National Review

The Real Miracle Was on 35th Street

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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

Editorials

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

Editorials

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 Healthcare.gov 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!

Baseballery

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 jfowler@nationalreview.com.

National Review

October for the Red-Compromised Hunter

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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.”

Indeed.

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

Editorials

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.

Baseballery

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 jfowler@nationalreview.com.

National Review

Blowing Through the Speed Limit

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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!

Editorials

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.

Editorials

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, Vox.com, 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.”

Baseballery

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 jfowler@nationalreview.com.

National Review

Psalm Reader

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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.”

Baseballery

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 jfowler@nationalreview.com.

National Review

Will the Kraken Get Crackin’?

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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!

Editorials

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 on whether a new POTUS and the remodeled PM will become BFFs: Boris and Biden.

More Maddie, this time from the depths of the culture war: Gender Ideology, from the Classroom to the Clinic.

Ryan Mills and Tobias Hoonhout find a Golden State phony: Gavin Newsom’s Disgraceful COVID Hypocrisy the Latest Frustration for NAPA Restaurant Owners.

More Tobias, who profiles a hit job: Chris Hayes, Jeff Goldberg Smear Madison Cawthorn Using Fake Quote.

Sarah Schuette rattles those pots and pans: ‘Making Mistakes, So You Don’t Have to’: America’s Test Kitchen at 20.

A Quartet of Solzhenitsyn Originals

The new English-language translation of the great Nobel Laureate’s memoirs – Between Two Millstones, Book Two: Exile in America, 1978-1994 – is out this week past, and NR has been thrilled to publish four excerpts:

1.  The exile wants not to be: Yearning for Home.

2. Richard Pipes dastardly kneecaps a White House visit by the consequential dissident: An Encounter Sabotaged.

3. The Nobel Laureate writes to The Gipper: Letter to President Reagan.

4. A writer concentrating, while something lurks: Wolves and Ephemerality.

Happy Birthday NR. Or, Time to Apply for Medicare?

On the magazine’s 65th birthday, we published James Burnham’s initial column from the 1955 premier issue: The Third World War.

The Mighty Quinn

Ace reporter Jimmy is on the press plane of the globe-trotting Secretary of State, and files excellent reports that merit your attention.

In Paris: Pompeo Kicks Off Post-Election Foreign Trip, in Low-Key Style.

In Israel: Pompeo Declares Golan Heights Part of Israel, in First Visit by U.S. Secretary of State.

In Jerusalem: Pompeo Declares BDS ‘Anti-Semitic,’ Turns Tables with Funding-Cutoff Call.

In Jerusalem: Iran ‘Ever More Isolated’ as Israel Forges New Ties.

In Tbilisi: Pompeo Visits Georgia, in Show of Support amid Russian Threat.

In Istanbul: Pompeo Takes Religious-Freedom Agenda to Istanbul.

Lights. Camera. Review!

Armond White likes Jeanne: A Second Joan of Arc Film Challenges Us All.

More Armond, who finds Ron Howard’s latest is a bunch of hee-haw hoo-haw: Hillbilly Elegy: Opie and Vance at Yale and Hollywood.

Editorials, Super-Sized

1. The call for student-debt forgiveness falls on deaf ears her. From the editorial:

There is simply no justification for forgiving student debt broadly, even with limits to the overall amount of forgiveness or the income of the beneficiaries. Forgiving college debt is a slap in the face to those who paid down their debts early, those who minimized their borrowing by attending cheaper schools or working during their studies, those who forwent college entirely, and those suffering under other kinds of debt. College-loan forgiveness is also a poor way to stimulate the economy in the short term during the COVID-19 malaise, because there are plenty of groups more deserving, because much of the forgiven debt wouldn’t have been repaid for years anyway, and because the forgiveness would probably be taxed. And it’s virtually guaranteed to be regressive, for the simple reason that Americans who went to college are a richer-than-average bunch. And if debt forgiveness is premised upon the idea that the current lending system is unfair, why should only one generation of borrowers benefit? This will create political pressure, as all “one-time” amnesties do, for repetition on behalf of future borrowers, who will be encouraged to think of debt as free money that will never need to be repaid.

Forgiving debt via executive order poses additional problems. Congress has unwisely granted the executive branch a broad authority to modify, compromise, waive, or release students’ debts, but this was clearly not meant to authorize a mass-scale jubilee, and there are solid arguments that courts should not even allow it. For instance, federal law also directs agencies to “try to collect” the debts they are owed, and as the late Antonin Scalia once wrote, policymakers don’t hide elephants in mouseholes: An obscure provision of the law shouldn’t be taken as a license to ignore the rest of it.

2. With the RCEP emergence, we argue the Trump Administration’s dealings with China have prompted a trade downside. From the editorial:

Still, the sheer extent of the trade zone should worry Washington, which has missed opportunity after opportunity to convert the grievances of China’s neighbors into meaningful policy victories. If previous ASEAN agreements are any indication, the scope of the RCEP is likely to expand over time. And those nations most willing to partner with the U.S. against China — Japan and South Korea — rank among the largest beneficiaries of the agreement. By abdicating our role in the region, we’ve allowed our allies to grow more dependent on Chinese corporations and consumers just as Beijing ratchets up its military and diplomatic aggression.

The Trump administration deserves credit for emphasizing the dangers of China’s economic malfeasance. For too long, Western leaders overlooked the trade barriers, industrial subsidies, and intellectual-property theft that gave China an unfair advantage in international trade. But over the past four years, the White House never delineated clear, cohesive goals for economic policy in Asia, often taking measures at cross-purposes with each other.

3. The Georgia Democrat senator-wannabe is one heck of a radical. From the editorial:

The Democratic candidate’s 2020 campaign promise is impossible to reconcile with his anti-Israeli rhetoric that goes beyond the 2019 letter. “We saw the government of Israel shoot down unarmed Palestinian sisters and brothers like birds of prey,” Warnock said in a 2018 sermon. “It is wrong to shoot down God’s children like they don’t matter at all.” Warnock issued that denunciation of Israel after Hamas led a mass incursion of the Israeli border, and the Israeli military responded with the justifiable use of lethal force. But in Warnock’s telling, Israelis are “birds of prey” who viciously kill innocent Palestinians, who are “brothers and sisters.”

Combine Warnock’s dehumanizing rhetoric that compares Israelis to animals with his praise of the notoriously anti-Semitic and anti-American pastor Jeremiah Wright and an even more troubling picture begins to emerge.

The name Jeremiah Wright might ring a bell: A former pastor to Barack Obama, Wright was at the center of the biggest controversy of the 2008 Democratic presidential primary after video of the pastor’s infamous 2003 “God Damn America” sermon surfaced. Obama said he hadn’t heard that particular sermon and condemned it; weeks later, Obama severed ties with Wright and Wright’s church. In 2009, Wright complained that “them Jews” wouldn’t let Obama speak to Wright.

But in 2014, Warnock was still defending Wright and praising Wright’s “God Damn America” sermon. “You ought to go back and see if you can find and read, as I have, the entire sermon. It was a very fine sermon,” Warnock said in a 2014 speech.

4. Fed candidate Judy Shelton gets our thumb’s down. From the editorial:

For many years, Shelton tirelessly advocated a gold-backed dollar, 0 percent inflation, and higher interest rates. After the financial crisis, when the U.S. had a prolonged spell of low inflation and high unemployment, she argued that the Federal Reserve’s efforts to foster a recovery posed too great a risk of raising prices. High and variable inflation, such as we experienced in the 1960s, is an evil that the central bank can and should avoid. Regarding inflation as always and everywhere the chief threat to an economy, on the other hand, is an error that can trap economies in depressions. It is an error to which Shelton’s ideology makes her especially prone.

President Trump has very different views. He wants low interest rates, does not worry about inflation, and shows no sign of caring about the gold standard. During his presidency, these views have been right in their practical upshot more often than not. What is worrisome is the extent to which Shelton has echoed Trump’s views without even acknowledging how they differ from the ones she has expressed in the past, let alone explaining her change of mind. She wanted tighter money in the depths of recession a decade ago, and then advocated looser money at the height of a boom. A steep increase in the price of gold, which once would have alarmed Shelton as an indicator of future inflation, has not given pause to her in her current incarnation.

5. Joe Biden’s immigrations ideas border (rimshot) on foolish. From the editorial:

But the Trump administration managed to get Mexico to agree to the so-called Migration Protection Protocols. This meant that asylum-seekers from countries other than Mexico could be made to remain in Mexico while their claims were adjudicated in the U.S. Also, under the safe-third-country agreements, asylum-seekers could be sent to Guatemala, El Salvador, or Honduras (whichever wasn’t their home country) to apply for asylum there. The theory was that if they were genuinely persecuted in their own country rather than simply seeking to come to the United States, they’d be satisfied to apply for asylum in some other nearby country; as it turned out, not surprisingly, most simply chose to go home when they realized an asylum claim wasn’t a ticket into the United States.

On top of all of this, the Trump administration began to tighten up on the lax way that asylum rules have been interpreted. Under the law, someone is supposed to be eligible for asylum only if he is targeted for persecution because of his race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion — a definition that shouldn’t apply to economic migrants or people who fear domestic or gang violence.

Biden is pledging to destroy this entire architecture, and his aides have been telling reporters that this is exactly what he will do. The rollback will court another border crisis that even the most migrant-friendly administration will be hard-pressed to manage (many of the photographs of cages at the border that spread on social media to condemn Trump’s policies actually dated from the Obama years). Biden also may bring into the U.S. the tens of thousands of asylum-seekers currently waiting in Mexico, which, barring stringent controls, would likely lead to them staying here forever.

6. The display of the Trump legal team has proven troubling at best, disgraceful at worst. From the editorial:

If there’s serious evidence for any of this, Giuliani and co. need to produce it immediately. Waving around affidavits at a press conference without allowing anyone to examine them doesn’t count.

The claims by the Trump team and its allies in court have been as far-reaching as possible and still haven’t come close to supporting the kind of feverish charges made yesterday afternoon. These cases have been dismissed or were whittled down until, as Andy McCarthy has noted, in Pennsylvania the Trump team isn’t even challenging enough ballots to come within hailing distance of overturning Joe Biden’s 83,000-vote lead — although we understand that the team is now attempting to file yet another amended complaint that would revive previously abandoned fraud charges and add still more.

The same is true in Michigan. Since courts generally won’t consider fraud claims that don’t involve enough votes to make a difference in an outcome, this is a major blow against the Trump litigation strategy. Giuliani tried to spin the Trump team’s withdrawal of its suit in Michigan as a big win — the litigation, in his telling, is no longer necessary because the team got the remedy it was seeking, namely a delay in the certification of the vote in Wayne County. In reality, the Wayne County vote was certified earlier in the week, even if the two Republicans on the board of canvassers now say they regret their vote.

Links Round Two, But This Time Attended by Big Ladles of Nutritious, Scrumptious Conservative Wisdom

1. Victor Davis Hanson considers how the Left will wage war in the Georgia special senate elections. From the analysis:

Remember how the stealthy Left won back the House in 2018 on the deception that veterans, conservative women, and moderate business people were running as Democrats to reclaim their party from the socialists?

So too radicals Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff will campaign as third-way Bill Clinton circa 1992 — on the correct assumption that the hard Left tolerates these deceptions for the greater good of getting power over the supposedly blinkered nation.

For a few weeks during the campaign, both Warnock and Ossoff will shed their former fringe-liberal positions on abortion, guns, support for fringe leftists, open borders, the new Green Deal, radical identity politics, and Israel. Then, like shedding a constraining exoskeleton, all that moderate sheath will be replaced by a renewed robust liberal coating after the election.

Just as the pollsters disgraced their profession to massage the vote in November 2020, so too will they at some point show a blue surge and all sorts of bizarre and contorted reasons why particular demographics have switched, flipped, evolved, and changed to supposedly make Georgia a blue state? If a disreputable Washington Post and ABC could claim that Trump was toast in being down in Wisconsin by 17 points five days before the election, why won’t they broadcast late-December polls showing Perdue and Loeffler as down by 10 and sure losers in Georgia?

2. Robert Stein advises a reconsideration of economic policy if the GOP is to assemble a viable political coalition. From the analysis:

In addition, the GOP needs to address crony capitalism, which often exacerbates the gap between the rich and poor. All else equal, more economic growth is always better than less, but all else is rarely equal. Citizens don’t just care how much they have; they care how much they have relative to their neighbors, their co-workers, their relatives, their friends, even the images they see in the media. The problem is that policies that directly redistribute income tend to deaden work incentives. Meanwhile, raising the minimum wage can throw low-skilled workers out of jobs.

One idea is to ban the use of stock options for corporate insiders. There are plenty of legitimate incentive-based reasons for a company to offer stock options. The problem is that options can also put pressure on insiders to lean on accountants or adopt business practices that temporarily fool investors into thinking a company is worth more than it really is, so the insider can cash out a massive payday. By contrast, restricted stock, where an insider has to hold stock for at least several years, doesn’t generate short-term thinking among insiders hell-bent on hitting artificial targets. Entrepreneurs who create wealth would have no problem shifting into restricted stock.

Another way to address cronyism is to gradually and dramatically raise capital standards for the largest financial institutions. Periodic financial crises have made it clear that when push comes to shove, the federal government will bail out the largest banks. One way to try to prevent a future crisis is to tightly regulate them, but regulators don’t always know what’s best, or they get captured by the industry. In addition, a tight regulatory regime opens the door to abuse, like requiring banks to pursue politically favored goals.

3. Boris Johnson has shed the populist skin. Jay Elwes finds a technocrat emerging, ready to do business with a likely new president across the Big Pond. From the article:

Johnson’s failure to secure a post-Brexit deal with the EU (at least at the time of writing) jeopardizes that carefully struck balance, and Biden has made his view of this very clear. In a tweet in September, he wrote: “We can’t allow the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland to become a casualty of Brexit. Any trade deal between the US and UK must be contingent upon respect for the Agreement and preventing the return of a hard border. Period.” The message is clear — fix Brexit, don’t mess up Ireland, then we’ll talk trade.

Johnson was Trump’s man in Europe. Could he ever play the same role for Biden? Perhaps. After all, Johnson has the great advantage of not really believing in anything, which makes him very adaptable. Biden’s victory could make compromise with the EU seem more appealing for Johnson, especially now that his more extreme advisers have left Downing Street.

Sections of the Conservative Party would regard any compromise with Brussels as a betrayal. But the British electorate is suffering from political fatigue. The last five years have been a frantic dash from one self-induced crisis to the next. Britain had a general election in 2015, the Brexit vote in 2016, another general election in 2017, and then another general election in 2019, and now the final Brexit deadline is approaching at the end of this pandemic year — the whole thing has felt like government by whirlwind. It has to stop eventually, and the mere fact of Biden’s victory could help to bring a conclusion.

Johnson’s time as a populist has come to an end. That may help to resolve his immediate political problems (although a new, ambitious climate plan announced on Wednesday may take him into dangerous territory with some of his base) and endear him to the president-elect. But when the next election comes around, the people who voted for Brexit and who gave him a landslide victory in 2019 may not be so forgiving.

4. More Boris: Madeline Kearns contemplates whether Johnson and Biden can be BFFs. From the article:

It is well known that the Democratic Party is more Europhilic than it is Anglophilic. The Obama-Biden administration was skeptical of the idea of Brexit to begin with. Obama famously warned that Britain would be at the “back of the queue” in terms of a U.S. trade deal, should it actually attempt to leave the European Union. In a post-Brexit world, a trade deal with the United States is of far greater consequence to Britain than it is to America. Johnson needs Biden to cooperate — but the dependency is not mutual for Biden.

Johnson has reason to be concerned that there may be personal, as well as political, hostility emanating from the incoming president. Biden has described Johnson as a “physical and emotional clone” of Trump. Perhaps this helps explain why Johnson, during his 20-minute phone call with Biden, went to great pains to emphasize his liberal bona fides. He invited Biden to the UK’s COP26 conference on climate change in 2021, and even gave Biden’s campaign slogan a try, saying that he is “looking forward to strengthening the partnership between our countries” and “building back better.” A senior official in Johnson’s government told CNN that there’s “relief on our side that we are going to be dealing with someone more consistent and reliable.” Which sounds like a very strategic leak.

5. More Kearns: The time has come for a pushback against the Gender Ideologues. From the piece:

So does Biden approve or disapprove of medicalizing gender-confused youth?

Certainly, the mainstream American media approve wholeheartedly. In one recent report, CNN highlights that “since the start of the 2020 legislative session, at least six states have proposed to restrict transgender minors’ access to gender reassignment treatments, including surgery and hormone therapy.” These states include South Dakota, Florida, Missouri, Colorado, and South Carolina. The story cites Ryan Thoreson, a Yale Law School lecturer and “an LGBT rights researcher” at Human Rights Watch calling such laws “unusual” as well as “alarming.” CNN concludes that “access to healthcare might be the latest, and perhaps most extreme, attempt to curb transgender rights among state legislatures.”

But in reality, the debate is not about “transgender rights” at all (gender-dysphoric people have the same rights and health-care options as everyone else), but whether it should be legal to permanently alter the fully functioning bodies and sexual development of physically healthy children. Progressive pundits frame the debate as being between the enlightened Left and the regressive Right, but this narrative collapses under scrutiny. For instance, Netflix recently promoted a series called The Baby-Sitter’s Club starring a 9-year-old “transgender girl,” Kai, whose mother previously told Good Housekeeping how she had come from a fundamentalist Christian community. Kai’s mother noticed that, as a baby, he preferred girls’ things, but she wasn’t initially “ready to face the fact that my one-and-a-half-year-old child was a girl.” Two years later, after “sidelong glances and questions” from friends and inquiring about Kai’s “feminine behavior,” her family began “questioning whether Kai was gay,” before ultimately arriving at the conclusion that he must be transgender. For anyone paying attention, this — the attempt to physically change a child’s body because he is exhibiting behavior the parent deems inappropriate for his sex — is clearly the real conversion therapy.

6. Obama’s disdain for Netanyahu gets the attention of Jim Geraghty. From the article:

The portrait of Netanyahu that Obama paints — he writes that the prime minister’s “philosophy neatly aligned him with the most hawkish members of AIPAC, as well as Republican officials and wealthy American right-wingers” — is a particularly unflattering one, and he closes on a dark note, suggesting that Netanyahu and other leaders in the Middle East never seriously intended to seek a lasting peace:

I couldn’t help feeling a vague sense of disquiet. The speeches, the small talk, the easy familiarity — it all felt too comfortable, almost ritualized, a performance that the four leaders had probably participated in dozens of times before, designed to placate the latest U.S. president who thought things could change. . . . In the months to come, I’d think back often to my dinner with Abbas and Netanyahu, Mubarak and King Abdullah, the pantomime of it, their lack of resolve.

There’s just one glaring complication to Obama’s cynical interpretation, and that’s that Netanyahu is still leading Israel, and in just the past few months his government has signed major diplomatic agreements with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Sudan. This would suggest that he is more than willing to sign treaties, as long as he feels certain that they won’t harm Israel’s security interests. Obama’s failure to facilitate diplomatic breakthroughs between Israel and Arab or Muslim states was not, it turns out, the fault of Netanyahu’s intransigence; it was the fault of his own unworkable approach to the problem. No wonder he’s still grumbling about it.

7. Red China’s dominance in strategic materials is something Mackubin Owens argues should worry America. From the piece:

Today, U.S. dependence on these strategic materials poses a looming threat to America’s position in the world. The U.S. Departments of Defense and the Interior have deemed 35 minerals “critically important” to national security and the nation’s economy, including 17 minerals (rare-earth elements, or REEs) that are acutely important to the manufacture of missiles and munitions, hypersonic weapons, and radiation-hardened electronics, as well as such consumer goods as cellphones and catalytic converters in automobile engines. To cite just two examples, each F-35 fighter requires 920 pounds of REE, and each Virginia-class submarine needs ten times that amount.

U.S. dependence on strategic minerals is a result of the failure of U.S. policymakers to recognize the inability of free markets and free trade to address strategic issues. In general, free markets are efficient in allocating resources, and free trade works best when all parties abide by the rules. But when actors such as the PRC flout the rules and pursue predatory policies to direct resources to their own strategic advantage, “free trade” becomes a dangerous fiction that undermines a truly liberal global system. China has repeatedly demonstrated an inclination to use its growing power to undercut accepted rules and coerce other countries.

We have seen this dynamic at work over the past two decades. On the domestic side, the United States was producing a diverse mix of minerals as recently as the turn of the century, but a variety of market forces led to a decrease in U.S. mineral production and processing. With the shutdown of many domestic mines, U.S. dependence on minerals from abroad has doubled. China is now a major supplier of half of the United States’ strategic minerals, including metals for electric-car batteries and weapons systems.

8. More Red China: Michael Auslin tracks the Commies fisticuffs with Democracy. From the beginning of the piece:

Whether due to the COVID-19 pandemic that began in Wuhan, China, or thanks to Beijing’s increasingly intimidating, if not aggressive, behavior in recent years, one of the more dramatic shifts in global opinion has started a long-overdue reconsideration of the liberal world’s relationship to the People’s Republic of China. In addition to a raft of high-level policy statements from the Trump administration, including the 2017 National Security Strategy, the 2019 Department of Defense Indo-Pacific Strategy report, and the 2020 “United States Strategic Approach to the People’s Republic of China,” a number of independent reports have been tracking Beijing’s predatory and threatening policies, whether in economics, security, or civil society.  After decades of turning the other cheek to Beijing’s abuse of the free world’s open societies, all in order to maintain trade relations that themselves were turning increasingly one-sided, liberal states have begun the process of recalibrating their ties to China.

This is no easy task for America or other states, after nearly a half-century of engagement. How to reduce supply chain vulnerability without crashing current manufacturing models, how to support Taiwan and Hong Kong in the face of Beijing’s aggressive actions, whether to keep admitting hundreds of thousands of Chinese students to American universities, how to keep doing business with Chinese firms while defending rampant theft of intellectual property, the “to do” list goes on and on. The difficulty is a testament to just how thoroughly the post-Mao PRC intertwined itself with free economies and societies around the world, while at the same time resisting much, if not all, pressure to liberalize in turn. Despite decades of optimistic comments from Western leaders, including U.S. presidents, China under current Chinese Communist Party (CCP) general secretary Xi Jinping has become an even more repressive and insular state, committed to the Leninist control by the CCP, and steadfastly opposed to liberal notions of free speech and free association. The PRC’s techno-authoritarian surveillance state has taken the world’s leading technologies, many originated in Western research institutes and universities, and twisted them into a comprehensive network of social control. Western businesses, media, universities, and the like have all submitted to Beijing’s pressure, self-censuring and apologizing for remarks critical of the PRC.

9. Michael Brendan Dougherty finds the calls for student-loan debt forgiveness to be an intra-class boondoggle. From the article:

Democrats want to prove they are the party of the marginal and oppressed. But they also want stuff for their kids.

Every Democrat constituency is currently trying to reinsert its policy goals into the discussion, as President-elect Joe Biden begins to announce the members of various task forces and select people to nominate for cabinet positions. It doesn’t matter if Joe Biden campaigned explicitly against these policies and beat other Democrats who advocated them — with a tiny majority in the House, and perhaps no Democratic control of the Senate, the party has an incentive to unite, and an incentive to at least hear everyone out.

Of particular interest are the affluent voters, who mostly live in the inner-ring suburbs and whose ongoing defection to the Democrats in 2018 and 2020 helped determine their success. These voters want their taxes lowered, via a repeal of Trump’s cap on tax deductions covering state and local taxes. They also want to see student debt canceled. Chuck Schumer, revealing little faith in the ability of Democrats to win special Senate elections in Georgia, announced rather preposterously that Joe Biden could, by executive order, cancel up to $50,000 of debt per student debtor. This roughly hints at the plan put forward by Senator Elizabeth Warren to cancel student debt.

10. David Harsanyi says now, more than ever, the Electoral College must be held sacrosanct. From the essay:

One must read to the end of the Washington Post’s editorial, “Abolish the electoral college,” before hitting on the real reason the Post’s editors want to upend the long-standing constitutional institution. “Mr. Trump’s election was a sad event for the nation,” notes the Post, “his reelection would have been a calamity.”

Maybe, maybe not. That’s a matter of partisan perspective. Those who are genuinely concerned about the future of American governance would be calling to strengthen institutions that provide political stability, not destroy them. But when your concerns about “American democracy” are really just a euphemism for partisan power grabs, you end up making lots of sloppy arguments. . . .

The fact that the Electoral College doesn’t align with the “popular vote” isn’t alarming, it is the point. If the Electoral College synchronized with the outcome of the direct democratic national vote tally every election, it wouldn’t need to exist. It isn’t a loophole, it is a bulwark.

The Electoral College exists to diffuse the very thing the Post claims is most beneficial: the “overbearing majority,” as James Madison put it. If majoritarianism is truly always the best means of deciding an issue, then the Post would support a mere majority of states being able to overturn the First Amendment or decide abortion policy.

11. More David: He attacks Raphael Warnock’s blood libel. From the piece:

The propensity of liberal politicians to frame every policy issue or conflict as racially motivated is a sad reality of contemporary American politics. But if that is to be our metric, then it’s worth noting that Israel is home to a sizeable Arab minority, one afforded more rights than Arabs anywhere else in the Middle East. The economic destitution of Palestinians is self-perpetuated by corruption, rigidity, and radicalism. Even the Arab League is slowly abandoning their cause. The notion that a wealthy liberal nation such as Israel, which signs peace agreements with any Arab country that engages, has an interest in keeping its neighbors poor is a complete fiction. The only faction in this quarrel arguing for ethnic partition is the one demanding a Jew-free West Bank.

Yet I remain skeptical that the issue of Israel resonates in any serious way with liberal Jewish voters — in Atlanta, or anywhere else. Consider that no president in history was as antagonistic toward the Jewish state as Barack Obama. Not only did he persistently undercut the elected government of Israel, but he also worked to prop up the theocratic, Holocaust-denying terror regime in Iran — a policy opposed not only by the conservative Likud party but by center-left Israeli parties as well. Obama’s binary-choice framing regarding war and peace with Iran, since debunked by events, was only slightly less ugly than his intimation that those who opposed him harbored dual allegiances. Yet Obama’s Jewish support remained high. This is partly because American Jews aren’t single-issue voters. It’s also partly because of the glowing coverage of the echo chamber created by the mullahs’ stateside champion, Ben Rhodes. But the most important explaining factor is that progressivism is displacing traditional Jewish values. Progressive Jewish organizations are far likelier to defend Ilhan Omar than to defend Benjamin Netanyahu. This, too, is a sad reality. It is more likely that the criticism of Warnock is aimed at Georgia’s Evangelical Christians, who are often more concerned about the security and prosperity of the Jewish state than left-wing Jews.

12. Signs of the Times: John Loftus looks at the virtue-signaling front lawns of America. From the piece:

More of these signs had sprung up weeks before the election, and even after. Some are placed outside boutique clothing stores, while others dot the town green. In every instance I saw the sign in a residential neighborhood, the home hosting it was quite nice, sometimes with Range Rovers or BMWs parked in the driveway.  Through the windows, you could see people working remotely, in cushy home offices, safely quarantined from COVID and other stark realities.

The signs are my own daily reminder that the term “Orwellian” has become a go-to cliche to describe genteel progressivism in 2020. In George Orwell’s 1984, the ministries of the totalitarian Oceania display the Party’s slogans on the pyramid-shaped government buildings. “War is Peace,” claims the Ministry of Peace that engages in endless wars. The mendacious Ministry of Truth wants everyone to know, “Ignorance Is Strength.”

Rich progressives want others to know how superior they are, morally and intellectually. In practice, however, they undermine their most cherished slogans, like Orwell’s Ministries. Black lives matter! Never mind that they balk at the idea of building low-income public housing units in their own town. Science is real! Never mind that they believe in gender fluidity and various “isms” that defy the very real study of biology.

In the Biden era, how many more “In This House” signs will pepper the most affluent zip codes across the country?

13. More Loftus: There’s a crisis in online learning. From the article:

McKinsey & Company sounded the alarm back in June. The report projected that, should in-class schooling return completely by early 2021, students with normal remote setups will have lost the equivalent of three to four months of in-classroom learning. Students who experience low-quality remote learning will have lost around seven to eleven months of in-classroom learning. And students who had no instruction at all over course of the pandemic will have lost close to a full year, even more, of in-classroom learning. The study also found that loss of learning affects one’s average lifetime earnings, economic productivity, and health.

Based on anecdotal evidence, college students are also struggling. Visiting my alma mater last month, I was struck by the weariness of students I encountered daily. It seemed they spent almost no time on academics outside their biweekly Zoom classes. Students who spent hours upon hours indoors, glued to their computers and phones out of necessity, were never truly engaged with their lectures, presentations, and homework. Sometimes other distractions, namely TikTok, took precedent. Meanwhile, few kids ever made the trek to campus, though it was open for outdoor studying. Given the option to return to class in person, most students opted out due to their own fears of COVID-19. I suspect, however, that there is another reason: an escalating sense of complacency. If you are someone who thinks American higher education has turned into a day camp, you will be saddened to hear that this problem has grown worse in the COVID era.

For college students in particular, the dip in education quality might only represent the tip of an iceberg — a potential mental-health crisis stemming from significant changes to school life. Results from one study hinted at measurable increases in anxiety and depression among college students, as one-third of the 30,727 students surveyed over the past summer had depression and anxiety. A study from Texas A&M University conducted surveys with over 195 students, 71 percent of whom said they experienced marked levels of anxiety since the outbreak of COVID-19 and subsequent changes to education experience. This being college, it’s fair to ask whether this leads to heavier drinking and drug use to alleviate anxiety and, quite frankly, boredom. It’s one thing to binge drink once a week at a party; another thing entirely to binge drink daily after hopping off a dull Zoom lecture.

14. Related: Frederick M. Hess and Matthew Rice report on the mounting evidence on the real cost of remote learning. From the piece:

If remote learning was as effective as in-person learning, even modest risks might seem unnecessary. But evidence suggesting that the costs of closure are substantial continues to accumulate. In a new national survey of more than 2,000 teachers and principals, the RAND Corporation this past week raised additional doubts about remote learning. The on-the-ground take of these educators closely tracks other warning signs we’ve seen.

After the chaos of last spring’s makeshift worksheets packets and sporadic Zoom lessons, it was a given that students would be behind this fall. Consistent with analyses that projected widespread learning loss, 66 percent of teachers surveyed by RAND reported that most students are less prepared to do grade-level work this year than last year. When contacted in October, just one in five teachers said they had covered the same content that they’d covered in the same time window last year.

Meanwhile, despite promises that this fall’s remote learning would be much improved over last spring’s stopgap efforts, the RAND survey suggests that the challenges continue. Teachers providing fully remote instruction report that only three-fifths of students have completed most or all assignments, while those providing fully in-person instruction say that 82 percent of their students have completed most or all of their work. And teachers in a fully remote setting were twice as likely as those teaching in person to report a dire need for strategies to keep students engaged and motivated.

15. Tobias Hoonhout and Ryan Mills check out Do-as-I-Saydist Gavin Newson’s restaurant antics. From the analysis:

Napa restaurateurs struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic met the news that California governor Gavin Newsom isn’t practicing the COVID guidelines that he preaches with outrage, despondence, and resignation.

“Disgraceful,” was the reaction from Napa Chamber of Commerce board member and world-renowned truffle chef Ken Frank. Could Newsom, who was pictured sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with prominent lobbyists at an upscale Napa Valley birthday dinner earlier this month, ever recover? “I don’t know. But he made his own bed, now he has to sleep in it,” Frank, who owns the Michelin-starred La Toque restaurant, told National Review.

“Extremely disappointed,” Bettina Rouas, owner of riverfront bistro Angele, added. “We’ve all been doing whatever we can to follow suit — and then to have our governor eat indoors, with a party of twelve, with no masks, and it’s not even family members. It was disappointing and disheartening.”

Mick Salyer, who started in the Northern California restaurant scene 30 years ago in the dish pit and now owns Napa staples Zuzu and La Taberna, described himself as a “pretty strong supporter” of Newsom. But the stunt, which the governor apologized for — “I need to preach and practice, not just preach,” Newsom said Monday — still stung, especially after photos were released showing the governor lied in his apology about the dinner being held “outdoor.”

16. More Tobias: The smearing of Madison Hawthorn, courtesy of a fake quote, gets deserved profiling. From the analysis:

Soon-to-be the youngest member of Congress, North Carolina Republican Madison Cawthorn has already faced a media onslaught that dishonestly cast a 2017 Instagram post, which showed his visit to Adolf Hitler’s World War II retreat, as neo-Nazi propaganda. Members of the elite press rekindled their misguided outrage on Monday in response to a quote that was falsely attributed to Cawthorn.

In a wide-ranging interview with Jewish Insider, Cawthorn admitted that “it does not look like Donald Trump is going to be the president,” described sharing common ground with Joe Biden on “infrastructure reform,” and expressed an interest in reforming America’s “terrible” foreign policy. He also said he was “looking forward” to meeting Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) — whom he described as someone “of conviction.”

For the mainstream press, however, the major takeaway was Cawthorn’s comment about his religious convictions.

“Newly Elected GOP Congressman Madison Cawthorn Has Tried to Convert Jews to Christianity” reads a fear-mongering headline in the Daily Beast.

17. Michael Hendrix argues that housing regulations are devastating America’s cities far more than a pathogen. From the piece:

The shortage of housing in America’s major metros is expected to worsen in the next year. “The supply of homes is tighter than ever, and home prices are growing at the fastest rate in years,” said Taylor Marr, the lead economist at Redfin. Upwards of 23 million Americans are planning to move thanks to the flexibility of work from home, according to Upwork, with major cities like New York and San Francisco expected to take the biggest hit in large part due to high housing costs. There are also more people crowding into existing living spaces, turning them into dry tinder for deadly contagions. More young Americans live at home now than during the Great Depression, with more crowding occurring in major metros. And New York City’s high rates of unemployment have likely done little to alleviate the city’s 45 percent rise in severe overcrowding, defined as more than one-and-a-half people per bedroom, since 2005.

Two classes of American city should concern us: those like New York and San Francisco with severe, decades-long housing shortages resulting in a lack of affordability (worsened by today’s economic woes), and those like Austin or Sacramento where heightened demand outpaces the capacity to build. New York City built fewer housing units over the past decade than during the Great Depression, and rents are still historically high even after pandemic-fueled flight. Meanwhile, only 128 people on net were moving to the Austin metro area prior to this year, even as the city become the priciest housing market in Texas.

In both cases, unnecessary and burdensome regulatory barriers are stifling housing supplies as demand increases, pushing up the cost of housing. Local zoning rules and permitting regulations dictate what you can build, where you can build it, and who can live where. As a result, rents and home prices have been rising faster than incomes for the past two decades, particularly for cities with good job markets — a trend the pandemic has only worsened.

18. Kyle Smith has had enough of Barrack Obama’s babblings about suppressing free speech. From the piece:

It’s crazy that Obama thinks the existence of a free press is, on balance, worse for his party than for Republicans; it’s crazy that Obama, a former constitutional-law lecturer, thinks there is some previously unnoticed truth clause in the First Amendment; it’s crazy that he thinks his idea would pass muster with a judiciary that is at the moment more supportive of the free exchange of ideas than in any previous period in American history, especially given the current makeup of the Supreme Court; it’s crazy that Obama thinks that Clinton narrowly lost her bid for the presidency, and Biden narrowly won his, because swing voters decided either that Biden is a socialist or that she is in league with pedophiles. It’s also crazy that Obama hasn’t noticed there are already “standards within industries” to limit the spread of information uncongenial to Obama’s party, revealed in Twitter and Facebook’s publicly admitted efforts to stop the New York Post’s reports about the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop from spreading, a determined effort by mainstream-media outlets to ignore or downplay the story, and the startling admission by the editor of the New York Times that he removed accurate information from an already-published story centering on a sexual-assault allegation against Joe Biden because Biden’s campaign complained.

Moreover, the examples Obama cites hardly make his point for him. There is as much evidence that Hillary Clinton was involved in a pedophile ring as there is that Donald Trump has been a Russian asset since 1987, but one of these fanciful theories languishes in the fever swamps of the information ecosystem while the other landed the cover of New York Magazine and was asserted by a conspiracy theorist, Jonathan Chait, whom Obama had previously legitimized by inviting him to the White House for an off-the-record chat.

19. Florida voters approved a $15 minimum-wage referenda, so Ryan Mills anticipates the wreckage of the economic hurricane. From the piece:

But it’s not hurricanes or algae or a global pandemic that have owner Jay Johnson worried about the future of his business. It’s the passage of a constitutional amendment by Florida voters earlier this month that will increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, and likely blow a massive hole in his restaurant’s already tight budget.

The state’s hospitality industry, which relies heavily on tipped employees and young workers learning basic job skills, will be hit particularly hard by the wage increases.

To survive, some restaurateurs are contemplating prices increases, staff cuts, payroll changes, and incorporating more technology. Others are pondering just shuttering their doors.

Johnson had hoped to have a strong restaurant he could one day hand off to his now-teenage daughter, if she were interested. But now he’s not so sure. The mandated wage increases “absolutely could” threaten Bubba’s viability as a business, he said. Restaurants like his – full service and family owned, catering to middle-income diners – are among the most vulnerable to the wage increases.

He understands that many Floridians who voted for the amendment were simply trying to give lower-wage workers a pay bump. But they didn’t see the full picture, he said, and local news paid the issue scant attention. Johnson estimates his labor costs for his 35 employees will increase by about $85,000 after the first year of the phased-in increase. That money has to come from somewhere.

20. James Burnham’s decades-long, ever-brilliant column, “The Third World War,” began with National Review’s premier issue. From the piece:

A traditional military commander, in his estimate before committing his forces to a battle or campaign, will never omit consideration of the geographical terrain over which he will have to move and fight. The totalitarian strategists of our century have learned to give the same scrupulous care to the political climate and terrain in which they plan to conduct their operations. To the strategists of the Kremlin, Hitler’s experiments seemed to confirm a general rule that modern democratic governments become paralyzed at the approach of elections; or, more accurately, that the energies of democratic governments become so obsessively focused on the inward electoral process that there is no surplus energy for positive and effective external action.

In the United States the 1956 election is already in process, troubled and intensified by the President’s illness. We can be sure that this outlook was a major determinant of the specific content of the current Soviet tactic — rather more basic, let us say, than the reputed temperamental differences between Khrushchev–Bulganin and Stalin–Beria.

The Geneva spirit as the Kremlin interprets it — that is, smiles as a cover for sharp, undercutting political blows — is admirably fitted to press the juice of an election year. Each political party in a modem democracy must, according to the Communist reasoning, strive to outdo its rivals in promising the voters peace and good times. Therefore no party can scorn the proffered smiles or promote an effective counter to the blows. To do either would prove it an Enemy of Peace.

21. Glasnost is expounded, and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn considers its wooing of the exile. From the piece:

During recent months, my name has been bandied about in the USSR. In rumors — that I’ve already lodged an application with the Soviet embassy to return. But also in public. Aleksandr Podrabinek suddenly (on March 5, 1987, the day of the Soviet denial about the publication of Cancer Ward, although this was mere coincidence) wrote a letter to the government saying that now, with the onset of glasnost, it would be intolerable hypocrisy to continue to hush up Solzhenitsyn, who had called for honest and total glasnost 18 years ago — and he suggested repealing the decree that had stripped me of citizenship, giving me the opportunity to return to Russia; and that I be published in massive print runs. He made the letter public one month later. Then, another month later, he, a man who’d been in internal exile not very long before, was suddenly visited in Kirzhach by the Communist Party district committee secretary for propaganda, bearing the official response that “the Central Committee is looking into Solzhenitsyn’s case.”

This response was not binding upon them in any way (although they most probably did have discussions of some sort). Was it to give me a pretext to jump first, if I really was pining to return? But my return right now would be a huge propaganda success for the authorities, especially if secured without concessions.

For my part, although I understood all the lack of commitment, the expedience of this gambit, my heart still beat faster. After all, the wall is slowly melting — it’s melting, and my exile is coming to an end! And, indeed, given my age, it’s one of my last hopes.

22. More Solzhenitsyn: The writer, attentive to his craft, while something lurks. From the piece:

But it’s all a matter of scale. This petty nonsense ended on September 8; on the afternoon of the 11th, I was sitting as usual at my little desk beneath the birches, near the pond, on our plot fenced off by wire netting about two meters high. No one from the outside ever came there, and my family were at least 100 meters away, up the hill. But here — only chipmunks dashing around. I wrote in this solitude summer after summer, my soul unbound. A steady breeze is blowing, concealing any rustling. My eyes are on the paper. I can hear nothing and see nothing in my peripheral vision. Only when I happen to look up do I see a magnificent powerful copper-colored creature passing by on a raised path a meter and a half from my head. Could a dog be that size? whose dog? and so noiseless? I turn my head as it goes by, and behind the trunks of the birch trees I see the first wolf, which has already gone past. Now it has turned to look at the one behind and is baring its teeth in its long snout, as if asking why it’s lagging behind. Now I can see the second one in full. It’s gone by to catch up with the first. They’re gone.

I didn’t have time to gather my wits or to prepare myself. There wasn’t so much as a stick to hand in any case. The wolves passed by calmly and utterly soundlessly along our usual well-trodden path through the property. My desk, though, was in a hollow, so that they had passed within less than two meters, level with my shoulders, and nothing would have prevented either of them from leaping at my throat. Had God delivered me? were they not hungry? (My neighbor says they don’t live around here: they come in from Canada following the starving moose; it had even been on local radio.)

23. Armond White likes Jeanne, a study in faith, skepticism, and power. From the beginning of the review:

The audacious French filmmaker Bruno Dumont presents Joan of Arc (Jeanne) as more than a sequel to his 2017 Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc. Having exhausted the ideas of the first film, Dumont goes back at the subject to find new relevance. He presents the saint’s final agony — her personal and public trial — so that her inquisition reflects today’s moral chaos.

Dumont changes Joan’s martyrdom at age 19 to the ruthless hostility faced by a girl half that age (ten-year-old actress Lise Leplat Prudhomme portraying the Maid of Lorraine). She suggests a pretty version of global-warming icon Greta Thunberg, but this daring young movie heroine won’t make the partisan Time magazine’s cover because Dumont isn’t interested in political conformity. Prudhomme’s innocence and her steady stare seem to go right through her examiners straight to us, challenging our sense of what it means to be young, inspired, dedicated, holy, mortal.

For Dumont, revisionist history — and revisionist filmmaking — is not a matter of do-over. It’s about starting over and for reasons that we must heed.

24. More Armond: In Hillbilly Elegy, he finds Ron Howard posing as a populist. From the beginning of the review:

Ron Howard’s film version of the J. D. Vance bestseller Hillbilly Elegy owes surprisingly little to Mayberry RFD or The Andy Griffith Show, which loom large in Howard’s acting career. Instead, movie auteur Howard adapts Hillbilly Elegy according to the pampered ignorance of his Hollywood upbringing. The film shows shallow — fake — empathy with the Appalachian background that begins Vance’s humble brag about leaving backwoods hollers and winding up at Yale University — the foundation of his Millennial bona fides as an expert on American class issues in the wake of Obama’s caste divide.

Class issues are what make this auto-biopic insulting. Opie, that is, Howard, seems insensitive to personal facts of upward mobility. Vance (played by husky Gabriel Basso) goes to Yale after serving a tour of duty in Iraq, hooks up with a beautiful Indian co-ed (Freida Pinto, who tastily resembles cooking show star Padma Lakshmi), then looks back on his crude, slatternly family with semi-affection.

Affection is mostly shown to Vance himself, through the film’s awkward dependence on flashbacks-within-flashbacks (from Jackson, Ky., to Middletown, Ohio), that depict his struggle more melodramatically than that of the fortunate, ungrateful child in Stella Dallas. But not even Stella Dallas herself (Barbara Stanwyck’s most affecting film role in King Vidor’s classic 1938 weepie) was as spectacular a loser as Vance’s drug-addicted mother Bev (Amy Adams), who is the epitome of underclass victimization.

From the Conservative Solar System

1. At The Wall Street Journal, Jason Riley exposes the elite’s hatred of Justice Clarence Thomas. From the article:

Justice Thomas has long argued that racial preferences not only stigmatize black achievement but are far more likely to help those who were already better off rather than the black underclass in whose name these policies are advocated. When the likes of Joy Reid knock him for this view, they are acting in their own self-interest, not in the interest of most black people.

This divergence in opinion between intellectuals and the broader society isn’t unique to blacks. White intellectuals don’t speak for most whites, either. Still, confusing the wants and needs of most black people with those of black elites can lead to dire consequences for the former. Blacks overwhelmingly support school choice, for example, while groups like the NAACP, which claim to speak in the interest of the black poor, oppose vouchers and want a moratorium on public charter schools. That position benefits the NAACP, which is rewarded with donations from teachers unions, but how does it help a poor family with children trapped in a chronically failing school?

The killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis earlier this year brought nationwide calls from black activists, elected officials and the media to “defund the police.” But when the people forced to live in high-crime neighborhoods were consulted, only a small percentage cited overpolicing as the problem. A Gallup poll released in August reported that 81% of black respondents wanted the police presence in their community to remain the same or increase, while only 19% wanted it reduced. In a separate survey released last year, 59% of black residents of low-income neighborhoods said that “they would like the police to spend more time in their area than they currently do,” versus only 50% of white residents.

2. At the Kirk Center, Francis Sempa reminds us of Reinhold Niebuhr’s assessment of the crisis of our civilization. From the article:

Niebuhr called liberals “soft utopians” whose primary faith is in “progress.” Liberalism, he wrote, fails “to understand the tragic character of human history.” Emerging from the French Enlightenment, liberalism, Niebuhr explained, believes in the perfectibility of man as the eventual destiny of historical progress. Liberalism, he wrote, is “primarily faith in man; faith in his capacity to subdue nature, and faith that the subjection of nature achieves life’s final good.” Liberalism, he continued, is a form of “blindness” on the part of, mostly, intellectuals for whom God is rationalism, progress, and reason. “It is a blindness,” Niebuhr insisted, “which does not see the perennial difference between human actions and aspirations, … the inevitable tragedy of human existence, the irreducible irrationality of human behavior, and the tortuous character of human history.”

Liberals mistake progress in science, technology, and knowledge for advancement in human nature and behavior. Such illusions, Niebuhr wrote, should have been refuted by the horrors of the twentieth century. “Since 1914,” he wrote, “one tragic experience has followed another, as if history had been designed to refute the vain delusions of modern man.” Yet, liberals maintain their faith in historical progress — their faith in man as the center of the universe. To Niebuhr, this was a profound spiritual crisis. “[T]he modern world,” he wrote, “does not believe in sin. Our secular age has rejected that doctrine more whole-heartedly than any other Christian doctrine.”

Human beings, Niebuhr explained, are not perfectible. They “are both strong and weak, both free and bound, both blind and far-seeing.” Throughout history, humans have shown a lust for power; this is especially true in the political realm. Humans are not always or even mostly virtuous. Progress in science and knowledge, after all, has coincided with genocide and war.

3. At The Pipeline, Jack Dunphy considers how citizens should defend themselves, if the police will not. From the article:

One can well imagine how CNN and their ilk would report matters if there had been even the slightest evidence that Trump loyalists had been the aggressors in these “clashes.” Indeed, though CNN was meticulous in naming the Proud Boys and the Three Percenters among the Trump supporters, implying without actually stating that these groups were the source of the troubles, nowhere in their report will you find any reference to Antifa or Black Lives Matter.

This is the type of willful blindness that arouses suspicion and contempt of the mainstream media among conservatives, even those who under ordinary circumstances would be disdainful of groups like the Proud Boys but nonetheless would stand with them if forced to choose between them and the Marxist attack squads seen terrorizing senior citizens, women, and children on Saturday.

All of which raises the question: Now what? Will the 73 million Americans who voted for Trump, even those who never considered attending a rally or sporting a MAGA hat, will they allow themselves to be abused in public by these self-appointed monitors of public discourse? If we assume Joe Biden is sworn in as president on January 20, dare we also assume he will make any effort to tame these violent fringes of the far left?

4. At The Washington Times, Joseph Curl reports on Barack Obama’s continued America-bashing. From the article:

Mr. Obama’s dim view of America is mirrored by former first lady Michelle Obama. As her husband wrapped up the Democratic nomination in 2008, she let fly her real feelings: “For the first time in my adult lifetime, I’m really proud of my country.” Until then, she apparently was not a fan.

Of course, The Washington Post loved Obama’s new America-bashing book, offering this insight in a piece by Eugene Scott.

“To some pundits, the election of a Black man signaled the beginning of a post-racial America. But Trump’s election signaled the exact opposite, and perhaps the beginning of an unapologetic embrace of White-identity politics that had not been seen at the top levels of government in decades. By calling it out directly, Obama could lead some Americans to entertain the idea — and perhaps do some self-reflection — that perhaps they would not have, had it come from any other person than one of the most popular politicians in America,” Mr. Scott wrote Monday.

Perhaps Mr. Obama — the first Black president in history and now worth some $40 million — will one day see himself as emblematic of America’s promise.

5. At Gatestone Institute, Con Coughlin reports on how the EU’s lax security empowers Islamic terrorists. From the beginning of the piece:

The latest wave of Islamist-inspired terror attacks to strike Europe has yet again exposed lamentable flaws in the ability of European security agencies to provide adequate protection for their citizens.

In all three instances — the attacks in Paris, Nice and Vienna — it has emerged that those held responsible for carrying out the attacks had links to global jihadi networks that went undetected by European security officials.

Moreover, the ease with which some of those involved in the attacks were able to travel freely across the continent has once more raised concerns about Europe’s lax border controls as defined by the European Union’s Schengen Agreement, and the ability of radicalised jihadis to exploit them.

In the most recent attack in the Austrian capital Vienna on November 2, it transpires that the 20-year-old gunman who killed four people and wounded 22 others before he was himself shot dead by police had travelled to neighbouring Slovakia in July to buy ammunition.

This was after the terrorist responsible for the atrocity, Kujtim Fejzulai, had been released early from prison in December after serving two-thirds of a 22-month term for trying to join ISIS in Syria.

6. At America, J.D. Flynn argues against the abortion alternative and tells of the joys and challenges of raising Down Syndrome kids. From the reflection:

But I have realized they are not unique because they suffer. They are unique because they do not hide suffering well. It does not occur to them that suffering might be secret or a source of shame. I mask anxiety with a veneer of confident affability. I know how to make it seem I am doing better than I am. I have picked up the idea that I should project strength, independence and poise.

My children have no such pretenses. They are exposed and vulnerable, and they challenge me to live that way. It rarely makes me comfortable. But I have found it often leads to real intimacy and authentic friendship.

My children do not exist to teach me lessons, but they have. They have taught me that it is a gift to spend time in the company of someone, with no thought given to the passage of time or the tasks to be completed. They have taught me that independence is a myth and interdependence a strength. They have taught me that love comes from seeing a person as they are and not from technocratic assessments of what they can do

7. At The College Fix, Ashley Carnahan reports on a Miami Law School professor who anticipates his demise because he refuses to apologize for pro-Trump social-media activity. From the article:

A pro-Trump professor at the University of Miami Law School said he expects school officials to fire him for his social media comments in support of President Donald Trump and his other comments on the 2020 presidential election.

Dan Ravicher, a law professor at the private university, recently came under fire for his tweets leading up to Election Day as well as his tweets in the subsequent days. Ravicher warned of potential protests if Trump won re-election and he also made comments about the voting patterns of African-American and Latino voters.

Now, Ravicher said that he believes he will be fired soon by the university.

“It’s all very ambiguous as a result of the university sending mixed signals,” Ravicher told The College Fix via Twitter messaging on Monday, in response to questions if there had been any disciplinary action taken against him and if he will be teaching in the spring semester.

A Dios

Prayers please for Hunter, Francesca, Gerald, and Valerie, all who are dealing with cancer and tumors. The cancers are aggressive and vindictive. The hosts are decent and dignified. Prayers too please for this institution, which has just marked its 65th anniversary. We here say our own, of thanks, for those who have stood by National Review through thick and thin, and quite frequently in the foxhole.

Between your receiving this and the next missive falls Thanksgiving.  Thank you Squanto! May yours be deeply meaningful, enjoyable, filling. Save Your Humble Correspondent a drumstick.

Would that Our Creator’s Divine Peace Descend on You and All,

Jack Fowler, a man with an email account of jfowler@nationalreview.com should you seek to correspond.

 

 

National Review

With Ballots Toward One, With Chicanery for All

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Dear Weekend Jolter,

A deserving anniversary — that being the 400th of the Mayflower Compact — gets little attention, an exception being Joseph Loconte’s excellent NR piece. 1619 obstructs 1620. We’ll have none of that though, so let us recall that The Mayflower was the scene of an exceptional act:

The Mayflower Pilgrims, as they came to be called, were committed to “the advancement of the Christian faith” and designed and signed their compact “in the presence of God.” But no one seemed to have a theocracy in mind; rather, they sought to form “a civil body politic.” Importantly, their new political community would be framed by “just and equal laws” — laws that would apply without discrimination to all their members. Here, at the very beginning of the American story, one can discern the concepts of equal justice and government by consent of the governed.

What has come of this legacy? Of this momentous thing that lit the long fuse that exploded in 1776? At the end of another excellent NR piece, Victor Davis Hanson has an unnerving summary of America’s trajectory:

We are a third-world state now with malleable laws, an inert Constitution, voting that cannot be certified beyond a reasonable doubt within a reasonable time, with a media that massages rather than reports the news, and pollsters who seek to modulate rather than reflect likely voting.

Let us gird our loins. But before we do, be aware that so much more excellence awaits below. Do remember the new drill: Short and sweet, just the links, at the outset, then, further down, big ladles of tasty fare.

The Appetizers

So say The Editors, Joe’s gotta know: Brief Biden.

Victor Davis Hanson is reminded of Arnhem: An Election Day Bridge Too Far.

Rich Lowry says Democrats were obtuse to their agenda’s unpopularity: The Blue Trickle.

More Lowry, on a bad idea: The Completely Insane Electoral College Strategy.

Andy McCarthy thinks the operation was a success, but as for the surgeon . . . : A Successful Presidency, a Maddening President.

Tobias Hoonout on a billionaire’s strategy flop: The Failure of Mike Bloomberg’s Data-Driven Approach.

More Tobias, profiling a doozie of a Fifth Estatist: Isaac Chotiner, the Least Curious Journalist in America.

Jim Geraghty shakes the MSM’s busted Magic 8 Ball: Did Campaign Coverage Ever Suggest the Senate GOP Would Have a Good Year?

Michael Brendan Dougherty registers disgust with the unholy ways of Holy Mother Church: The McCarrick Whitewash.

More MBD, on Lefty projecting: The Final Act.

Zachary Evans on whether people will jooze an unangelic Democrat: Raphael Warnock’s Checkered Past Under Scrutiny ahead of Georgia Senate Run-Off.

Andrew Stuttaford on the leftward ho Tory PM: Nanny Boris Johnson, Censor and Food Policeman.

Joseph Loconte reminds us of that great thing the Pilgrims wrought. Resisting the Leviathan: The Mayflower Compact.

David Harsanyi makes the case for grievances: Against ‘Unity’.

Dan McLaughlin says to figure Joe, look at Grover: Republicans Can Learn from the 1892 Election.

Cameron Hilditch on failure to communicate, not: Trump’s Greatest Innovation.

Ramesh Ponnuru fills in a blank: A Missing Part of a Pro-Worker Agenda.

Fred Bauer says you can’t spell GOP without ABE. Returning to the Party of Lincoln.

Steve Hanke takes the temperature of the Sick Man of Europe: Turmoil in Turkey.

Armond White calls out the wanna-GLAAD Awardees: In Ammonite, Artistry Competes with a Demand for Allyship

More Armond, castigating silver-screen high-fiving of election fraud: America Assembled Epitomizes Hollywood Political Junk.

Peter Tonguette reflects on Ian Fleming’s 007: James Bond in Literature and Cinema: A Retrospective.

Madeleine Kearns ain’t liking the new Rebecca: Last Night I Dreamed I Watched a Better Movie.

And then from Special Post-Election Issue of NR

Rich Lowry checks the battle maps of our political culture war: The Promise and Peril of Trump’s Cultural Politics.

Matthew Continetti labels the Dem leaders: Schumer and Pelosi Are Bourbon Democrats.

John J. Miller sees no room in the Democrat Inn for defenders of the unborn: Dan Lipinski and the Decline of Pro-Life Democrats.

Charles C. W. Cooke checks out the MSM’s centrality to the Biden effort: Biden’s Media Campaign.

John McCormack on the Blue Wave that wasn’t: The Democrats’ Shortfalls in Congressional Elections.

Before We Get to The Full-Figured Links . . .

We propose two items of interest. One ifs that the Godfather of the WJ, Big Jim Geraghty, has penned a new “Dangerous Clique” novel, titled “Hunting Four Horsemen.” Your Humble Correspondent has ordered a copy — it comes out next week — and recommends the same. Here is the Amazon link.

The second item: Notre Dame University Press is publishing the English-language edition of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Between Two Millstones, Book 2, Exile in America, 1978-1994. NR will be publishing some excerpts from this literary triumph next week, but in the meanwhile, the great Daniel Mahoney, who has written the book’s foreword, joined Ignat Solzhenitsyn and ND professor Carter Snead for an excellent Zoom discussion of the memoir. Watch it here.

Editorials

1. He could be President come January. We argue Biden deserves the national security briefings. From the editorial:

Nothing is normal or uncontested in 2020. But it now seems all but certain that the initial state vote counts will conclude with Joe Biden having enough votes in enough states to claim well over the required 270 electoral votes. Donald Trump contests the legitimacy of these vote totals, but even taking the view most favorable to the president’s position, it would require an event unprecedented in American history to overturn them. As a matter of simple prudence, it is wise for everyone to plan as if Biden has a significant likelihood of being inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States at noon on January 20, 2021.

The most essential step to plan for that possibility is to begin giving Biden daily intelligence briefings, so he can be up-to-speed and ready to assume the role of commander in chief on January 20. There is precedent for this. In 2000, as the recount dragged on, the Clinton administration resisted treating George W. Bush as president-elect. Al Gore, then the vice president, was already receiving regular intelligence briefings. In early December — a month after the election, but a week before the Supreme Court brought the legal challenges to an end — the Clinton administration relented and began giving Bush the regular briefings being received by Gore and Bill Clinton. This was not a concession of the recount fight, but a responsible, if belated, recognition of reality. The 9/11 Commission later noted that the delayed transition as a whole “hampered the new administration in identifying, recruiting, clearing, and obtaining Senate confirmation of key appointees.”

A Dozen and Then Some Nuggets of Intellectual Gold, Mined for Your Mind

1. Victor Davis Hanson sees voter concerns over election irregularities as being eminently justified. From the essay:

Still, half of the American people might not be so angry had just one state — as Florida in 2000 — failed to deliver a final, transparent, and timely tally.

But by 2020, we had 20 years to learn from Florida’s endless days of recounting and warped chad auditing. Although the suspicious circumstances were different — this time state executives and judges changed the state voter laws to enhance mail-in balloting in a way inconsistent with the Constitution’s directives — states were nonetheless courting the same disaster of delays, popular outrage, and inconsistent rules of counting and certification.

Now two decades later, Americans, in third-world fashion, suffered five Floridas — Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania — all of which for some reason could not produce a transparent result on Election Day or in the hours shortly after. All had been warned that in some cases new computer voting systems, or in other cases radical transformations to mail-in voting, or in all cases insufficient awareness to transparency might once again provoke popular distrust. And in addition, a deadlocked Supreme Court ignored clear warnings that state judges and executives were overruling constitutionally mandated legislative laws of voting.

So the public is mystified that the center of global high tech; the bastion of transparency and civil rights; the birthplace of the computer, the Internet, and automatic voting; home of the $4-trillion Silicon Valley masters of the universe; and the nation that vowed never again to suffer another 2000 has again failed.

A nation whose tech wizardry can ferret out a single improper tweet and block an individual account in a nation of 330 million surely can use such omnipresence to ensure a nearly instantaneous voting result in certified machines. Or is the opposite true? Precisely because of that scary omnipotence, we need to be ever more vigilant?

2. Obtuse Democrats, says Rich Lowry, did not realize the unpopularity of their agenda. From the piece:

Biden clearly owes his victory (which President Donald Trump, of course, is still contesting) in large part to Trump’s personal unpopularity. In races where the president wasn’t on the ballot, in contrast, the weakness of the Democratic Party stood exposed and it paid the price.

If the former vice president succeeded in making the presidential race a referendum on Trump, Republicans succeeded in making House races, in effect, a referendum on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the woke socialism that animates Democratic activists and draws so much attention. (Nancy Pelosi posed for a cover of Rolling Stone with members of the Squad, and Ocasio-Cortez is on the cover of the latest issue of Vanity Fair.)

Bolstered by the media, Democrats were so certain they were riding the tide of history to inevitable pickups in the House that they didn’t pause to take note of the unpopularity of their agenda and the left of their party.

Republicans took the socialist label and hung it around the neck of Democrats. It was especially devastating in South Florida, where voters from Cuba, Venezuela, and Colombia came to the United States to flee socialism and have no interest in voting for anyone whose party includes outright socialists. Republicans knocked out incumbent Democratic representatives Donna Shalala and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in heavily Hispanic districts.

3. More Lowry: The notion that state legislatures will appoint electors in defiance of vote outcomes is completely insane. From the piece:

In the Florida vote controversy in 2000, the Florida legislature considered appointing electors when it looked as though, amid all the contention and rival court rulings, that the state might miss the deadline for filing electors.

State legislatures acting in the current context would be an extraordinary imposition. This scenario presumably involves the courts, first, rejecting Trump’s legal challenges because they lack the requisite evidence. So the vote counts in the key states would stay the same and yet the legislatures would act anyway.

Republicans control the legislatures in these states, and they are subject to pressure from Trump and his supporters, but this would be asking them to defy the will of the people as expressed in a vote that would, by this time, have been litigated and perhaps recounted and audited.

One can only guess that the political reaction against this would be thermonuclear. This must be one reason why the Republican leader of the state senate in Pennsylvania, Jake Corman, has so far been steadfast in saying the legislature is not going down this route.

4. It Is Certain: Jim Geraghty shook the MSM’s busted Magic 8 Ball, which always answered in the negative when asked if the GOP would have good prospects in the Senate. From the analysis:

In today’s environment, a perception of impending sweeping Democratic Senate wins is shaped by campaign consultants who want their clients to be covered as winners, reporters who are inclined to cover Democratic candidates as winners, and by pollsters who badly misjudge the electorate in ways that make Democratic candidates look like big winners.

The 500 most influential voices who shape the narrative about campaigns and elections are overwhelmingly psychologically, emotionally, politically, and perhaps even financially invested in the success of the Democratic Party. There are simply too few voices who dispute the narrative of impending Democratic landslides. When someone like Robert Cahaly of the Trafalgar Group polling firm comes along with survey data that run counter to that narrative, he is mocked, dismissed, and repudiated. Thus, much campaign coverage turns into wish-casting; at least once a cycle, a Great Southern Democratic Hope is covered with great hype and predictably disappointing election results.

At some point, in the not-too-distant future, you will probably see some mainstream national publication with a glowing profile of Jon Ossoff or Raphael Warnock or both, declaring that they are generating unprecedented enthusiasm and excitement in Georgia. You may even see a comparison to young Barack Obama. You will probably see polls that show the Democrats either leading or quite competitive.

5. Jooze news: As Zachary Evans reports, Raphael Warnock, the Democrat in one of the Georgia senate run-offs, seems to have a problem with our brothers and sisters in Abraham. From the article:

Over the past week, Loeffler and Republican groups have focused attention on controversies from Warnock’s past, including his ties to a number of radical black theologians and an allegation of domestic violence.

Warnock has expressed support for Reverend Jeremiah Wright, President Obama’s former pastor, who has been criticized for anti-Semitic remarks, including a now-famous sermon in which Wright proclaimed “God damn America,” and, in a separate incident, said that the U.S. government created AIDS to kill African Americans.

Wright’s “God damn America” remarks were “extracted from its theological and rhetorical context and looped to the point of ad nauseam,” Warnock said in remarks to the Yale Divinity School in 2013. According to Warnock, Wright’s sermon was consistent with “Black prophetic preaching,” in which “preachers are expected, indeed encouraged to speak the truth, tell Pharaoh and tell it like it is with clarity, creativity and passion.”

About six months into President Obama’s first term, Wright blamed Jews for not letting him speak to the president.

“Them Jews ain’t going to let him talk to me,” Wright told the Daily Press of Newport News, Va. in June 2009. “They will not let him to talk to somebody who calls a spade what it is.”

Loeffler earlier this week accused Warnock of defending Wright’s anti-Semitic comments, which Warnock denied.

6. Unholy Mackerel: Michael Brendan Dougherty finds the Vatican’s McCarrick Report most disturbing, and gutless. From the commentary:

Hundreds of other little threads are left unexplored. How was it that experts on clerical sexual abuse knew and spoke openly about McCarrick’s reputation as creepy “Uncle Teddy” back in 2006, and McCarrick was fending off lawsuits throughout that decade, but the future cardinal living with him claimed, implausibly, to have no knowledge of anything beyond what he terms sordid rumors? The idea is ludicrous for anyone with the most passing familiarity with the culture of gossip among Catholic priests. And yet, that same cardinal is set to be in charge of the next conclave? What was it about John Paul II and figures such as McCarrick and Marcial Maciel, both prodigious fundraisers and obvious liars?

Why was McCarrick — so well-known for his reputation — living at a seminary in his retirement? Why was he one day hastily moved out into another parish rectory? What exactly did Cardinal Donald Wuerl, then archbishop of Washington, D.C., know? What about the multiple houses on the Jersey shore? Why did Vatican inquiries into seminaries during these decades not uncover the widespread culture of sexual license and abuse in many of them, which anyone who talks to churchmen knows about, and which is the subject of salacious books, and the bleedingly obvious reason for the dropout of many candidates for the priesthood?

How did it all work?

But that gets to the error behind the report. What is “institutional knowledge” and “decision-making”? The report is a kind of prophylactic against a real investigation. Instead of confessing to the Church the sins of its leaders with a degree of candor and humiliation, the report tells outsiders, if you looked at these selected documents, this is the most you could possibly prove against us. Ultimately, the report itself is a kind of moral heresy.

7. More MBD: The fever dreams and fantasies of the Left get neatly summarized. From the piece:

And why should these claimed beliefs of Trump supporters trouble us? A similar YouGov poll in 2018 found that 66 percent of Democrats believed that Russia had altered the vote tallies in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. (This is not true, and such a story was promoted only by people on the fringe.) That finding troubled no one. Extremism experts did not appear to talk about how loose talk of Russian conspiracies was undermining our democracy. Nobody did soul-searching about their loose fascism accusations after Donald Trump’s election when a Bernie Sanders fan tried to shoot congressional Republicans. Hillary Clinton’s statements that Donald Trump is an “illegitimate president” are hand-waved away. Why?

Because our expert class operates on the unstated premise that Republican voters are suggestible slack-jawed psychopathic killers waiting to be activated by careless presidential statements. The congressional baseball shooter is an exception to Democratic peacefulness. Republican-associated violence is held to be emblematic. That’s why everyone jumped to blame Sarah Palin for the shooting of Gabby Giffords, but nobody in the mainstream blamed the SPLC for the shooting at the Family Research Council.

This style of politics makes Republicans and conservatives into the kind of caricature that Democrats accuse Republicans of holding against foreign Muslims. In this view, Republicans are blindly religious, authoritarian, poorly educated, and violent. Strict political monitoring and intervention against their activity is therefore justified.

The truth about Trump is that his tweets and weak election lawsuits aren’t a coup aimed at overturning the American order; they are a ploy to pay down campaign debts and build interest in his future endeavors in media. Progressives may view conservatives as his mark. When he leaves the office of presidency, progressives will be glad to see him go, but they will miss the fantasy of treating his supporters as collaborators and fifth columnists.

8. The Mayflower Compact turns 400. Joseph Loconte reminds us of its historical greatness. From the piece:

The long, miserable journey across the Atlantic did not create a unified body of pious believers. Bradford saw trouble brewing when “several strangers made discontented and mutinous speeches.” Because they had landed hundreds of miles north of their destination in Virginia — outside of the territory under charter by King James I — the colonists did not have a clear understanding of what laws would guide them. They faced the real possibility that factionalism would destroy their community.

Yet their differences impelled them to reach for a radical solution to hold the company together. The Mayflower passengers decided that their freedom and security would not depend upon an all-powerful Leviathan. It would depend upon their ability to govern themselves, to submit to laws that they themselves had written. The Mayflower Compact, signed on November 11, 1620, broke ranks with English political theory and practice, in which unelected monarchs issued decrees and ruled by divine right.

The Mayflower Pilgrims, as they came to be called, were committed to “the advancement of the Christian faith” and designed and signed their compact “in the presence of God.” But no one seemed to have a theocracy in mind; rather, they sought to form “a civil body politic.” Importantly, their new political community would be framed by “just and equal laws” — laws that would apply without discrimination to all their members. Here, at the very beginning of the American story, one can discern the concepts of equal justice and government by consent of the governed.

9. David Harsanyi says politics is the forum for airing grievances, not singing Kumbaya. From the piece:

Time magazine, the same publication that helped erode trust in our electoral system with conspiratorial covers of the White House morphing into the Kremlin, now offers a commemorative cover featuring Joe Biden and Kamala Harris with the words, “A time to heal.” Unlike some of our progressive friends, I don’t believe in enemies lists or censorship, so my healing process is simple: It involves playing whatever small part I can in extinguishing the political fortunes of those who want to weaken the Constitution. I’m not at all interested in finding accord with those who want to overturn the Hyde amendment, thereby making late-term abortion a state-funded practice, or with anyone who wants to “reengage” without any genuine preconditions with Holocaust-denying terror regimes such as Iran, or with anyone who wants to further socialize our health-care system by adding a “public option.” Like many others, I find disunity quite therapeutic.

I suspect that, in a few weeks, “political polarization” will once again become an existential crisis of American governance. My favorite post-election headline came from the social scientists at Pew Research Center, who informed us that the “2020 election reveals two broad voting coalitions fundamentally at odds.” Two broad coalitions, you say? Fundamentally at odds? What are the chances?

Michelle Obama says we can overcome our divisions, but that Democrats must first remember “that tens of millions of people voted for the status quo, even when it meant supporting lies, hate, chaos, and division.” She suggests that there is “a lot of work to do to reach out to these folks in the years ahead and connect with them on what unites us.” It’s somewhat difficult to process this level of obnoxious sanctimony. Here is a list of demands you divisive Republicans must embrace for the country to “unite.” Get on with it.

10. Boris Johnson proves himself to be the biggest phony since Y2K. Andrew Sullivan nails the Nanny PM. From the piece:

I would call British prime minister Boris Johnson a disappointment, but that seems rather harsh on the word “disappointment.” He’s botched Brexit, he’s botched COVID, and with his uncosted and unworkable fantasy of transforming the U.K. into a net-zero carbon economy by 2050, he will make it even more difficult for the U.K. to recover from the losses created by his earlier blunders.

But he has managed, with a little help from Rubio-style Tories, the Left, ancient obiter dicta, and an entertainingly disreputable past to preserve the idea that he is some sort of libertarian, no small achievement for someone who hymns FDR, is apparently excited to work with Biden on climate change, has crushed civil liberties in the name of his (failed) COVID policy, and is planning to impose a draconian censorship regime on social media.

But sometimes it’s the smaller things that give a politician away. I may have voted for Mike Bloomberg for mayor of New York City (or, more accurately, against his opponents), but his policing (or attempted policing) of what or where people ate, drank, or smoke revealed him to be someone with no proper sense of where the state should stop interfering in people’s private decisions, big or small. Nothing I have seen in Bloomberg’s subsequent career has made me rethink that view.

And so it is with Johnson.

11. Andrew McCarthy is disappointed by the outcome, but not surprised that the maddening ways of the President lead to it. From the piece:

An unpopular president’s surest first step to becoming a reelected president is the realization that he has a lot of work to do with the public, especially with convince-ables willing to give him a chance — which is a lot of people, because most Americans are not hardcore partisans; they like to like their president. Such self-awareness spurred Richard Nixon to reelection in one of American history’s biggest actual landslide victories — in the Electoral College and by every other measure.

Donald Trump never could go there. He was under siege more than he deserved to be, but he brought a great deal of it on himself by gratuitously punching down at non-entities he should have ignored. Just as important, when troubles came, and they came in waves, he would recede into the comfort of his adoring base. They made excuses for his every foible, spun his errors as the shrewd maneuvering of a master businessman, and never demanded that he clean up his act. To the contrary, they found the act irresistible, just as he found his place at the center of the world’s attention irresistible — whether commanding attention for good or bad reasons.

President Trump did many good things. The constitutionalist overhaul of the federal judiciary will be his great legacy, especially if a President Biden revives Obama-era “pen and phone” governance. Trump has shown that the U.S. economy still roars when government removes suffocating regulation, and that its growth can be a boon to Americans at the ladder’s lower rungs. He has given Republicans a workable template for appealing to black and Hispanic Americans. He has reshaped policy toward China in a way more realistic for dealing with a hostile competitor. He has marginalized the Iranian menace and reoriented Middle Eastern policy, achieving peace pacts that were once inconceivable. He has been unabashedly pro-life (and was I ever wrong in thinking this was just a 2016 campaign pose). He has shown Republicans that the culture war is worth fighting without apology, rather than surrendering bit by bit.

12. Dan McLaughlin whips out the colored markers and the history books and suggests conservatives look to the Election of 1892 for guidance. From the essay:

The 1892 election seemed to be the unraveling of a party that had lost its way and would need a fresh start. Instead, it proved to be quite the opposite. Grover Cleveland’s second term turned out to be neither the harbinger of a Democratic dynasty, nor the transition to a new Democratic generation. Cleveland was the leader of the “Bourbon Democrats,” a basically conservative, pro-business, small-government, sound-money, free-trade faction. Unlike the Democrats of Jefferson, Jackson, and Calhoun, they were not particularly ideological, which helped hold together an unwieldy coalition built around big-city immigrants and white Southerners. Cleveland understood the nature of that coalition; as far back as 1866, he had made a name as an attorney in Buffalo offering pro bono representation to Irish radicals who tried to invade and conquer Canada. As leader of the party of the South, he looked the other way at Jim Crow and its many sins.

Cleveland’s misfortune in his second term was the “Panic of 1893,” which began to set in even before he had taken office and led to the worst economic depression in the United States before 1929. Its causes were varied: a cascade of international financial crises that started in France and Argentina, the end of land and railroad booms, American monetary policy that tried to uphold the gold standard during a time of shrinking gold supply while also committing the government to purchase silver, and financial-market mistrust of the Democrats’ free-trade stance. The coming crisis was masked by a bumper harvest in 1891 that coincided with crop failures in Europe, giving the economy a temporary infusion of hard currency that dried up by the end of 1892.

In the hard times that followed the Panic of 1893, the left-wing economic movement of the Populist Party took over the Democrats. Their leader was a young member of Congress, first elected at age 30 during the 1890 midterm wave: William Jennings Bryan. Like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bryan was a rabble-rousing orator who tormented the party leadership. He endorsed Weaver rather than Cleveland in 1892. He fought Cleveland over the gold standard, and got the first peacetime income tax in American history passed as a legislative amendment (the Supreme Court threw it out a year later). He ran for the Senate two years into Cleveland’s second term and lost, but launched himself on a speaking tour that made him a bigger star out of office than in. In 1896, at age 36, he became the Democratic nominee, the youngest major-party nominee in American history. He would win the nomination again in 1900 and 1908.

13. Cameron Hilditch reflects on Trump, the innovative Communications Disrupter. From the piece:

But in spite of the dearth of policy innovation we saw under the Trump presidency, he has been a revolutionary innovator in another area of public life: communication. The president has fundamentally changed the way politicians communicate with voters. Over the course of his presidency, he’s tried to cut out the middleman of media reporting at every opportunity, speaking directly to the voters whenever and wherever possible. His Twitter feed is the most obvious example of this, but he has taken opportunities to expand upon his own control over communications throughout his presidency. Towards the end of the campaign, he brought giant screens with him to rallies in Pennsylvania so voters could watch clips of Joe Biden’s statements about banning fracking. Around the same time, he released his own unedited cut of his 60 Minutes interview in order to head off dishonest or manipulative editing. Time and again during his presidency, Trump went over the heads of the media when he had something to say.

Not to sound more like a Marxist than I absolutely must, but the mainstream media have controlled the means of production of public information for most of the last century. They have been the ones to decide who reads and hears what and why. The benefits of this monopoly were obvious: With only three networks and two national newspapers, Americans had common reference points for every political debate and common forums in which to conduct them. So, too, however, were the drawbacks. This old model concentrated power over the distribution of information in the hands of a few, who were by no means disinterested in the debates they facilitated. Technological advances and the division of labor in mass media have allowed more voices to be heard but have also incentivized parochial and partisan coverage of major issues as Americans retreat into bespoke information siloes.

14. Fred Bauer argues the GOP must return to its Lincoln roots. From the commentary:

Much has been made of the GOP becoming a “working-class party,” but, as of this moment, that is more a wish or a projection than a reality. Especially in urban cores, the Democratic Party often still significantly outperforms Republicans among lower-income voters. In addition, the GOP policy apparatus has not yet unified behind a cohesive “working-class” agenda. The Trump administration itself embodied — in Daniel McCarthy’s words — a “political cyborg,” fusing populist gestures with conventional corporatist policies. While the Trump White House did make some populist adjustments on trade and immigration (albeit via execution action), the signature legislative achievement of his presidency was a fairly conventional tax cut.

Moreover, to secure a governing majority, it seems as though Republicans cannot afford to forfeit entirely their old base of suburbanites (including at least some well-heeled white-collar workers). The independent householder and local gentry class have been at the core of the Republican Party for most of its existence. If it wants to rack up the kind of broad coalition that is essential for enduring political success in the United States, the GOP will have to play across all regions. Susan Collins is an instructive example here. In her successful 2020 race, Collins relied on many rural and working-class counties. But she was also palatable to white-collar suburbanites, winning most of the coastal counties of Maine.

Collins is instructive in another way, too, as she might also demonstrate how a Republican Party can combine populist policies with middle-class outreach. She has been a leading figure for COVID-19 relief on Capitol Hill (an issue many proponents of a more working-class GOP are deeply invested in). She has also been a critic of austerity measures for health-care policy, being a deciding vote against the “skinny repeal” of the Affordable Care Act.

One potential path for an expanded GOP coalition would be locating a political program that addresses the overlap between the concerns of traditional Republican voters and those of the working-class. Both blue- and white-collar voters have anxiety about health care. Indeed, health-care policy was a wedge Democrats used to push suburbanites away from the GOP in 2018. Both feel the bite of rising health-insurance costs, and both fear the vulnerability that comes without having a health-care plan. Efforts to reduce the costs of health care and provide a subsidy backstop for the vulnerable could speak to voters across the income and education spectra.

15. Tobias Hoonout reports on a Mike Bloomberg’s big-bucks strategy flop. From the piece:

What came next was Hawkfish, a Bloomberg-backed firm founded in 2019 by Silicon Valley insiders with the aim of boosting Democrats’ digital efforts. The former New York mayor put the firm to work during his Democratic primary run, spending $100 million to buy up troves of voter databases. And even after Bloomberg’s campaign faltered, Hawkish saw itself as the best way to help Bloomberg achieve his ultimate goal of ensuring a blue wave in 2020.

The firm “argued for a plan where Bloomberg would no longer need the ground operation and consultants, and could scale down to the quants, the engineers and the data teams,” according to a Wired profile.

With a wealth of information at its fingertips, Hawkfish set out to help Democrats in the general election, inking contracts with the Democratic National Committee and Democratic Super PACs American Bridge and Unite the Country.

“Because we have this better raw data set than our competitors do, we’re able to help campaigns make smarter decisions about who they target for voter registration, who they target for persuasion, and then who they target for turnout,” Hawkfish senior consultant Mitch Stewart bragged in August.

But as the dust continues to settle from November 3, Hawkfish’s impact — and Bloomberg’s efforts writ large — appear to have fallen flat.

16. More Tobias: He attends the Media Circus, and finds a particular clown. From the article:

Chotiner’s fixation on the idea that working-class Trump voters are all white supremacists has morphed into an obsession with people like Chris Arnade, author of Dignity, a book profiling working-class Americans. Arnade, a former Wall Street bond trader, left his job and spent several years traveling across the country to meet left-behind communities, talking with and photographing the people he found along the way — in sharp contrast to Chotiner’s preference for talking to fiction authors, NBA players, and high-brow pundits. Arnade’s book is not about politics, in fact most of his subjects express disillusionment at the idea that politics can fix their predicaments, yet Chotiner has tweeted about him no less than 23 times.

“The few times I responded to him early on, to try and engage in what I had hoped was good faith, he would just mock me,” Arnade told National Review, adding that he has yet to receive an invitation from Chotiner to actually talk about the book.

Heading into the election, Chotiner took his theory that Trump’s minuscule support could not be anything but racist and extrapolated it into the idea that Trump would be blown-out in 2020. He published five interviews with election experts — two with mainstream pollsters Dave Wasserman and Nate Cohn, and one with Sean Trende of RealClearPolitics — with predictable lines of questioning.

Cohn and Wasserman got asked things such as whether the Democrats could “compete” in Texas and whether “there is a chance that we over-learn the lessons” of Trump’s 2016 win. Trende? “We don’t really have any evidence that shy Trump voters actually exist, correct?” Chotiner asked, later deriding the concept on Twitter.

A Quartet of Recommendations from the Special Post-Election Issue

The new November 30, 2020 issue gathers 17 insightful articles that try to make sense of the recent election. As is our custom, we here share some links and passages of four pieces. Maybe by the time we finish the fourth, we may add a fifth.

1. Rich Lowry considers the promise and perils of Donald Trump’s cultural politics. From the piece:

Trump flew in the face of the advice of the RNC’s “autopsy” after Mitt Romney’s defeat in the 2012 election, which read like a distillation of the dubious conventional wisdom of the Republican political class — because it was. The autopsy counseled downplaying cultural issues — “when it comes to social issues, the Party must in fact and deed be inclusive and welcoming” — and insisted that “we must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform.”

The autopsy took it as a given that the Republican Party could succeed — and diversify — only by reaching out to social-moderate voters inclined to support its free-market economics.

Trump turned the advice on its head, finding new working-class white voters in 2016 and making gains among nonwhite voters in 2020.

His electoral coalition is obviously too narrow — he barely eked out a win in 2016 and barely lost in 2020 (barring some extraordinary reversal). But Republicans should take on board the lessons of Trump’s cultural politics and build on what is sound.

First, Trump showed that social conservatives are the strongest part of the Republican coalition (he could cross free-traders and deficit hawks and get away with it, but not pro-lifers) and that the party’s cultural conservatism is more naturally appealing to working-class voters than its economics are.

Next, he demonstrated that the GOP must be the unabashedly anti-woke party. Trump’s fearlessness and anti-PC rhetoric resonated, and for good reason. In 2016, it wasn’t clear why, say, a voter in Wisconsin should have feared political correctness unless he was a member of the University of Wisconsin faculty, but the cancellations over the last year have reached down to ordinary people who have said “the wrong thing” on social media.

2. Matt Continetti sees Schumer and Pelosi as helpless long term with the Jacobin ascendency. From the piece:

How did the Democrats reach this impasse? The party is split between its old guard and a woke social-justice Left whose media celebrity amplifies an agenda that spooks moderates, independents, and Republicans. Suburban and exurban Democrats such as Spanberger and Michigan’s Elissa Slotkin, who also won reelection, are stuck in the middle.

Collectively, the House Democratic leadership is older than the Constitution itself. Nancy Pelosi is 80 years old and has been in charge of House Democrats for 18 years. Steny Hoyer, the majority leader, is 81 years old. And House whip James Clyburn is also 80.

By contrast, the nation’s most famous freshman Democrat, socialist representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, is 31. Her three fellow far-left “Squad” members are all under 50. They’ll soon be joined by “Squad 2.0,” which includes Black Lives Matter activist Cori Bush of Missouri, who is 44, Jamaal Bowman of New York, who is also 44, and Mondaire Jones of New York, who is 33.

Pelosi has catered to the Left to insulate herself from a leadership challenge. Her reluctance to take on the Squad led to two miscalculations that cost the Democrats seats. The first was impeachment. It was the goal of the so-called Resistance since before Donald Trump took office. In 2019, when she became speaker for the second time, Pelosi authorized her committee chairs to launch the “subpoena cannon” and investigate the Trump administration relentlessly. Then, after the transcript of Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky was revealed that September, she allowed impeachment to proceed.

3. John Miller reports on the end of Dan Lipisnki’s career, and what it means for the party of the little guy, but not the littlest guy. From the article:

Lipinski says that when he was a professor at the University of Tennessee in 2004, he received an unexpected phone call from his father, who already had accepted the Democratic nomination to run again for Congress that year. Suddenly, the elder Lipinski wanted to quit. “I decided to jump in,” says the son, who inherited the nomination without the messiness or uncertainty of a primary. This transfer of office reeked of Chicago’s machine-style politics, but also presented a problem for the new pol: “It put an extra burden on me to prove that I could be a good representative,” he says. “Every son wants to outdo his father.”

He was good enough to win that first race in a solidly Democratic district that encompasses the ballpark of the Chicago White Sox but mostly stretches south and west of the city. Six reelections with little more than token opposition followed. “When I first ran, I knew I was pro-life and that I wouldn’t change, but I didn’t run because I was pro-life or make it my issue,” he says. With each election cycle, however, Lipinski saw fewer pro-life Democrats return to Congress. Some bartered away their principles to stay in their party’s mainstream. Others retired or suffered defeat. Amid the attrition, Lipinski started to look like a last man standing: “I wound up becoming the pro-life Democrat.”

It was a matter of conscience, not calculation: “I was first pro-life because as a child that’s what I was taught in church, in Catholic school, and in the home,” he says. “So it starts with my faith, but I also believe science shows that life begins at conception. The DNA is all there. If you truly believe that life begins at conception, you have to protect that life.”

4. The media was the Biden campaign, says Charlie Cooke. From the analysis:

When it couldn’t ignore a given story, the press took on the role of communications director. As soon as it began to look as if Biden’s refusal to disavow Court-packing might hurt him with independents, reporters and pundits alike began to use DSCC-approved euphemisms such as “fix,” “expand,” and “depoliticize,” and to suggest that the real villains were actually the Republicans, who, by having followed the existing Constitution and existing Judiciary Act to a tee, were supposedly guilty of “packing the Court” themselves. This sort of gaslighting was almost endless. From the moment he won the nomination, talking heads on every channel except Fox made sure to pretend that they believed that Biden was a moderate and that his age was of no concern whatsoever. This lasted until the exact moment Biden clinched his general-election victory, at which point the same people began to talk openly about his “bold” progressive agenda and the likelihood that he would soon die. Keen to get in on the action, professional fact-checkers became so obsessed by Trump’s perpetual lying that they seemed unable to comment at all when, during the second presidential debate, Joe Biden managed to match his rival’s mendacity blow for blow. This year, the process of transformation was finally completed. Until recently, the news shows merely featured “political strategists.” In 2020, they absorbed them.

To read through the election-season pieces linked from the RealClearPolitics aggregator each day was to gain a key insight into the coverage writ large. With a few exceptions, the pieces written by the “Right” were instructive and worthwhile, with each making a particular case about some fact of the contest, whereas those written in prestige outlets such as the Times, the Post, CNN, and so forth all said exactly the same thing: that Joe Biden was going to win big because the other side was evil. At times, the whole thing felt like a game of bizarre one-upmanship. After the vice-presidential debate, which Mike Pence handily won, Gayle King and Steve Schmidt took turns on CBS explaining that the fly that had landed on Pence was “a mark of the devil.” Nothing but elementary professionalism seemed beyond the press’s reach.

5. John McCormack can’t find the Blue Wave, but can find the reasons why it didn’t happen. From the piece:

A lot of attention has been given by the press to one kook who will join the ranks of the House GOP caucus: Marjorie Taylor Greene, who promoted deranged conspiracy theories in the past, defeated a neurosurgeon in a GOP primary in deep-red northwest Georgia this summer.

But the GOP candidates who took over Democratic seats are impressive individuals — all of whom happen to belong to racial minorities, be veterans, or be women (sometimes representing more than one of those demographics).

Outside of Charleston, S.C., Republican Nancy Mace, the first woman to graduate from the Citadel, took back a seat from incumbent Democrat Joe Cunningham.

In Oklahoma City, Republican state senator Stephanie Bice became the first Iranian American elected to Congress, defeating Democrat Kendra Horn.

In New York City, assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, the daughter of Greek and Cuban immigrants, won the Staten Island district represented by Democrat Max Rose.

In Southern California, Orange County Board of Supervisors chair­woman Michelle Steel, who is Korean American, flipped a district from blue to red. Young Kim, the first Korean-American Repub­li­can elected to the state legislature, also appeared on track to win a Demo­cratic district that straddles Los Angeles and Orange Counties.

While it wasn’t enough for a House majority, the GOP gains in the suburbs — where the party suffered a bloodbath in 2018 — were enough to spook Democrats such as Virginia’s Spanberger, who represents a district outside of Richmond and narrowly hung on.

Capital Matters, Indeed It Does

1.  Alexander William Salter contemplates Elon Musk’s longings for our Red Planet neighbor and the space in between. From the article:

Viewed in this light, it’s clear Musk isn’t initiating some plot to dominate the solar system. Instead, he’s taking the very prudent step of recognizing that international space law is largely undeveloped and anticipating the kinds of governance arrangements that can help mankind become an interplanetary species. Obviously, any extraterrestrial settlement will require a much thicker set of rules governing natural and juridical persons than the narrow “shalts” and “shalt nots” in the Outer Space Treaty. Private entities — yes, even for-profit businesses — will necessarily be important constitutional entrepreneurs in space.

Recent years have seen a number of exciting developments with respect to private activity in outer space. There are serious discussions at the national and international levels about the feasibility of space-property rights, and recent congressional legislation and executive orders have had a decidedly pro-celestial commerce bent. We’re finally getting serious about space debris. And NASA set an important commercial precedent by offering to pay private companies for an on-site transfer of lunar regolith (moon rocks). We should view Musk’s plans for Mars as complementary to these efforts. The prospects for markets in space are bright, provided we successfully navigate the various legal challenges and secure buy-in from respected international partners. It’s entirely appropriate to consider corporate-led exploration and development as part of this discussion. Kudos to Musk for raising the issue, and for taking meaningful steps toward innovative space governance.

2. Steve Hanke reports on the unveiling of the Global Index of Economic Mentality. From the report:

GIEM scores measure the public’s embrace of the idea of economic freedom. A high GIEM score indicates that citizens in a particular country support the idea that their government should not play a major role in directing or regulating economic activity or in redistributing income. Citizens of high-scoring countries typically back an institutional framework that prioritizes private initiative, free competition, and personal responsibility — in short, a system of free enterprise.

Out of the 74 countries covered, New Zealand comes out on top with the highest score on the inaugural Global Index of Economic Mentality, followed by the Czech Republic, Sweden, the United States, and Denmark. This year’s lowest scorer is Bosnia, preceded by Bangladesh, Myanmar, Montenegro, and Azerbaijan. . . .

The GIEM study found that countries that embrace a free-market mentality have more efficient economic institutions and higher per capita GDP than those who support socialist, interventionist mentalities. The Global Index of Economic Mentality study also contains additional findings of note.

Rather surprisingly, Chile is the lowest GIEM scorer in Latin America, even a notch below Argentina, and 64th overall. These data suggest that while the Chicago Boys, many of whom are my friends, accomplished innumerable free-market reforms — reforms that have led to a great improvement in prosperity and the second-highest GDP per capita of any country in South America — they have failed to convince the Chilean public of the benefits of the free-market system that has lifted them out of poverty.

3. More Hanke: Steve reports Erdogan hitting the panic button. There’s turmoil in Turkey. From the analysis:

Turkey’s president Tayyip Recep Erdogan has hit the panic button. On Saturday, he fired Murat Uysal, the governor of the Central Bank of Turkey. Uysal is the second top monetary official Erdogan has axed in the past 16 months. To add insult to injury, Turkish finance minister Berat Albayrak, Erdogan’s son-in-law, resigned from his post Sunday due to “health problems.”

All of this follows the Turkish lira’s most recent collapse, something I have foreseen and regularly written about. Instability is nothing new for the lira. Indeed, inflation has ravaged Turkey for decades. The average annual inflation rates for the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s were 22.4 percent, 49.6 percent, 76.7 percent, and 22.3 percent, respectively. Those horrendous numbers mask periodic lira routs. In 1994, 2000–01, and most recently since 2018, the lira has been torn to shreds.

Since Erdogan took over Turkey’s presidential reins in August 2014, the lira has shed 75 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar. And, since the first of this year, the lira has depreciated by 30 percent against the greenback. Today, inflation in Turkey is soaring at 49.60 percent per year by my measure. My measurement, which employs high-frequency data and the use of Purchasing Power Parity theory, is more than four times Turkey’s official annual inflation rate of 11.89 percent per year.

4. Ramesh Ponnuru argues that the drive to make the GOP a workers party should include a role for the Fed. From the piece:

There are a lot of government policies that might be helpful to hard-working Americans at, say, the 25th percentile of income. But it’s hard to beat a tight labor market for delivering gains up and down the income spectrum. The two periods in recent decades that saw the most widespread wage gains, including for people starting with low wages, were the late 1990s and the 2015-2019 period. Both were characterized by relatively (and increasingly) stable growth of nominal spending.

Having the Federal Reserve aim for such stable growth has not, however, been a priority for conservatives, to say the least. When spending dropped dramatically during the great recession, with the brunt of the resulting economic pain being borne by blue-collar workers, Republicans warned that attempting to restore it would be dangerously inflationary — in the midst of one of the longest stretches of low inflation we have had since World War II. They advanced legislation that would explicitly direct the Fed not to consider the effect of monetary policy on labor markets.

Republicans are currently considering the Fed nomination of Judy Shelton, who has spent most of her career urging that monetary policy be ever tighter but has very recently aligned herself instead with the completely opposite views of President Trump. The Fed is already falling short of what it should be doing to stabilize the economy in the wake of this year’s contraction, and there’s a risk that confirming Shelton would tilt it further in the wrong direction.

Lights. Camera. Review!

1. America Assembled is a love letter to election fraud, says Armond White. It’s also junk. From the review:

Based on the Marvel Comics Universe Avengers: Endgame films, America Assembled uses that sci-fi comic book franchise template as part of the liberal media’s effort to sway public opinion toward the Democratic Party. The Endgame story of arch-villain Thanos bringing the world to the brink of destruction and annihilating Marvel’s stable of superheroes — until they rematerialize, rising in rebellion — becomes an analogy for the media and the Democrats’ hasty victory celebration while the 2020 presidential election is currently contested.

Indie filmmaker and Marvel fan John Handem Piette ignores the current hip-hop evolutions of Kanye West and Ice Cube (Oshea Jackson), presenting Endgame (and bits of Black Panther) as his careerist calling-card film. Unlike West and Jackson, Piette announces to Hollywood and the far-left electorate that he thinks like them. Piette employs Endgame iconography to celebrate an idea from the Democratic Party Plantation — his hoped-for defeat of the Trump administration. He superimposes Donald Trump onto the face of villain Thanos, then supers Joe Biden onto the face of Captain America. Other Democrat politicians and Hollywood celebrities are Photoshopped onto the rest of Endgame’s all-star cast whose far-left political allegiance makes them Plantation overseers. (Avengers Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Zoe Saldana, Paul Rudd, and Scarlett Johansson all attended an October 20 fundraiser where Kamala Harris’s speech first floated the analogy between Endgame and the election.)

2. More Armond: Ammonite stars Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan really want those GLAAD awards. From the review:

Kate Winslet plays Mary Anning, the film’s heroine, a fossil-gatherer in 1840 Lyme Regis, a coastal town on the English Channel. Mary unearths rocks and examines and polishes their ancient impressions, for sale to tourists and eventual exhibition in the British Museum. She works with studied intensity, the same solitary grimness that hides her homosexual longings.

Lee and Winslet present us with the image of a hard stone to crack. Indeed, Mary’s true emotional definition remains hidden until she meets Charlotte Murchison (Saoirse Ronan) who, as the wife of a distracted naturalist, suffers from melancholia. Sympathy opens up both women’s repressed feelings and Lee observes them almost scientifically — their instinctive intercourse makes private history. Sure enough, the fossils they dig out together — ammonites are marine creatures from the Paleozoic era — wind up in the British Museum, symbols of sexual liberation.

This melodramatic narrative fits right into American indie filmmaker Kelly Reichardt’s domain, but Francis Lee is a less sententious proselytizer for gay life. Perhaps because he isn’t an American cultural militant — although England has them, too — his on-screen activism isn’t as objectionable.

But Lee’s “subtlety” can also be laughably blatant: Mary shrouds herself in dark plaids, Charlotte wears white or shows décolletage. His methods are especially transparent when Ammonite’s quiet, spare narrative leads to face-straddling oral-sex pantomimes where Oscar favorites Winslet and Ronan go headlong for GLAAD awards. Like Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams swapping spit in 2017’s Disobedience, Ammonite’s refinement merely lifts up the skirts of what is essentially romance-novel passion.

3. Madeleine Kearns finds the Netflix remake of Rebecca lame-o, especially when  compared to the 1940 original. From the beginning of the review:

 The brilliance of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca (1938) depends on the character development of its heroine, the very young and naïve protagonist, whose first name the reader never learns, and whose identity as the second Mrs. de Winter is subsumed by her husband and the shadowy presence of his dead first wife. Mimicking the Gothic novels of the previous century, in particular the Brontë sisters’ classics such as Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, Rebecca is what we might call a “psychological thriller.” This particular genre demands two (potentially contradictory) qualities, plausibility and unpredictability. Ben Wheatley’s recent Netflix adaptation has neither.

In the novel, a young woman in her early 20s, employed as a companion to a rich lady in Monte Carlo, hastily marries a wealthy English widower, whereupon the couple return to his estate, Manderley. There, a sinister housekeeper jealously guarding the memory of the first Mrs. de Winter — the “Rebecca” of the title — induces inner turmoil in the insecure bride. Rather abruptly, the story, told in the first person by the heroine, turns into a sort of crime novel. Wheatley, known for his gratuitously gruesome horror movies, barges past all the intricacies, intrigue, and subtlety of the text to produce something entirely so-so.

Before explaining what, exactly, is wrong with the remake, we ought to return to Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 adaptation, starring Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine, which a contemporary reviewer for the New York Times accurately called a “firm, enveloping grasp of Daphne du Maurier’s popular novel,” praising it as “an altogether brilliant film, haunting, suspenseful, handsome and handsomely played,” complete with a “facile and penetrating directorial style.” The reviewer complimented Olivier’s superb and “brooding Maxim de Winter,” noting that while “Miss du Maurier never really convinced me anyone could behave quite as the second Mrs. de Winter behaved and still be sweet, modest, attractive and alive . . . Miss Fontaine does it — and does it not simply with her eyes, her mouth, her hands and her words but with her spine.” In the Netflix remake, Lily James’s spine is little in evidence, and her performance not in the least bit affecting.

4. Even though it’s from the new issue of the magazine, we’ll slip in here Peter Tonguette’s reflection on James Bond, Ian Fleming’s man of literature and screen. From the article

Yet Bond was not the sort of glum workaholic later conjured by John le Carré in the form of George Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. He refused to let his job interfere with his romantic life, and then there was the matter of that suit and that car. Not that Bond suffered from an unmanly preoccupation with appearances. In a famous passage in From Russia with Love, Fleming writes of Bond’s assessment of a man wearing a Windsor-knotted tie: “Bond mistrusted anyone who tied his tie with a Windsor knot. It showed too much vanity. It was often the mark of a cad.”

Upon Fleming’s death in 1964, subsequent authors, including Kingsley Amis, furthered the adventures of Bond, but it took the character’s transition from literature to cinema, thanks to the efforts of enterprising producers Albert “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, to turn him into the action idol of choice of males in the English-speaking world. The cinematic Bond — embodied, in the first five films in the series and then two thereafter, by Connery, the recently deceased Scotsman who so credibly projected the twin threats of violence and seduction — gradually overtook the literary Bond. As was supposed to have been said of Cary Grant, women wanted to be with Bond, and men wanted to be him.

Ayn Rand, who praised both the Fleming novels and the first Bond film, Dr. No (1962), argued that Bond as a character appealed to audiences who, eager for hero identification, substituted his fantastical adventures for their own workaday worries. “In the privacy of his own soul, nobody identifies himself with the folks next door, unless he has given up,” Rand wrote in her essay “Bootleg Romanticism.” “But the generalized abstraction of a hero permits every man to identify himself with James Bond, each supplying his own concretes which are illuminated and supported by that abstraction.” Fleming, in a 1964 interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, put it more simply: “Spying has always been regarded as a very romantic, one-man job — one man against a whole police force or an army.”

Elsewhere in the Conservative Solar System

1. At Spectator USA, Chilton Williamson remembers the man in full, Tom Wolfe. From the reflection:

The New Journalism, of which Tom Wolfe was the principal inventor along with Dr Hunter S. Thompson and a few others in the early 1960s, is now as dead as the penny dreadfuls and the jingo journalism of the early 1900s. Wolfe was convinced that the death of the novel, whose imagined demise was being widely discussed in the literary journals of the period, was an actual fact. If that were indeed the case, he reasoned, some new literary form was needed to replace it.

His answer to this need was participatory journalism, in which journalists realized their reportorial subjects as novelistic characters and the reporter inserted himself among them and joined in their activities on the printed page. Active participation was Rule Number One; Rule Number Two was immediacy. The trick was to catch and convey the freneticism, the exaggeration, the hyper-pace, the hyper-stimulation and the hyper-sexuality that distinguished what Wolfe named the Purple Decades — fueled by revolutionary enthusiasms, booze and, above all, drugs — through the relentless deployment of a style similar to that of the morning radio shows, its breathless quality suggested by the liberal use of ellipses.

The technique was effective, compelling and exciting, but it was not entirely original, Wolfe having borrowed it directly from Céline, the French novelist of the pre-war period whom he admired. And it had three significant weaknesses: the extent to which it courted self-parody; its easy imitability; and the degree to which stylistic excitement gave way to monotony of tone (always the same key and mood) and of voice, as the authorial one, merging with those of the subject-characters, produced a hyped stream of consciousness accentuated by a relentless beat as tiresome, finally, as rap music’s. Wolfe was a highly skilled writer, yet he — like Céline — was a textbook example of how a writer writes when, having no true style of his own, he tries to conceal the fact. A careful reader will note how, in the fiction as in the journalistic essays, on the occasions when Wolfe lapses for practical reasons into straightforward prose (Radical Chic offers many examples of this), the writing is indistinguishable from that found in the commercial magazines.

2. At City Journal, Steve Malanga says the next NYC mayor will have a fiscal nightmare to deal with. From the analysis:

De Blasio’s retroactive increases for city unions stretched as far back as 2009, five years before he became mayor. He awarded teachers, for instance, a 4 percent “pay” raise for the year 2009, another 4 percent for 2010, and then a bonus for 2011. The pay raises, which came on top of the annual “step” increases that teachers get for working additional years, added $4 billion to payroll costs over the contract’s life. By the time de Blasio was done negotiating with other unions, the raises had bloated the city budget by $5 billion during his first year in office.

Bloomberg had resisted ratifying new contracts because he sought labor savings from the unions, including from health benefits for workers and retirees. The city’s expenses in these areas were already stratospheric, and they’ve kept rising rapidly. Virtually alone among large cities these days, Gotham pays almost the entire cost of health care for city workers and retirees — the promises to retirees alone amounting to more than $100 billion in future costs that the city hasn’t funded. During the de Blasio years, that debt swelled by more than $25 billion — an ever-larger load for future taxpayers. Because it hasn’t saved enough, the city must pay for retiree health care out of its everyday budget, with the bill climbing above $2.5 billion annually. Combined with the cost of future benefits of current workers — rising yearly by another $5 billion that the city isn’t saving for — future mayors will encounter a budget nightmare.

The way those fringe-benefit costs play out in New York City’s budget is illustrated by spending on police protection. Earlier this year, following George Floyd’s death in police custody in Minneapolis, some New York officials pressured de Blasio to slash police spending. The mayor approved what he called $1 billion in cuts, though much of the savings involved sleight of hand, such as shifting spending to other departments and pledging to limit overtime, without a plan for how to accomplish that. And yet de Blasio left untouched one of the department’s biggest budget-busters: nearly half of its operating expenses are pensions and fringe benefits, accounting for half of the $2.8 billion in new spending on policing over the last decade. For every dollar that the department pays an officer in salary, it spends nearly as much on pensions and health care for workers and retirees, who make virtually no contributions toward their own health care, something rare even in the public sector these days. But those expenses keep mounting because de Blasio has left them untouched.

3. At Law and Liberty, James Patterson asks, on the 60th anniversary of John Courtney Murray’s consequential work, if we still hold these truths. From the article:

Upon its publication in 1960, We Hold These Truths had an immediate impact not just in theological circles but also political ones. Ted Sorensen, aide to then-Democratic president candidate John F. Kennedy, called Murray and read to him Kennedy’s speech for the Texas Baptists in which the presidential candidate repudiated that he, as a would-be Catholic head of state, would be subject to the authority of the pope. Sorenson claimed to secure Murray’s approval; however, as Murray later revealed, Sorensen had not. One wonders if Sorensen had even read the book. After all, Murray jokes about “the earnest heresies of a Baptist minister from Texas.” Regardless, the public impression of Murray fused with that of Kennedy and the broader sense among American Catholics were first American and then Catholic. They had finally “arrived.”

The cultural high-water point for American Catholics was from 1945 until the early 1960s, and during the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) American prelates exercised more influence than ever. As peritus (or “theological consultant”) to Cardinal Francis Spellman, Murray influenced drafts of what would become Dignitatis humanae, or the Declaration on Religious Freedom. As Russell Hittinger has argued, Dignitatis humanae was part of the long shift away from an ecclesiology of a Church established in confessional nation-states whose governments interfered with Church affairs to a global Church asserting independent, spiritual authority directly to the faithful. However, soon after the Church endorsed religious liberty, American clergy implemented regrettable liturgical excesses during the introduction of the new Mass. With these two intertwined, American Catholic traditionalists have tended to link a demand for the reversion to the pre-conciliar liturgy, and for the return to the pre-conciliar role of confessional states — a regime that could use coercion and violence to impose a Catholic order from above.

The traditionalists treat Murray as a liberal who attempted to negotiate a compromise between the Church and liberalism, but this interpretation is superficial. To appreciate the contribution Murray made to American Catholicism requires us to do the reading. It is plain in the text that Murray was not a liberal, and We Hold These Truths was not an endorsement of liberalism. On the contrary, Murray repeatedly condemns liberalism. Rather, what one finds is the application of practical reason informed by natural law thinking, and Murray argued that the American Founding preserved enough of the old natural law tradition to rescue it from relativism and serve as a basis for preserving a peaceful consensus in a pluralistic nation. Murray never identified America as the best regime but only provided a defense of the American constitutional order in Catholic terms.

4. At The College Fix, Alexander Pease reports on a University of Maryland academic who is trying to “reclaim” the Medieval period from . . . yep, white supremacists. From the article:

Modern-day white supremacists look back fondly on a medieval period that was far more diverse than they would like to admit, a scholar of medieval studies told an event hosted by the University of Alabama-Huntsville’s history department.

The University of Maryland’s Colleen Ho said the Crusades are “used as an inspiration” by white supremacists for “the way they want things to look.”

She warned of “Templar revivalism” in the U.S. and around the world: “White supremacists use medieval history to justify violent behavior.”

Yet Ho continually emphasized that white supremacists — as well as Hollywood — overlook the diversity of this long-ago world and push “the myth that the Middle Ages were a predominantly white culture.”

5. At Gatestone Institute, Majid Rafizadeh reports on Tehran’s thrill at the prospect of President Biden. From the article:

The country’s economic situation became so dire that the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani admitted that the Islamic Republic is encountering the worst economic crisis since its establishment in 1979. The political deputy of the province of Bushehr, Governor Majid Khorshidi, told a gathering on July 14 that they should not ignore US sanctions: “We used to see this approach [of ignoring US sanctions] from the previous [Ahmadinejad] administration and unfortunately it still continues,” he added. “But I have to say that sanctions have broken the economy’s back”.

Thanks to the current administration’s pressure, Iran’s currency, the rial, has been in free fall in the last three years. As of November 7, 2020, a US dollar is worth approximately 250,000 rials. Before the current US administration imposed a “maximum pressure” policy against Tehran, a US dollar had equaled nearly 30,000 rials. During the last year, Iran’s oil exports also sank to a record low. The country’s budget heavily relies on selling oil.

As pressure kept mounting against the regime, Tehran also faced several widespread protests in the country, which endangered the hold on power of the ruling clerics. Now, the regime feels that all of the current administration’s pressures will be lifted soon and the golden days will be back again.

It is unfortunate that Iran’s ruling mullahs view a possible victory of the Democrat Party in US elections as a win for the Tehran regime, its proxies and militia groups. President Rouhani has already called for restoring the nuclear deal. It could well be a loss for continuing peace in the region and for finally restoring the violated Iranian people’s hoped-for human rights.

6. At Quillette, Abigail Shrier laments the role of Big Tech in trying to suppress her book on transgender madness among young women. From the article:

What I aim to do, as a journalist, is to investigate cultural phenomena, and here was one worth investigating: Between 2016 and 2017, the number of females seeking gender surgery quadrupled in the United States. Thousands of teen girls across the Western world are not only self-diagnosing with a real dysphoric condition they likely do not have; in many cases, they are obtaining hormones and surgeries following the most cursory diagnostic processes. Schoolteachers, therapists, doctors, surgeons, and medical-accreditation organizations are all rubber-stamping these transitions, often out of fear that doing otherwise will be reported as a sign of “transphobia” — despite growing evidence that most young people who present as trans will eventually desist, and so these interventions will do more harm than good.

The notion that this sudden wave of transitioning among teens is a worrying, ideologically driven phenomenon is hardly a fringe view. Indeed, outside of Twitter, Reddit, Tumblr, and college campuses, it is a view held by a majority of Americans. There is nothing hateful in suggesting that most teenagers are not in a good position to approve irreversible alterations to their bodies, particularly if they are suffering from trauma, OCD, depression, or any of the other mental-health problems that are comorbid with expressions of dysphoria. And yet, here we are.

The efforts to block my reporting have been legion, starting with staff threats at a publishing house, which quickly reversed its original intention to publish my book. Once I obtained a stalwart publisher, Regnery, Amazon refused to allow that company’s sales team to sponsor ads on its site. (Amazon allows sponsored ads for books that uncritically celebrate medical transition for teenagers).

Because the book tackles an interesting phenomenon, a number of established journalists wanted to review it. The issue of trans-identification has seemed to come out of nowhere with Gen Z, the generation begun in 1995 whose large-scale mental-health crisis already has us so on edge. And the issue has created surprising bedfellows. Religious conservatives are concerned about the trend — but so are lesbians, who look upon the shocking numbers of teen girls transitioning with abject alarm. Many suspect that all this transitioning of girls is effectively euthanizing a generation of young lesbians.

Baseballery

It was one of the National Pastime’s greatest almost-comebacks. The day was May 12, 1930, and the NL Champion Chicago Cubs, in second place, were hosting the first-place New York Giants on a Monday afternoon before a crowd of 15,000. On the mound for the home team was righthander Sheriff Blake, of infamy as he was the losing pitcher in the 1929 World Series’ crucial fourth game, when the Philadelphia Athletics scored 10 runs in the bottom of the 7th for a 10-8 comeback victory. This Monday, the Sheriff left his gun at home: In the First he managed to escape disaster despite walking three Giants, but by the time he was yanked in the Third, having just served up a gopher ball to Mel Ott, New York was ahead 8-0. With two outs and the bases empty, rookie reliever Bill McAfee got Giant second baseman Pat Crawford to lift a fly ball to center, which Cubbie Hack Wilson dropped. And the floodgates opened again. Cubs shortstop Woody English blew a ground ball, more hits came, and then Giants starter Larry Benton (who had led the NL in wins in 1928 with 25) smacked a home run. When Chicago took its turn at the plate in the bottom of the frame, they were facing a 13-0 deficit. That became 14-0 in the Fifth, when Benton singled to drive in another run.

And then came the clawing back, courtesy of the long ball. In the Fifth Cliff Heathcote hit a solo shot to make the game a speck less laughable. In the Sixth, Benton served up a three-run dinger to Clyde Beck. And in the next frame, four Cubs launched homers over the ivy brick wall: Beck again (a two-run shot) and solo home runs by Wilson, Heathcote, and Charlie Grimm.

Benton was yanked, and after two more appearances, the Giants traded him to the Reds. Benton (giving away the story, he got the W on the day) ended his career in 1935 with the Boston Braves, one of the worst teams in MLB history — he was the mop-up reliever in Babe Ruth’s famous and final majestic performance, against the Pirates at Forbes Field, when he slammed the last three home runs of his storied career.

But back to Wrigley Field in 1930. The score now stood at 14-9, and still the Cubs would not give up. In the bottom of the Eighth Kiki Cuyler drove in another run against the Giants’ rookie reliever Joe Heving, who took a four-run lead into the Ninth. Chicago’s last licks kept the remaining fans on the edge of their seats: A single, a double, a strikeout, and then, two more singles, and the Cubs had men on first and third, with the scoreboard reading 14-12. Heving was yanked, and the aging Joe Genewich took the mound, with Heathcote, the winning run, up and looking for his third dinger of the day. Twas not to be. With one pitch the drama ended, in the words every batter hates to hear: 6-4-3 double play.

A Dios

Poor Valerie, a lady of grace and dignity, always, tells that her cancer has metastasized, now in her bones. She asks for prayers. This request will not be denied. Would those of you who do pray, who ask God our Creator to cure, to comfort — always knowing Thy will be done — petition Him on her behalf? Also: A few weeks back Your Humble Correspondent told of Baby Francesca, afflicted with cancer. Prayers were urged. Please do continue them if you would be so generous with your time and thoughts.

May the Ancient of Days Be Merciful to You and All Those You Love,

Jack Fowler, who can be stirred from a funk with diatribes and all else if communicated to jfowler@nationalreview.com.

 

National Review

Loaves and Fishy

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Dear Weekend Jolter,

Those goldarned Dems! Remember Lyndon Johnson and his Ballot Box 13 — brazen but gotta admire that, no?

By the way, on Thursday morn this was happening in Michigan. It’s one of several scenes from places where the vote process is obviously broken. But hey, that’s why votes get fixed. There are even some places where miracles happen — more votes cast than voters registered. Loaves and fishes! Somebody must have watched The Great McGinty.

That said, don’t make a peep! Don’t raise an eyebrow! If you think you’ve seen what you just saw, well, you just may be a conspiracy theorist. Who makes your hats, Reynolds Wrap?

Don’t forget: The Washington Post told us that “Democracy dies in darkness,” and as anyone can see in that video, behind the locked doors, the Democrats have the lights turned on. So why doncha just move along . . .

As we go to press, the ball is in play, the refs haven’t yet called offsides or icing. We’ll move along all right, because our purpose here is to offer you more links than you’d find at an Oscar Mayer barbeque. And so we shall. Short-and-sweet, then expanded further on down because . . . these Weekend Jolts plump when you cook ’em!

But First, Consider Fellowship

National Review Institute’s acclaimed Burke to Buckley program (do check out the syllabus) seeks applicants for its upcoming Spring 2021 sessions in NYC and Philly. Apply here.

Short and Sweet, NR Links Ungussied

Editorial: We contend the President has the right to defend his interests, but should tame the rhetoric: Read it here.

Victor Davis Hanson says the gas-lighting of the middle class has been quite intentional. The Disinformationists.

Rich Lowry says the Never Trump fantasy of “cleansing” Biden landslide didn’t happen, and The Donald, win or lose, will still be a formidable presence: Trump’s Staying Power.

The Golden State rejects racial quotas. Will Swaim is thrilled by the slice of sanity. California: Not as Crazy as We Thought.

Kathryn Jean Lopez assembles her own links on the foster-care case heard this week by SCOTUS. Check it out here.

Ryan Young explains state initiative wins for the free market: Free-Market Victories Down the Ballot.

Alexandra DeSanctis is convinced The Left Doesn’t Understand Women.

Michael Brendan Dougherty says it is only the first step: Asking for the Black Vote.

Helen Raleigh explains why the biggest Red state prefers the former Veep: Why Beijing Hopes for a Biden Win.

Lee Edwards Scores the ChiCom’s brutal record: A Reminder that China Is One of the World’s Worst Human-Rights Offenders.

Zilvinas Silenas checks out the GDP numbers, likes what he sees, fears what might happen: The Economy Is Recouping Better than Expected but Lockdown Politics Could Still Sabotage the Recovery.

Ramesh Ponnuru takes on a critic: Oren Cass vs Public-Choice Economics.

Are those tears in Brad Palumbo’s eyes? Kamala Harris’s Economic Philosophy Is No Laughing Matter.

David Harsanyi schools a New York Times blowhard: Pro-Choicers, Not Christians, Are Today’s Abortion Fundamentalists.

Madeleine Kearns reports on a Prime Minister in trouble: Boris Johnson, Floundering.

More Madeleine: Britain’s new lockdown forgets the Magna Carta: Sacrificing Freedom for Safety.

Kyle Smith proposes MSM awareness, and knows it’s a pointless idea: The Media Need to Reflect on This Election Result.

Armond White assails the political heavy hands performing on SNL: Saturday Night Live and Its Mean-Spirited Players.

More Armond: He digs the new Kevin Costner flick: Let Him Go: A Morally Superior Neo-Western.

Brian Allen misses non-electronic face-to-face, but makes do with the 2020 virtual arts fair: Aphrodite, Heracles, and an Ephebe in a Virtual Arts Fair.

More Brian: He’s loving North Carolina’s Mint Museum: Go South, Art Lovers, for Beautiful Craft and Design.

Editorials

1. We contend the President has the right to defend his interests, but should tame the rhetoric. From the editorial:

Of course, any credible allegations of irregularities should be tracked down, and the more transparency, the better. Republican election observers should be especially vigilant in locales such as Philadelphia, where the Democratic machine has a well-earned reputation for shady dealing.

Trump’s legal team should rigorously protect his interests and pursue recounts, an entirely legitimate tactic, as warranted. If a close result in Pennsylvania depends on late-arriving absentee ballots counted under the new rules written by the state supreme court, that indeed could be a matter for the U.S. Supreme Court (although reports suggest the number of such ballots is very small).

In the future, other states need to adopt the election rules and practices of Florida. The Sunshine State managed to tally a prodigious number of early votes quickly and have a reliable result within hours of the polls closing. Everyone else should be able to do it, too.

And Now the Full-Blown Version of Recommendation from the Great Conservative Website Some of Us Still Call “NRO”

1. Victor Davis Hanson reviews the elites’ campaign antics and concludes that the gas-lighting and pile-on is intentional and class-directed. From the article:

Big liberal donors sent cash infusions totaling some $500 million into Senate races across the country to destroy Republican incumbents and take back the Senate. In the end, they may have failed to change many of the outcomes.

But did they really fail?

Democrats dispelled the fossilized notion that “dark money” is dangerous to politics. They are now the party of the ultra-rich, at war with the middle classes, whom they write off as clingers, deplorables, dregs, and chumps.

In that context, the staggering amounts of money were a valuable marker. The liberal mega-rich are warning politicians that from now on, they will try to bury populist conservatives with so much oppositional cash that they would be wise to keep a low profile.

Winning is not the only aim of lavish liberal campaign funding. Deterring future opponents by warning them to be moderate or go bankrupt is another motivation.

2. He may lose, but Rich Lowry has bad news for Never Trump fantasists: The Donald is not exiting the GOP room. From the article:

Nevertheless, Trump points to a viable GOP future even if he comes up short. He posted startling gains among Latino voters. This shows it’s possible to imagine a working-class-oriented Republican Party that isn’t a demographic dead end but that genuinely crosses racial lines, even if this potential is still inchoate.

Given how Trump’s base showed up massively in the past two presidential elections, it’s also unlikely that these voters are going to be jettisoned anytime soon by some other Republican presidential candidate. Indeed, the education- and class-based re-sorting of the GOP — affluent suburbs peeling off and working-class voters coming on board — predated Trump.

The concerns of these voters have to figure prominently in the agenda of the GOP going forward. That doesn’t require embracing any particular Trump policy — steel tariffs, for instance, have been a bust — but it does mean the party will inevitably have a populist coloration.

One lesson of Trump is that presidential politics rewards entrepreneurial candidates who figure out a new way to win a party’s nomination and to campaign. Trump imitators will likely fail. Instead, the name of the game should be figuring out how to hold the Trump base while recovering ground in the suburbs, especially given that Trump’s electoral path might have been too narrow even for Trump himself to duplicate.

3. Ryan Young says the free market won important victories on Election Day. From the piece:

While they were at it, California voters also said no to expanding rent controls, finally heeding the warnings economists have been shouting since the 1940s.

New York and other states are considering their own AB5-style measures. The federal PRO Act, which passed this Congress and will likely be reintroduced next session, would implement a nationwide version of AB5. The prospects for these have now dimmed.

Illinois voters said no to giving their legislature the ability to raise taxes more easily. The Illinois state constitution requires a flat income tax. The Fair Tax Amendment would have changed that to allow a progressive tax and would have made tax increases easier. The Illinois legislature had already passed a separate tax hike bill, conditional on voters approving the amendment. Voters disapproved by a 55–45 margin, and taxes will remain as they are.

Oregon decriminalized possession of hard drugs. Five other states legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use, including socially conservative Mississippi. Oregon and the District of Columbia also decriminalized hallucinogenic mushrooms. These are important libertarian victories, and not in the snickering libertine sense. These are victories for the rule of law.

4. Zilvinas Silenas sees surprisingly good economic numbers, but fears that lockdown politics might kneecap the recovery. From the article:

The truth is not that our current 7.9 percent unemployment rate is extraordinarily high by historic standards, but rather that our pre-COVID-19 unemployment rate was extraordinarily low. We had a red-hot economy, which was, unfortunately, dunked in a bath of ice water.

If you look across the Atlantic, the European Union’s average unemployment rate has hovered above 7.9 percent for most of the past 20 years. That’s right: The American economy amid a pandemic is doing better than Europe in a good year.

Remember this when politicians push more taxes and more government regulations, or when your friend at the cocktail party complains that the U.S. “should be more like Europe” while smoking a Cohiba Behike and sipping his Louis Tre.

Going back to U.S. unemployment numbers, New York, California, and Texas got 240,000 people back on the job in September alone. While that’s good news, those three states have lost 3 million jobs since the beginning of the year. So it will take at least 12 months of September’s job gains just to make up the jobs lost.

The moral of the story: It is easy to shut down the economy, but not so easy to get it going again.

It took five years to halve 2009’s unemployment level of 10 percent. It took seven years to go from 10 percent unemployment in 1982 to 5 percent in 1989. It took eight years to go down from 7 percent unemployment in 1961 to 3.5 percent in 1969.

5. Helen Raleigh explains why Red China is rooting for Biden. From the analysis:

China started land-reclamation efforts in the South China Sea in 2013. Beijing initially proceeded slowly and cautiously while evaluating the Obama-Biden administration’s reaction. It sent a dredger to Johnson South Reef in the Spratly archipelago. The dredger was so powerful that it was able to create eleven hectares of a new island in less than four months with the protection of a Chinese warship.

When it became clear that the Obama-Biden administration wouldn’t do anything serious to push back, China ramped up its island-building activities. China insisted that its land-reclamation efforts were for peaceful purposes, such as fishing and energy exploration. However, satellite images show there are runways, ports, aircraft hangars, radar and sensor equipment, and military buildings on these manmade islands.

Noticing the Obama-Biden administration’s unwillingness to push back on China’s island-building activities, China’s smaller neighbors decided to find other means of addressing the crisis at hand. In 2013, the Philippines filed an arbitration case under the UNCLOS over China’s claims of sovereignty over the Spratly Islands and Scarborough Shoal.

In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague rejected the majority of China’s claim of the South China Sea. It also ruled that China’s island build-up was not only unlawful but also a blatant violation of the Philippines’ economic rights and that it “had caused severe environmental harm to reefs in the chain.” Beijing chose to ignore the ruling and press ahead with more island construction and militarization.

6. The great Lee Edwards reminds all of Red China’s horrid record on human rights. Lee Edwards Scores the ChiCom’s brutal record: From the article.

Today, General Secretary Xi Jinping, whose photo is linked with that of Mao wherever you turn in China, is leading an Orwellian campaign of control and intimidation of the 1.3 billion people of China, running roughshod over human rights whether the U.N. recognizes it or not. Like any totalitarian party, Xi’s Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is everywhere.

It persecutes religious minorities to a degree not seen since the most repressive days of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. According to reliable sources, including the U.S. State Department, more than 1 million Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other Muslims have been placed in internment camps designed to “erase religious and ethnic identities.” Camp officials have abused, tortured, and killed as many as 20,000 detainees, according to the Uyghur Human Rights Project. The prominent Uyghur writer Nurmuhammad Tohti, for example, suffered a heart attack during his internment and died shortly after being released. When his body was returned to his home, his legs were still chained.

Members of all faiths are routinely questioned by the government and often imprisoned. Freedom House reports that at least 100 million Protestant Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, Uyghur Muslims, and Falun Gong practitioners face very high levels of persecution. Pastor Wang Yi, leader of the Early Rain Church, was convicted of “inciting subversion of state power” in a closed-door trial with no defense lawyer. He was sentenced to nine years in prison.

7. Fat Chance: Kyler Smith counsels media reflection on its blindness, but knows the boys on the bus will stick to outrage. From the beginning of the piece:

The Democratic Party, reports Politico, is in a dizzy state of morning-after soul-searching right now. Some partisans are excoriating the party for choosing a lackluster, tired, don’t-scare-the-livestock presidential candidate based solely on a concept of “electability” that proved true only in the barest, most humiliating sense. Others note that Joe Biden was the quintessential Washington hack, hardly the embodiment of an Obama-like fresh start. Influential members of the party will give a sharp tug in the general direction of Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. They’ll say climate change or inequality or racism should have been central to the party’s pitch. Instead, the offer the Biden campaign made was: vote for the boring old geezer, at least he’s not Trump. It was as if an entire football game was played with the prevent defense.

The media will be tempted to follow that storyline, and their frustration with Biden as he settles into a caretaker presidency that is probably ideal for him will be evident. They should resist the temptation. What the leading news outlets should do instead is take a long look in the mirror while they contemplate why Trump proved so difficult to defeat: It was because he ran against the media, the one institution that is hated almost as widely as he is. As Rich Lowry eloquently put it, Trump was “the only middle finger available.” Will the media respond by being less hysterical, less partisan, more measured and reasonable and fair? Of course not. The media have many characteristics in common with Trump, and one of them is: They never change.

8. The new Boris Johnson, scarcely recognizable from the original model, is in trouble, and Madeleine Kearns knows why. From the article:

When Theresa May was prime minister, many conservatives preferred Johnson. The two appeared to be opposites. In breaking the Brexit deadlock, he promised to be optimistic, bold, and decisive. The country agreed with this assessment, delivering a Conservative landslide in the last general election. But his luck appears to have run out. From his invocation of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal,” to his infamous “rule of six” coronavirus micromanagement, Johnson is a shadow of his former rambunctiously libertarian self and, worse, scarcely recognizable to the man voters elected. Last year, Brexit was the all-consuming drama, and he the hero, but now it is little more than a tedious sideshow. Even Nigel Farage has suggested changing the name of the Brexit Party to Reform UK, with a new top priority: Fighting the Tory government’s coronavirus policy.

The loss of faith in Johnson is happening as much within the party as outside of it. Among Tory MPs, Johnson is facing a potential mutiny. Old-school libertarians such as Sir Graham Brady, a senior conservative MP, complained that the lockdown would be “immensely damaging to people’s livelihoods,” “deeply depressing,” and terrible for “people’s mental health and family relationships.” It would appear that prime minister’s consistency crisis is causing a confidence crisis. His enemies have spotted an opening.

9. More Madeleine: The new Coronavirus lockdown has the British government sacrificing freedom for “safety.” From the piece:

Ever since lockdown measures were first enacted, critics have documented overly zealous policing, the micromanagement of which items can be bought in stores, and which forms of outdoor exercise are allowed. Now that Britain is on the brink of a second lockdown, the government has suggested keeping families from different households apart, as well as outlawing public worship.

The manifestations of such policies can be heartbreaking as well as absurd. Consider the recent episode of a 73-year-old woman — a qualified nurse, no less — arrested for attempting to take her 97-year-old mother out of a care home. This appalling episode was caught on camera by the arrested woman’s daughter, Leandra Ashton, who explained that the family were acting ahead of the enactment of the second nationwide lockdown, since they had already been unable to see their grandmother for nine months. Ashton complained: “When the rules — like so many in this period of our history — are purporting to be in place to ‘protect’ but yet are causing untold damage to physical and mental health then you start breaking the rules.” She added that this was a “Kafka-esque nightmare” with “people in masks coming to take your relative away from you.”

Freedom of religion is similarly under assault. Though Magna Carta lays out that the established church “shall be free and shall have all her whole Rights and Liberties inviolable,” the current Tory government takes a different view. Never mind that there is next to no evidence to suggest that churches, most of which have enacted COVID security measures, have been responsible for the spread of the virus, they will nevertheless be closed. Theresa May, a former prime minister, summed up the problem well in Parliament: “My concern is that the government today, making it illegal to conduct an act of public worship, for the best of intentions, sets a precedent that could be misused for a government in the future with the worst of intentions, and it has unintended consequences.”

10. David Harsanyi schools New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof’s about the Left’s sacramental approach to abortion. From the piece:

Kristof points to the views of Baptists in the 1970s as proof of the Christian regression on abortion rights. Many secularists have convinced themselves that actual Christians are just as incurious and stultified as the Christians of their imagination. The Christians I know, and I happen to know many, often grapple with how scientific advances affect faith. When it comes to abortion, it’s the progressives who act like fundamentalists.

Just today, I ran across a story about a boy named Logan Ray — born at 23 weeks, weighing just 1.5 pounds and measuring twelve inches long — celebrating his first birthday. One day soon, there will be babies celebrating birthdays who were born at 21 weeks. And then 20. And those who treat abortion as both rite and right will continue to make arbitrary distinctions between “fetal life” and life itself, just as Kristof does. For those who believe in actual science, the concept of life isn’t contingent on a mother’s decision, the public’s perception, or a pundit’s policy arguments.

11. Ramesh Ponnuru responds to Oren Cass’s critiques. From the Corner post:

Presumptive free-traders have had no trouble conceding that trade agreements in the real world typically include features that benefit parochial interests rather than the public as a whole. Whether a proposed trade agreement advances the national interest will depend on an informed assessment of its specifics. Thus Senator Pat Toomey (R., Penn.) thought that some of the provisions in Trump’s refurbished NAFTA were better than the ones in the original and others were worse, voting against the changes based on his judgment that the bad outweighed the good. The trade-policy analysts at the Cato Institute, market fundamentalists if anyone deserves the label, went through the Trans-Pacific Partnership with microscopes.

Proposals to alter trade policy, whether by liberalizing trade or restricting it, have to be evaluated on their merits. We are nonetheless entitled to be more skeptical of proposals for restriction than ones for liberalization, and to think that a shift toward restriction is likely — not guaranteed, but very likely — to have generally negative consequences. The economic theory favoring free trade is well-developed, and we have extensive historical evidence (a small bit of it reviewed by Strain and me in our article) that trade enriches and protectionism impoverishes.

Protectionist policies also create more opportunities for interest-group manipulation. Trump’s trade policies have created a lobbying boom as companies have sought to tax their competitors and win exemptions for themselves. That’s in keeping with a long history. Moreover, when trade agreements involve cronyism, it tends to be mostly because of their protectionist components.

12. Brad Palumbo says Kamala Harris’s economic thoughts are no laughing matter. From the piece:

Inaccurately described by liberal media outlets as a “moderate” and “centrist,” Harris actually supports an astounding $40 trillion in new spending over the next decade. In a sign of just how far left the Democratic Party has shifted on economics, Harris backs more than 20 times as much spending as Hillary Clinton proposed in 2016. (In both cases their plans covered ten-year periods.)

Harris has abandoned the old Democratic Party’s lip service (however unconvincing) to fiscal restraint. Labels aside, it’s unclear what exactly separates the approach to fiscal policy she would take from the runaway deficit spending and money-printing that has caused so much trouble for so many economies over the years.

And this is not just a matter of spending. During her failed presidential campaign, Harris supported a federal-government takeover of health care, with only a small and highly regulated role remaining for private insurers. This could mean that the government, not the individual, ends up with the final say on medical decisions.

Crippling the private sector and all but eradicating profit would destroy medical innovation, too. Right now, deeply flawed as it may be, the U.S.’s private health-care system is the most innovative in the world. We are responsible for more than 40 percent of total research-and-development spending despite comprising a much smaller fraction of the global population.

When you strip away the profit motive from the health-care industry and replace it with government bureaucracy, the driving force of innovation and discovery that makes us world-leading innovators evaporates along with it. For example, we currently have some of the highest cancer-survival rates in the world.

13. Will Swaim is pumped by Californians rejected Proposition 16’s call for racial quotas. From the beginning of the article:

Ballots are still being counted, but the data emerging from Tuesday’s California voting offer a fascinating possibility: Californians are conservatives who think they’re Democrats.

Rating the ballot propositions as either for or against more government, Californians have (so far) voted: against tax hikes on business property (Prop 15), against revanchist affirmative-action programs (Prop 16), against a look-tough-on-crime measure to limit the voting rights of ex-felons (Prop 17), and against expanding the prison population (Prop 20). They absolutely crushed rent control (Prop 21), and, in voting for Prop 22, they voted against the government’s right to tell California’s independent contractors they can’t work as freelancers without a permission slip from Sacramento.

On three propositions, I’d argue that Californians voted for bigger government: Prop 14’s tax support of government stem-cell research (as if the private sector and universities aren’t already doing enough); Prop 19’s proposed tax on inherited real estate; and worst of them all, Prop 24’s blob of a new government bureaucracy that will monitor “consumer privacy.” If the state government does that as well as it has administered the DMV, public schools, road construction, forest management, the utility system, and gasoline supplies . . . well, Californians will soon all be celebrities — in the worst ways.

14. When it comes to women, especially married women, the Left is in the dark, says Alexandra DeSanctis. From the article:

Though Biden still beat Trump among women and black voters, it’s worth noting that the president gained support in every category of voters other than white men. More white women, black men and women, and Latino men and women supported Trump this year than had supported him in 2020.

Perhaps more interesting than Trump’s tightening of the race and gender gaps, however, is the way voters split depending on whether they are married. Fifty-six percent of all voters said they are married, while 44 percent are not. Among married voters, Trump had a ten-point advantage: A majority (54 percent) voted for the president, and 44 percent backed Biden. Unmarried voters, meanwhile, broke even more heavily for Biden. Only 40 percent supported Trump while 57 percent voted for Biden.

But the voting patterns of married vs. unmarried voters get even more interesting when broken down by gender. Fifty-three percent of married men, who accounted for a little less than a third of all voters, supported Trump, while 46 percent supported Biden. Unmarried men, who accounted for just one-fifth of the electorate, favored Biden by a smaller margin, 50 percent to Trump’s 44 percent.

The disparity between married and unmarried women was even stronger. Married women and unmarried women each accounted for about one-quarter of those who voted in this election. Married women broke hard for Trump, with 55 percent backing him compared with 42 percent who backed Biden. And there was an even larger gap among unmarried women, 62 percent of whom supported the Democrat compared with 37 percent who supported Trump.

15. Armond White calls out SNL and its nasty attempts at comedy (and even provides a dishonor roll). From the piece:

Yet this replay of SNL’s revue sketches proved enlightening, despite one’s instinct to dismiss the outright political bias shown by NBC and SNL producer Lorne Michaels. It became clear from the clips chosen that politics are not SNL’s forte. Its cast of performers and writers have forsaken the humanizing point of comedy and satire for obvious personal prejudice — the last resort of pundits who can’t sustain argument.

The “Election Special” clips provide a measure of how SNL has changed. From the amateur leagues of liberal showbiz that hatch performers who are working out private issues and group-think camaraderie, with the cast originally billed as the Not Ready for Prime Time Players, SNL today must be recognized as a troupe of Mean-Spirited Players.

Although the mean-girl, frat-boy tendency was always there, performers such as Phil Hartman, Jan Hooks, Dan Ackroyd, Dana Carvey, and a few others managed to balance caricature with affection throughout the Clinton and two Bush administrations. But the latter is when know-it-all-ism began to prevail, turning repulsive as network media fought back against the 2000 election. Eventually, these mainstream comedians lost their sense of humor and became self-congratulatory jesters to the court of Obama.

16. More Armond: He likes Let Him Go. From the beginning of the review:

Deep in the divided heart of Hollywood, contempt for middle America clashes with greed for its ticket dollars. This puts Hollywood’s sophisticated movie elites at cross-purposes because they also chase acclaim — and receive approval — from the disdainful media ranks. The bizarre new Kevin Costner film Let Him Go makes all this infuriatingly clear.

It’s a genre-movie update, a “modern” Western set in late 1950s Montana where stoic retired lawman George Blackledge (Costner) and his no-nonsense wife Margaret (Diane Lane) mourn their son’s death. They long to reunite with their only grandchild, now estranged after the mother remarries — to a lout from a lawless clan. When the Blackledges seek to rescue their progeny, American hell breaks loose.

Let Him Go imitates the nation-defining myths of Westerns but gets the virtues of genre movies quite wrong. The Blackledges’ virtues come secondhand. Director Thomas Bezucha cast Costner and Lane for no apparent reason other than to evoke their poignant roles in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel as Pa and Ma Kent, the Joseph and Mary figures to Jor-El/Clark/Superman. Yet Bezucha, pursuing a moral vision slightly different from Snyder’s, moves into oversimplified good-vs.-evil shoot-’em-up territory. Americana myths turn into nightmares, pitting the Blackledges’ class characteristics against those of Neanderthals, headed by a treacherous matriarch with the knee-slapper name of Blanche Weboy (played by British actress Lesley Manville).

17. The introverts who run the annual European Fine Art Fair have turned it virtual in 2020. A wistful Brian Allen zooms in on the wares. From the piece:

In this incarnation, the dealers aren’t there. No people-watching, either, and the quirks of the rich are always fun to see. I miss the dealers, all good-humored and doughty — they have to be since the in-person fairs run for days — and all connoisseurs. They’re enthusiasts, and you can’t fake that for an entire week, and they usually know more about their specialty than academics do. A professor will know an object’s place in the history of art. A dealer will know condition, provenance, rarity, as well as the art history I’d call salient rather than fancied, irrelevant, or minute — niches at which art historians excel.

In this online fair, each of around 280 dealers offers one object that expresses the very best of that dealer’s business. All the dealers have an international presence. All have done good scholarship and have sold to museums. TEFAF vets everyone to guarantees that no dealer is shady. TEFAF, as an entity, isn’t a business. It’s a foundation dedicated to upholding high standards in the art world.

I asked a curator friend what he thought of online fairs. He loves them. “I don’t have to talk to people,” he gushed. Most curators are introverts, which is one reason why they’re COVID’s most ardent, if nerdy, lockdown lovers. I’m dour, to be sure. Living in Vermont, we all sound and think like Calvin Coolidge after a while, but I do like the real thing, and I always learn from the banter of dealers and collectors. Alas, people are so frightened about travel and communal gatherings that it might take years to recover normal life. The hysteria peddlers have killed so much joy in the world.

Does the online TEFAF work? Yes.

18. More Allen: He recommends the North Carolina Mint Museum. From the review:

So, last week, I visited Smithfield, N.C., to see the Ava Gardner Museum (which I profiled last Saturday) and the Mint Museum in Charlotte, the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, Reynolda House in Winston-Salem, and the art-museum and craft centers in eclectic, beautiful, and crunchy Asheville.

I saw some good European painting — Pieter Aertsen’s Meat Stall with the Holy Family Giving Alms, from 1551, at the NCMA is the best, earliest still-life painting, anywhere — but the zeitgeist in North Carolina is both American and not necessarily painting, or any flat art, but craft. And the materials aren’t paint and canvas but wood, the ubiquitous American material, clay, metal, and textile.

This makes sense. New York, Philadelphia, and Boston are closest to the big money and big art centers of Europe, and the rich and powerful in each emulated their counterparts from the Old World’s past. They saw themselves as the New World’s makers of taste, and that meant capturing the cultural triumphs of the Old World for our improvement.

However cavalier the South is to New England’s Roundheads, the South was, until recently, far poorer and more insular. Its aesthetics revolved around the practical and the handmade. Baskets, quilts, and ceramics were the South’s Lamerie silver, embroidery for kings and popes, and Meissen porcelain. Craft, which is art as much as painting or sculpture, is often simple and of the highest intricacy, reserved but emotionally rich, and prompting arias from ash, clay, and cotton. This is why the South, especially the Appalachian South, is the place to go for quintessentially American design.

Elsewhere in the Conservative Solar System

1. At Gatestone Institute, Khaled Abu Toameh nails Turkey’s projecting bossman Recep Tayyip Erdogan as the real enemy of Islam. From the article:

Last week, France condemned Erdogan for comments he made about French President Emmanuel Macron’s mental health and treatment of Muslims. Erdogan had suggested that the French president needed “some kind of mental treatment” because of Macron’s attitude toward Muslims in France. “What else is there to say about a head of state who doesn’t believe in the freedom of religion and behaves this way against the millions of people of different faiths living in his own country?” Erdogan said in a speech at a meeting of his Justice and Development Party. He also called on Muslims to boycott French goods.

Erdogan’s remarks came in response to Macron’s pledge to crack down on radical Islamism in France after a Muslim terrorist beheaded history teacher Samuel Paty on October 16. Paty had taught a class on freedom of expression during which he used cartoons of the Islamic Prophet Mohammed from the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Even before Paty was murdered, Macron defended the right to caricature the Prophet Mohammed. In September, he described Islam as a religion “in crisis” and announced that he would present a bill to strengthen a law that separates church and state in France.

Some Muslims see Erdogan’s attacks on France as an attempt to divert attention from the growing criticism in the Arab world toward Turkey’s meddling in the internal affairs of a number of Arab countries. Saudi Arabian activists have called for a boycott of Turkish products to protest Erdogan’s repeated attacks on Arab leaders and countries.

2. At Claremont Review of Books, Chris Caldwell notes that the 400th Anniversary of the Pilgrim Landing has gone unnoticed by the chattering class. 1619 casts a long shadow. From the beginning of the essay:

Possibly someone will surprise us at the last minute. Possibly the coronavirus is to blame. But with 2020 nearly over, it looks like the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ arrival at Plymouth, Massachusetts, is going to pass uncommemorated. There have been no TV features relating what happened 400 years ago. No magazine essays unstitching the religious conflicts that drove the Puritans into exile or the republican philosophy of the Mayflower Compact and its relevance to us. Absent is the passion society’s leaders bring to commemorations they actually care about — the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, the centennial of World War I, and all those local triumphs of the Civil Rights movement that have come to fill our civic calendar like so many saints’ days. Half a generation ago, journalist and historian Éric Zemmour expressed astonishment that the French government was ignoring the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Austerlitz (1805). What hope is there, he asked, for a nation that doesn’t care about the greatest military victory of its greatest leader, in this case Napoleon? It was a good question. Here is a better one: what hope is there for a nation that doesn’t care about its beginnings?

At work is more than a failure to summon the Pilgrims to mind. There is an active project to exorcise them, in order that the country might find itself a past more congruent with its present-day political commitments. A year ago, the New York Times launched a “1619 Project” dedicated to the proposition that the original, the more consequential, and therefore the real founding of the country came with the arrival of a Portuguese slave ship in Jamestown the year before the Pilgrims arrived.

Those locals to whom the Pilgrims’ memory has been entrusted have rushed to cooperate in their demotion. In July, citing the “reckoning with racial injustice” underway in street protests across the country, the trustees of Plimoth Plantation, the living-history museum that has explained the Pilgrim settlement to schoolchildren and tourists since 1947, announced they were changing the institution’s name to Plimoth Patuxet (the Wampanoag name for the spot) in order to be more inclusive. The director of the Provincetown Museum boasted to the Boston Globe about the “tough conversations” he had had as he trained his staff to think about the Mayflower landing in a different way. The Pilgrims survived, he said, because the Wampanoag Indians “helped them in true social-justice fashion.” A founder of the Bernie Sanders-linked group Indivisible Plymouth complained over the summer about such local commemorations as were planned: “[S]houldn’t the struggle for the right for women to vote,” she asked, “be as well-known as the story of the Mayflower and 1620?”

To which one can only reply: Isn’t it already? Even in Plymouth?

3. At the Wall Street Journal, Bill McGurn profiles Bob Chitester, the “Man Who Made Milton Freedman a Star.” You’re free to chose to read this excerpt. From the profile:

Their collaboration began in 1977, when the two men were introduced by W. Allen Wallis, a free-market economist who served as chancellor of New York’s University of Rochester and chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. At the time Mr. Chitester managed public TV and radio stations in Erie, Pa. After PBS released “The Age of Uncertainty,” presented by the left-liberal economist John Kenneth Gailbraith, Mr. Chitester wanted to produce a rejoinder from a classically liberal perspective.

Mr. Chitester was probably the only PBS or NPR station manager who didn’t believe public radio and television should receive subsidies from American taxpayers. But he had a skill in short supply among the pro-capitalist intellectual class: He knew how to popularize free-market ideas, which many thought couldn’t be done on television.

He confesses that he isn’t sure he’d even heard of Friedman when Wallis put the two in touch. But Mr. Chitester says he devoured Friedman’s 1962 book, “Capitalism and Freedom,” and went to meet Milton and his wife, fellow economist and collaborator, Rose, at their San Francisco apartment.

An hour into the conversation, Mr. Chitester brought up a section in the book where Friedman talks about the responsibility of business — also the theme of Friedman’s famous 1970 New York Times essay, “The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits.” Mr. Chitester described his dilemma: “I said to Milton, based on your philosophy, I shouldn’t be asking companies for money, and if they take your advice, they’re not going to give me any.”

“Bob, don’t worry about it,” Friedman reassured him. “Businessmen don’t like me anyway.” The economist elaborated. “He said private owners — those who own their own companies — they will be sympathetic. But corporations and publicly held companies will play the political game.” In other word, they’d be shy about supporting such a project lest it hurt them when seeking government funding.

4. At City Journal, Heather Mac Donald says the defeat of California’s racial-quotas Proposition 16 is a big blow to elites. From the analysis:

The business community also came out swinging in support of Proposition 16. The chairman of the California Business Roundtable told Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton: “Prop. 16 will help allow small, minority and women-owned businesses better access to capital, especially in applying for and receiving important state contracts.” The California Chamber of Commerce backed the measure. The former chairman of the Los Angeles Latino Chamber of Commerce told Skelton: “There’s a constant barrier for ethnic minorities and women” who seek government contracts.

These charges of discrimination in contracting and lending are specious. Banks are already under enormous pressure to lend money based on identity. Government agencies go out of their way to contract with minorities and women. Corporations back racial preferences in colleges because they are now populated by woke college graduates who believe that the rest of America is racist and because their leaders and employees are academic snobs. They want to hire from prestigious colleges regardless of whether the affirmative-action admits who graduate from those colleges are academically competitive with their un-racially preferred peers.

The proponents poured $20 million into the “Yes on 16” campaign, part of a pattern this year of the allegedly grass-roots Democrats futilely spending outsize sums on campaigns. The opponents of Proposition 16 commanded but a fraction of those resources. And yet, the initiative carried only Los Angeles County and the three counties around the San Francisco Bay. Voters in the rest of the state were not buying it.

Predictably, elites are charging those voters with racism.

5. At The Federalist, Joy Pullman gives a thorough rundown of the GOP down-ballot’s very good night (which draws required suspicion to top-of-the-ticket vote-counting). From the article:

Two weeks before the election, the “nonpartisan” Cook’s Political Report predicted an expanded Democrat majority in the House, a “net gain of five to ten seats to a gain of between five and 15 seats.” On election day, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democrat campaign chairwoman Rep. Cheri Bustos predicted Democrats “would not only defend gains made in 2018 but flip districts thought to be in safe Republican territory.”

Last week, Democrats told the Washington Post, which described the party as “awash in cash,” they expected to flip as many as 15 House seats on Biden’s presumed presidential coattails. That didn’t happen at all. In fact, the opposite did. Now as localities run by Democrats “count” votes under suspicious circumstances, we are supposed to believe that voters selected coattails detached from a coat?

Republicans have flipped seven U.S. House races so far and Democrats flipped two, according to RealClearPolitics. That narrows Democrats’ hold on the House from 232 to 227, nine more than the majority, even if no more are flipped. Republicans could even ultimately flip 15, as many as Democrats had hoped to.

Republicans had twice as many Senate seats to defend this election than Democrats did, and they currently appear to retain their Senate majority. So far, Democrats have flipped one seat. Far poorer-funded Republicans retained seats Democrats literally spent hundreds of millions of dollars to flip, such as Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

6. At Modern Age, Atilla Sulker interviews the “Populism’s Prophet,” Patrick J. Buchanan. From the piece:

AS: You brought up democratic capitalism. I want to ask you a little bit about that while we’re on the topic. What do you make of this sort of Ayn Rand conception of capitalism, this hyper-individualism, and how do you distinguish it from a more traditionalist free-market economic order?

PB: Well, Ayn Rand [had] an ultra-libertarian view of the world and of society and of how the world ought to work. I don’t share it at all. I’m much more of a traditionalist. I’ve got the social doctrines of the Catholic Church, where we are basically a community — people look after one another, and we’ve got obligations to each other. We are a community that works together rather than this hyper-individualism.

Family, community, country, neighborhood, church, and all these things are important to me. And they’re not to some of those who worship at the altar of unvarnished or uninhibited capitalism. So I was never of that tribe. And I’ve always had some sympathy for unions and collective action on the part of people to make society more just and equitable. That always had an appeal to me, and it really affected me when I traveled the country back in 1990 and 1991, seeing all these factories and companies shutting down and moving abroad, jobs being lost, people being laid off, families going through hellish conditions.

And I went back and studied and found that the nineteenth-century Republican policy of protectionism and making America first — making America great, putting our country first, and basically Americans depending upon one another for the necessities of life — was far more important and far more correct than depending upon foreign countries like Japan then or China now [for] the needs of our national life.

The economy ought to be structured to bring people together and to bring people to trust one another and to rely upon one another. Again, the idea of individualism or these corporate institutions that have no allegiance or loyalty to anything but the bottom line, that never appealed to me.

7. At The Imaginative Conservative, Bradley Birzer, no doubt dreaming of turkeys and cranberries, has his thoughts turning to Things Colonial, basted with Tocqueville. From the piece:

Because America’s origins were so recent and so open, Tocqueville gushed (yes, gushed!), the scholar could actually witness the beginnings and the middle of a country’s life, akin to witnessing the birth and middle age of a human being. America, by its very nature, offered the most “bourgeois and democratic liberty of which the history of the world” had failed to reveal.

Still, one had to take into account the differences of the northern and the southern colonies. The latter, encumbered by the horrific system of slavery, would suffer deeply. Slavery “dishonors work; into society, it introduces idleness, along with ignorance and pride, poverty and luxury,” Tocqueville argued. “It enervates the forces of the mind and puts human activity to sleep. The influence of slavery, combined with the English character, explains the mores and the social state [the character] of the South.”

In contrast, the New England societies were dynamos, setting not only North America, but the world, ablaze with her ideas and her verve. “The principles of New England first spread into neighboring states; then, one by one, they reached the most distant states and finished, if I can express myself in this way, by penetrating the entire confederation. Now they exercise their influence beyond its limits, over the entire American world,” Tocqueville explained. “The civilization of New England has been like those fires kindled on the hilltops that, after spreading warmth around them, light the farthest bounds of the horizon with their brightness.”

New England’s success came from its ability to integrate — to the point of completeness and inseparability — the love of religion, properly understood, and the love of liberty. Indeed, for the Pilgrim and the Puritan, its Calvinism was as much a series of theological tenets as well as political theories and practices. “The founders of New England were at the very same time ardent sectarians and impassioned innovators,” Tocqueville asserted. “Restrained by the tightest bonds of certain religious beliefs, they were free of all political prejudices. [Religion led them to enlightenment; the observance of divine laws brought them to liberty.]”

8. At Quillette, Eric Jansen claims the business mode of American universities is failing. From the piece:

So where is all this money going? While much of it goes to the salaries of faculty and the building and maintaining of facilities, a questionable amount goes to administration, another aspect of universities that has rapidly grown in recent decades. According to a 2014 Delta Cost Project report, the number of faculty and staff per administrator declined by roughly 40 percent at most types of colleges and universities between 1990 and 2012, now averaging around 2.5 faculty per administrator. In 2012, the number of faculty at public research institutions was nearly equal to the number of administrators.

“The interesting thing about the administrative bloat in higher education is, literally, nobody knows who all these people are or what they’re doing,” says Todd Zywicki, a law professor at George Mason University and the author of a paper entitled: ‘The Changing of the Guard: The Political Economy of Administrative Bloat in American Higher Education.’ Vague titles for administrative positions at institutions of higher education include Health Promotion Specialist, Student Success Manager, Senior Coordinator, and Student Accountability Manager. While some administration positions are surely useful and arguably necessary such as Director of Student Financial Aid, Director of Academic Advising, or those positions added in response to federal and state mandates, the salaries of administrative positions have rapidly increased.

Often, executives and administrators at colleges and universities are paid significantly more than those in comparable positions with comparable duties. At the University of California (a public university where employees are not considered employees of the state) for example, an audit was conducted in 2017 to investigate the Office of the President and its budget practices. The report states that, “The Office of the President paid the Senior Vice President for Government Relations a salary $130,000 greater than the salaries of the top three highest-paid state employees in comparable positions.” The office also “amassed substantial reserve funds, used misleading budgeting practices, provided its employees with generous salaries and atypical benefits, and failed to satisfactorily justify its spending on system-wide initiatives.” Similarly, according to a 2011 article in Washington Monthly, “Vice presidents at the University of Maryland earn well over $200,000, and deans earn nearly as much. Both groups saw their salaries increase as much as 50 percent between 1998 and 2003, a period of financial retrenchment and sharp tuition increases at the university.”

9. At Law & Liberty, Titus Techera remembers Sean Connery, a silver-screen embodiment of wisdom. From the conclusion of the essay:

I’ll conclude with one more of Connery’s forays as an exotic, mysterious, wise man. In 1993, he starred in Philip Kaufman’s adaptation of Rising Sun, Michael Crichton’s novel about Japanese industrial intrigue and American political corruption, alongside Wesley Snipes and Harvey Keitel. This movie is unparalleled as a comparison of American and Japanese mores, and we could use such a presentation of Sino-American relations today, if it were even conceivable that studios would undertake such a dangerous venture.

In typical Crichton fashion, a timely public concern — Japanese attempts to buy strategic technology corporations — is mixed with the ugly underworld of drugs, prostitution, and murder. An L.A. detective (Snipes) has to deal with this when a prostitute is murdered in a Japanese skyscraper during a gala where all the important American politicians in California are feted. Given the money and prestige involved, anything he does is likely to cause a scandal.

Connery, in a performance that recalls Kurosawa’s great actor, Toshiro Mifune, as he in turn recalled John Ford’s great actor, John Wayne, ties all this together. Connery partners with Snipes, since he used to be in law enforcement, but he also consults for Japanese corporations, so his loyalties and past are both suspect. Nevertheless, he’s the man who can solve the case and reveal the ugly truth because he understands the combination of ancient aristocracy and modern technology Japan typified — at least before the rise of China.

Wisdom is a title to rule, which is why we want competent craftsmen and experts whenever we have a job to do. Connery’s remarkable career ended with a number of roles where he acted the part of wisdom in human affairs. His characters exhibited a knowledge of mores and souls that escapes the rules of expertise and the methods of science, but which governs our politics, and is universal rather than specialized. He deserves our admiration and that glimpse of human nature deserves our attention.

Baseballery

There’s many a ballplayer, even a giant (well, not a Giant) who have never made it to the World Series. Poor Ernie Banks and Rod Carew. Even poorer Ken Griffey Jr. and Andre Dawson and one of Your Humble Servant’s favorites (admittedly, not a giant), Elmer Valo, who spent 20 seasons in the Majors without playing in October.

Today’s interest is of those who have been to the Big Time aplenty, but retired from the game with no championship rings. What better source to consider for such disappointment than the Chicago Cubs. But for war-year disappointment, the Cubs were one of the Majors’ best franchises from the late 1920s through the mid 1940s, picking up five NL pennants in 1929, 1932, 1935, 1938, and 1945. None of those translated into World Championships. Two men played in four of those brushes with greatness.

Gabby Hartnett, Hall of Famer catcher whose famous walk-off Homer in the Gloamin’ put the Cubs in the 1938 Fall Classic — he had taken over the manager duties midway through the season — played on four of such for winless Chicago. So too did the Cubs’ great third baseman, Stan Hack, who garnered 11 hits in the 1945 World Series (Hacks’s game-winning RBI double in the bottom of the 12th Inning in Game Six would keep Chicago’s championship hopes alive for one more day) — the last the Cubbies would play in before winning the title in 2016. One of baseball’s best-ever defensive third basemen (and a pretty good hitter too: Hack had a lifetime .301 BA), he is regarded by many as Hall-of-Fame material.

Over his four World Series, Hack accrued a .348 BA. In Game Six of the 1935 World Series, the Cubs down 3 games to 2, Hack famously lead off the top of the 9th Inning in a 3-3 tie contest, only to be stranded there. The Tigers won the game, and the championship, in the bottom of the frame when Hall-of-Famer Goose Goslin singled home fellow Hall-of-Famer Mickey Cochrane.

One man who tied together all five Chicago pennants was Charlie Grimm, the 20-year first basemen (one of the game’s best-ever) who began his MLB career in 1916, playing for the Philadelphia Athletics, landing in Chicago in 1925 after stops in St. Louis and Pittsburgh. “Cholly Jolly,” who played in the losing 1929 series against the A’s, became the Cubs player/manager in 1932, and led them to the pennant that year, and again in 1935. Hanging up the cleats the following season. Mid-season in 1938, he would be removed as manager to make way for Hartnett. Rehired in 1944, he led the Cubs to their 1945 pennant. He would later manage the Braves and, for a short stint in 1960, once again, his beloved Cubs.

A little deeper digging from way back: Buck Herzog, second baseman for the New York Giants (he also played for the Cubs, Braves, and Reds), had three different stints at the Polo Grounds, and lucked into playing for four NYC NL pennant winners, in 1911-13, and 1917. And that’s where the luck ended: The Giants lost all four series. A consolation: Herzog set a record in the 1912 contest when he collected a dozen hits.

We’ll keep mining this topic in forthcoming weeks. Please don’t die from the anticipation.

A Dios

Pray for conservative victories in Georgia run-offs. And maybe do something more than pray.

God’s Blessings on All, Especially Our Veterans Who Served with Courage and Honor,

Jack Fowler, who can be distracted from funks  and night sweats with early-hours emails sent to jfowler@nationalreiew.com.