dancing or playing the violin; “whites” or “Europeans” surely do appropriate Asian culture by using non-Asian actors in Japanese kabuki dance-drama.

For non–African Americans, dreadlocks or playing jazz are cultural appropriations; dying darker hair blond is not. A black opera soprano is hardly a cultural appropriationist. Wearing a poncho, if one is a non–Mexican-American citizen, is cultural theft; a Mexican-American citizen wearing a tuxedo is not.

Only a trained cultural appropriationist can determine such felonies through a variety of benchmarks. Usually the crime is defined as appropriation by a victimizing majority from a victimized minority. Acceptable appropriation is a victimized minority appropriating from a victimizing majority. A secondary exegesis would add that only the theft of the valuable culture of the minority is a felony, while the occasional use of the dross of the majority is not.

10. More Woke: Madeleine Kearns hammers hypocrite corporations. From the piece:

Alternatively, if you are a corporation, woke-washing can help boost your brand. A good example of this is when Nike recruited Colin Kaepernick for its “Dream Crazy” commercial in which the former NFL quarterback said, “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.” Shortly thereafter, Nike’s stock rose by nearly 5 percent. The company even won an award for “outstanding commercial” at the Creative Arts Emmys. Supported by Kaepernick’s woke intervention and social-justice street cred, Nike managed to rake in $6 billion. Such is its commitment to racial justice that in the week after the George Floyd riots, it released another ad urging people not to “sit back and be silent” but rather to “be part of the change.”

One would assume, then, that this noble corporate giant, so attuned to and invested in civil rights and social justice, would be just as vocal in opposing slavery in the 21st century. Apparently not. Earlier this year, reports from Congress and the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) found evidence “strongly suggest[ing] forced labour” of the Uyghur Muslims and other minorities under the Chinese government. According to the ASPI, “Uyghurs are working in factories that are in the supply chains of at least 82 well-known global brands in the technology, clothing and automotive sectors, including Apple, BMW, Gap, Huawei, Nike, Samsung, Sony and Volkswagen.”

11. Rich Lowry finds Amazon’s delivery revolution deserving of some accolades. From the piece:

The evidence is that when a behemoth like Amazon pays more, it prompts competitors to follow suit.

It’s hard to review what Amazon has done over the past year and consider it the work of a corporate monster. The company had an unlimited unpaid-time-off policy for its workers when the pandemic began.

It hired temporary workers to replace them and deal with the surge of business, then kept most of them on and began hiring on top of that.

It’s been offering signing bonuses of up to $3,000, and hiring in places in the country where no one else is.

According to the research of Michael Mandel at the center-left Progressive Policy Institute, Amazon fulfillment center jobs pay 31 percent more than retail jobs at brick-and-mortar stores, where pay has basically been stagnant for three decades.

12. David Harsanyi takes a swipe at The Atlantics’ take on Homer Simpson, union poster boy. From the Corner post:

From start to finish, the piece peddles a bunch of progressive myths about the glories of lunch-pail jobs and diminishes the historic gains made by middle-class Americans over the past 30 years (I’ve written on the topic on numerous occasions.) But let’s, for the sake of this piece, accept the premise that in the good old days, men like Homer Simpson, a mere high-school graduate, could hold a steady job at a nuclear-power plant that “required little technical skill” and yet also support “a family of five” and a “home, a car, food, regular doctor’s appointments, and enough left over for plenty of beer at the local bar” all on a “single working-class salary.”

As always, the alleged declining state of the American working class is supposedly tied to the decline of “union membership,” which has “dropped from 14.5 percent in 1996 to 10.3 percent today,” but “protects wages and benefits for millions of workers in positions like Homer’s.”

The real question is: Why in holy hell would anyone want to protect Homer’s job? Homer is a drunken, slovenly, bungling idiot who nearly triggers a nuclear catastrophe on a seasonal basis. Mr. Burns, his boss, is left to praise Homer for having “turned a potential Chernobyl into a mere Three Mile Island.” And yet he never loses his job.

Only unions could possibly believe keeping Homer working is a good idea. And the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant is apparently teeming with equally unconscientious and incompetent union-protected employees who endanger the welfare of the entire community.

13. Michelle Minton says bottom’s up to new alcohol guidelines that defied Nanny Staters. From the piece:

Back in July, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory panel, a group of 20 experts selected by the government to review the evidence, suggested the guidelines substantially cut recommended levels of sugar and alcohol intake. That triggered backlash from the food and beverage industry. But one recommendation in particular provoked an outcry from the scientific community: to halve the limit on alcohol intake for men.

For five decades or more, the scientific literature on alcohol consistently showed a strong link between moderate intake and better health outcomes compared with those who totally abstain from alcohol or those who binge drink. As such, government alcohol advice since the 1990s has recommended women have no more than one drink a day and men have no more than two drinks daily.

Yet the government’s advisory panel recommended the limit for men be reduced to just one drink a day. Such a change implies that the evidence about alcohol intake — on which the panel supposedly based such recommendations — has dramatically shifted in recent years. But that simply isn’t the case. The suggested changes weren’t based on evidence at all but, rather, the apparent agenda of certain members of the panel.

14. Isaac Schorr contemplates a study that tries to debunk the consequences of the left’s campus dominance. From the article:

By and large, students don’t become radicals because they spend their first or second semester being taught introductory sociology or political science by a far-left professor who inspires them to pretend to have read and agreed with Marx. It’s more often a gradual process that sees them become increasingly progressive as they climb the ranks of student organizations and take on leadership roles. Most freshmen arrive on campus wanting to think of themselves as open to others’ perspectives, even conservatives ones. But as they pursue positions in advocacy, pre-professional, and student-government groups as well as prestigious honor societies, the incentives shift. It becomes unfashionable to remain friendly with the Republican from their freshman-year floor. In fact, it is in some cases demanded by their social circles that they publicly denounce campus conservatives.

Another glaring issue with the study’s methodology is how it measures ideology. By asking students what they consider themselves to be rather than designing a series of basic questions about their political views, the researchers throw into doubt the validity of their data and the conclusions they draw from it. Although they claim to be gauging political views, what they are really gathering is students’ understanding of where they fit on a continuum of ideologies. Not only does this fail as a measure of their actual positioning relative to the population, but it is further skewed by the environment they’re in. After spending eight months taking classes taught by liberal instructors and living among a disproportionately liberal population, it stands to reason that they might think of themselves as a bit more conservative, regardless of their actual beliefs.

15. More Madeleine, as she looks at the nightmare that the Cancel Culture has become for teens. From the piece:

Here’s the catalytic nonsense: In 2016, Mimi Groves, then-high-school freshman at Heritage High School in Loudoun County, Va., sent a video to her friend on Snapchat in which she said the words, “I can drive, n*****s.” This ill-conceived and inappropriate message was then shared around until it made its way to Galligan, who, incensed by such racial insensitivity, decided to keep it in order to post it publicly “when the time was right,” which, Galligan told the New York Times, meant the specific moment that would “get her where she would understand the severity of that word.” [emphasis added]

So, Galligan waited for Groves to be accepted to her dream college, the University of Tennessee, whose cheer team she had also made. Meanwhile, in adult land, civil unrest and racial tension was spreading throughout the nation in response to the killing of George Floyd. Now a bit older and more sensitive to such matters, Groves posted her support of Black Lives Matter on Instagram. It was then that Galligan “got her.” He released her recorded slur to Snapchat, TikTok, and Twitter. The reaction was precisely as he had hoped. Groves’s life plans were derailed. She was booted off the cheer team. Her admissions offer was revoked. Complete strangers posted hate-filled messages. All this for a single, flippant, four-word, three-second remark sent to a friend.

The only way that any morally sentient adult could participate in the humiliation of a young person in this way — let alone think themselves righteous — is if they subscribe to an ideology whereby people (however young) are not treated as individuals, with all the context that this demands, but rather as representatives of their racial group. Mimi Groves is a white girl. A baby Karen. An example needing to be made. Indeed, this is the precise logic permeating the staggeringly irresponsible reporting on the incident by the Times’ Dan Levin.

16. Michael Washburn contemplates Walker Percy’s classic novel, The Moviegoer, on its 60th anniversary. From the piece:

It’s fitting that the legendary actor William Holden appears in an early scene of The Moviegoer and becomes the object of the lead character’s speculations. Some of us may recall the exchange that Holden has with Gloria Swanson in Billy Wilder’s 1950 classic Sunset Boulevard. On realizing the former silent-film star’s identity, he exclaims, “You’re Norma Desmond. Used to be in pictures, used to be big.” To which she famously replies, “I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.”

One marvels at the many levels on which this statement is true today. Without doubt, the market is big indeed — the number of people with an appetite for the cinematic experience is many times what it was in 1950 — but the pictures have, quite literally, gotten small, as the closure of cinemas has forced us to watch them on computer screens and tiny phones.

“Certainly, the experience of consecrating a time and place out of the house for a couple of hours of absorption in a virtual world — an experience even the fanciest home theater cannot match, since the household always risks erupting — is a special one. Elements of it include the invisible audience of others in real time, the large screen, the comfortable seats, even the popcorn, but I think consecrated space and time is the most important,” says John Peters, a professor of film and media studies at Yale University.

17. Jolly Old Father Frost: Stephen Sholl retells the tale of the attempts by Hungarian commies to subvert Christmas. From the piece:

Thus, the Christmas tree became the central focus of Christmas, which was transformed from a religious holiday based upon the virgin birth of Christ to the Pine Festival, in which good Hungarian socialists would express gratitude to each other and the Communist Party.

Renaming Christmas and refocusing holiday celebrations helped the regime solve the problem of religion. It also helped with the problem of tradition, by divorcing the holiday from the past and making it into a celebration associated exclusively with the People’s Republic.

The regime had less success in curbing the rampant commercialism associated with Christmas. The best the authorities could manage was encouraging Hungarians to buy their presents from the Soviet bloc, with toys purchased for children touted as proof of the great prosperity Communism had brought the nation. And even then, gift-giving posed an additional challenge: In traditional Hungarian culture, it is the Christ-Child who brings the gifts, a clear problem for those wishing to desacralize Christmas. The solution came in adopting the Soviet model of Santa Claus, Father Frost. Although Hungarians traditionally celebrated St. Nicholas on December 6, the Communist authorities attempted to merge it with Christmas to further supplant Christ’s role in the holiday. Father Frost would now be the bringer of gifts to children, and those who still used traditional Christmas phrases such as, “What did Jesus bring you?” could be reported to the authorities for dissident behavior.

Capital Matters

1. California Here I . . . Go: Daniel Tenreiro reports on the Big Tech flight, and how Miami is luring firms from the Silicon Valley to the Sunshine State. From the beginning of the piece:

The season’s trendiest tech entrepreneur isn’t an AI researcher or Stanford dropout — he’s a 43-year-old politician. Francis Suarez, mayor of Miami since 2017, is leading a surprisingly successful social-media campaign to bring startups and investors to a city better known for tourism than tech. With companies leaving California in droves (most recently Oracle and Hewlett-Packard), Suarez believes that reaching out to the business community will position Miami to displace the West Coast tech hubs.

Fittingly, he’s doing it almost entirely on Twitter. In early December, Suarez responded to a tweet asking, “what if we moved silicon valley to miami,” with “How can I help?” In an interview with National Review, the mayor says they’re the four most powerful words he’s ever written. Since that post — which garnered 2.3 million impressions and won praise from high-profile tech figures — Suarez’s tweets have become a daily ritual on VC Twitter. In contrast with typical political messaging, Suarez engages in a friendly back-and-forth with investors and CEOs — both known and unknown. In the span of an hour, he might go from hosting a town hall discussion to asking followers for policy advice to requesting reading recommendations from investors.

And if Suarez is offering Miami as a new product, he has found a receptive market.

2. Hollywood hypocrites like Netflix are bankrolled by the “fracking” bucks they so love to publicly (and stupidly) decry, writes Paul Gessing. From the article:

But without hydraulic-fracturing technology, oil and gas production in my home state of New Mexico would almost completely dry up. This industry has made New Mexico a major energy producer, a crucial source of revenue and jobs for a state widely recognized as one of the poorest in the country. Fracking has safely opened massive new energy deposits with production concentrated in the Permian Basin, located in southeast New Mexico and shared with Texas. In fact, New Mexico is the third-largest oil-producing state, with over 1 million barrels per day at the end of 2019. One-third of the state’s entire budget is generated by the industry.

But without hydraulic-fracturing technology, oil and gas production in my home state of New Mexico would almost completely dry up. This industry has made New Mexico a major energy producer, a crucial source of revenue and jobs for a state widely recognized as one of the poorest in the country. Fracking has safely opened massive new energy deposits with production concentrated in the Permian Basin, located in southeast New Mexico and shared with Texas. In fact, New Mexico is the third-largest oil-producing state, with over 1 million barrels per day at the end of 2019. One-third of the state’s entire budget is generated by the industry.

That sounds good, but however liberal it may be, the entertainment industry is still the entertainment industry, and the deal comes with a catch. Netflix may be spending in the state, but it will also be receiving a very generous incentive from the New Mexico taxpayer, something of an irony when one-third of the state’s taxes are paid by “wicked” oil and gas.

3. The love affair between capitalism and innovation is very real, says Phillip Cross. From the beginning of the piece:

Innovation is the driving force behind modern economic growth. It allows for new products and expanded choices as well as more efficient ways of delivering them at low cost to customers. Yet despite its primordial importance, innovation remains one of the least understood and hardest to measure processes in economics.

A useful schematic for understanding the problem that innovation creates for economic growth is William Nordhaus’s three types of innovation: run-of-the-mill, seismic, and tectonic. Run-of-the-mill innovations leave the product mostly unchanged (e.g., sliced bread remains essentially bread). Seismic changes leave the basic product recognizable but vastly improve its quality. For instance, food, clothing, books, watches, and basic house furnishings would be familiar to people from the 19th century even if their design and packaging were new.

Tectonic innovations result in a completely new product, a shift “so vast that the price indexes do not attempt to capture the qualitative changes.” In the last century, tectonic changes proliferated for durable goods such as motor vehicles, appliances, and electronics. Services saw even more fundamental innovations, with almost two-thirds of them new to the 20th century, including those within the areas of communications, financial services, mass transit, airplane travel (in this case, of course, from scratch), and most medical car.

4. David Chavern says Congress needs to give local newspapers a fighting chance against tech giants that are prospering off of news-hunger. From the piece:

The government cannot regulate the press under the First Amendment, but in every meaningful respect, these two companies do. They disseminate news publishers’ original content, but they also dictate how it is displayed, prioritized, and monetized. Their algorithms determine what news content is delivered to which readers, and their control of the digital-advertising ecosystem severely constrains potential publisher revenue.

An antitrust lawsuit filed recently by ten state attorneys general highlights the absolutely dominant role played by Google in the digital-ad market that has been responsible for eating into news publishers’ advertising revenue — revenue that news publishers need to be able to reinvest in providing high-quality journalism.

If news publishers had the ability to band together to collectively negotiate with the platforms for compensation for their content, they could get a better deal that might sustain local journalism. But ironically, the federal antitrust law actually prohibits news publishers from working together to seek a level playing field.

5. Blue Collar Joe’s plan for electric cars will kill blue-collar jobs, says Jordan McGillis. From the piece:

The production of batteries is, of course, resource intensive, dependent on cobalt and lithium. While China indeed has a commanding position in the production and processing of the two elements, cobalt can be swapped for alternatives such as nickel, and lithium itself is not particularly difficult to extract.

Though any Elon Musk announcement ought to be taken with a grain of salt, at Tesla’s September “Battery Day” event, he told investors that the company is developing a zero-cobalt battery line that will increase performance and reduce costs. He added that an explosion of lithium production is on the horizon, perhaps by Tesla itself using clay in the American southwest. Even if Musk’s claims fall short, new lithium-production techniques are emerging from nodes of innovation across the globe each year. Just as the production of shale oil marginalized OPEC, market pressure is likely to render moot China’s ore advantage, without any intervention from Washington.

Biden’s plan for an American EV industry overlooks these nuances. Rather than sound geopolitics, his gambit reflects political pandering to U.S. regions that feel diminished by globalization. The Biden campaign’s Made in America plan refers to China 24 times by name; it makes nary a mention of Japan or Korea. The plan flirts with voters’ base instincts and neglects the value that Americans reap through the embrace of global comparative advantages. If American firms are to elevate their EV profiles, it should be because they’ve made market-appropriate decisions — as Tesla has shown is possible.

Biden’s plan to “use all the levers of the federal government” to expedite EV reshoring is more than just unnecessary, it’s unwise. Backing for a domestic EV industry will be more likely to fund those with a knack for political angling than those with a knack for innovating. Consider past government supports for companies and projects promising to expedite an energy transition, including Fisker, Solyndra, Ivanpah, and Crescent Dunes.

6. Brian Riedl finds six arguments against the call for $2,000 COVID-relief checks. From the piece:

Argument 5: Relief money has been diverted to foreign aid.

President Trump called on Congress to cut foreign aid to unpopular regimes in order to increase the relief checks. Indeed, popular memes on Twitter and Facebook erroneously assert that this latest relief bill diverted hundreds of billions of dollars to foreign aid. Reality check: The foreign aid was in the regular $1.4 trillion discretionary spending bill that funds the federal government for the following year, and that separate bill was merely stapled to the latest pandemic-relief bill at the last minute so that Congress could vote on them together. And because foreign aid is part of the annual appropriations budget (subject to its own budget laws and targets), any reduction in foreign aid would almost certainly be reallocated to other regular appropriations, rather than diverted into a separate pandemic emergency bill.

More specifically, total foreign aid is $40 billion annually — just 1 percent of the federal budget — and much of that goes for initiatives such as saving 20 million lives from AIDS in Africa and elsewhere (a program that costs Americans $20 per person), as well as maintaining peace in parts of the world where war and terrorism would be much more expensive for U.S. taxpayers. Critics have seized on the $4 billion in foreign aid for particularly unpopular regimes (most of which President Trump had approved the previous three years, and even proposed in this year’s budget). Setting aside the merits of those programs, they pale in comparison to $3.5 trillion in total pandemic assistance this year, and diverting those funds to relief checks would come to $12 per person — making a mockery of the claim that they could fund $2,000 checks.

Lights. Camera. Review!

1. Kyle Smith finds Promising Young Women not up to confronting a very important issue, and all about a nonexistent one. From the beginning of the review:

Watching the rape-revenge fantasy Promising Young Woman is a grueling experience, but not for the reason intended. The film is built on the enduring urban legend that legions of college women are getting gang-raped on campus by men who suffer no repercussions whatsoever. Never mind that such a crime is such an exceedingly rare occurrence that even a resourceful and diligent Rolling Stone reporter couldn’t find a single instance of it after calling many elite schools and specifically soliciting harrowing stories along these lines; and never mind that the campus-justice system and the media are so heavily stacked against men accused of rape that some have found their lives upended over obviously false charges.

Written and directed by Emerald Fennell, and starring the always-superb Carey Mulligan as the seeker of vengeance, Promising Young Woman is therefore an Issue Movie about an almost nonexistent issue: Horrific gang rapes are assumed to be routine on college campuses across America, yet like those “No Irish Need Apply” signs that supposedly poisoned a previous generation, evidence is elusive. As does the culture at large, the movie proceeds with a blithe lack of awareness that Rolling Stone’s 2014 story “A Rape on Campus” turned out to be fictitious. There is an important issue involving young women, sex, and campus, but the movie (like the culture) refuses to confront it.

2. Armond White convicts Time, the new prison-reform documentary. From the beginning of the review:

By its title alone you wouldn’t know that the internationally praised documentary Time deals with the so-called prison-industrial complex. But the deception goes deeper than that. Director Garrett Bradley looks at the subject by way of Louisiana social activist Sibil Fox Richardson, who calls herself Fox Rich. In 1997, Richardson and her husband were arrested for bank robbery; she took a plea bargain, went to prison, and got out early. Upon release, she reinvented herself, and spent 20 years trying to free her husband, Robert Richardson, who was serving a 60-year sentence.

Part of Fox Richardson’s new identity includes lending family videos to Bradley that put her life in a sentimental context. The sociological aspect of her story gets reimagined, which is to say the “prison-industrial complex” subject is glorified as an art thing: Bradley adds new video material shot by three photographers to the amateur stuff, then edits past and present together, dissolving chronology. The pretty, pugnacious, mercurial Fox Richardson is seen as the ultimate black Millennial stereotype through which black victimization goes on forever.

Bradley denies us the details of or insights into Fox Richardson’s past (not least of which are the circumstances of her giving birth to six boys during the 20-year fight for her husband’s release). Instead, she spins together video koans that blur actuality with cornball imagery of black folksiness, Southern female charm, and resilient youth. It’s a lawyer’s trick: confusing the issues in order to get a jury to exonerate your client. In the film, Fox Richardson idealizes the business partnership she and her husband formed as young entrepreneurs who ran a hip-hop clothing store, which then fell on hard times. Her explanation of the bank-robbery plan? “Desperate people do desperate things. It’s as simple as that.” In one clip, her mother attests, “They did do it.” From there Bradley randomly shows Fox Richardson speaking at prison-reform events where she pontificates, “My story is the story of over two million people in the United States falling prey to incarceration.” Bradley simply ignores the lure of crime, the influence of a criminal culture on society, and her subject’s apparent lack of a sense of personal responsibility.

3. More Kyle, who posits his Top 10 of 2020 films. In descending order, here are two from the piece:

SIX. Apocalypse ’45. Released to mark the 75th anniversary of V-J Day, this documentary implicitly demolishes the fatuous argument, advanced every August, that the U.S. should never have dropped atomic bombs on Japan. The other options — invading mainland Japan or starving it via blockade — would have caused even more suffering for the Japanese, and the U.S. was under no obligation to spend more of our servicemen’s lives while vanquishing an insane and evil death cult. Vivid color footage, some of it never seen before, set against matter-of-fact voice-over narration by veterans of the Pacific War, illustrates the agonizing toll on both sides of the island-hopping campaign across such thunderously defended rocks as Iwo Jima. The film is punctuated with harrowing footage of kamikaze attacks and civilian suicides that illustrate how grotesquely warped was the culture of Imperial Japan. Coming soon to Discovery.

FIVE. The Father. A brilliant, if hard-to-watch, adaptation, directed and co-written by Florian Zeller, of Zeller’s stage play about the dementia that is overtaking the personality of a gruff former engineer (Anthony Hopkins), The Father makes the audience experience a taste of what it’s like to lose track of one’s memories, one’s mind, one’s self. Hopkins makes the most of this wide-ranging role, in which his character (also called Anthony) slips from grouchy to gleeful to domineering to forlorn while his daughter (Olivia Colman) tries to manage his decline. Alzheimer’s has never been presented more devastatingly, and Zeller has a firm grasp of some important, if unpleasant, truths. Previously released but returning to theaters in February.

Elsewhere in the Conservative Solar System

1. At The College Fix, Adam Burnett reports on University of Rhode Island SJWs high on slave-wokery. From the article:

Activists at a public university in Rhode Island are threatening a lawsuit against their school if it does not hire a slave descendant as its next president.

“Some Black, White and Latino students shall join in another class action lawsuit if the next URI President is not an African-American with an ancestry to slavery,” read the list of demands put out by the Diversity Think Tank at the University of Rhode Island.

The complete list of demands spans 46 different points of contention over nearly 15,000 words.

“And, if anyone reading this asks why the next president of URI must be an African-American but has never questioned why URI has had 128-years of white presidents then you must be a racist,” it states.

The list is referred to as the group’s “Declaration of Diversity.”

2. From the White House, President Donald Trump issues a proclamation marking the 850th anniversary of the martyrdom of Thomas Becket. Can you imagine a President Biden doing something like this? From the proclamation:

Thomas Becket’s martyrdom changed the course of history. It eventually brought about numerous constitutional limitations on the power of the state over the Church across the West. In England, Becket’s murder led to the Magna Carta’s declaration 45 years later that: “[T]he English church shall be free, and shall have its rights undiminished and its liberties unimpaired.”

When the Archbishop refused to allow the King to interfere in the affairs of the Church, Thomas Becket stood at the intersection of church and state. That stand, after centuries of state-sponsored religious oppression and religious wars throughout Europe, eventually led to the establishment of religious liberty in the New World. It is because of great men like Thomas Becket that the first American President George Washington could proclaim more than 600 years later that, in the United States, “All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship” and that “it is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights.”

Thomas Becket’s death serves as a powerful and timeless reminder to every American that our freedom from religious persecution is not a mere luxury or accident of history, but rather an essential element of our liberty. It is our priceless treasure and inheritance. And it was bought with the blood of martyrs.

3. At Gatestone Institute, Soeren Kern reports on how U.S. sanctions have crippled the German-Russian pipeline. From the beginning of the article:

The United States is ratcheting up the threat of sanctions against European companies in an effort to deal a death blow to the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany. The pipeline would double shipments of Russian natural gas to Germany by transporting the gas under the Baltic Sea. U.S. President Donald Trump, like his predecessor Barack Obama, has criticized the project because it would make Germany “captive” to Russia for its energy supplies.

Trump has been especially critical of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who, in opposition to the United States and many Eastern European countries, has doggedly pursued the pipeline project, which would funnel billions of dollars to Russia at a time that Germany is free-riding on the U.S. defense umbrella that protects Germany from that same Russia.

U.S. sanctions have delayed completion of the 1,230-km (764-mile) pipeline by more than a year and added at least $1 billion to its cost. The €9.5 billion ($11.5 billion) project, which is 90% complete, was initially slated to become operational in 2020, but its completion date is now uncertain after several key participants were threatened with U.S. sanctions and bailed out.

4. More Gatestone: Con Coughlin argues that Biden cannot meddle with Donald Trump’s successful Middle-East policy. From the piece:

Thanks to Mr. Trump’s robust approach to Iran, where he withdrew from the nuclear deal and re-imposed crippling sanctions against Tehran, the Iranian economy has been seriously diminished, thus limiting the ayatollahs’ ability to peddle their pernicious creed throughout the region.

ISIS, and its dream of establishing a self-governing “caliphate,” has been completely destroyed, mainly because, soon after taking office, Mr. Trump gave US commanders the authority and freedom to intensify the military campaign against the Islamist fanatics.

Arguably, Mr. Trump’s greatest achievement in the Middle East, though, has been the success he has enjoyed in breaking the impasse in the Israeli-Arab peace process, with a clutch of Arab regimes — the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco — establishing diplomatic relations with Israel under the so-called Abraham Accords, with many other Arab governments — including Saudi Arabia — said to be giving serious consideration to following suit.

Mr. Trump’s Middle East legacy is not only impressive — it has completely redefined the landscape of the region from the chaos and conflict that prevailed when Mr. Obama left office. Nowadays, the momentum in the region is moving towards peace, not conflict, as was so often the case during Mr. Obama’s presidency.

5. At Commentary, Tevi Troy takes a historical look at U.S.-Israel relations under Democratic administrations. From the piece:

The next Democratic administration, that of Jimmy Carter, was wracked by internal fighting at the highest levels. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski and Secretary of State Cyrus Vance disagreed on virtually every key issue that came their way, and their disagreements led to constant sniping, with Vance periodically threatening to resign before Carter finally took him up on the offer in April 1980. But Brzezinski and Vance did agree, along with Carter, on one thing. All three favored a tough stance on Israel, coupled with a policy tilted toward the Arabs in the Arab–Israeli dispute. As Carter aide Stuart Eizenstat (more favorably disposed toward Israel) wrote, both Vance and Brzezinski “and usually the president himself” were “aggressively pushing forward a peace process in ways that often alienated Israel and American Jewish leaders.” Eizenstat further observed that “Vance was very pro-Arab. Vance was impossible on this issue.”

Israel did have some important internal allies, including Vice President Walter Mondale. According to Mondale, the administration’s Israel policies “made my life miserable.” He particularly disliked the way that Brzezinski did not allow for a fair process to discuss policy disputes and went directly to Carter to get his way. Eizenstat recalled that Mondale “exploded” when he was interrupted at a Georgetown dinner at the home of socialite Pamela Harriman to be told that Vance had proposed new concessions from Israel to placate the Palestinians.

The culmination of the Carter foreign policy was the Camp David Accords, the Israel-Egypt peace treaty signed in 1979. The treaty brought with it many advantages, but the process of getting there was fraught. Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin was reluctant to go to Camp David because he feared, correctly, that Carter would consistently side with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, leaving Begin isolated. Brzezinski was an antagonist as well, and not just across the negotiating table. Begin and Brzezinski played chess multiple times at Camp David. Brzezinski claimed later that they split two matches, but the author Lawrence Wright later revealed that Begin had won three out of four.

Carter’s administration provided an early preview of the disturbing direction in which the Democratic Party was heading when it came to Israel. While it is true that Bill Clinton has gone down in history as a mostly “pro-Israel” president, the largely aligned Clinton team was in strong agreement over its dislike of the third Israeli prime minister they had to deal with.

6. At The Human Life Review, John Grondelski reflects on Christmas 2020 and the case for public manifestations of solidarity. From the reflection:

Christmas is always hard on some people because the holiday’s joyful, family focus is out-of-kilter with the feelings of aloneness and sorrow that those who are grieving experience. This year social distancing, individual cautions and fears, and legal measures are likely to atomize the season even further, rendering it downcast and muted while — paradoxically — accentuating both families and aloneness.

A pro-life Christmas season must acknowledge the pain many of our fellow citizens are feeling this year. “Acknowledge” means precisely that — to admit and accept grief. The French philosopher Damien Le Guay criticizes modern trends in funeral practices precisely because, by eliminating the public manifestation of mourning as a period of time, we have reinforced a cult of silence around death. Grief is limited to those most directly affected by someone’s death and is usually only expressed in the privacy of one’s home. In public, those who are grieving “put on a brave face” while friends, co-workers, and even other relatives awkwardly avoid the “d” word. As the English anthropologist Geoffrey Görer noted, today we treat death as unspeakably as once we treated pornography. Honestly shared empathy and acknowledgement are in short supply.

It should not be so in 2020. Many of us know at least one person who has suffered the death of a loved one during the current pandemic. The most genuine gift we can offer this Christmas season, especially to them, is the gift of self and time, the spiritual work of mercy, of comfort and consolation. But this work of comforting and consoling others is not abstract. It needs to have concrete expression.

7. Not Brand New, But Still Important: From The Tablet in September, do read Michael Senger’s essay on Red China’s global propaganda campaign advocating lockdowns. From the piece:

Within China, the CCP has pretended to believe its own lies only at its own convenience, reserving the right to use COVID-19 as a pretext for unrelated authoritarian whims — demolishing retirement homes, detaining dissidents and reporters, expanding mass surveillance, canceling Hong Kong’s Tiananmen Square vigil and postponing its elections for one year. In Xinjiang, where over 1 million Uighurs are imprisoned, lockdowns have gone on since January and have involved widespread hunger, forced medication, acidic disinfectant sprays, shackled residents, screams of protest from balconies, crowded “quarantine” cells, and outright disappearances.

The most benign possible explanation for the CCP’s campaign for global lockdowns is that the party aggressively promoted the same lie internationally as domestically — that lockdowns worked. For party members, when Wuhan locked down it likely went without saying that the lockdown would “eliminate” coronavirus; if Xi willed it to be true, then it must be so. This is the totalitarian pathology that George Orwell called “double-think.” But the fact that authoritarian regimes always lie does not give them a right to spread deadly lies to the rest of the world, especially by clandestine means.

And then there’s the possibility that by shutting down the world, Xi Jinping, who vaulted through the ranks of the party, quotes ancient Chinese scholars, has mastered debts and derivatives, studies complexity science, and envisions a socialist future with China at its center, knew exactly what he was doing.


As pitchers go, Gary Peters could be pretty good. His career record — 124-103 with a 3.25 ERA, spent over 14 seasons with the White Sox and Red Sox — was more than OK. Indeed, there were some exceptional years for the two-time All Star. Peters first had a brief Major League stint for the 1959 AL champion White Sox, and spent 1959-1962 bouncing between the minors and the Big Leagues, accumulating there a threadbare 0-1 record in just 14 games.

Come 1963, whatever seasoning that the southpaw had needed was done: On the White Sox roster for Opening Day, he posted a sweet 19-8 record and led the AL with a 2.33 ERA. Officially a newbie, Peters (who for one year attended an NR-beloved institution, Grove City College) also took the Rookie of the Year honors. He led the AL in wins (20) the following season, and in ERA (1.98) in 1966.

But we come today to talk of Gary Peters as a hitter, and, as pitchers go, he was a pretty darned good one. He had a career batting average of .222, with 19 home runs — 15 as a pitcher, four as a pinch hitter (the most by any regular pitcher in modern baseball history).

One of Peters’ pinchers was a doozie. It came in the Windy City on July 19, 1964, against the Kansas City Athletics on a Sunday afternoon, the first game of a doubleheader, as Chicago, the Yankees, and the Baltimore Orioles were all battling for first place in a tight race that would last until the season’s last week (the White Sox finished in second place, one game behind the Bronx Bombers). The July contest was a pitching duel: A’s starter Diego Segui held the Sox to one run on one hit over 8 innings, matched by Chicago starter Juan Pizarro, who pitched 10 innings of one-run ball before being relieved by the great Hoyt Wilhelm. Alas, the Hall-of-Famer gave up a go-ahead run in the top of the 13th.

Leading 2-1, Athletics reliever Wes Stock was confident about securing the win, especially as Wilhelm, a lousy hitter (his career BA was .088) was due up second.

The Baseball Gods had other plans. Weak-hitting catcher J.C. Martin led off the bottom of the 13th with a single, and onto the field strode Dave Nicholson, to pinch hit? Why not: he had slugged 22 home runs the previous year? But Nicholson struck out a heck of a lot too (leading the AL that year with 175), so, nope — the slugger (he’d hit a two-run dinger in the second game) was entering the game to pinch-run for Martin.

There was a pinch-hitter for Wilhelm though. He was . . . Gary Peters.

What happened lives on in White Sox lore. Attempting to sacrifice Nicholson to second base, Peters fouled off two pitches. He then took a called ball. And on the next pitch, Peters hit away, and smacked a Stock deep over the right-field fence. Game over. White Sox win, 3-2. Gary Peters, ace pitcher, who didn’t touch the mound once in the game, won it with a walk-off, pinch-hit home run.

Just sayin’: Wes Ferrell is considered the best hitting-pitcher of all time (over 15 seasons, compiling a .280 batting average with 37 home runs). But you knew that. And next week you’ll know about his walk-off home runs.

A Dios

Little Francesca, for whom some of you had prayed, passed away. Please offer a prayer of solace for the little saint’s parents. Also the dear Jeanne Miles, who sailed with NR on many a cruise, bringing with her friends and family and cheerfulness unmatched, has passed away — we will miss her and we ask the Good Lord to keep in mind her family’s comfort.

May the same Almighty Creator provide you and your family peace and happiness and health in this New Year.

Happy New Year,

Jack Fowler, reached at all hours and for all reasons at

National Review

And They Came with Haste


Dear Weekend Jolter,

The Gospel writer takes us directly from the swaddled babe to shepherds, doing as shepherds do, “abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.”

Men vigilant while others slept — why should it not have been to them, of all humanity, that good tidings of great joy were first announced? To be come upon by the Angel of the Lord in a glory seen by no man hitherto or hence? To behold the heavenly host offering anthems sweet and prayerful wishes of peace and good will?

Sleepers wake! These men were already so.

A night like no other, in the first moments of Anno Domini, events were set in motion. Angels rejoiced, then departed. Shepherds, sore afraid, recovered, then conspired, to “now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.”

To the stable they came. How could they not have?

Luke collapses time: “And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.”

Like the newborn, they were of mean estate — by men’s standards. But not to the Creator’s. Were not shepherds His preferred agents for Israel’s delivery? David! Joseph! And now these tenders of gentle flocks — their names lost to history, true, but their story not.

Would you too have wondered at their account? Marveled? Helpless to embrace the amazing report told by these wandering shepherds, believed their witness of the heavenly spectacle, and of this royal newborn in the stable?

Some of us, twenty centuries later, wonder anew, believe anew, and give thanks for the annual feast, so the wonderment first felt in millennia distant proves immediate and sweet and overwhelming, in excelsis.

In this Year of Our Lord 2020, our weekly missive is by chance published on the Feast of the Nativity, affording a rare opportunity: To echo the angel choirs and wish you and yours peace and good will.

Merry Christmas to all. And now, let us attend to the holly jolly Jolt!


Links Short, Links Sweet


Girls just want to have run: Tulsi Gabbard Stands Up for Women’s Sports.

Warts and all: A Necessary Relief Bill.

Wise Men and Women Delivering an Abundance of Conservative Gifts

Rich Lowry: Joe, We’re Not in a Climate Crisis.

Victor Davis Hanson: China Post-Trump: Beijing Eyes Return to Global Status Quo.

John Fund: Trump Election-Fraud Lawsuits — Why They Failed.

Richard Morrison: Biden and ‘ESG’: Full Steam Ahead on Politicized Investing.

Shawn Regan and Tate Watson: Government Regulation Won’t Keep America’s Favorite Butterfly Off the Endangered Species List.

Judd Berger: Chef Apologizes for Posting Food Pic without ‘Cultural Context’.

Horace Cooper: Vote Reparations Proposal Is Unconstitutional.

Fred Lucas: Trump Impeachment Case Weakness Could Shape Political Future.

Michael Brendan Dougherty: The Lonely Church This Christmas.

More MBD: Endless Pandemic Creating COVID Fatigue.

Rebeccah Heinrichs: Chinese Drones Are Spying on Americans.

John Yoo and Ivana Stradner: Time to Go on Offense against Russian Cyberattacks.

John O’Sullivan: Margaret Tebbit, R.I.P.

Jack Butler: Do They Know It’s Christmas? Yes — So Stop Singing.

Capital Matters

Andrew Stuttaford: (Another) Climate Warrior Aiming to Bypass Democracy.

Andrew William Salter: Beijing’s Iron Grip on Corporate China.

Kevin Hassett: Five Questions for Tyler Goodspeed.

Marc Joffe: Echoes of the Great Recession in Commercial Real Estate.

Lights. Camera. Review!

Armond White: Nolan’s Tenet: Filmmaker Pursues Hollywood’s New Tenets.

Alvin S. Felzenberg: The Reagans: Showtime’s Pathetic Exercise in Bashing the Gipper.

Kyle Smith: Wonder Woman 1984 Reverts to Campy Set Pieces & Moronic Plotting.


A Stocking-full of NRO Articles, with Exciting Excerpts Found from Top to Toe


1. It’s a refreshing thing to find a Democrat House member call baloney on the “gender-identity” assault on women’s sports. From the editorial:

Now, Title IX is coming for women’s sports in the name of “gender identity,” that nonsensical progressive policy permitting males to compete against females if and when they claim transgender status. The wisdom of this policy has become a matter of faith for almost every Democratic legislator. The first prominent dissent came only this month from Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D., Hawaii), who has introduced the “Protect Women’s Sports Act” into the U.S. House of Representatives, (the Oklahoma Republican, Representative Markwayne Mullin, is a co-sponsor).

In a statement, Gabbard said the bill “protects Title IX’s original intent which was based on the general biological distinction between men and women athletes based on sex.” Emphatically, this means preserving “equal opportunity for women and girls in high school and college sports,” as well as holding to account those “states who are misinterpreting Title IX, creating uncertainty, undue hardship and lost opportunities for female athletes” by allowing males to dominate and displace them.

She’s absolutely right. On account of their elevated testosterone levels and androgenized bodies, males are generally stronger and faster than females; a fact reflected in the 10 to 30 percent performance gap in elite sports. But even in non-elite sports, it only takes a handful of male athletes to completely dominate the female field; a fact clearly demonstrated in Connecticut where two high-school-aged males (mediocre athletes in comparison with their male peers) deprived female competitors of 15 state championship titles and more than 85 opportunities to participate.

2. Numerous warts and all, we found the relief bill to be necessary. From the editorial:

Perhaps more notable than what’s in the bill is what isn’t. Democrats repeatedly attempted to launder blue-state bailouts through COVID-19 legislation, jumping on the opportunity to paper over perennial fiscal imbalances. Republicans were right to hold the line, not only because of the moral hazard of rewarding profligate governments, but also because states and cities are poor channels for swift economic aid. Research from the left-leaning Brookings Institution finds that the economic benefits of state and local aid would not materialize until 2022, because governors and mayors are slow to spend federal grants.

The deal also withdraws the Treasury funds that backstopped Federal Reserve lending programs to corporations and cities, codifying Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin’s decision last month. Considering how strong financial markets are despite the limited use of Fed lending programs, it makes sense to redirect this money. But Democrats sought to retain the funds in order to provide cheap, long-term loans to cities, turning the Fed into a piggybank for New York, San Francisco, and other cities facing budget shortfalls.

Senator Pat Toomey’s success in ensuring the Fed’s emergency-lending programs remain limited to emergencies may be the most consequential provision of the bill: A permanently politicized central bank would threaten economic stability well beyond the pandemic.

Unwrap the Myriad of Gifts under the NRO Tree

1. Rich Lowry kyboshes Basement Joe’s claims about a climate crisis. From the piece:

In a climate speech during the campaign a few months ago, Biden relied on the tried-and-true alarmist tack of attributing every adverse weather event to global warming.

The flooding in the Midwest was an artifact of climate change, never mind that, as Bjorn Lomborg points out, the U.N. isn’t sure whether flooding overall is getting more or less frequent.

Somewhat counterintuitively, Biden also blamed drought in the Midwest on climate change, even though, according to Lomborg, the federal government’s National Climate Assessment says that “drought has decreased over much of the continental United States in association with long-term increases in precipitation.”

Of course, Biden maintained that California wildfires have been caused by the upward trend in global temperatures, and it is probably a factor. Still, as Lomborg notes, the amount of land that is burning around the globe has fallen sharply since the late 19th century in response to changing human behavior (e.g., more cultivation of the land).

Finally, Biden cited Hurricane Laura, the Category 4 storm that made landfall in Louisiana, as yet more climate-driven extreme weather. The studies do show more storm activity in the Atlantic, Lomborg writes, although not necessarily from climate change. Meanwhile, there’s no global trend in tropical cyclones.

2. Victor Davis Hanson finds Red China happy to see Biden up ahead and Trump in the rear-view mirror. From the essay:

Currently China is suffering its worst global-popularity ratings in its modern history. Most countries in Europe, the U.S., and its immediate Asian neighbors poll anywhere from 70 to 90 percent disapproval of China. Such negativity is hardly surprising when over 75 million worldwide have been sickened with Wuhan COVID-19 — and perhaps another 500 million untested have had symptoms or at least developed antibodies to it — along with 1.6 million dead.

Many Western countries have vowed never again to outsource their medical equipment and pharmaceutical industries to China, given their ensuing exposure in times of a Chinese-spawned viral global pandemic. The chief rub for an awakening but recently somnolent Europe and a drowsy U.S. is not whether to reboot with China, but how — given that for decades America siphoned off its technology edge, as it trained tens of thousands of Chinese engineers and scientists, while greenlighting its own students to rack up $1.6 trillion in student loans to master the arts of green, race, class, and gender victimization.

Brilliant American engineers design battery-operated cars and sophisticated solar panels; elite-glut environmental studies majors fight over how best to bankrupt the American consumer and raise prohibitive power costs for businesses. China prefers to emulate the former, not the latter.

China tactically wages war against the U.S. all the time, from on-campus espionage to cyber assault to stealing technology and blueprints of institutions it can replicate. But more important, it counts on a sophisticated strategy to subordinate the United States, and thereby remake the entire international order to enhance its own agendas.

3. John Fund lays out the primary reasons the Trump campaign’s post-election lawsuits went south. From the piece:

Many Democratic-appointed judges were hostile to Trump lawsuits. But even conservative judges privately knew anything they did to help prove fraud charges would be viciously attacked in the media and wouldn’t allow enough time to meet the Electoral College deadlines without creating national chaos.

That may explain some bizarre dismissals of lawsuits. David Shestokas, a Pennsylvania attorney, says a judge canceled the hearing where we was to produce evidence. Two days later, the judge dismissed the case. “Judges are generally willfully refusing to hear evidence,” Shestokas says.

In one court, Trump did come close to victory. Wisconsin’s supreme court rejected by a close vote, 4 to 3, his claims that proper procedures weren’t followed in allowing thousands of voters to cast mail-in ballots. Three justices ruled that some Trump claims had merit, but they didn’t say what the remedy should be or whether any votes should be thrown out.

Their silence speaks volumes for how concerns about fraud were handled this year. To paraphrase the old saying: “See no evil, hear no evil, don’t even suggest evil.”

4. Richard Morrison says we should all prepare ourselves for Joe Biden going whole hog on politicized “investing.” From the article:

Politicized investing, especially of the “environmental, social, and governance” (ESG) variety, has experienced some regulatory pushback during the last year, but the incoming Biden administration is widely expected to reverse course and accelerate in the opposite direction come January. While many ESG advocates claim that their philosophy of investing is a market-driven phenomenon, it’s likely to get its biggest state-sponsored boost to date. It remains to be seen, though, whether fans of “enlightened” capitalism will ride this wave or be submerged by it.

This year, the Trump administration’s Department of Labor — which has responsibility over pension funds covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) of 1974 — published two important rules related to politicized investing. The first rule restated ERISA’s longstanding expectation that plan managers must make investment choices for plan beneficiaries solely with an eye to financial return (with one limited exception) rather than with regard to any “socially responsible” considerations, although plans that allow beneficiaries to self-direct their retirement savings are allowed to include ESG-themed funds as an option, if, in essence, those goals can be achieved without sacrificing financial return. The second rule applied to pension-fund managers voting on corporate shareholder resolutions on behalf of their beneficiaries, and it similarly reinforced that investment returns rather than politics should guide their decisions.

Unfortunately for American retirees, Team Biden is widely expected to ignore or actively undermine the enforcement of both of those rules. Because formally repealing a published regulation can be time-consuming and legally complex (as the Trump administration found out on more than one occasion), it will be much easier to simply publish a new interpretation of what the rules mean. Jon Hale of Morningstar predicted in November that “the Biden [Department of Labor] will look at ways to clarify if not reverse the [ESG pension-fund] rule. We expect subregulatory guidance such as FAQs and advisory opinions to help bring things back toward the old status quo.”

5. The Monarch Butterfly, says Shawn Regan and Tate Watson, make the excellent case for how bureaucrats are misfits when it comes to protecting endangered species. Shawn Regan and Tate Watson: From the article:

When it comes to recovering imperiled wildlife, the ESA has a dreadful record. While it’s true that only 1 percent of the species listed under the act have gone extinct, just 3 percent have recovered. The law may be good at halting activities that harm species, but its punitive approach does little to encourage people to proactively create or restore habitats. In fact, it often does the exact opposite. Most species remain on the list indefinitely, never quite falling off the precipice to extinction, but almost never backing away from the cliff’s edge, either.

The main reason for the ESA’s failure is that it gets the incentives backward. Rather than rewarding farmers, ranchers, and other ordinary citizens who provide habitat for listed species, the act imposes significant costs by restricting how people can use their land and reducing property values by introducing regulatory uncertainty. As a former Fish and Wildlife Service administrator once noted, “The incentives are wrong here. If I have a rare metal on my property, its value goes up. But if a rare bird occupies the land, its value disappears.”

This is especially vexing and troublesome when it comes to the monarch, whose survival depends on the goodwill of landowners across the nation. The butterfly is found in every state in the lower 48 and relies on habitats ranging from rural prairies to urban gardens. The insect’s famous annual migration from Mexico to Canada hinges on the presence of milkweed — the sole food source for its caterpillars. But the weed is in short supply today, in part due to increased herbicide use.

The key to the monarch’s recovery, then, is straightforward. First, plant more milkweed. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, as many as 1.8 billion more milkweed stems are needed. The irony, however, is that granting endangered-species protections to the monarch might be the surest way to discourage people from planting milkweed. After all, why would any farmer, company, or gardener want to attract butterflies that bring restrictions on how they can use their land?

6. You thought culture-cancelling couldn’t get stupider? Judd Berger has a story about a stew of contrived consternation, with a side order of sanctimony. From the piece:

The article’s title, “Stephanie Izard Apologizes For a Poorly Received Representation of a Korean Dish,” is the stuff of time capsules. Hopefully it’s placed as a bookend to a packet of headlines starting with ‘ALLIES INVADE FRANCE’ and ending here, to capture the full arc of history that led to this point. Future generations curious how a society’s celebrated strength in heterogeneity was corroded by the rigid guarding of identity need only scroll through this social-media saga.

First, for the uninitiated (i.e., you haven’t been hungover and found yourself coveting this dish), bibimbap is a Korean staple — a rice bowl topped with neatly arranged vegetables and meat and other fixings, often gochujang (chili paste) and, if you’ve been good, a fried egg.

The photo Izard included on her now-denounced Instagram post was . . . not exactly that. It looked more like a bowl of pho that had been left out in the sun, with strips of desiccated beef and torn mint all that remain.

A butchered version of a classic, no doubt. But cultural appropriation?

7. The call for vote reparations is absurd, says Horace Cooper. From the beginning of the article:

Just when it seems that the Left’s extremism has reached its outer limits, a new radical idea comes forward. Brandon Hasbrouck, a professor at Washington and Lee University, has taken to the pages of The Nation, the Left’s preeminent periodical, to advocate so-called “vote reparations.”

It’s an idea more dangerous than it is farfetched (though it is that as well). The scheme recommends double-counting the votes of black Americans. This doesn’t merely set aside the one-man/one-vote ideal that our republic operates on; it obliterates it. This proposal wouldn’t pass constitutional muster, nor should it.

Counting some votes more than others is a throwback to a bygone era that Americans — black and white — fought to overcome. Perhaps Hasbrouck has forgotten that one of the primary aims of Jim Crow was to prevent the counting of the votes of citizens in communities and states solely on the basis of race.

Trotting out the usual woke critiques of the hour, Hasbrouck attacks the very foundations of our country’s constitutional design — including the Electoral College, the existence of the United States Senate, and even our independent federal judiciary — labeling them all legacies of slavery.

8. Fred Lucas assesses the lame-o impeachment of Donald Trump, launched a year and a million news cycles ago. From the piece:

The Trump impeachment was also the flimsiest impeachment in part because it demonstrated a complete cave by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to her left flank. Leadership is not only about being the loyal opposition and fighting the good fight. It’s also about walking your party hardliners back from the precipice.

The Constitution makes impeachment in the House relatively simple and removal by the Senate very difficult. Still, the House seldom pulled the trigger despite requiring no more than a majority vote. Normalizing House impeachment — if that is the result of lowering the bar — will likely have the effect of desensitizing the public to a legitimately impeachable offense by a future president. On the flip side, if this petty impeachment leads to absolute avoidance of impeachment, that’s also not a desirable future.

After the acrimonious election and post-election, it’s not difficult to imagine certain GOP House members demanding Joe Biden’s impeachment early on. There certainly are grounds to investigate. Congressional oversight should be robust in any administration, of course. But impeachment — which at least offers the possibility, however slim, of deposing an elected leader without an election — should be the last resort.

9. Michael Brendan Dougherty goes to Church. Where are all the parishioners? From the reflection:

If airlines will fly us packed into a little tube with strangers without spread, then surely we, acting cautiously and according to the regulations of state and church, could do this safely. We had avoided going partly because the system of reservations that our parish instituted seemed to suggest that by asking to come to Mass you would, by necessity, deny the chance to others.

We shouldn’t have been so passive. Our parish church normally has a seating capacity of 800. When the five of us arrived and filed into the last pew in the church, the number of worshippers was 32. In the time before COVID, there might have been 32 people serving in the sanctuary alone, a parade of priests, deacons, subdeacons, and row after row after row of altar boys. Several pews were roped-off between us and another worshipper.

The Mass itself was consoling and depressing in equal measure. First, the consolations. The church building itself, with its Marian blue ceiling, recently renovated sanctuary, and painting of the Assumption was a deep comfort. The Mass itself. The ancient Latin prayers, sung during other plagues, famines, wars, and panics — almost all of them much worse than what we were enduring. The voices of the two choir singers — and their children. They are friends, and though we couldn’t see them from our last-pew seats, they stood over us.

The depressing: Seeing our pastor put on a face shield before distributing communion, which was done after the conclusion of the Mass itself. Combine that sight with the tiny number of worshippers and the whole scene had a post-disaster mood. It was as if the congregation I’d known had been hit by a nuclear bomb that had destroyed 90 percent of us, and the survivors were still a radioactive danger to each other. Then there was the awkwardness of being forbidden to sing ourselves — which meant being forbidden the normal sung responses. But muscle memory applies to worship as well. We choked on our own Et cum spiritu tuos.

10. More from MBD, who shares his serious COVID fatigue. From the piece:

The domain of what we don’t know about the disease seems to grow, on a micro and macro scale. You could look at the numbers and say that New York governor Andrew Cuomo has done a worse job than Florida governor Ron DeSantis. And overall, I think DeSantis made the right call on long-term-care homes, and Cuomo initially made the wrong one. But what if you think climate and lifestyle are some of the main factors in the spread? That is, what if it’s just better to be in Miami than in New York? What if we simply don’t know enough to judge?

I’m tired of judging. I’m tired of the hypocrisy of politicians and public-health experts. I’m tired of learning how little they know or can know. I’m tired of the scapegoating and the tut-tutting by the Zoom class. And I’m tired of the attempt by the world to turn every sick person into either a blameworthy fool or a blameless victim.

The sheer endlessness of this is mind-numbing. Three weeks to bend the curve, then a hope for reopening in Easter. A false dawn in the summer, and now, what? The hope for vaccines? But we’re now told that not even the vaccines will eliminate the need for mask-wearing and restrictions.

This pandemic is easily the worst national disaster of my life. Worse than 9/11, with a policy response that is arguably worse than our endless war on terror.

11. Rebeccah Heinrichs locates the Red China drones that are spying on America. From the beginning of the piece:

The U.S. government at the federal, state, and local levels is using Chinese drones that the Chinese Communist Party is exploiting for espionage. That is the public conclusion of a branch of the Department of Homeland Security. Citing “security concerns,” other departments have all-but-explicitly publicly made the same claims, and some have begun to take steps to limit the purchase of Chinese drones.

Drones made in China and operated by Americans map U.S. infrastructure, agriculture, railroads, government buildings, power plants, disaster-relief operations, and the movements of law-enforcement officers. The data collected in those drone flights are believed to be sent back to China, where there is no divide between civil and military sectors. The Commerce Department’s listing on Friday of one major Chinese drone company on the U.S. entities list makes it difficult for U.S. companies to buy its products and underscores the growing sense of urgency to end their access to the United States. But it is time to go further. The U.S. government at all levels should immediately stop purchasing Chinese drones and end Chinese drone companies’ access to the U.S. commercial market.

The U.S. dependence on Chinese drones and the parts that go into drones is unsustainable. While there are U.S. companies waiting to meet demand if Chinese drones are excluded from the American market, there are still too few of them to meet the U.S. government’s needs, and some American drone companies still rely on cheap Chinese parts. This is one of the arguments against cutting off access to the Chinese drone market. But the risks to national security are too great to move slowly, and so in addition to cutting off access to the Chinese drone market, the U.S. should also expand existing Pentagon efforts to build an American and American-ally drone-manufacturing base that does not rely on Chinese-made parts. One can easily see how a national emergency or a conflict over the defense of democratic Taiwan could require ramping up the scale of production of drones. Depending on China for that should be out of the question.

12. More Spying: John Yoo and Ivana Stradner call for formal U.S. pushback against Russian cyberattacks. From the article:

Part of Russia’s strategy has been to prevent international legal institutions from punishing its bad behavior. One of Moscow’s deceptive — and effective — tactics has been to present itself as a cooperative power in support of the international institutions that regulate cyberspace. In 2017, Trump tweeted that he and Russian president Vladimir Putin had discussed forming “an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking & many other negative things, will be guarded . . . and safe.” In 2020, the U.N. passed a Russian-led resolution on cybercrime, despite Moscow’s track record as one of the world’s largest sponsors and purveyors of it. Russia has even suggested the creation of a new U.N. cybercrime treaty.

The United States should develop an agile strategy based on deterrence instead of turning to international law and institutions that have been coopted. Like nuclear weapons, cyber weapons are cheap to deploy but difficult to stop. Preempting cyberattacks is more effective when offensive attacks are easy and defense expensive.

Evidence suggests that the Kremlin stops short when Washington pushes back. Take, for example, the U.S.’s successful covert cyberattacks against Russia’s Internet Research Agency during the 2018 U.S. midterm elections. It is quite possible that similar operations prevented Russian interference in the 2020 elections. Rather than building expensive — but ultimately vulnerable — security systems, the U.S. should launch a series of escalatory responses, ranging from offensive cyberattacks to economic sanctions to covert operations. The goal is to raise the costs for Moscow until it stops its cyberwarfare. U.S. Cyber Command should not only put Russian hackers on notice that they will face U.S. criminal charges and economic and travel sanctions, but also target them with U.S.-backed hacking. More important, the U.S. should target Putin’s wealth, and that of senior government officials and oligarchs to boot. If the Russians break into sensitive U.S. government networks, the NSA should respond, in turn, by stealing personnel files of Russian military and political leaders. If Moscow seeks to disrupt U.S. elections, the CIA should drain the overseas hidden bank accounts of Russian leaders.

13. Severely harmed in an infamous IRA bombing, Margaret Tebbit conquered in many ways the afflictions that constrained her for 36 years. She has passed away, and John O’Sullivan reflects on the life of his impressive friend. From the remembrance:

Thirty-six years ago, in the early morning of October 12th, 1984, an IRA bomb exploded in the Grand Hotel, Brighton, during the Tory Party annual conference. It narrowly failed to kill its principal target, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, but it killed five people and it severely injured another 31. Two of the most seriously injured victims that night were Norman Tebbit, then-secretary of state for Industry and a rising star of Thatcherite Toryism, and his wife, Margaret. She suffered perhaps the worst injuries of those who survived, first suffering great pain as they waited for rescuers to dig them from out of the rubble, then feeling nothing at all, which as a former nurse she realized meant paralysis below the neck. Earlier this week Margaret (now Lady) Tebbit died after 36 years of fighting disability, determinedly wresting some mobility back from it, but finally losing the battle we all eventually lose.

14. Jack Butler can’t help but share his disdain for the popular Band Aid tune. From the piece:

To understand why “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” is so terrible, you should listen to the lyrics, even though the song’s slick and catchy structure can make it hard to really pay attention to them. The gist of the song is a juxtaposition guilt trip, contrasting an indifferent world of “light,” “plenty,” and “joy” — presumably, the world of most Western record-buyers — with the supposedly helpless suffering of the song’s subjects. (“Well tonight, thank God it’s them, instead of you!” as Bono sarcastically thunders.) It’s one thing to use guilt as an inducement; as a Catholic, I am well familiar with the power of that particular force. It’s another thing to milk a condescending stereotype, denying a whole continent not merely agency but also differentiation and even key facts about the way many of its inhabitants live.

Start with the physical descriptors of the continent of Africa in the song. It paints with such a broad brush as to suggest the entire landmass is like Arrakis, the desert planet in Dune, where water is so precious that spitting is considered a sign of respect and crying for the deceased is so rare that those who do it are thought to be honoring them by “giving water” to them. In the Band Aid version of Africa, it’s a land “where the only water flowing / Is the bitter sting of tears.” Just to make sure you get the point, the song also claims that Africa is a land “where nothing ever grows / No rain nor rivers flow.” It’s true that there are deserts in Africa, notably the Sahara, and that water access can be threatened by droughts and other factors. But the song seems to forget the existence of the Nile River (the world’s longest) and Lake Victoria, to name just two water bodies, not to mention the coastlines of many countries, and the varied landscapes of jungles, savannahs, mountains, and more. Some of the greatest civilizations in human history have managed to thrive in Africa both despite and because of its diverse features.

Capital Matters

1. Andrew Stuttaford takes on climate extremist Senator Jeff Merkley’s anti-democratic hysteria. From the piece:

If you believe that last sentence, you will also believe that these measures are compatible with a properly functioning democracy. Some “climate”-related spending — such as improving the resilience of low-lying coastal cities or, as Merkley suggests, toughening our energy infrastructure — can be justified regardless of one’s views about a climate “crisis,” which is supposedly either already with us or due the day after tomorrow. For the most part, however, “spawning a robust clean energy industry”, particularly under a scenario where the costs will be front-loaded, will be an exercise in value destruction, replacing that which does not need replacing, at least any time soon. And when value is destroyed, jobs tend to be destroyed along with them.

2. Andrew William Salter warns that Joe Biden has a big China problem. From the beginning of the piece:

Joe Biden has a China problem. First, and most obvious, is the extent to which he knew and participated in Hunter Biden’s questionable deals with Chinese firms closely connected to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). A federal investigation is currently underway. And while the president-elect is not the subject of that investigation, it doesn’t take a political genius to see this may be a land mine for the incoming administration.

More broadly, Biden has been far too accommodating to the ambitious and unscrupulous Chinese state during his tenure in elected office. The CCP is clearly hoping for a return to the squishy policies it was treated with under the Obama-Biden administration. But if Biden wants to govern effectively now, he must toughen up. China difficulties extend far beyond our now-strained trade relationship; indeed, these problems stem from politics, not economics.

For all its faults, the outgoing administration understood the Chinese state for what it was.

3. Kevin Hassett has five questions for Tyler Goodspeed, Acting Chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. From the piece.

How do you respond when someone asserts that the strength of the Trump economy is just an extension or spillover from Obama’s economic policies?

I think there are two ways by which this claim is disproven. The first is by looking at trends in growth rates. Economic growth is typically faster at the beginning of expansions, which is why, historically, the amplitude of an expansion is strongly correlated with the amplitude of the preceding contraction. But when we estimate trends in growth rates for a variety of macroeconomic indicators during the Obama expansion and project those trends into 2017, 2018, and 2019, we observe large residuals, indicating that growth during the first three years of the Trump administration exceeded the trend. In many instances, this is confirmed by statistically testing for slope changes.

The second, more straightforward approach is to simply look at outcomes relative to expectations. For example, in the three years before the pandemic, the U.S. economy added 7 million jobs — 5 million more than projected by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office in August 2016. In the first two months of 2020 alone, the U.S. economy added more jobs (+465,000) than the CBO projected would be created in the entire 12 months of 2020. GDP was roughly $300 billion (or 1.2 percent) larger than the CBO had projected, while the unemployment rate was 1.4 percentage points lower. Whether you’re a Keynesian or a supply-sider, I think this substantial outperformance is clear evidence of a shift, and there are specific, major policy changes we can point to that we would expect to have generated such a shift.

4. Marc Joffe wonders if we are witnessing a repeat of the 2008 failures by rating agencies. From the beginning of the piece:

After facing widespread condemnation for their contributions to the 2008 financial crisis, U.S. credit-rating agencies have largely avoided scrutiny during the coronavirus recession. Indeed, the Federal Reserve used credit ratings to determine whether certain classes of borrowers should get emergency loans and what interest rates to charge them. This move contravened the spirit of Dodd-Frank, which sought to separate credit ratings from federal regulation, while underscoring the fact that the 2010 reform failed to replace the assessments of highly conflicted private firms in financial-industry oversight.

Unfortunately, these conflicts of interest remain in place and in some cases have been exacerbated by the entrance of smaller competitors into the ranks of SEC-licensed Nationally Recognized Statistical Rating Organizations (NRSRO). These problems have flown under the radar in 2020 because the recession was caused by the pandemic rather than by financial engineering gone awry. Also, aggressive fiscal and monetary policies have limited the number of large, institutional defaults we have seen thus far. If highly rated yet insolvent firms continue to service their debts with the help of the government, regulators can overlook the accuracy of their ratings. . . . Indeed, high ratings may even be seen as reflecting the possibility that government will come to the rescue of a distressed borrower.

One category of bonds that has yet to receive federal support is Single Asset/Single Borrower Commercial Mortgage Backed Securities (SASB CMBS). Like the Residential Mortgage Backed Securities instrumental in the financial crisis, CMBS are serviced from principal and interest payments on a pool of real-estate loans. But the underlying mortgages are liens on large, income-producing properties such as office buildings, apartment complexes, hotels, and shopping malls.

Lights. Camera. Review!

1. Armond White checks out Christopher Nolan’s Tenet and Minister of Propaganda Barack Obama’s movie listing. From the review:

Never a true movie-lover’s list, Obama’s annual inventory proposes new tenets; it’s always a Minister of Propaganda registry highlighting filmmakers who advertise Obama’s delusive political agenda and the plebes who accept it.

For those who can’t see the reality of Obama’s progressive tenets, Nolan’s film works through the deception — albeit to more deception.

Nolan’s Tenet (“It’s Bond on acid,” as the new ads proclaim, quoting one reviewer’s enthusiasm) appeals to the spectacle junkie while seducing the Kubrick nerd. This time Nolan employs an Obama strategy: It features a black lead character, “The Protagonist,” played by John David Washington, the cipher from Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman. Here’s the effect of Obama’s hope-and-change: putting race-hustling at the center of a major Hollywood blockbuster.

It turns out that the gadgety, psychobabbly mission of Nolan’s black hero, to prevent a Russian nemesis (Kenneth Branagh) from starting World War III, syncs with COVID-era dystopian fears and cynicism.

Consider that Tenet’s first three lines never establish national or moral allegiance: “Wake up the Americans,” “We live in a twilight world,” and “Welcome to the afterlife.” These are clues to the transformed America that Obama apparently approves in the films on his list, made by leftist cynics pushing their fashionable social principles.

2. Alvin S. Felzenberg finds The Reagans a pathetic bashing of Ron and Nancy. From the review:

Warning to the uninitiated: Do not mistake what comes before you as an update of anything like PBS’s extraordinary presentation of Reagan and his era as part of its “American Experience” repertoire. What you see on Showtime is neither objective history nor a fair-minded attempt to review past controversies through the perspective of the present. Its creator, Matt Tyrnauer, to his credit, is straightforward about that. He is a man with a mission.

His thesis is simple: that Ronald Reagan, through a series of “dog whistles,” carefully woven into his rhetoric, paved the way for Donald Trump’s angrier form of populism, with policies that promote white supremacy as the intended legacies of both presidents. Whatever history’s final judgment of Trump may be, few would doubt that this is a lot to pin on Ronald Reagan. In comparing the two presidents, the creators overlook some essential facts: Reagan twice won the presidency in two landslides, both in the popular vote and in the Electoral College. Trump twice lost the popular vote and prevailed in Electoral College once and narrowly. Hidden in the numbers are the hopes and expectations the American people placed in both presidents and how the presidents regarded them.

3. Kyle Smith doesn’t like Wonder Woman 1984, unless “cinematic can of processed corporate sludge” is a compliment. From the review:

As of Christmas Day, the “Imagine” video is no longer the worst film Gal Gadot and Kristen Wiig have released in 2020. Wonder Woman 1984 is an ode to parachute pants, fanny packs, eyeball-scorchingly bright colors, teased pouffy hair, and shopping malls, but the throwback item it implanted in my mind is Cheez Whiz. This movie is laboratory-made processed corporate goop in a can.

Picture the dumbest imaginable Cold War script, except with so little effort to make the action scenes zing that you might as well be watching an episode of T. J. Hooker or Hardcastle and McCormick. Wonder Woman 1984 is clunky throughout, but saves the worst for last, staging a comically awful climactic fight during which one character climbs into a costume left over from a touring production of Cats, or possibly made from the covering of a novelty fuzzy pillow purchased at Spencer’s Gifts.

Elsewhere in the Conservative Solar System

1. At Gatestone Institute, Judith Bergman highlights the EU’s “human rights” hypocrisy. From the end of the article:

Referring to the new resolution of the European Parliament on the Uighur situation, Member of the German Bundestag for the Greens, Margarete Bause, asked German Chancellor Angela Merkel whether Germany and the EU should enter into an investment agreement with China, while Uighurs there are being subjected to forced labor. Merkel effectively dodged the question, acknowledging that she was aware of the issue, but that as the negotiations were underway, she would “rather not answer hypothetical questions.”.

When the EU finalizes the EU-China investment agreement, whenever that will be, without any serious preconditions regarding China’s human rights abuses, it will have missed a crucial opportunity to mark Europe’s commitments to the human rights that it so often proclaims. By rushing into the deal before the year’s end, furthermore, the EU will have unilaterally prejudiced any transatlantic cooperation that might have been used to counter China with the incoming US administration. Crucially, the EU will project capitulation — in the words of the quote attributed to Russia’s Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin, “The capitalists will sell us the rope with which to hang them” — whereas China will be emboldened in its human rights violations from Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong to the rest of the Pacific and beyond.

2. At The Imaginative Conservative, the eminent Brad Birzer posits six things that define conservatism. From the piece:

Third, when conservatism began in the late nineteenth century, it did so, first and foremost, as a cultural movement. No one in their right senses could dismiss, for example, the influence of Irving Babbitt and Princeton’s Paul Elmer More during the 1910s through the 1930s. They and their ideas were everywhere, whether one liked them or not. One could not pick up the most prominent newspapers and periodicals without encountering their ideas. One radical minister, Charles Francis Potter, even went so far as to create a religion, Humanism, based on their teachings. In a more restrained fashion, T.S. Eliot based many of his own poems on the ideas of his favorite Harvard professor, Babbitt.

None of this should suggest that conservatism was not political. It most certainly could be, as witnessed by the “National Democratic” platform of 1896, the anti-Imperialist League manifesto, and the labeling of Woodrow Wilson as the Nietzschean “nemesis” of humanity. Yet, in its beginning, the cultural aspects of conservatism controlled politics, and conservatives considered politics a vital but limited sphere of human activity. For the most part, conservatives resisted the urge to become political until Barry Goldwater arose. At that point, all restraints came loose the political aspect of conservative grew dramatically. Today, of course, little of conservatism remains outside of the political sphere, which has swamped nearly all of human existence.

Fourth, and closely related to the third point, most conservatives of the twentieth century thought the highest human faculty was reason or, as defined properly, the imagination. They distrusted both the faculty of rationality as that of the automaton and the faculty of the passions as that of the animal. Only reason or imagination — the chests — properly ordered the human soul and human society. “It is only in the poetic imagination which is akin to that of the child and the mystic that we can still feel the pure sense of mystery and transcendence which is man’s natural element,” Dawson wrote. Babbitt and Eliot argued that one might employ three types of imagination: the diabolic, the idyllic, and the moral. Paul Elmer More claimed there could be no conservatism that was not an imaginative conservatism; and Russell Kirk always waxed eloquent — in high Platonic tones — that the imagination ruled everything.

3. At First Things, Matthew Hennessey writes of his daughter, Magdalena, and laughing matters. From the piece:

It’s not that Magdalena has no sense of humor. She can be quite funny herself when she wants to be. She does a pitch-perfect Kermit the Frog voice, for instance, but I’m always careful not to laugh when I hear it. I just smile.

“I like that, Mags,” I say. “It makes me want to laugh.” She squints her eyes in warning, as if to say, “You better not.”

This aversion to laughter is not normal — a word I use with care, because “normal” is considered unspeakable in our world. Among those who love people with disabilities and special needs, the guardians of propriety banned the word long ago, insisting instead on defining all differences of learning and behavior in relation to the “typical” world. What is normal, after all?

But the invocation of normality in this case is justified, and I must claim the privilege to use it as Magdalena’s father, that is to say, as the father of someone with Down syndrome. It’s correct to say that her reaction to laughter is not normal. Nor is it normal for parents to train teenagers not to laugh, nor for people to suppress their natural urges because someone else in the house might pitch a hysterical fit. It goes against every impulse. In our neighbors’ houses, nobody does this. When our friends visit, the way we tiptoe around laughter is viewed with uncharitable suspicion. They are right. It is abnormal.

4. At Competitive Enterprise Institute, Ben Lieberman sounds the alarm about the war — a bipartisan one — on affordable air conditioning. From the analysis:

Congressional Democrats and Republicans are currently collaborating on a bill that will make air conditioning more expensive. Hooray for bipartisanship!

Both the House and Senate have verbally agreed to add the pending Senate energy bill to must-pass year-end omnibus spending legislation. Included in that bill are measures that would restrict future production of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) on the grounds that they contribute to climate change.

The problem is that HFCs are the refrigerants used in literally hundreds of millions of pieces of equipment owned by Americans — most home and automotive air conditioners as well as refrigerators. Recharging any of these systems after a leak would become more expensive once HFC supplies dwindle and prices rise.

Buying new equipment would also get costlier as systems will have to be redesigned to use one of the environmentally acceptable HFC substitutes. Many of these eco-friendlier alternatives already carry a hefty price premium, and that’s before they get the playing field tilted in their direction by Congress. The leading one, called HFO-1234yf, is nearly eight times more expensive than HFC-134a, which it would replace in new vehicle air conditioners as well as other applications. One online wholesaler is selling the former at $55 per pound and the latter at $7.50 per pound. In addition, some of the new refrigerants are classified by standards-setting bodies as flammable, which may pose safety issues.

5. F-Bombing does not make the bomber more authentic, argues Boston Globe columnist and non-prude Jeff Jacoby. From his weekly “Arguable” email (subscribe here):

As a near-absolutist when it comes to freedom of speech and expression, I don’t for a moment suggest that George Carlin’s seven words you can’t say on TV should be banned by law. But it would be a fine thing if most of them were once again banned by convention, by a sense of respect, and by an appreciation for social hygiene.

“Let sewage flow into a river long enough, and eventually it may catch fire,” I once wrote in a column. “Ignore graffiti and broken windows long enough, and eventually anti-social crime can make a neighborhood intolerable. What happens to a culture in which obscenity and raunchy language are omnipresent?”

Politicians and other public figures who resort to profanity aren’t more authentic or edgy or fearless than those who don’t. They’re just more lazy. It doesn’t take increased mental effort to deploy a few F-bombs in a conversation; it takes less. Promiscuous cursing may attract attention and fluster the bluenoses, but that doesn’t alter the fact that it is trashy and cheap. Its effect over time is to build up resistance to gentleness and patience. Sometimes salty language is exactly what a situation calls for. But like saltiness in cooking, too much can ruin everything. When everyone talks like the salesmen in “Glengarry Glen Ross,” society hasn’t become more authentic, only more uncouth.

6. At the Desert News, Scott Rasmussen looks past a Biden presidency and describes what a truly transformational president will do. From the analysis:

Reagan and Roosevelt were influential not because they changed the national mood, but because they followed the nation and put the mood into words. The two presidents did not change America. Instead, their rhetoric and leadership confirmed that America had already changed. That’s the way things work in a land where the culture leads and politics lag behind.

The agendas and policies that flowed from their leadership did matter, of course. The significance, however, was not that they changed America, but that they changed American politics and government. Reagan and Roosevelt took a political system that had drifted away from the public mood and forced it back into closer alignment with the consent of the governed. In the end, both presidents helped the political system catch up with where America had already gone.

This understanding matters to us today because it means we don’t have to wait for America’s next influential president to determine the fate of the nation. Instead, we can glimpse the future of American politics by looking at where the culture is today.

7. At Real Clear History, Francis Sempa reflects on James Burnham and his 1940 take on the future of geopolitics. From the piece:

Though remembered as a conservative, Burnham eschewed philosophical labels. He was an empiricist. He studied and analyzed facts, historical circumstances, geography, and political realities before reaching general conclusions. Some criticized him for celebrating power and those who wielded it. It is more accurate to say that Burnham understood power and carefully studied how political leaders wielded it. He called Machiavelli and others who wrote truthfully about power “defenders of freedom.”

Burnham’s geopolitical analysis derived from his reading of classical geopolitical theorists, including Britain’s Sir Halford Mackinder and Yale professor Nicholas Spykman. Those theorists focused on spatial relationships and the power potential of certain geographical regions. Mackinder viewed northern-central Eurasia as the “pivot” of world politics, while Spykman believed that the crescent region that included Western Europe, the Middle East, southwest Asia, and East Asia (which he called the Rimland) controlled the destinies of the world. Burnham did not mention Mackinder or Spykman in The Managerial Revolution but he did cite them in his later geopolitical works.

The outcome of the Second World War, Burnham wrote, will result in a small number of “‘super-states,’ which will divide the world among them.” Looking geographically at regions where advanced industry and economic growth were concentrated, he predicted that three super-states would emerge from the war — in North America based in the United States; in Western and Central Europe, north Africa, and western Asia (“the European center”); and in Central and East Asia and the nearby islands (the “Asiatic center”). The postwar world would be dominated by the “struggle among the three strategic centers for world control.” All three super-states would be run by managerial elites. (Burnham called communism, fascism and New Dealism “managerial ideologies”). Other smaller nations would coalesce around the three super-states.

8. At The College Fix, Joseph Silverstein reports on insanity in the very woke student senate at Cornell. From the article:

Activist members of the student government at Cornell University are waging an ideological war against fellow Cornell Student Assembly members who recently voted against disarming campus police.

From launching recall petitions and rallying against their fellow representatives in November, to earlier this month ousting some of them from subcommittees or the entire assembly, these activist student government members say they are motivated to set right what a “white-cis-het” group of their peers did in voting down the disarmement resolution.

“These 15 student assembly members watched us pour out our traumas and fears on the floor practically begging them to vote no, and finally send a message to the university that we can no longer allow these oppressive institutions to keep us down,” said Uchenna Chukwukere, the Student Assembly vice president of finance, at a protest rally in mid-November.

“Many of these assembly members are white-cis-het men and women who quite literally laughed and danced in our faces when the resolution failed,” Chukwukere said.

“Their faces are all over social media,” he added. “We will never forget. . . . Their campus careers are over. . . . We must disarm, defund, and disband the Cornell University Police Department.”


Christmas celebrates a Miracle Big, but let us here recall a Miracle Small, known to and appreciated by aficionados of the National Pastime — that is the no-hitter of Alva Lee “Bobo” Holloman, the only MLB pitcher to hurl such in his first start.

True, it was not his first appearance. Having pitched decently in the minors, he was picked up by the St. Louis Browns in late 1952, and was on the team’s opening day roster come 1953. His first few appearances were strictly in relief, and after four games Bobo had racked up decidedly unimpressive numbers: In 5 1/3 innings, he had an 8.44 ERA and one loss. Still, on May 6th, manager Marty Marion conceded to Holloman’s pestering to allow him to show his stuff in what Bobo was sure was his forte — as a starter. Before a rain-soaked, night-game crowd of 2,473 hardy Browns’ fans, Bobo took the mound, retired the Philadelphia Athletics Eddie Joost on a fly ball to right field, and began his dalliance with baseball immortality.

Over nine frames, Bobo walked five A’s, and even made an error to allow a baserunner. But as luck would have it — and luck would (by all accounts the Browns that day made many a great play in the field) — when our oft-mentioned pal, yes, Eddie Robinson, flew out to end a nascent rally in the top of the Ninth, not a single Athletic had registered a hit. Bobo Holloman had an official no-hitter.

The historic outing was not an indicator of forthcoming greatness. The 30-year-old righty would earn only two more wins in his brief MLB career, all of which was relegated to 1953. The most impressive one (and he final one) came in late June at Fenway Park, when he gave up only two hits and five walks over 8 innings as the Browns blanked the Red Sox, 2-0. Bobo started the Ninth, but when he walked the first batter, Billy Goodman, he was yanked for reliever Satchel Paige, who earned a save.

From there on it was dreck. His arm hurting, Holloman pitched just a few more times, bloating his ERA to 5.23. In his final appearance, against the Washington Senators on July 19th, he gave up 6 hits, three walks, and 6 earned runs over 1 2/3 innings. In a few days he was gone to the minors, and would never play in the Big Leagues again.

But he had his moment of greatness.

BATTLE OF THE BOBOS: Because you were curious, we searched, and found, the intersection: Bobo Holloman and Bobo Newsom, wrapping up his long career, appeared in the same box-score. On June 26, 1953, at Connie Mack Stadium, Holloman would start against the Athletics, and go 6 2/3 innings before being relieved by Satchel Paige (who blew a save and earned a loss). Newsom pitched an uneventful 2/3 of an inning, with no decision.

A Dios

We think today, amidst the merry-making, of those suffering, from pathogens or whatever afflicts the body and the mind. And too, the soul. More than think, we might offer a prayer that the Creator is moved to offer them peace, comfort, and health. More than prayer, the tuneful among us might sing this line from a favorite carol:

Bless all the dear children in Your tender care
And fit us for Heaven to live with You there.

A Very Merry Christmas to All,

Jack Falalalalalalalala, who will be in receipt of greetings and laments and reflections on the National Pastime at

National Review

The Real Miracle Was on 35th Street


Dear Weekend Jolter,

Before we arrive at the standard fare of this weekly cornucopia . . .

It should be noted, as the subject line states, that while Santa Claus and Macys may have pulled off something extraordinary at Herald Square, a true miracle took place a block over, on 35th Street, where William F. Buckley established the headquarters of an infant National Review, where it took root, where it grew and thrived, where it make good on its pledge to stand athwart history yelling stop.

Christmas Eve aside, Bill’s visions were decidedly not of sugarplums.

Our friends at National Review Institute — which Bill also founded, and also on 35th Street — have, as explains our paysan David Bahnsen, helped launch and sponsor a mighty effort on NRO, Capital Matters, that in the face of ascendant Socialism daily makes the case for free markets and free people, that hurls wisdom and insults at leftist fiscal lunacy, and that defends that vital thing that has lifted billions from poverty: capitalism. NRI’s effort deserves your attention, and may we add consideration of support. But let’s let David say such:

In an age when too many in the political class, the ivory tower, and yes, even Fortune 500 companies have abandoned the empirical testimony of history and rejected the inherent morality of markets, the duty those of us have to defend ordered liberty is most profound.

National Review Institute, the nonprofit journalistic think tank that supports the National Review mission, has collaborated with NR to launch a new, bold project — National Review Capital Matters — because we take this duty seriously and believe that the greatest defense against the argument of leftist economics is to, well, win the argument. While the other side seeks to gather power and to monopolize messaging in the classroom, we must win the debate in the public square. We must capably defend the call of the entrepreneur, the vitality of capital markets, and the nobility of free enterprise. We must highlight the capitalist dynamism and impulse to create that have lifted more people out of extreme poverty in the last 30 years than in all prior human history. . . . Capital Matters holds in disdain the worldview that, in its vain pursuits, squashes human flourishing. It holds fast to the historical legacy of America’s markets-based economy, and the democratic norms and institutions that protect it.

The greatest tool the Left has in 2020 to undermine free markets is a mainstream and unopposed demonization of capital, of capital markets, and of capitalists in its day-to-day reporting, commentary, and editorial content about business and finance.

The Miracle on 35th Street eventually moved to Lexington Avenue and now resides at 44th Street. It remains just as miraculous. Do read David’s appeal in full, and do consider his recommendation for support. It has even moved this Missive’s Author to contribute. You can do the same here.

Now, rooty toot toots and rummy tum tums of conservative wisdom await, so put down the figgy pudding you God-rested merry gentlemen and ladies and indulge!

Short Links, Sweet Links


He leaves as he came, with our kudos: Attorney General William Barr Was Right Man for the Job.

Ornaments Galore Decorating the Tree of Conservative Wisdom

Kyle Smith: Jill Biden’s Doctorate Is Garbage Because Her Dissertation Is Garbage.

Kyle Round Two: Jill Biden’s Garbage Dissertation, Explained.

Rich Lowry: The Embarrassing Russian Disinformation Canard.

Matthew Continetti: Biden Administration Courts Disaster with Progressive Ideologues from Obama Era.

Mark Krikorian: Immigration: Biden Administration Will Unravel Border Rules Slowly.

Frederick M. Hess: Betsy DeVos Interview: Education Secretary Reflects on Her Tenure, Her Critics, and School Choice.

John Yoo: Texas Election Suit — The State Lost, and Conservatives Won.

Victor David Hanson: Where Did the New Mad Left Come From?.

George Hawley and Richard Hanania: Republicans & the Working-Class Party Myth: Cultural Concerns Decide Most Voters’ Choices.

Jack Butler: Left-Wing Cultural & Political Dominance Has Limits.

Kevin Williamson: The College-Debt Debate Is a Culture-War Battle.

Cameron Hilditch: Why American Children Stopped Believing in God.

Conrad Black: China’s Horrific Triumph amid the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Helen Raleigh: Australia Stands Up to China’s Bullying Campaign.

Alexandra DeSanctis: Tulsi Gabbard & Abortion: Democrat Introduced Two Pro-Life Bills.

David Harsanyi: Death-Penalty Debate: Honesty Needed.

Capital Matters

Maybe Alex Muresianu will answer “just about everything”: What Biden Gets Wrong about Taxes and Manufacturing.

John Fund watches the exodus: Businesses & Entrepreneurs Flee California’s High Taxes & Regulation.

Rick Scott demands the GOP hold firm: Republicans Must Not Cave on Blue-State Bailouts.

Thomas W. Miller Jr. argues against forgiveness: Student-Loan Debt: Form a Commission, Don’t Rush Toward Debt Jubilee.

Lights. Camera. Review!

Armond White sees a BLM puppet show: With Drawn Arms: Race-Hustling Documentary Exploits Olympics Legend Tommie Smith.

More Armond: He catches a hypnotic post-punk flick: True History of the Kelly Gang Is 2020’s Great Gangsta Epic.

Kyle Smith is not jive talkin’: The Broken-Hearted Bee Gees.

More Kyle: He feels the floorboards tremble: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom: August Wilson’s Powerful Play on Netflix.

From the New December 31, 2020 Issue of Your Favorite Conservative Magazine

Jimmy Quinn talks with the Secretary of State: The Pompeo Doctrine.

Graham Hillard wonders if comedians will give Biden a pass: Punchline in Chief.

Andrew C. McCarthy finds judicial aversion to election-undoing: The Courts Hold the Line.

Kevin Williamson assesses the strong support for marijuana legalization: The Marijuana Majority.

Now, Let Us Serve up All of That, Only This Time with All the Trimmings


1. William Barr has chosen to resign as Attorney General. He leaves with our commendation. From the editorial:

The “background commentary” never ceased. On Monday, it led to the president’s losing one of his most effective cabinet officials, one who served Trump, the Justice Department, and the nation admirably — better, obviously, than his boss will ever appreciate.

The attorney general’s public exasperation in February over the president’s outbursts was rare, but the situation was all too typical. He found himself caught between, on the one side, subordinate prosecutors who were recommending a draconian sentence for Roger Stone and, on the other, a willful president who wanted the case to disappear. Barr rejected both Trump’s demands and the push by the prosecutors for a sentence befitting a mafia leg-breaker. He recommended a sentence in exactly the 40-month range that the judge, no Trump or Stone fan, ended up embracing.

This was a second tour of duty as AG for Barr, who served President George H. W. Bush 30 years ago. He is smart and savvy in the ways of Washington, so he knew what he was getting into. He ends his tenure right where he’s been all along: whipsawed between a president’s unreasonable demands that he politicize important investigations, and media-Democrat smears that he has politicized the Justice Department merely by conducting those investigations.

A Stocking Stuffed with So Many Goodies

1. Kyle Smith takes the hammer to the dissertation of “Dr.” Jill Biden. From the piece:

Mrs. Biden wanted the credential for its own sake. As for its quality, well. She got it from the University of Delaware, whose ties to her husband, its most illustrious alumnus if you don’t count Joe Flacco, run so deep that it has a school of public policy named after him. That the University of Delaware would have rejected her 2006 dissertation as sloppy, poorly written, non-academic, and barely fit for a middle-school Social Studies classroom (all of which it is) when her husband had been representing its state in the U.S. Senate for more than three decades was about as likely as Tom Hagen telling Vito Corleone that his wife is a fat sow on payday. The only risk to the University of Delaware was that it might strain its collective wrist in its rush to rubber-stamp her doctoral paper. Mrs. Biden could have turned in a quarter-a**ed excuse for a magazine article written at the level of Simple English Wikipedia and been heartily congratulated by the university for her towering mastery. Which is exactly what happened.

Jill Biden’s dissertation is not an addition to the sum total of human knowledge. It is not a demonstration of expertise in its specific topic or its broad field. It is a gasping, wheezing, frail little Disney forest creature that begs you to notice the effort it makes to be the thing it is imitating while failing so pathetically that any witnesses to its ineptitude must feel compelled, out of manners alone, to drag it to the nearest podium and give it a participation trophy. Which is more or less what an Ed.D. is. It’s a degree that only deeply unimpressive people feel confers the honorific of “Doctor.” People who are actually smart understand that being in possession of a credential is no proof of intelligence.

2. Descended upon by the flying monkeys of various social media platforms, Kyle doubles down on Mrs. Biden academic thin gruel (with apologies to gruel). From the encore:

The dissertation, Student Retention at the Community College: Meeting Students’ Needs, shimmers with the wan, term-papery feel of middle school, although in defense of today’s middle schoolers, they at least know how to use spell-checking software, unlike Mrs. Biden. Her 2006 paper notes that at Delaware Tech, her then-employer, a third of students dissolve into the ether every year, and in order to pad out her micron-thin proposals, none of which have anything to support them except her beliefs and anecdotal evidence (she suggests building a student center and beefing up the “Wellness Center” while increasing counseling and mentoring services), she shovels in piles of drivel. Opinions will differ on which of her efforts is of least value, but a strong contender presents itself at the moment when she reaches over for the course catalog on her desk and quotes at length from page two of its boilerplate introduction (“The College respects and cares for students as individuals and maintains a friendly an open institution which welcomes all students and supports their aspirations for a better life”). She follows up on this meaningless prattle by reiterating it in her own insipid words: “Responding to the current social and economic morés of the new millennium, Delaware Tech’s mission has adapted to meet the needs and goals of today’s students.”

Biden’s landfill of a paper contains potted histories of things everybody already knows, awkwardly phrased banalities (“Community colleges offer a myriad of support,” “As a community college, Delaware Tech mirrors the national profile of a community college,” “the unique nature of the classroom allows for a complexity of problems as well”), and childlike repetition (“This reason is one of many reasons that support the need for a campus psychologist.”)

3. Rich Lowry has at the dozens of national-security gurus who pontificated pre-election that Hunter Biden’s laptop was a thing conceived in Moscow. From the article:

The signatories should have thought better of their missive when they felt compelled to include the line, “We want to emphasize that we do not know if the emails, provided to the New York Post by President Trump’s personal attorney, are genuine or not and that we do not have evidence of Russian involvement.”

That also should have tipped reporters off to the fact that the letter was rank speculation masquerading as informed analysis. But true to form, they happily ran with it instead.

In a complete reversal from the Cold War era, journalists in the Trump years have not only reflexively believed representations from national-security professionals about nefarious Russian plots, they have actively sought them out and promoted them.

In this case, it was former U.S. intelligence officials who were spreading disinformation in an attempt to mislead the American public about a consequential matter touching on the front-runner in an American presidential campaign. The call came from inside the house.

Anyone believing the officials, who used their past titles and long experience to lend credibility to their letter, would have been shocked to learn last week that Hunter Biden is under federal investigation for tax crimes.

4. Matthew Continetti sees Biden’s administration running on Obama retreads and believes the wheels will indeed come off the bus. From the article:

Obama’s appointees were known for their elitism, imperiousness, and cocksure expertise. What does Biden do? He brings them back. John Kerry becomes a special envoy for climate — though if you assume he will restrict himself to that portfolio, there’s a bridge in Brooklyn you might like to buy. Janet Yellen gets Treasury — and a sure-to-be awkward relationship with her replacement as head of the Federal Reserve. Alejandro Mayorkas was deputy secretary of Homeland Security when he became ensnared in a visa scandal. Biden wants to promote him.

Jeffrey Zients salvaged from its catastrophic launch. He’ll be coronavirus czar. Having lied about both Benghazi and Bowe Bergdahl while coordinating national security, Susan Rice will apply her mendacious talents to domestic policy. Denis McDonough was Obama’s chief of staff during the Syrian “red line” debacle. He’ll be secretary for Veterans Affairs. A few officials — Vivek Murthy, Tom Vilsack — will be nominated for exactly the same jobs they held during the Obama years.

The cases where Biden has struck his own path are either strange or disturbing. Biden chose retired general Lloyd Austin, the former CENTCOM commander, for secretary of defense because “he played a crucial role in bringing 150,000 American troops home from the theater of war” and because he had a good relationship with Beau Biden. The selection, which requires a congressional waiver, not only raises the fraught subject of civil-military relations. It also guarantees a replay of the debate over America’s 2011 withdrawal from Iraq and the subsequent growth of the Islamic State. And it’s already created friction between Biden and members of his own party, as well as between Biden and members of the bipartisan foreign-policy elite who backed his candidacy.

5. There will be an unraveling of border rules under Joe, says Mark Krikorian. The consequences will be bad. From the beginning of the piece:

President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to reverse the immigration policies implemented by the Trump administration. His campaign site’s immigration page says he will “take urgent action to undo Trump’s damage and reclaim America’s values.” As Rich Lowry has written, “Biden will move on all fronts to loosen immigration controls.”

Despite what anti-borders groups say, this will be relatively easy to do. Because virtually all the changes to immigration policy made by the Trump administration have been executive actions of one sort or another, the incoming administration will simply rescind them in the same manner. That’s what Trump’s people thought they’d be able to do to Obama’s policies, of course, but lawless members of the “Resistance” judiciary have prevented him from discontinuing DACA, or from implementing a new rule on welfare use by prospective legal immigrants, or even from not renewing the ostensibly time-limited Temporary Protected Status work-permit program for certain illegal aliens. Biden will not face that hurdle, and so will be able to undo most everything Trump has done; in some cases immediately, in others over a period of several months.

As this won’t be done all at once, Biden will do his best to try to hide the politically explosive consequences from public view. The new administration will likely fail to mask the fallout of Biden’s immigration pledges, but he has the Top Men in the anti-borders brain trust working on the problem.

6. Frederick M. Hess interviews outgoing Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos about four years of slings and arrows and accomplishments. From the piece:

While most who’ve served as secretary of education came to the role after careers in school systems, higher education, or state government, DeVos entered as an unapologetic outsider. She believes this had its benefits. “I didn’t know all the things you ‘can’t do,’ so I came in with fresh eyes and a laser focus on rethinking the way we approach all aspects of work at the Department,” she says. This was needed, she adds, because “the bureaucracy is even more bureaucratic than any of us could have ever imagined, and it takes longer to get anything done than I could have ever imagined.”

DeVos says, “It’s been truly disheartening to see just how far some people in Washington and elsewhere will go to distract from the abysmal results of ‘the system’ and protect their power.” But she says she tuned out the vitriol: “I focused on doing what’s best for students and didn’t allow baseless, and at times disgusting, attacks to distract me or take me off course.”

Perhaps the most heated disputes of DeVos’s tenure revolved around her energetic support for school choice, on which she speaks in passionate, personal terms. She offers up an anecdote as a distillation of her time in office. “I remember talking with a group of young African-American students in a school where they were benefiting from the Milwaukee voucher program and looking outside at a sea of middle-aged white protesters who apparently thought those students didn’t deserve that opportunity,” she says. “I think that’s a pretty good microcosm of what my experience in office was like.”

7. John Yoo sees the ruling on Texas’s election case as a victory for conservative principles. From the piece:

While many Trump supporters greeted the Supreme Court decision with dismay, they should welcome it. The move represents the latest step in a gradual process of rebuilding the wall between law and politics that progressives have sought to pull down since the beginnings of the Warren Court. The Supreme Court’s decision on Friday referred to the most important brick in that wall: the principle that the Constitution limits the power of federal judges to, as Article III describes, “cases” and “controversies” under federal law. The case-or-controversy requirement demands that the plaintiff have suffered a harm, traceable to the defendant’s conduct, for which the courts can grant a remedy. It also requires that federal law provide a right for the plaintiff to sue.

Without Article III’s careful limitation on what the courts can hear, federal judges might soon undermine the Constitution’s careful design for the separation of powers and federalism. As a middle-aged law professor named Antonin Scalia put it in 1983, this “standing” doctrine “roughly restricts courts to their traditional undemocratic role of protecting individuals and minorities against impositions of the majority.” It further “excludes them from the even more undemocratic role of prescribing how the other two branches should function in order to serve the interest of the majority itself.” If freed from the limit that federal judicial power apply only to live disputes between real parties under federal law, as Justice Scalia later wrote in Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife in 1992, the courts would become “virtually continuing monitors of the wisdom and soundness of [government] action.”

8. The sources of the new and decidedly mad and utopian Left are plentiful and worrisome, writes Victor Davis Hanson. From the essay:

Today 45 million students are in debt. Many are credentialed but ill-educated, and they lack the means to pay off their compound-interest obligations. They have grown accustomed to the good life on campuses, many of which are Club Med retreats where late teenagers play-act by bullying faculty and administrators with primal screams.

All too many lecture the country on their superior morality — and then graduate and face the reality that no one cares whether the barista who serves you a beer or the Uber driver who gives you a lift has a degree in environmental studies. Delayed marriage, delayed childbearing, delayed home purchases, delayed everything — all further radicalized youth, who are intrinsically prone to radicalism.

Again, the most dangerous cohort in history has been the half-educated — the on-and-off university student or upper-middle class elite who is aggrieved that his youthful genius is neither appreciated nor justly compensated.

“Elite glut” well describes millions in debt who feel they are owed quite a lot. The nasal-twanged Antifa wannabe Bolshevik is mostly furious that we who watch his psychodramas on television have not extended to him the status and wealth he thinks he has long ago earned.

9. George Hawley and Richard Hanania argue that conservatives are deceiving themselves politically if they ignore the centrality of cultural issues. From the analysis:

As Alexander William Slater has recently pointed out, Trump pursued “Zombie Reagan” policies that stuck close to free-market orthodoxy and actually achieved success, whether measured by economic data or by polls on his handling of the economy.

An overwhelming amount of evidence tells a similar story. The parties are fundamentally divided by cultural issues. The small remaining percentage of “swing voters” vote on the overall state of the economy and factors such as the personalities of the candidates. Under these circumstances, there is little hope of a party creating an electoral realignment through innovative economic policies.

What does this mean for Republicans going forward? First, since economic specifics do not matter except to the extent that they affect macroeconomic trends such as growth, interparty debates should center around what works, rather than what is popular. Polls commonly show that people prefer higher levels of government spending on various things and more intervention in the free market, and this finding is often used by populists and socialists alike to argue that their respective parties should move toward the popular positions. Maybe they should, but only if such policies successfully grow the economy and keep unemployment low.

Second, there will be no abandonment of the social issues around which Trump and other Republicans have rallied their base for decades. For better or worse, these are the issues that motivate Republican voters. To some extent, the GOP benefits simply by not being the Democrats, who have moved the left of the median voter on many identity issues. There are indications that Republicans could benefit from pushing back even harder on these issues. For example, over the last decade or so Republicans have mostly stopped talking about affirmative action. Yet California, a state as solidly blue and diverse as they come, has just overwhelmingly voted against affirmative action, even though those favoring race blindness were outspent by a wide margin. In Sacramento, Asian representatives have been strongest in pushing back against diversity initiatives that they say harm their constituents. Majorities of every major racial group oppose defunding the police, and some Democratic members of Congress acknowledge that this slogan and the movement behind it hurt their party at the polls.

10. Jack Butler reflects on the lefties who hold cultural dominance seeking to ensure political dominance too. From the article:

It has become something of a cliché to characterize the events of the five years since as “the Trump show,” and for good reason: It is undeniable that Trump has been the main character of American political life for the past five years. But if we are to speak of real life in terms of fiction, then it is worth noting that shows, movies, and plays typically involve bookends, with something at the beginning of the work being invoked, resolved, or otherwise referenced at its end. So it was somehow fitting that on Sunday night, Jonathan Groff, the original Hamilton cast’s King George III, headlined a livestream fundraiser with other castmates in support of the Georgia’s two Democratic Senate candidates, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, who are competing in runoff elections against Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, respectively.

The progressive desire to marry dominance of culture with dominance of politics should by now come as a shock to no one. One consequence of the Trump years has been the abandonment of any pretense that much of mainstream media, culture, and academia is anything other than liberal, and the radicalization of many already openly liberal institutions. In response to what they identified as the unique threats President Trump posed to the American political system, many on the left adopted a decidedly antagonistic pose toward him. In some cases they were right to find Trump’s words or actions abhorrent; in many others, they treated a more typical, if almost always clumsily advanced, conservatism as fascism, or indulged outright lies about him and other Republicans. Trump, of course, often invited such treatment and seemed to relish the scorched-earth political combat.

So the Trump years dragged on, until an election outcome that represented the American political system at its frustrating best: Trump lost, but not in the landslide for which his opponents had hoped; down-ballot Republicans did far better than expected, making gains in the House and giving themselves a good chance to hold the Senate. Which is why now, more than a month after the election, all eyes in the American political universe are fixed on Georgia. If Republicans win the January runoffs there, they’ll be able to impose a kind of moderation on President-elect Joe Biden; if Democrats win, they’ll control both chambers of Congress and the White House for the first time since 2009, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as the tie-breaking vote in the Senate.

11. Kevin Williamson finds the debate on college-loan relief to be another front in the culture wars. From the piece:

Most people with student loans have payments amounting to a relatively small share of their income (typically less than 10 percent and often much less), and there already are programs in place for certain kinds of hardship cases. College-debt forgiveness is not a program to relieve acute economic suffering, nor, as the Times notes, is it likely to prove an effective economic stimulus. It is nothing more or less than the Democrats’ political commitment to servicing a particularly upper-class form of entitlement mentality.

Take as your model the example of Michelle Obama complaining about having to repay her college debt. Mrs. Obama attended Princeton, and, like many Ivy League students, she attended at a discount. For the relatively small part of the expense of her education that she was expected to pay, she was provided with loans at a subsidized rate on very easy terms. (Perhaps she was the world’s most credit-worthy teenager.) A Princeton degree is not a guarantor of a happy and successful life, but it puts you right at the front of the line. Mrs. Obama went on to scale the commanding heights of American social and economic life, and when she complained — quite bitterly — about simply having to repay the generous loans made to her at a subsidized rate in order to provide her with the best undergraduate education money can buy, thereby easing her way into a life of genuine privilege, her complaints were met with general sympathy rather than with revulsion at her audacious ingratitude.

That’s how deeply rooted the collegiate entitlement is.

12. Depriving kiddies of God-talk: Cameron Hilditch looks at one major reason why American children hav lost faith, if they ever had it to lose. From the piece:

It turns out that religiosity is usually determined very early in life. All the data suggest that, by and large, kids brought up in religious households stay religious and kids who aren’t, don’t. Consequently, childhood religiosity has been, and remains, the most important indicator of America’s religious trajectory. The story of religious decline in America is not the story of adults consciously rejecting the faith of their forefathers: It’s the story of each generation receiving a more secular upbringing than the generation preceding it. What accounts for this secularization of childhood over time? Taxpayer dollars.

Childhood religiosity was heavily affected by government spending on education and, to a lesser degree, government spending on old-age pensions. Thus, while more educated people were not less religious, societies that spent more public money on education were less religious. It is not educational attainment per se that reduces religiosity, but government control of education and, to a lesser extent, government support for retirement.

Researchers originally tried to explain the relationship between government control of education and secularization by putting it down to the state’s increasing willingness to care for the needs and wants of its citizens in a comprehensive way — a task traditionally carried out by religious institutions. Once people are no longer beholden to a church/synagogue/mosque for their material well-being — or so the theory goes — they see little reason to stay.

But this theory just doesn’t account for the data we have. As Stone observes, it’s belied by the fact “that the vast majority of declining religiosity can be attributed to changes in educational policy, rather than welfare generally.”

13. Conrad Black reviews how Red China has taken advantage of the pathogen it let loose on the world, and how dedicated it is to infiltrating American institutions. From the piece:

As this year began, all talk of China’s rapidly overtaking the United States economically, a truism for years, had stopped. China was seriously inconvenienced by American tariffs, and the United States had begun an effective and comprehensive response to China’s challenge to the preeminence among nations that America has enjoyed for approximately 100 years. President Trump had effectively eliminated unemployment and almost stopped the arrival of illegal aliens, who provided cheap labor that undermined the prosperity of the American workforce. Despite the immense controversy surrounding his administration, Trump had considerable bipartisan support for a policy of constructive and non-polemical resistance to China’s extraterritorial ambitions. With Japan, India, and Australia, the United States formed the Quad, a loose but flexible network of cooperation between countries that together had almost twice China’s GDP and far superior combined military forces. An appropriate system of peaceful counterpressure to the steady expansion of Chinese influence appeared to be in place and functioning well. It is still there, but the member countries have all been severely distracted by the social and economic implications of the coronavirus. As an astonishing bonus for China’s unscrupulous opportunism, the coronavirus led to the defeat of China’s greatest rival, who awakened the world to the Chinese challenge, President Donald Trump.

It is now clear that a broad range of Chinese policies have been astutely launched and discreetly conducted to raise China’s strategic strength to a point that was not imaginable even ten years ago. Five million Chinese nationals are authorized to roam about the United States, a great many of them effectively conducting industrial, scientific, technological, and political espionage. There are Chinese intelligence units within many American corporations, stealing and remitting to the People’s Republic details of American industrial innovation. Many Chinese institutions have made large donations to American universities that have not until very recently been revealed, and that are clearly devoted largely to ensuring that China benefits from the cutting edge of American academic science. The Chinese consulates in the United States are generally considered to be outright centers of espionage. And China, with a modest contribution compared with that of the United States and some other western powers, seems effectively to have taken over the World Health Organization and some other United Nations agencies and transformed them into useful tools of the People’s Republic and its vast international ambitions.

14. Helen Raleigh puts the spotlight on Australia’s determination to stand up to Red China. From the piece:

Why did China impose such high tariffs on Australian wine? It is all part of Beijing’s ongoing bullying campaign against Australia, in an attempt to force Canberra to bend to Beijing’s will.

It began in April, when Australia led a coalition of more than 120 countries, demanding that the World Health Organization (WHO) conduct an “impartial, independent, and comprehensive evaluation of the international response to the pandemic, the actions of the WHO, and its ‘timeline’ of the pandemic.” Canberra indicated that such an inquiry is necessary for all countries to be better prepared for the next pandemic. Australia’s proposal was officially adopted by WHO’s decision-making body, the World Health Assembly, at its annual meeting in May.

Beijing, however, views that step as an attempt to blame the Chinese government for its mishandling of the coronavirus outbreak. Instinctively, Beijing shifted immediately to attack mode. Hu Xijin, editor of the Global Times, a Chinese tabloid, compared Australia to “a piece of chewed-up gum stuck under China’s shoe.” China’s embassy in Canberra warned that Chinese consumers might boycott Australian beef and wine.

China is known for its “bullying diplomacy” — using its enormous economic power to coerce other nations to bend to its will. Any nation that stands up in disagreement is doomed to face Beijing’s backlash. For example, after a committee appointed by the Norwegian parliament awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, Beijing imposed an embargo on Norwegian salmon and halted trade negotiations between the two nations for six years. In 2017, after South Korea decided to allocate a construction site for American-made anti-missile systems, Beijing retaliated by preventing Chinese tourists from visiting South Korea, ordering Chinese companies to boycott South Korean companies, and diverting Chinese consumers from South Korean retail stores in China.

15. Tulsi Gabbard may be heading for the Congressional exit, but before leaving she has introduced legislation that, as Alexandra DeSanctis explains, have come as a pleasant surprise to pro-lifers. From the article:

Last week, Hawaii representative Tulsi Gabbard introduced not one but two substantial pieces of pro-life legislation. One measure from the Democratic congresswoman is intended “to protect pain-capable unborn children.” The legislative text is not yet available, but it is likely along the lines of similar legislation introduced in the past, which prohibits most abortions after 20 weeks’ gestation based on research suggesting that unborn children can feel pain at that stage of pregnancy.

The second piece of legislation would “ensure a health care practitioner exercises the proper degree of care in the case of a child who survives an abortion or attempted abortion.” That bill text also has yet to be made public, but it will almost certainly follow earlier forms of born-alive legislation. For the past two years, the Senate has held a vote on Senator Ben Sasse’s Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which requires physicians to treat newborns who survive an abortion the same way they’d treat any other newborn delivered at the same gestational age.

Adding insult to injury, Gabbard is also sponsoring a measure to define sex as “determined on the basis of biological sex as determined at birth by a physician,” as it applies to Title IX and athletics, a controversial question among progressives, who increasingly believe that biological males should be permitted to compete with girls and women if they identify as female.

As the pro-life group Democrats for Life has pointed out, Gabbard has voted against pain-capable abortion restrictions three times during her congressional tenure. However, during the Democratic presidential primary, Gabbard was the only candidate to espouse support for any restrictions on abortion.

16. Coverage of the death penalty and capital cases is immersed with liberal spin, selective information, and fiction — it’s time, says David Harsanyi, for having some degree of honesty in this debate. From the piece:

If you’re leaving out that part of the story, then you’re not having a real conversation about the death penalty.

And we rarely do. “Two Black men have been executed within two days. Two more are set to die before Biden’s inauguration,” writes CNN, diligently attempting to create the impression that the federal government is targeting black men. The first person put to death this summer was white supremacist Daniel Lewis Lee. Wesley Ira Purkey, Dustin Lee Honken, Keith Dwayne Nelson, and William Emmett LeCroy — all as deserving as Bernard — were all executed this very summer as well.

As I write this, “Dylann Roof,” the racist murderer of nine parishioners at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston in 2015, is trending on Twitter. Most of the irritation seems to be directed at officials who, I guess, aren’t executing Roof fast enough — which is a weird way to make the case to spare Bernard. Why, some of these people demand to know, did the justice system coddle Roof but kill Bernard? Well, in reality, a jury of nine white and three black Americans found Roof guilty on 33 criminal counts and unanimously came back with the death penalty in the sentencing phase. Once Roof loses his appeals — he committed his crimes 16 years after Bernard — he will be executed, unless Biden, or whoever is president when the day comes, decides otherwise. Will we see celebrities pleading for his life? Will there be messages of heartbreak from Kim Kardashian West? Will newspapers and liberal websites offer slippery phrasing to explain his crimes? Seems unlikely.

Capital Matters

1. What doesn’t he . . . ? Alex Muresianu discusses what Biden gets wrong on taxes and manufacturing. From the piece:

There’s plenty of evidence suggesting that accelerated depreciation (and other tax policies that allow companies to deduct investment spending faster) increases investment, productivity, and growth. Eric Ohrn of Grinnell College found that states that adopted a form of accelerated depreciation saw significant increases in manufacturing investment and wages compared with states that didn’t adopt this policy.

Disadvantaging capital-intensive industries might end up also hurting Biden’s environmental agenda, a cornerstone of which is significant private investment in new forms of energy production. According to a working paper by Princeton’s Jordan Richmond, the tax would fall most heavily on utility companies as well as manufacturers. Energy, unsurprisingly, is a capital-intensive sector, and increasing the cost of investment means that companies will replace older, less energy-efficient technology more slowly, keeping emissions high. In the power sector, this means it will be more costly for companies to invest in renewable replacements for fossil fuel.

Instead of imposing this minimum tax, the president-elect should consider working with Republicans to make permanent certain provisions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) that are scheduled to phase out in 2022. Specifically, the TCJA allows companies to deduct the full cost of investments in equipment and machinery in the year they are made, a policy called “full expensing.” Additionally, the president-elect could also support making investment in structures, such as warehouses or apartment buildings, eligible for the same benefits.

2. California Here I . . . Go. John Fund checks out those checking out. From the piece:

Other recent occupants of the state’s job-departure lounge include Charles Schwab, Toyota, McKesson, Palantir, and Core-Mark Holding Company. The Greater Phoenix Economic Council boasts that in the next few weeks several headquarters and manufacturing operations will announce they are leaving California for Arizona.

And then there are the smaller firms. Business-site consultant Joe Vranich estimates that the Golden State’s unfriendly tax and regulatory climate has prompted some 17,000 firms to leave over the past decade in whole or in part.

“This Oracle project is another huge economic-development trophy for Texas governor Greg Abbott’s wall,” John Boyd, a corporate site-selection consultant based in New Jersey, told the San Francisco Business Times. Texas has no state income tax, a much lighter regulatory touch, and a lower cost of living. Tax experts estimate that companies moving to Texas can save a minimum of 15 percent to 30 percent on their taxes.

By contrast, California’s 13.3 percent top tax on personal income and capital gains is so high that Tom Siebel, one of the Bay Area’s most prominent entrepreneurs, told the Silicon Valley Business Journal this month, “I think every responsible chief executive officer has to consider moving their company out of California. If you’re not considering that, you’re not fulfilling your job for your shareholders and your employees.”

3. Senator Rick Scott says the GOP has to say no to Blue-State bailouts. From the piece:

The federal government can play a significant role in boosting the unemployment-insurance program, propping up small businesses to avoid layoffs, and investing in vaccine research, development, and distribution. But it shouldn’t write blank checks to poorly managed states.

Why? Well, first of all, we don’t even know how much of the $1 trillion allocated to states and local governments by the CARES Act has already been spent, and they won’t tell us. I and Senator Ron Johnson (R., Wis.), have written multiple letters to every governor in America asking for a breakdown of how they’ve spent their states’ CARES Act money. Just ten of them have responded. Only in Washington does it make sense to consider sending hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to states and local governments that refuse to tell us how, or even if, they’ve used the $1 trillion we sent them nine months ago.

4. A thorough study of the student-debt crisis, and not a political jubilee, is what America needs, argues Thomas W. Miller Jr. From the piece:

By Inauguration Day, student-loan borrowers will have enjoyed ten months of no payments toward their debt. But any private lender knows that once loan payments stop, it is difficult to get borrowers back into the habit of paying.

We would all be wise to ask: Exactly how is the federal government going to get taxpayers’ money back? More important, if the federal government heeds recent calls for student-loan forgiveness, what then? Don’t we deserve answers to $1.6 trillion questions?

About 43 million people have chosen to take on student-loan debt. A recent poll claims that 81 percent of the respondents say the government should make it easier for borrowers to repay their debt. How? Are all borrowers struggling to repay? Is it wise to cancel billions in debt without knowing the answer to that question, and without any lending reforms that would prevent the problem from reappearing?

In the Consumer Credit Protection Act of 1968, Congress chartered a National Commission on Consumer Finance, tasked with studying the entire consumer-financial market in America. At the time, student loans were virtually nonexistent. Still, that commission offers us a useful rubric on how to study complex questions about consumer credit.

Lights. Camera. Review!

1. To Armond White, With Drawn Arms is the documentary best described as race hustling. From the review:

‘For 50 years, people have been putting words into my mouth for what that fist meant,” 76-year-old Tommie Smith explains about his raised-fist pose at the 1968 Olympics. “It meant pride, power, strength. It meant . . . one as a nation.” And yet the makers behind the documentary With Drawn Arms turn Smith’s gesture and words to their own nation-dividing purpose. In an era flooded with blatantly propagandistic docs, With Drawn Arms may be the most outrageous because the filmmakers humiliate their subject in the process of using him as a foil.

That fist-raised pose made Smith instantly iconic; his dark, lean, tall figure sharpened the look of those strikingly virile upstarts in the Sixties Black Power movement. He looked militant even though he really wasn’t — he was just young and susceptible to the fervor of the times.

Now that brash 200-meter gold medalist has aged, grayed, and thickened. Even his skin tone has changed — lightened — into a pale reflection of that famous image, so pale that the makers of With Drawn Arms don’t realize the offense of turning him into a stereotype. They misread Smith’s humanity and the complexity of that famous moment, reshaping his story for a Black Lives Matter puppet show.

2. More Armond: he is liking very much True History of the Kelly Gang. From the beginning of the review:

Few of this year’s releases have had real movie-movie richness, but True History of the Kelly Gang is one. Director Justin Kurzel, who made the spellbinding 2015 Macbeth starring Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, and Paddy Considine, takes on the Australian criminal and folk hero Ned Kelly (played by George MacKay), applying similar audacity. It’s the only film seen on streaming (the reviewing method required during COVID) that I wish I could have seen on the big screen.

Kurzel’s opening epigraph — “Nothing you’re about to see is true” — warns that he is going to plunge us into poetic folklore. This will be an Australian national legend that fully embraces the penal colony’s outlawry and the tradition of undomesticated class rivalry among the Irish and British settlers, transported convicts or authorities, that is at the heart of the country’s identity.

Ned Kelly grows up under the burden of this heritage — now called “cringe culture” — which alienates him while also making his life feel predetermined. The son of a morally weak, criminal father and an amoral, remorseless mother who are pioneers in the outback, Ned rebels, seeking revenge as something of a birthright. It takes a surreal and poetic style to convey this wild concept, and Kurzel displays the necessary scope.

3. Kyle Smith digs the new HBO documentary about the Bee Gees. From the review:

Documentaries tend to fall into two categories: publicity or journalism. This one is very much characteristic of the former camp; directed by Steven Spielberg’s longtime producer Frank Marshall, it avoids dwelling on awkward topics such as divorce, alcoholism, and drug abuse, which plagued the Bee Gees and their little brother. The film’s strength is its rich technical detail about the Bee Gees songs, such as “Jive Talkin,’” whose famous opening riff grew out of the sound Barry’s car made driving over a bridge in Miami, where the band was recording. Recording at “a dump” in France on the urging of a tax-dodging manager, the band’s drummer was temporarily absent so the Bee Gees used a two-bar drum passage from the already-recorded “Night Fever” to make a repeating loop, then put a bass line on top of it to create the foundations of “Stayin’ Alive.”

Elder brother Barry and the younger twins, Maurice and Robin — who began singing professionally in 1958 Australia — had crafted many brilliant lush ballads based in three-part harmonies and filled out with rich orchestral sounds by the late Sixties. It was a velvety easy-listening sound, and as a disco-loving twelve-year-old in the late Seventies, I was stunned to discover the propulsively engaging Brothers Gibb (the initials became the group’s name) had once been purveyors of elevator music, enough to fill an entire album with weepy love songs such as “Words,” “I Started a Joke,” “Massachusetts,” and “To Love Somebody.” “I had six Rolls Royces before I was 21,” Maurice once recalled. “Don’t know where they are now.”

4. More Kyle: He finds much that’s powerful in Ma Rainey Black Bottom: From the beginning of the review:

August Wilson’s Century Cycle — ten plays, each set in a different decade of the 20th century — is one of the monumental achievements of the American theater and one that figures to grow in relevance in coming years, given the plays’ focus on black Americans’ struggle to deal with the facts of the collective past. It is to the great credit of Denzel Washington, one of the few Hollywood superstars equally dedicated to the theater, that he has set about putting the entire cycle on film with first-rate casts and directors so that anyone, not just theatergoers, can experience the work.

Being faithful to the material, though, means asking a lot of the audience; Wilson’s plays are talkfests, they’re subtle, they require teasing out the hidden meanings of symbols and archetypes, and they can’t be reengineered to make them into visual spectacles. Theater requires paying attention, which is why it’s best experienced in the total-concentration environment of a space set aside for that purpose, not in a home where your attention may be diverted by pets, children, cellphones, snacks, etc.

Because Wilson’s plays are tough to adapt for the screen, it’s going to take Washington longer than he anticipated to bring the project to fruition. But four years after he starred in and directed Wilson’s Fences, which won his co-star Viola Davis an Oscar in 2016, he has produced a second one, this time for Netflix. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, which opened on Broadway in 1984, was the first Wilson play to attract serious attention. This time the project is helmed by George C. Wolfe, the much-lauded theater director, and it stars a riveting Chadwick Boseman in his final performance.

A Quartet of Selections from the Final Issue of 2020

The December 31, 2020 issue of National Review is out and about and, is the custom of this missive, we offer a sampling to inspire your intelligence.

1. Jimmy Quinn is traveling with the Secretary of State. They sit down to discuss the Pompeo Doctrine. From the article:

Perhaps the most notable yet least remarked-upon area in which the administration has prioritized coalition-building is in its efforts to counter the Chinese Communist Party — which, Pompeo tells me, is “a truly existential threat to the United States of America.”

National-security types in Biden’s orbit have argued that the Trump administration’s rhetoric in calling out the CCP for its horrific human-rights abuses, unfair trade practices, and malign global-influence campaigns is just bluster without a refined strategy to marshal international cooperation. But there is a strategy. Since Pompeo started talking in speeches last year about the CCP’s use of Huawei for espionage and political influence, the Trump administration has recruited more than 50 countries to join its Clean Network program. That initiative warns members against the use of technology tainted by Beijing’s influence and espionage.

Pompeo argues that this administration’s vocally anti-CCP stance has given cover to America’s allies to undertake their own reappraisals of their relations with China: “We have been a call to nations all over the world. We’ve laid down the reality of what the Chinese Communist Party does and is, and we’ve had real impact.” Elaborating, he notes that closer defense cooperation between Australia and Japan complements the Quad grouping, a counter-Beijing coalition revived by the Trump administration that includes the two countries plus India and the United States. And the European Union’s decision to hold a series of high-level meetings with the United States on China-related issues, such as human rights and security, is another outgrowth of the administration’s diplomatic push. “These are historic sets of relationships built up by the Trump administration,” Pompeo says. And they’re targeted squarely at Beijing.

2. Graham Hillard wonders if comedians will find it within them to make fun of a Democrat president. From the piece:

The incoming president of the United States is a hair-sniffing malarkey farmer who has as much business hosting Tales from the Crypt as he does a state dinner. Perhaps the nation’s comedians ought to say so? That such a charge should be necessary in a free country is evidence of the extent to which progressives have come to control most thought.

In 1992, Saturday Night Live’s famous McDonald’s sketch could, without letting down the side, portray President-elect Bill Clinton as a gluttonous womanizer. (“There’s gonna be a whole bunch of things we don’t tell Mrs. Clinton,” a fry-stealing Phil Hartman boasted to an aide.) Today, one is as likely to hear a quip about vegetable RNA as about the man who will soon occupy the White House. According to a recent study by George Mason University’s Center for Media and Public Affairs, the month of September saw a predictable surfeit of political jokes on the late-night programs of Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert. Of the jibes in question, 455 were directed at President Trump. A mere 14 concerned his electoral opponent.

The problem is not, it should be clear, that Joe Biden is too serious a man to provide grist for the comedy mills. A two-bit hack with a one-bit brain, the new president has a certain low cunning but can’t remember where he put it. Like the iceberg that sank the Titanic, Biden has made a career of being in the right place at the right time. So absurd a figure is our future leader, in fact, that the nation’s jokesters should be throwing whoopee cushions into volcanoes to thank the humor gods. That they aren’t sheds light on a tacit arrangement that is both obnoxious and detrimental to the country: Democrats, no matter how foolish, must never be made into punchlines.

3. Andy McCarthy assesses the various courts’ making electoral mincemeat of the Trump campaign’s legal fights. From the piece:

As the weeks have gone by, it has become increasingly clear that the president, petulantly unwilling to admit defeat, is stoking a grievance-mongering political narrative. He never really wanted it tested in the courts . . . and that’s fine with the courts, especially the nation’s highest one.

The “democratic process” is how a self-determining people governs itself in a republic dedicated to ordered liberty. That process is inherently political. To describe something as “political” is to give it a pejorative connotation, and, to be sure, there is no rinsing sharp-elbowed partisanship out of practical politics. The democratic process, however, is political in the formalistic sense relating to the governance of our republic — the manner in which it structures, divides, and exercises power. The democratic process confers legitimacy on the exercise of public authority. In the peculiarly American sense, in the Declaration’s expounding of our very DNA, political legitimacy requires that governments “derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.” They are no longer legitimate when the form of government becomes destructive of that arrangement, as it would if unaccountable courts picked the president.

The franchise epitomizes the political nature of the democratic process. Through it, we elect the political branches of government, which have that designation not because they engage in hardball tactics but because they are accountable to us. The federal judiciary is not. It is intentionally insulated in the expectation that (a) it will limit its intrusions on public life to controversies in which someone has suffered a concrete harm owing to an illegal act, and (b) it will decide the resulting cases based solely on the law not public sentiment. Courts are thus anti-democratic. We expect them to tune out the will of the people, the opposite of governing in accordance with it.

4. Kevin Williamson thinks it’s time Republican officials acknowledged support, including among GOP voters, for legalizing weed. From the essay:

“As a legislator, I had 70,000 constituents, but I didn’t care about them as much as I cared about the ten people who knocked on doors for me,” says longtime Republican politico Don Murphy. “We all know it’s true.” Murphy came into the Maryland General Assembly in 1994 after defeating the Democratic majority leader. He was the party chairman in Baltimore County and boasts of having been a Trump delegate at the 2016 GOP convention. He is now the director of federal policy at the Marijuana Policy Project. The problem for Republican elected officials, Murphy says, is that the minority of Republicans who oppose marijuana legalization have a great deal more clout than the small majority who favor it.

Thanks to increasingly homogeneous congressional districts, the influence of talk radio and social media, and the decline of the party apparatus, ultra-committed true believers have an outsized footprint in the daily consciousness of the elected Republican. “You don’t get reelected if you don’t win the primary,” Murphy says. “Red states are passing this. South Dakota just passed this. But if you’re John Thune, your voters aren’t.” In Murphy’s view, this is a more urgent problem at the federal level. “When it comes to the House of Representatives, this is a more difficult issue than 2 5 The problem for Republican elected officials, Don Murphy says, is that the minority of Republicans who oppose marijuana legalization have a great deal more clout than the small majority that favor it.

Thanks to increasingly homogeneous congressional districts, the influence of talk radio and social media, and the decline of the party apparatus, ultra-committed true believers have an outsized footprint in the daily consciousness of the elected Republican. “You don’t get reelected if you don’t win the primary,” Murphy says. “Red states are passing this. South Dakota just passed this. But if you’re John Thune, your voters aren’t.” In Murphy’s view, this is a more urgent problem at the federal level. “When it comes to the House of Representatives, this is a more difficult issue than it was 30 or 40 years ago, because at that time, most House seats were fairly bipartisan. You had to win the general election. With redistricting, we have seats that are very red and very blue. If you’re a Republican, it doesn’t matter what the broadest group of your voters supports — what matters is how the primary voters respond. Even if 50 percent of the GOP supports ending federal prohibition, you have a problem if the 40 percent who don’t are your primary voters.”

Elsewhere in the Conservative Solar System

1. At Strategika, Christopher O’Dea warns that the country that brought us the Wuhan Virus won’t find its plans for global expansion derailed by any pandemic backlash. From the assessment:

The most likely outcome is that countries will seek to ensure that any arrangements with China include terms to protect their own interests against Chinese coercion. China wasted no time showing it will flex its economic muscles to punish countries that criticize its handling of the pandemic. Since Australia in May called for a public investigation of the origins and spread of the coronavirus, China has levied an 80% tariff on Australian barley, suspended imports of Australian beef, and opened an investigation into Australian wine exporters.

Australia’s case holds a lesson: As things stand, China has sufficient economic leverage to prevent countries from taking meaningful actions to investigate its role in the pandemic, and even were China to be found negligent or criminally liable for the origination or spread of the virus, the U.S. and the free West may not be able to compel China to pay any legal judgements or restitution.

China’s economic leverage rests on one major capability that other countries lack: Logistics. Little noticed as China became the world’s manufacturing base, Chinese state-owned companies simultaneously built a global network of ports, shipping routes, container handling terminals, and transportation facilities, orchestrated by digital communications, security, and logistics software run on Chinese-operated networks.

Admiral Raymond Spruance once wrote that a sound logistics plan is the foundation for every successful military campaign. As the architect of the island-hopping campaign that led to the defeat of the Japanese Empire in the Pacific Theater of World War II, Spruance oversaw the creation of a seaborne logistics fleet that made innovations in vessel-loading and artificial harbor construction in order to prove the military with everything from food and medical supplies to fuel and ship repair services as Spruance captured one island chain after another.

2. At Gatestone Institute, Judith Bergman charges that the “Sister City” and other exchange programs may be cultural from our perspective, but they’re just another are a security tool for Red China. From the piece:

“The Xi administration”, according to Professor Anne-Marie Brady who, among other things, has studied Chinese influence activities in New Zealand, “has revived traditional CCP policies of utilizing people-to-people . . . relations in order to coopt foreigners to support and promote China’s foreign policy goals”. One of the ways that they do that, according to Brady, is to “[u]se sister city relations to expand China’s economic agenda separate to a given nation’s foreign policy. The CCP front organization, the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries is in charge of this activity”.

According to Brady:

“CCP united front officials and their agents are tasked with developing relationships with foreign and overseas Chinese personages to influence, subvert, and if necessary, bypass the policies of their governments and promote the interests of the CCP globally…The Xi administration’s strategy of working more with local governments for economic projects has now revitalized the CPAFFC, as well as the local equivalents they work with such as in New Zealand, the New Zealand-China Friendship Society “.

An American equivalent of the New Zealand-China Friendship Society is the US-China Peoples Friendship Association, a not-for-profit organization that describes as its purpose “to develop and strengthen friendship and understanding between the peoples of the United States and China. USCPFA was founded as a national organization in 1974, working on people-to-people diplomacy between Americans and Chinese. Nearly 35 chapters in four regions spanning the U.S. comprise the organization”.

The State Department is currently reviewing the activities of the U.S.-China Friendship Association, which Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently called a CCP United Front Work organization.

3. At Commentary, P.J. O’Rourke looks aghast at Fredrik Logevall’s JFK: Coming of Age in the American Century 1917–1956 and sees no Camelot. From the review:

We’re afraid — no, we know — that if we inspect John F. Kennedy too closely, we’ll wonder what we saw in him. To the extent that there’s even a real “we” left to wonder. Anyone old enough to vote for Kennedy in 1960 is over 80 now. (And 49.55 percent of them voted for Nixon.) But the distant, hazy, reminiscent glow lingers, especially in high places such as the Harvard history department.

No thanks, however, to this particular book. Logevall does his clumsy best to walk upon his knees to the shrine. Yet JFK is a life of a saint that makes a hula hoop of his halo. The facts haggle with the hagiography. Logevall has done too much research. The devil (or his lapsed human instrument) is in the details, and so very many details of Kennedy’s life are provided here that Logevall turns into an accidental iconoclast.

He tries hard to portray Jack Kennedy as an important, serious, substantive political figure. As the venerated modern philosopher Yoda says: “Do or do not. There is no try.” He attempts to demonstrate Kennedy’s innate sympathy for the poor by dragging out a prep-school essay on social justice. But then Jack describes the fate of those less fortunate than he in terms that would have birthed a million hostile stories about Mitt Romney: “A boy is born in the slums, of a poor family, has evil companions, no education, becomes a loafer, as that is all there is to do, turns into a drunken bum, and dies, worthless.”

Logevall wants us to see Jack as a keen and thoughtful observer of international politics, even on a 1937 college-summer-vacation jaunt through Europe. Then he quotes the kid. “Fascism seems to treat them well,” Jack wrote in his diary after two days in Milan. At an inn in Munich, Jack noted, “Had a talk with the proprietor who is quite the Hitler fan. There is no doubt about it that these dictators are more popular in the country than outside due to their effective propaganda.”

4. At The American Conservative, Mark Y. Herring reveals what it’s like to be a conservative professor at a liberal arts college who expresses thoughts on the Wuhan virus and let’s loose the Dogs of Woke. From the article:

I wanted to make three points. First, I did not want us to lose sight of the origin of the virus. In five years, many might forget where it originated. Subsequent riots in the wake of the heinous murder of George Floyd have proven that history is not a strong point with them, as epigone abolitionists and others in sympathy with their angst have borne the brunt of the rioters’ fury. Only a few weeks prior to my using it, the phrase “Wuhan coronavirus” or “Wuhan virus” had been used by CNN, not exactly a right-of-center media outlet, and also by every other major media outlet in the country.

Second, I wanted to point out that crises bring out the best and worst in people, and I gave examples of both. Little did I known how Cassandra-like I would be vis-à-vis the latter.

Third, I wanted to make the point that perhaps the outcome of this lockdown might make us more aware of what is important in life. Hope springs eternal.

The editors showcased the article with a half dozen others. In other words, at that point, no one at the magazine had seen anything wrong with the piece. Yet once the online version appeared, all hell broke loose.

After 11 vituperative commenters excoriated the piece, the editors not only unilaterally retracted it, but apologized for its appearance. I was informed that the following month’s column would not be printed. Commenters then began working on the Winthrop’s website, making sure both my new provost and our interim president saw their outrage. My provost telephoned me — we were not yet back to work at that point — to tell me my crime was “casual racism.” I replied, peevishly, that the Left had given us casual sex and now we had casual racism. What next? She explained that pointing out that the virus had come from Wuhan and giving examples of cultural differences between Asian and Western values “signaled” my racism. In the spirit of reeducation, she offered to send me a reading list that would better situate me with the university’s bien-pensants.

5. At Law & Liberty, James R. Rogers looks at the fights spawned by uber-rendering unto Caesar. From the reflection:

But even if church governments and civil governments share concurrent jurisdiction over the same set of people, during a pandemic, the thought goes, when life is at risk, the claims of the civil government surely trump the claims of church government.

The church’s answer is: Not so fast. There is spiritual life and death as well, and the self-understanding of Christians and their churches, is that life in the age-to-come is more important than life in this age (Luke 12.4-5, Rev 2.10, etc.). This is not to say that physical life is unimportant to Christians. But there can be a tension from the two different pulls (Philippians 1.23)

It is here that the concurrent jurisdiction of the two governments can come into conflict: To protect physical life the civil government may want to prevent people from meeting together; to protect eternal life church governments may want people to continue to meet together.

In the self-understanding of the church, Christians need to assemble together as a church for their welfare — for the sake of their spiritual lives — and for the welfare of the community in which they live. The failure to assemble together can in fact put them at increased risk of spiritual death. The book of Hebrews, for example, provides that Christians should “not forsake assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encourage one another.” This “encouragement” from assembling together promotes “love and good deeds,” on the one hand, and deters “sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of truth,” which results in spiritual death, on the other hand (Hebrews 10.24-27).

6. More Law & Liberty: Your Faithful Servant’s old college prof, David L. Schaeffer, sees BLM rooted in Marx and Machiavelli, and not in the civil rights movement. From the essay:

. . . the Marxist program itself, however understood (or misunderstood), does enjoy growing appeal among the offspring of the rich, to say nothing of denizens of the American academy. How can we explain the revival of interest among educated human beings in such a thoroughly refuted — refuted in practice (Marx’s own test) as well as philosophically — in a prosperous and free country like the United States, to which millions of people from around the globe desperately aspire to migrate? I want to suggest that the explanation lies in a fact about human nature noted by the 16th century Florentine philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli in the opening paragraph of Chapter Three of The Prince. There he observes that people are always ready to follow usurpers in overthrowing their existing regime, believing that they will “fare better” under the new ruler — only to “see later by experience that they have done worse” (since the usurper is unable to keep the promises he made to his followers, and indeed, must deal harshly with his erstwhile supporters who complain — as well as with adherents of the old regime). (I follow the Mansfield translation.)

The greatest historical exemplar of such behavior was Vladimir Lenin, who no sooner gained power in 1917 than he appointed a ruthless and bloodthirsty secret police chief with orders to execute a few hundred thousand civilians in order to terrorize the Russian populace into submission. This policy echoed the one Machiavelli attributes to Cesare Borgia in Chapter Six of The Prince — only the ruthless governor that Cesare installed (in a province he had just acquired) had orders not to terrorize the people generally, but rather to eliminate the gang leaders and criminals who had previously brought perpetual disorder into submission, following which Cesare installed a “civil court,” i.e., a form of constitutional government rather than endless terror.

That Machiavelli’s account of Cesare Borgia is largely fictionalized need not concern us here. What is of interest, however, is his reporting that once Cesare’s ruthless governor had finished his dirty work, Cesare had the governor himself executed, disclaiming any responsibility for the severe punishments he had carried out. Cesare had to do this in order to mollify the people who had been alienated by the governor’s severity, despite the fact that most of them had benefited from the security that that severity brought to the province, making his apparent cruelty (as the author subsequently explains) really a form of “effectual mercy” — in contrast to the namby-pamby policies of the Florentine people, who so as to avoid a “name” for cruelty, allowed a city they governed to be torn apart by factional strife, so that that their nominal mercy really amounted to “effectual cruelty.” The combined relevance of these two passages from The Prince — one concerning the people’s readiness to be fooled, time and again, by usurpers who promise them the moon yet end up making them worse off; the other displaying the people’s incapacity to accept the harsh prerequisites of constitutional government — subjecting violent criminals to severe punishment — is as follows. Taken together, they demonstrate a recurrent error of the popular mind: a natural utopianism that if not overcome leads them to ruin. As Machiavelli puts it, those who follow a usurper typically find themselves, too late, deceived in the promise of a “future good” he had made to them.

7. At The College Fix, the great Jennifer Kabbany praises Rush Limbaugh for helping her remain a conservative during her college years. From the reflection:

So not only has Rush helped young people directly learn about conservatism and keep those principles in college and beyond, he’s indirectly helped countless others who have been influenced by fans like me and John. (That’s not even counting the “Rush Revere” books he’s written to help children come to love and respect American exceptionalism, which of course I shared with my two kids as a parent).

The truth is, we won’t know this side of heaven all that Rush has truly accomplished to help America protect its founding and encourage others to fight the good fight for the heart and soul of this great nation. I can only imagine it’s a vast number.

Like many of you, I was heartbroken to learn of Rush’s diagnosis of lung cancer, and my prayers — like that of so many others — have gone up for him.

Thank you for all you have done, and continue to do, for us and America, Rush.

Boom ’Em Dano.

One may have discovered this missive’s fondness for the great intellectual, Daniel J. Mahoney. Around this time of year, numerous publications seek his book recommendations. He has provided them to Catholic World Report (find them here) and Law & Liberty (found here). Do be influenced by them!


George Sisler‘s plaque hangs in the Hall of Fame because he was one of the greatest hitters in MLB history. In 15 seasons — spent mostly with the St. Louis Browns (he also wore the uniforms of the Washington Senators and Boston Braves) — the first baseman compiled a .340 batting average. He is best known for two spectacular seasons: In 1920 he stroked an MLB record 257 hits (broken by Ichiro Suzuki in 2004, albeit in 162 games) with a league-leading .407, and in 1922, when he batted an astonishing .420, nearly bringing the Browns their first pennant (alas it was a Second Place finish, one game behind the Yankees).

Little known: Sisler came to the Majors as a pitcher, and in 1915 appeared in 15 games for St. Louis, compiling a 4-4 records with a 2.83 ERA. There were a handful of other appearances between then and his final year (1930), and one of them was a doozie: On September 17, 1916 at Sportsman Park, with his Browns out of the pennant hunt, Sisler took the mound against the Washington Senators. His opponent: The future Hall of Famer, Walter Johnson, the man with the MLB record for career shutouts and very much in his prime.

But today, the shut out would belong to Sisler, who scattered six hits and two walks (while striking out six) to earn a 1-0 complete-game victory. The Big Train gave up only four hits — the box score has been lost to the ages, so it’s unclear how Armando Marsans scored the game’s sole run. But it was all Sisler would need in what proved to be the last win of his MLB career. For the curious: His final pitching appearance came in 1928 with the Braves, a one-inning, three-up-three-down stint that closed out a 15-0 drubbing at the hands of the Philadelphia Phillies.

George had to sons who also played in the Majors. Dick Sisler was an All Star first baseman, and over 8 seasons compiled a decent .276 batting average with 55 home runs. But he had the at-bat that all little boys dream about: In the final regular-season game of 1950, his three-run, 10th-inning homer off Dodger’s ace Don Newcombe won the Phillies their first NL pennant since 1915.

Son Dave Sisler pitched, mostly as a reliever, for a handful of teams from 1956 to 1962, chalking up a 38-44 career record with a 4.33 ERA. He did achieve one thing his dad had accomplished: On May 2, 1958, hurling for the Red Sox at Fenway Park, Dave Sisler shut out the Detroit Tigers, 6-0. It was the sole shutout of his career.

A note about our reference last week to Eddie Robinson having played for five teams in two years, something likely no one else in MLB had ever done. There was at least one other: Dave Kingman. An All Star in 1976 for the New York Mets (he had clubbed 37 homers that year), the Sky King found himself in 1977 on four teams — the Mets, who traded him in June to the San Diego Padres, who waived him in September, when he was picked up by the California Angels, who within 10 days traded him to the New York Yankees. Granted free agency after the season, in 1978 Kingman signed with the Chicago Cubs (his fifth team in two years), and stayed put for three seasons (accumulating decent numbers by his .235 lifetime batting-average standards: Kong batted .278 over his tenure there, with 94 home runs — including a league-leading 48 in 1979 — and an average of 84 RBIs a year).

A Dios

A great friend of NR and so many conservative efforts, Jerry, passed away. He leaves a lovely and grieving widow, Marilyn. For his soul, for his family’s solace, please offer a prayer. For those suffering during this pandemic — medically and financially — and from those who are cut off from their loved ones, especially those now denied the benefits of the corporal works of mercy, maybe too please a prayer. And then too consider prayers of gratitude, for all of us who are sore afraid because of the angel chorus and the glories of creation. If needed, avail yourself of Linus for perspective and inspiration.

To those who do not celebrate the Birth of Jesus, we hope that the special graces that seem to be brought forth by this season are at your disposal and enjoyment.

Mercies Mild and Tidings of Comfort and Joy,

Jack Falalalalalalalala, who awaits your rhetorical lump of coal is sent to

National Review

October for the Red-Compromised Hunter


Dear Weekend Jolter,

Eddie turns 100, more on that below, but first . . .

We knew the emperor was buck naked, but back in October the Fifth Estate was adamant (watch this Newsbusters’ compilation) he was indeed finely clothed, no doubt sweating from all the layers. “What Hunter Biden scandal?!” they thundered at the charged-and-convicted conspiracy theorists, whose conspiring was about, well, the truth. Post-election polling evidence shows that the U.S. media’s hellbent and often sanctimonious suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop scandal — which in part pointed at president-elect Big Guy getting his beak wet thanks to Sonny Boy’s global access-selling, including to the ChiComs — was consequential in keeping just enough Biden voters in the dark.

But now, oh my, an admission: There’s some there there after all, as Hunter admits the FBI is investigating him for tax issues (Al Capone is holding on Line One). That’ll teach him for forgetting his laptop at the repair shop. David Harsanyi tells it like it is in a piece appropriately and accurately titled “The Disgraceful Hunter Biden Cover-Up.” Do read it, and here’s a slice to wet your . . . interest:

In October, left-wing sites such as the Daily Beast were featuring headlines that read, “Russian State Media Is Desperately Trying to Keep the Hunter Biden Story Alive“ and “FBI Examining Hunter’s Laptop As Foreign Op, Contradicting Trump’s Intel Czar.” Today we learn from the same outlet that, “Evidence of [a money laundering] probe [into Hunter Biden] was apparent in the markings on a series of documents that were made public — but went largely unnoticed — in the days leading up to the November election.”


Today, NBC News reported, “Hunter Biden, president-elect’s son, says federal prosecutors probing his taxes.” But in October, NBC News had “reporters” Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny producing serious-sounding articles such as, “How a fake persona laid the groundwork for a Hunter Biden conspiracy deluge” and “Inside the campaign to ‘pizzagate’ Hunter Biden” to undercut the Post’s reporting. Ken Dilanian, a leading voice in the debunked Russian collusion coverage, had a mid-October headline that read, “Feds examining whether alleged Hunter Biden emails are linked to a foreign intel operation.”

It’s peculiar that reporters could so easily confirm alleged counterintelligence investigations but not one into the family of the front-running presidential candidate. Then again, you may recall the interview with National Public Radio’s public editor in which Terence Samuel, NPR’s managing editor for news, explained: “We don’t want to waste our time on stories that are not really stories, and we don’t want to waste the listeners’ and readers’ time on stories that are just pure distractions.” It is the default position of many journalists that anything undermining Democrats is by default a distraction.

This missive’s godfather, Morning Jolter Jim Geraghty, piled on:

Why did Hunter Biden’s life go so awry, and why is Joe Biden now taking office with his son reportedly under FBI investigation for tax evasion, money laundering, and shady foreign business partners? In part, it’s because Hunter has been insulated from the worst consequences of his bad decisions for at least two decades now. If Time magazine had ever done a cover story on “the senator’s son who’s making a fortune lobbying his dad’s colleagues,” or 60 Minutes had done a devastating expose, the current situation might be different — very different. Barack Obama might have selected a different running mate. The Democrats might have nominated someone else, and the country might have elected someone else.

Now let us get on to our SOP: Leading the WJ cliché-mixing parade are frills-free links to many a swell NRO editorial and article. Then follows a rewind, where many of those same links get a second walk down the runway, this time with fat, juicy excerpts. Strap on the feed bags!

Links Short, Links Sweet


That kraken won’t hunt: Texas Unleashes an Absurd Kraken.

No more know-towing: A New Consensus on China?

Our policy cannot get lost in the weeds: The Feds Should Decriminalize Marijuana.

The road leads back to you: Holding the Senate in Georgia Is Vital.

Never met an abortion he didn’t like: Xavier Becerra: Biden’s Health Secretary Nominee Should Be Rejected.

Time to brush: Section 230: Defense Authorization Bill Not the Place to Debate Internet Regulations.

NRO Examples of Brilliance and Controversy

David Harsanyi lays into the MSM’s growing assault on free speech: Journalists Turn Principles of Free Expression.

Victor David Hanson seconds the motion: Progressives Are Killing Free Expression.

Tobias Hoonhout watches the Gray Lady deal with Trump cooties: Coronavirus & Public-School Closures: New York Times‘ Shifting Narrative.

Rich Lowry sees cruelty: COVID-19 Restrictions Hit Lower-Income Workers the Hardest.

Ryan Mills gives chapter and verse on the Georgia lefty: Raphael Warnock’s Black Liberation Theology and Radical Politics.

Andy McCarthy on next possible steps: Hunter Biden Investigation: Indictment or Special Counsel Could be Imminent.

Frederick Hess and R.J. Martin lambast a promise to undo due process: Biden’s Pledge to Repeal DeVos Title IX Fix Is Misguided and Hypocritical.

Colin Dueck contemplates foreign policy post-Trump: Conservatives Divided into Three Camps.

Isaac Schorr looks at Xavier Becarra’s bloodlust: Biden Taps Abortion Enthusiast to Run HHS.

Russell Pulliam remembers the great Stan Evans: The Bill Buckley of the Midwest.

Jack Crowe remembers Chuck Yeager: RIP to an American Original.

Orlando Watson remembers a great economist and America: Walter Williams — A Tribute.

John Hillen contemplates the date which will live in infamy: How to Remember Pearl Harbor Day.

David Klinghoffer discovers something hellish: When Erik Saw the Devil.

What Matters? Capital Matters!

David Bahnsen sees the moral fog filling the Bay City’s air, and he cares: San Francisco Wealth Tax Misguided & Destructive.

Eric Grover reminds that there is a terrible danger in corporate wokery: Virtue Signaling in Financial Services Is Destroying Wealth.

John J. Cochrane worries as we glibly borrow trillions: U.S. National Debt Denial.

Steve Hanke says it’s high time we treated H20 like the commodity it is: Water-Futures Contracts Help Farmers & Consumers.

Lights. Camera. Review!

Mank One: Armond White sees myth: David Fincher’s Facile Fascism.

Mank Two: Kyle Smith sees Hollywood navel-gazing: David Fincher Puts Style Over Substance.

Armond White is impressed by a documentary: The Plot Against the President Documents Anti-Trump Scheme.

Links Adorned with Plump Excerpts

Thus Sprake Us: The Editorials

1. The Texas lawsuit to overturn the presidential elections is — an understatement — weak. From the editorial:

The state isn’t exactly scrupulous in the evidence it musters. It contends that Biden had less than a one in a quadrillion chance of winning any one of these battleground states after Trump established a lead on election night. The chance of winning all four, per the suit, was less than one in a quadrillion to the fourth power. Of course, it was expected and predicted that Trump would establish an early lead in states that counted in-person ballots first and then Biden would gain as the states began to count in mail-in ballots, which were heavily Democratic. The last-counted ballots were universally understood to be the Democrats’ turn at bat, given who and where they came from.

The suit rehearses arguments against the validity of the outcomes in the four battleground states that have been extensively litigated and rejected in other courts. Texas, for instance, makes much of the Pennsylvania secretary of state issuing guidance allowing counties to give voters the opportunity to “cure” faulty absentee ballots and the Pennsylvania supreme court permitting late-arriving absentee ballots to count, but there is no reason to believe either of these jerry-rigged measures involved enough votes to call into question Biden’s 80,000-vote margin in the state.

Texas argues that such acts contravened the electors clause of the Constitution that gives state legislatures the power to determine the manner of selecting electors. And in some instances, it might be correct. But the answer is not for the Supreme Court, at the urging of one state a month after the election, to reverse the duly certified election results in four other states. This would be a grotesque violation of federalism and our constitutional scheme, not to mention democracy. There is a proper, but limited role for the federal courts in election cases: They can rein in violations of federal law based on evidence that the violation was large enough to affect the outcome. They do not have a free-floating mandate to oversee state election procedures.

2. The chance may be fat, but it’s in America’s interest that the Trump administration’s hawkish approach to Red China is carried on by Team Biden. From the editorial:

The administration also this week implemented a ban on cotton imports from the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, the shadow government and farming collective that governs swaths of the Xinjiang region and has significant involvement in the genocide and slave-labor scheme there. Not only does this deter multinational corporations from doing business in China’s West, it also strikes at a key strategic node in the Belt and Road Initiative.

Meanwhile, work on deepening U.S. global partnerships to counter Beijing has continued. Last month, the U.S. and Taiwan struck an agreement to establish an economic dialogue that touches on areas including semiconductors and 5G technology. And the State Department’s Clean Network initiative has continued apace, adding Brazil to the ranks of the now 50 countries that are working with the United States to sideline CCP-tainted technology.

Other possibilities include issuing a formal determination that the crimes against the Uyghurs constitute a genocide, targeting banks that serve CCP stooges in Hong Kong under new sanctions authorities created this year (a potential move that’s become even more salient with the imprisonment of Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong this week), and facilitating the immigration and resettlement of persecuted peoples fleeing the Party’s grasp.

3. It’s time to reject federal laws that criminalize marijuana. From the editorial:

Drug abuse and drug addiction impose serious personal and social costs, as indeed does a great deal of casual drug use. We have seen this not only in the case of prohibited drugs such as marijuana but also in the case of generally legal drugs such as alcohol and some pain medications. The question is not whether we are in favor of marijuana use or against it, but rather is whether current policy is genuinely in the public interest. It isn’t. Marijuana prohibition creates a vastly profitable criminal enterprise that causes far more damage, including loss of life — at home and abroad — than marijuana consumption itself does or would even if use became more widespread. Prohibition makes petty criminals out of most Americans — the majority of Americans smoke marijuana at some point in life — and in the process acclimates both individuals and institutions to low-grade criminality. It results in needless incarceration and in criminal convictions that can severely circumscribe a person’s opportunities for advancement and prosperity. It creates opportunities for selective enforcement and prosecution. The so-called war on drugs has contributed mightily to the militarization of many local police forces, to the normalization of invasive domestic surveillance, and to heavy-handedness in policing. That is a high price to pay for a policy that is — this is worth remembering — almost entirely ineffective in preventing the widespread use of marijuana and the commerce attached to it.

4. The Georgia special elections are must wins for the GOP, and for America. From the editorial:

Biden can get tax and spending bills through Congress with 50 Democratic senators; with a Republican Senate, he would be compelled to start from a posture requiring compromise. Republican-run committees could also provide oversight, deterring executive adventurism. No committee run by Democrats will offer meaningful oversight of Biden.

A Democratic Senate could also abolish the filibuster, changing the face of the Senate forever. Even the threat to do so would give Democrats leverage that they would not otherwise be able to wield. Broader plans to reshape the system — Court-packing, voting legislation, adding new states — could be on the Democrats’ table. This is before we even get to the individual Democratic candidates in Georgia; Warnock’s record is particularly radical and alarming.

The setting in Georgia intensifies the danger to Republicans of losing these races. Georgia has long been a crucial Republican stronghold. Entering Election Day, Republicans held nine of the state’s 14 House seats and had not lost a major statewide election for president, senator, or governor since 2000. Yet, the state’s economic and demographic structure have been shifting in Democrats’ favor. Biden’s 0.25 percent margin of victory in Georgia could be written off as a fluke, and that has implications for how he may govern. If Democrats win both Senate seats, Republicans may need to take more seriously the prospect of losing both Georgia and Arizona from the Republican column in future elections.

5. Xavier Becerra hasn’t slept for 20 years, he’s so woke. Bidens HHS pick would be a disaster, and the Senate should say no when the nomination comes its way. From the editorial:

Becerra has waged a legal crusade against each of these groups as attorney general. In 2017, Becerra filed felony charges against the pro-life activists and citizen journalists who had gone undercover to expose Planned Parenthood’s gruesome practice of selling the body parts of aborted babies to biotech companies. California is a “two-party consent” state for audio recordings, but the progressive L.A. Times editorial board called Becerra’s decision to file criminal charges a “disturbing overreach.” The law had not been similarly enforced against animal-rights activists who recorded undercover videos. One writer at Mother Jones called the Planned Parenthood videos “a legitimate investigation, and no level of government should be in the business of chilling it.”

Becerra has also zealously defended a California law requiring abortion coverage in insurance plans offered by churches — yes, churches. In January, the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services ruled that California’s abortion mandate violated a federal law known as the Weldon amendment, which prohibits federal funding of states and localities that force health providers and insurers to participate in or cover abortion. Becerra announced California would not comply.

There are more examples of Becerra’s bizarre and misplaced extremism. In 2014.9, he aggressively opposed the merger of two religiously affiliated hospital chains in California because the resulting consolidated chain could reduce access to both abortion and gender-reassignment surgeries. In 2018, Becerra and the State of California were smacked down by the U.S. Supreme Court over a state law forcing pro-life pregnancy centers to advertise abortion. In NIFLA v. Becerra, the Court ruled the law was a grotesque violation of the First Amendment. It’s not always easy to disentangle Becerra’s own zealotry from the radicalism of California’s legislature, but Becerra’s selection is a clear sign the Biden administration is tempted to use the power of the executive branch to wage a culture war that will push and exceed the limits of its constitutional authority.

6. Making the federal Defense Authorization bill the locus for a “Section 230” debate about free speech on the web is not a good idea. From the editorial:

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with hardball negotiations over must-pass spending bills. But procedurally, and on the merits, President Trump is in the wrong here. For a start, Section 230 has nothing whatsoever to do with defense spending or defense policy. On Twitter, President Trump has claimed that Section 230 presents “a serious threat to our National Security.” But there is no more to this claim than there usually is when, struggling to gain traction on a domestic-agenda item, a politician attempts to recast it as a question of security. At various times, we have been told that education, gun control, climate change, and income inequality are “national security” issues. They are not.

There is a clear distinction to be drawn here. The federal government has grown beyond recognition over the last century, but it is still the case that its primary job is the maintenance of a national defense. There are important arguments to be had around the size and scope of the military — and, in particular, around how it ought to be used in the world. Those questions are fair game in a debate over a defense bill. How Twitter is treated in court is not.

We remain of the view that Section 230 is, in fact, not much of a threat to anything; indeed, we consider it a useful legal tool that ensures that lawsuits over online speech target the speaker rather than hosts or platforms. But if there is to be a serious debate around reform — or, in the president’s terms, around “complete termination” — that debate must be had in earnest. The proper allocation of power, liability, and private-public balance in Internet speech is a complex topic, at least if one intends to define it by federal law; a 24-year-old settlement on the issue should not be lightly overturned without a vigorously debated replacement plan.

A Goodly Gathering of Tempting Expressions of Conservative Brilliance

1. David Harsanyi recounts the media establishment for its mounting hostility to free speech. From the article:

For one thing, I wish I could believe they cared. For four years, journalists acted as if Donald Trump was an existential threat to free expression because he berated and insulted reporters. Trump’s tone was certainly unpresidential, but it needs to be said that he did absolutely nothing to hinder anyone from criticizing him or reporting about him. Contra the self-canonized Jim Acosta, it was not a particularly dangerous time to tell the truth. Indeed, reporters were not only free to accuse the president of being a fascist, they could concoct entire fake scandals surrounding the Russians, and Trump was powerless to stop them.

(You might remember the panic over the Cambridge Analytica–Facebook whistleblower scandal. This was one of the stories that convinced Democrats that social-media giants were attacking our democratic institutions. At the time, Bloomberg breathlessly noted that “revelations of the apparent skulduggery that helped Donald Trump win the 2016 presidential election keep sending shock waves across the political landscape.” After a three-year investigation, the U.K.’s Information Commissioner’s Office uncovered no skullduggery from Facebook. Chances are, you didn’t hear about that.)

In any event, if journalists thought free expression was a “sacred principle,” they would also likely have been up in arms about the Obama administration spying on dozens of Associated Press reporters and using the Espionage Act to file criminal charges against then-Fox News reporter James Rosen. For the most part, they were not.

2. Once defenders of radical speech, when the Left faces opposing ideas, says Victor David Hanson, quickly come the calls for gag rules and book burnings. From the article:

Staffers at the Canadian branch of Penguin Random House recently confronted management over the company’s publication of libertarian Jordan Peterson’s new book Beyond Order, a sequel to his earlier bestseller 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.

What were their objections to the book? Peterson, who has criticized the notion of white privilege and contends that masculinity is under attack, was accused of “white supremacy,” “hate speech,” and “transphobia.” These are simply our generation’s synonyms for their predecessors’ bogeyman labels “heretic,” “witch,” and “Communist.”

Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Twitter are more refined in suppressing books, films, communications, and ideas they don’t like — and don’t want others to like, either.

Author Alex Berenson self-published a series of pamphlets on Amazon that offer a dissenting view about the efficacy of forced coronavirus lockdowns. Suddenly, Amazon blocked his most recent installment — at least until public pressure forced the multibillion-dollar company to relent.

3. When it came to opening schools in the time of COVID, the New York Times, reports Tobias Hoonhout, was happy to shift its narrative to be wherever Donald Trump wasn’t. From the piece:

Since April, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has been tracking cases among children and, as of May 21, hospitalizations and deaths as well. According to data released this week, both the child hospitalization and mortality rate has steadily fallen since May to 1.4 and 0.01 percent, respectively — even as more states have begun tracking the data.

But a big question remained: Do kids spread the disease, especially at the same rate as adults? The issue became politically polarized in early July, after President Trump entered the fray and demanded that schools be open in the fall.

“The moment Trump said that we ought to get people back in schools, there was a huge chunk of people that, I think, to some degree, just wanted to defy Trump,” Prasad said. “I mean, I’m sympathetic to it — I’m not a big Trump fan myself — but just because the man says the sun rises in the east doesn’t mean it rises in the west. Occasionally he is saying the right thing, and in this case, he was right.”

Immediately, the paper of record pivoted to counter the White House. In a July 11 piece, the Times warned that “even if it turns out that children do not spread the virus efficiently, all it would take is one or two to seed new chains.” The article quoted a New Jersey nurse named Robin Cogan, who warned that “it feels like we’re playing Russian roulette with our kids and our staff.” While the Times identified her as a school nurse who sits on the state’s reopening committee, they failed to note that, based on her #Resistance Twitter account, she’s as partisan as the president.

4. Rich Lowry scores the perversity of COVID policymakers, demanding crazed sacrifices by the least well-off. From the piece:

The pandemic has torn apart what the long recovery since the Great Recession had slowly, too slowly, built.

Since 2010, a lion’s share of new jobs were created in the services sector, which has been shredded by the virus. In 2019, black employment had hit record levels. It plummeted last spring. Positive trends in labor-force participation have been stymied, with the labor-force participation rate the lowest it’s been in about 50 years.

Mass vaccination next year should take the edge off this economic dislocation, but it’s harder to create than destroy. The Federal Reserve estimates that employment won’t fully bounce back until 2023.

What is to be done? Policymakers need to realize that when they promulgate COVID-19 restrictions, they are asking the people with the least economic margin for error to sacrifice the most. Congress needs to pass a new stimulus bill to cushion the blow of a natural disaster that has immiserated many millions of people through no fault of their own. And the incoming Biden administration ideally would realize that fashionable causes such as climate change need to take a back seat to the pursuit of full economic recovery.

5. Ryan Mills delves into Raphael Warnock’s brand of black liberation theology. From the piece:

Warnock’s opponent, Senator Kelly Loeffler, has painted him as a “radical’s radical.” During Sunday’s debate, she repeatedly referred to him as “radical liberal Raphael Warnock.”

As evidence of Warnock’s radicalism, critics have pointed to sermons and statements in which he has defended socialism as simply “things we have in common,” called gun-rights legislation dumb, declared that “nobody can serve God and the military,” likened Israeli tactics to those used by “apartheid South Africa,” and compared police officers to gangsters, thugs, and bullies.

Warnock has generally responded that he’s been taken out of context, that his critics have selectively plucked passages out of uncontroversial sermons and twisted their meaning. In Warnock’s view, he’s a mainstream Democrat standing up for “ordinary people.”

But Warnock has not shaken his connections to Cone, whose books are filled with jarring racial language, criticism of white society and white churches, and calls for revolution, violent if need be. Almost from the beginning, Cone intentionally infused his theology with Marxist principles.

“Together, black religion and Marxist philosophy may show us the way to build a completely new society,” he wrote in a 1980 paper for The Institute for Democratic Socialism.

6. Andy McCarthy assesses the Hunter Biden investigation, so far. From the article:

Much of what the Justice Department and its investigative agencies were doing was covert. In part, this was no doubt because DOJ did not want to be accused of trying to influence the election. Now that the election is over, the investigation (there may be more than one) is more overt, but as Tobias details, the full scope has not been revealed. On that score, I would put zero stock in Hunter’s public statement yesterday that the probe is limited to tax issues from 2018. He may not know the full scope of the investigation, he and the Biden presidential transition have obvious motives to minimize it, and referring to 2018 tax issues is a good way to do that because those matters are already public.

There are unique challenges for the Justice Department in conducting an investigation of the incoming president’s son, which involves some suspicious business activities to which Joe Biden has been connected — the Burisma business in Ukraine and the alleged 10 percent slice of China payments that Bobulinski says was held for him. Clearly, the concern would be that a Biden Justice Department could bury the probe.

Let’s take it as a given that if there is no substantial evidence of serious criminality, the investigation should be closed. It might be comeuppance, but it would not be justice to keep an essentially empty probe alive and create a cloud around Joe Biden’s presidency for no better reason than that’s what the Obama/Biden administration did to President Trump.

Given the staggering amount of foreign money involved (particularly from hostile regimes in Beijing and Moscow), as well as reports of sordid materials on Hunter’s laptop (coupled with his troubled background), I am assuming there is a serious investigation. If that is the case, it would be sensible for investigators to be more overt now in pursuit of information needed to make a charging decision.

7. Frederick M. Hess and R.J. Martin anticipate a bad thing that a president Joe Biden will do to due-process rights on campus. From the piece:

The American Council on Education and the various outfits that constitute the higher-education blob recently joined with the progressive base to urge a series of education-specific executive actions. High on their wish list is for Biden to reverse the Trump administration’s Title IX regulations governing sexual misconduct in higher education. Biden, for his part, has promised a “quick end” to the Trump regulations, with his campaign policy director pledging that a Biden administration would “return to and then build on” Obama-era guidance.

That would be a tragic mistake. Under Title IX, Washington has come to require that the nation’s colleges operate quasi-judicial court systems to try sexual misconduct cases. These campus courts can’t apply criminal penalties but they can suspend or expel students, permanently damage reputations, and ruin young lives.

In 2011, via a “Dear Colleague” letter that skirted the formal federal-rulemaking process, the Obama Department of Education issued new Title IX guidance that violated fundamental elements of due process. For instance, the Obama administration pressured colleges to use a “single-investigator” model, in which a single Title IX officer could serve as investigator, prosecutor, judge, and jury. The Obama guidance instructed colleges to use a “preponderance of the evidence” standard (defendants were to be judged guilty if there was better than a 50–50 chance that allegations were true), strongly discouraged cross-examination, and ditched the notion of double jeopardy by permitting accusers to appeal an unsatisfactory verdict.

8. The conservative foreign-policy world will can be placed into three camps, explains Colin Dueck. From the analysis:

Republican foreign-policy hardliners favor a robust U.S. military and strong presidential leadership together with aggressive counterterrorism. They have no difficulty believing that a dangerous international environment requires a punitive attitude against numerous threats. At the same time, they recoil from global governance projects, multilateral pieties, and extended nation-building missions overseas. This distinct combination, so different from liberals, means that hardliners have never been especially well understood by most U.S. foreign-policy analysts. And yet, of the three broad groupings mentioned, they are the most numerous at the base of the party among heartland conservatives in rural, exurban, and small-town counties. Leading examples in the U.S. Senate include Senators Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), Ted Cruz (R., Texas), and Josh Hawley (R., Mo.). There are also some important differences within this group. Cotton, for example, is more hawkish in the Middle East than is Hawley. Hawley is more open to the use of protective tariffs against various U.S. trade partners than is Cruz.

Within the GOP, conservative foreign-policy hardliners are the key pivot group in between activists on the one hand and non-Interventionists on the other. This has been true for generations. Hardliners are not catalyzed into support for assertive international approaches by talk of rules-based liberal world order. Rather their natural instinct on U.S. foreign relations, as on so many other matters, is better expressed by the slogan of Scotland’s Black Watch: “Nobody insults me unharmed.”

Hardliners can be catalyzed into support for an assertive foreign policy — and often have been — once convinced of some concrete external threat to the interests and values of their community. And once convinced, they are relentless. For this reason, conservative GOP hardliners were historically among the fiercest advocates for robust U.S. policies against the Axis powers, Soviet-backed Communism, and al-Qaeda.

9. Xavier Becarra just can’t seem to get enough of abortion. Isaac Schorr contemplates the disturbing enthusiasm. From the piece:

Becerra was also the defendant in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, the Supreme Court case that struck down California’s FACT Act, a law (enforced by Becerra’s Justice Department) that forced pro-life crisis pregnancy centers to provide their patrons with government-drafted documents about how they could procure an abortion. This effort to compel speech directly contrary to these organizations’ purpose obviously constituted a First Amendment violation, but Becerra happily enforced it anyway. 

Those inclined to be charitable toward Becerra might defend his enforcement of the FACT Act by protesting that it was only his job to implement any law passed by the California legislature. But his prior record and pledge not to prosecute abortionists if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned suggests that Becerra was motivated not by a fidelity to the rule of law, but by partisan animus. 

Becerra’s career betrays not only a religious, worshipful attitude toward abortion, but a vindictive, authoritarian streak that should disqualify him from any position of power. For Becerra, it’s not enough that abortion providers be venerated, subsidized, and left un-scrutinized. Pro-life advocates must be menaced, bullied, and silenced by the long arm of the state. Indeed, the only good thing that can be said of Biden’s picking Becerra to lead HHS is that he has not been chosen to lead the Justice Department, where Becerra’s activist instincts could do even greater harm.

10. Russell Pulliam has done a wonderful thing, reminiscing about the great Stan Evans. From the article:

Though he never signed up with the Religious Right, Evans later offered substantial research for the movement in his 1995 book, The Theme Is Freedom, Religion, Politics and the American Tradition. He goes into great depth to show how the Christian faith was the foundation for the American conservative movement. He also argues that the Christian faith is the foundation for freedom or liberty, as we know it in America and often take for granted.

The book helped me see his Christian faith more clearly. He traces the origins of western political freedom back to medieval Christian philosophy and famous names such as Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, then on through the Reformation and early American history. Like Francis Schaeffer in How Should We Then Live (1977), Evans offers a vivid contrast between the law-oriented American Revolution and the lawlessness and anarchy of the French Revolution a few years later. “Rather than trying to overturn the existing order, the American War of Independence was an effort to preserve that order,” he writes, explaining how the Founding Fathers were defending their common-law rights in the British tradition.

Most daily-news journalists can’t make the challenging transition from deadline story-writing to book chapters, footnote citations, and in-depth research. Stan excelled in both callings.

11. Jack Butler pays tribute to the late Chuck Yeager. From the piece:

Out for a late-night horseback ride after having a few beers at a bar near the Air Force base where he was stationed, Yeager sustained the injury when he crashed into a fence. He didn’t even consider letting someone else make the barrier-breaking flight, which was scheduled for just two days later. He had a doctor tape up his ribs, and a friend and fellow pilot rigged his X-1 so that he could close its cockpit. Then, he climbed into his X-1 and, after being detached from a B-29 23,000 feet above the Mojave desert, shot forward, eventually reaching 700 mph.

Anyone who would question why Yeager chose to get drunk and ride a horse around the desert days before the biggest flight of his life is not in possession of what Tom Wolfe called “the right stuff,” in his iconic book of the same name. Yeager had that vanishingly rare mixture of technical expertise, guts, and boredom with life outside of the cockpit in spades. Other pilots of all kinds so looked up to him that, according to Wolfe, they started imitating his backwoods West Virginia drawl, which is why any member of the flying public can do a decent impersonation of Yeager, even if they’ve never heard of him.

“It was,” Wolfe wrote, “the drawl of the most righteous of all the possessors of the right stuff: Chuck Yeager.”

12. Orlando Watson pays tribute to the late Walter Williams. From the piece:

During the Great Recession, as a black millennial and college student, I was captivated by Williams, who argued in “The State Against Blacks” that black people had much to contribute to economic life, yet the government suppressed this potential when attempting to create equal outcomes. His book illustrated in detail the harmful impact on “outsiders, latecomers, and [the] resourceless” when access to opportunity and markets was limited through measures like overregulation and occupational licensing. This message resonated deeply with me as I prepared to graduate college in the midst of an economic recession and take on greater responsibility in making my own decisions and pursuing my own dreams.

The more I studied Williams’ writings, the more I came to see a man who was willing to challenge conventional wisdom — not with over-the-top rhetoric, but with evidence, research, and insight. Years later, as I began a career in Republican politics, it was unsurprising to me that Williams’ rhetorical style, coupled with the weight of his work as an economist, would earn him a near-celebrity status within conservative and libertarian circles. Though there are several prominent black conservative voices, few outlined so clearly the link between government intervention and black participation in the economic life of the nation.

Williams’ work was inspirational to me, and I was later fortunate enough to learn from him directly. When I reached out for advice, he made time to speak with me. I’ll always remember him listening patiently, inquiring deeply, and challenging me gracefully. He encouraged me to continue my formal and informal education and engage with differing ideas about the government’s role in society.

13. John Hillen advises how to best remember and learn from Pearl Harbor Day. From the article:

Through the first four decades after the event, it was hard to remember a Pearl Harbor Day not begun with thoughts of or lessons from the attack. My fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Brantley, told us one December 7th of being a little girl at Pearl and lying under the kitchen table in her home on the hills above the harbor — seeing the faces of Japanese pilots through the windows as they raced by on their bombing runs just a few hundred feet above the home.

We have 9/11 now — a raw and contemporary day of national tragedy to observe. The World War II generation is passing on, and our civic culture, such as it is, focuses on different issues.

Pearl Harbor Day is still worth serious reflection though, and not just to mourn the loss of the 2,403 souls killed that day, or to salute the courage of those who persevered and fought through the attack. In addition, our constant and annual refrain on Pearl Harbor Day should be to remind ourselves that surprise attacks are an endemic feature of national security, and it will continue to happen to the U.S. repeatedly if we do not adopt a posture and set of policies that mitigate these attacks’ worst effects.

14. Former NR colleague David Klinghoffer stumbles onto a motherload of bedeviling experiences from the late Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn. From the piece:

My first editing assignment was to make Erik’s rambling missives “From the Continent,” as his column was titled, publishable. I went to work, at Linda’s request, and did what I thought best: make Erik, elderly European aristocrat, sound like me, a 23-year-old Californian and recent college grad. What could be more obvious? With each article, I realized with a blush that Linda had “stetted” (reversed or restored) almost all my edits. When I finally asked her why, she said, “Because you were taking Erik’s voice away.” It was a lesson not just about editing but about life. As much as possible, in whatever context, we should let Erik be Erik.

That was the extent of my reflections on him, until last week. I’ve had a recurring hunger for other worlds, going back to childhood. I will not try to explain the immediately prompting circumstances, but I was moved to post a request on Facebook. I asked if anyone would be kind enough to send me their supernatural experiences. However they define the term, I would be grateful to have them. I myself have never had an unambiguous experience like that. I received a number of very interesting replies, including one, perhaps the most interesting, from Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn.

Not directly, of course, though it turns out that replies from beyond this Earth would not surprise Erik. A Facebook friend, styling himself the deceased journalist’s “servant,” had been transcribing Erik’s speeches for years. One that he thought was relevant was entitled “Sorcery.” He sent it to me by mail. I received it last Friday afternoon.

What Matters? Capital Matters.

1. David Bahnsen sees through the fog of the San Francisco wealth tax. From the beginning of the piece.

Media coverage of San Francisco’s recent passage of a citywide “wealth tax” has been hard to come by, to say the least. One can be forgiven for wondering if leftist media outlets even see the writing on the city’s wall. It is not just that this bill will do little to provide additional net revenue to a city facing financial ruin; it is that this bill will surely do the exact opposite. Even critics of modern income inequality see policy prescriptions such as this as counterproductive. Indeed, in the present COVID-19 moment, San Francisco needs all the help it can get to attract businesses and well-paid taxpayers. This couldn’t come at a worse time.

So, what is this new tax? Supporters call it the “overpaid executive tax.” (Kudos to them for framing so bluntly.) Technically, the citywide tax will operate as a levy of at least 0.1 percent on companies that pay their CEO more than 100 times the median pay of their workforce. That 0.1 percent tax can reach as high as 0.6 percent depending on how far above the company’s median pay the CEO’s total compensation is. Embedded in the name attached to this new legislation is the belief that disinterested third parties should determine fair and appropriate pay. Whether that be city bureaucrats or voters unconnected to the company in question, the notion that such actors should serve as the arbiters of proper pay levels is nothing more than a form of price-and-wage control. An easy retort to my concern here may be, “Why care about a mere 0.1 percent hit?”

Well, if what we are seeking to address is really egregious, unfair, socially contemptible income inequality — robber-baron stuff — why should we stop at 0.1 percent? In other words, if the rationale for this 0.1 percent is what its proponents say it is, why are we only talking about 0.1 percent? If a Silicon Valley tech billionaire makes an amount considered to be unfair relative to the money paid to, in all probability, administrative support staff, shouldn’t voters and bureaucrats up the ante here, seeking far more than a 0.1 percent surtax?

2. Eric Grover sees corporate virtue-signaling running amok, the shareholders be damned: From the piece:

Executives tout popular causes in order to demonstrate to themselves and their social and professional networks they’re good men. Management at stellar performers such as Visa, Mastercard, PayPal, and Amex likely feel emboldened to take license because they run strong businesses.

But making investment decisions based on skin color rather than commercial merit is not only bad for shareholders, it’s morally abominable. Banks and payment networks are institutionalizing racial criteria, making hiring decisions not based on a candidate’s skills but on his skin color. These criteria reduce long-term profits and destroy wealth.

With perhaps even greater zeal, banks and payment systems have embraced climate-change theology, with commitments to reduce carbon emissions and invest in “sustainable” businesses.

The world’s largest payment network, Visa, announced that it has met its goal of using 100 percent “renewable” energy. Its network, however, must be up 24/7/365 worldwide. Wind and solar power aren’t. The grid, therefore, relies on fossil fuels and nuclear power. Visa spends money on carbon credits to offset these power sources, but more reliable and cheaper electricity worldwide would be better for Visa’s payment network, bank licensees, cardholders, and merchants, and, consequently, for shareholders.

3. Just because we have avoided a debt crisis, writes John J. Cochrane, doesn’t mean there won’t be one sooner or (or, than) later. From the article:

The argument is straightforward. Bond investors are willing to lend money to the U.S. at extremely low interest rates. Suppose Washington borrows and spends, say, $10 trillion, raising the debt-to-GDP ratio from the current 100 percent to 150 percent. Suppose Washington just leaves the debt there, borrowing new money to pay interest on the old money. At 1 percent interest rates, the debt then grows by 1 percent per year. But if GDP grows at 2 percent, then the ratio of debt to GDP slowly falls 1 percent per year, and in a few decades it’s back to where it was before the debt binge started.

What could go wrong? This scenario requires that interest rates stay low, for decades to come, and remain low even as the U.S. ramps up borrowing. The scenario requires that growth continues to outpace interest rates. Most of all, this scenario requires that big deficits stop. For at best, this is an argument for a one-time borrowing binge or small perpetual deficits, on the order of 1 percent of GDP, or only $200 billion today.

Yet an end to big borrowing is not in the cards. The federal government borrowed nearly $1 trillion in 2019, before the pandemic hit. It borrowed nearly $4 trillion through the third quarter of 2020, with more to come. If we add additional and sustained multi-trillion-dollar borrowing, and $5 trillion or more in each crisis, the debt-to-GDP ratio will balloon even with zero interest rates. And then in about ten years, the unfunded Social Security, Medicare, and pension promises kick in to really blow up the deficit. The possibility of growing out of a one-time increase in debt simply is irrelevant to the U.S. fiscal position.

4. Steve Hanke says is pleased that the tide is coming in for a water commodity market. From the piece:

A futures contract is nothing more than an agreement between a buyer and seller to exchange an asset at a predetermined price on a specific day in the future. In the case of the CME’s water-futures contracts, the market price of water for future delivery will be determined by employing the Nasdaq Veles California Water Index (NQH20). This index is calculated using weighted average values of water-rights transactions among water users in five of California’s largest and most actively traded water markets. In these markets, water rights confer annual water-pumping allocations to holders, and the sales of those pumping rights among water users are recorded and used to price the NASDAQ Veles Index. The Veles Index price for water rights at any given time is a spot price for an acre-foot of water for immediate delivery.

The new CME futures contracts will allow for the determination of the price for water in the Nasdaq Veles California Water Index at future points in time. That’s why it’s called a “futures contract.” Each futures contract will obligate the buyer and seller to trade ten acre-feet of water. Each contract will have a quarterly duration. So the contracts will be settled in three months’ time. Although some futures contracts allow for the delivery of the underlying asset, such as corn, at the time of settlement, the CME’s water-futures contracts will be settled entirely in cash. For example, if the NQH20 spot price on the settlement date is below the futures contract’s price, the buyer of the water-futures contract would suffer a loss and be required to pay the price differential to the seller of the contract. Likewise, if the spot price at settlement exceeds the futures contract’s price, the seller would suffer and a loss and be required to pay the buyer of the contract the price differential.

Why is there a demand for futures contracts? In the words of my friend and collaborator, the late Nobelist Merton Miller, the futures exchanges are “offering a product that people want,” and “to show that they want it, they are actually willing to pay for it.” But, why? “The answer is: insurance. The world wants insurance against price risk.” And, long and short hedgers who participate in futures markets generate futures prices and make insurance against price risk possible.

Lights. Camera. Review!

1. Armond White catches Mank, sees bogus, says so. From the review:

Cutely titled after Herman Mankiewicz, co-writer of Citizen Kane’s screenplay, Mank does the Millennial thing: unwarranted idolatry. When Mank (played as obese and cynical by Gary Oldman) doubts his talent, his secretary butters him up: “You’re super at it.” Fincher makes a god out of a Hollywood super-hack in the same way that the media praise Steve McQueen, Jordan Peele, J. J. Abrams, Alfonso Cuarón, Megan Rapinoe, Kylie Jenner, Colin Kaepernick, Taylor Swift, John Legend, and Shaun King. Millennials can’t tell the difference between artists, athletes, intellects, and influencers. So Mank inflates a story about the obscure co-screenwriter of a film that has no impact on the culture, turning it into a Netflix pseudo-event.

You won’t find a clearer demonstration of class differences in American life, which excuse the malfeasances of the elite, than this film about Mankiewicz and his self-righteous betrayal of colleagues and friends. Told against a background of Jewish competitiveness in Hollywood (high-rollers Herman and his sibling Joseph, best known for All About Eve), the biblical parallels are replaced with flashbacks to ethnic antagonism, using the context of political righteousness when Hollywood was split over the 1934 gubernatorial race of socialist Upton Sinclair. These could be lessons for our times, but they don’t make Mank a good movie because Fincher treats these issues facetiously.

Mank is so bogus, and so lacks dramatic credibility, I’ll skip the shoddy narrative (from a script written by Fincher’s father, Jack) to note the immediate offense of this folly. Fincher has chosen to honor Mankiewicz over director, co-writer, and lead actor Orson Welles (a minor role played by Tom Burke) as a celebrity-cult aberration.

2. Kyle Smith sees Mank, sees Hollywood loving Hollywood, but doing a lousy job of telling the story. From the review.

Still, this is just a spiffy example of Hollywood’s endless navel-gazing and Mank must stand or fall based on its substance, not its packaging. As a narrative, Mank flails. To get us out of the room where Herman works on the screenplay, Fincher flashes back to his mid-Thirties friendship with the newspaper baron he lampoons in Citizen Kane, William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance), and Hearst’s showgirlfriend Marion Davies (a delightful Amanda Seyfried, doing a throwback Brooklyn accent). Mank was a frequent guest at San Simeon, the spooky palace Hearst built for himself on the California coast, and Fincher has great fun recreating this grandly macabre space and the costumed sycophants who peopled it. Too bad production design isn’t drama. The film keeps noodling around the relationship between Hearst, Mankiewicz, and the former’s toadying pal, MGM chief L.B. Mayer (Arliss Howard) without ever making much of a point, except that Mank has a witty comment for everything and feels a bit like a trained monkey around the swells. Reaching for social significance, Fincher gets bogged down in the uninteresting details of Mankiewicz’s and Hearst’s opposing views on Upton Sinclair, the muckraker-turned-politician who ran for California governor in 1934 on an unapologetic socialist platform but was soundly beaten by incumbent Republican Frank Merriam. At the time, Hollywood studios lent their cultural power to the center-right, much to the distaste of ardent left-wing writers such as Mankiewicz, but for the latter to be shocked that newsreels used paid actors for propaganda purposes seems hopelessly naive, given how proudly world-weary Mankiewicz was.

3. More Armond: He likes the new documentary, The Plot Against the President. From the review:

But The Plot Against the President isn’t a doc cry for vengeance. Instead, it’s a movie equivalent of the Gadsden flag’s “Don’t Tread on Me” sentiment. It lines up House Intelligence Committee member Devin Nunes, his assistants Kash Patel and Jack Langer, and politicians Richard Grenell, K. T. McFarland, and Lee Zeldin, who opposed the Beltway treachery. Milius features interviews with conservative political commentators from John Solomon, Sebastian Gorka, Edward Luttwak, Tom Fitton, Jack Posobiec, Michael Anton, Raheem Kassam, and Lee Smith (Smith wrote the nonfiction exposé this film is based on).

A brief clip shows a disingenuous Nancy Pelosi enabling the coup attempt by endorsing the Russia hoax as “a desecration of our democracy not seen since Watergate,” which sets up the Left media’s go-to myth — their cry of “avenge me!” Although Milius never returns to Nancy Pelosi’s subversive doings, this telling moment reminded me that another scion-turned-filmmaker, Nancy’s daughter Alexandra Pelosi, had in 2002 made Journeys with George, a seemingly bipartisan doc that made the class affinity among cross-the-aisle politicians suspicious. Amanda Milius goes deeper, revealing almost Shakespearean complexity of behavior.

Milius concentrates on conservative patriots, yet her colloquy of all those involved in creating or fighting the coup highlights the varied countenances, plus their camera-ready expressions, that reveal an unexpectedly broad, adversarial America. The calm, uninflected presentation of the faces in this nightmare scenario looks past the usual suspects that the mainstream media favors — Adam Schiff, James Comey, John Brennan, James Clapper, Andrew McCabe, and Peter Strzok, who all regularly appear on CNN and MSNBC as Beltway stars.

Elsewhere in the Conservative Solar System

1. At The Kennan Institute, Ignat Solzhenistyn and Daniel Mahoney discuss the great Aleksandr’s important memoir, Between Two Millstones, Book Two. Watch the video here.

2. Fishmonger reticence? At the Wall Street Journal, William McGurn wonders aloud why Pope Francis, who voices an opinion about everything, remains silent on the abuses of Red China. From the column:

Jimmy Lai has embraced his destiny. Last Wednesday the founder of one of Hong Kong’s most popular newspapers, Apple Daily, was arrested on ginned-up fraud charges. On Thursday he was clapped into jail as a national security risk. Thus did a man who started the week a Hong Kong billionaire end it a Chinese dissident.

Mr. Lai’s jailing has provoked condemnation from figures as diverse as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former Soviet refusenik Natan Sharansky and New York Rep. Eliot Engel. They have been joined by journalists, activists and politicians such as the Labour Party’s Sarah Champion and other members of Parliament who on Monday raised Mr. Lai’s plight in Britain’s House of Commons.

But there is one place where China’s bullying elicits only silence: the Vatican. Which is strange, because Jimmy Lai is not only Hong Kong’s most well-known champion of democracy; he is also its most prominent Catholic layman. At a moment when he and his family most need their shepherd, Pope Francis is MIA.

The silence might be understandable if Pope Francis were in the tradition of pontiffs who hold themselves aloof from worldly affairs. But Pope Francis is a man who readily weighs in on outrages wherever he finds them, whether it be modern air conditioning, American capitalism or Catholic moms who breed “like rabbits.”

3. At City Journal, Troy Senik remembers Bruce Hershensohn as the happiest of warriors. From the reflection:

In the days when Southern California was a power center in Republican politics, it was often said that you could distinguish the Nixon men from the Reagan men at a glance. Each were said to follow the cues of their principal: the Nixonites cold, cynical, and calculating; the Reaganites sunny, positive, and idealistic. Bruce was a walking reprimand to that thesis (though, as a member of the Reagan transition team, he arguably had a foot in both camps). If your only examples of conservatism in the 1980s were Ronald Reagan and Bruce Herschensohn, you could be forgiven for believing that all Republicans had a low resting heart rate, a quick wit, great hair, and a voice that sounded like God after a glass of wine. Lots of people disagreed with Bruce Herschensohn; no one hated him.

Bruce twice ran for the Senate, finishing second in a 13-candidate field in the 1986 Republican primary and earning the party’s nomination in 1992, when he came within five points of defeating Barbara Boxer for an open seat. He never tried for any other elected office, simply because none interested him. Single-mindedly focused on foreign policy — he was virulently anti-Communist — the Senate was the only station that he thought more powerful for those purposes than a media perch.

His amiability could mask just how formidable he was on those issues. You tangled with Bruce on foreign policy at your peril. Those who thought it easy to outwit the man whose terminal degree was a high school diploma severely miscalculated. Bruce started his reading regime every morning at 4:00, consumed the English editions of newspapers from around the world, refused research assistance, and committed everything to memory rather than relying on notes. This tended to leave his sparring partners bewildered. The man seemed too nice to be such a savant.

4. At Gatestone Institute, Lawrence Franklin sounds the alarm — China seeks military presence in the Caribbean. From the article:

It is important to remember that China also promised Hong Kong autonomy until 2047, then, in 2020, jumped the gun by 27 years. “Hong Kong will be another communist-run city under China’s strict control,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared in July. China is clearly not a government that honors its agreements.

The CCP leadership has also been launching a diplomatic effort in the Caribbean with the goal of delegitimizing the state of Taiwan, while encouraging regional countries to open relations with the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Chinese shipments of military and police equipment to several Caribbean states could be developing into beachheads for future People’s Liberation Army (PLA) “advisory groups” in the Western Hemisphere. China’s construction projects already include the modernization of airports and seaports, which could increase Chinese geopolitical and military influence in the region. Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe already is on record expressing China’s willingness to deepen military cooperation with Caribbean countries.

Additionally, China has been investing considerable revenue in the economies of the hemisphere’s anti-American Caribbean socialist states of Cuba and Venezuela. China’s establishment of a Caribbean Belt and Road Sector is an opportunity for CCP intelligence operatives to suborn the sovereignty of Caribbean countries by luring these societies into “debt trap” economic dependency on China. In Sri Lanka, for instance, the country’s inability to pay back its Chinese creditors for Beijing’s modernization of the port of Hambantota has resulted in the South Asian country’s effective loss of the port.

5. At The Heritage Foundation, Michael Gonzalez and Jonathan Butcher have crafted a major report titled “Critical Race Theory, the New Intolerance, and Its Grip on America.” From the report:

Because of their strong political commitment to transforming the United States, CRT writers make clear that they do not intend for what happens on college campuses to stay on campus. “It is our hope that scholarly resistance will lay the groundwork for wide-scale resistance. We believe that standards and institutions created by and fortifying white power ought to be resisted,” writes Bell. On that score, we must pronounce CRT to have been a resounding success. CRT has broken out of the classroom and become the philosophy of wide-scale resistance. It is useful to identify a few of the ways with which it impacts the daily lives of Americans.

Identity Politics. CRT has become the academic body of work that underpins identity politics, an ongoing effort to reimagine the United States as a nation not of individuals and local communities united under common purposes, but as one riven by groups based on sex, race, national origin, or gender — each with specific claims on victimization. These identity categories correspond to Marcuse’s new revolutionary base (“the substratum of the outcasts and outsiders, the exploited and persecuted of other races and other colors”). The identities are often artificial ones manufactured by government itself, examples being the Hispanic and Asian-American pan-ethnicities contrived in 1977 by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), or the 31 genders approved by the New York City Commission on Human Rights. Under identity politics, America is no longer a country where the individual is the central agent in society, who, because of his very existence possesses individual rights. Instead, membership in the official categories becomes the identity that matters when it comes to rights (mostly positive rights, not natural ones), responsibilities, and everything else. Identity politics has become the new paradigm under which many Americans now operate. Victimhood is what commands attention, respect, and entitlements, seen as compensatory justice.

CRT emerged contemporaneously with the proliferation of these identity categories in America and became the philosophical tool to implement identity politics and the attempt to transform the United States. Race, Racism and American Law by Derrick Bell includes toward the end a chapter for “Racism and Other Nonwhites,” among whom he names for the United States the Chinese, the Japanese, and the Mexicans. It was published in 1972, two years before the Census Bureau bureaucrats, under pressure from leftist activists, opened the first national racial and ethnic advisory committee. Just three years later, these activists convinced the OMB to create the pan-ethnic categories.

The simultaneity was hardly coincidental: The activists who forced the bureaucracy to confect the identities also drank deeply from the well of European philosophies brought over after World War II. “The language of ‘dominant’ and ‘subservient,’ or ‘subordinate,’ groups, integral to Critical Theory and the Frankfurt School” pervaded the work of Julian Samora, the first founder of a Hispanic studies department at a major university, the first leader of La Raza [“The Race”] and a member of the Census Bureau’s first national advisory committee on race. Samora’s 1953 dissertation, titled “Minority Leadership in a Bi-Cultural Community,” quotes the German-born American social psychologist Kurt Lewin, who was associated with the Frankfurt School.

6. More Wall Street Journal: Alex Berenson takes on Big Tech’s censorship in the public-health debate. From the piece:

Information has never been more plentiful or easier to distribute. Yet we are sliding into a new age of censorship and suppression, encouraged by technology giants and traditional media companies. As someone who’s been falsely characterized as a coronavirus “denier,” I have seen this crisis firsthand.

Since June, Amazon has twice tried to suppress self-published booklets I have written about Covid-19 and the response to it. These booklets don’t contain conspiracy theories. Like the scientists who wrote the Great Barrington Declaration, I simply believe many measures to control the coronavirus have been damaging, counterproductive and unsupported by science.

Amazon has said earlier that “as a bookseller, we believe that providing access to the written word is important, including books that some may find objectionable.” The company sells “Mein Kampf” and “The Anarchist’s Cookbook.” But when it comes to Covid, Amazon has a different standard. At least half a dozen other authors have emailed me that their books have been pulled. Amazon won’t disclose how many, or other details about how it picks books to censor.

7. At The Federalist, Ben Weingarten explains how lefty, fork-tongued spook John Brennan has BFFs in the MSM. From the article:

Brennan’s newsworthy lies regarding Trump and Russia, for example, are just two of the many that persist at the heart of the collusion narrative that he, fellow Obama administration national security and law enforcement officials, and their media mouthpieces have pushed on the country over the last four years as part of an information operation. That operation was essential to toppling the ruling class’s greatest stumbling block, President Trump, who threatened its globalist gravy train, particularly with respect to Communist China.

In its willingness to continue trotting out Brennan, leftist media has proved it is no adversary of the powerful. It is an instrument of it. This media does not speak truth to power. It gives the powerful an avenue to speak its “truth.” It is not enough to say it has been captured by the ruling class, with which it works hand in hand for mutual ends, ideological and otherwise. In fact, the media is its de facto communications arm. The public loses immensely as a consequence of this relationship.

The only inadvertent benefit of Brennan’s airtime is that it exposes how unmoored our ruling class is from the public it is supposed to serve. It shows, in all its ignominy, how unmoored both the media and the purported leaders of our most vital governmental institutions have become from their public missions.

8. At the Daily Mail, Peter Hitchens reports on the decline of Eton College and the U.K.’s “other supposedly conservative schools.” From the commentary:

Eton may still have its silly fancy-dress uniform and its wall game, its stately buildings and grounds. But these survivals conceal the truth.

Even the richest and most renowned of all the great public schools realised some time ago that, to be allowed to survive at all, they must submit to correction and purification.

That is why the Eton teacher Will Knowland is now in trouble for expressing unfashionable opinions in a not-very-distinguished video.

And it is why, whether he loses or wins his struggle for reinstatement, Left-wing conformism will now tighten its grip on the school.

Within 20 years, it will just be a very expensive version of Bog Lane Comprehensive, flying the Black Lives Matter flag on its gatehouse, alternating with the gay rights rainbow, the Extinction Rebellion banner or any of the other causes which must now be supported — or else.

Who can really blame it? This is just a mopping-up operation. The war which decided all these matters was finally lost long ago, when in the years before 2010 the Old Etonian David Cameron forced the Tory Party to take the yoke and support the Blairite revolution.

9. At The College Fix, Hunter Gallo reports on The Ohio State University’s multi-million-dollar spending on “diversity workers.” From the beginning of the article:

Ohio State University currently employs more than 100 workers whose jobs are dedicated to diversity and inclusion, according to information recently compiled using the most recent salary reports for the public university.

The research found that the salary and benefits costs come in at over $10 million dollars annually, according to Professor Mark Perry of the University of Michigan-Flint, who conducted the research.

According to Perry, that annual cost is enough to cover the tuition of approximately 882 in-state students or 303 out-of-state students.

“I have long been a critic of ‘administrative bloat’ in higher education, and the explosion of diversity officers is just one example of that bloat,” said Perry, a professor of finance, business and economics.

Of the 100-plus employees, they consist mostly of non-faculty positions in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, such as provosts, directors, assistant directors, managers, equity investigators, administrative assistants, and “academic encouragers.”

10. At Washington Free Beacon, Yuichiro Kakutani reveals how Columbia University has covered up its ties to Red China. From the article:

Columbia University failed to disclose at least $1 million in Chinese government funding that went toward hosting a Confucius Institute, which the State Department has described as a part of Beijing’s propaganda effort targeting U.S. students.

The New York-based university is the only Ivy League institution to host a Confucius Institute, a controversial Chinese government-funded program that at its height operated in more than 100 U.S. colleges. Hanban, the Beijing-controlled entity that manages the Confucius Institute, pledged at least $1 million in donations to Columbia University, according to a Chinese state media report. Department of Education records show that Columbia never disclosed any such donations to the federal government.

At least part of the Chinese government money went toward bringing on Prof. Wei Dedong, an adviser to the Chinese regime’s propaganda department, to serve as the director of Columbia’s Confucius Institute starting in 2016. Wei, who is an associate professor at Renmin University in Beijing, gave several lectures and organized events at Columbia, including a seminar on “China’s regulation of religious affairs” in Tibet. He also oversaw the Confucius Institute’s Mandarin instruction and grant programs for Columbia students.


Eddie Robinson turns 100 on December 15th, Tuesday upcoming. He played his first MLB game in late 1942 with the Cleveland Indians, and then, like many young men of his age and time, lost three prime seasons to Uncle Sam. While in the Navy, a tumor was found on his leg, and the surgery to remove it was botched. A second surgery saved his leg, and his ensuing baseball career.

Eddie returned to the Indians in 1946, spent the following year in the minors (he was the MVP of the International League), and in 1948 was back with the Tribe (he started in all six of the team’s World Series games against the Boston Braves). In 1959 Robinson was traded to the Washington Senators, where he earned his first All Star nod. Midway through 1950 he was dealt to the Chicago White Sox, where he hit 29 home runs and drove in 117 runs in 1951. Robinson’s hitting wasn’t too shabby in 1952: he smacked 22 homers and knocked in 104 ribbies while batting .296. Traded the following year to the Philadelphia Athletics, Robinson kept up the power routine, hitting another 22 homers accompanied by 102 RBIs. That 1951-53 stretch saw three more All Star appearances for Robinson, including as the starting first baseman in the 1951 game.

Then came the decline, but not the glory. Traded to the Yankees, Robinson meshed with Casey Stengel’s platooning system, and in 1955 hit 16 home runs for the Bombers, plus appearing in four games in the World Series.

It may be that someone else played for five clubs in two seasons, but it’s a fact for Robinson as he ended his career: Midway through 1956, the Yankees traded his to Kansas City, who then in the off season traded him to the Detroit Tigers. Released in May, Robinson was picked up by his old team, the Indians, for whom Robinson slammed the last of his 172 career home runs (a two-run, pinch-hit, Ninth inning dinger that earned the Tribe a comeback 4-3 win over the same Tigers who has abandoned him two weeks earlier). Released on June 29th, at the beginning of September the Baltimore Orioles (aka the old St. Louis Browns) picked up Eddie, who got into the his last four MLB games.

Of interest: The last man he ever faced, pinch-hitting in the 13th inning in an eventual 16-inning 5-4 win over the Indians (Robinson flied out), was Cal McLish, who himself would play for seven original MLB teams (albeit not in the same league). Also of interest: The most-franchised player in pre-expansion baseball was likely Bobo Newsom, about and upon whom this space has reflected on prior occasions. Over a 25-year span, Bobo pitched for nine teams (six in the AL, and the Cubs, Dodgers, and Giants in the NL), and in his final MLB appearance, once again in the uniform of the Philadelphia Athletics (a relief appearance against the Cleveland Indians on September 17, 1953), backing him up at first base was, yes, Eddie Robinson.

By the time he hung up the spikes, the only AL team uniform Robinson had not worn was that of the Boston Red Sox. He went onto serve in various capacities — as a general manager of the Braves and Rangers, and as a scout for many teams — before finally retiring in 2004.

By the way, Eddie has a tremendous weekly podcast. Give a listen here. We wish him a very happy birthday this Tuesday.

A Dios

This day we publish, December 11th, is the feast day of St. Daniel the Stylite. He lived atop a pillar. For 33 years! He came down just once. Fascinating! On Saturday, the 12th, it is the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Even more fascinating. Going to the First Book, we wish our Brothers and Sisters in Abraham a Happy Hanukah, now in its early days of celebration of the Festival of Lights. And do remember, when the gentleman come ‘round asking for help, to not reply with a question about the continued existence of poorhouses. Be generous, for it is true: In giving, we receive.

God Rest Ye Merry Undismaying Gentlemen and Ladies,

Jack Fowler, who receives entreaties and critiques at

National Review

Blowing Through the Speed Limit


Dear Weekend Jolters,

Off the glorious presses this Thursday past was the oh-so-special 65th Anniversary issue of your favorite conservative magazine. Links to much of its contained wonderments (there are 38 articles!) are found below.

Fact: There would be no 65th, or 55th, or even 5th anniversary issues of National Review were it not for the many people, God bless each and every one, who entertained appeals from Bill Buckley and Rich Lowry, who responded with meaningful material support, and who thereby kept NR’s doors open, lights on, keyboards clacking, athwart standing. Thanks a million, to you. At least a million.

Like some sugary gnome, this Jolt is short and sweet, at first. After the get-go, when it’s gotten and gone, we return to start, to jam-pack a second go-round with excerpts, amply satisfying all unexpired expectant excerpt experts.

Barreling down the road, the sign whizzed by read “LIMIT 65” . . . but the right foot overrules: “PEDAL TO THE METAL!” Who knew your foot could talk?! (Of course, that of Your Humble Correspondent is usually in his mouth.)

You have been warned: At 65, this enterprise is merely getting started.

This will be the Mother of All Jolts. You may need two weekends for complete consumption. Enjoy!


The extra innings are wincing: Election-Fraud Allegations Are a Disgraceful Endgame.

General Flynn deserved it: A Justified Pardon.

Ecce Cuomo: The Supreme Court Got the Church-Restriction Decision Right.

Viva The Federalist: The NRLB’s Humorless Insensibility.

Happy birthday: Here’s to 65 Years of Shattering the Liberal Consensus.

Spilling Forth from the Cornucopia of Conservatism

Michael Brendan Dougherty looks into the elite’s super-sized free-speech rights: The Right to Be Wrong.

Victor Davis Hanson mocks those cheering for a silver medal: Is America to Be First, Second — or What?

Rich Lowry says Joe’s ready to whip up a crisis: Biden’s Immigration Radicalism.

More Lowry: Georgia is on his mind: The Conspiracy Theory That Could Hand Joe Biden the Senate.

Andy McCarthy explains the latest Durham assignment: Russia Probe in Overtime: Unpacking Barr’s Latest Durham Appointment.

More Andy, who reminds us of Obama’s PhD in Alinsky: If You Like Your Cops, You Can Keep Them.

John McCormack studies the down-ballot: Why Republicans Gained House Seats Even While Trump Lost.

Jim Talent says Trump has provided the groundwork: Biden’s Foreign Policy Should Build on Trump’s.

When it comes to the COVID vaccines, Dan McLaughlin says the story fits no liberal narrative: Pfizer, Moderna, and COVID: Why Vaccines Succeeded.

Jorge Jraissati previews Maduro’s next sabbath: Venezuela’s Sham Elections.

Isaac Schorr alerts about a new type of attack: Cyberterrorism in the U.S.: Hospital Hacking a Worrisome Sign.

Jimmy Quinn shows the GOP has had it with the ChiComs: Republican Legislative Proposals Push Back against Beijing.

More Jimmy, this time exposing Red China’s Aussie hate: The CCP’s Shameful Anti-Australian Smear Campaign.

Arnold Steinberg remembers a great conservative: Bruce Herschensohn, R.I.P.

Rick Santorum gives the 411 on 230: Help Conservative Alternatives to Facebook and Twitter.

Sarah Schuette makes a peep on behalf of certain literary peeps: Three Cheers for the Quiet Ones.

Brian Allen watches as woke public art soaks up the big bucks: Monumental Misdirection at the Mellon Foundation.

Herewith a Dozen and Then Some Selections from the Wondrous 65th Anniversary Issue

Mark Helprin provides the fiction: Anna, Dressed in White and Blue.

Matthew Continetti reflects on conservatism’s past triumphs and current challenges: A Uniquely American Conservatism.

Richard Brookhiser charges that statue-toppling is also an attack on principles: The Anti-American Iconoclasm of the Statue-Topplers.

Ross Douthat laments about God and Man at America: The Decline of the Christian Consensus.

Terry Teachout’s sees an unbridgeable chasm: Will the United States Disintegrate?

Nicholas Eberstadt provides an analysis of the unseen: Big Government’s Overlooked Americans.

Amity Shlaes makes a Coolidge-channeling call: Free Markets Can Appeal to the Working Class.

Yuval Levin reminds all of an obligation to the future: Recovering the Conservative Case for Entitlement Reform.

Niall Fergusson says we’ll need thermals: Cold War II.

John O’Sullivan takes the EU’s temperature: ‘More Europe’ after Brexit.

Armond White sees the Fifth Estate’s collapse through a 90’s movie: What Up Close and Personal Illuminates about Journalism.

Andrew Roberts reflects on woke-abuse of the narrative: How to Write History.

Joseph Epstein considers the decline of the novel: Our Literary Drought.

Lee Edwards profiles the nascent conservative movement: Before NR: Wandering in the Wilderness.

John J. Miller praises the movement’s chronicler: George H. Nash Finds Our Moment ‘Sobering’.

Neal B. Freeman reminds us of the giants: NR’s Founding Fathers.

Mark Wright briefs all on NR’s current Who’s Who: NR in the Time of ’Rona.

Gregory Collins re-reviews Reflection on the Revolution in France: Bipartisan Burke.

Adam Carrington does the same for William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England: Blackstone’s Commentaries: Particular Law, Universal Truth.

Charlie Cooke takes on Alexander Hamilton’s triumph: The Federalist Papers: Instruction Manual for the Constitution.

Harvey Mansfield closes out the entire shebang with his rave review of Democracy in America: What We Neglect in Tocqueville.

Capital Matters

James McCarthy reports on media masochists: Why Do Business Reporters Hate Business and Free Enterprise?

Iain Murray on Joe picking a Christmas color: Biden’s Socialism Will Be Green, Not Red.

Paul Gessing on Captain Basement’s other palette choices: Biden Energy Policies Will Make Blue New Mexico See Red.

Andrew Stuttaford on another way of saying corporatism: The Great Reset: If Only It Were Just a Conspiracy.

Adam Shuster sees the Land of Lincoln circling the drain: Tiers and Fears: Illinois Is Ground Zero for the U.S. Public-Sector Pension Crisis.

Brad Polumbo scores wealthy-fare: Canceling Student Debt and Other Regressive Education Policies.

Lights. Camera. Review!

Armond White is ready for the genuflection follow-up: Bowing Down to Obama.

Kyle Smith digs The Crown: Three Remarkable Ladies: Thatcher, Diana, and Elizabeth.

More Kyle, who finds a new series to be . . . super: The Brilliant, Scabrous Satire of The Boys.

Even more Kyle, who’s roped into another series: Ted Lasso Nails Brits and Americans.

More Armond: He leaves the gun and takes the cannolis: The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone: Coppola’s Epic More Relevant than Ever.

Before We Get to WJ All Gussied Up, There’s Something that Needs to Be Said: Believe You Me, You Need to Believe in Believe in People

Doncha love it when a book has a trailer, and a website? Fact is, that serves a new tome so much better than the mumbo jumbo of Your Humble Correspondent. Lucky for you, Believe in People, the new book by Charles Koch (there’s plenty more to him than you think you know — find that out here) and Brian Hooks, the CEO of the truly consequential outfit, Stand Together, has both.

Take a minute and watch the video. And find complete information about the book here.

Believe in People is, in one sense, born of great frustration, the forces constraining growth and success accentuated and intensified in the madness of 2020. It’s clear that people are looking for . . . a better way. Koch and Hooks contends that massive barriers (including supposed-to-help institutions) are holding people (millions!). Layer that onto crumbling communities, failing education systems, businesses rigging commerce and speech, public policy that stifles opportunity — is it any wonder that America’s two-tiered society is intensifying?

But this book isn’t an exercise in kvetching. Believe in People’s authors make the case for a needed paradigm shift — away from a top-down approach that sees people as problems to be managed, toward bottom-up solutions that empower everyone to realize their potential and foster a more inclusive society. In the book, they share a multitude of inspiring and compelling examples of individuals who have found and fostered empowerment to make their lives, their families, their communities and country, better.

Hey, Charles Koch needs book royalties like a hole in the head — that’s why all the proceeds of Believe in People are going to organizations that will be empowering individuals. Just wanted to make that clear. Now, if you want to get this important new book, and you should, do check out Believe in People website, which will point you in the right direction.

One last thing: If you’re interested in the mission of Stand Together, and examples of how it is helping empower real people, watch this short video.


1. We find the President’s post-election actions to be weak and disturbing. From the editorial:

There are legitimate issues to consider after the 2020 vote about the security of mail-in ballots and the process of counting votes (some jurisdictions, bizarrely, take weeks to complete their initial count), but make no mistake: The chief driver of the post-election contention of the past several weeks is the petulant refusal of one man to accept the verdict of the American people. The Trump team (and much of the GOP) is working backwards, desperately trying to find something, anything to support the president’s aggrieved feelings, rather than objectively considering the evidence and reacting as warranted.

Almost nothing that the Trump team has alleged has withstood the slightest scrutiny. In particular, it’s hard to find much that is remotely true in the president’s Twitter feed these days. It is full of already-debunked claims and crackpot conspiracy theories about Dominion voting systems. Over the weekend, he repeated the charge that 1.8 million mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania were mailed out, yet 2.6 million were ultimately tallied. In a rather elementary error, this compares the number of mail-ballots requested in the primary to the number of ballots counted in the general. A straight apples-to-apples comparison finds that 1.8 million mail-in ballots were requested in the primary and 1.5 million returned, while 3.1 million ballots were requested in the general and 2.6 million returned.

2. The President’s pardoning of General Michael Flynn was quite justified. From the editorial:

Taking all these factors into account, Barr decided to dismiss the case. The Justice Department reasoned that because there was no basis to investigate Flynn, his statements to the agents were not “material,” an essential proof element of a false-statements charge. The Justice Department further believed that Flynn would be acquitted if the case went to trial. These conclusions are not air-tight, but they are reasonable. More significantly, they are conclusions DOJ is entitled to make, and makes every day, because decisions about whether to prosecute, including whether to see a prosecution through to its conclusion, are exclusively for the executive in our system.

Judge Sullivan’s intrusion on prosecutorial discretion has been outrageous. He has exploited a flaw in criminal procedural law that requires “leave of the court” to dismiss a case — a provision that is intended to protect defendants from abuse — in order to continue subjecting the defendant to a prosecution that the only legitimate prosecuting authority wants to cease. Sullivan even invited a Trump-bashing former federal judge to theorize how the court might prosecute Flynn if the Justice Department won’t. And Sullivan has willfully declined to rule on the dismissal motion, calculating that if Trump lost the election, he would have to pardon Flynn or risk that Sullivan’s dilatory strategy would give a Biden Justice Department the opportunity to revive the prosecution.

3. SCOTUS hands Andrew Cuomo and other Nanny Staters a defeat on their church-closing COVID regulating. From the editorial:

This policy was clearly not tailored to minimize damage to religious observance. It doesn’t even allow higher attendance in bigger buildings. As the Court noted, some churches in New York can seat more than 1,000 people while others accommodate far fewer, yet none could host more than 25 people in orange areas and ten people in red.

The Court’s ruling is neither surprising nor alarming. Cuomo’s rules discriminate against religious services and thereby run afoul of the Constitution. And to fix the problem, Cuomo would not need to exempt houses of worship from the law everyone else follows, but merely ensure that churches aren’t relegated to second-class status. One approach may be to classify churches as essential and to assign all essential activities a capacity limit that takes establishment size into account. Another would be to simply let the hard capacity limits go, since houses of worship in orange and red areas are still required to keep to a low proportion of their total capacity (a third and a quarter respectively) — and because the areas at issue in the lawsuit aren’t classified as orange or red anymore anyway.

4. We weigh in on behalf of The Federalist over a political-bureaucratic attack on its First Amendment rights. From the beginning of the editorial:

The text of the National Labor Relations Act does not, so far as we can tell, require the National Labor Relations Board or its personnel to have their sense of humor surgically removed. Nor does it prohibit the NLRB’s judicial proceedings from considering context, common sense, or elementary reality in making decisions. But you could not tell this from its decision upholding an administrative-law judge’s unfair-labor-practices ruling against FDRLST Media, LLC, which operates the conservative website The Federalist.

On June 6, 2019, Twitter was abuzz with the story of a unionized walkout of employees of progressive online conglomerate Vox Media. Many people in conservative media predicted that this would be bad not only for Vox Media’s business interests, but for the journalistic culture of its websites. The accuracy of those predictions can be judged from the defections from Vox Media’s flagship website,, this past month, including founders Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias, the latter apparently driven out in part by a rebellion of empowered, woker-than-thou junior staffers. But even if conservative predictions had not come true, they would be fair grounds for public comment by journalists on a matter of public importance, and not to be muzzled by federal regulators.

Not so, says the NRLB. Ben Domenech, the founder and publisher of The Federalist (and thus a peer of Klein at the time, except that he is still employed at the site he founded) tweeted that night, “FYI @fdrlst first one of you tries to unionize I swear I’ll send you back to the salt mine”. For the labor-side lawyers out there: This is what the rest of us call a “joke,” mocking the situation at Vox Media. Yet, it led to a finding of unfair labor practices by the NLRB and a government order to a journalist to delete his tweet. (Because the case is on appeal, the tweet still stands.)

5. Thoughts about a legacy and a mission. From the editorial:

We didn’t win completely. Too much of our founding statement speaks to our day as well as its own. “The largest cultural menace in America is the conformity of the intellectual cliques which, in education as well as the arts, are out to impose upon the nation their modish fads and fallacies, and have nearly succeeded in doing so.” If we were writing that afresh, we would merely need to find a place to stick “woke” and mention journalism and social media, too. The growth of centralized government we decried has slowed but not reversed. Yesterday’s historicism has a faint and tinny echo in the boasts of today’s Left that the future still belongs to it. Our reference to the need for a “responsible dissent from the Liberal orthodoxy” implied a danger that has not disappeared. We have sometimes erred, have sometimes faltered, and still have much to do.

So Much Bounty, Anticipated and Delicious, Spilling Forth from the Cornucopia of Conservatism

1. Michael Brendan Dougherty looks into the elite’s assumption of superior free-speech rights, and an attending mandate to make hell for the “subversive and deviant lives of conservatives, religious people, and non-conformists out in the sticks somewhere.” From the piece:

The idea of “listening to the science” repels many people after experiencing the past several months, since the science in public health seems so unstable. Dr. Fauci once pooh-poohed mask wearing, based on a study. Now he says that we might be wearing masks after the vaccine. The World Health Organization was against travel restrictions, but it turned out this was entirely based on politics, not epidemiology. The most prestigious medical journal in the world published a hoax study on hydroxychloroquine, simply to own Trump.

The feeling that the restrictions are imposed without real conviction, that the science is a mess, and that the whole enterprise is corrupted by political fear of the masses, exacerbates already widespread distrust in the forthcoming vaccines. Anti-vaxxers can point to the many instances of groupthink or seeming contradictions in public attitudes. In the same moment that Governor Andrew Cuomo was warning people about the danger of a vaccine that was developed during the Trump administration, his own government in Albany was soliciting legal advice on making a COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for all New Yorkers, with no religious or health exemptions, because Cuomo aspires to be the first political leader to achieve universal immunity.

It’s easy and frightful to imagine polarization around the vaccine that turns into a Mexican standoff. The vaccine skeptics will be able to point to the low mortality rates of COVID sufferers and improving treatments, as well as especially low transmission rates in schools, to justify their reluctance to take a vaccine that they can justly say is novel, because it uses an mRNA mechanism. Political leaders who invested the most in restrictions will be inclined to require the most for full reopening. Some states and many corporations are effectively debating whether COVID vaccination becomes a kind of “passport” back to possessing full civil rights and participation in civil society.

2. Victor Davis Hanson mocks those cheering for a silver medal, and gives a detailed look at the various foreign-policy accomplishments of the Trump administration, often achieved over the efforts of obstructing bureaucrats. From the essay:

The administration’s formal “National Security Strategy” assessment in 2017 at last addressed the reality that millions in the vast interior of America, left out of globalist affluence, had lost confidence in U.S. foreign policy. They were resigned to the likelihood that our elite diplomats would never reflect their own concerns rather than those of a host of prosperous allies, opportunistic neutrals, and emboldened enemies.

Nor has the U.S. simply snubbed blameless international organizations. The World Health Organization has over the years done the world a great deal of good. But its elite echelon became corrupt and felt more obliged to lie on behalf of its moderate contributor, Communist China, than to be truthful to its major democratic benefactor, America.

Reconcile what the WHO initially said about travel bans and COVID-19’s origins and transmissibility with what it knew to be true at the time. The verdict is that thousands of innocents died, believing the WHO’s Chinese propaganda, disguised as one-world ecumenicalism.

The U.S. met far more of the Paris Climate Accord benchmarks after leaving the deal than its sanctimonious signees did by remaining in it. The World Trade Organization, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund were all based on the premise that the United States of 2017 and the world in general were calcified along 1945 lines, requiring an endlessly wealthy America to undertake burdens for the broke and endangered. The watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency more or less calibrated its monitoring of Iranian proliferation to synch with current American and European appeasement.

Seventy years after all these agreements began emerging, the United States is nearly $27 trillion in debt and can no longer subsidize others who are either rich or at least not poor. As for the United Nations, the U.S. still doubles the contributions of the Chinese, nearly triples those of the Japanese, and almost quadruples the German contributions, though all these nations currently run huge trades surpluses with America. All these transnational organizations, to be justified and useful, need radical reform.

3. We’ll be doing an Immigration 180 with Biden in charge, writes Rich Lowry. From the piece:

Trump’s signature failure on immigration was missing the opportunity, when Republicans controlled both chambers, to pass significant legislation reflecting his priorities through Congress. But, as Steven Camarota of the restrictionist Center for Immigration Studies notes, the net growth of the immigration population still declined markedly.

Despite all of Trump’s incendiary rhetoric on this issue, the upshot of his approach was entirely reasonable — levels of immigration shouldn’t inexorably increase, and immigration policy should be subject to a rigorous test of national interest.

Biden represents a return to the old status-quo assumption that more immigration is, ipso facto, a good thing. At the same time, he leads a party that is more zealous on the issue than ever before.

Democrats aren’t much interested in immigration controls, and it’s entirely possible that, soon enough at the border, it will again be uncontrolled.

4. This may prove to be Georgia’s payback for Sherman, because, as Rich Lowry makes clear, the Wood/Powell tag team may hand the U.S. Senate to Chuck Schumer. From the column:

There is no evidence that Lin Wood and Sidney Powell are secretly working for the Democratic National Committee, but no one has definitively disproved it, either.

That’s the kind of conspiratorial reasoning that the Wood-Powell duo, with their deep commitment to wild and unfalsifiable charges, might apply to themselves.

The two Trump-allied lawyers have made themselves into wrecking balls against the Republican Party of Georgia, whose top elected officials, they allege, are involved in the most dastardly and far-reaching conspiracy in American history.

This might be only a bizarre footnote to the 2020 election, if their charges weren’t being amplified by the president of the United States and didn’t come at a time when the Georgia GOP needs all of its voters to turn out in the two January runoff elections that will determine control of the Senate.

5. Andy McCarthy explains John’s Durham new special-prosecutor assignment. From the article:

That is, Durham has conducted the probe in a manner consistent with his longstanding reputation for non-partisan scrupulousness and diligent investigating. And he has done it under Barr’s guidance, which the AG has publicly repeated a number of times, that the investigation is not to be influenced by political considerations and that charges should only be brought if there is compelling evidence of “meat-and-potatoes” crimes — no extravagant, creative theories of the kind invoked by overly aggressive prosecutors to notch big-name indictments.

Durham’s background and the manner in which he has conducted the probe should persuade the incoming Biden Justice Department that it is fortunate to have Durham at the helm of this investigation — just as the Obama, Bush-43, and Clinton Justice Departments were fortunate to have him leading sensitive investigations during their tenures.

Durham should be retained on merit. He has put nearly two years into the investigation. He has done nothing to suggest that the investigation is politicized. And it would rightly be perceived as the height of politicization if a Biden Justice Department were to close the case summarily without allowing Durham to see it through to conclusion.

If the new administration allows Durham to complete the investigation, it can be confident that the result will have integrity. Plus, Durham would be reporting to the attorney general Biden has appointed.

6. More Andy, who checks out Obama’s schooling of The Squad, and reminds us that Barry himself has a doctorate in the ways of Saul Alinsky. From the piece:

As our Brittany Bernstein reports, here, Obama got the Squad’s hackles up by stating:

If you believe, as I do, that we should be able to reform the criminal justice system so that it’s not biased, and treats everybody fairly, I guess you can use a snappy slogan like “Defund the Police,” but you know you’ve lost a big audience the minute you say it. Which makes it a lot less likely that you’re actually going to get the changes you want done.

This is the classic Alinskyite critique of undisciplined radicals who set back The Cause by using unhinged language in the service of what Saul Alinksy himself described as “pointless, sure-loser confrontations.” As he elaborated in Rules for Radicals, to bring about the change the Left seeks requires the hard work of appealing to the people you want to bring around by coopting their language, appealing to their experience, and exhibiting respect rather than contempt for their values – even if you are actually contemptuous of them. “A mess of rhetorical garbage about ‘Burn the system down’” is only going to drive people to the political right.

Obama’s success has been to understand this — to absorb the lesson Van Jones succinctly states as: “I am willing to forgo the cheap satisfaction of the radical pose for the deep satisfaction of radical ends.” Like the Squad, Obama wants radical law-enforcement reform. But he knows “Defund the Police” turns people off. The Squad members may be heroes in their fishbowls, but they will never be broadly viable that way.

7. John McCormack studies the down-ballot outcomes, looks at election history, and sees little that is surprising. From the analysis:

For the last three presidential elections, House GOP candidates have performed better against their Democratic opponents than the Republican presidential candidate performed against his Democratic opponent. In 2012, Romney lost the national popular vote by 3.9 points, and GOP candidates lost the House national popular vote by 1.2 points (and held onto 233 seats). In 2016, Trump lost the national popular vote by 2.1 points, and Republicans won the national popular House vote by 1.1 points (and held 241 seats). In 2020, votes are still being counted in New York and California, but President Trump trails Joe Biden by four points the popular vote and House GOP candidates trail House Democratic candidates by 2.5 points nationwide. Republicans will end up with somewhere between 210 and 213 House seats — not far from the 218 needed for a majority.

It’s not all surprising, then, that Republicans gained back some seats in 2020 after the 2018 blowout in which Republicans lost the House national popular vote by 8.4 points and were relegated to the minority with just 199 seats.

So, the 2020 results down-ballot in Senate and House races are entirely consistent with a presidential election that Trump — despite trailing Biden by more than four points in the popular vote — almost won in the Electoral College. Trump’s loss in the Electoral College came down to some 44,000 individual votes spread across Wisconsin, Arizona, and Georgia. In other words, Biden’s victory was even more narrow in 2020 than Trump’s victory was in 2016, when 78,000 votes spread across Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan put Trump over the top in the Electoral College.

8. Donald Trump has improved America’s interests greatly, says Jim Talent, in regards to China, the Middle East, and our military. A Biden Administration needs to build on that. From the piece.

For almost four decades, the United States facilitated the rise of China, without considering the downside consequences of allowing the Chinese Communist Party to embed its methods and objectives in the global economy and the international system. Our government not only opened the door to the henhouse; it actively empowered the fox who was waiting outside.

As a result, the United States is now confronted by a rising hegemon conducting a comprehensive campaign to steal the world’s wealth, dominate crucial sectors of technology, disrupt the established democracies, corrupt and control much of third-world governments, subvert international institutions, and assert sovereign control over important parts of the global commons.

The Trump administration responded by making great-power competition its strategic priority, energizing the tools of national power, and beginning to build a national-security apparatus that could manage and eventually win the contest with China.

As a matter of vital national interest, the Biden administration simply must sustain that strategy. It can and will adjust tactics and messaging, but the broad strategic direction and energy level must stay the same.

9. The story about Operation Warp Speed’s successes doesn’t need liberal warping, writes Dan McLaughlin. From the beginning of the piece:

Assuming that the COVID-19 vaccines work, their development will be the biggest, most high-profile public-health success story since the polio vaccine in the 1950s. A weary world has waited many trying months for this. Yet in the media’s coverage, there are a lot of mixed messages about how this happened — because the story is not one that fits comfortably with liberal narratives. Consider the big, splashy New York Times story by six reporters (Sharon LaFraniere, Katie Thomas, Noah Weiland, David Gelles, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, and Denise Grady) on the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, and the Stat story by Damian Garde and Jonathan Saltzman on the technology behind them. When you dig into the details, the heroes are largely (1) big American pharmaceutical corporations, (2) the Trump administration, and (3) the U.S. military. The lessons to be drawn support the conservative view of government, business, and their proper roles and relationships.

The tension is obvious early in the Times story, when it announces its intended theme: “In an era of polarized politics, science was able to break down barriers between government, countries and industry to produce one of the few pieces of good news in a year of suffering and division.” This is not supported by the facts. “Science” did not produce a vaccine, in the sense of a Jonas Salk figure having a “eureka!” moment in a laboratory some time in 2020. The Times does not bother introducing us to any of the individual researchers who actually developed the vaccine. Nor does it illustrate the breaking of barriers between countries, except by big business. The facts are more stubborn.

In fact, as the Stat story illustrates, the core concept of making messenger RNA (or mRNA) synthetically and using it to produce vaccines has been kicking around for three decades, and the crucial breakthrough came in 2005. While there were still some daunting scientific hurdles to overcome, the broader problem facing synthetic mRNA was its risky, experimental nature; only a change in the economics and available resources would make it economically viable to invest in scaling up a major trial of an mRNA-based vaccine to see if it would work.

10. Sunday the polls will be open in Maduro’s Venezuela. Jorge Jraissati says the only thing that will happen there is a sham. From the piece:

As a result, the vast majority of Venezuelans will not vote this Sunday. And how could they? The Maduro regime has 1) banned most opposition candidates from running, 2) imprisoned prominent opposition leaders such as Leopoldo Lopez, 3) coerced and intimidated citizens into voting for the socialist party, 4) engaged in verifiable manipulation of vote tallies, 5) organized the process through an election authority controlled by members of Maduro’s party, 6) murdered protesters who exercised their right to assemble peaceably, and 7) disallowed international organizations from observing the vote — among other violations of the political rights of Venezuelans.

For these reasons, what is taking place this Sunday in Venezuela is nothing more than a fraud of the worst kind. Venezuela will not have a free and fair election, but rather a fraudulent process intended to politically crush the interim government of Juan Guaido, especially at the international level. By renewing the parliament, the Maduro regime will try to put in question the legitimacy of Juan Guaido, who became interim president precisely because of his position as president of the national assembly. Specifically, the legal basis for the Guaido presidency lies in articles 230, 231, and 233 of the Venezuelan constitution, which state that after Maduro refused to hold free and fair elections in 2018, the president of the national assembly had to temporarily assume the presidency until fair presidential elections were held.

11. Isaac Schorr alerts about a new type of cyber attack against vulnerable Americans: the sick. If it’s happening in Vermont, you can expect it in your neighborhood too. From the article:

The attack on the UV Health Center is not the first act of cyber terror on U.S. health-care infrastructure. The Russian group believed to be responsible for the Burlington attack has, per the FBI, made somewhere around $61 million in ransoms over a 21-month period in 2018 and 2019. In early October, eResearchTechnology, a Philadelphia firm that sells software used in clinical trials — including for certain coronavirus vaccines — was locked out of its data by ransomware — a kind of malware that remains in place until the hackers who have sicced it on you are paid. Hospitals in California, Oregon, Montana, Tennessee, and upstate New York have been similarly afflicted by hackers, who have even gone so far as to release patient data — Social Security numbers, dates of birth, ages, hiring dates, and contact details — on the dark web.

To focus on Barry and Perlroth’s account of what’s happening in Vermont is not to downplay these other cases. But the Vermont case is especially affecting, and helps clarify what these hacks are: not nuisances, not crimes, but acts of terror committed on American soil, targeting our most vulnerable populations.

Cancer patients have been the chief victims of the events in Burlington. Hundreds have been turned away from the hospital as the loss of the electronic medical record set the department back “months and months and months,” according to one nurse. Staff have worked feverishly to triage their patients and reconstruct patient histories and treatment protocols from memory without any of the medical systems that they’re used to leaning on. Even with their prodigious efforts, the Center has been able to operate at only 25 percent of its typical capacity. The three-quarters of patients seeking care at Burlington who have been turned away have been forced to find it elsewhere, with some making a three-and-a-half-hour trek to Boston.

12. Jimmy Quinn reports Congressional Republicans are levelling a legislative broadside aimed at Beijing. From the article:

“Republicans must stay united to keep up the same level of pressure on China as we had under Trump the last four years, and these pieces of legislation proposed first by the Republican Study Committee are part of our plan to do that,” said Representative Jim Banks, who will lead the group next year.

The proposals, which span everything from China’s IP theft to prohibiting the use of U.S. funds to purchase goods made by Chinese-military-linked enterprises, are the direct outgrowth of a June 2020 RSC report that called for numerous legislative changes to compete with China. And they complement the work of the House GOP’s China Task Force.

Among the most notable of the RSC proposals is a bill introduced by Representative Steve Chabot that creates an entire category of sanctions to deter the theft of intellectual property by Chinese firms.

Combating IP theft has been a hallmark of the Trump administration’s work on national security. In 2018, the Justice Department established its China Initiative, a program focused on investigating and prosecuting the theft of trade secrets by individuals spying for the Chinese government. During a speech at the Hudson Institute this year, FBI director Chris Wray revealed that his agency opens “a China-related counterintelligence case every 10 hours.”

13. More Jimmy, this time exposing Red China’s aggressive efforts against Australia. From the analysis:

The Chinese Communist Party is bringing its enormous pressure to bear on Australia in a bullying campaign that encompasses a trade war and a smear campaign.

Australia has been a reliable U.S. partner in pushing back against the CCP’s malign activities in a range of areas, and it was one of the first countries to have a national awakening to Chinese political interference in its democratic processes. What’s really caused Beijing to pitch a fit, though, is the Australian government’s calls for a truly independent inquiry into the origins of the COVID pandemic and its growing military cooperation with other Indo-Pacific countries.

Australia is on the front lines of the global battle to protect the free world from Chinese authoritarianism, and it could use some help.

Last week, Beijing followed through on its threat to slap tariffs onto Australian products, imposing duties of 107–212 percent on various wines from the country. The move stands likely to cripple small wineries.

14. Arnold Steinberg remembers Bruce Herschensohn, who died this week at the age of 88. From the obituary:

When Bruce Herschensohn, who died Monday at the age of 88, ran for the Senate in California in 1992, he was supposed to debate his opponent, Representative Barbara Boxer, before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). The intellectually limited Boxer knew she was no match for Bruce, who despite never having attended college was a walking encyclopedia; at the last minute she insisted that there be no debate, just prepared statements. Bruce, always direct, if not confrontational, then shocked the crowd by castigating AIPAC for giving in to Boxer’s demands. Both candidates were Jewish, but the trendy Boxer was a lukewarm supporter of Israel and a leftist far removed from traditional Judaism. Bruce, a solid supporter of Israel, while not that religious, deeply respected people of faith and tradition, and he refused to campaign on the Jewish High Holidays.

Looking at a rough cut of his campaign commercial attacking Boxer on the issues, Bruce insisted it be redone because the photo of Boxer was unflattering to her. He was a true mensch, so much so that he would probably edit that first paragraph, eliminating the reference to Boxer’s diminutive IQ. Ever a gentleman, Bruce focused always on issues, never on anything that could even be considered a personal attack. Sadly, his political adversaries did not return the favor.

15. The frequently villainized “Section 230” of the Communications Decency Act may actually be a friend to conservatives, argues Rick Santorum. From the article:

These new, conservative-friendly platforms now face an existential threat from a bipartisan group of D.C. lawmakers that could derail these new services as soon as they leave the station. For completely different reasons, these congressmen and senators want to eliminate the one law that’s essential for Parler, Rumble, and future alternative sites to host user content: Section 230.

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is the foundation for all social-media sites and e-commerce marketplaces we use every day. Congress enacted Section 230 in 1996, reacting to a ridiculous court ruling holding online bulletin board Prodigy liable for user posts slamming Stratton Oakmont — the pump-and-dump stock brokers portrayed in The Wolf of Wall Street. This law says that a platform’s users — not the platforms themselves — are responsible for the content they post. And it protects a platform from being sued for removing content that the platform deems objectionable to its audience and advertisers.

Without Section 230, Yelp could be sued for negative restaurant reviews. Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube — along with Parler and Rumble — could be sued for defamatory content posted by users. Like Twitter and YouTube, Parler and Rumble will need to moderate user content in order to attract advertisers. But without Section 230, they too could be sued for removing or restricting content.

16. They may run silent, but they do run deep: Sarah Schutte cheers some of literature’s less chatty heroines. From the commentary:

Bashful and retiring, Beth March of Little Women struggles with poor health, fears boys, and is too shy to attend school. Her tidy soul is drawn to housework, her piano, and taking care of her dolls. Her old sisters live more boldly: Jo must fight Apollyon, and Meg goes to Vanity Fair. Beth’s battles are fought without fanfare, and her strengths are revealed in her kindness and thoughtfulness toward those around her.

Despite her fear of men, her consideration for the needs of others leads her to talk with and amuse a young boy during a picnic hosted by Laurie for his British friends and the March girls. The boy is on crutches and can’t join in the antics, and Beth rises above her fear to reach out to him. When Marmee goes to care for Mr. March in Washington, D.C., Beth is the only sister who visits the Hummels, a wretchedly poor immigrant family in need of help.

Some readers might consider these deeds and her pastimes bland and uninspiring, but among the four March sisters, Beth is the rock of stability and good sense. She is an anchor for flighty, passionate Jo in her storms of emotion, a teacher to Amy, and a supporter of Meg, which makes all the difference to her sisters. Her circle of influence is small, but she performs each little task with love and treats those around her with unmistakable care.

17. The Mellon Foundation has committed to spending oodles of millions on woke monumentary. Brian Allen describes a travesty. From the piece:

The Mellon Foundation thinks we need new and improved monuments. Lost in the COVID catastrophe is last month’s big news that the Mellon Foundation has committed $250 million over five years to pay for new monuments or historic storytelling spaces, freshen existing ones with context relevant to today, and remove monuments no one wants because they are bad art or they no longer edify.

That’s a huge amount of money and the primary commitment of the country’s biggest arts and humanities foundation. It’s to be taken seriously and followed closely. This is the foundation’s first step in implementing a strategic shift announced in June. For years, it supported blue-chip arts-and-humanities projects. Now, it’s in the social-justice business. It’s focusing its money on “building just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking where ideas and imagination can thrive.”

From the 65th Anniversary Issue, a Dozen Articles Excerpt-ificated for Your Pleasure

1. Matthew Continetti checks out the NR 5th Anniversary and reflects on conservatism’s past triumphs and current challenges: From the piece:

Liberalism was dominant. “What is not fashionable,” Buckley said, “are some of those certitudes and intuitions that most of us here in this room aim to serve.” These “certitudes and intuitions” included religious faith, a commitment to individual freedom, and the knowledge that “the Communist experiment, the worst abuse of freedom in history, is a violent mutation on truth, a horrible caricature on justice.” Buckley pointed to the careers of Hoover, MacArthur, and Strauss (and might have mentioned his own reputation) as proof that the defense of “forgotten virtues” was un­popular among intellectual elites.

Conservatives, Buckley went on, drew satisfaction from resisting the pull of the crowd. “And I expect,” he concluded, “that they and all of you, my good and generous and devoted friends, must be happy, as I am, to know that for so long as it is mechanically possible, you have a journal, a continuing witness to those truths which animated the birth of our country, and continue to animate our lives.”

Six decades later, Buckley’s journal maintains its witness. But the conservative movement that he helped to build has fractured. It no longer coheres. Presi­dential politics divided its ranks. Na­tional populism challenged its principles and institutions. And multiculturalism and identity politics toxified the culture it inhabits. Critics from both the right and the left say that conservatism is outmoded, a failure, a dead end. What, they ask, has conservatism conserved?

2. Richard Brookhiser charges that statue-toppling is about much more. It’s also an attack on principles. From the piece:

I live in Manhattan, which has a rich selection of public statues. A few are true works of art. Augustus St. Gaudens, America’s greatest sculptor, made two masterpieces, of General Sherman marching through Georgia and of Admiral Farragut damning the torpedoes. Neil Estern’s Fiorello LaGuardia is a worthy modern addition, striding, clapping, shouting, capturing LaGuardia’s loud-mouthed ebullience. Some statues are so ugly they offend the eye. Samuel S. Cox, known as the letter-carrier’s friend because he pushed for higher pay and shorter hours during his years in Congress, stands in Tompkins Square Park, raising a right arm as stiffly as the flag on a mailbox.

Many of New York’s statues have little or nothing to do with New Yorkers. They exist to make us think about the unfamiliar. On Central Park South, Simón Bolívar and José de San Martín, each mounted, face each other on opposite sides of a road heading into the park. They direct our thoughts to our neighbors to the south. In the park itself stands a statue of a dog — Balto, the lead sled dog who brought an anti-diphtheria serum from Anchorage to Nome in the teeth of a blizzard in 1925. Balto toured the country after his exploit and was present in New York at the dedication of his statue; he spent the remainder of his life in Cleveland, where he is now, stuffed. But we can still contemplate his image here. Gandhi never came to New York, but he scrambles along in the Union Square farmers’ market in his dhoti; in winter one imagines that he must be cold.

If the models for such artifacts are problematic, their problems are not our problems. It is when we come to statues of our own past that difficulties arise. Half a block from my apartment building stands one of Manhattan’s better statues, of Peter Stuyvesant, the last director general of New Netherland — what New York was before England took it. The bottom of Stuyvesant’s right leg is a peg; flesh and bone were crushed by an enemy cannonball during one of Holland’s imperial wars. He looks aggressive, intelligent, and alert — to tasks that need doing, and to critics, who need doing in.

3. Ross Douthat laments about the decline of America’s once “Christian consensus.” From the article:

Meanwhile, what vitality remained in the remnants of the Christian or Judeo-Christian consensus was in groups that had been on its fringes, partially integrated after spending many years as the subject of mainline Protestant persecution or disdain: conservative Catholics, Evangelical Protes­tants, Conservative and Orthodox Jews, Mormons, and even Anabaptists.

So one way to see the culture wars that followed is as an attempt by people on the edges of the previous consensus to construct a new one in its rubble — Catholic-Evangelical-Jew instead of Protestant-Catholic-Jew; right-leaning instead of centrist or liberal, but capacious enough and appealing enough to displace cultural liberalism, either by building a counter-establishment or by retaking the great institutions of American culture from within.

This project succeeded in preserving conservative forms of religion: American faith, even after so many waves of secularization, still retains large numbers and a zealous core. But as a project of expansion and reconquest, it conspicuously failed. After an arguable high tide in the years of John Paul II Catholicism and George W. Bush’s Evangelical presidency, the project’s more ambitious goals collapsed, its beachheads in elite culture weakened, its own institutions fell into scandal or theological civil war, and the country moved in a more overtly post-Christian direction overall.

Meanwhile, out of the complex currents of cultural liberalism, a more intense form of anti-traditionalism has recently emerged — itself a sort of successor to the lost Protestant establishment, with the Christian doctrine shorn away but with a renewed moral zeal, an extremely detailed blueprint for social and political relations, and a revival of the old establishment’s hostility to more-disreputable (meaning Catholic and Evangelical and even Jewish) forms of faith.

4. Nicholas Eberstadt sees the unseen, and who’s not seeing them. From the beginning of the analysis:

Despite the information revolution, the Big Data explosion, and the advent of all-but-universal connectivity, American social policy is dogged by a huge knowledge gap. For years — sometimes decades — on end, acute social and economic troubles afflicting tens of millions of vulnerable Americans somehow manage to keep on hiding in plain sight. Consequently, America is subject to unexpected yet recurrent failures of the evidence-based policy-making upon which our modern welfare state prides itself. This troubling situation has far-reaching implications for the well-being of our countrymen and the health of our democracy — none of them positive.

Consider the saga of “deaths of despair” in modern America. In the late 1990s, America’s white working class was suddenly seized by a terrible health crisis. Among non-Hispanic white men and women of working age with no more than a high-school education, death rates commenced a gruesome rise. Between 1999 and 2015, mortality rates for these less educated Anglos jumped in every age group between 25 and 64 — and the spikes were practically Soviet in magnitude and nature. For men and women in their late fifties, death rates ratcheted up by 22 percent; they leapt by almost 90 percent for those in their early thirties. Across all these age groups, increased death rates from drug overdoses (“poisonings”), cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide contributed substantially to the carnage.

Working-class whites may constitute a minority of all Americans, but they are by no means a small population. In 2015, over 34 million Anglos between the ages of 25 and 64 had no more than twelve years of schooling. By itself, this contingent accounted for nearly one in nine Americans overall and more than one in five Americans in these working ages. And since these same men and women for the most part lived in families, a great many more Americans were part of a home that included these at-risk individuals — including the many millions of children to whom they were mothers, fathers, and providers.

5. Amity Shlaes looks to Silent Cal for economic and cultural wisdom. From the piece:

As a new president, Coolidge had the chance to retool his party, introduce compassion, disavow magnates as robber barons, aid farmers, and woo back some Progressives. In the race for economic primacy, America had moved ahead of Britain, but sustaining first place was anything but sure. In Britain, politicians were opting for what today’s politicians would call social-democratic moves: London’s compassion included the then-new dole, an unemployment payment. Perhaps American Republicans, too, should opt for markets with a human face. That was the bet of Republican comers such as Herbert Hoover. Hoover, a technocratic consultant, a sort of pre-Romney, publicly ridiculed proponents of pure laissez-faire philosophy.

The other choice for the man moving into the White House was to push the old, frosty, abstract Republican program: austerity cuts, spending vetoes, tax cuts for high earners, and support of freer markets. The party could then explain — a tough challenge — that the results would trickle down to the lower earner. Having observed the absurdities of Prohibition enforcement in real time, Coolidge had no intention of writing further “pro-family” laws. The better policy for firming up American primacy, Coolidge wagered, was to opt for old and cold. Coolidge was therefore also wagering that even blue-collar workers would understand.

The accidental president started his work by pushing a policy Republicans wouldn’t dare to articulate today: austerity. “I am for economy, and after that I am for more economy.” The farm lobby expected that Vermont-born Coolidge would accept the McNary-Haugen bill, a bipartisan agricultural-subsidy measure voted through by both houses. But Coolidge vetoed McNary-Haugen twice, along with dozens of other “compassionate” laws.

6. Yuval Levin reminds America that it’s overspending today violates an obligation to the future. From the piece:

Ironically, the willful blindness of the Trump era might offer us an opportunity for such rethinking. Entitlement reform has been a rare ground of bipartisan agreement in the past four years: Both parties have agreed to forget about it. That means the underlying fiscal problems have grown worse during this period. But it also gives us a chance to approach the question of the national government’s finances afresh. Doing so might point us toward three general premises.

First, the costs of fiscal irresponsibility have more to do with constraints on future growth and spending than with the risk of catastrophic crisis. Growing debt makes claims on the government’s finances in the years to come, and so burdens future taxpayers while limiting the options of future legislators. The problem, in other words, is that debt and interest payments will dramatically constrain the government’s capacity for discretionary spending — on defense, on welfare, on research, on emergency response — and will also constrain our economy’s capacity for prosperity.

There is always some chance that our borrowing could destabilize the government’s fiscal foundations, too, undermining its ability to finance further debt and so setting up a dangerous crisis. But the past ten years have suggested that the hunger for our debt in global markets runs deep, and that our capacity to borrow may not be much constrained by the risk of scaring off investors. That lesson should not be overlearned: There is presumably a limit to our borrowing capacity. But the lesson should not be ignored, either. We do have room to borrow, if that is our choice. This is good news, but it also means that if we are to avoid needlessly impoverishing our future selves, we will need to summon the will for restraint.

7. This ain’t your father’s Cold War: Niall Fergusson’s looks at Red China and gets a chill. From the essay:

What are the differences between the two cold wars? Obviously, China is the principal antagonist that the United States faces, not the Soviet Union, which was essentially the Russian Empire under Communist management. There is a much higher level of economic interdependence between the U.S. and the PRC than was ever the case between the U.S. and the USSR: There was never “Amerussia,” the way there was Chimerica. China is a bigger economic challenger than the Soviet Union ever was: There was never any talk of the ruble’s displacing the dollar. There is much more cultural interchange today than in Cold War I: There are between 350,000 and 400,000 Chinese students in America and 2.3 million Chinese immigrants (half of them naturalized). Leading members of the Chinese elite have been educated in the U.S. Technology has changed so that it is harder for each side to conceal military activity from the other, and also much easier for China to access U.S. private- and public-sector data. China does not actively promote socialist revolution around the world. China does not control a significant number of neighboring states. I do not expect nuclear brinkmanship. I do not expect proxy wars.

What, on the other hand, do the two cold wars have in common? Much more. As in the early years of the First Cold War, the U.S. and its allies are up against China, Russia, and North Korea. Like the Soviet Union, China is engaged in systemic technological catch-up, employing espionage to acquire Western technology. This is like the U.S.–Soviet arms race, in that it is taking place in multiple fields. In Cold War I, the competition was in nuclear weapons and space (including satellites), but also in information warfare and biological and chemical weapons. Today, China is seeking parity not just in software and hardware but also in artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and even vaccines. China is investing $1.4 trillion over the next five years in AI, 5G, and semiconductors. It is already ahead of the United States when it comes to electronic payments and central-bank digital currency.

8. With Brexit a consequential reality, John O’Sullivan takes the EU’s temperature. From the beginning of the analysis:

The European Parliament has responded to the more flexible politics of the post-Brexit EU by developing a more muscular determination to shape them. Its governing coalition leans left but also includes the conservative European People’s Party, which itself includes the Hungarian Fidesz Party, which is also Merkel’s ally. Europe’s Left regards Poland and Hungary as antidemocratic authoritarians all the more reprehensible because they keep winning elections. It was outraged that Merkel had protected both countries by placing the rule-of-law provision in the financial package inside a “locked box” to be opened only in case of dire emergency — and further angered that Hungary in particular had emerged with one of the largest increases in EU funds. (I suppose that since the Danube Institute, where I work, receives government funding, I am myself an indirect beneficiary of the EU funds, but they don’t seem to have made my analysis particularly favorable.)

This complex political situation has produced a series of diplomatic exchanges between Budapest, Warsaw, Berlin, and Brussels, as Germany has sought to protect the recovery package from the grumbling political crisis over the rule-of-law provisions. The government of either Poland or Hungary could in principle use its veto to protect the other against penalties, so, to forestall that, some of their European critics have proposed the “nuclear” solution: create new treaties that exclude both countries and bring forward the financial package under that heading. That would create a much larger crisis than the one this tactic purports to solve, however. Besides, there are hints from Germany that Hungary should be able to pass the rule-of-law test readily, since it’s been whittled down from the Left’s original list to excessive government influence over the selection of judges. If so, it’s Poland that might be in trouble. But Viktor Orbán has already told the Poles that Hungary would veto any sanctions against them, so that would seem to foreclose that outcome.

9. John J. Miller picks the brain of the movement’s chronicler, the terrific George Nash. From the article:

By this time, a younger generation of conservatives had come to see Nash as one of their movement’s wise men, the author of a contemporary classic that sat on bookshelves beside the likes of Ideas Have Consequences, by Richard Weaver, and Witness, by Whittaker Chambers. ISI Books issued a new edition of Nash’s old tome, with an epilogue that assessed the presidency of Ronald Reagan. It arrived at a time when academic interest in the history of conservatism was rising, thanks in part to Alan Brinkley of Columbia University, who had called upon his colleagues and their students to correct the error of having overlooked a big development in American politics. Nash appreciates it when conservatives compliment him on his work, but he says he takes special satisfaction from liberal historians who praise his fair-mindedness.

What he hears today, he says, is bitterness — not directed at him, but in American politics generally, and among conservatives, too. “There always have been moments of ferment, especially in the 1960s and after the Cold War,” he says. “Yet I’ve never seen so much dissension. Conservatives have had sharp disagreements and they could get personal, but now there’s name-calling and a willingness to engage in personally abrasive politics.” Nash worries that by focusing on their feuds, conservatives ignore the sources of their unity. “Conservatives need allies,” he says. “We’re not the majority. Ronald Reagan taught us that successful politics is about addition, not subtraction.”

As a historian, Nash is more comfortable discussing the past than the future. He also knows that past is prologue, and that studying history is a key to understanding what may come next. Conservatives, he says, should expect a reckoning with the legacy of President Trump, leading to their movement’s reconfiguration: “We may see an attempt to refurbish conservatism with Trumpian elements — a kind of Trumpism without Trump.” This could take a variety of forms. “The movement may become less libertarian as it tries to appeal to Trump voters,” he says, with implications for free trade and immigration as well as policies that affect working-class Americans. “The language of order may become stronger.”

10. Neal B. Freeman was there. He reminds us of the giants who founded NR. From the piece:

Toward the end of NR’s shakedown cruise, the last of the volcanic, first-generation personalities departed. Frank Meyer was not banished, I hasten to note, but, rather, was removed from office following bureaucratic defeat at the hand of James Burnham. (There was no disgrace in that. Everybody lost bureaucratic battles with Burnham.) Meyer retreated to a hilltop redoubt in Woodstock, N.Y., and, by remote control, performed three essential tasks for WFB’s young enterprise. For the magazine, Frank edited a fine back-of-the-book section, showcasing two of the country’s four or five best literary critics — Hugh Kenner and Guy Davenport. (In these days of mulled wine and depleted home libraries, you might want to luxuriate in the correspondence between Kenner and Davenport, two of the most delightfully literate men in the English-speaking world. There’s a good two-volume collection out there.)

For the movement, Frank wired together a national network of rightish academics. He became the de facto human-resources director for what M. Stanton Evans used to call the half-vast right-wing conspiracy. If you were a pro-market economist a few years this side of tenure, say, and if the thought police were closing in on you, your first call would be to Frank Meyer. He would make things right, or exhaust himself (and everybody else involved) trying.

Frank’s third contribution was seminal. And epochal. He pulled Kendall and Brent Bozell into a marathon dialogue and hammered out the loose-jointed and more or less coherent fusionist philosophy that came to be known as Buckley-style conservatism. WFB would be and, now that I think of it, was in fact the first to concede that Frank had been the principal blacksmith. WFB liked to add that he wasn’t bright enough himself to have served in the Meyer role. Uh, no. WFB wasn’t patient enough. He always had places to go and people to see.

11. Charlie Cooke takes a constitutional and returns to The Federalist Papers. From the review:

Much hay has been made of the fact that the charter that Madison, Hamil­ton, and Jay were hawking was devised in secret by a small, self-selected group of men who had not in any meaningful sense been recruited to redraft the republic. From time to time, one even sees the process described as a “coup.” And yet the mere existence of The Federalist Papers remind us how flippant a characterization this is. As the authors make clear from the outset, ratification of the new constitution was by no means a given. The task of the project, Hamilton explains in Federalist No. 1, was “to give a satisfactory answer to all the objections which shall have made their appearance, that may seem to have any claim to your attention.” Those objections were real, taking their most potent form in a series of eloquent counter-arguments — known today as the AntiFederalist Papers — that would prove convincing enough to the public to guarantee that ratification would be conditioned on the adoption of the Bill of Rights, which neither Hamilton nor Madison considered necessary, given that it seemed to contradict the enumerated-powers doctrine. The question before the people, Hamilton proposed while introducing the effort, was whether Americans would enjoy a form of “good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend, for their political constitutions, on accident and force.” And, as he was at pains to confirm, the only “force” available to him and his colleagues flowed directly from the nibs of their pens. The charter for which the trio was proselytizing may indeed have been written by a cabal. But its adoption would be debated by everyone.

12. Harvey Mansfield offer a rave review of Tocqueville’s Democracy in America: From the piece:

As against democratic materialism, Tocqueville fashions a democracy of soul. He retains this feature of Christianity and classical philosophy — one might also say of common sense — representing an individual’s awareness of being free. Today one hears of people who claim to be woke, by which they do not mean the state of having discovered one’s material interest.

“Self-interest well understood” is Tocqueville’s well-known formula for what Americans believe is their typical motivation. He is not happy with that, and he suggests that they would do better to take pride in their virtue and in the souls that form it. Self-interest can lead one to submit to the despotism of majority opinion, always a danger in democracy, but virtue reinforced by pride will bring one to stand up for one’s freedom. Self-interest shows the easy way out; virtue offers the thrill of taking a risk and the satisfaction of having nobly won or lost. Democracy is made noble and great with the aristocratic notion of soul.

BONUS: Your Humble Correspondent tells again the wonderful story of Jim Buckley’s historic 1970 U.S. Senate win. From the article:

The logic and circumstances were there: The Democrats were sure to nominate someone as liberal as Goodell — they did, in Representative Richard Ottinger. A credible Conservative could prevail in a three-way battle against two liberals.

Conservative Party bosses corralled Clif White, the exceptional political strategist who had quarterbacked Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential-primary success, to run a possible Buckley-for-Senate campaign. But before that could happen, Jim would need evidence that victory was not just possible but probable. Days before the party’s nominating convention, Rowland Evans and Robert Novak, writing in their influential column, broke the electrifying news: A statewide poll “shows Buckley getting an amazing 25 percent of the vote next November, almost enough to win in a three-way race.” Coupled with numerous reports from upstate GOP leaders about “an open revolt against incumbent Senator Charles Goodell” — and claims that his support was moving swiftly to Buckley — the Second Hurrah came to be. On April 7, 1970, the man who called himself “the only real Republican in the race” accepted the Conservative Party nomination.

This time, unlike 1968, there was money, which bought air time, which thundered with powerful commercials (the sounds of sirens and scenes of riots and lawlessness) that reinforced the idea that decent, firm, reasonable Jim Buckley was going to stop the agents of chaos. The commercials’ tag line — “Isn’t it about time we had a senator? Buckley” — resonated.

There were a lot of “we” out there.

Capital Matters

1. What Makes the Muskrat Guard His Musk? James McCarthy answers the question, why do business reporters hate business. From the beginning of the piece:

James Madison identified the free press as “one of the great bulwarks of liberty” because he understood it could be a powerful check on abuses of power. But what Madison could not have foreseen was that so many reporters in the “free” press would voluntarily unite their cause with that of the state, transitioning from its watchdogs to its cheerleaders.

Nowhere is this unholy alliance more obvious than on the business page. In what other section are journalists so uniformly filled with animosity toward the subjects they claim to cover objectively? An arts writer who despised film and music, or a sportswriter who loathed football and golf would register as odd if not unfit. But anyone who has interacted with them can tell you that most business writers are steeped in progressive worldviews intrinsically hostile to markets and predisposed to government regulation and control.

That could be because most have never worked in corporate America, nor studied economics beyond an undergraduate survey. Journalism and other liberal-arts departments at the universities that stock our press corps are dominated by faculty with an anti-market animus manifestly transmitted to their students. As a consequence, few business writers display any understanding of the motivations or worldviews of the people who drive private enterprise.

The result is coverage in which any perceived market failure yields a predictable consensus around a set of supposed bad actors with malignant influence who must be stopped via regulatory or legal intervention.

2. Iain Murray says when painting his Socialism Palace, Joe Biden will go with green, not red. Whatever the color, it will be a botch job. From the piece:

The transition team’s summary memo on how to approach climate aspects of the transition includes policies not just for the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration, and the Departments of the Interior, Energy, and Transportation, but for the Departments of Agriculture, State, Justice, and Treasury, as well as the Office of Management and Budget. Personnel is policy, goes the saying in Washington, and, evidently, the Biden transition team’s plan to staff all these departments with climate activists.

The memo envisages “new authorities that allow for structural and systemic changes.” Without control of the Senate, the new administration will find it difficult to set these up. However, thanks to excessive delegations of power from Congress to the executive over the years, President Biden will be able to do a lot through regulation via executive order — with the power of the “pen and phone,” as President Obama put it.

We can expect significant restrictions on the use of fossil fuels and machines that use them. Massive amounts of public funds will be spent on promoting “green jobs” — and the administration will use its powers under labor law to ensure that these are union jobs. Non-union jobs such as independent contracting will come under increased fire, with emissions-heavy delivery services probably in the crosshairs once the COVID crisis eases. Trade tariffs will be raised on the basis of emission levels in the trading partner’s country — which will hit the developing world hard.

3. Andrew Stuttaford makes mincemeat of “The Great Reset.” From the beginning of the piece:

Recently, one expression of corporatism, “stakeholder capitalism,” has won strong support on both sides of the Atlantic. This might be expected in Europe, but that it has been taken up by the Business Roundtable and many leading firms in the U.S. — allegedly a bastion of both free enterprise and democracy — is depressing. Looked at optimistically, the BRT and its C-suite cheerleaders are useful idiots. Looked at realistically, they are part of a managerial class grubbing for the power that flows from other people’s money.

Stakeholder capitalism rests on the notion that a company’s management owes a duty to more than its shareholders. It’s something that Klaus Schwab, the WEF’s founder and executive chairman, has been advocating for a long time. A key feature of the Great Reset is the idea that stakeholder capitalism should, one way or another, be adopted.

That would reduce a company’s shareholders to just another category of “stakeholder,” effectively transferring the power that capital should confer away from its owners and into the hands of those who administer it. They are then accountable to, well, it’s not quite clear whom. It’s not difficult to grasp why so many corporate bosses are enthused by stakeholder capitalism.

But stakeholder capitalism is a betrayal of democracy as well as of shareholders. The power it gives to managers is increasingly being used to support an agenda influenced by a cabal of activists, NGOs, representatives of the “international community,” and politicians too arrogant to go through the usual legislative process.

4. Blue New Mexico, reports Paul Gessing, will see red thanks to Joe Biden’s likely energy policies. From the piece.

In 2020 Biden won the state 54.3 percent to 43.5 percent despite the fact that President Trump’s pro-energy policies have been a boon to the New Mexico economy and that the Biden administration’s energy policies are a dagger aimed at the heart of New Mexico’s economy.

That “dagger” comes in the form of the numerous — sometimes clear, often conflicting — statements that candidate Biden made during the campaign. It is unclear what Biden will do about hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” which enables oil and gas producers to access previously inaccessible oil and gas sources. He backed away from an outright nationwide ban late in the campaign. However, Biden has clearly stated that he would ban new gas and oil permits — including fracking — on federal lands.

Targeting federal lands would devastate New Mexico’s oil and gas industry and its economy, because of the state’s large federal estate. According to the Institute for Energy Research, 34.7 percent of the land in New Mexico is federal. In fiscal year 2019, New Mexico received energy-related disbursement (from the federal Bureau of Land Management) of  $1.17 billion, the highest payment made in any state (Wyoming was next, with $641 million, and then Colorado, with $108 million). This was the highest payment from the bureau in the state’s history and compares with $455 million in FY 2017. A vast majority of this increased revenue is a result of fracking.

5. The debt of Illinois’ public-employee pension bonanza is killing the state, says Adam Shuster. From the piece:

Only 4 percent of Americans working in the private sector have access to a defined-benefit pension plan as their sole form of retirement security. The rest of us must rely on some combination of 401(k)s, hybrid plans, or Social Security.

Yet the country is sitting on more than $4.7 trillion in public-pension debt at the state and local level.

To understand the problem, look no further than Illinois — Land of Lincoln and home to the nation’s worst state pension problem.

Here, politicians have made promises that they could never afford to keep. This has led to higher taxes, a constantly growing state debt load, diminished government services, and public-sector retirements that could run dry before many workers hang up their hats.

The Prairie State’s pension debt is the worst in the nation relative to the size of each state’s economy. Moody’s Investors Service estimates unfunded liabilities in Illinois’ five state-managed pension systems at $230 billion for fiscal year 2019, equal to about 26 percent of gross domestic product. Moody’s also projects that the debt will grow to an all-time high of $261 billion for fiscal year 2020, owing to investment losses in markets riled by COVID-19.

6. There’s nothing “progressive,” says Brad Polumbo, about the calls for student-debt cancellation. From the piece:

Similarly, a new working paper published by the University of Chicago found that canceling all student debt would give $192 billion in benefits to the top 20 percent of income earners, yet just $29 billion to the bottom 20 percent. In what universe is that “progressive”?

Yet student debt is not the only aspect of education where progressive-sounding Democratic rhetoric masks big-government policies that favor the well-off.

Consider also the shutdown of schools, public and private, for in-person education during the COVID-19 crisis. To be sure, it’s true that both Republican and Democratic elected officials embraced this unwise measure early on. But in the many months since, an undeniable trend has emerged. Democratic politicians, at the behest (it seems) of teachers’ unions, have fought to keep schools closed for in-person education despite clear evidence that keeping schools open is safe — while many Republican officials have fought to resume in-person education.

The distributional disparity here could not be starker.

Well-off parents are more likely to be able to help their children navigate “distance learning,” work from home, or even hire additional child care. But school closures put low-income families into crisis. They lose a vital source of child care that allows them to earn a living. And they often don’t have the resources to keep their kids caught up in school.

Lights. Camera. Review!

1. Armond White catches the Obama hagiographies, Obama Dream and The Way I See It. From the review:

Obama Dream was made by Italian filmmaker Francesco Pavarati, who followed the 2008 campaign stops, traveling 20,000 miles from Denver through 14 states to Election Night, giving the perspective of an infatuated outsider. Pavarati is astounded by the candidate and aghast at America itself. He offers fever-dream imagery of a nation as bewitched and enraptured as he was and apparently still is.

There’s no irony in Pavarati’s extended collage, which makes one think about the difference between this portrayal of demagogue-induced fervor and the insight that Marco Bellocchio brought to Vincere (2010), a modern look at Italy’s mass hypnosis under Benito Mussolini, the double vision of demigod and monster, plus the individual experiences of those most intimately related to that beloved dictator. Pavarati hasn’t learned from Bellocchio, so he is doomed to repeat history’s mistakes.

Although Obama Dream confesses its deluded perspective, this comes with misunderstanding American culture and politics. Pavarati reiterates stump-speech rhetoric through dazed images intended to “document” America on the verge of ecstasy and scenes of “great emotional and political participation.” This is as much self-delusion as it is reporting.

2. Kyle Smith digs Season Four of The Crown, royal warts and all. From the review:

Though allowing Thatcher a few splendid moments, Morgan can’t bring himself to show too much respect for her triumphs (though he revels in her 1990 fall) and so he largely skips over them to portray her as something of an embarrassing harridan and has himself a chuckle imagining Thatcher doing her own cooking and ironing. (These are supposed to be insulting, the kinds of scenes that make pretentious BBC twits think, “So middle-class.”) It is, however, the Charles–Diana dynamic that steers and defines the show. It remains a genuinely heartbreaking tale; Charles, forced to marry someone other than his true love, the married commoner Camilla Parker Bowles (played amusingly under a giant Farrah Fawcett fluff of blond hair by Emerald Fennell), is disarmed by the girlish lack of pretense displayed by Diana (who at the time was living with two flatmates in Earl’s Court, notable for being populated by Australians and other disreputables). He talks himself into marrying her after she seems to slip naturally into the royal family in a weekend visit to Balmoral, but then immediately regrets it. During their engagement interview, a journalist noted that the pair seemed “very much in love” and Charles replied, “Whatever ‘in love’ means.” Ouch. Morgan does not fail to make a smashing, grueling, devastating scene out of this.

3. More Kyle, who finds The Boys to be . . . super: From the review:

The Boys is a very left-wing work that nevertheless gives right-wingers much to feast upon. The comic book on which it is based, launched in 2006 by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson, reflects the mid-2000s Daily Kos-style paranoid fury about George W. Bush, Iraq, and the War on Terror. But in its second season, it gradually morphs into an unhinged allegory of white supremacism, anti-immigration sentiment, and, by implication, the popularity of Donald Trump. I generally find such veiled polemics to be boring in the extreme — hectoring, shrill, monomaniacal, bonkers, and ultimately hate-fueled in their underlying assumptions. Yet The Boys is one of the most amusing shows going, a satiric machine-gun attack on a gallery of cultural icons that have richly earned their drubbing.

The opening episodes of the first season, for instance, are a reminder that in 2018-2019, lots of previously interesting TV series became airless and rote as their teams of writers decided we wanted, say, Bojack Horseman to offer us a boring take on #MeToo. Remember when every ‘80s TV sitcom had to offer us a Very Special Episode on the dangers of drugs? After the Harvey Weinstein revelations of 2017, TV lurched in that direction, only with an added air of self-righteousness. I made it a rule to stop watching every series that I sensed was browbeating me, which was most of them. Instead of taking the opportunity to contemplate their own sins, showbiz types collectively decided that this was a time to lecture everyone else, mistaking themselves for Solons to whom we look for guidance and wisdom.

4. What? Even more Kyle? Well why not, since he wants to rope you into Ted Lasso. From the review:

All of the above is the predicate for the spot-on effectiveness of a wonderful sitcom on Apple TV+, Ted Lasso, about an American college-football coach who refuses to be dragged down by the prevailing English mood when he gets an unexpected invitation to coach a Premier League soccer team in Richmond, London. The team’s unofficial slogan is “It’s the hope that kills you,” but the sentiment is pretty widely applicable in a country of permanently low expectations.

Into the Richmond locker room saunters Jason Sudeikis as Ted Lasso, the personification of sunny skies, open spaces, and optimistic apothegms. He’s shamelessly, unapologetically nice. With his hedgerow mustache and his Texas twang, he looks and sounds like a parody of an American football coach. Folksy, thoughtful, and upbeat, he says he doesn’t even care about winning and losing on the field but about winning and losing at life. At first the English can’t believe this guy. Then they insult him. Then they slowly start to get him. It’s beautiful to watch. As a fella who was almost as great as Ted once said, first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then you win. I can’t think of another show that both nails the English way and shows why it’s so much better to be American.

5. Armond Encore: A sharp cultural criticism that finds both disappointment and greatness in The Godfather Coda. From the review:

The original opening scene at New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral crucially established Michael’s hypocrisy and guilt. It flashed back to the two most shocking things we ever saw in the movies: Michael’s hypocritical baptism/massacre montage (“Do you renounce Satan and all his works?”) and his fratricide of Fredo. Fredo’s death resonates, pulsing throughout Part III’s narrative. Michael cannot escape the guilt or the corruption; it even infects the Vatican, where Michael attempts a financial deal to help legitimize his family’s standing.

In Part III, Coppola finally acknowledged this hypocrisy (and his own personal complicity) through several scenes that essentially set Michael’s confession. This moral reckoning equates the saga to Greek tragedy. It is dramatically, spiritually necessary — despite our secular culture’s efforts to reject it. (That’s why Part III is rarely exhibited, that’s why the media preferred HBO’s The Sopranos.)

Part III is the moral statement that the world waited 16 years to see. Now, The Irishman gets false praise just to show that no lesson was learned. Reviewers attributed Coppola’s theme to Scorsese. But Coppola recognizes the Godfather phenomenon as opera and relays it to us as opera. The magnificent final half-hour intercuts a performance of Cavalleria Rusticana with another horrific montage of Michael’s inescapable treachery. Coppola’s filmmaking sophistication and cinematographer Gordon Willis’s imagery reach their zenith here; it’s a postmodern, mise en abîme masterpiece.

Elsewhere in the Conservative Solar System

1. Victor Davis Hanson savages a Stanford Daily writer who attacks him and the Hoover Institution. From the piece:

Larson charges, “Hanson also falsely claimed that there were widespread irregularities in the 2020 election. Hanson’s incessant spreading of nonsensical conspiracy theories is contrary to the very idea of the University as a source of knowledge.”

Are we to laugh or cry at that puerile tirade?

Universities encourage inductive reasoning to investigate challenging issues, not to dismiss them when they don’t fit political agendas. Aside from the fact that the referenced single television interview is hardly proof of “incessant spreading of nonsensical conspiracy theories,” it is a matter of record that there were well before the election and after dozens of ongoing lawsuits — most now dismissed, but some still being filed or on appeal — alleging that voting laws passed by state legislatures were in some states modified by state justices and bureaucrats, allegedly contrary to constitutional law. There were episodic discoveries of unusually large computer glitches that until found had resulted in votes wrongly transferred from one candidate to another and hundreds of affidavits of witnesses, whose authenticity is being adjudicated, that were produced to argue for widespread violations of polling rules.

2. At The College Fix, Christian Schneider reports on how that same Stanford University likely helped the ChiComs develop the facial-recognition technology it now uses to oppress its citizens, and especially the ethnic minorities Big Red so loves to hate. From the beginning of the article:

American universities partnering with Chinese technology companies to develop facial recognition and crowd behavior software threatens both U.S. national security and the safety of ethnic minorities within China, according to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Education.

The Education Department report redacts the names of the schools it found have partnered with China on surveillance technology. However, the crowd behavior research cited in the report closely resembles research conducted recently by Stanford University, one of the 12 schools currently being investigated by the department for failing to disclose $6.5 billion in foreign contributions in recent years.

The report, authored by the department’s Office of the General Counsel, criticizes U.S. colleges’ agreements with foreign companies, as such partnerships “can exploit the openness of America’s research institutions to serve malicious purposes.”

“This translates into foreign government access to American research projects and use of technology, created in part by American institutions, to oppress or control the people of China — and, conceivably, beyond,” states the report.

3. At Commentary, Noah Rothman explains how the forthcoming POTUS plans to come to the aid of Iran. From the article:

All the while, Iran has dealt with one of the earliest and worst outbreaks of COVID-19 on the planet. The outside world doesn’t fully understand the precise scale of the pandemic in Iran. But coupled with the Trump administration’s crippling sanctions on key economic sectors, its negative effects on the Iranian economy has been profound. The World Bank expects Iran’s gross domestic product to decline by 4.5 percent this year, on top of the 6 percent decline Iran endured over the last two years. The Iranian Rial lost half its value over the course of 2020, and inflation has surged to over 30 percent. The government has been forced to gingerly pare back its subsidization of consumer goods, raising prices on staple foods to unsustainably high levels. This is a risky prospect from Tehran’s perspective, as November 2019 produced some of the worst violence and unrest since the 1979 revolution, and all over the withdrawal of gasoline subsidies.

In sum, Iran is operating from a position of weakness, and the United States is well-positioned to press its advantages. But to hear President-elect Joe Biden talk about Iran, America’s top regional priority is to relieve the pressure on Tehran by seeking to revive the moribund JCPOA (aka, the Iran nuclear accords). And although he’s been vague about the terms he would seek in a new deal, the way Biden talks about the prospect suggests they might be even more lenient than the original.

In a telephone interview with New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, Biden appeared eager to revive the compact mostly in its original form. He criticized Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA in 2018, which followed the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 2017 confession that it could no longer confirm that Iran was fully implementing the agreement. If there is to be any catch, it would be that all parties would have to renegotiate a second JCPOA’s sunset provisions. After that time, Iran would have the international community’s tacit endorsement to pursue a nuclear breakout. And only then, after a second JCPOA had been cemented, would the Biden administration deal with pesky issues like Iran’s ballistic-missile program or its material support for terrorist groups and proxy militias across the Middle East.

4. At Quillette, Jonathan Kay reports on the inmates taking over the Haverford asylum. From the beginning of the piece:

“You have continued to stand as an individual that seems to turn a blind eye to the stuff that’s going on, as a black woman that is in the [college] administration,” said the first-year Haverford College student. “I came to this institution” — and here she pauses for a moment, apparently fighting back tears — “I expected you, of any of us, to stand up and be the icon for black women on this campus . . .  So, I’m not trying to hear anything that you have to say regarding that, due to the fact that you haven’t stood up for us — you never have, and I doubt that you ever will.”

The school-wide November 5th Zoom call, a recording of which has been preserved, was hosted by Wendy Raymond, Haverford’s president. At the time, the elite Pennsylvania liberal arts college was a week into a student strike being staged, according to organizers, to protest “anti-blackness” and the “erasure of marginalized voices.” During the two-hour-and-nine-minute discussion, viewed in real time by many of the school’s 1,350 students, Raymond presented herself as solemnly apologetic for a litany of offenses. She also effusively praised and thanked the striking students for educating her about their pain, while “recognizing that I will never understand what it means to be a person of color or be black or indigenous in the United States. I am a white woman with considerable unearned privilege.”

Not only did Raymond announce that she would be acceding to many of the students’ previously listed demands, she also reacted positively to the new requests that students put forward during the call. “All of the recommendations you’ve made here sound spot on and are excellent,” she said. “We can do those — and go beyond them.”

Since 2015, when Yale rolled over in response to student harassment of two husband-and-wife faculty members, such self-abasement rituals have become common — even if the prevalence of teleconferencing during the COVID-19 pandemic has given us an unprecedented opportunity to watch them unfold. A Haverford president can expect an annual salary of about $500,000. And before coming to the role in 2019, Raymond was a successful scientist who had herself helped smash glass ceilings in several male-dominated academic programs. But the moral hierarchy dictated by social justice runs directly opposite traditional hierarchies of accomplishment and professional authority. And the president’s repeated attempts to ingratiate herself to the students on November 5th made it clear which of these two hierarchies governed the proceedings. One student even saw fit to call out the school’s provost for “multi-tasking while eating on this call, despite the seriousness of this meeting, which we don’t appreciate.”

5. At Gatestone Institute, Khaled Abu Toameh reports that Arab leaders are warning Biden to not embolden Hezbollah. From the analysis:

Lebanese and Arab political analysts, politicians and journalists believe that a US return to the nuclear deal with Iran would ease pressure on Hezbollah, particularly the economic sanctions imposed on the organization’s leaders and supporters. They believe that once the sanctions on Iran are lifted, it would be easier for the Iranians to continue funding Hezbollah which, they say, is responsible for the current economic and political crisis in Lebanon. According to Lebanese sources, Hezbollah is causing delays in the formation of a new Lebanese government.

Marc Saad, a representative of the Christian Lebanese Forces party, said that Hezbollah was looking to make sure that it would hold more than one-third of the ministerial portfolios, with foreign affairs and security under its control.

In the view of many Lebanese, their country’s miseries can be alleviated only through increased international and local financial sanctions on Hezbollah, which functions as a state-within-a-state in Lebanon. Engaging with Hezbollah’s patrons in Iran, they argue, will further embolden Hezbollah and exacerbate the crises Lebanon has been facing for the past few decades.

“Lebanon faces a grim reality,” said Dr. Dania Koleilat Khatib, a specialist in US-Arab relations and founder of the Research Center for Cooperation and Peace Building, a Lebanese non-governmental organization.

6. At The Spectator US, Douglas Murray says Red China ought to pony up reparations for its global catastrophe. From the piece:

Anyone tempted to say that this is only because of the actions of the British government should look almost anywhere else. In America, the country’s GDP has suffered its worst ever fall-off while government debt has soared to over $27 trillion. In Australia, the state of Queensland alone is expected to rack up debt of more than $130 billion in the next couple of years. Everywhere the world’s economies are experiencing an unprecedented slump in GDP and a rocketing of government borrowing.

Happily, there is one major economy where this is not the case. Guess which one it is? China is expected to see growth of 1.8 percent this year. The only country where that is the case. Which is jolly nice for them. Or as one financial journal reported it this week: ‘China driving global recovery.’

I suppose you could put it that way. Personally I feel (and perhaps this is just the spirit of Christmas arriving early) a certain amount of vengeance when I read such stories. A vengeance which is always in too short a supply at this time of the year. But I resent the prospect of China walking away from 2020 spinning headlines about the positive economic message its economic boom sends to the rest of the world.

First, it is worth getting the historical record right. We still do not know whether the Wuhan lab was the source of the virus or whether the bat-eating story is true. Both are plausible. And both leave the question of whether the Chinese Communist party allowed the virus to come out deliberately or accidentally.

7. At Real Clear History, Francis Sempa reminds us of James Burnham’s 1950 neglected classic, The Coming Defeat of Communism. From the piece:

Burnham then set forth the five principal conditions that would spell the end of the Cold War: First, the end of Soviet-communist subversive activities within the U.S. and the West; second, the cessation of communist propaganda proclaiming world revolution; third, the total withdrawal of Soviet forces from all territory conquered or occupied since 1939; fourth, free and independent governments in the former satellite nations of Eastern Europe; and fifth, a significant modification of the structure of the Soviet regime. Remarkably, all of those conditions occurred between 1989-91.

A major contributing factor to the West’s victory in the Cold War was the Sino-Soviet split that began to emerge in the late 1950s, intensified in the 1960s, and that was brilliantly exploited by President Nixon in the early 1970s. In The Coming Defeat of Communism, Burnham hoped that China was “not altogether lost.” He advocated providing greater aid to Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist forces and urged support for resistance forces on mainland China. In his later writings, Burnham applauded Nixon’s opening to China, but also presciently warned that China could someday replace the Soviet Union as our main adversary.

In the concluding paragraph of The Coming Defeat of Communism, Burnham was uncharacteristically optimistic about the outcome of the Cold War. “The defeat of communism,” he wrote, . . . is . . . inevitable, because there are enough determined men in the world — and their number daily grows — who have so resolved.” “The issue,” he concluded, “is no longer in doubt.”


Westward ho could not have come soon enough for the New York Giants. The storied franchise had registered some terrific thrills in the early 1950s — from the team’s historic 1951 NL-playoff pennant win over the Brooklyn Dodgers to its 1954 World Series’ sweep of the Cleveland Indians. But within two years, the Polo Grounds was home field to a lousy team — the Giants posted 67-87 and 69-85 sixth-place finishes in 1956 and 1957 — watched by few fans (dead last in NL). 1957 would prove its last season on the banks of the Harlem River.

The Giants curtain call in New York was painful: a dismal 1-10 run. The team’s final win came in Pittsburgh, the second game of a September 21st doubleheader at Forbes Field, a 9-5 ,15-hit victory, with the W awarded to Ruben Gomez, the righthander who had played a crucial role in the Giants’ 1954 world championship. Gomez was the Giants’ ace in 1957, when he racked up a 15-13 record, with a 3.78 ERA.

The move in 1958 restored winning ways, with the team ending the season with a third-place 80-74 record. It had to begin, of course, with the first win.

And that came in the premier official MLB game to be played west of St. Louis: on April 15, 1958 at Seal Stadium, the Giants pre-Candlestick home. Against, of course, the Dodgers.

The Giants’ final Polo Grounds victory had come on September 8, 1957, when they bested Brooklyn and their youthful ace Don Drysdale by a 3-2 score. The 1958 first game of the San Francisco Giants would find their opposing pitcher to be the same towering Bum righty, now sporting “Los Angeles” on his uniform.

Facing Drysdale was Gomez, and that day the Puerto Rican native, revered on the island as El Divino Loco, earned the Giants their first win in the City by the Bay: scattering 6 hits and six walks, Gomez shut out the Dodgers, 8-0. In the Third Inning, he also picked up the team’s first hit, one of two on the day, accompanying a run scored and an RBI.

Ruben Gomez got a late jump on American baseball — he was a Giant rookie at the age of 25 in 1953 (he went 13-11). Traded in 1959 to the Phillies, he bounced around the Majors and minors until 1967. But he never stopped playing baseball: Woven through the decades, Gomez also played baseball in the Mexican League, in the winter in Puerto Rico — for 29 seasons! — and elsewhere (Canada) through the mid 1970s.

His overall professional career record is an astonishing 408-282. Gomez, who died in 2004, deserves uno poco more remembrance than the Gods of Baseball have given him.

A Dios

As we mark all these many years, on this Feast Day of Saint Nicholas, give us a gift: a heartfelt prayer, that National Review will persist, that it will be graced with true wisdom, that it will continue to wage the battle to protect those unalienable rights which the Creator has so endowed this last great hope of earth, that it will appreciate those whose selfless help earns our thanks-a-million.

Would that The Almighty’s Abundant Mercies Wash over You and Yours,

Jack Fowler, who awaits vexing questions and caustic comments at

National Review

Psalm Reader


Dear Thankful Jolter,

We’re putting this baby to bed a tad early because Your Humble Correspondent is losing the war against those powerful, somniating turkey vapors. Before the eyelids shut tight, we take note that on Thanksgiving Eve Donald Trump pardoned General Michael Flynn, Joe Biden revealed he was an Old Testament aficionado, Sidney Powell went to court to release Georgia kraken, and Michigan kraken too, and the Twitter Censors moved immediately to block link-sharing of such.

The questions remains: Will Donald Trump snatch the election that seemed to be secure in the psalm of Joe’s hand?

Down to business: Short links as appetizers, then onto the same, but all attended by an excerpt heapin’ helpin’. If your taste runs conservative, then what lies ahead is gut-busting de gustibust. Enjoy!

Short and Neat

Ryan Mills and Tobias Hoonhout argue Lin Wood might make Chuck Schumer the boss: The Lawyer Who Would Hand Joe Biden Control of the Senate.

Kevin Hassett is prepared: Here Comes the Biden Blame Game.

Fred Fleitz is concerns about Joe and Tehran: Stubborn Facts Facing Biden on Iran.

Rich Lowry unmasks the reality: The Coming Anti-COVID Restriction Backlash.

Victor Davis Hanson explains the city-mouse dependence on its country cousin: The Rural Way.

John Yoo assesses: Implications of the Flynn Pardon.

Jimmy Quinn has good news from the Secretary of State: Pompeo Predicts ‘Many’ More Mideast Peace Deals: ‘We Broke Glass”

Helen Raleigh demands a stop to Bejing know-towing: An Urgent Appeal to WHO: Let Taiwan Speak.

Tobias Hoonhout reports on the Golden State GOP’s success: Why California Republicans Stopped Complaining about Ballot-Harvesting and Embraced the Process.

Zachary Evans profiles scholarly fellow-traveling: America’s Elite Universities Hide Contributions from World’s Worst Human-Rights Abusers.

Joseph Sullivan tracks the upswing: U.S. Middle Class’s Exceptionally Long Decline – and Recent Recovery.

Zac Morgan explains why the First Amendment is at risk: Stunning Findings on Campaign-Finance Law.

Daniel Buck says the class is in session: A Teacher’s Defense of Betsy DeVos.

Itxu Díaz knows loco bureaucrats when he sees them: Spain’s Government Declares War on the Spanish Language.

Davis Harsanyi registers a no: Mandatory Voting Is Authoritarian.

Nicholas Pompella reflects on a lefty patriot: Harold Bloom: The Essential American Literary Critic.

Fred Bauer is mighty impressed by the Plymouth folk: The Pilgrims at 400: Granite Principles, Marble Men.

So is Cameron Hilditch: The 1620 Project.

And so is Rich Lowry: Our National Festival.

Kyle Smith sees plenty of clichés: Hillbilly Elegy: Ron Howard’s Inverted Mayberry.

More, Kyle, who also sees something ingenious: The Crazy Comedy of John Brown.

Brian Allen looks through the window: Tiffany Fireworks in Manhattan Stained Glass.

Here They Are, Hot and Tasty, with All the Trimmings

1. Ryan Mills and Tobias Hoonhout argue lawyer Lin Wood’s antics in Georgia might lose the GOP the special elections: From the piece.

The threats of boycott are putting the state’s top Republican leaders in a bit of a pickle, as they face a turnout-oriented race that will require the support of Trump’s populist and sometimes conspiratorial base, as well as traditional, moderate Republicans who are skeptical of the more outlandish claims by the president and some of his supporters.

They’re also wary of getting dragged into intra-party mudwrestling matches with folks like Wood, who have large followings among Trump’s most fervent backers.

Attempts to reach Wood on the phone, and via email and Twitter were not successful.

“I understand the concerns of the president’s most passionate supporters and we share them,” David Shafer, the chair of the Georgia GOP, wrote in a text message. “We are fighting to make sure that every lawful vote is counted and every unlawful vote rejected. In the end, the stakes are too high for us not to come together.”

Georgia Republicans who spoke to National Review said there is little room for error in the two races, which are both expected to be close. If even a small percentage of Trump’s followers boycott the races, they could swing blue, handing a one-seat Senate majority to Democrat Chuck Schumer.

2. Joe Biden will blame a double-dip recession on Donald Trump, but Kevin Hassett is here to say that he’d be quite wrong. From the article:

Before they storm the castle, perhaps the Biden team should make a list of their assets. The first asset is a strong economy. The COVID-19 pandemic recession likely ended in the third quarter of this year, when real GDP advanced a whopping 33.1 percent. The Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow estimate for the fourth quarter suggests it will post growth around six percentage points. Combining the two, that means that the economy will about return to the level of GDP it posted right before the pandemic began, back when we had the strongest economy in generations. So the “back” part of the Biden slogan is superfluous, as the economy will likely be back before he takes office. As has been discussed at length in this space, that agenda doesn’t build at all, but rather subtracts from economic activity. So it doesn’t build, we are already back, and it’s worse than the status quo.

The second asset is a vaccine. We are very close to the widespread availability of two enormously successful vaccines. More could well be on the way. Most Americans should be able to receive them by the spring. This means that the acceleration in the economy that is currently underway should, if we leave it alone, pick up steam as things head back to a post-pandemic normal.

The third asset is a likely Republican-controlled Senate that has already shown that it is able to pass significant stimulus legislation. But it is not going to hand out cash to blue states willy nilly as the House Democrats have proposed.

Which completes the setting. The economy is carrying enormous positive momentum into next year. Since the case load is spiking now, there is some chance that lockdowns will get worse before they get better. Firms around the country need to tread water for a few more months, after which they can return to normal. The risk is that there is a wave of bankruptcies between now and the late spring, that is set off by a return to widespread shutdowns. To face this risk, the administration needs to show it is serious about finding a compromise stimulus package, and cognizant that a promise of massive tax hikes next year is a negative for business sentiment. Businesses that are just hanging on with hope of a brighter future could well give up if that future includes a government that taxes away all their profits.

3. If there is to be a President Biden, when it comes to Iran, he’ll have to deal with critical and stubborn facts, contends Fred Fleitz. From the piece:

So make no mistake: For many Democrats, quickly rejoining the JCPOA will be payback.

The problem is, over the past two years, the nuclear deal’s enormous flaws have become indisputable. There also are new concerns about how the United States’ rejoining the JCPOA would destabilize the Middle East.

The Obama administration acknowledged when the JCPOA was announced in 2015 that it was imperfect and excluded safeguards against many threats posed by Iran, such as its missile program and sponsorship of terrorism. Obama officials claimed the deal had a narrow purpose: to keep Iran one year away from a nuclear bomb for ten to 15 years. They said this was the best agreement that could be reached with Iran, touted broad international support for it, and claimed the deal prevented a war with Iran.

For years, JCPOA defenders successfully refuted or discredited evidence of Iranian cheating on the nuclear deal. This became impossible, however, in 2018 after Israeli intelligence stole a huge cache of documents on Iran’s secret nuclear-weapons program. Indeed, the newly discovered Iran Nuclear Archive provided clarity on Iran’s nuclear program and its pursuit of nuclear weapons. The archive documents indicated that Iran’s nuclear-weapons program was far more advanced than it had admitted to the IAEA, that Iran had misled and lied to the IAEA and the international community about its nuclear program in disclosures required by the JCPOA, and that the Iranian government had taken steps to deceive IAEA inspectors after the JCPOA was implemented. The documents also suggested that some covert Iranian nuclear-weapons activities were still underway and revealed covert nuclear sites that Iran quickly moved to destroy before they could be inspected by the IAEA.

4. There’s going to be a doozie of a backlash by fed-up Americans to more COVID-restrictions, says Rich Lowry. From the piece:

The Right’s populism and limited-government impulse, which separated in the Trump years, will presumably be reunited in the push against lockdowns in a way that they haven’t been since the Tea Party.

“Lockdowns. Mask police. Curfews. What about freedom?” asked conservative Representative Jim Jordan in a recent tweet, forecasting things to come.

It’d be much better if we could find a prudent middle path through the next several months, as the pandemic enters its worst phase and as new vaccines arrive that will soon start changing everything. But a significant segment of the American public has lost its patience with a new normal that has, at times, been arbitrary and poorly thought through.

When the new virus first hit our shores and we knew much less about it, the case for lockdowns was strong to keep the health-care system from getting overwhelmed and to play for time (and better treatments). In retrospect, though, the nationwide lockdowns of the spring closed down some states before they experienced their initial waves of the disease, imposing economic, mental-health, and medical costs without much upside.

5. The city dweller dominates the culture, and laughs at the rural folk, but as Victor Davis Hanson explains, the balance of the two is vital to America’s success. From the essay:

The cities since antiquity been considered cosmopolitan and progressive; the countryside, traditional and conservative. In the positive appraisal, Western literature always thematically emphasized the sophistication and energy of cities, balanced by the purity and autonomy of the country.

More darkly, in the pejorative sense, the former of the cities were all too prone to Petronian decadence and excess; the latter outside the walls, to Aristophanic parochialism and rusticity. Aristotle adjudicated the divide in his Politics by arguing that the “best” type of democracy was in a sense the least — and thus the most rural (farmers by necessity would have less time to walk into town, loiter about, and as “agora-lounger” busybodies cram the assembly).

Much of these eternal radical differences transcend time and space. Even in the age of a mobile and transient population — and our omnipresent Internet, social media, cellphones, and telecommuting — the material landscapes, population densities, and need for physical work still explain radical differences in outlook and mindset. That eternal divide guided our gentry Framers. In classical terms, they took for granted that their farms and urban lives balanced each other and remedied the limitations of each.

That fact of the rural/urban dichotomy is underappreciated, but it remains at the heart of the Constitution — to the continuing chagrin of our globalist coastal elite who wish to wipe it out. The Electoral College and the quite antithetical makeup of the Senate and the House keep a Montana, Utah, or Wyoming from being politically neutered by California and New York. The idea, deemed outrageously “unfair” by academics and the media, is that a Wyoming rancher might have as much of a say in the direction of the country as thousands of more redundant city dwellers. Yet the classical idea of federal republicanism was to save democracy by not allowing 51 percent (of an increasingly urban population) to create laws on any given day at any given hour.

6. Just what are the implications of President Trump’s pardon of General Michael Fynn? John Yoo figures them out. From the analysis:

Although Flynn had pled guilty, the circumstances of the case had raised serious concerns about whether the government had proceeded properly. The FBI, for example, questioned Flynn even though it did not appear he had violated any law. In May, Attorney General William Barr ordered the case dropped. Under the Constitution, only the president has the responsibility and duty to see that “the Laws be faithfully executed.” From this clause flows the executive branch’s prosecutorial discretion — the sole right to decide what cases to prosecute or not. As I explain in my book, Defender in Chief: Donald Trump’s Fight for Presidential Power, in normal times, a president’s decision to drop a prosecution is final and unreviewable by any other branch.

But these are not normal times. In yet another example of yet another institution willing to twist yet more rules out of resistance to Trump, the federal courts would not accept the president’s exercise of prosecutorial discretion. Instead, federal judge Emmet Sullivan refused to allow the Justice Department to drop the case, and the full federal Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. upheld his decision. These judicial antics intrude into the president’s sole authority to enforce the law, and also pull the courts beyond their limited constitutional role to only decide cases or controversies between parties.

President Trump’s pardon not only ends any injustice to Flynn, but it restores the proper balance to the separation of powers. Courts will no longer claim the right to direct a prosecution that even prosecutors no longer wish to bring. Under the Constitution, courts are to decide cases or controversies, not to create them. The pardon restores the right of future presidents to direct prosecutions, including choosing the cases that represent the best outcomes for the use of limited federal resources.

7. Jimmy Quinn interviews Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who predicts more Middle-East successes are to come. From the article:

Already, the wheels of the administration’s Mideast project are turning again. Later on Sunday, Pompeo traveled to the Saudi Arabian city of Neom, where he met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. A State Department readout did not indicate that they discussed the recent normalization agreements, but according to the Wall Street Journal, citing Hebrew-language media reports and original reporting, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu joined them.

“I’m confident there’ll be more nations that will follow,” Pompeo told NR hours earlier, during the sit-down interview in the Emirati capital. “The reason I’m confident, by the way, is because it’s the right thing for those countries to do.”

Pompeo’s ten-day trip unfolded to the backdrop of domestic political turmoil and effectively served as a Trump administration farewell tour and foreign-policy victory lap. Visits to Middle Eastern countries highlighted what officials regard as one of the crowning diplomatic achievements of the past four years.

In his NR interview, Pompeo spoke to the strategic sea change that the administration contends made all this possible.

According to the secretary of state, it took the widespread acknowledgement of three factors to reach the Abraham Accords. In addition to acknowledgement of the central threat posed by Iran and Israel’s established place in the region, he said, it also required recognizing that while resolution of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict is important, “we can’t stand by as we have for 40 years and allow that conflict to be the precondition for further enhancement of peace and stability.”

8. Helen Raleigh argues WHO needs to break out of the Red China armlock and let Taiwan formally relate how it has fended off COVID. From the piece:

How did Taiwan do it? First and foremost, Taiwan took decisive action early. While Beijing and WHO were still busy downplaying the coronavirus’s human-to-human transmission risks, Taiwan took swift action as soon as it heard about the mysterious pneumonia outbreak in Wuhan. On December 31, 2019, Taiwanese health officials began to board planes and check passengers for fever and pneumonia symptoms before passengers could deplane. Taiwan also issued a travel ban on Wuhan residents as early as January 23.

Second, Taiwan used technology effectively to differentiate people’s treatments based on their risk level. For example, Taiwan launched an Entry Quarantine System on February 14, so that travelers can complete the health-declaration form by scanning a QR code that leads to an online form, either before departure from or upon arrival at a Taiwan airport. Those with low risk receive a health-declaration border pass via SMS (short message service) to their phones so they can get immigration clearance faster and get on with their lives, while those have higher risk are “quarantined at home and tracked through their mobile phone to ensure that they remained at home during the incubation period.” This targeted approach — rather than indiscriminate lockdowns — is what many Western scientists and health officials are now advocating through the Great Barrington Declaration, a public petition calling for an end to the lockdowns and returning life to its pre-pandemic norms, except for the most vulnerable groups of our population.

9. Tobias Hoonhout and Ryan Mills tell the story of the California GOP successfully turning the tables in the recent elections. From the article:

“The issue of ballot harvesting is we don’t like it. We don’t agree with it. However, it’d be political malpractice not to do it where the other side is doing it, and the other side has done it effectively,” California RNC committeewoman Harmeet Dhillon told National Review.

“This isn’t the debating club. This is about winning the election,” she continued.

Republicans pointed to how the law enabled the Democrat ballot harvesting machine to work in 2018, with tens of thousands in funding for operatives to hit the streets and collect ballots door-to-door and from favorable union halls.

“Some of those narrow margins they won by 2018 were simply from this staff-intensive massive ballot harvesting,” Whitaker claimed, adding that Democrat big-money fixations on Midwestern swing states helped mitigate the impact this time around.

Officials said that the GOP’s ballot-harvesting strategy of placing drop boxes in local churches, gun stores, and other friendly locations emphasized security, with one person assigned to each box to collect votes and hand them over to officials at least three times a week, in accordance with the state’s 72-hour window.

10. Zachary Evans has the incriminating photos of elite colleges in bed with global rogues. From the report:

Following a series of investigations by the U.S. Department of Education, various universities reported receiving $6.6 billion in recent years from countries including Qatar, China, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. The Education Department said it “believes this amount is a fraction of the true total,” and that these funds could be considered a “national security risk.”

Universities that receive donations from foreign governments are among the most elite U.S. educational institutions, and include Harvard, Stanford, Northwestern, Texas A&M, Cornell, and MIT, among others. According to Education Department records reviewed by the Clarion Project, between 2012 and 2019 Harvard has disclosed donations of $79,272,834 from China, $7,077,754 from Qatar, and $30,637,202 from Saudi Arabia. MIT has disclosed $83,358,344 in donations from Russia, $31,472,548 from China, and $83,100,000 from Saudi Arabia.

But these amounts represent only the tip of the iceberg of actual contributions because universities have tried to conceal a substantial amount of those donations, as Ryan Mauro, director of the Clarion Intelligence Network, said in an interview with National Review. For example, Cornell University disclosed the donations only after the Education Department began an investigation into the issues, and the university said it did not know why the funds were not reported in the first place.

“In many of these cases, especially when it comes to China, they simply don’t want the information out there. They want to get the Communist Chinese money, set up a program that then increases their tuition, get students to sign up for it, and then they make bank,” Mauro said. “It’s basically loads of free money, and it’s hard for a business to turn down a deal like that.”

11. Joseph Sullivan argues that special attention needs to be paid to America’s battered middle-class and median-household income. From the analysis:

The need for the government to borrow money to fund the transfer payments that plug the hole in household market incomes leaves America today unambiguously poorer, and more debt-saddled, than it would be if market-income growth had produced an equivalent increase. Issuing government debt to fund transfer payments redistributes purchasing power from tomorrow’s America to today’s. Transfer payments also have indirect economic and social costs, such as disincentives to work. A society where the median household’s income relies on government transfers to grow is, in ways large and small, unlikely to resemble one where the growth is coming from earned income. However significant these concerns ought to be to society as a whole, they are obscured by a focus on trends in the net-of-transfer figure rather than on the evolution of market incomes of households. Given this article’s focus on trends in society over time rather than household finances at a given moment, the chart’s focus on market rather than net-of-transfer income seems appropriate.

No matter what, the era of middle-class prosperity that feels like it could be end-dated to October 10, 2000, is never coming back. No policy can fully replicate the economic environment that prevailed at home and abroad before then. The question now is whether the incipient recovery of the median household income that lines up with the era that began on November 8, 2016, will continue. On this, the recovery of America’s median household incomes, regardless of political persuasion, we should all hope for continuity between the outgoing and incoming administrations.

12. The First Amendment is not as above politics as Our Founders had intended. Zac Morgan looks at the consequences of popular opinion and campaign-finance laws. From the piece:

You may think the Bill of Rights safeguards our liberties from the whims of public opinion. After all, as Justice Robert Jackson observed in the 1943 case of West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, “[t]he very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials, and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts.”

Well, you’d be wrong, as we’re reminded by David M. Primo and Jeffrey D. Milyo’s latest work, Campaign Finance and American Democracy: What the Public Really Thinks and Why It Matters. In this welcome addition to the discourse on the country’s campaign-finance system, the authors’ research illustrates the ways in which public opinion, often misinformed, has served as a basis for courts to bless the restriction of First Amendment liberties.

The Constitution says: “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech.” Yet the Supreme Court carved out an exception, allowing such a law if it deters the “appearance of corruption spawned by the real or imagined coercive influence of large financial contributions.” That exception comes from Buckley v. Valeo, the landmark 1976 case in which the Supreme Court struck down key provisions in the Federal Election Campaign Act while upholding others, including contribution limits.

Thus, the extent to which the First Amendment protects Americans’ ability to speak out about politics — whether publicly or privately; whether singly, in groups, or through the corporate form — is limited by the Court’s deference to people’s views about campaign finance and American democracy.

13. Daniel Buck has plenty good to say about the tenure of Betsy DeVos. From the article:

Consider my own school. Because of Obama’s guidance, it adopted a popular alternative system of discipline called restorative justice, which recommends a softer response to student behavior — a “conversation” in place of a detention. Unsurprisingly, studies of restorative justice find that, while suspension rates do decrease and disparities do shrink under restorative structures, the system brings with it an uptick in bullying and classroom misbehavior. In my own school, this system meant that a fight might result in a conversation instead of a suspension.

Our data improved; our classroom culture didn’t. Students crawled around under desks, letting expletives fly with impunity. While typical punishments rarely improve their recipient’s behavior, they do signal to other students that learning is important and that disruptive behavior is unacceptable. To allow such behavior benefits the offender while harming everyone else. Many schools had to do just that in an effort to adhere to the administrative mandates.

Obama’s guidelines were an executive-level virtue signal. Betsy DeVos reversed these superficial declarations and sought to actually address structural issues. Her first priority was school choice. To those unfamiliar, DeVos often analogizes this policy to a kid’s backpack filled with per-pupil funding. Wherever that kid goes, that school gets the money. In our current system, school funding comes largely from property taxes, meaning districts in affluent neighborhoods stay affluent and schools in poor neighborhoods stay poor. School choice is a reasonable answer to the progressive call for school-funding equity.

14. In Catalonia, Spanish is verboten. Itxu Díaz tells the story of the war on the language: From the piece:

Thanks to this new law, the only lingua franca in Catalonia will be Catalan.

As a Spaniard, it is difficult for me to explain to people outside my country what is happening here without sounding dire. But in many cities in Spain, children will not be able to study primarily in Spanish. In Catalonia, mathematics, science, and philosophy will continue to be taught in Catalan, as they have been for years, hindering the education of those children who don’t speak it. But this time, parents won’t be able to demand, via the justice system, that their Spanish-speaking child be educated in Spanish, which is a direct violation of the right to freedom of education as set forth in the Spanish Constitution.

The same will happen in the Basque Country and in Galicia, two other regions with their own minority languages, where in fact this discrimination of Spanish was already taking place — with the consent of the PNV nationalists, in the case of Basque, and the center-right PP, in the case of Galician. What has changed now is that the war on the Spanish language will be made official, sponsored by the Spanish state itself. The policy is about as intelligent as repeatedly hitting one’s big toe with a hammer to cure osteoarthritis.

15. David Harsanyi takes on E.J. Dionne and the authoritarians calling for mandatory voting. From the commentary:

“The hope is not that the United States of America tomorrow morning is going to adopt this,” E. J. Dionne, who is a Georgetown University professor of government, a Washington Post columnist, and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told BuzzFeed, “but we do hope that cities, counties, states would take a look at this and perhaps adopt it experimentally, the way, say, Maine has adopted instant runoffs.”

Some of us do not share the hopes of Dionne, a long-time proponent of forcing Americans to do all sorts things. The Constitution makes no stipulation that citizens must vote. It doesn’t even mention voting as an individual right. We have no civic duty to vote. I haven’t voted for president since 2000. I haven’t voted at all since 2004.

For me, this is a proactive political choice. But maybe some Americans don’t vote because they are anarchists, or monarchists, or nihilists. Some Americans might not be satisfied with any of their choices. Some might rather be watching cartoons. It’s none of Dionne’s business. The last thing we should do is make those who aren’t interested, motivated, or feel unprepared to make sound decisions act against their will.

16. Nicholas Pompella argues that the late Harold Bloom is uncancellable. From the article.

Bloom sees imprints of this gnostic spirituality in America’s literature. However strange it sounds, this is the basis of Bloom’s patriotism, which is of a peculiar left-wing variety that’s almost unheard of now. These atypical patriotic attachments make Bloom a liberal in a pure sense. He finds a tradition of radical individualism in American culture, with a through-line in every great American author’s work. This elides the history of early American Christianity. Bloom hardly addresses the contradiction. But it is true that many of America’s great authors were either skeptical of religion or outright disestablishmentarian.

So, why bother with Bloom? For one, his odd New Age leftist patriotism made him un-cancellable. He was that rare intellectual who defended America from the left. He wrote in 1994 that critical theorists and the identitarian Left were destroying the West’s artistic legacy. He even lumped “neoconservatives” into his list of offenders and named the collective hodgepodge the “School of Resentment,” which he believed flourished in nearly every college English department.

Bloom was impressive for never being cowed by his critics. He simply didn’t care. His artistic obsessions gave him the unblinking courage to assert that authors will always cease to create literature when they waste time scrambling to meet the ever-shifting goalposts of political correctness. As he notes in The American Canon, “social information . . . seems to me a peripheral gain of reading, and political awareness an even more tenuous dividend.”

17. Fred Bauer reflects on granite-captured Pilgrims, on the 400th anniversary of their arrival at Plymouth. From the beginning of the reflection:

An 81-foot-tall granite colossus, the National Monument to the Forefathers, sits on an ordinary side street in Plymouth, Mass. If not for a few faded signs, you wouldn’t even be aware you were approaching it. Then, suddenly, it springs into view: A giant statue of a woman, “Faith,” standing atop a pedestal made of four smaller statues with marble reliefs at their feet. The monument looks toward England and the Plymouth affordable-housing offices. Built in the 19th century to commemorate the arrival of the Pilgrims to America, it is a disorienting paradox: It has the trappings of an almost-ostentatious grandeur, from its name to its colossal size, yet obscurity rings it. Plymouth Rock, on the waterfront, gets the crowds and the commemorations; the National Monument to the Forefathers gets the occasional tourist group or lonely visitor. But, then, the colossus among the ordinary is a persistent theme within the American story.

The monument lists the names of Mayflower passengers and includes a quotation from Plymouth governor William Bradford, but the granite figures overshadow the text. Faith stands atop the monument pointing to the sky. The four figures at its base represent other virtues of the Pilgrim enterprise — Liberty, Morality, Law, and Education — and each bears allegorical emblems. Liberty carries a sword in one hand and a broken chain in the other, while on Morality’s lap sits a tablet inscribed with “God.” The marble reliefs underneath the figures highlight four pivotal scenes from the Pilgrims’ voyage. The two under Morality and Liberty portray the departure from Europe and the arrival in the New World, respectively. Beneath Law, Pilgrims and Native Americans sign a treaty. Beneath Education, the signing of the Mayflower Compact is represented. All four are images of transition — from one continent to the next, from one political and legal condition to another.

18. From abroad, Cameron Hilditch reflects on the 1620 Project. From the piece:

There’s good reason for the Mayflower’s staying power in the American psyche, but it may not be immediately obvious. It wasn’t the first ship to alight in the New World (we have Columbus Day to remind us of that). Nor was it the first ship to carry English passengers to America: Virginia had been granted a royal charter and settled decades earlier. The Mayflower pilgrims have no claim to uncharted waters or undiscovered countries. Their pathbreaking endeavor wasn’t geographic at all. It was political and, more specifically, constitutional.

The ship had set out for Virginia but ended up landing on Cape Cod instead, which was beyond the legal domain of the Virginia Company. To head off lawlessness and anarchy, the passengers and crew of the ship quickly came together to draft and undersign the Mayflower Compact, which functioned as a governing document for the community. Its purpose was to establish “a civil body politic,” in order to make “just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions and offices” for the new colony.

This compact, more than anything else, is what cemented the place of the Mayflower pilgrims in the annals of American folklore. Other settlers had been governed by written charters before, but those had always been granted by a king or a queen across the water. The Mayflower Compact, by way of contrast, was a written constitution framed by the people and for the people. The temptation to view the document as an historical overture, sounding notes and themes that would be played again in the old courthouse in Philadelphia, was irresistible for latter-day Americans looking back on it from a post-Revolutionary perspective.

19. Rich Lowry praises the Nation’s special day. From the article:

The holiday is associated in the American imagination — and in fact — with the ingathering of family and with warmth and plenty. The widely reproduced George Durrie painting from 1863, Home to Thanksgiving, depicts a couple returning to a snow-covered farm for the holiday and getting greeted by an older couple at the door of the house, welcoming them back to hearth and home. The even more famous Norman Rockwell painting from 80 years later, Freedom from Want, might as well be the continuation of the Durrie scene, now indoors. An elderly couple serves a big, juicy bird to a beaming family. (Rockwell painted the turkey from a real model, soon consumed, on Thanksgiving Day.)

For most Americans, the day functions as the great 19th-century promoter of the holiday, Sarah Josepha Hale, hoped it would. “Such social rejoicings,” she wrote in 1857, “tend greatly to expand the generous feelings of our nature, and strengthen the bond of union that finds us brothers and sisters in that true sympathy of American patriotism.”

As long as there’s been America, there’s been Thanksgiving, calling us home and eliciting our fellow-feeling, at least for a day.

20. Kyle Smith finds Hillbilly Elegy is another example of Hollywood’s ignorance of America’s white working class. From the beginning of the review:

Hollywood knows two registers when it comes to the white working class (WWC): sentimentalizing and condescending. WWCs are either cute, neighborly, and folksy, or they constitute a tawdry, alien life form. There are 130 million WWCs in our country, and yet nobody in Hollywood has the slightest grasp of them. With the plucky rural folk, it’s always about hearts overflowing with kindness or sinks overflowing with dirty dishes. Their veins surge with either the American dream or opioids.

Ron Howard’s career got rolling in one WWC cliché — Mayberry, on The Andy Griffith Show — and now he’s traveled a great distance to indulge another, the Middletown, Ohio, recalled so memorably and with such wounded pride by J. D. Vance in his 2016 memoir Hillbilly Elegy.

Howard’s movie adaptation for Netflix recounts the events of Vance’s book but lacks the feel, the personality. So much of its power was in its authorial voice, as was the case with Frank McCourt’s 1996 memoir Angela’s Ashes, which was poorly adapted by Alan Parker in a 1999 film. Hillbilly Elegy the movie has much in common with Parker’s film: It’s an Appalachian Angela’s Ashes. If Vance’s book was a page-turner with a message, Howard’s film is just one damn thing after another: fights, screaming matches, drug sprees, shoplifting episodes, police interactions. It gets to be unintentionally comic at times.

21. More Kyle, who finds The Good Lord Bird to be rather ingenious in its casting of Ethan Hawke as John Brown. From the review:

The Good Lord Bird, the just-concluded seven-part Showtime series adapted from James McBride’s novel, proceeds from a bizarre, crazy premise that turns out to be absolutely ingenious. My colleague Dan McLaughlin has suggested that Mel Gibson — a man with a chip on his shoulder the size of Kansas, a religious zealot, the owner of a pair of blue eyes that pierce like the tip of an arrow, all drawn together by Brownian grooming habits that tend toward the feral — would have been an ideal choice to play Brown, and I heartily agreed. Instead, now comes Ethan Hawke to fill Brown’s holy boots. Ethan Hawke? Hawke was a boy in Dead Poets Society and boyish in many films for many years thereafter. He developed some grit as an actor, but always suffered from a certain lack of intensity. Ethan Hawke as the living embodiment of righteous fury, stalking the landscape searching for sinners to smite? Ethan . . . Hawke?

Yes, Ethan Hawke. Hawke (who created the series with Mark Richard) is a superb choice to play the Old Man. Hawke is 50; Brown lived only to be 59. Close enough. Wearing a lunatic’s beard and crusty makeup, Hawke does look the part. As for conveying the internal furnace that drove Brown, who was born in Connecticut, all the way out to Bleeding Kansas in the 1850s on a self-assigned mission to hunt down and kill Missouri border ruffians — the redshirts who sought to import slavery into the new territory — Hawke has a clever approach. He asks us to consider Brown, a man so locked in his own era that his actions are scarcely comparable to us today, in 21st-century terms. Hawke’s Brown is a forerunner of a woke campus vice president for diversity. Today’s administrative class of progressive white allies leave us in no doubt that, had they been adults in the 1850s, they would have put their lives on the line to combat slavery. What if one of these guys were telling the truth? What if their stern insistence that racism is the chief problem facing America in the 21st century were not a pose, and what if you put arms in their hands and placed them in an era when racism was many times worse than it is today?

22. The beautiful Tiffany stained glass and other artwork at a Manhattan church get the full attention of Brian Allen. From the piece:

Looking at the altar, one sees that the main affair is St. Michael’s Victory in Heaven, and both artist and archangel certainly knew how to throw a party, but it’s a party where one of the guests doesn’t make it out alive. In the Book of Revelation, St. Michael’s leads God’s army in the final battle against Satan, kills him, and tosses him to Earth, where he tempts and torments us as the Devil. That’s the Methodist take, and since I’m a Methodist, that’s the horse I’ll pick. I know Jews see Michael through the Book of Daniel.

So, we have action. We have angels, and lots of them, from big angels with movie-star faces to little angel heads. We’ve got not just four archangels, which is what we Methodists allow, but seven. I’ve visited this church many times over the years, since the windows are splendid and the white rusticated stone of the church exterior is very appealing. It’s unusual in that, for a Romanesque Revival church, it’s not dark stone. The church was part of the development boom that created the Upper West Side in a short space of time from a quiet, nearly rural neighborhood. The aesthetic is brownstone, so St. Michael’s is a distinctive, inviting presence.

The windows are cinematic and have the sweep of a Cecil B. DeMille movie but not points of concentration, which allow reflection. Their message is in the abundance, not the particular. The viewer isn’t engaged with any deity or story but in conversation with an overall effect, which never becomes babble since the scenes are beautifully organized. That’s Tiffany. He made mass-produced goods, very high quality but with far more sparkle. He was pushing a medium that was new in terms of technology and capacity, and he took the best of both and went with it.

Elsewhere in the Conservative Solar System

1. At The Wall Street Journal, Shelby Steele exposes the man behind the Black Lives Matters curtain. From the essay:

Yet there is an elephant in the room. It is simply that we blacks aren’t much victimized any more. Today we are free to build a life that won’t be stunted by racial persecution. Today we are far more likely to encounter racial preferences than racial discrimination. Moreover, we live in a society that generally shows us goodwill — a society that has isolated racism as its most unforgivable sin.

This lack of victimization amounts to an “absence of malice” that profoundly threatens the victim-focused black identity. Who are we without the malice of racism? Can we be black without being victims? The great diminishment (not eradication) of racism since the ‘60s means that our victim-focused identity has become an anachronism. Well suited for the past, it strains for relevance in the present.

Thus, for many blacks today — especially the young — there is a feeling of inauthenticity, that one is only thinly black because one isn’t racially persecuted. “Systemic racism” is a term that tries to recover authenticity for a less and less convincing black identity. This racism is really more compensatory than systemic. It was invented to make up for the increasing absence of the real thing.

2. At Real Clear Books, Daniel J. Mahoney explains people should be reading Joshua Mitchell’s American Awakening. From the review:

Identity politics claims to be egalitarian, but in truth it radically separates human beings in a manner only previously seen in the totalitarian ideologies and regimes of the twentieth century. Identity politics sees no struggle between good and evil in every human heart, as in the classical and Christian understanding of free will, conscience, and moral responsibility. It has no place for the drama of human existence. Like the totalitarians of old, in numerous institutions in civil society, especially our universities, the new ideologues pronounce who is absolutely guilty, and who is innocent and pure, with a monstrous self-assurance based on the visible signs of evil and injustice (e.g., whiteness and “heteronormativity”). Such a world — at once racialist and ideological — becomes a perverse spiritual despotism dominated by tyrannical ideological clichés that allow the Woke to dispense with “the guilty” with remarkable impunity and cruelty. The old Christian anthropology cohered naturally with the requirements of liberal competence and civic responsibility since in a “mixed world of purity and stain,” imperfect human beings had to strive to “build a world together,” doing their best to respect one another as persons made in God’s image. Identity politics inexorably leads to soft or not-so-soft despotism, as the ontologically guilty are swept away, and those who “cover themselves with the fig leaf of innocence” become the beneficiaries of an omnicompetent (and arbitrary) state that “allocate(s) resources to the innocents and to their causes.”

Civic responsibility and moral accountability thus have no place in the ideological schemes put forward by the denizens of identity politics. Such a regime — and we are indeed in the process of creating a radically new political order — is at once anti-Christian (or anti-biblical) and profoundly anti-liberal. And it wars with every aspect of our moral and civic inheritance. Mitchell thus intimates that religious believers, partisans of liberal competence, and conservative defenders of our moral and cultural inheritance put aside their differences and come together to defend the conception of liberty and responsibility, under God, that properly undergirds a free society. This is the old American synthesis, and it remains eminently worth defending.  It is open to men and women of all races since it alone affirms “common humanity.” There is in truth no viable alternative that can sustain liberty and human dignity in a free republic.

3. At Commentary, Nicholas Eberstadt sees two paths ahead for a post-COVID America. He recommends the one of revitalization and hope. From the essay:

Washington has responded to the pandemic with an unprecedented peacetime mobilization of national resources. Congress has authorized trillions of dollars in spending to support distressed businesses and households, and the Federal Reserve System has committed trillions more — with no end yet in sight.

In relation to national income, today’s state outlays for the COVID crisis are comparable to our peak defense effort in World War II. Just as in the Second World War, we are now embarked on an enormous expansion of government reach and public debt.

Eventually we will achieve our national objective in the struggle against COVID-19. Victory in World War II was followed by rapid military demobilization and wholesale dismantling of wartime economic controls. But what of the post-pandemic era? How will we “demobilize” the super-welfare state hastily thrown together to prop up shaky businesses and cover shortfalls in personal income? How will we renew economic growth so we might, among other things, cope with our vastly increased public debt?

If we simply muddle through, we are likely to muddle into a nightmare — into an American future defined by a new socio-corporate welfare state; a stagnant, politicized economy; and deep financial dependence on officialdom, both elected and otherwise.

In such a future, democracy would be degraded, freedoms lost, divisions enflamed, tomorrow’s promise squandered. Were we to settle for such a future, we would be the Americans who chose against exceptionalism — who decided that being just another sluggish, demoralized “social democracy” was good enough for us and for posterity. To steer away from this grave danger, we need a very different vision of the future.

4. For Joe Biden, writes Rich Noyes at NewsBusters, no news proved to be great news. From the beginning of the report:

The left-wing news media didn’t just poison the information environment with their incessantly negative coverage of President Trump going into the 2020 election. They also refused to give airtime to important arguments of the Republican campaign — both pro-Trump and anti-Biden — which meant millions of voters cast their ballots knowing only what the media permitted them to know about the candidates.

To measure the true effect of the media’s censorship on the election, the Media Research Center asked The Polling Company to survey 1,750 Biden voters in seven swing states (Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin), six of which (all but North Carolina) were called for Biden (survey details below). We tested these voters’ knowledge of eight news stories — all important topics that our ongoing analysis had shown the liberal news media had failed to cover properly. We found that a huge majority (82%) of Biden voters were unaware of at least one of these key items, with five percent saying they were unaware of all eight of the issues we tested.

This lack of information proved crucial: One of every six Biden voters we surveyed (17%) said they would have abandoned the Democratic candidate had they known the facts about one or more of these news stories. A shift of this magnitude would have changed the outcome in all six of the swing states won by Joe Biden, and Donald Trump would have comfortably won a second term as president.

5. At Law & Liberty, our old pal Richard Samuelson reflects on America’s first official declaration of this important day, as stated by the first POTUS. From the article:

In this holiday we see how the peculiar character of the Presidency compliments our exceptional nationality. Constitutionally speaking, the President is merely the American CEO. His job is to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” and in his oath, he swears to “execute the office of the President” and pledges to “preserve, protect and defend the constitution of the United States.”  The oath says nothing about the American “nation.” Indeed the word “nation” does not appear in the Constitution, except in Article I, Section 8 when discussing relations with “foreign nations” and the “law of nations.” Strictly speaking, the President’s job is to put into effect the laws that Congress passes and to defend the “supreme law of the land.” Even so, the President is, in fact, head of state, and the leader of the American people. It is no surprise that the American president has, in time, acquired the trappings of a monarch — think of the entourage he travels with, the way he’s treated at the State of the Union address, the language with which we discuss the “White House’ and its parts, such as the “West Wing.” And a monarch is more than a CEO. He is the leader of the nation, in the classical sense of the nation.

George Washington set the tone for the office in many ways, none more so than in his Thanksgiving Proclamation, given in October, 1789, seven months after he took the oath of office. Why have such a proclamation at all? Where in Article I, Section 8 (the section that lists the powers the people gave the federal government) is the power to proclaim a federal holiday? In 1791 James Madison would criticize Alexander Hamilton’s assertion that the U.S. government has the authority to create a national bank, for nowhere in the Constitution did the people give the federal government the right to create a bank or to create a corporation (an entity that had traditionally been regarded as a “person” in the eyes of the law).   And fourteen years later, the Louisiana Purchase would tie President Jefferson in knots, for nowhere did the people give the U.S. government the right to acquire territory. Yet Madison lost the national bank argument in 1791 and by 1816 he had changed his mind about its constitutionality. Meanwhile, Jefferson didn’t stop the Senate from ratifying the Louisiana Purchase. In other words, he and Madison implicitly accepted that there are some powers that belong to government due to the nature of the thing, and when the people created the U.S. government they, of necessity, allowed it those powers without which no government can function.

The authority to proclaim a Thanksgiving might seem trivial to us — mere words, and an idle declaration.  But it is, in fact, fraught with meaning, for the assumption of such authority highlights the degree to which a President is, by nature, much like a monarch — albeit an elected one. Similarly, it points us to the limits of secular nationalism.

6. At Gatestone Institute, Giulio Meotti finds an American media cool with terrorist attacks in France. From the piece:

On Friday, October 16, an extremist Muslim beheaded a teacher, Samuel Paty, in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine. The New York Times headlined its article on the attack: “French Police shoot and Kill Man after a fatal Knife Attack on the Street”. It seems that the Anglophone media live in a world deaf to reality and based on imaginary victimization; they see racism where there is none, and they do not even know what to name it when it appears in the French streets to behead a teacher.

Associated Press immediately succumbed to an avalanche of criticism. The news agency again cancelled a tweet, one accusing France of “inciting“ hatred against Muslims after the wave of Islamic terror attacks the country just suffered.

“This is not only disgraceful but dangerous,” the journalist Agnès Poirier replied. “The Associated Press is inciting hatred against France and its people.” She too charged the American media with “malicious distortion of facts, ignorance and bad faith”.

In 2015, Associated Press had been quick to censor the Islamic cartoons of Charlie Hebdo. The reason? “Deliberately provocative“. They evidently have no idea what free speech is and appear uninterested in defending it.

7. At The College Fix, Sarah Imgrund reports that professorial malarky is alive and well at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where one lefty academic finds so much that’s triggering about Thanksgiving. From the article:

An assistant professor of anthropology at Indiana University of Pennsylvania recently talked to students about how to “decolonize” their Thanksgiving, arguing that the traditional pilgrims and Indians story is a false narrative that perpetuates harm and racism.

Professor Abigail Adams argued that “unlearning some of the myths that we’ve learned about Thanksgiving” is important because “they continue to perpetuate harm and misinformation about native people and continue to keep native people of the past… [so that they’re] not seen as real, contemporary people.”

She told students attending the online workshop that while the “Thanksgiving myth” has elements of truth, “we have to be honest about how America has treated indigenous people and we have to acknowledge that indigenous people continue to suffer in internal colonies or reservation systems as we call them in the United States.”

“And,” she added, “we have to acknowledge during Thanksgiving that we have inherited a land that is not rightfully ours because it was never ceded. It was essentially stolen from indigenous people.”

“This isn’t just a conversation about us getting the Thanksgiving story right,” she said. “This is a story about us acknowledging contemporary Native American people and to acknowledge that they also continue to suffer ongoing colonialism.”


Thoughts of Turkeys, and Turks, abound this weekend.

Of the latter: Righthanders Turk Farrell (his mom named him Richard Joseph) and Turk Lown (Omar Joseph to the folks) had decent MLB careers, with some distinction. Lown, who pitched for the Cubs, Reds, and White Sox over 11 seasons (1951-1962), racked up a 55-61 record in 504 appearances, mostly as a reliever. He led the NL in games in 1957 (67), and two years later topped the AL with 15 saves, that along with a 9-2 record. Lown has been credited, along with fellow ace reliever Gerry Staley, of being central to the White Sox securing the team’s first pennant in 40 years.

Farrell pitched for 14 seasons, from 1956-1969, for the Phillies, Dodgers, and Astros — for whom he took on a starting-pitcher role over five seasons (the ace of the staff, he represented the Astros, and the original “Colt 45s,” in three All Star games) — and had a career record of 106-111, with 83 saves.

By all accounts the Turks appeared in the same box score twice, the most interesting episode coming in a wild and wooly game — the second of a twin bill between the Phillies and the Reds — that commenced on Sunday, June 1, 1958 at Connie Mack Stadium in Philadelphia . . . and concluded there on August 11th. Brought in to protect a 10-8 lead in the bottom of the 7th inning, Lown dropped a popup and gave up a single, allowing two Phillies to score and knot the contest. In the top of the 8th, Farrell came in to relieve for the Phillies, but gave up a run, which the Reds got back in the bottom of the frame.

So into the top of the 9th the 11-11 game went, but so too did the clock. The curfew law in the City of Brotherly Love kicked in: With one on, one out, and the count 2-1 on Don Hoak, the umps ruled the game suspended. It was completed on August 11th, upon Cincinnati’s next trip to Philly. When play resumed, Farrell was back on the mound, and he stayed there through the 13th inning, when his throwing error on a Johnny Temple sacrifice attempt brought home the Reds’ go-ahead and winning run.

Before moving from Turks to Turkeys, we note that Turk Lown fought in the Battle of the Bulge and won the Purple Heart when some Nazi shrapnel tore up his thigh. A great man he was.

A few months before that happened, one of MLB’s two career Turkeys enjoyed a cup of coffee: On Sunday, April 23, 1944, in Boston at Braves Field, Cecil Washington “Turkey” Tyson, who also had the additional nickname of “Slim,” called up by the Phillies (temporarily monikered as the Blue Jays), pinch hit in the 9th for pitcher Chet Covington. Turkey popped up to third. And so ended his brief MLB career.

The other Turkey’s career lasted not much longer: Ewell “Turkey” Gross (which some may consider a culinary assessment) brought his anemic bat to Fenway Park in 1925, when he played in nine games for the Red Sox — including as starting shortstop on Opening Day in Philadelphia. It was an impressive debut: Gross smacked a triple and scored two runs. But his throwing error in the bottom of the 9th was the entrée for a two-run game-tying Athletics’ rally. The home team won in extra innings.

It was Turkey trots from then on: In nine games and 34 plate appearances, Gross managed three hits and two walks. He and his .097 batting average were released before April ended. A few years of minor league ball ensued. But let us note: In those nearly three dozen appearances at the plate, Turkey faced Hall of Famers Herb Pennock, Walter Johnson, and Lefty Grove.

Who among us would not give their eye teeth, beak, or pope’s nose, to have struck out against such Colossi?

A Dios

A day late, but is there ever a bad day on which to thank the Creator for the very special mercies he has granted to us, and to our founding? And to be thankful for something so small, but so monumental, so consequential, as the meeting between the Pilgrims and little displaced and buffeted man called Squanto? And for our own founder, who this week would have been 95? Let us give thanks aplenty!

May The Creator’s Salvific Graces Find Your Welcoming Heart,

Jack Fowler, who, post-nap, will accept tryptophan-mythbusting lectures at

National Review

Will the Kraken Get Crackin’?


Dear Weekend Jolter,

Admirers of Sydney Powell for her determined and skillful representation of Gen. Michael Flynn had to take the note-iest of note-takes when, as leader of Donald Trump’s post-election legal team, she promised to “release the kraken” and thereby show proof of a stolen presidential election, by millions of landslide-y votes, courtesy of sus ballot-counting companies birthed in places abroad and nefarious.

As the clock ticks towards approaching elector-certifying deadlines, game-changing kraken yet remain beneath the surface of the briny political seas. Will they breach soon? Reck havoc? Is there a strategic need (as we mix watery metaphors with things parched) to keep dry legal powder? Or will there be an Al Capone’s vault aspect to this?

Millions of the anxious demand: Get Kraken!

The demands made of this epistle are quite different: Provide links!

You shall find them aplenty. Short and sweet at first, thus satisfying the gods of G-Mail, and then many repeated (you will have to click on the READ MORE when this missives arrives at that point) avec big spoonfuls of delicious conservatism.

Have at it. Get cracking!


The $50,000 Question: Don’t Forgive Student Debt.

Drawing a Low China Card: Shunning the Trans-Pacific Partnership Was a Costly Mistake.

America Last: The Radicalism of Raphael Warnock.

Ixnay on the Fed Hopeful: No to Shelton.

Bordering on Stupidity: Biden’s Foolish Immigration Priorities.

Where’s the Kraken Beef: Trump’s Disgraceful Gambit.

Plentiful Displays of Brilliance and Erudition to Be Found on NRO

Michael Brendan Dougherty finds an establishment boondoggle: Federal Student-Loan Cancellation Is Bad Policy.

Robert Stein urges a Republican economic-policy rethink: A New Agenda for the GOP.

Mackubin Owens is concerned about access to strategic minerals: A Growing Threat from China.

Michael Auslin reports on a new handbook for taking on the ChiComs: China versus Democracy.

Jay Elwes finds the post-populist model a clunker: Boris Johnson’s New Look.

Jim Geraghty on Barry’s Benny-Hate: Obama’s Simmering Resentment of Benjamin Netanyahu.

Victor Davis Hanson considers the special elections: Marching into Georgia with the Senate in Sight.

David Harsanyi praises the Founders’ scheme: The Electoral College, Now More Than Ever.

More David, who’s creeped out by a hack: Raphael Warnock’s Blood Libel.

Michael Hendrix fingers the culprit: The Pandemic Isn’t Killing Cities. Housing Regulations Are.

Kyle Smith gags on Barry’s gag rule: Obama’s Ridiculous Call for Speech Police.

John Loftus on virtue-signaling front lawns: About Those ‘In This House’ Signs.

More Loftus, as he low-grades home-zoomery schooling: The Online Learning Crisis.

Related from Frederick Hess and Matthew Rice: The Real-World Cost of Remote Learning.

Ryan Mills answers Florida’s 15-dollar question: Florida Restauranteurs Warn Minimum-Wage Mandate Will Shutter Struggling Small Businesses.

Madeleine Kearns